Monday, March 31, 2014

The Importance of Preserving Integrity

"You are who you are when no one is looking."

Holding onto true integrity is a constant battle for most of us. Sadly, I think it might even be something that many people aren't very concerned with. Some of us think that as long as we're doing good in the eyes of others, that we are good, even if what others see is just a front. Some of us settle for others thinking we're the kind of person we'd like to be thought of as, instead of actively trying to become that person. One reason many of us might seem to lack integrity (other than the fact that we think it's good enough if others see us in a positive light) is that there seems to be a lack of good examples. Personally, as a 20-something year old woman growing up in modern-day America, I see very little integrity. Our government has no integrity, neither do companies making most of the food we consume, drug companies, large corporations, insurance companies, etc. Basically the majority of people/institutions looking to get ahead or make personal gains lack integrity. Their main desire is control, be it money or power, and integrity isn't their top priority. We're constantly exposed to these realities and therefore we're often left without positive examples. 

One of my favorite quotes regarding integrity is something Oprah said in an interview for Good Housekeeping. She said, "Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody's going to know whether you did it or not." This is something that so many of us know deep down, but choose to keep in the backs of our minds. I think we do this at times because having integrity makes life more difficult in some ways, or less "fun'. The easy things in life aren't always the right things, and more importantly the right things aren't always easy.

If you're having a hard time finding out what choices would lead you to a life with integrity, spend some time coming up with a set of rules, morals, and principles that you think would make you a happier person. Find out what things would let you live a righteous and satisfying life, principles and morals that would make the world a better place if more people lived by them. Once you've set up guidelines for yourself, pay attention to every decision you make regardless of how small it seems and focus on getting closer to the living the kind of life you want and being the kind of person you want to be. 

I think it's common for person's integrity to be most in danger when it comes to relationships with those they care for the most because most people we care for are a big part of our lives, meaning we're faced with many decisions that could affect them. Ironically, most people lie to the people they love the most because they are most afraid of losing them or doing something they disapprove of. However, it seems as if they truly loved and cared for them that they wouldn't make these poor decisions in the first place. If we all held our integrity at a higher level of importance, lying wouldn't even be something we'd consider as something we "had" to do.

In my personal experience, I've learned over and over again that it takes less time and effort to do the right thing than it does to explain why you did the wrong thing. Lies will absolutely rot and ruin a relationship, but I think the biggest form of betrayal and loss of integrity is cheating. "Cheating isn't always kissing, touching, or flirting. If you gotta delete text messages so your partner won't see them, you're already there". The definition of cheating varies from couple to couple. For some couples, you can kiss other people and it's not cheating. For them, maybe cheating is only when you have sex with someone else. For other couples, flirting with another person is cheating. Each person in a relationship sets up boundaries or "rules", and makes agreements about what is and isn't acceptable to each of them. If one person violates the "rules" they have set up, or crosses boundaries...cheating has occurred. So many people mess around, get caught, and then say, "At least I didn't really cheat" or something along those lines. However, their partner is most definitely left feeling cheated. This is where the fact that we are all adults comes in. Just because your partner hasn't flat-out said what they consider cheating, you should know them and your relationship well enough to know what's acceptable and what's not. And we all know whether or not what we're doing is wrong, if you feel guilty about something you're know it's wrong. Like the quote above, if you're deleting text messages so your partner won't see them, having to clear your computer history every time you get offline, making sure you never leave your facebook open at your boyfriend's house in case he gets online, putting passwords on your phone to keep your partner out (not nosy coworkers, friends, or just because you appreciate privacy in general), you might need to take a step back and evaluate your integrity.

Of course romantic relationships aren't the only thing that can challenge or ruin a person's integrity, and I don't want to get too off-topic. I only touched on that because as I was researching different people's experiences with integrity, many of the things I found online were connected to people's experiences with cheating and lies between partners. As a person in my 20's, it seems to be a trend for people my age. Sometimes it seems like the majority of my friends have either cheated on somebody or been cheated on, and I find it extremely heart breaking because those wounds can last forever. Like I said, I think romantic relationships seem to challenge our integrity the most because they end up being such a huge part of our lives. That can also be a beautiful thing about committing yourself to somebody though. It's a 24 hour a day, seven days a week, every week of the year job that constantly keeps your integrity in check (or it should). And if you can't manage a relationship and having integrity at the same time, end the relationship and work on your integrity because in the end, how you view yourself is more important. And if you can't have integrity in a relationship you're just going to hurt yourself and your partner.

Basically any area of life you can think of leaves room for us to either build our integrity or take away from it. Integrity is at risk with absolutely everything from relationships with every individual we meet, our jobs, school, sports, and even situations where we're alone. When you make the right decision when could make the wrong one and literally nobody will ever know...that feeling is so great, there is no way to describe it. When you practice having good integrity, you're freeing yourself from so much self questioning. There's no more asking yourself "Am I a good person?" or beating yourself up for something you did. Life becomes much more simple when we do what we know is right and listen to our hearts. Imagine living a life where you literally didn't have to hide a single thing about yourself. You could have somebody watching your every move for every hour of every day and you wouldn't feel as though you had anything to hide because you knew you were living with integrity. That's the kind of life I want and that's what I'm working towards every day. 

