Treat Yo’self: The Life-Shifting Power Of Setting (Small) Boundaries

Treat Yo’self: The Life-Shifting Power Of Setting (Small) Boundaries

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There’s a saying I once heard (probably from Oprah) about when it comes to the people you interact with on a regular basis:

“We teach others how to treat us.”

And I used to think that was bogus.

Not that I thought that I was immune to “haters” or tactlessness, but I resonated more with the school of thought that how people treat us is a reflection of who they are, not who we are. Which is true…

Here’s the thing, though: in this state of mind, I was only thinking of others being kind vs. being unkind. At the time, I was a perpetual people-person, the one who was there for everyone, and strongly averse to drama or gossip. Why someone wouldn’t treat me with respect – their own issues withstanding – was automatically viewed as their fault, not mine.

It’s funny, because at the same time, I was consistently feeling lost inside myself, pulled in twelve different directions, and reaching with all my might for a hazy life vision and career trajectory that had seemed to morph into something I could no longer control.

What I realized is that changing the way others treat us isn’t just about “treating them the way we’d like to be treated,” or kindness vs. cruelty – it’s about managing their expectations.

When we feel an imbalance in who we are or who we think we should be, it’s a red flag that something else is going on below the surface. Whether it’s a lack of clarity in through line or that awful feeling of being uncomfortable in our own skin, our body-mind-soul trifecta will always let us know that something’s going awry. Most of the time, we just don’t choose to listen to those signs.

Every text message, email, conversation and interaction is a way we teach the people in our lives how to treat us. Whether we’re responding to work requests at 11pm, saying “yes” to every single invitation/obligation/favor, or staying out late for that last round of drinks when we’d rather be cozy in bed, each decision we make is a little piece of our property. Time. Energy. Values.

Way too often, we give that property away. And way too often, it’s because of one thing: we fear what will happen if we don’t.

How many times do we stare down at our phones or computers answering every single email, text message, gChat, etc like rapidfire? Sure, timeliness and efficiency are important – but every time we respond to something that drains us instead of fuels us, or simply can wait until we’re free, we’re unconsciously telling others that THAT is how we conduct our lives. To get overwhelmed and angry at the requests, pushes, and pulls coming at us is usually not the fault of anyone else but ourselves.

In general, people don’t want to overwhelm you, stress you out, or steer you further from the you you know you’re meant to be. They’re just taking cues from how they see you’re living your life.

Setting boundaries doesn’t have to be a dramatic shift. How do you teach others how to treat you? By being thoughtful with the way you present yourself and respond.

A few small-but-huge examples of how to teach others how to treat you:

IN YOUR CAREER: Whether it’s via email or in the middle of a meeting, many times we’ll talk a certain way in order to be liked, to make others feel included, or just to give off a “good impression” of being a team player. Sometimes it comes from modesty. Sometimes it comes from empathetic skills in overdrive. But as we’ve talked about so many times, confidence is not synonymous with narcissism or vanity. Instead of using filler words like “maybe,” “kind of,” or “just,” state your case as fact. Be the authority on what you think and what you know. We’re so attuned to thinking this is bitchy. It’s not. It’s owning yourself and owning your power.

Own your power. Be the authority on what you think and what you know. Click To Tweet

ON THE PHONE: Remember when all we had were land lines and “message machines,” as we called them in my house? Remember when we needed to memorize people’s numbers, and if we needed to reach someone while we were out, we needed to find a pay phone or business that would loan us their line? Somehow, we all managed. Just because we’re now all reachable right away doesn’t warrant a response right away. Not feeling that text message? Wait to respond. Need some solitude and the phone rings? Let it go to voice mail and call back later. If there is an emergency, usually people will find a way to get ahold of you (think multiple texts and calls one after the other). In more cases than not, whatever is happening

GOING OUT: I don’t know about you, but I usually hit a wall at about 9:30pm when I’m out socializing. Any later, and my introverty HSP self does an energetic nose-dive from the high board of fun into the pool of self-loathing and anxiousness. I used to think that there was something wrong with me that I didn’t want to stay out late, even if just with family members, close friends, or small groups. But what I’ve come to learn and accept is that not only am I not a night owl, but it takes me about two full hours from leaving a social event to wind down and fall asleep for the night. When you’re ready to leave, people might sometimes give you shit and beg you to stay. That can feel good. That can make us feel wanted. But stand your ground. Say no to events that begin later if you’re not feeling them, and if you are, give yourself the permission to leave whenever you’re feeling it. No apologies, and no hanging around when you’re energetically drained. The more you do this with grace, the more the people you love will understand this about you. Just give them the chance to know that part of you. People don’t want you to have a bad time or pretend – they want you to be YOURSELF. (Danielle Beinstein and I talk a little bit about this in her WANTcast episode.)

