How To Harness Positivity When Everything Feels Like A Dumpster Fire

How To Harness Positivity When Everything Feels Like A Dumpster Fire

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(…and the dumpster was filled with rancid milk and rotting broccoli and dog poop bags.)

 

WHEN I WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL, my theater teacher used to tell us that instead of saying we were nervous before a show, we should tell ourselves that we were actually excited. Both nervous and excited are “aroused emotions,” meaning they trigger a response in the body that prepares you for action. They’re two words for the same sensation.

But sometimes, there are no substitute feel-alike words for what you’re experiencing. Flipping the shittiness feels saccharine and silly at best, tone deaf and demeaning at worst. You might be feeling exhausted, defeated, enraged, lonely, confused, or some kind of special cocktail of all the above ingredients. “Positive self-talk” probably feels pretty empty, and pretty hokey.

It does to me, too.

Because the thing is that positive self-talk doesn’t always work.

 


THE NOT SO GREAT POWER OF POSITIVITY

Studies have shown that if you don’t believe what you’re telling yourself, and you don’t already have high self-esteem, your brain knows you’re telling yourself lies. The University of Waterloo published a study in the Journal of Psychological Science concluding that “repeating positive self-statements may benefit certain people, such as individuals with high self-esteem, but backfire for the very people who need them the most.” And what’s more, you start to feel ashamed of the fact that you AREN’T that person you’re trying to tell yourself you are.

What’s even more interesting to me is that the aforementioned study also said that when asked to list both negative and positive thoughts about themselves, the people who had lower self-esteem actually felt BETTER when they were allowed to say the negative thoughts about themselves. The so-called positive feelings that were being generated came directly from their so-called negativity. It’s no wonder we stay in negative self-talk loops – we stay where we believe we belong.

 

PROACTIVE, NOT REACTIVE.

Positive self-talk isn’t necessarily empty and it most certainly isn’t bad. But jumping straight to the “talk” part of “positive self-talk” is skipping the vital step of determining what it means to actually be positive in the first place.

If there is ONE message I hope you internalize about harnessing positivity during the toughest of times, it’s this:

Positivity isn’t inherently feel-good, happy, or rainbows in the sky.

Positivity is NOT about uplifting mantras and affirmations.

Positivity is about being proactive, not reactive.

Positivity is about being proactive, not reactive. Click To Tweet

Positivity is about recognizing the full spectrum of a situation – the highs, the lows, the lights, the darks, and everything in between – and making a proactive choice to move forward.

By this logic, positivity won’t always feel good. It might feel uncomfortable, you might feel angry, there might be sadness lingering in the background or dread pushing its way through to the front of the line. Your problems won’t disappear and you won’t be handed solutions on a silver platter. And so you might feel discouraged or like you’re doing things “wrong.”

But as long as you’re being proactive, not reactive, I can assure you – THAT is positivity in motion.

 

HOW CAN I BE PROACTIVE RIGHT NOW?

Some words are easily flipped. And while maybe you can’t flip the stinky dumpster fire of dog-shit and turn it into a babbling brook filled with glistening pebbles…maybe, just maybe, you can flip what positivity actually means to you.

Nervousness to excitement. Positive to proactive.

The words we choose to use hold so much weight. It’s vital we dissect what they mean to us before we decide what we do with them.

Instead of asking yourself, “How can I be positive right now?”, try asking yourself “How can I be proactive right now?”

Report back in the comments. I’d love to hear where your proactive choices take you.

 

 

Pod From The Heart: 5 Podcasting Tips To Start (And Maintain!) A Successful Show

Pod From The Heart: 5 Podcasting Tips To Start (And Maintain!) A Successful Show

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“You should start a podcast. In a few years everyone’s gonna be doing them. If you want to, now’s the time. But you know, also, don’t do it if you don’t want to.”

Sitting in a café in Silverlake across from my friend Jessica on a crisp April afternoon, I soaked in her words as my eyes wandered in the way they do when I agree with someone but am also a little terrified by what they’re saying.

It was 2015 and I’d just launched the website for my new project, WANT: Women Against Negative Talk, three months earlier. I was simultaneously working as an editor for a wellness site, which I joked was my “grad school” since it was so clear that everything I had learned about navigating the digital space over my four years thus far was directly applicable to what I was creating on my own. There were clear formulas, processes, and platforms to follow and utilize.

Podcasting, however, was brand new territory. I barely knew of anyone who listened to podcasts…let alone HOSTED them. Well, except Jessica. Did I have what it would take to start my own??

It’s over five years later and I’m so glad I took Jessica’s advice when I did. My podcast, WANTcast: The Women Against Negative Talk Podcast, launched in September 2015 and just celebrated its fifth birthday (I’ve got a kindergartener, folks!). Not only am I relieved that I got to podcasting before the medium’s big boom post-Serial…I’m relieved I took the second part of Jessica’s advice to heart just as much as the first part:

“…But you know, also, don’t do it if you don’t want to.”