I've gone on a long journey with my own integrity. I've gone from being a little kid who lacks it, like most young kids do, to a young teenager who starts to learn right from wrong and struggles to make the right decisions on a daily basis. Then I became adult who continued to strive to have good integrity and was feeling pretty good about the person I was becoming. At one point, I was an adult who briefly lost that integrity for various reasons; be it drugs, alcohol, or simply making the wrong choices at different periods in my life that I felt like I had to lie about or hide. Finally, I got to where I'm at adult who works everyday to do the right thing even if nobody would know if I did the wrong thing instead. 
"Integrity is choosing your thoughts and actions based on values rather than personal gain" is a quote that I saw during the time where I had put integrity on the back burner and it really changed things for me. I asked myself if I'd rather get personal gain from something or if I'd rather become a person with good values. If I'd rather gain something temporary that likely wouldn't reap long lasting rewards, or put the extra effort in to do the right thing and become a good person, a person that I could be proud of. From that moment on, it became a lot easier for me to make the right choices. 

Integrity is something I consider very important because it contributes greatly to ones sense of self. If you're constantly pretending to be one person while being a completely different person behind closed doors, it takes a toll on you and can become very stressful. I've seen people try to manage a web of lies. Struggling to remember what lie they told this person, what lie they told that person, why they told their boss they had to miss work that day, where they told their boyfriend they were the night before. Now that I'm grown and I've learned my lessons, I can't imagine living such a stressful life. These people have continuously abandoned their integrity, probably because it was fun or easy at the time, and created an extremely difficult and not fun life for themselves. 

If you lose sight of the importance of integrity for a while, don't beat yourself up. Don't call yourself a "bad person" or give up on doing the right thing. Because you didn't wake up a bad person, you continuously made choices that maybe weren't the best and now you feel as though you're "bad".  If somebody you care about lacks integrity, be patient as long as you aren't putting your well-being at too much of a risk. Support them and always encourage them to make the right choices, and try not to criticize them harshly, as hard as it may be. Re-building integrity takes time but it's worth it. 

"Your reputation and integrity are everything. Follow through on what you say you’re going to do. Your credibility can only be built over time, and it is built from the history of your words and actions.” 
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Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Best and Greatest Love

"The best love is the one that makes you a better person, without changing you into someone other than yourself."

I saw this quote on twitter this morning and I absolutely loved it. This entry is going to have a lot of personal back-story, so bear with me. It all comes together I promise! It also has multiple parts to it and will probably seem very sporadic, but I have quite a bit on my mind.

Something that a lot of you probably don't know about me is that I have only been single for about four months
 (two separate two-month time spans) since I was 15-years-old...and I'll be turning 22 this June. Which sounds freaking crazy! No, I'm not one of those girls who has had twenty boyfriends. I dated the first guy for about two months before we decided it wasn't going anywhere, and then a few months after we broke up I started dating again. This relationship lasted about nine months and ended the summer after sophomore year. That winter I started dating another guy who I dated for about two years and broke up with after we graduated from high school. About a month after my 18th birthday, I wound up with the boy that I dated for nine months in high school...and I'm lucky enough to say I'm with the same stud today! So, now for the point of all that.

I'm a 21-year-old who has been in a relationship for my entire adult life. This July I'll be celebrating my 4-year anniversary with my boyfriend and I couldn't be happier. Often times I'll encounter those ignorant people who say that because I've been in a serious relationship since I was young that I haven't "experienced life", or those who suggest that if I was single I could "live" more. For some people who are in serious relationships at a young age, this might be true. However, for me it's been quite the opposite.

One of the reasons it irritates me when people argue that you can't "live" or "experience life" when you are committed to one person is because quite frankly, I just don't understand where they're coming from. The only thing that being in a relationship has prevented me from doing is being in a romantic relationship with others or hooking up with people, which is something I have no desire to experience either way. So unless "living it up" means sleeping around, there's no reason being committed to somebody should prevent you from living a full life. Some people want to be with all sorts of people to figure out the kind of person they want to share their lives with, but what's so wrong with finding that person when you're young? I don't know what the future holds for my boyfriend and I, but I know that I love him and there's nobody else I'd rather share my time with. And I think that's a beautiful thing. No part of me feels as if I'm "missing out" on something.

To find somebody you truly love at a young age just means that the potential is there to be a part of each other's lives for longer than if you had met them at an older age. I don't believe in love at first sight, but I sure did have the hots for him when I saw him across the classroom when I was 15-years-old. I was an extremely nerdy girl who wore skinny jeans and a thermal shirt to school almost everyday that had owls on it. I had braces with rubber bands and heavy bangs that covered half of my face. I didn't think I had a chance in hell with this boy, but I hunted him down on Myspace (that feels like ages ago), added him as a friend, and we started messaging each other. I remember when he first asked me out on a date, it was towards the end of October 2007 and my best friend at the time was sitting on my knees while I was messaging him on the computer. When he asked me if I'd like to go to the movies sometime, I started screaming and bouncing up and down. My friend jumped off my lap and started squealing too, and I'm pretty sure we ran laps around my dad's house. Embarrassing.

So even though our relationship in high school didn't work out, those memories are priceless to me. And during the years we weren't together we still remained close friends and made hundreds of memories. It still blows my mind sometimes that we ended up back together, but I couldn't be more thankful. I feel like most people aren't lucky enough to have grown up with the person they love and have those fun memories of being young together. While some people would rather be out there "living it up" and dating dozens of people (there is nothing wrong with that by the way), it's simply not for me. I'm living life to the fullest and I'm having plenty of "experiences", the only thing different is that I'm experiencing things with a person that I love. I'm going through life, living, and growing with a person by my side that I wouldn't give up for the world. To me, being committed to somebody from such a young age has only enriched my life...not taken anything away from it.