So often, we don’t set these tiny boundaries because to us, they seem just that: tiny. But it’s those small instances, over and over, that end up making a HUGE difference for the better. In all areas of your life.


Tell me – how can you (or how do you already) set small-but-huge boundaries with others in your life? Whether it’s at work or in your personal life, tell me one thing that you do to own your power and manage the expectations of others?


My Own Worst Enemy: Breaking Out Of Your Best Body

My Own Worst Enemy: Breaking Out Of Your Best Body

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One of the little details I love best about my life is that my parents still live in the house I grew up in. My room is practically untouched from the time I was a teenager, photographs and books stacked up on my desk from when I moved home my senior year of college. The box of sand dollars collected on the beaches of San Diego in 1995 are right where I left them, the magazine cut-outs of Broadway performers and Wendell Berry quotes from an early-200s O Magazine issue are still taped up to my walls and cabinet doors. The Beatles poster I got when I was 15 is torn and faded, but it still hangs to the side of my bed as a reminder of my classic rock roots.

My closet is also fairly unchanged.

I used to have this weird ritual when I moved back home of going into my closet and trying on clothes from years, even decades back, just to see if they still fit. The words of magazines and role models would echo in my ears; about women getting back to their “high school weight” or fitting into the jeans they wore when they were 16. Every adult woman in my life at one point or another wished out loud to have their “best body” back. Getting older came to mean getting bitterly nostalgic and insufficient.

I figured that as long as I was always approximately the same size, I could avoid the diet campaigns, the negative self-image, and moreover, the self-imposed stigma of not remaining the same size as when I was apparently “at my best.”

We talk about how we’re affected by media images and how we compare ourselves to others…but how about the way we compare ourselves to ourselves?

When it comes to body image and, dare I say it, body satisfaction, many times we base our opinions on either what we’ve looked like in the past or what we hope to look like in the future. We view our bodies as a constant companion, and any deviation is almost like a betrayal. We view times in our lives as being “at our best” and other times as having “slipped up.” I know I’ve done it – not just my sixteen year old self, but coveted that 23 year-old body that I now view as myself at my best.

What’s crazy is that very few times during those years did I actually see myself in that way. And it started young. When I was 13 I wished for the body I had at 11. When I was sixteen I coveted that 13 year old frame. And when I was 23, I grappled with the fact that my 21 year old body was unhealthily “healthy” on the inside yet what I thought looked pretty fab on the outside, and that I missed that.

On the flipside, each of those ages brought its own set of hopes and wishes. When I’m 11, I’ll look grown-up. When I’m 13, I’ll fill out dresses. When I’m 16, I’ll be a few inches taller. When I’m 23, I’ll be fitter. When I’m 26, I’ll finally lose this baby face. And so on, and so on, and so on…

Rarely do we see our beauty and so-called “perfection” in the moment. No matter what we look like, there will always be something better, something sparklier, something more prefect than who we are now. I look at photos of my 23 year old self and can’t imagine why I ever wanted to look any different. I want to shake that girl and say, You are literal perfection, baby! Like, what are you thinking? Why can’t you see that?!

But I know my 23 year old self would smile, hug me, kindly thank me, then put herself down. Because ultimately, perfection is subjective. Because ultimately, what has-been in the past and what could-be in the future are usually more sparkly in our mind’s eye than what IS-in the present, right here in front of us.

Look at your present self + ask how you can be the best version of where you're at right now. Click To Tweet

It’s not really fair to say it’s “bad” to covet another shape, size, or incarnation of ourselves – we’re only human. But whereas we’re often looking to a past or future version of ourselves to guide how we feel about our body, I think it’s more productive and powerful to look at our present self and ask how we can be the very best version of where we’re at right now. 

Not only do our bodies change with time, sometimes by the month – hello, hips! – but our lifestyles change as well. Location, occupation, and even sleep patterns can affect our bodies on a profound level. We have kids. We change jobs. We shift obligations. Life happens.

Health and self-care should always be our #1 priority – because only when we take care of ourselves, we’re able to take care of everything else. Yet not all of us can walk to and from work, or spend 60 minutes at the gym, or home cook every meal in balanced nutritional ratios.

But we can do the very best with what we’ve got.


