All Too Much: What To Do When Sh*t Keeps Hitting The Fan

All Too Much: What To Do When Sh*t Keeps Hitting The Fan

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I’ve always been a sucker for late 90s, early 2000s rom-coms. The soundtracks! The star power! The good person getting the job and winning the man!

(there’s always the man. more on that in a sec.)

I still love me a good rom-com for sentimental reasons. But the most clichéd ones? They’re now rough to watch.Many require you to majorly suspend your disbelief as you watch a completely problematic and unrealistic situation magically work itself out, and many (at least many of the early ones) reinforced a trope created in decades prior that looking, acting, and responding in a very particular way will get you what you want and deserve in life.

My main issue with rom coms when I watch them now, however, is this:

In many of these so-called “girl powered” movies, the storyline follows women positioning themselves as experts in a field, but somehow, they’re unable to tackle the problems they’re so good at solving when those problems hit the closest to home (dating expert, advice columnist, wedding planner…you get the gist). That’s usually when the man – or someone else – comes in and saves her or shows her the light. It’s rare that we’re shown how to move forward fearlessly when shit gets real, and how to do it on our own. And the message is that when darkness or hardship looms, someone or something will swoop in to save us and make us feel worthwhile again.

Screw that.

We need a new model for what to do when it all feels like too much.

 


 

You can know your through-line, crush Casual Negativity, and be a pro at shifting your self-talk…when life is going pretty well overall. But what happens when the you-know-what hits the fan, and it keeps hitting the fan? What happens when you’re in major need of a WIN, and that win just isn’t coming your way?

Here are five strategies for when life won’t let up:

~

1.) Focus on getting to NOW-Normal instead of BACK-To-Normal.

When things suck, we want to make them not-suck. We want to “get back to normal” or “the way things were back then.” THEN, of course, being a time when there were limited obstacles and you felt in control. This is totally expected and totally natural.

However, normal NOW isn’t the same as normal THEN. You’ve got a new normal in the Now.

Instead of trying to force old habits into a new set of circumstances, focus on accepting this new normal – not trying to adjust to make things like “what they were,” but maximizing “how they ARE.” What might have been easy or routine for you before simply might not work as well for your lifestyle right now.

If something doesn’t really stick, you have full permission to move on. If there’s a spark there, try it again. And again. And again.CLICK TO TWEET

Making lifestyle choices and developing positive habits, then, become like a game. What WILL feel good? What WILL stick? In this episode of the WANTcast with Lynn Chen, she tells us that when her father died and she was too overcome with grief to do anything, she treated her life like she was recovering from amnesia. Trying things out, from foods to workouts, to see what resonated and what didn’t. ZERO pressure to stick with one thing, and ZERO ties to what once worked.

When life feels the most challenging, do like Lynn and do a scavenger hunt to find your Now-Normal. If something doesn’t really stick, you have full permission to move on. If there’s a spark there, try it again. And again. And again.

 

2.) Perform a simple act of self-care.

When your heart feels heavy, when life feels too complicated, when getting out the door is a feat worth celebrating,here’s a list I wrote of some small yet highly effective ways to keep yourself going – everything from folding your laundry to sending one single email.

 

3.) Schedule out white space.

I am NOTHING for ANYONE if I am not GROUNDING for myself. And so when shit starts to hit the fan – or when everything, good or not-so-good, feels like it’s coming at me all at once – I schedule what’s called “white space.” It’s time that is all your own, that you don’t plan to fill and don’t schedule over. It’s both everything and nothingness.

It can be an hour. It can be three minutes. It doesn’t need to be formalized “meditation.” It doesn’t need to be productive OR unproductive. But I’ve learned that white space time, time that belongs to ME and ME ALONE, time that’s like the “white space” on a canvas – TBD, no paint, open to possibility – is a deal maker or breaker for me. If I don’t take time to reconnect to myself with no external stimuli or things to answer to, and don’t take time when I need it most, I end up going off the rails.

When shit gets real, I pause and remember who the F I am and what the F I stand for. Without anyone telling me who I am or what I SHOULD BE. Click To Tweet

After I wrote about my Instgram bully, I had many people write to me privately about their experiences with harassment and, specifically, others telling them to feel compassion for their bully as a coping mechanism. And how fucking INFURIATING that can be. For me, it’s moments like these that remind me why I practice white-space-moments on the regular. So that when shit gets real…when I’m hurt, when I’m highly emotionally triggered…I can pause even for a SECOND and remember who the F I am and what the F I stand for. Without anyone telling me who I am or what I SHOULD BE. It’s in these moments, these seemingly-millisecond moments, I’m able to do the thing that’s most proactive, not reactive (see last point). That I’m able to be the way I know I’m meant to be, not the way someone else told me I should respond.

I practice those white-space moments not for the moments I’m necessarily in. But for the moments in the future when I’ll need them most. It’s sunglasses in the subway and walking back and forth outside before I go and join the party. It’s hiding in the bathroom before networking not because I’m scared but because I can’t bear to not be myself. It’s what I do when the stakes are low so I know where to go when the stakes are high. It’s not the most sexy or socially acceptable thing but it’s what keeps me going. It’s not easy work, but it sure is right.

4.) Nix the one-sided emotional labor and replace it with a two-sided emotional investment.

This one is maybe the most profound (and hardest) for me. Emotional labor is what it sounds like: doing the emotional work to make something function. It’s actually a good thing, but becomes dangerous when it is ridiculously one-sided…and in which case, it’s usually the women who are doing the work.