The quote that inspired me this morning was
"The best love is the one that makes you a better person, without changing you into someone other than yourself", and that's what I believe I have. The best relationship you can have is one that brings the best out of you without changing you. I think a lot of people confuse trying to help somebody grow and become a better person with trying to change who a person is as a whole. Being in a relationship means that you have to accept a person for who they are. However, this doesn't mean that you have to necessarily accept everything they do. Being in a relationship is about sharing your life with somebody, supporting each other, and encouraging each other to grow and be the best person they can be. Accepting who somebody is  doesn't mean that you can't speak up, let them know if something is hurting you, and try to come to an agreement. That's key to a successful relationship. Communication and compromises. If you can't make compromises, give up seemingly insignificant things that might be significant to your partner, or put their needs before yours at times...then you really aren't ready for an adult relationship. When you commit yourself to somebody, your life is no longer just about you. There are two of you working as team and you need to take care of each other. Just like when you have children, you have committed your lives to building a family and from that point on it's not about the two of you, it's about your family a whole.

If your partner has a drinking problem and it's affecting your relationship or you're concerned about their health, you are entitled to voice your concerns because you are half of the relationship. If your partner constantly puts you down around your friend's because they think it's funny, you have the right to say something to them in private. 
This doesn't mean you don't accept them, it means you choose to not accept their behavior. Trying to alter or improve things in your relationship isn't the same as trying to change somebody in general and I think many people need to realize that. So many people are afraid to speak up and make their concerns known because they don't want to make their partner feel like they're trying to change who they are.  If your partner is doing things that hurt you, you're going to be unhappy. And if you're not happy you likely won't be able to make them happy either, and your relationship is going to suffer.

I haven't been in a relationship for this long because I "need" to be, I'm not a person who feels they need to be with somebody else. But it's what I want. Being with somebody and sharing my life with a person I love is where I want to be, it's my happy place. Nothing makes me happier than sharing my life with another person and having my focus be on somebody other than myself. I enjoy making my boyfriend happy, supporting him, and helping him grow while he helps me grow in return. I like celebrating accomplishments with him and even going through trials, tribulations, arguments and hard times with him. Not because I like pain and hardship, but because I'd rather go through it with somebody I love than go through it myself, and I'd rather be there for him when he's experiencing a hard time than watch him go through it alone. Not only do I have a wonderful, supportive and loving boyfriend, but I have found a best friend throughout these years as well and I truly couldn't imagine my life without him.

I don't encourage people to actively go out and look for love necessarily, because it really will find you when the time is right, whether you're 15-years-old or 50-years-old. But I do think it's important that young people don't turn down the opportunity for real love to grow just because they're "too young" or because others tell them that they'll miss out on life if they're in a relationship in their 20's. If you think you might have found somebody you could see yourself having a future with, give it a shot. The worst thing that could happen is that it won't work out. I also encourage those of you who are the ones saying those things to young people to maybe not discourage them. I have seen happy couples break up because the words of others have been so influential. Their parents or other adults who are older have told them for so long that they're missing out on life by being in a relationship that they end up breaking it off. And then a few months down the road they realize that they were much happier in that relationship, and now it's too late to go back to it. Live and let live. People are going to figure out what's best for them on their own. As long as a person's partner isn't overly-controlling, their life isn't any less colorful because they're sharing it with somebody else. And a "good love" will only encourage you to grow and bring the best out in you, not try to change you, control you or hold you back. 

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

"A Negative Mind Will Never Give You a Positive Life"

"People inspire you, or they drain you - pick them wisely." -Hans F. Hansen

I always used to wonder why it seems like bad things are always happening to negative people. We've all had those friends who seem like they're constantly complaining about something going on in their lives. Sometimes this just comes from bouts of misfortune, but sometimes it's just because they are negative people in general. These people tend to have a hard time finding positive things, and because of this, everything in their lives is always "negative". They will only talk about what's going wrong, not what's going right, and if you surround yourself with these people, slowly you will start to become more negative. Negative people drain all positivity and energy out of those around them. The saying "Misery loves company" has a lot of truth behind it. Unhappy people get some sort of consolation knowing that other people are miserable as well. Sometimes when I'm feeling depressed I don't like to be around upbeat people because I find it too overwhelming or even obnoxious. At times, being in the company of another person who is suffering makes my sadness easier to bear. To a certain point this can be healthy. Two people who are going through hardships at the same time can sometimes help each other through it and form a special bond. If you're really feeling down, sometimes being in an upbeat environment or trying to force yourself to be happy can do more harm than good. However, at a certain point this becomes very unhealthy and if it's all people ever do, the negativity will consume them and it can be nearly impossible to find your way out.

I think the first step to creating a more positive life for yourself is being able to differentiate those who are being negative and those who are negative. Sometimes it seems like a fine line, but it's there. We all have moments when we're in a bad mood or feeling negative, but this doesn't make us negative in general. Those who truly are negative, take on negativity as part of their identity. The easiest way for me to identify these people is by observing whether or not their negativity is part of a pattern. 
When somebody is just BEING negative, it's usually temporary and out-of-character. Because of this, it strikes something in us that causes us to ask this person (a friend, family member, lover, etc.), "What's wrong?", "Are you upset?" or something like that because we recognize that this behavior isn't normal for them. With those who are negative people, we expect this negativity from them. For them, being negative, hopeless and critical are all parts of their character.