What I usually don’t remember about my 23-year-old bod, and 23-year-old self, are the months of overdraft over overdraft because I was only just making enough money to survive. What I don’t remember are the exhaustingly long shifts at the yoga studio I worked at, walking in and out and in and out, then cleaning the entire place after. I don’t usually remember the excess of time I had or the lonely moments of not really feeling like I had a group or person like I thought I was supposed to have. Basically, I don’t remember that I had a lot less that I genuinely cared about.

Now, my life looks a LOT fuller. And my body reflects that – the good and the bad. It reflects the stress of a very long daily commute. It reflects the workouts that are shorter and more intensely interval-driven instead of longer and more steady-state. It reflects healthy, loving relationships and a self-respect I just didn’t have at a younger age. I know that my body will not look like it did when I was 23, because my life does not look like it did when I was 23. And I don’t want it to. Because I love my life now. So, so much. 

When we think our bodies are turning against us, we’re really the ones turning against our bodies. We’re holding ourselves to a standard that was never really THE standard at all. We’re reminiscing about how we think things used to be instead of embracing how we know things are now. Essentially, we’re making decisions to shape our lives and blaming our bodies for going along for the ride.

We think our bodies are turning against us - but we're really the ones turning against our bodies. Click To Tweet

I spent last weekend at my parents’ house, in my old room. And instead of trying clothes on to gauge how much I needed to “work on,” I did something drastic – I tried on what I thought I might want to keep, and threw what didn’t fit in a pile to donate. Which, by the way, was pretty much all of it.

I knew I was throwing away dresses I’d loved and tops I still wished I could wear, but I was also throwing away a barometer for “success” that no longer served me and frankly, never did.

Next time you find yourself wishing for your 13, 16, 21, 23, 28, 34, 48 year-old body, do this exercise.

Remember what that time was like. For better or worse.

Remember what this time is like. For better or worse.

Ask yourself one question: How can I do my best with what I’ve been given?

And then go clean out your closet to make space for the present.

best body
Clean out your closet to make space for the present. Click To Tweet

What is one thing you love about your body right now?
And, if you’re not feeling so fab right now, what is one decision you’ve made in the last few days to have your “best body” right in this very second? Snuck to the gym on your lunch break? Grabbed a green juice instead of a latte? Took a cat nap over the weekend to recharge? Everything counts! Tell me in the comments…

Photo credit: | Anna Marie Gearhart


Beside The Point: If I’m Confident, Why Do I Still Have Negative Self-Talk?

Beside The Point: If I’m Confident, Why Do I Still Have Negative Self-Talk?

Beside The Point Community Shift Of Power

Hi Katie,

I recently discovered your website through the Well/Away podcast you were featured in and I wanted to tell you that I am so inspired by what you are doing. In the last year or so, I have been very focused on self-exploration. I have been a yoga practitioner for 7+ years, (try to) maintain a steady meditation practice, and consider myself a pretty self-aware person.

However, over this past year, I have come to realize that I display a lot of negative self talk. I was actually quite surprised, when I looked, how negative my unconscious reactions were – and how much they affected the way I feel about myself and how I approach the world around me.

After poking around the site for a bit, I was struck by something that you said in your bio – you mention that you are a confident person, but still struggle with negative thoughts and self-doubt in a very real way. This was a bit of an ‘ah-ha’ moment for me. I consider myself a confident person – my confidence has led me to be successful professionally, personally, and socially. There is a lot I know I can do, no questions asked – and, yet, there are many things I automatically and unconsciously assume I can’t. To me, this seemed so counterintuitive.

If I am confident and truly believe in myself, then why do I fall into negative talk patterns and question certain abilities? Even though I am still working through it, it is comforting to know that another innately confident person has dealt with (or is dealing with :)) this challenge.

Again, I think what you are doing is so fantastic and I am so inspired by it – it takes a lot of bravery and a lot of courage, and I think it’s wonderful.



First off, thank you so much for your kind words – I’m so glad you found WANT and have become a part of our community.

Oh, the paradox of the negative self-talking confident person.

As the WANT manifesto says, “Confidence is not synonymous with vanity.” But even if we don’t feel we’re being narcissistic or vain, there can still be this little voice inside us that tells us we are not allowed to have it all.

Grounded, inclusive confidence is a rarity these days. The confident female tropes we see in movies and on television usually come with a caveat – either the woman is perceived as selfish and snooty (see pretty much every boss lady on film), or more often, she’s a lovable mess behind the scenes. Confident in a crowd, self-depracating and stumbling behind the curtain, questioning her every move. The “mess” trope is to make the character relatable, of course – it’s the on-screen version of those “Stars – They’re Just Like Us!” articles we see in the tabloids. Oh look, so-and-so wears yoga leggings to run errands! No way, watch such-and-such balance two coffee cups while simultaneously walking her dog and answering the phone! Can you believe that, just like us, pop-star-of-the-moment eats burgers and gets ketchup on her shirt? 