Emotional labor can look like being the one who is constantly dissecting your friend’s toxic relationships and convincing them to see the light (then they do it again and you do it again, and so on and so forth). Emotional labor can look like putting on a happy face for your partner and “being a light” for them as they continuously stew in their own troubles. Emotional labor can mean decoding the unspoken subtext at work so that everyone can actually get things done. Emotional labor is brushing off micro-aggressions because they’re “not really that big” and “not really worth it” and excusing your bully in the name of “compassion.” Emotional labor is why it’s so exhausting to be a barista or a server or in the service/hospitality industry in any capacity: you’re soaking in the emotions of each and every customer, many of whom are taking their daily aggravations out on you. It’s your job to keep the peace and “put a smile on their face.”

If you’re in the service/hospitality industry, there are going to be parts of one-sided emotional labor that are unavoidable – you need to figure out your own personal boundaries, makes, and breaks. But let’s talk outside of those instances.

Emotional labor is taxing, and gives all your good stuff to others while leaving zilch for yourself. You can’t drink from an empty well, so to speak. And it’s when we’re feeling empty, depleted, and emotionally dehydrated that things turn really dark.

Emotional investments might not be two-ways in the moment, but you've got proof points that when you need it, you'll be getting that investment back in your direction. Click To Tweet

An emotional INVESTMENT, however, is different. By definition, an investment is “an act of devoting time, effort, or energy to a particular undertaking with the expectation of a worthwhile result.” Start-ups present investors with data, proof points, and projections for a reason: to let them know their money isn’t going to waste and their investment won’t make them go bankrupt.

With an emotional investment, if you’re devoting your emotional time, effort, and energy to something, you’re going to see a return. Emotional investments might not be two-ways in the moment, but you’ve got proof points that when you need it, you’ll be getting that investment back in your direction. That’s why investors don’t just pour money into companies that sound cool, and why you shouldn’t invest in people who aren’t going to ever give back to you. That’s not being a friend. That’s being a savior, and dehydrating and bankrupting yourself of your most valuable assets.

When you’re feeling like the bad stuff won’t stop, immediately cut ties from one-sided emotional labor. This is the time your emotional investments should be making a return in the form of love, check-ins, and support while you slowly start to build up your emotional funds again. It’s not the time for you to mindlessly spend as you continue to overdraft.

 

5.) Ask yourself: is this decision PROACTIVE or REACTIVE?

When making decisions during tough, emotionally heavy times, I always ask, “Is this decision proactive, or reactive?” Its a practice that got me through a really horrible breakup in my 20s and it’s yet to fail me. Am I reacting to my situation and letting it dictate my actions, or am I proactively moving THROUGH the darkness, the fear, the anger, the confusion, the whatever-it-is, to make my way through to the other side? Here’s a post I wrote for some encouragement when it comes to taking and embracing the small steps that end up making a huge difference.

Am I reacting to my situation and letting it dictate my actions, or am I proactively moving THROUGH the darkness to make my way through to the other side? Click To Tweet

Above all, know that the know is not the forever. This is a moment in time – a chapter of your story. And while it’s just one chapter, how you choose to read it will inform how you view the other chapters to come.

The storm will pass and the dust will settle, and you’ll still be standing. But the great thing is, you won’t need saving, and you won’t need anyone to “show you the light.” You get to be the star, and you get to write your own success story.

 

powerful cover photo by shamia casiano


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Love And Light: On Insta-Bullies + The “High Road.”

Love And Light: On Insta-Bullies + The “High Road.”

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Last week, I got my first public InstaBully.

I knew this moment was coming. While not “big” by industry standards, my Instagram numbers were steadily growing, and between three speaking gigs in two weeks and a brand new collab underway, I was seeing an amount of traction that was abnormal for what I’d experienced thus far. I knew, also, that as my “numbers” began to grow, that so would my trolls.Maybe if I kept things sterile and serene on social, but that’s not my jam, because I believe that if you have a voice people are listening to, you should use it.

But also, I know it wouldn’t really matter either way. I could post about politics or I could post about pomegranates. I could post about body image or I could post about the best bakeries in Manhattan. I could post instrospective captions or I could post a string of vague emojis that don’t really mean anything in particular. I know that women are bullied on social media for just existing (much like in life!), and I also know that the more outwardly successful you are, the more bullying comments you receive. Just go to the comments section of anyone you deem even mildly #famous and you’ll see what I mean.

katie horwitch instagram bullies

this was the pic, btw.

I also want to add that this isn’t the first time I’ve been harrassed online. I’ve received DMs on all platforms and seen men tag each other in my posts commenting with wagging tongues or some other disgusting emoji or outburst. But this was the first public-facing comment that was directly directed at me, whose direct purpose was to knock me down and dehumanize me.

I’d like to say I was unaffected and laughed the second I saw it. But when it showed up in my notifications, my heart dropped. I can;t say I wasn’t expecting it – part of me for the last month had been whispering in the back of my mind, Wait for it… – but it still stung. After the first 15 seconds, I shook off the sting and started laughing. I’ve Made It!, I cheered to myself! And proceeded to check out this dude’s account then block and report him, not before (of course) snapping a screenshot for harassment proof and to text my friends. Oh, and blast on my personal social accounts.

I knew sharing this would be a little social experiment. How many people would laugh, how many would get angry? How many would know that this is sadly expected, and how many would be agog that this would happen to ME, “violently positive” (as I’ve been deemed by some friends) Katie Horwitch, who keeps her posts PG-13 at their racy-est and proactive at their most charged? I’ve come to expect a wide gamut of reactions based on the wide gamut of experiences and perspectives all people come into a conversation with.

But what blew me away in THIS conversation was the overWHELMING prevalence of this one comment:

This is obviously a very sad person and we should send him light.

Now, not everyone commented with these exact words. Most came to me in the form of “Wow, what a miserable life he must lead” or “What a sad person he must be” or “Laugh at their misery with compassion” or “Imagine how shitty his existence must be and how badly he must need a hug” or even “By the looks of it, this guy is clearly so sad in life and clearly needs medication.”