Expectation vs reality.

My heart both bursts and breaks when I think about people starting podcasts today.
It bursts because I absolutely love how accessible podcasting is. I love that with minimal equipment and overhead, almost anyone can create a show. I love that with the slew of podcasting platforms that exist at various price points, almost anyone can subscribe and listen. I love the wide range of possibilities that exists with podcasting.

It breaks for the same reasons one’s heart breaks when anything they love becomes a bit too mainstream. I’m reminded of the bloggers circa 2010 and the big blog boom that followed soon thereafter (side note, try to say big blog boom 10xs fast). It seemed like every single mega company was adding a blog to their website – and if independent bloggers weren’t willing to turn their blog into a business to keep up, they’d fall back into the shadows.

Big media companies now dominate the pod charts, making it harder and harder for smaller, independently-run podcasts to get the downloads (and even visibility!) they deserve. If you’re a small fish in the big pond of pods and want to monetize your podcast, the mainstreaming of podcasts has made it REALLY hard to do so, especially without the help of an ad network.

But that’s not all: while podcasts *seem* relatively easy for anyone to create, the process of creating a quality episode – let alone entire show – is anything BUT. With only your voice, mind, and sound quality to connect with listeners, something as small as a faint clicking sound in the background (your dog walking on hardwood floor or husband typing on his computer, perhaps?) can get listeners saying No Thanks. The one exception is if you’re a big celebrity…in which case, people find the lack of polish somewhat endearing. Stars! They’re just like us! 

The problem with THAT is that those might be the podcasts people are being inspired by when they say they want to start their own. But the bar listeners have for a new voice is so different than the bar they have for their favorite celeb who feels “so accessible!” to them. You can have the best ideas and the most well-thought-out episode…but if your sound quality isn’t decent, it’s going to be tough to retain listeners…if that’s what you’re after. And that’s not even taking into account episode structure, intros, outros, interview skills and styles, editing or lack thereof, storytelling, coughs, sneezes, ums, likes, laughs, and so many other purely subjective things that the listener may or may not love or loathe.

Even if you’re someone who doesn’t care about making bank off your pod, the expectation vs. reality gap of “starting a podcast” has become so wide that, according to studies, half of all podcasts don’t get past 15 episodes (this one study from 2018 said that 12% don’t even get past the first episode). 

Because I want to.

I’m so glad I followed (and have stuck with) Jessica’s initial advice of “you know, don’t do it if you don’t want t0.” While I’ve worked with sponsors in the past, I stopped doing ads back in early 2019 because I didn’t want my need to make money from podcasting cloud my judgement of whether I actually WANTED to podcast or not. With every single decision, pivot, and new season of the WANTcast, I’ve asked myself: is this something I am doing because I feel like I have to, or because I feel like I want to?

So far, the answer has been: because I want to.

Because of this rule of thumb, I’ve been able to cross the half-decade mark feeling so proud of not only the show, but the listener community we’ve developed. I trust my audience, and they trust me. And they know I don’t take that trust lightly. They know I choose topics, guests, spotlights organizations, and the very rare very occasional sponsor with them in mind.


Over the last half-decade, I’ve invested in this mic, this mic, and this mic (which I use currently). I’ve made sure to never sacrifice the quality of the episode, which means I’ve turned down many guests who are ok but not a stellar fit, and have hired an editor to make sure my sound is as clean as can be given the equipment I’m willing to pay for.

Our topics are deep and nuanced. We’ve covered: Facing your fears, Creative depressions, Personality types (astrology, human design, Myers Briggs, and more), Body image, Trauma, Sex education, Speaking up, Racism, Sexism, Ableism, Ageism, Jealousy, Forgiveness, Visions, Dreams, Goals, Self-doubt, Self-worth, Anxiety, Overwhelm, Mental illness, Ghost worries, Circumstantial happiness, Experiential longing, Fat-phobia, Body neutrality, Addiction, Recovery, Through lines, Grief, Boundaries, Planned Freak-Outs, Self love, Self like, and SO much more.

And if there’s one thing I’ve embraced, it’s that I do things MY way.

I don’t do things by the book, but I attribute the WANTcast’s longevity to sticking to a few specific self-made rules. Take what works for you, leave the rest.

Here are my top podcasting tips for anyone who wants to start a pod from the heart:

Set your own schedule.
Pick a schedule that works for you, and don’t be afraid to alter it when it no longer does. Refuse to sacrifice the quality of experience for the quantity of episodes. When I began the WANTcast, I started on an every-three-weeks schedule, because I was working a full-time job, community to and from that full-time job, and knew I would never have the bandwidth to create and produce episodes on a weekly basis considering the rest of my life. All the podcasts I listened to were on a weekly schedule, but I knew I’d be one of those people who never got past 15 episodes if I followed their lead.