So rare is the woman whose confidence has a firm back bone of kindness towards both others and herself. It’s only sometimes we see a character who is self-confident and self-respecting. Once in a blue moon is the “sweet, pretty girl” confident in her intelligence, her creative powers and yes, her looks as well. Every now and then is the leader of the pack shown as empathetic, gregarious, in a loving relationship, AND self-loving on top of that. We’re taught that to be relatable, we should show our underbellies, which way too often is mistaken for “finding what’s wrong and bonding over it.”

Using negativity as a bonding tactic can make the confident gal feel isolated. And that extends way beyond interpersonal conversations. We start to believe that self-confidence is a balancing act and too much would be overstepping our quota. We’re not allowed to be good at everything, and if we are, we definitely need to undermine ourselves about it. As confident women, we strive to be leaders – but how can we lead if we don’t belong? Because being the only positive in a sea of negativity means we’re the ones who are on the outside.

And so the negative self talk comes in. We question certain abilities and put limitations on certain successes. We fear that if we’re too confident – too “perfect,” as the world would have it – then we’ll be too much to handle. For others. And for ourselves.

There’s a quote I love by Marianne Williamson in her book A Return To Love that I repeat to myself often when those negative questions, doubts, and statements come flooding into my brain:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. -Marianne Williamson Click To Tweet

When I am feeling inadequate or unsure of myself, I ask one question of myself:

Do I believe this to be true because I don’t feel prepared, because I don’t feel on par, or because I don’t feel like I have permission?

If you’re feeling unprepared (say, for a new project), the answer is to seek out knowledge and experience. If you’re feeling that you’re sub-par to your own vision of yourself (say, you’re fatigued and sick all the time), the answer is to make proactive lifestyle changes to get you feeling good again.

The toughest question to answer is if you’re feeling like you don’t have permission to do what you want to do, be who you want to be, or feel how you want to feel.

It can feel like a sigh of relief to gain permission from someone else to do something or be something, because the ball isn’t entirely in our court. Someone else saw something in us and gave us the green light, so we don’t have to shoulder the entire responsibility or weight of the decision.

Waiting for permission is no way to live. Click To Tweet
Being what Jeremy calls a “big wide open heart” empathizing all over the place, I KNOW how tempting the urge can be to wait for someone else to be in on the decisions you make. Because if it’s a group effort, then it’s definitely not a selfish or ego-driven act.

The thing is, we so rarely get permission from others to be ourselves, nor is that really permission – it’s validation. It’s someone else saying “I bless you to do this or be that, because it’s what I deem acceptable and how I can guarantee my support.”

And so we must courageously move into our own greatness, despite others’ thoughts, and grant ourselves permission anyway.

But how?

By repetition. By feeling the fear of judgement, disconnection, loneliness, and moving forward anyway. It might feel awkward and your greatness might knock you off your feet. Keep going. Keep your kindness at the helm, your courage at the mast, and your heart at the forefront. When you come from a place of radical empathy and self-love, others can’t help but follow suit. Like Marianne says, As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Let your confidence shine in all areas of your life, L. You don’t have to be a “mess” and you don’t need to apologize. 
If you’re waiting for permission, it’s you who holds the key to the other side. 
Guarantee yourself your own support. Then move forward. Fearlessly.

If you're waiting for permission, it's you who holds the key to the other side. Click To Tweet


Have a question you’d like to see answered? Submit it here.


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Photo credit: BLDG25

Inside Out And Negative Talk.

Inside Out And Negative Talk.

Body Community Motivation + Inspiration

(Warning: spoilers ahead.)

There’s a scene in Inside Out where the emotions are projecting one of the memory orbs onto the screen of Riley’s mind. It’s a happy memory that was created with Joy at the helm, meant to make Riley feel good.

Then suddenly the memory turns sad.

There’s Sadness, with her hands on the orb and that look we get when we realize we’ve done something wrong. “I don’t know why I’m doing this” she whimpers. She knows that the golden rule of Head-quarters – keep Riley happy – as happiness is the main fuel for Riley’s personality, even through this daunting life event of moving across the country to a brand new house in a brand new town with a brand new hockey team and a brand new school where she has to make brand new friends.

The more memories Sadness touches through this event – uncontrollably, unwillingly, without reason – the more they turn into ones that make Riley cry. Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith pretty damn perfectly) is viewed as somewhat of a screw-up by Joy, who tries to keep her under control. But it’s Joy’s forceful attempts to control sadness that accidentally gets them both out of the picture….leaving anger, fear, and disgust in control.