I read an blog entry written by Marc Chernoff this morning that I strongly recommend for everybody called "7 Negative People You Need to Ignore". In his blog, Chernoff describes those with negative attitudes and opinions as "venomous and contagious" and he couldn't be more right. He goes on to describe seven different kinds of negative people we encounter in our lives, explains the negative affects they can have on us, and tells why we need to subtract them from our lives.  

"People inspire you, or they drain you - pick them wisely". If you're constantly around negative people, they'll drain all of your energy and you'll become more like them, always viewing things from the negative side. However, if you surround yourself with positive people, they will rub off on you and you'll quickly see positive changes happening in your perspective and your life. Like Chernoff said in his blog and many others  have said before, if you're sharing your life with negative people you have to free yourself from them. You don't ignore them or cut them out of your life because you hate them or even dislike them, but because you love yourself and need to take care of yourself. In order to live the most positive lives possible we have to surround ourselves with positive people who reflect the person we aspire to be. Every relationship we have (be it friendship, romantic...) should help us, encourage us to grow, and create happiness...not hurt us. We should only surround ourselves with those who support and respect us.

There aren't a lot of things in life that we can control, but who we share our lives with is one thing we can. Life is full of enough negative things without filling it with negative people and letting others suck the happiness out of you.
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Friday, March 21, 2014

Body Shaming

Body shaming or body bashing occurs in more ways than one and it seems like these days we can't look anywhere without seeing some form of it. Body bashing is what's happening when we
criticize our own appearance by comparing it to others or making harsh judgments of ourselves, when we criticize the appearances of others without them knowing (i.e., pointing people out when you're with your friends and making rude comments about them, etc.), or criticizing somebody else's appearance to their face. None of these options are much better than the next. No matter which type you partake in, it perpetuates the detrimental idea that people should be judged mainly for their appearance and physical features. This goes on between women and men, but I'm going to focus a little more on women.

One of my favorite quotes I heard a while back is "Our bodies are the shells for our souls. It's like an egg that holds a baby chick inside. Our soul and who we really are is the baby chick." It's a very simple way to put it. The egg serves as protection for the chick and allows it to grow, the way the egg looks doesn't matter. Our bodies are very important. We need to respect our bodies and practice good health in order to reap the benefits of a long and healthy life. However, as long as we are healthy and our bodies are performing and functioning properly, it doesn't matter what we look like. This goes for skin color, height, build, hairstyle, etc.

For decades now, there has been extreme pressure on women to be thin. Infomercials are flooded with surgeries for weight loss and body contouring that can be extremely expensive and dangerous. On nearly every page in magazines for women there are articles titled "How to lose ten pounds in a week!" or "Reduce the size of your waist by 20% in just weeks!" But then, the next page of the magazine is an article about how every woman should feel beautiful and embrace their bodies. Sending mixed messages to young women is not what these magazines should to be doing.

Due to this "skinny craze",  bigger women have been working towards embracing their bodies and preaching positive body image. However, many people are going about this in the most negative way possible. 
"Real women have curves!" seems to be the main slogan people are trying to get out there to promote self-love. However, this may be one of the most stupid thing I have ever read. Women are trying to get other women to love their bodies and be confident no matter what size they are. However, they're attempting to define what a "real woman" using size. That seems contradicting to me. A certain body type doesn't even begin to constitute a "real" woman. Women are the most beautiful and unique combinations of compassion, empathy, intelligence, desire, motivation, dreams, manners, ideas, opinions, independence, spunk, strength, a good sense of self, a good conscience, and more. What a "real woman" is has nothing to do with how she looks. Real women don't need to be thin, they don't need to have curves, they don't need to have a single hair on their head or a pair of heels in their closet.

We can't begin to teach young women about positive body image when we're constantly putting down one body type to build up another. We need to start promoting good health instead of particular body types. Healthy people come in all different shapes and sizes and nothing positive can come from body shaming. If people continue to bash on thicker bodies, young women are going to continue to starve themselves, force themselves to vomit and hate their own bodies. If people continue to preach about curves, naturally thin women are going to go under the knife the day they turn 18 to get larger breasts. Not necessarily because all of them want to, but because they feel like the have to in order to be "a real woman" or to be attractive. We can see this simply by reading statements from countless celebrities who have felt pressured to go under the knife in pursuit of "beauty", and ended up regretting it. Courtney Love, Kathy Griffin, Heidi Montag, and Kenny Rogers (yes, men too) are just a few celebrities who have come forward about their experiences with plastic surgery and their regrets.

I think one of the lowest forms of body bashing is when women bring men into it. When women try to talk about what "men" like in regards to the "ideal female body". A while back something really popular going around was "Real men like curves, only dogs go for bones." I was honestly SHOCKED when I saw this. Now not only were women trying to define what "real

women" looked like, but they were also trying to define a "real man" by what he's attracted to physically.  Good men don't bash on the bodies of any human being, and good women don't compare other women to "bones", and men with different preferences to "dogs". Apparently if a man is attracted to thin girls who don't have large hips or breasts, or athletic girls with more of a narrow build...they aren't real men. That was news to me.

Women aren't the only ones trying to define "real women" though. I see men doing it almost as often as women. Supporting and promoting plastic surgery so that women with tiny waists and slender legs can have gigantic breasts as well. Or men posting memes that make fun of heavier women, with text added on saying things like, "Tag a friend who would f*@! this". Both of these just sicken me. If you're a man who's attracted to small waists and large breasts that's fine. Seek out women who you find attractive, but don't encourage or pressure other women to try to fit that mold. If you're a man who's attracted to "thicker" women, that's great. But don't tell other girls that "They're too thin" or "Have the body of a 12-year-old boy".