I’m not one to downplay mental health issues. But the overarching theme and connecting thread between all of these comments was: he gets a pass because of how hard life must be for him.

I know my friends were well-meaning when saying these things, and didn’t meant to downplay anything. I know this because I know this kind of deescalation is a conversation and perspective that’s been taught. It’s kinder than “stooping down to their level.” It’s more “enlightened.”

It’s the “high road.”

But it begs, no, PLEADS the question:
Why is our default response with hurtful men, particularly WHITE men, to play the compassion card, while when it’s a woman or POC, it’s to get angry and spew hate their way (even when they’re NOT actually being a bully, but that’s another conversation)? Why is it that the bully in the situation gets a free pass when the bully is an angry white dude? 

 

I am strong and confident. I’ll be just fine. But some people aren’t. And saying things like “don’t let it get to you, they’re just sad in real life” excuses the bully’s behavior, writing it off as a supporting example of a greater thesis statement about that person’s life. A life that doesn’t involve you, but in this moment, actually does.

Even more than that, using excuses like “what a sad human being” normalizes pushing others down to make yourself feel better. And even MORE than that- and this is what really gets me – it makes the harrassee, on the prey, feel GUILTY for not feeling compassion for their bully.

I see it happen on a small scale in instances like this one and on a more serious scale with my black or gay friends who are told that they should feel sorry for the people who speak such hateful words about them. That, to quote Shakespeare or someone like him, “they know not what they say” and should be sent, to paraphrase, “love and light.”

Well, I call BS on love and light. I call BS on the default of putting yourself in the shoes of the oppressor, whether it’s the man catcalling you on the street or the online troll smearing your DMs with racism. I call BS on it all.

I call BS on love and light. I call BS on the default of putting yourself in the shoes of the oppressor, whether it's the man catcalling you on the street or the online troll smearing your DMs with racism. I call BS on it all. Click To Tweet

 

So how do we do it then? In the true spirit of how I write, and WHAT I write, and what others SHARE on this platform, how does this turn into a proactive post offering tools and insight instead of a reactive post venting and offloading emotion?

•SHARE. Brené Brown says that shame can’t live when spoken out loud. Names are shame’s worst enemy and take away shame’s power. When I share things I feel shame around or stuff people say to me that’s meant to tear me down, though, I check my intenitions behind the share. Am I looking for pity or to engage in a hatefest? Or am I posting to expose darkness, to show that this can happen to anyone, anywhere – and we must join forces to take on that darkness?

•Engage with the bully **when PRODUCTIVE and PROACTIVE.** Is commenting back going to help someone learn something or help prove a point when it comes to creating the world you want to live in? Then post away. I thought of posting a comment back to this guy to show others who might be watching how to disarm a bully (my personal tactic is humor and confusion. “I actually thought of this same joke in middle school so I could poke fun at it before any of the mean 12 year-old boys could!” would’ve done it). But this particular comment was so juvenile and nonsensical that it didn’t deserve the time of day – mine or anyone else’s. If the photo or caption had been different – maybe more sexualized or risque – I would have used it as an opportunity to assert my right to portray my body however I pleased. My right to take pride in my sexuality instead of it simply being fodder for others (men) to comment on and make decisions about.

But this wasn’t the case. It was about him leaving a nonsensical comment that didn’t have anything to do with anything except general punny slut-shaming because it’s “funny” and demeaning. It was a classic bully move. This dude didn’t follow me (I checked). This guy didn’t care about what I had to say. He wanted to come into my space, spit at me, and then leave. It would be a waste of my time to try and engage and create a comment war or generate more anger – all on MY page, mind you, which I have worked hard to build and have strict community guidelines around. Namely, don’t be a dick.

I’ve been shamed before for my choices in clothing or maybe a look that “feels” provocative. But those are my choices. I know who I am and I know what I’m doing. And I will always defend that, so that others who might not be able to find the words themselves can have a point of reference if and when it happens to them.

•SCREENSHOT and REPORT hate speech. I’m not talking about silencing voices you don’t agree with. Don’t do that. It’s a reeeeal bad look, to put it mildly. I’m talking about the old PSA of “if you see something, say something.” I’m talking about if someone is coming at YOU or someone else with toxic, malicious vitriol, take a screenshot for your records and then report that shit. Platforms like Facebook are preaching that they have zero tolerance for hate speech and harassment. At the end of the day, they’re businesses. They exist because of us. And their noble claims of being an inclusive, tolerant zone, as much as I would love to say are all about their core values, are most likely ALSO a direct result of a shift in user experience. See something? Say something. Make those platforms do something about it.

 

Interestingly enough, this also happened the day before the news broke about the US administration’s talks about making it illegal to recognize more than two genders in our country. I shared a post by my friend Kelsey, which I thought was so succinct and well-written. Not even an hour later, I received an extremely nasty DM from someone telling me that I looked stupid and our country looked stupid, and while I was “over here caring about stupid pronouns” there were “people dying from bombs across the world.” Apparently I wasn’t allowed to care about Trans rights *and* international warfare. ::shrugs::

And this is where it all starts to get blurry. How do you interact with, if you even interact with at ALL, people who are yelling AT you and not speaking WITH you, who slam you with hate speech and view life through a very narrow lens of their own making?

I’m still working this out. Right now, I’m thinking it’s futile to argue with people who are hell-bent on interpreting your words, your decisions, and your SELF as they see fit. As a quote shared by brilliant Vienna Pharon and @mytruthnturs said, “self care is also not arguing with people who are committed to misunderstanding you.”