And this is when I went from liking the movie to LOVING it.


In one hour and forty-two minutes I was seeing things adults don’t grasp in an entire lifetime being laid out in plain layman’s Disney terms. Inside Out is one of those clever, poignant Pixar movies that’s made for kids but really made for adults, too, which is to be expected from Pixar now (and feature-film cartoons in general). What makes this one different is that it doesn’t just amplify what we already know – it conceptualizes what we need to learn.

This movie caused me major anxiety: it was like watching the foundation for negative self-talk patterns being built up in every frame, in the mind of a girl who was at the exact age these patterns start carry weight and inform the way we transition into adulthood and perceive the rights and wrongs of our emotional intelligence.

How many times do we all try so hard to stay away from sadness and what’s really troubling us, only to find that in the moment, joy seems virtually impossible? In Inside Out, Sadness really WANTS to make things better. And when she’s not being eclipsed by her type-A strong-personality’d coworkers – she does. Sadness is type-B and submissive, and all she wants to do is help Joy. She admires her, reveres her even. She’s soft spoken, comfortable watching the other emotions shine as she inserts herself when necessary. She doesn’t want to make Riley sad, but knows that sometimes it’s necessary in order to move “their girl” forward.

It’s the very premise of WANT.  Darkness is a clue. Sadness is an ally. Having moments of sadness creep into our day isn’t necessarily what causes negative self-talk – trying to squash them down is.


Anger, Fear, and Disgust focus on the external and on the excuses. In reality, Riley’s not angry at her parents. She’s not fearful of the hockey tryouts. She’s not disgusted at the broccoli pizza…okay, well, maybe she is…but the broccoli pizza isn’t what really matters in the grand scheme of things. In reality, Riley is plain old sad: she feels alone, lost, like an outcast. Her sense of purpose is being challenged, as she’s always been praised by her parents for being their “happy little girl.” And because she can’t be happy right now, she doesn’t even know her place any more. In a world without sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust are reactive, responding only to external events and the things we can see.

When we pick ourselves apart and convince ourselves we need fixing, or can’t do something, or we lash out because of the situation we’re in, we’ve got these three emotions at the helm. And with days and weeks and moths and years of anger, fear, and disgust in control more often than not, our “Islands of Personality” begin to crumble and our emotional control panel shuts down. We begin to act from a perfunctory place that’s based off of what we’ve previously known to be true and what is so engrained in our internal vocabulary that its become our identity. IT’S CASUAL NEGATIVITY: We’re not addressing the whys of how we feel, the true whys that can ultimately lead us back to joy.

Shifting around your negative talk patterns (and moving into the self-actualized, unique person you’re meant to be) is NOT about squashing sadness. It’s not about Pollyanna-esque optimism or interminable joy. It’s not about any one emotion, really. It’s about sadness and joy working together – feeling the sadness, identifying what it really is that is off-kilter – and letting that live so that joy can come back in and provide balance.

I’ve read a few quotes from critics saying this movie will help adults understand their children a whole lot better. But I really think it will help us understand ourselves, if we really make the space to dive deep, dig in, go there and identify.

That sadness is there for a reason; it just wants to help. It’s not about losing those moments of sadness – because if we do, we’ll also lose joy. It’s about letting our downs, our bad days, and our sad moments live and inform how we can let JOY into the rest of our life, ultimately working to conduct the symphony of emotions that makes us so unique.

photo sources: here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Woman Against Negative Talk: What We Can All Learn From Miley

Woman Against Negative Talk: What We Can All Learn From Miley

Community Motivation + Inspiration WANT Women

My new M.O. is officially following my heart in every single decision I make, from what I write to how I act to where I go and what I do. Life is too short for choices that don’t compel you on a soul level (especially when there’s proof that your heart has always known best. Take a few minutes and think back – you’ll find your heart was always right).

So yeah. This week’s WANT Woman spotlight is a little different.

Today’s post is about Miley Cyrus.

photo credit: the happy hippie foundation

Last week, like most everyone else on the internet, I learned about the Happy Hippie Foundation (in case you don’t know, HHF is Miley’s new non-profit, which aims to fight injustice facing homeless youth, LGBTQ youth and other vulnerable populations. The official launch happened just last month, on May 5th, with the release of THIS video with Joan Freaking Jett.)

I don’t know her personally, but I do know a handful of people who have worked with her. And the general consensus is that Miley Cyrus is a rad human being. But there are photos; there are quotes. And after the six-degrees-of-separation that is the media, all the rest of us really know – or latch onto, at least – are images and heresay. In the good times and the bad. Around August 2013 was a “bad time.” This one’s a “good time.”