I'm sure at one point or another we have all body shamed to a certain agree, definitely myself included, but why? Is there a single thing to gain?

Next time you begin to do something like that, ask yourself  "Does it make me feel better about my own body to criticize another person's appearance?", "Is bashing on her body because I don't like my legs going to make them thinner or more muscular? Is it going to make the things I'm insecure about magically go away?" I can guarantee you the answer is no. And if criticizing another person's appearance truly does make you feel better about your own, I offer you my most sincere apologies and recommend you talk to somebody about that.  If you're thinking poorly about your body, instead of looking at the bodies of others and thinking, "Well at least I don't have her stomach" or "At least I look better than her", look in the mirror and find the things about yourself that you find beautiful. I promise it's more rewarding.

*I love both of these pictures. I found them on The Skinny on Body Shaming, a blog which raises awareness of body shaming and works to promote body acceptance
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Monday, March 17, 2014

The grass isn't always greener on the other side, it's green where you water it

The world would be a lot happier of a place if people would stop peeking over the fence, trying to see if the grass is greener on the other side. I think this is a big issue, especially when it comes to relationships. Once a couple has been together for a certain amount of time, the butterflies tend to go away and the "excitement" starts to fade. Once this happens,  people start seeking out those feelings again without realizing that they're entering a never-ending circle. Yes they may find those butterflies and first time rushes again, but what's going to happen a few months or years down the road? Those feelings are going to fade just like they did before and they're going to find themselves in the same boat again, wanting to chase that initial excitement with somebody new.

Instead of seeking these feelings of "new love", people should acknowledge what's going on and focus on nurturing their existing relationship. Paying more attention to signals their partner may be giving them, figuring out their own wants and needs as well as their partner's, and figuring out how to bring some excitement back to their relationship.  Instead of thinking, "Well there are funnier people out there, more successful people, better looking people, more intelligent people. etc" or yearning for the thrill of the chase, we all need to realize that's not what lasting love is about (if that's what you're seeking). Loving somebody is about committing to a journey through life with another person, supporting them, and caring for them regardless of those things. Outer beauty is fleeting, success can be temporary as well as the butterflies and excitement. We need to take a step back, look at ourselves and realize that we also aren't the smartest, funniest, best looking, or most successful person in the world...but our partner still chose us and continues to choose us each day that they're in a relationship with us.

I had a good conversation with my boyfriend the other day about my thoughts on social media and technology having a huge, and very negative, impact on relationships. First, social media websites like twitter and facebook allow people to have a very open window to the lives of others. You can log on, go to a person's page and look through literally hundreds of pictures of them, years worth of posts they've made and conversations they've had with others, relationship updates, jobs they've had, their accomplishments, etc. And then you can click on the pages of their friends, and continue the online "stalking". Once you've kept tabs on the lives of others so long through these websites, you start to feel like you know them. I've heard of countless people developing "crushes" on people they've never met, or ever even seen in person. I think this kind of behavior and these habits are damaging and unhealthy enough for single people to partake in, but even more so for those who are in relationships. If you're in a relationship and spending countless hours looking through photos and social media profiles of other men or women who aren't your significant other then you probably should step back and think about how damaging this is. First ask yourself why you're doing it. Is it genuinely just a friend you haven't spoken to in a while and you want to see what they're up to, or is it something different? If so, put an end to the behavior, and focus that attention on your partner and finding a solution to whatever drove you to start behaving that way. Another thing that happens is people spend far too much time looking at the relationships of others on social media. I've heard so many people compare their relationships to those of other people by what they see online, and I'm guilty of this too. "I'm so jealous, her man does _____ for her" or "My relationship is so much better than _______. I can just tell". When in reality, we have no idea what the relationships of others are like by looking online. We only see what others want us to see, what they put out there for the public eye.

As far as texting goes, I think that's another aspect of modern technology that can quickly become dangerous. Nearly everybody has a smart phone these days and it's gotten to the point where your phone can be like a whole little secret world for people where they have an alternate life. Every person I know, without exception, who has cheated or been cheated on has done a large amount of it on their cellphone, whether it's texting, sending pictures, shady hook-up apps, etc. It's so easy for people to engage in this kind of cyber-cheating and not get caught. Social media and technology can be such great things, but they can also ruin relationships if we're not careful with how we use them.

Privacy is a huge part of making relationships lasts. Creating privacy for yourself and your partner and also respecting the privacy of others.
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Friday, March 14, 2014

"The Sexy Lie"

When I get stressed out I like to write. This last week or so I've been incredibly stressed  between work, photo shoots, finances, and my mum's wedding reception and I've had the worst writer's block...which has only made me stress out even more. I've spent a lot of time trying to find inspiration to blog and haven't found a thing until today when I took 13 minutes to watch this video. As a 21-year-old woman living in America this definitely hit home. While this video inspired me to change how I live, unfortunately it didn't really help the writer's block! I don't have much to say in addition to this video, which is fine because Caroline Heldman says it all perfectly.

Sexual objectification is such a crippling reality today and it seems like it never stops. This issue is huge for me and the topic will always be one that inspires me to express my feelings about it. If men aren't sexually objectifying women (and sometimes vice versa) then we are doing it to ourselves and each other. So many young girls are being fed this bullshit from the media and their surroundings that being sexually objectified is "empowering", when that couldn't be further from the truth. There is nothing empowering about being viewed as an object. 