Since then I’ve been on an every-three-weeks schedule, every-other-week schedule, a weekly schedule, and what is now an every week-or-two schedule (because right now, I need that flexibility for my own mental wellbeing). Consistency is key but it will also screw you over if you’re too married to it. Find what works for you, whether it’s what you see others doing or not.

Fuck analytics.
Analytics are overrated, and subjective. DO NOT look at analytics to tell you how “good” or impactful your pod is. Marie Forleo calls these Vanity Metrics: numbers that don’t actually move the needle in your business. Are you giving people a clear CTA in your episode about how to let you know they’re listening and loving your show? Do you prompt them within the episode to share? Are they sharing? What are they sharing? What are they saying?

The only thing I find analytics good for is to see what’s working and what might not be working as well as it could. Know your average download rate. What episodes fall below that rate? Which ones fall above it? Did an episode spike in listeners and then drop back down right after – a sign that maybe someone with a big following shared your episode, and so their followers ONLY listened to that episode? Look at analytics with a critical eye. Once you do, you’ll start to see patterns, and you’ll be able to get information about what kinds of content people are loving the most, so you can make more of it.

Don’t be afraid of the PIVOT.
Begin with clarity of vision, model, and purpose…AND be willing to pivot to serve the greater vision. Start with a clear reason WHY you are starting your pod. What is it that speaks to you? What are your objectives? How will you know whether you’re achieving those objectives or not? Will you have guests? Sponsored ads? What problem are you solving for you listener, or how exactly are you looking to enhance their life?

Start your pod with those at the forefront. Make your plan. Stick with it for at least 10-15 episodes so you get into a rhythm and can accurately gage what is working, what isn’t, and what were just growing pains.

AND THEN…if you EVER feel like you need to make changes, make them with that clarity of vision in mind. Get back to your roots. Your whys. Your mission. Maybe that means you change the format of your episodes, maybe that means you change your schedule. But whatever it is, don’t just keep doing something simply because it’s how you’ve always done it. I promise you that if you’ve developed a close relationship with your community, they’ll most likely be on board and be able to see the bigger picture.

Do it  because it’s a fit for you.
Do it because you love it. Do it because it’s fun. Do it because it’s a fit for you.

Do NOT do it to “keep up.” Do NOT do it because you think you should. Do NOT do it because someone else told you to. If it works for you in one season of your life, great. If it stops being a fit for you and doesn’t work in the very next season of your life, let it go. There will always be a new platform or medium to get into. That doesn’t mean every single one is going to be the best fit for YOU…or ALWAYS be the best fit for you.

There are no rules.
My last rule I’ve followed is…there are no rules 🙃

Well, other than to stay in integrity with yourself and your show by constantly re-assessing if your intentions align with your impact. But other than that. No rules other than the ones you make for yourself.


WANT YOUR SELF:

Have you started a podcast? Have you chosen NOT to start a podcast? Why, or why not? Are you THINKING of starting one? Which of these tips did you find the most useful?

And if you’re a WANTcast listener…what has been your favorite episode so far? Did you have a favorite guest? Or maybe a favorite topic we covered in a solo episode or a favorite story that’s stuck with you? I would LOVE to hear.

Not subscribed to the WANTcast? Subscribe here in iTunes or over on Spotify.

And while you’re at it, subscribe to Jessica’s podcast, One Part Podcast. She is very very wise.

The Self-Talk Shift For When You’re Feeling Behind Everyone Else In Life

The Self-Talk Shift For When You’re Feeling Behind Everyone Else In Life

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True or False: I’m able to distance myself from what other people are doing and avoid the comparison trap.


Maybe you think I’m not affected by ‘what other people are doing’ because all of my work is about being proactive and building a strong sense of self and all that kind of stuff BUT!!!! Guess WHAT!

I’m human!

I get affected by what other people are doing, and how they do it, all the time. No way am I exempt.

HOW I get affected has changed, though. Whereas I used to compare myself to other people and berate myself for not being as good or professional or ‘together’ as someone else…

…now what usually happens is I just get SAD. Or exasperated. The negativity doesn’t question my potential – it questions my ability to reach it to its fullest.  

Does that ever happen to you? You’re not jealous and you’re not really even self-deprecating…the self-talk that’s coming up isn’t:

I’m a failure. 

I’m not successful like they are.

She’s doing THAT way better than I am.

The self-talk is more along the lines of:

I’m exhausted.

I’m doing everything I can and it’s just not cutting it. 

I’m so behind.

I can’t believe I’m still HERE. 

If I only had [fill in blank], this wouldn’t be so hard.

It can be frustrating seeing what other people are able to do with their resources, their connections, and their privileges – and telling yourself to celebrate what they’re doing instead of telling yourself that you’re in competition with them (which is a good idea, because there is enough room for ANYONE and EVERYONE) won’t magically make those feelings of frustration magically disappear. Celebrating others and feeling down about your work, progress, or Self aren’t mutually exclusive.