But I am still learning. And next year, month, week, hour, I might feel differently. That it’s important to speak up no matter what, even if the person on the other end is determined to shut you down. Yet right now, I don’t have time for that shit. I have work to do.

When consulting with brands and “influencers,” I’ve heard people say that they feel like having a certain amount of visibility or recognition will allow them to talk about things they actually want to talk about. That once they reach a certain number or achieve a very specific self dictated level of success, the conversational doors will fly open and the soapbox will appear. When that happens, they say, they’ll talk about racial injustices, gender disparities, wage gaps, the whole shebang. When, when, when.

My question to them is always: why aren’t you talking about these things now, if those are the conversations you want to be KNOWN for having??

And this is where I’m at. In this period of unusually rapid growth, it’s even more vital for me to use my voice in the way I know how and know I must. If you’re looking to build a genuine following and highly engaged community online: post your values. Post your Self. It’ll get rid of the noise real quick, and you’ll end up with the people who are Your People. Win win.

Post your values. Post your Self. It’ll get rid of the noise real quick, and you’ll end up with the people who are Your People. Win win. Click To Tweet

Oh, and as for my last name? You’ll notice I didn’t change it when I got married. Katie Tucker is pretty adorbs and could have worked quite nicely. It could have also avoided this lame bullying comment.

But here’s the thing. I’ve spent years making peace with my last name. I’ve spent years emotionally sifting through the self-deprecating comments of my family members about how much it sucks, or women telling women to make the change as soon as they can. I’ve learned to make loving jokes, and I’ve learned to find the power in it.

 

One crisp and slightly ethereal day last year, I ran into my friend Michael after I finished teaching one of my classes. Not unusual (we do work at the same place), but this time, his face lit up differently when he saw me in the hallway. Like I was a walking epiphany. “This might sound weird, but I was thinking about your last name the other day,” he started. Oh no, I thought. Here it goes…

“I broke it down and I realized your last name is made up of two labels devised by the patriarchy. ‘Whore’ (or Hor) for sexually empowered women, and ‘Witch’ for socially and politically revolutionary feminists. Your last name is made of up two terms that were created by men to demean strong and powerful women who were viewed as threats. Your last name is basically the most badass, most powerful, and most on-brand last name you could have.”

Damn straight. I’ll take it.

(**my people, for the record, believe in trans rights, believe that black lives matter, believe survivors – and while my people and i might not agree on everything in life, my people like to lean in and get curious way more than lash out and get cruel.)



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The New January.

The New January.

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UNLIKE MOST KIDS, I don’t remember EVER dreading the first day of school. I might have had a mini panic attack before starting my senior year of high school (first and lasts always get me), but even those years when I switched schools and had to find all new friends, all that ever bubbled up was excitement and enthusiasm.

Maybe it was my naiveté, maybe it was my upbringing, maybe it was just my personality. But there was something about backpack shopping, picking out my outfits, and pouring over the introductory paperwork all the students at my schools were sent pre- Day One that made my heart so very happy. The impending challenges of a new grade – or in some cases, a new school altogether – never really entered my head. Back To School season was the BEST season of the year.

No matter what our lives looked like in those formative years of kindergarten through 12th grade, once September hits the ground running, we’re thrown back into that mentality of going “back to school.” We prepare for a new start, hope for positive change, and cross our fingers that we’ll be able to handle what life dishes out in the coming months.

Without summer vacations and required reading, though, it can be hard as an adult to draw the line between where summer ends and fall begins. Because although we’d love to have an endless summer, and although the first day of Autumn isn’t technically until September 23rd, we can all feel a shift from the moment Labor Day weekend comes to a close. It’s “back to the grind,” even though most of us have been grinding all year long. And so it can just seem like more of the same – like we lost track of time, and the time of year so associated with taking a breather completely passed us by. Couple this with a built-in programming from childhood to register this time of year as transitional, and it’s easy to feel a little bummed out by the seasonal shift.

While January usually gets the attention when it comes to resolutions, I’d like to argue that September deserves just as much attention as the 01/01 mark.

Autumn is the perfect time to evaluate where you’ve been, where you’re at, and where you’re going. It’s a time for us to bring back that childlike enthusiasm, relentless joy, and even those first-day jitters we had as kids. Because all worthwhile and exciting changes in life bring up first-day jitters, really.

It’s called “Fall” for a reason: just like the leaves break from the brances so the tree can begin its process of renewal, we too should let our old energy-suckers fall off our backs to make way for this new season of growth.

It's called Fall for a reason: just like the leaves break from the brances so the tree can begin its process of renewal, we too should let our old energy-suckers fall off our backs to make way for this new season of growth. Click To Tweet

This month – and this Fall in general – I encourage you to look at what’s worked, what hasn’t, and what your heart truly desires in this moment. Maybe you’ve been skimping on self care and getting a 15 minute sweat in before work is just what you need. Maybe you’ve been so wrapped up in work that your social life isn’t what you’d like it to be. Call a friend you haven’t checked in on in a while. Evaluate what you’ve accomplished this year so far, and how you want to feel by the time the clock strikes midnight on January 1st of next year.

Some thinks I’ll be thinking and questions I’ll be asking myself – feel free to steal them for your own musings:

september

  • Who can I look up to who is doing the REAL work, not just what is trendy, popular, or the easy way out?
  • How can I both grow my business and make my community ATYPICALLY authentic and meaningful?
  • Mornings. Middays. Bedtimes. What are some ways to tap into my energy levels during each season of the day and maximize my potential, even on those days I’m feeling down in the slumps?
  • What things are the most important to do each day…and what things are just “routine addiction”? (ex: if I have a podcast interview at 9AM but wake up at 7:30AM, is it more important for me to fit in a workout like I do almost every morning, or take the time to get centered and prepare for a successful conversation?)
  • Things that make me nervous. If those nerves are created by stories I’ve been telling myself, it’s time to rewrite the narrative by just going for it and doing the damn thing.