I'm going to take everything I heard in this video to heart and start working on not objectifying myself or other women anymore, because we are so much more than objects. There are things we can do to stand up against others doing this to us and to prevent us from doing it to ourselves. The first step for me is going to be to stop consuming these products that promote sexual objectification. To stop paying attention to hyper-sexualized images of women and "wishing" that I could look like them. To sit and wish you had another woman's legs, stomach, breasts, or lips is to wish your life away and to waste it. It's shallow and meaningless. How we look should have no affect on how we view our worth because physical beauty is fleeting. Are you going to be less important, less unique, less special, and less of a human being when you grow old and your looks start to "fade"? No, that's silly.

In high school I carried my makeup with me constantly and went to the bathroom to touch it up between every class. And that's not a joke. I've had moderate acne for years and oily skin so between every class I would run to the bathroom to make sure my skin didn't look shiny or my eyeliner wasn't smudged. On top of that, my initial routine to start the day began with spending over an hour and a half on my hair and makeup. Looking back, I hate all that time I wasted doing that, and it breaks my heart that millions of young girls are doing the same thing. Did I do it because it made me feel pretty or made me feel good about myself? No, because it didn't. I did it so other people would think I looked decent. Now my boss is lucky if I brush my hair before I come to work. And at 21 I'm so much more confident and comfortable in my skin than I ever imagined I'd be at 15. However, I still give into sexual objectification from time to time by allowing others to do it to me or by comparing myself to other women, and there's always room to work harder to eradicate that from our lives.

Like I said, I'm still having really bad writer's block but not much more needs to be said that Caroline didn't cover or that wouldn't just be senseless rambling. If you are a parent of young girls or boys, I strongly recommend you not only watch this for yourself but also sit down and watch this with your kids. And talk to them about this issue. Like Caroline said in this video, it seems like we have lost our voices when it comes to speaking out against sexual objectification and like we have accepted it as part of life. Honestly, I recommend this video for all of you. Young or old, man or woman. This woman speaks the truth.

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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Letting Regrets Turn Into Memories and Lessons Learned

"Regrets are visitors in the guest house of the mind"

One thing about regrets that I'm slowly learning is that they can either be temporary (while you learn how to handle them), or they can become a permanent part of our life and how you identify yourself. I'm currently at a time in my life where I'm trying to take all the regrets I have, no matter how big or small, and turn them into distant memories and lessons learned. I've talked to a lot of people out of curiosity recently to find out about things they've done or said that they've ended up regretting and asking them for guidance on how they got past it. While sharing stories with others I've learned a lot about how to move on and get some weight off my chest. "Regrets are visitors in the guest house of the mind" is one of my new favorite quotes. Let regrets be temporary, nothing more than visitors in your life. Don't allow them to become permanent residents that you have to deal with everyday. Don't let them become obnoxious landlords that own your mind that you have to answer to all the time. That constant nuisance that you try to hide from, but their visit or phone call is unavoidable. Let them come and let them go.

Recently I wrote a little about regrets and how much I dislike the quote, "Regret nothing because at one point in time it was exactly what you wanted". I wrote about how sometimes the things that we believe are "right" aren't actually what we want and the things that we want aren't always "right". I wrote about how while there's some truth to that quote that life isn't black and white and there are a lot of circumstances that make regrets difficult to avoid. That being said, all we can do to
 try to avoid them from happening in the first place is slowing down while making all of our decisions and making them with concerns of our health, heart, mind, and body. But even that doesn't always work because sometimes our hearts or heads are telling us to do certain things that aren't going to be in our best interest down the road, even if they are at the moment. When this happens it teaches us that sometimes regrets are inevitable. Regrets are inevitable because change is. What we want, what we need, and what's best for us changes as the years, weeks, or even days go by. 

Once you've made a decision that has lead you to regret, you have to move forward. Every day I'm working towards letting go of regrets and one of the main things I find useful is to constantly remind myself that I have to try to focus on all the positives. If there doesn't seem like there are any, I just need to choose to learn something from it, learning is always a positive thing. If I need more positivity than that, I can remind myself that all of my decisions, good or bad, make me who I am. There's  a certain amount of knowledge or wisdom that can come by learning from the experiences and mistakes of others, but a large part can only come from going through something yourself. So if you're dealing with regret, the first step is to try to find the positives in the situation.

Personally, that's where I'm at in my journey to self-acceptance. I've found some positives and accepted that all of my decisions are things that I chose and are now part of who I am. I trust myself to find strength within' myself and to persevere. No amount of regret is worth rolling over and dying for. I've also found that time is somewhat of a factor in healing when I'm feeling guilty, ashamed, or full of regret. "Time heals all wounds" is a myth. All that time itself does is put distance between you and whatever happened. While I guess there's some peace to be found in that, time can only truly help if you utilize it. It's what you do in that time that determines your progress. You need to take a moment to breathe and reflect on what it was you did, why you did it, how it made you feel, and what you learned. Reflection takes time and so does forgiving yourself. If you refuse to forgive yourself then there's no way you're going to move on with that burden.