This happens most often for me on a professional level – but it also rears its head personally. I compare what I’m able to do with what someone who has a financially robust support system, like a high-earning partner or a wealthy family, is able to do. I compare my work days at home in my studio apartment (where I cowork with my husband) with people who have homes with dedicated offices or even just doors that can close besides the door to the bathroom. I compare myself to people who have cars to sing in (which is one of my favorite ways to blow off steam), people who have home gyms, people who live mere minutes from their families or best friends…as you can see this kind of thinking is NOT productive. And this kind of thinking can become really detrimental, because then what happens is that I start to frame choices I’ve actually made for my best well-being in a negative light, and all the sudden the negative self-talk loop starts, and just keeps going. 

What Is A Negative Self-Talk Loop?

A negative self-talk loop is when the demeaning and degrading story we tell ourselves about ourselves or our life not only plays on repeat in our brain, but leads to even more demeaning and degrading thoughts. Since negative self-talk thrives off of uncertainty, it makes complete sense that it’s been having a field day for so many of us in so many ways throughout 2020 in particular.

When you’re in the negative self-talk loop of ‘I’m trying and it’s not enough,’ ‘I’m so behind,’ or even just ‘Why does this have to be so hard,” try this reframe:

Do the very best with what you’ve got…and the best for what’s next.

 

Do The Very Best With What You’ve Got…

Do the very best with what you’ve got. And remember that what you have could be something that someone else longs for. Some of those things are superficial (like the layout/size/location of your home) or based in choice (like whether or not you have kids). Someone who lives alone might be longing for the interactions a family would provide. Someone who has a spouse or a kid or both might be longing for even just an hour of solo time. The proverb ‘grass is always greener’ became a proverb for a reason. Everyone – EVERYONE – has their breaking points, or stuff that just makes things harder than it is for others.

And then of course there are all the barriers to entry that are so very beyond superficial and so very beyond choice. No, not every one of us has every single privilege, but we all hold SOME sort of privilege in comparison to others. I’m in my 30s, I’m white, I’m cis-gendered, I’m able-bodied, I’m a college graduate, I’m a size that society doesn’t actively exclude…there are so many aspects of who so many of us are that give us a massively unfair edge over others in our society. If you’re reading this, it means you have access to the internet, which I recently learned more than HALF the world still doesn’t have. There are so many systemic barriers to entry that exist for so many people when it comes to them living the life that they’d love to be living.

This isn’t a post to tell you to suck it up and put on your big kid pants and pull that twisted parental BS so many kids in my generation got about finishing the food on our plates because of the vast amount of starving people there are in the world. Nope. I am so over that shame and blame game.

Guilt, as I told my brother the other day on one of our heart to heart calls, is one of the most useless emotions – not always – but most of the time. Because most of the time, guilt, leads to shame, and shame leads to silence, and silence gets us nowhere. As WANTcast guest Christen Brandt, co-founder of She’s the First, said in Episode 71, if you’re feeling guilty about your own privilege, that’s actually a sign it’s time to do something WITH it.

Do the very best with what you’ve got, and the best for what's next. Click To Tweet

…And The Best For What’s Next.

When you start to go down this path, and then you think of all that others don’t have, and maybe the guilt and shame starts to bubble up, repeat to yourself: I will do the best with what I’ve got, and the best for what’s next.

The what’s next part is so important here. Because sometimes (not always, but sometimes) when we focus so intently on the ‘what we’ve got’ part, we forget to look forward. Life is a dance between the past, the present, and the future – doing the best with what we’ve got and the best for what’s next encompasses all three. We’re doing in the present, working with what the past has brought us, and building toward the future.

This past-present-future mindset not only allows you to embrace where you’ve been and where you are, but also look for ways you can enhance and improve life – your own AND others’ – in the future.

When it comes to life enhancement and improvement, it’s really easy to get stuck looking in your rear view mirror. I know I’ve definitely found myself in positions where I’m kicking myself, rhetorically wondering WHY didn’t you start sooner? WHY didn’t you have that conversation? WHY didn’t you speak your mind? WHY WHY WHY

…and it’s usually because I was so wrapped up in whatever my perceived roadblock was, that I forgot that the present moment is ALSO a step away from the past and into the future.

No moment lives on its own, by itself. Every moment is intertwined with both all the ones that have come before it and all the ones that will come after it. Sometimes it’s SO hard for me to just do the best with what I’ve gotten in the past and what’s in front of me in the present. But when I can remember that this moment is also in service of whatever is next, it’s that super small but ultimately seriously meaningful change that can help me keep going WITHOUT getting stuck in my own negativity loops.

Use what you have now and what’s led you here in the best way you can, and set your future up for success as well. Click To Tweet

Set Your Future Up For Success.

My hope is that we’ll someday untangle being perfect with being right. And we’ll stop confusing doing the BEST with doing the best you CAN.

