Actually, I Don’t Need Your Opinion

Is it too much to ask for you to stop telling me what I should be doing to “make my partner happy,” or “erase the damage” I inflicted on myself while growing up?”

I used to think these articles were fun to read and sometimes provided a little something to think about.

Now I think they are downright annoying and completely unnecessary.

I think it all started years ago when I was reading the last Glamour magazine I’ve ever purchased. On one page I read an article about being empowered and loving yourself. The very next article outlined all the ways to change yourself to attract a partner.

F*ck that.

I have a hard enough time not being super critical towards myself. I don’t need help from the media.

You want to know what I think we should all be doing right now?

  • Not buying into the thought that we need to change from head to toe.
    • Unless you derive pleasure from seeing others miserable. You may want to change that ASAP…
  • Recognizing that life has a tendency to be one big shit-show, and that is okay.
  • That some days a Coke Slurpee and a nut roll are the only thing that will make a day better. Wait, or is that just me?

At the end of the day, we are all doing the best we can and not a single person has their shit together. Might as well enjoy the messy ride while we have the chance, right?

 

Managing Anxiety Before It Manages You

Anyone that has experienced anxiety can tell you how absolutely debilitating it can be. Your brain and your body feel under attack, and once that train gets moving, it is hard to stop. If you’re like me, and understand that anxiety is part of life, the goal isn’t to remove all the triggers for your anxiety (an impossible task), but instead the goal is to manage your anxiety before it manages you.

Issues with Control

In my life, the root cause of most of my anxiety is a feeling of lack of control. I can catastrophize a situation without so much as a second thought. This was exacerbated by the birth of my daughter. Where before I would be anxious over any given circumstance I could encounter, I’m now anxious about my daughter’s safety in any and every situation.  While I understand there are times when I should be worried, I know that for the most part my anxiety is completely unfounded.

Stopping Anxiety Before It Stops Me

Because I am aware of my tendencies towards anxiety, and because I’m not a fan of having my days derailed by sheer panic, there are a few things I do each day to help manage my anxiety.

  • I repeat positive affirmations. This effort ends up having the most impact, while also being the most covert. The easiest way I insert this practice into my daily life is through passwords. Taking the positive affirmation, I use the first letter from each word, which forces me to repeat the phrase each time I type it. For example, last year during a particularly harried time, my go-to phrase was “stop living like you’re on fire.” This translated to “SLLYON,” which I had to repeat every time I logged onto my computer.
  • I practice mindfulness. Anxiety often implies you’re worried about something that hasn’t happened yet, which means you’re robbing today of its joy. Being mindful brings you back to the moment you’re in, and helps you pay attention to how your body is feeling. Being in tune with your body helps you identify when you can feel anxiety creeping up. Catching it early means you have a better chance of stopping it.
  • I examine my perception. More often than not, it isn’t so much the situation that causes me anxiety, as it is my perception of the situation. Stepping outside of it for a moment, allows me to get a clearer picture of what is going on, and how I am reacting. The easiest way for me to get outside of a situation, is to write it all down. Once I start doing that, I find that the emotion starts to fall away, and it takes my anxiety with it.

Anxiety is often one of those afflictions that robs you of your ability to enjoy the simple things. With focused intent, you can reign in the runaway train of anxiety, and regain your capacity to live life and enjoy it.

Dear Teenage B

Girl, get ready for a ride.

Seriously, the life you think you may have isn’t going to happen. I mean, some of it will, but not most of it. And those things that do happen, will not happen in the time frame you are planning.

The boy you love and think you’ll marry? It won’t happen. You’ll have a misunderstanding and spend years thinking he doesn’t want to talk to you, only to find out he thought the same thing (and you were both wrong). While you’ll be unable to rekindle your relationship, you will both acknowledge the depth of adoration you share. The boy will will grow to be a man, and he will suddenly pass from this life on his favorite holiday. When you find out, you will feel as if someone punched you in the stomach, and you won’t be able to breathe. You’ll go to his viewing, hug his family, and upon seeing him in his casket, your heart will break all over again.

In true Utah fashion, you will marry young, and be convinced that love conquers everything . Unfortunately, the marriage won’t last, and you’ll divorce. The split will be amicable, and you’ll remain friends, but the sorrow will stick around for years to come.

You’ll marry a second time, but only after some serious convincing. You believe everything changes after you get married, that those things that were good before will no longer be okay. That’s what you learned the first time. This time, however, you’re promised that won’t happen, and that promise is kept. He will be your rock, and you will be his.

The kid you never thought you’d want will come. You’ll have a gut reaction to the idea of never having kids, and that will be your sign that maybe you actually do want at least one. When she arrives you’ll feel as if everyone that is supposed to be here has arrived. She becomes your “one and done.”

As far as a career goes, you end up in project management. You like it, but you don’t love it. You get the feeling you’re surrounded by people who have given up on following any dream, and instead look and act as if they are simply accepting this lot in life and will drift along. You will also get to a point where you no longer feel like moving the mountains you once enjoyed moving. You’ll feel like they broke you; that they broke your spirit. Because of this, you resolve to be vulnerable. You decide to rewrite what you thought would be your story and begin blazing your own path. It’s not going to be easy, but you’d like to think it will be worth it. Plus, you know it is better than drifting along.

You’ll retain some of your friends from your childhood. These women will be some of the strongest people you know. You will celebrate their wins and mourn their losses. You will be reminded of just how amazing they are.