This young woman is a phenomenal example of our ability to not only make snap judgements, but change our opinions just as quickly.

What does this say about us?

Why are we so quick to judge?

Organizations like The Happy Hippie Foundation fill me with hope, and not necessarily for the reasons you’d expect. The HHF is making a difference by partnering with other organizations to ensure their mission is not only heard, but it comes to fruition. That’s AMAZING. But for me, organizations like Miley’s are proof that someone else notices. Their followers show me that people care. Celebrity philanthropists are proof that if you’re passionate enough about something, you can spin your visibility to work for something bigger than yourself. As Miley said to Ryan Seacrest after THIS, “If I’m going to be given this loud of a voice and this big of an image and this big of a platform and this huge of an opportunity to talk to young people in America right now, what am I really trying to say?”


Two things come to mind when I think about Miley’s phenomenal new non-prof:

DON’T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER. As a pop-culture entrenched society, we prooobably wouldn’t expect that starting a non-profit aimed at helping some of our nation’s least fortunate youth would be Miley’s next move – but it is – so what does this say about us? It says that we’re not digging deep enough from the get-go. It says that we take snapshots of life as truth, and we equate a decision or photo or story with all kinds of assumptions we believe fit the part.

This is a young woman with an enormous heart and passion to give to something greater than herself. Why is it that some can’t get over the superficial, brand-related images or decisions just because they’re not necessarily images or decisions we’d choose to make? Isn’t it our hearts that matter most?

This judgement doesn’t stop with celebrities, obviously – it infiltrates our lives. We snapshot-judge each other like wild, especially as women. Arms too thin? She must have an eating disorder. Waist size too large? She must eat a lot of fast food. Waitress? She must not want to “live up to her potential” or even have potential at all. The way we infer from the exterior view is like choosing a hotel to stay in based on the doormat. How about the bedding, the amenities, the hospitality, the comfort?

EMPATHY FOR PRESIDENT. This part of the HHF Manifesto really struck a chord with me: “We know that the people sleeping on the sidewalk could have been us or our closest friends if our lives were just a little bit different. And the people we see sleeping on the sidewalk COULD be our friends if we gave them the chance.”

At the beginning of this year, I had the honor of being a mentor for a program run by Chrysalis, a local organization that helps empower those down on their luck by finding them employment. The program, aimed specifically at women, changed my life and changed the way I look at the people lingering down my street. I met girls who hand’t even hit their 20s yet and women who were well over “retirement” age. Some had homes. Some had families. Some were living on the street or out of their cars. I bonded with a few of the women on a pretty deep level. Once the program ended and they all graduated, it was I-kid-you-not like seeing a whole different set of women than two months prior. The difference in confidence and authentic expression was unbelievable.

One of the biggest takeaways I walked away with? We really are ALL the same. We all want to connect, we all want to love and be loved, we all want a sense of feeling safe being ourselves. Everyone has a unique voice and truth to add to the world, regardless of background, religion, race, “social status” or life experience. We are all so worthwhile. Sometimes people need a reminder of that.


photo credit: rolling stone
photo credit: rolling stone

How does this fit into the negative self-talk equation? It’s one and the same. Just like giving compliments can help us rewire our brains to speak kindly to ourselves, judging others builds up those self-talk muscles in our brains that talk down and judge ourselves.

To compare and not what’s dissimilar is in our nature as humans. It’s survival instinct – we are wired to take note of what’s not like us. Trouble is, many of us judge reactively. Judgement, just like Casual Negativity, becomes engrained in our vocabulary and our language.

That doesn’t mean that the judgement has to be the truth or the norm. It’s how we respond to that initial judgement and rework it – and eventually minimize it – that really matters.

photo credit: hhf facebook page
photo credit: hhf facebook page

When you find yourself in judgey mode, here’s how to check yourself and get in a better place. Ask yourself:

Acknowledge your thoughts and your words. Make it a habit to actually listen to yourself and your words/thoughts throughout the day. Many times, we’ll think or blurt out judgmental thoughts without realizing what we are saying. Just like Casual Negativity, judgement becomes automatic. And just like the H-word, judgement creates a fire inside you – it’s an easy way to feel something. When you catch yourself in judgey mode, recognize it – and then forgive yourself. Mistakes happen. You are only human.

Is what you’re saying actually true of this person or group of people? Do you know for a fact, or are you making assumptions because of previous behavior or even just “something you heard?” Try and distinguish if the opinion you’re forming is really yours, or one that you’ve picked up from someone or something, somewhere along the way.