So whether that’s finding a way to get your business running from your studio apartment, or taking job interviews while also taking care of your kids, or feeding yourself nourishing dinners when the grocery shelves are barely even stocked, or helping your household become actively anti-racist, or whatever it is for you, try that reframe. Do the best with what you’ve got and the best for what’s next.

Use what you have now and what’s led you here in the best way you can, and set your future up for success as well. Know that the now isn’t the forever, and the cool thing about that is there are tangible things you can do right now that your future self will thank you for.

Like Maya Angelou said, Do the best you can until you know better, then when you know better, do better. Put it on loop, and just keep going.

Mental Mean Girls: 15 Ways To Reframe Your Negative Self-Talk Flare-Ups

Mental Mean Girls: 15 Ways To Reframe Your Negative Self-Talk Flare-Ups

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That voice in your head is an asshole.

Don’t let your thoughts bully you around.

Inner monologue? More like inner bitch. Don’t give her the power.

“Empowerment” is trending, but somehow we’re still here telling our negative self talk it can go screw itself and F off.

Tell me again how is this supposed to be helping?

 


For what I’m guessing is some sort of evolutionary advantage, we’re programmed to interpret the world in very black and white terms. There can be no middle ground when it comes to right and wrong, and when we disagree with something, we typically villainize it rather than try to understand where it comes from (or what the real solution should be).

Good Versus Evil. Us Against Them. It’s a formula that’s easy to understand and easy to master. It’s primal.

So it’s only natural that with this sort of mentality, we’d choose sides with our self-talk and try to bully one of them into submission.

Brené Brown says to give your inner voice a name – she calls hers Gremlin. For some people, providing that separation is useful, and allows them to distance themselves from the harsh, usually-untrue things their inner voice likes to say.

 

I, however, have never been able to separate my inner voice from myself.
Because the thing is, it’s all a part of who I am.

 

Maybe my brain is playing tricks on my heart, maybe my inner voice is misguided at times, but at the end of the day – it’s all just me, telling myself what to believe.

Some people might say to snap out of it – to tell your inner critic to shut up. And hey, that might work for some people. But it NEVER works for me. Identifying my negative self-talk as someone other than myself – an ass, a bitch, a bully – only puts me on the defensive and gives me yet another thing about myself to dislike (on top of whatever it is I’m negative self-talking about). 

Empowerment, for the record, is defined as “the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.” Yet I cannot see how throwing insults at insults does anything to make us feel anything but more aggressive and afraid. They’re just harsh words to combat harsh thoughts. Abuse masked as “empowerment.” Which, to me, is anything but empowering.

Instead of viewing your inner monologue as separate from your 'true' self, why not try to understand what it's actually trying to tell you? Click To Tweet

Instead of fighting against what is, why not try fighting for what could be? Instead of taking sides, why not confront the perceived enemy? Instead of viewing your inner monologue as separate from your “true” self, why not try to understand what it’s actually trying to tell you?

Calling a very real part of who you are a “bitch” just reinforces and strengthens those negative-talk muscles that have been trained over the years to come to your defense in their negative-talk way – and focuses on the problem, not the solution. Berating a part of who you are is not the answer. Tapping into a new reserve of power to retrain that voice – that voice that so longs to be helpful – IS.

Next time you’re tempted to call your inner voice a harsh name, sideline the smack-talk and reframe it as something MORE.

Here are a few ideas of what your negative self-talk really is all about. Could it be that your negative self talk is…

1) An invitation to explore?

2) An opportunity to rise?

3) A clue to an imbalance?

4) A way to practice moving forward through fear?

5) A wound to be nurtured?

6) A signal for help?

7) A cautionary tale of what it looks like to not be self-actualized?

8) A sign of neglect?

9) A cry for attention?

10) A distraction from the truth?

11) A language that’s been inherited and internalized?

12) A sign of burnout?

13) A call to action?

14) An empathetic pathway?

15) A clue as to what needs some extra love?

When I first started working on WANT, I would get pitches from people with books or websites with names like “Bitch On The Inside,” “Mental Mean Girl,” or “#StopHatingYourself Life Coaching.” We’re so aligned, they would say. We’re all about empowering women.

I respectfully declined every single one of these pitches.

Again, to each her own. I guess I can understand how some people need a metaphorical smack upside the head to catapult change into motion…

…But I don’t think that’s what makes the change LAST.

Because here’s the clincher: the quicker we are to call our inner monologue a bitch, the quicker we are to find fault outside ourselves. The quicker we are to clique up and take sides and tell our friends to “get over it” or “snap out of it” when they’re feeling down on themselves, the easier it is to do it to ourselves. Life becomes arduous and unfair. It’s a negativity loop that goes on and on and on – all in the name of self-love.


Teaching yourself a new language, whether it’s Spanish or Self- Respect, is a process. Sometimes it’s as simple as going word by word. Phrase by phrase.