There will be challenges in the coming months, of course, and the newness of Fall and Winter will bring all kinds of highs and lows we could never have predicted. But if we shift our perspective to refocus our minds, refresh our hearts, and renew our commitments, there’s no telling what kind of miracles the rest of this year has in store.

Pick out your outfit, grab your backpack, and let’s get on this bus together.

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Braving The Wilderness: 4 Big-Time Takeaways From The Most Important Book Of The Year

Braving The Wilderness: 4 Big-Time Takeaways From The Most Important Book Of The Year

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A couple weeks back, I got an email from the Community Manager at The Fullest, an online magazine I adore that’s dedicated to contemporary culture. It was short, sweet, and to the point: We’ve got a book club series we do in LA and NYC. Would you want to host one?

The answer was obviously an enthusiastic “YES.” (Possibly surrounded by every single celebratory emoji I could find on my keyboard.)

As the little kid who would get in trouble for staying up late to finish every single installment of The Boxcar Children and Babysitter’s Club, toted around all 1400 pages of Les Misérables in my eighth grade backpack, and would usually rather stay in with a trilogy than go out on the town, book clubs are MY JAM. Learning about different perspectives, stories, and revelations, then being able to discuss them with others, isn’t just satisfying to the inner binge reader in me: it calms a very specific social anxiety I sometimes get when I realize I’ve taken a conversation way past the surface-level and the others aren’t feeling it.

When I’m talking about a book I love, I’m unfiltered and all heart – and usually discussing it with people who are on the same page (no pun intended). Just like any worthwhile piece of art, discussing a good book brings out a part of me I sometimes hide in fear of not “fitting in” with those around me.

So when The Fullest told me I got to choose my own book to discuss, it was a no-brainer. If I was gonna go there, I wanted to really go there. I was going to choose the book ABOUT fitting in.

~

Braving The Wilderness by Brené Brown (whom I oft refer to as HPB – High Priestess Brené) is hands down the most important read right now in our current cultural climate. In actuality, it isn’t only about fitting in – it’s about belonging. There’s a difference between the two, and the fact that so many of us are looking for the former and disregarding the latter is why I truly believe it’s the most important book of the year. Maybe the most important book of the decade. And maybe – no, certainly – the most important book for every single person to have in their hands right now. It could save relationships, save communities…and help us save ourselves.

Some questions the book brought up for me:

When do you feel the biggest sense of belonging? The weightiest pressure to fit in?
Where in life can you write yourself a permission slip to be yourself?
Do you trust others? But more importantly – do you trust yourself? Like, really, truly. Do you TRUST yourself? In what ways can you trust yourself more?
What truths are you telling yourself that might actually be of your own making?
Why, as an introvert, can big groups sometimes feel more comforting than one-on-one experiences?
Where does dehumanization exist, and how can you combat it?
Why are we all so lonley and doing so little about it???

Considering that what ended up being a two-hour book club discussion wasn’t nearly enough time to dig into every single powerful point (and that I’d planned for the discussion to last, oh, 45 minutes or so), starting to dive into all of them on here could result in a whole other book itself (Braving Braving The Wilderness?). So I’ve narrowed it down to some of my favorite points made, and some of the most universal of the universal truths Brené so beautifully lays in front of us to do with them as we will. And man oh man, I hope we do Good with them.

If you read ONE book this year, make it this one. Here are four of my top takeaways:

braving the wilderness brene brown

1. True belonging is the exact opposite of fitting in. One of the reasons this book gets awarded the Katie Horwitch Award (patent pending) for Most Important Book Of The Year is this world-rocking thesis statement. The book begins with a Maya Angelou quote that pissed Brené off:

You are only free when you realize you belong no place – you belong every place – no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.

True belonging, Brené learns, is about belonging to YOURSELF first and foremost. True belonging is being fully yourself wherever you go, and being called to stand alone. True belonging “doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”

Fitting in, then, is the exact opposite. Fitting in is trying to mold yourself to fit a situation, a clique, a stereotype – whatever it is that will make you less like YOU and more like THEM. This simple yet ridiculously profound difference explains a lot. Mainly why so many of us feel so shitty even when we feel we’ve acclimated to whatever group we hoped to become a part of. It’s why so many of us are so lonely even when we’re far from alone. We belong to everyone…everyone else but ourselves.

I’ve been in the “self-improvement”/wellness/mind-body/whatever-you-want-to-call-it world for a while now. I’ve heard the phrase “Belong to yourself” before. That statement alone wasn’t revolutionary to me. But the dichotomy of belonging vs. fitting in WAS. And when I thought deeply about the phrasing and jumbled the words a bit, I noticed something I’d never thought of before.

I belong to me.

To me, I belong.

In my opinion, I belong.

True belonging is about full possession of yourself, sure. But it’s also about BELIEVING in your capacity to belong wherever you go.

True belonging doesn't require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are. - @brenebrown Click To Tweet

2. Don’t study the moment. Be in it. One of my favorite little snippets of storytelling in Braving The Wilderness comes when Brené is about to go on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday. She’s walking down the street with her manager, Murdoch, the night before, and he calls her out on how “not-present” she just was at dinner with the Super Soul producer.

She says to him:

Brene: ‘I’m doing that thing I do when I’m afraid. I’m floating above my life, watching it and studying it, rather than living it.’

Murdoch: ‘I know. But you need to find a way to stop and bring yourself back here. This is a big deal. I don’t want you to miss it. Don’t study the moment. Be in it.’