The friends you make in adulthood are unlike any you thought you’d meet. Sure, there will be some that make you think being social is one big shitshow, but there are others that you will consider family. And they will feel the same way.

I know that right now you may feel a little alone, and unsure about yourself. I’m happy to say the certainty about who you are does come, but not until your 30s. However, when it does come, you’ll know you worked hard to get there.

One last thing: you’ll spend a small fortune on therapy, trying to figure out what is wrong with you, and why you aren’t ”enough.” The kicker will be that you won’t arrive at any epiphany in a shrinks office, instead it will be after you watch “The Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood.” I shit you not. You’ll get home and end up on the floor bawling your eyes out, knowing it wasn’t you. You were caught in the middle of three adults that didn’t have their shit together. It will be one of the most therapeutic moments you’ve ever had.

I know, I’ve only given you the highlight of the highlight reel. Typically in these letters we tell our younger selves, “Don’t be so hard on yourself,” or “Don’t worry so much.” See, I know better than that. I know you won’t listen, and that worrying is practically in your DNA, so I’m saving my breath. Instead, I will just acknowledge what I do know you’ll do: you’ll always try hard and you’ll do your best. In the end, that will be the only thing that matters anyway.

Love,

Your older, more fabulous self

P.S. Okay, fine I’ll give you a few pointers: First, stop tweezing your eyebrows. While you never really had thick ones, all the tweezing isn’t doing you any favors. Second, stop taking life so serious. I know you feel the world rests on your shoulders, but I promise it does not. Finally, don’t bother trying to get a degree in Business. You hate it, and no matter how hard to try to like it, it’ll never happen.

P.P.S. Sorry, last bit of advice: You are enough, and you always have been.

Better to Ask for Forgiveness Than Permission

I think one of my sister’s favorite quotes is, “Better to ask for forgiveness than permission.” Each time I’ve heard her say it, the words are accompanied by a hysterical fit of laughter. Clearly, she was up to something, and she enjoyed every minute of it.

What if we applied that same quote to our own lives, and specifically focused on doing things that make us happy and fulfilled? I know what you’re thinking. “Do something simply for the fact that it makes me happy? Are you weird?” The short answer is, yes, I am weird.

The long answer goes something like this: I spent a good chuck of my life putting everyone first. I thought if I could just be a certain way, just act a certain way, just take care of things a certain way, then everyone I loved would be happy. I was convinced if they were happy, I would be too. I was essentially at the bottom of my own priority list. You can imagine how that worked out for me.

Taking care of yourself beyond the essentials of showering, eating, and not playing in traffic is really hard some days. Believing that you too are worth being at the top of the priority list is sometimes a hard pill to swallow, but it is an important one.

To be able to take care of others, or, more importantly, be the main character in your own life, you need to ensure your bucket is full. To be able to offer anything to others, you essentially need to guarantee you have something to offer in the first place.

I’ve often wondered why it seems like we need permission to take care of ourselves. Why do we wait for the gift card to the spa to schedule the massage? Why do we wait for the family to be out at their own activities for us to feel like we can sit down and lose ourselves in a book? Why do we acquiesce and go with the flow, when our heart calls out for more?

Is it because we don’t find ourselves worthy? Do we believe we need to earn the right to take care of ourselves? Why do we wait for permission?

My perspective shift was years in the making, as I made incremental steps to fully accepting the fact that I at the very least belonged within the top three spots of my own priority list. The final shift came when I found out I was going to have a daughter.

What lessons did I want to teach my daughter? What messages from my actions did I want her to learn? Did I want her to think that she wasn’t good enough, and that she had to earn the privilege to do things for herself? Did I want her to think she needed permission to take care of herself, or did I want her to own the fact that she didn’t need anyone’s permission, and quite honestly, she didn’t need to ask for forgiveness either.

I’m sure you can guess what path I chose when it came to my daughter. Being her living example of unabashedly taking care of oneself, and finding time to do what feeds your soul is one of the best lessons I can give her.

Are you in the same boat, and find yourself wondering what you can do to better take care of yourself, and put yourself at the top of your own priority list?

First, you need to believe it is important. If you don’t take it seriously, no one else will. Make a declaration to your family to let them know of your intent. Let your friends know too, as they will be some of your biggest supporters.

Second, you need to make a very deliberate effort to do something just for you, simply because you want to. I know, it sounds too greedy. There may even be people who question your actions, thus making you second guess yourself, but you need to press on. For a period of time, going to Starbucks each day and buying a chai tea and slice of banana bread was something I did just for me. I would sit at my desk and take a moment to be grateful for what I had, and to applaud myself for doing something simply because I enjoyed it.

Third, remember to be kind to yourself. Making yourself a priority is hard and uncomfortable. There will be days where you don’t think you can do it, or that it isn’t worth it. Don’t berate yourself when you give up something you were looking forward to, or when you acquiesce to someone else’s desires. Take a step back, and remind yourself how important you are, and how important it is to take care of yourself.

I know this path of self-care is hard, especially when we’ve lived our lives making ourselves as small as possible so as not to inconvenience others. However, when faced with the prospect of remaining small, or living out loud and finally taking care of myself, I choose option 2.

The same can go for you too, my friend. You too can put yourself at the top of your own priority list. It may be uncomfortable and awkward at first, but in the end, you’ll be happy you did.