 

Today, pledge to stop calling your inner voice a “mean girl” or your “inner bitch.” Your mind and heart are smart, and they’re most likely just trying to protect you from disappointment, shield you from loneliness, or numb that Ghost Worry pain that’s predicting what other people might “find out” about you so that when they do “find it out” it won’t hurt as bad.

Your inner voice is just used to using this warped defense mechanism – a defense mechanism you don’t need.

It’s not You vs. Your Mind.

Not Good vs. Evil.

They’re all on the same side.

It's not You vs. Your Mind. They're all on the same side. Click To Tweet


WANT Yourself:

Think back to the times when your negative self-talk starts to act up. What is it usually trying to tell you? What does it signal? How can you reframe your most common self-critiques…without resorting to name-calling? Tell me in the comments below.

And know someone who needs this? Share it with them today to help them shift their negative self-talk.

 

Never miss a post. Ever. Sign up + join the WANT movement:


Experiential Longing: The Simplest Hack For When You Miss Things.

Experiential Longing: The Simplest Hack For When You Miss Things.

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One of my favorite things in the world is sitting outside with a warm cup of coffee. A to-go situation works, but the best is with actual ceramic cups. There’s something so simple in the magic of watching the steam slowly rise in little loose tendrils, then disappear into the air. There’s something so calming about sitting with a delicately sculpted handle between your fingers staring out at the world and daydreaming. There’s something quite wonderful about those shallow pieces of everyday art you sip from a place other than your home – oversized or shrunken down, they’re usually shallower than usual, usually heavier than usual, and usually feel like you’re being treated to a tender moment by the barista or server in their home away from home. Over a cup of coffee, we soften and time slows down.

Jeremy and I agreed that sipping slowly on a fresh brew was one of our favorite parts of our honeymoon in Italy. Every day at 4pm, we’d head to the Piazza Navona and order a coffee as we watched the street performers dance and the students chase after the flocks of pigeons. When we go to Positano, we treated ourselves to the luxury of coffee delivered to our room each morning. We’d sit on the balcony together, overlooking the ancient church and the bluest blue ocean, and life seemed as perfect as it would ever be. Sitting and sipping was already a “thing” we did here at home, but after that trip, we made it a HABIT.

 

We work so hard to create habits that uplift us instead of harm us. No one habit is right for everyone, but it’s a proud day when you realize you’ve found what works for YOU. We replace draining after-work beers with energizing barre classes (and maybe beers after but that’s besides the point). We wake up early with the sunshine instead of pressing “snooze” 12 times and then rushing to begin the day. We journal our emotions instead of making jabs that hurt others. When we feel screens burning our eyes, we replace them with pages of books. We go to therapy. We make – and keep – friend dates. We visit our parents. We give ourselves moments of pause instead of blazing through each day.

So when life turns those habits upside down and throws them out the window, it’s natural to spiral into sadness and miss things deeply. It’s not just that your routines and practices have been taken away from you – it’s that mindfully-built sense of pride and self-appreciation that’s bruised, too.

I was looking through our photos from Italy last year, and got SHARP PANGS of sadness that not only would our next travel-adventure be postponed till who knows when, but that even the ritual of going to my local coffee shops, cafes, and diners, and slowing down over a perfect cuppa was a thing of the future and past but definitely not the present. I can’t even visit the hole-in-the-wall down the street, get my brew to-go, tip my favorite barista generously after bonding over the late-90s playlist crooning at us over the sound system, and sit leisurely on a bench with that tiny luxury in hand while watching all the world go by. I had done such a great job at honing the art of the peaceful pause and implementing our Italian habit back here at home.

As I scrolled through my Camera Roll, cried a little over the photos of us smiling on the Il San Pietro terrace, and laughed at the forgotten videos taken in the middle of the streets, I was ready to craft an Instagram post following suit of many of the people I’m seeing: posting a carousel of snapshots, accompanied by a caption titled THINGS I MISS. It was 8am. What I wouldn’t give for a delicate cup and saucer in the fresh air…

 

My “oh, DUH” moment came to me about about 8:02am. Wait a second. We have cups and saucers we bought in Italy! We drink coffee every morning! What if…what if we upgraded from our typical mugs to these delicate, fancy, unique pieces of art?

It obviously wouldn’t solve anything major…but, how would it make me FEEL?

 

We pulled out the ceramics from the top shelf above the sink – two hand-painted cups and saucers that had been sold to us in Ravello by the owner of the family-owned shop, Cosmolena (“My father was Cosmo and my mother was Lena!”), just after he’d demonstrated to us their indestructibility by banging them onto the top of the iron display table. Red stripes and blue florals wrapping around the sides. Plates perfectly spun on a potter’s wheel with the love and care of someone who takes great pride in their generations-long history of craftsmanship.

And just like that, my sadness turned into gladness. I felt time slow down as I balanced the saucer in my hand, careful not to let the coffee spill over the shallower-than-usual sides. I took a sip and was transported to the cliffs of Positano, and the piazza in Rome, and the restaurant in Ravello, and the balcony of the hotel where we spent our honeymoon, and the random cup we stopped to sip in Amalfi. My heart warmed (or maybe it was just my esophagus) as I thought of all the cups of coffee we’ve sipped throughout our time in NYC, and got excited for when we’re able to do it again.