That HIT me. Hard. How many times have we completely missed out on experiencing greatness – big deal, big-ass things – because we were too preoccupied dissecting the moment? How many times have we unknowingly lost love because we were so busy analyzing every little gesture, glance, and word to see if it matched up with our preconceived definitions? How many opportunities have we failed to seize because we were too busy trying to be what we oh-so-carefully deduced the opportunity demanded of us? How many Big Deals have we missed because we were too busy studying them and not enough time being IN them? It hurts my head to think about all the potential moments I’ve missed in the past because I was too busy dissecting them or too preocuppied with “Am I worthy? How do I make myself worthy?” Big-ass things are only big-ass things when we trust ourselves enough to live within them. Otherwise, they’re just a bunch of Somethings that once happened at Some Point.

Don't study the moment. Be in it. - #BravingTheWilderness by @brenebrown Click To Tweet


3. Silence leads to storytelling.
 Yup. Boom. I’m a pro at this. I’d just never heard it put SO succinctly.

I am an expert storyteller, and I bet you are, too. We tell ourselves stories to fill in the blanks – not because we’re all masochists, but because we’re trying to make sense of the broken pieces. Maybe you weren’t chosen to work on a project because your manager needs you to have availability for an even greater task that’s coming up a few months down the line – but without asking a simple question or two (spoiler, try “Why?” to start), your brain probably decides it’s because you’re ill-equipped or pissed someone off. Maybe your friend didn’t call or text you back because they’re going through a tough time and feel overwhelmed – but without checking in, you might assume it’s because you did something wrong. Maybe your date let out a long SIGH at the end of the night because they got a text from their manager on their day off – but without asking, I bet you assume it’s because they’re sick of spending time with you.

These are all just small examples, but small examples turn into big stories. And the big stories we weave for ourselves are made up of multiple threads of actual or perceived truth upon actual or perceived truth. Every story we tell informs the next action we take  – and sets the stage for how we’re going to react to the next thing that comes our way.

Our lives are our collection of stories. So what kind do you want to tell?

We tell ourselves stories to fill in the blanks - not because we're all masochists, but because we're trying to make sense of the broken pieces. Click To Tweet

4. Bullshit is in a whole other ballpark than Truth and Lies – which is why it feels so wrong. I always thought there were two options when it came to communication: telling the truth or telling lies. But it turns out, most of what I was referring to as Lying was actually something else. Bullshitting.

Brené describes truth and lies as opposing players in the same game. BS, however, completely disregards the game. She quotes Harry Frankfurt’s book On Bullshit and says, “It’s helpful to think of lying as a defiance of the truth and bullshitting as a wholesale dismissal of the truth.”

She goes on to say we use bullshit to talk about things we don’t understand. To be a part of a conversation based on what you guess “your people” think about it. And it’s what creates black-and-white ideaologies of You’re Either With Us Or Against Us.

Oof. LOL to how many pages I dogeared and underlined in this chapter.

I always tell my husband, Jeremy, that his biggest strength and biggest weakness is that he’s able to see all sides of any situation. For the LONGEST time, this frustrated the hell out of me. Just agree with me! I’d silently stew. Don’t you think that’s just HORRIBLE?? I’d ask, words loaded, out loud. I couldn’t get over that he just wouldn’t choose a point to be for or against.

I grew up around adults who jumped to conclusions fast and expressed opinions even faster – and I have what used to be painful memories of being “put in my place” and silenced when I tried to see all sides.

I know I’m not alone in that kind of upbringing. Because look at our country. Look at our world. We wouldn’t be this way if we weren’t, generation after generation, either overtly or passive-aggressively either silenced or forced to pick sides. We are living in Bullshit Nation.

The solution to this? Brené says we need to call out bullshit…with CIVILITY. “Speaking truth to BS” doesn’t mean pointing fingers or placing blame. It means disagreeing respectfully and getting curious about where opinions and information come from.

It's helpful to think of lying as a defiance of the truth and bullshitting as a wholesale dismissal of the truth. - @brenebrown Click To Tweet

While Jeremy’s see-all-sides and ask-all-questions approach can be frustrating when I just want him to show me he has an opinion that’s all his own, I know he’s right. Our opinions can be loaded. And there is no way we can evolve into the people we want to be – individually or collectively – if we give up on each other and don’t get curious about how those opinions came to be in the first place. There is no way we will ever find a sense of belonging if we keep choosing a culture of Fitting In.

I say it on the WANTcast all the time, and I’ll say it here again for the people in the back: I truly believe that curiosity could change the world. And with the help of Braving The Wilderness, it just might.

 


Thank you to The Fullest for asking me to be a part of your book club! To get involved with The Fullest, click here.

WANT Yourself:

Have you read Braving The Wilderness yet? What are your top takeaways from the book? If you haven’t read it yet, was there something in this post that piqued your interest? Should I host another discussion of Braving The Wilderness either in-person or on IG Live?????


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I Make Money Moves: How To NOT Freak Out Over Your Bank Account

I Make Money Moves: How To NOT Freak Out Over Your Bank Account

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I will never forget the person who changed my relationship with money.

No, not a parent.

No, not a boss.

It was my first…

…tax guy.

 

My friend Roy referred me to Wardie back when I was twenty-something, broke-ish, and realized that if I ever wanted to truly become a self-sufficient adult, I needed to woman up and stop passing off Tax Duty to the accountants most broke-ish twenty-somethings use: the parentals.

I was a lucky, lucky girl to have parents who would take on this task for me. I recognize and understand my privilege, and how closely I toed the line between Uninformed Young Person and Stereotypical Spoiled Millenial. I think it was when I realized that I had a choice between the two – owning my uninformed-ness and learning, or making someone else do my dirty work and staying in the dark – that I took a deep breath and got myself my very first (non-relative, non-unpaid) accountant.