Something else I've found useful is not allowing myself to get too attached to my emotions. Recognize and identify your emotions, and then let them go. Don't let your emotions become who you are and run your life. It's a lot easier said than done, but once you have control over your emotions, recognize that regret alone is a waste of time. It's a waste unless you take this regret and use it to your advantage, some great things can come from it. Often times, people won't make changes for the better until they have regret as a driving force behind them. Or at least that's how I am. Having regrets has caused me to strive to be better. Without regrets and guilt, most of us would never grow as people. People have this preconceived idea that nothing good can come from regret, and this is what determines how we let the regrets affect us. It can be a positive or negative experience.

The final thing that I've found useful to keep in mind, is that the time we spend regretting something could become a regret of it's own. I'm still living with a few regrets that I'm working towards letting go, but I also have regrets of the past that I've moved beyond. When I look back at past regrets, I almost regret the time I spent regretting those mistakes more than the mistakes themselves. Confusing I know! But if you think about it, I think a lot of us encounter this problem. Looking back on wasted time we spent on regrets instead of dedicating all that time to moving on in a quicker and more healthy manner.

Try not to ever fall back on the "what-ifs". 
Thinking about the what-ifs won't change anything, and honestly, it can be unbearable. The past is the past, it can't be changed, and any time spent on living as if it could be is time wasted. Instead of thinking about what could have been, focus on what can be and how you can get there. 

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Born For Each Other

"Our roots say we're sisters. Our hearts say we're friends"

My little sister is more than a person who has the same parents as me. She’s my number one confidant, my safety net, my security blanket, my built in best friend, my mini-me, my shoulder to cry on, my pick-me-up, my reason to strive to be a better person, my strength, a bit of my childhood that will never be lost, a golden thread to the meaning of life, my best listener, my Padawan.

My sister and I have been incredibly close for our entire lives. I had just turned two when she was born and I don’t ever remember a time where I wasn’t thrilled to have a baby sister. We had the most vivid imaginations I’ve ever seen in two kids. We would play “Barbie games” that lasted weeks, we’d sit under the counter in our old house and pretend we were witches, we’d go ride my horse to the end of the field and have a picnic under the tree and pretend we were the girls in “The Saddle Club”, we’d put on “plays” for our brother and our parents all the time…there was never a dull moment. Her and I shared a bedroom until I was 15-years-old, and for many years we shared a bed. We woke up together, played all day together, and fell asleep together. When one of us got sent to our room for time-out, it usually wasn’t long before the other one would follow…just to sit with the other while they cried.

Like any older sibling/younger sibling relationship…I’m allowed to pick on Tara and nobody else is. In elementary school, if somebody picked on Tara and I heard about it…it never happened again. In hindsight, it makes me laugh just because of the concept. But, I can’t tell you how many times Tara would tell me about kids (usually boys who were probably crushing on her) who were teasing her and then I’d have to go after them.  It’s not so funny thinking back to the time it happened in high school though. Tara had told me about a girl who was being disrespectful to her around the end of that school day and it took a lot of convincing on Tara’s end to keep me from going after this girl. My baby sister, no matter how old, will always be the person that I want to protect the most…until I have kids one day of course. She’s a grown woman now and fully capable of handling herself, but she’ll always be my little sister and I’ll always think that I need to take care of her.

Once we became teenagers, our fights got worse and more intense but our bond continued to grow even more. I remember being 16-years-old and being carried down into my bedroom by my ex-boyfriend after drinking too much at a Halloween party. I wasn’t left alone for a second that night. I was put in the bath tub, put on the toilet (humiliating), had my clothes changed from head to toe, nurtured, and tucked into bed. I remember somebody being there doing all these things for me but I don’t remember ever looking at the person’s face. I vaguely remember having my limbs moved around and hearing voices but that’s it. When I woke up, what was on the floor next to my bed? A glass of water, a pan in case I needed to throw up, and my 14-year-old sister curled up asleep. She had stayed next to me all night. Just like that night, I’ll never forget the time when my boyfriend and I surprised her. At this time she was living in a dorm
 across the state from me in Spokane and going to school at Gonzaga University. My boyfriend and I had planned a road trip around the state and I made it a requirement that we stop and visit my sister. I hadn’t seen her in months and I had coordinated the visit with her roommate at the time, making sure that Tara would be in the dorm when we got there and that it would be a total surprise. I remember walking through the door and Tara looked over at me. There was a window between the door I came in through and the room she was sitting in so she couldn’t tell it was me. It was funny because she as almost glaring trying to figure out who it was. Once she realized it was me, she started screaming and ran up to me and gave me the biggest hug. I’m such a softy, because I’m definitely tearing up while remembering that moment. I cried pretty damn hard. The second best part, after seeing her face when she realized it was me, was meeting the kids who lived in the dorm with her. I remember meeting one and I started talking and she said, “Oh my god oh my god! Ahhh! You guys sound exactly the same!” Naturally, I laughed. Then she freaked out even more. “OH MY GOD YOUR LAUGH IS JUST LIKE TARA’S!” It was priceless. I’ll admit, when I watch videos of Tara and I, sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s talking at certain times!

There have been a few really hard times since she moved away. I went from having her being in the same house as me every day, just a flight of stairs away when I needed her, to being hours away across the state. The distance was especially hard for me to deal with when she started experiencing things that I had already been through, and I wanted nothing more than to be there for her and to help guide her. Or just to hug her while she cried.

I haven’t always been the best older sibling or the best role model, but I hope that if anything I have helped my sister realize that life isn’t about fitting in because it’s better to stand out. I have always been “weird”, different and crazy. And I’m honestly pretty stoked that my little sister has turned out similarly. For many years I watched her struggle, like we all do, with finding herself and figuring out the kind of person she wanted to be. Now, looking at her, I see the most beautiful 19-year-old girl I could ever imagine.  She’s incredibly smart, strong, independent,  motivated, and drop dead gorgeous. She has opinions and uses her voice loudly to make them known, she stands up for herself and doesn’t take any shit. She has goals, she’s hilarious, she’s open minded, and she's talented. She’s unique and she’s educated.