You know to call someone when you miss them. But what if what you miss isn’t able to be dialed on the phone – what happens when it’s EXPERIENTIAL LONGING?

When life feels tough and you’re missing so many things it feels like your heart might shatter, find something that reminds you of something else you miss, and put it to use. Why let them collect dust when they could be bringing you joy? No, it won’t make the thing you miss magically appear – BUT, it will trigger at least some of the positive feelings associated with it. And right now, that might be just enough to get you in a proactive, not reactive, head-and-heart space.

When you miss celebrating birthdays and weddings, use the fancy dishes you got for your wedding or wear your favorite “celebration” outfit. When you wish you could hug your family, use the serving tongs that were passed down to you from your grandma (and send a picture to your sibling or cousins to share the moment with them). When you’re longing to go on vacation, drink out of those glasses you bought on your last adventure. Heck, when you’re missing window shopping, put flowers in the vase that has been hiding in the back of your closet for years!  It’s so small and simple but makes just the right amount of a difference when you’re in the middle of Missing.

Nothing is too nice to use now. If you’ve deemed it “too nice to use,” it probably also holds some sentimental value, since we’re way more reluctant to use the really nice things that MEAN something.

But if not now, when?

i miss this coffee cups

6 Ways To Set Boundaries On Social Media (Without Disconnecting)

6 Ways To Set Boundaries On Social Media (Without Disconnecting)

Community Most Popular Posts Tips + Tools

I’m what’s considered an Older Millennial, which means I’m a part of the age group that both grew up with the internet and vividly remembers a time without it. I still remember the ancient dial-up chords of the Prodigy and America Online-era World Wide Web, the rush of excitement when you finally made it “online” (because that thing was SLOW), and the hope that someone wouldn’t pick up the landline, break your connection, and ruin it all. “Inbox Zero” wasn’t the badge of honor – a full inbox, however, was. Hearing the words You’ve Got Mail were like digitized music to your ears.

You had MAIL!!!

On your COMPUTER!!!

Ah, the olden days…

My family got America Online – or AOL for the kiddos reading – in 1997. Soon thereafter, my tweenage self found a special corner of the not-so-dark internet that seemed to be reserved especially for me: the musical theatre message boards. In each thread detailing touring companies of Les Misérables and each challenge asking your Top 25 cast albums, I found a community where I was able to be ME. Never once did I think twice about who I was talking to or the validity of the information shares – and I certainly didn’t ever consider that I could fabricate a personality online that was different from than who I was IRL. The outside world what where I pretended. This new, magical online space was where I could fully exhale and bring all of my nuances, quirks, and passions to the (pixelated) table.

One of my most vivid and impactful memories of the dawning of the internet is when my high school English teacher had to explicitly tell us that Wikipedia was not a reliable source to credit in research papers. WHAT?! There is stuff on the internet that isn’t true?! There are people who aren’t who they say they are?! Well geez. This takes the fun out of things. No more message boards, I guess.

The digital socialization that happened in the message boards and chat rooms of the late-’90s was the precursor to what we now know as social media. I remember MySpace, I remember Friendster. LiveJournal, anyone?

And then, the summer before my first year of college, I signed up to get an invite to an exclusive website connecting me to all my future classmates. It was called The Facebook.



The internet – and social media – have evolved a LOT since the 90s and early 2000s and the days of yore when Facebook had a THE before it and only allowed you to update your status in ways that completed the sentence “So-And-So is…” And with that evolution, we’ve had to reinvent what it means to be MINDFUL, over and over again.

Maybe you’re already mindful IRL. You’re present in your conversations, you live for the now, and you’re all about savoring the moment. Some might have trouble tuning into life when today’s technology provides such a fun distraction – but for you, the fun is right in front of you in real time.

But here’s the hard reality: social media, smartphones, and being in-somewhat-constant-contact are not the exception anymore, they’re the norm. Whereas outlets like Instagram and Twitter were once fun escapes, they’ve become a vital component of connection in the world we live. And while we’re not necessarily living for another moment because of social media…the moments we are living for are the same ones we’re expected to stop, drop, and document to keep our “brand” alive, both online and off.

Whether you’re looking to grow your business, or are the average social media user catching up on cute baby/puppy pics and posting funny memes, the social media overwhelm is REAL. So many people to keep up with! So much news being thrown at us! It’s almost too much to handle, especially if you’re the type of person who likes to savor the moment.

And then, enter the For-Now-Normal of the last few weeks. With so much on hold, it can seem like social media is one of the ONLY things that’s kept on chugging and churning as expected. Maybe your social media usage was mild or moderate before all this…but day by day, you’ve seen your screen time go up and felt your anxiety follow suit.