Wardie had been in the business of money for over fifty years. His office was perched on the third floor of an inconspicuous putty-colored building, sandwiched between a production company and a plumber’s HQ. I vividly remember driving up one Sunday and parking in a spot reserved for the production staff. The irony that I was there to take control of my finances yet practically asking for (yet another) parking ticket was not lost on me. *This* is how I got broke-ish, I thought.

I ended up using Wardie as my accountant for years, up until I moved to Manhattan. Walking into Wardie’s office was a little like walking into a page out of the I Spy series of my childhood: books upon books and knick-knacks randomly scattered around the shelves. A framed set of coins, a USC championship banner from who knows when. Old family photos and Hemmingway anthologies. Notebooks and textbooks and file folders galore. The haphazard space was strangely calming, the lack of outward order making me sigh with relief every year – because once I sat down at his desk, I knew he had my back. His hands shook slightly more and more each year, and he used the same calculator he’d had since 1984.

And when I expressed concern or asked a question, he reminded me to Not Worry; that I had things under control – a reminder I needed, because much like his office, my exterior world could sometimes feel a bit confusing.

~

Money: it’s a topic most of us tap-dance around, even with the people we trust most. There’s a sense of shame associated with not having as much as you feel you should…or not being able to afford what you once could…or not be able to afford what others can…or looking at your paycheck and seeing how much is taken out from taxes…or doing your taxes and realizing you owe more than a few paychecks’ worth and not really understanding why. Mo’ money, mo’ shame. Less money, mo’ shame. Basically, Money and Shame are the toxic dynamic duo who just won’t quit.

And hey, it’s not ENTIRELY our fault we let Money Shame beat us up so bad. Managing personal finances in a balanced way is something most of us never learn how to do until we’re deep in the weeds. Whether that’s because our practical-education system is flawed/nonexistant, or because most of the adults who came before us carry Money Shame and pass it onto us…? I don’t know. It’s probably a little of both.

Money Shame scares us into scarcity mode in more way than one. We latch onto poor financial advice without doing research or getting multiple opinions, because it’s something. We hang onto time-sensitive monetary guidance for longer than it serves us, sticking by principles or processes that might have been appropriate a few years back but are since outdated for the life we lead in the present (and hope to create in the future).

Oh, and don’t forget the other side of scarcity mentality: the idea that a full bank account (or desire to have one) is greedy or narcissistic. Even when we ARE in a comfy spot when it comes to money, we cling to our old, dusty financial fears. Even if we’re blessed with abundance, we adopt a less-than mentality. We’re starved for an open conversation; we’re conditioned to make money our enemy.

You guys.

It does not have to be this way.

I remember my second year working with Wardie. He looked over my numbers and pulled out my prior year’s files from one of his many floor-to-ceiling file cabinets. “Look at that!” he exclaimed. “You made DOUBLE this year what you made last year. You keep this trend up, you’ll be a millionaire in five years and we’ll be having all different kinds of conversations!” Hm. I’d been hustling and stressing so hard all year, I hadn’t even registered that I was literally bringing in more than double what I’d been earning the year before. That one little comment from him, while a liiiittle exaggerated, was the first time I’d heard any sort of positive reinforcement when it came to how much money I made – or was able to make.

It’s very likely that if the thought of checking your bank account balance makes you break out in cold sweats, you’ve got quite a few people around you who are reinforcing this. Family, friends, coworkers, media personalities, Money Shame is everywhere. Just like Casual Negativity, money problems can be a way of bonding with others: commiserating over how expensive something is or how you really can’t afford such-and-such or UGH taxes amiright??

It can be a relief to know that you’re not alone…but it can also be damaging if you’re not devising a game plan to shift into a more positive and proactive reality. Here are some tools to break out of financial fears, shift into a rich mentality, and stay…shall we say…ACCOUNTABLE.

Let’s talk about CENTS, baby. Or for a more current pop culture pun…


FIVE WAYS TO MAKE MONEY MOVES
 

1 – REVISIT YOUR OWN FINANCIAL HISTORY.
Think back to a time you felt as if you had nothing. Then think of a time that felt more abundant. Remind yourself that money ebbs and flows just like the weather and the waves of the ocean. Everyone (even Oprah!) has had these ebbs and flows – we just don’t hear about them. What might feel hopeless now is just a low spot in the cycle of your financial flow. No, you can’t just sit back and wait. But as long as you’re being proactive, not reactive – even, ESPECIALLY, when it’s toughest – more IS on its way.

And ps…I’m not talking Oprah status, speaking of Oprah. A lot of times when we think of abundance, we think of a Scrooge McDuck-type wealth where we’re suddenly diving into a sea of gold coins. Maybe a sea of coins is in the cards, I have no idea…but if you’re so stuck on that one singular image of “wealth,” you’ll miss out on so many literal value adds that happen in your life throughout your life. When I say more, I’m talking MORE. More than what you have when you’re feeling low. More than you have when your finances don’t seem to be flowing. More than now. More than then. Just…more. No one season defines you, and no one season is forever.

No one season defines you, and no one season is forever. Click To Tweet

2 – FIERCELY EDUCATE YOURSELF.
Abundant mindset is awesome, but nothing beats good ol’ brainwork. Schoolhouse Rock was right: Knowledge truly is power – and wealth. Get some. Even if everything you read sounds like a foreign language at first (and it probably will. the acronyms definitely will.), just read. Or listen to a podcast. Or watch a lecture or a TED Talk. We’ve got so much information at our fingertips, and most costs virtually nothing to access. My favorite resources are personal finance guru Suze Orman, who is a favorite of the Big O herself, and money maven Kate Northrup Watts, who gives brilliant, grounded financial advice that’s both relatable and attainable. And never be afraid to ask around, whether it be from a professional financial advisor or just someone you view as having it “together” who you can confide in without fear of judgement. It can be scary to seek awareness, but that feeling too shall pass. The more you know. Literally.