Maybe that person is being quiet not because she is a bitch, but because she is introverted or used to being talked down to and has accepted that as her truth. Maybe that person cut you off in traffic because he is racing to the hospital to catch the birth of his first child. Maybe someone made a certain decision because that is there way of trying to help, or solve a problem, or bond and connect.

Someone once told me that when it comes to road rage, to just imagine the person in the other car is my grandparent. How would I want my grandmother to be treated by others on the road? Her senses are dulled and she’s not as alert as she used to be, but she is just trying to get to where she needs to be the best way she can. Maybe that person you’re judging just has a different way of getting where they’re going than you would choose. Rack your brain for ways they might be just trying to figure things out their own way.

Did you know that 25% of homeless youth were previously physically or sexually abused? Did you know that nearly one in three transgender people have been turned away from shelters? Did you know that 40% of homeless youth are LGBT – and family rejection is the most common reason they experience homelessness? (all stats from The Happy Hippie Foundation site) Every single person has a story, and many, MANY circumstances, disorders, and differences are judged simply because people don’t take the time to practice empathy and read up. If you find yourself starting to judge, ask yourself if you know the full story. Then be the one who sets the example. If anyone can be one, WANT Woman, it’s you.

The incredible Brené Brown said, “We’re hard on each other because were using each other as a launching pad out of her own perceived deficiency.” Instead of focusing on the judgement of others, what can you do in your own life to proactively move yourself into the YOU you know you want to be? Again, just like negative self-talk and Casual Negativity, judgement of others is many times a placeholder, a distraction to focus on instead of achieving real growth within yourself.

photo: hhf facebook page
photo: hhf facebook page

In the time I started to write this until now, I’ve seen/heard more and more articles, tweets, and soundbytes than I can count. Miley is being a force for good, and the world is getting on board. And I think…I honestly think those who judged her harshly in the past are right there with her. The people who might have judged the homeless teen might now be seeing him a little differently. I hope so.

Like I said, judgement of others and judgement of yourself is all interconnected. The more you start to recognize the nuances of others and appreciate their story and truth, the more you’ll do the same for yourself.

You don’t have to agree all the time and you don’t have to like it – lordy knows we won’t always agree with or like what goes on with ourselves.

But I truly believe we can change the world with kindness, authenticity, and empathy. Inside and out. The way you do it is up to you.

You be the judge. 

We know that the people sleeping on the

To get involved with The Happy Hippie Foundation, click here.

Featured image credit: Rolling Stone

What’s one thing you can do TODAY to show kindness and empathy towards someone who crosses your path? Do it, then come here + leave a comment reporting back. I can’t wait to hear…

Talk Purdy To Me (Or, Why “Would You Say That To Your Friend?” Doesn’t Work When It Comes To Self Talk)

Talk Purdy To Me (Or, Why “Would You Say That To Your Friend?” Doesn’t Work When It Comes To Self Talk)

Community Motivation + Inspiration

When I was younger, I used to get anxiety over giving people compliments. Which is crazy, since it’s one of my favorite pastimes.

I always loved saying nice things to people, and had a strong urge to give my love somewhere to go.  But as a kid, it seemed like something I should temper. Will she think I am weird? Will she make fun of me? Will I seem like a suck-up, embarrassing, or weak?

When I first started dating my now-boyfriend Jeremy, my best girl friend would always ask how it was going, what I was feeling, etc. And I’d answer with stuff like, “He’s great. He’s really great.” She’d want me to elaborate and I wouldn’t. She’d want me to let her in and I couldn’t. Interesting, since I had nothing to hide and nothing I was uncertain about. If I talk about it like I want to… Will she think I am weird? Will she make fun of me? Will I seem like a loser, silly, or weak?

Just this morning, I signed onto Instagram to see my friend Sarah had tagged me in a quote picture that read:

“Talk to yourself like you would talk to someone you love.”

And along with Sarah, I wondered – why is this so hard to do?

Why it it so hard to talk lovingly to ourselves like we’d talk lovingly to someone we care a great deal about?

And then I realized: it’s hard because we’re not talking to people this way.

no clue who created this image, so I'll credit @kuschfit, badass trainer extraordinaire
no clue who created this image, so I’ll credit @kuschfit, badass trainer extraordinaire

Compliments and positive talk are mutually beneficial – you make someone else smile, you end up smiling, and that feels good. But what happens beyond that?

The language we use to talk to ourselves is usually the same language we use to talk out in the world. And the way we talk is like exercising a muscle: we get to choose if we build it up to be positively or negatively strong.