I truly can't imagine getting through this crazy life without her by my side. She was born to be my sister and chose to be my friend.

"Together forever, never apart. Maybe in distance, but never in heart."

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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Let Them Talk. Talk is Cheap.

There's the type of being "two-faced" where you'll see a person in public that you don't necessarily like and you'll be cordial to them, maybe even nice to them. However, that's really not what being two-faced is. That's called being mature enough to be able to see someone you dislike and to act respectful. Then there are the people who are truly two-faced. These people will act like they like you on a day to day basis, maybe even act like your friend and invest time in building a legitimate relationship with you, or at least it seems legitimate. Then whenever you're not around they'll tear you down and talk poorly about you. Sometimes the people they talk poorly about you to are your genuine friends, and that's where the two-faced person has made the real mistake. If talking shit about others behind their backs truly makes you feel better, then by all means do so (and I'm sorry). But if you don't want to get caught and get a bad reputation for being that kind of person, then be more careful about who you talk to. Hearing that a person you had a certain level of expectations or trust for talks badly about you is one of the most disappointing things. It doesn't hurt because I'm sad that a person doesn't like me, it hurts because I was foolish enough to trust so easily. And slowly throughout life, I'm learning that if you don't set such high expectations of people, you won't be disappointed as easily. 

Recently I've heard about a few people saying that I have "changed"...and they're saying this in a negative way. People are saying that I "used to be this" or I "used to be that", often comparing me to who I apparently "was" in high school. Who I am as a person has not changed over the past few years. I used to be weak and ignorant, so I guess I apologize that I'm not any longer. I was weak because I was easily influenced by others, I was too afraid to voice my opinions for fear of being criticized, I let people walk all over me, and I knew nothing about a lot of things. Between the end of high school until now, things have changed so much in my life. I went through a break up with somebody I had been with for years and had been living with, moved out of my parent's house, moved back in, had my parents divorce, moved out of dad's house and moved into mom's, had my little sister move across the state, had my dog pass away which was very traumatic for me, fell deeper in love, had to cope with a long distance relationship for over a year and a half, had my boyfriend move back home (yay!), had a few different jobs that taught me a lot about life, had a few friends lose their lives, had my mum get remarried, and MANY other things. Each of these things were tremendous learning experiences, and learning experiences cause people to adapt and "change". So why do some people consider changing a bad thing? Especially when they don't even know the first bit of your life story. Changes like these in a person's life are inevitable. And when changes like this happen, changes happen to the person. Cause and effect. 

Some things about me might be different than they were in the past. I'm not as quiet as I used to be. In fact, I'm pretty damn loud, outspoken, and obnoxious. I'm not as ignorant. If I have a conversation with you, odds are that I know what I'm talking about. I'm not as shy. I've found the beauty in meeting new people and reaching out. I'm not as easily influenced. I'm not a victim of peer pressure and people don't have the ability to mold my mind however they want anymore, because I've educated myself and have my own set of strong values and opinions. I'm not lost. I have a strong sense of self and I understand myself more than I ever have. I'm not a prisoner of my own body anymore. I used to wear baggy sweatshirts all the time and I remember sitting in class in middle school in June and just sweating buckets because I'd rather pass out than show people my body. And by "showing my body" I mean that I was terrified of wearing a t-shirt or even a normal long sleeved shirt. Or I remember going to the Aquatic Center or the water park and my mum having to ask the employees if I could wear a t-shirt and shorts in the water because I'd rather sit alone on the bleachers than wear a swim suit. Now, with the help of my family, supportive and loving boyfriend, and genuine friends...I can wear a bikini at the beach like the other girls. There are very few pictures of me from the ages 9-14, it's like I almost didn't exist. I hated myself from my skin, to my teeth, to my body, and I avoided cameras like the plague. But now, I do photo shoots from time to time and really enjoy it. No matter how much I may "change" throughout life, all that matters is that I'm happy with who I am. And when I hit times when I'm not happy with myself, I will change, and it will always be for the better. Because it will make me happier.

If I still was how I used to be in high school. Instead of thinking about these things and writing out my feelings in my blog, I would have gone up to the girls who have been talking poorly about me and confronted them. I would have gotten in their faces, called them out, embarrassed them, and asked them why they were being so "fake" and two-faced. I would have turned this into some huge, dramatic ordeal and let it influence whether or not I was happy and at peace. But now? Now I've grown up and I realize that it's not important. If these people want to talk about me then let them. I will slowly cut these people and the negativity they bring out of my life and I'll leave theirs...quietly and gracefully. Whether you prefer the "new" me or the "old" me, at the end of each day I can still lay down at night and know that I'm a genuine person. All I can do is be the best person I can be in my own eyes, and hope that others recognize my good intentions. You can do your best, but in the end it's impossible to please everybody. Take it from me and don't spend years of your life trying to make everybody happy. I already attempted that. Your best is not going to be enough for everyone and once you learn that, you'll be amazed at how liberating that knowledge is. Live for yourself, take care of yourself and those who take care of you, stay true to yourself, treat others with respect, be genuine...and that should be enough to bring you and those around you happiness. And embrace growth and adaptation. 
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