3 – PARTNER UP.
If you’re one half of a dynamic duo, it’s ESSENTIAL you and your partner create a safe space to discuss money. Not only is this healthy for your mind and bank account – it’s healthy for your relationship! Sit down during a neutral time (not when the actual problems arise or big decisions need to be made) and have a conversation about your current respective attitudes towards money and how they have been formed over the years through upbringing or experience.

Most financial fears stem from a place that goes waaaaay beyond dollars and cents. Aim to understand each other’s views and emotions surrounding money, then discuss how you can help each other shift into a positive space together. There are few things worse than feeling as if you cannot share deep-set worries or fears with the person you love most. Make sure each other knows you have a safe, respectful place to turn and strategize when you’re anxiety-ridden.

4 – GIVE MORE TO GET MORE.
This might sound counterintuitive, but when you feel financial fear making its way into your mind, spend a little on someone. It can be anything from donating to a friend’s marathon efforts to buying a coworker her morning coffee to donating to a cause you believe in or a random GoFundMe campaign that hits all your heart’s soft spots. To combat feelings of having nothing, we must actively create a sense of positivity and worth.

It doesn’t have to be much – you don’t even need to spend more than a couple dollars for this to work. The amount is NOT the point. It’s about cultivating worth and value. That means showing someone else they’re valued. The fact that you are able to give enough to make someone else smile can set off a chain reaction in your brain and heart that makes you feel truly rich.

5 – PRACTICE THE ART OF BENCHMARK BUYING.
While researching/acting upon return policies is a MUST when necessary, sometimes the act of making a return when the reason for return is finance-related (been there, done that) can reinforce that poor person mentality we’re trying so hard to break. Am I saying keep the thing if you can’t afford it? Hell no! But there’s gotta be something more to halt sub-par spending in the first place.

Spender’s Remorse usually comes from impulse buying, which usually comes from feeling a lack of control in some other part of life OR this idea that someone else’s opinion (salesperson, friend, family, that ad you saw on Facebook) matters more than your own. Enter what I have coined Benchmark Buying. It’s essentially this: if you have a certain amount of money that you CAN spend, how do you choose to spend it? If a new outfit costs as much as a plane ticket to Los Angeles to see my family, it BETTER be a damn good outfit I’ll be wearing for years to come. If I’m taking my husband out on a date, I’d rather pay for a quality intimate experience than a bunch of sub-part cocktails at an ultra-hip new hotspot known for its Instagrammableness. If I’m feeling lazy and want to pick up my lunch twice a week instead of make it, that convenience is probably not worth more to me than the boutique bootcamp class I could take later that costs the same amount. Comparing and contrasting the ways you spend your money not only encourages you to slow down your impulses, it empowers you to feel control over the direction in which your bank account is going.

I realized that financial success was this: not letting it control me. Click To Tweet

Moving from Los Angeles (an expensive city) to NYC (an even more expensive city) made me revisit my financial fears all over again. I knew I could do this…but what was it really going to take? And as someone who was part of a partnership, partners who were equal teammates but had totally different relationships with dolla-dolla-bills…what did financial success mean to me?

I realized that financial success in New York City was this: not letting it control me. It meant being able to fully support myself and understanding what all iterations of that would look like. It meant not letting my experiences with money – lots of it or littles of it – rule my emotions and dictate my quality of life.

Breaking out of financial fears is not about a specific number in your bank account, a figure on your paycheck, or a lucky winning lottery ticket. It’s about being tired of the control the mere THOUGHT of money has over both you and the people you love. Be your own positive example of what a healthy relationship with George, Abe, Alex, and Andy looks like. You might not have any plans to be a CFO or accountant or the next Wardie Jr. – but you CAN work to be a money-spending, money-saving maven and shift from Shame to Worth. No matter what the ebbs and flows of your finances look like, the act of feeling in control is something that only appreciates in value. That’s a richness that cannot be taxed.


WANT Yourself:
Now I wanna know…what are some ways you keep yourself in CHECK when it comes to checks? How do you stay ACCOUNTABLE when it comes to your bank account? What keeps you SANE-ing when you’re SAVING?
(How many more bad money-related jokes can I write? That last one didn’t even make much CENTS…) 

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No Filter: 6 Tips Everyone Should Use To Stay Sane On Social Media

No Filter: 6 Tips Everyone Should Use To Stay Sane On Social Media

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I’m of the age that I can remember a time when social media didn’t reign supreme. I still remember the ancient dial-up chords of the Prodigy and AOL era internet, the rush of excitement when you finally made it “online” (because that thing was slooooow) and the hope that someone wouldn’t pick up the landline, kick you off, and ruin it all.

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. 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.

I remember MySpace, I remember Friendster. 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 olden days 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 alreay 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 factor is loud and proud and REAL. So many people to keep up with, so much news being thrown at us…it’s almost too much to handle if you’re the type of person who likes to savor the moment. 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 stay SANE on our smartphones.

Here are a few solid social media tips + strategies to follow (ha, no pun intended) so you can have your life and post it, too:

WHEN SCROLLING…

-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.

Since we can usually see the source in the link preview, look into THAT first – then decide whether you’ll click the bait. 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).

-Practice COMO – the 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.

-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 with what and who you engage with, and make sure it does more good than harm. If it’s not the kind of social interaction you’d want to have offline, then why are you having it online?

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

WHEN POSTING…

-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.

-Know what you want to say – like, REALLY 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 – or are you trying to keep up with the social media mavens you see online? 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.

-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. All in all…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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