Take a look at the way we talk to people on a day-to-day basis: Sure, we’re cordial to the people we love, we’re appropriate, but most of the time we’re just “nothing to” them. Our relationships with them are already established, so we assume they don’t need the cheering up, encouragement, compliments, or even care to hear good things from us. It’s implied that all those kind thoughts and good feelings already exist, simply because we’re already their friend. We don’t have to say a word.

And then, when we do connect, we’ll often bond over what we don’t like or what annoys us, because they’re the people we love, and we “can” vent to them. We can talk about the things we don’t like because they’re emotionally charged, and it’s easy to bond over things that both parties involved are emotionally charged about.

In the same vein – go with me here – we’re unconsciously “nothing” to ourselves because we’ve already got an established relationship with our Self: our body, our potential, our mind, our capabilities. So we don’t give ourselves the credit or the kudos we deserve, or notice all the good stuff.

Moreover, we’ll bond with the voice in our head over the negative things that comes up, what we don’t like and what annoys us.

The easier and more natural it becomes to bond over the negative, the more difficult and “weird” it becomes to bond over the positive.

Why don’t we do this? Why don’t we consistently tell our friends how bangin’ they look or how much they mean to us? How proud we are of them or how much they just blow our minds simply by being themselves? Why don’t we use our relationships with to gush about the things that make us happy? There’s no good reason why we shouldn’t do any/all of these things, except for fear of being different or uncomfortable.
speaking kindly to ourselves starts with

Here’s what to do to start exercising those positive talk muscles in your brain. The awesome thing? You can start doing these as soon as today:

1) Start complimenting people. Specifically, the people you know and love. It might seem superfluous at first. It might seem cheesy. It might even seem like you’re being “weird.” Do it anyway. Mix in compliments to strangers. There’s no way we can build those positive-talk muscles in our brain when it comes to ourselves if we don’t work on building them up when it comes to others. They are not and cannot be mutually exclusive.

2) Each day, bond with a friend or family member over one thing that’s positive. Maybe it’s a success you had at work. Maybe it’s something you learned or a revelation you had during the day. Maybe it’s the way you felt that day or a funny thing you saw on the internet. It can be anything. But make sure that neither one of your let your critical voice comes into the conversation. Of course, you can do more than one – but make sure you’re making it work for you.

The hardest part of this exercise for some people is that their friends are not always on board. We’re starved for positive, authentic connection, so people will either go right along with you or repel what’s different. And that’s when you see people’s true colors. If a friend or family member starts to steer the conversation in a negative direction, simply say “I get it, but I’d really love to keep this conversation positive right now.”

If they continue to repel you time and again, maybe it’s time to get some distance. It’s difficult sometimes, especially if those people are members of your family or people you live with. But we’ve got to accept that our external lives are actually a reflection of what’s going on internally. The beauty is, if we’re committed to making a shift and moving forward into being the person we know we’re meant to be, then as we start to tweak the outside, the inside will follow. It’s a symbiotic relationship. Just like with a tempting food that actually makes you feel horrible later, limiting your interactions with the ones who feed that negative virus in your body will eventually make you more and more immune to disease.

one of my favorite shots from SXSW. positive talk central. photo by Sara Christopher.
one of my favorite shots from SXSW. positive talk central. photo by Sara Christopher.

It wasn’t that my friend who asked about my relationship wanted me to reveal private, intimate details, and I’d known that. Sure, I needed some time to arrange my thoughts and figure out for myself how exactly I felt, and time to keep it just to myself – but after that period of time passed, I still wouldn’t open up to her. Things had never been as good as they were at that point in my life, and I didn’t know if it was “socially appropriate” to explain that. Those voices from childhood came back: will she judge me? Will she tune me out? I wasn’t being private, I was feeling like it would be self-absorbed of me to talk about how incredible and nuanced this relationship was and how I felt about it. The second I realized I was in a safe place, in a friendship that was based in celebrating each other on the regular, I realized that there was no reason not to let her in.

I did. And I told her what an incredible friend she was. Not surprisingly, she didn’t think I was a loser, silly, embarrassing, a suck-up, or weak. She celebrated right along with me.

This week, shelf the advice to “Talk to yourself like you would talk to someone you love.” It’s time to start treating ourselves the way we actually want to treat others, simultaneously training ourselves to speak in a way that’s supportive and kind.

Those positive talk muscles are just waiting to be strengthened. Stretch ’em out.

After you’ve completed the exercises above, tell me: What did you say? Who did you compliment? What one (or however many!) positive thing did you find to bond over today? How did that make you feel?

the way we talk is like exercising a