 

It’s not just that social media is a distraction – it’s that it makes us question how true our truths really are.

Just like a baby slowly learns that crying isn’t just a mode of calling for help but a surefire way to steal mom’s focus, social media can suck you in and make you feel as if every update, every post, every link and every Boost is a make-or-break scenario.

While I’m all about the power of a double-tap, it’s vital we learn to build healthy relationships and set boundaries on our smartphones. Here are six solid social media tips + strategies to follow (no pun intended) so you can have your life and post it, too.



6 Ways To Set Boundaries On Social Media

SOCIAL MEDIA TIPS WHEN SCROLLING:


1. QUESTION NEWS SOURCES.

Many times we’ll see a headline, gasp, and share so someone else can share in our rage/elation. But how often do you look at the URL where it came from? Is this source credible? Is it from a viable news outlet, like the New York Times or CNN, or is it from a site called something like icantbelieveitsnotbetter.com ?? It’s called “click bait” for a reason: its main point is to lure you in so you will click and BITE.

You can usually see the news source in the link preview. Train yourself to look at THAT first – yes, even before thinking about the headline – then decide whether you’ll click and share. If it’s real news, there’s a good chance it’s being reported on a more credible news site where you can find real reporting – if it’s not, then it’s not worth reading anyway (no matter HOW much it’s playing to your emotions).

2. PRACTICE COMO: CELEBRATION OF MISSING OUT.

Feeling envy bubble up when you see someone else doing something you with YOU could do or have, too? True jealousy, by definition, is a reaction to the threat of LOSING something you have. Envy, however, arises when you find yourself LACKING something someone else has. (*If you’re unsure which is which,here’s a primer on distinguishing the two.)

If you find yourself being envious of someone else on social media, ask yourself what about that thing resonates the most. What is it you want? And then CELEBRATE it for the other person. When you choose to celebrate what you want, even when someone ELSE has it, the universe takes a little mental note that you know that opportunity isn’t a limited resource. If you see scarcity, you get scarcity. Only those who recognize that there’s space out there for them can actually FILL it. Plus, in the words of Call Your Girlfriend hosts Ann and Aminatou’s Shine Theory, I don’t shine if you don’t shine.

If it's not the kind of social interaction you'd want to have offline, then why are you having it online? Click To Tweet

3. ENGAGE WISELY.

It’s called SOCIAL media for a reason: it’s supposed to encourage us to be SOCIAL. Would you socialize with someone that made you feel icky? Differing opinions is different than downright bad vibes. Choose wisely what and who you engage with. Make sure your engagement does more good than harm. Basically: If it’s not the kind of social interaction you’d want to have offline, then why are you having it online?


SOCIAL MEDIA TIPS WHEN POSTING:

4. BE PROACTIVE, NOT REACTIVE.

Posting reactively is the adult equivalent of the temper tantrum. We see or experience something and get so overworked and overwhelmed that we share something, ANYTHING, to let others know how we feel.

Before you lose your cool on the web, ask yourself if what you’re posting is the Communicative Quad-fecta: Kind, True, Helpful, and Necessary. If it’s not, then maybe give yourself a time-out (counting to 20 taking slow breaths helps) to refocus and regroup.

5. KNOW WHAT YOU WANT TO SAY.

Like, really, what you truly want to say. When you post a photo or update, what’s the overarching message you want to share with your followers? Do you want to share a snapshot of something you love, spread joy, inform others – or are you trying to keep up with other people’s posts, or use social media as your emotional dumping/venting ground? Do you want Likes and comments, or do you want to impart an actual, meaningful message? Quality over quantity, especially when it comes to social media.

A great picture or quote should support a main message or tell others about who you ARE, not steal the show and tell others what they AREN’T. Set a clear intention before you post, and be honest with yourself about WHY you are posting what you’re posting. And guess what? You DON’T have to keep up with the social media joneses and flood the feed. Authenticity in intention always trumps abundance in action.

6. SET IT AND FORGET IT.

After you’ve posted, let it be! It’s tempting to check your activity log every half-minute, refreshing the page to see if someone else has “Liked,” commented, or retweeted what you’ve shared. Not only is this a time-suck, it’s a strain on your emotions. If you don’t get a surge of attention within minutes, it can seem as if what you had to say or show was not a success, leading you to doubt your credibility, obsess over what you did right or wrong, and agonize over how you can tweak your strategy moving forward. It becomes an abusive relationship that makes you feel like crap.

To keep yourself in a proactive space, it’s vital to set boundaries with your social media. Make a pact with yourself to only check your various social media outlets for activity at specific, limited times throughout the day. Respond, comment, and strategize during these times and these times only, during quiet moments when your attention is not needed elsewhere. Take your pic, share your post, then go make your mark on the world – no filter necessary.

 


WANT Yourself:
Do you have any social media tips and tricks to help you stay sane WITHOUT disconnecting completely? Post in the comments and let us know!


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