My Journey, My Self.

My Journey, My Self.

Body Community Love Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power Work

It was almost a decade ago but I hear the words like minutes have passed.

Sobbing on a friend’s couch, head buried into his sweatshirt-covered shoulder, after he called me up and told me I needed to take a second look at my life. I cried at the realization, I cried at the acceptance, I cried at the knowingness I’d buried and planted flowers over all along. I wanted to march over then and there, I said, and give an ultimatum.

The shoulder lifted and my friend looked me in the mascara-blurry eyes.

“We romanticize things in our minds. What it will look like, how it will be.

Don’t go over there now. Not like this. Romanticizing the drama always looks better in your head.

Sleep on our couch tonight so you won’t be alone.”

self love

I tell myself stories often, to my benefit and my detriment. It’s a part of me I’ve learned to work with, a part of me that used to take the reins. My storytelling can make proverbial mountains out of proverbial molehills if I let it. It can also make the little moments be the most life-changing. It’s the part of me that used to get high off of fantasizing about the wedding in the ranch, the full-time theatre career, two kids with my exact upbringing. It’s the part of me that now gets high off of small-but-huge risks, the stuff that might not look the most impressive but feels astronomical.

My entire twenties have seen social media morph from a way to connect and reconnect to a way to create and recreate. I’m of the very specific age group targeted in social media’s first boom: college kids in 2004. I can’t speak for my whole age group, but I feel as if we’re even more acutely aware than others of how much or not-much social media is playing a part in someone else’s life (and also more self-aware as to how much it plays in our own). Some older generations are trying to keep up even though they might not really care, and some younger generations have it as a crutch of what they’ve always known even though they might prefer to feign indifference. We all fall somewhere on the spectrum based on how much power we unknowingly give it. Even the nicknames used to describe our internet presence are rooted in our core desires to feel safe, sustained, and of lasting impact: Our feed. Our quilt. Our digital footprint or imprint.

We’re all guilty, whether we’re posting or commenting. We’re telling stories; stories that sometimes get muddled up with the truths. We project what we want perceived, and we fashion stories out of what we see. Because what social media does is tell a grand story if you let it, a life verified by the scroll of a page and a slew of comments reading “GOALS.”

This isn’t a post about social media, it’s a post about self-love. But I do think social media can be used as a vehicle for discovery, if we choose to see it that way. I do love sosch’, but I’ve found the way I’ve utilized it in the last couple years has greatly shifted from even a couple years back. I find that when it comes to social media, I learn the most about myself now not by posting, but by listening. I find the more I listen, the more I can self-regulate. Am I sharing because I have something to say – or because I feel uncomfortable not being a part of the collective noise? Am I posting because I am what I say – or because I am scared, lonely, or just got into a fight with someone and portraying otherwise helps me fake it till I make it? Do I need a reaction from anyone, or is this truly, honestly, just for myself? Am I opening up because I feel I must to fit in – or because it’s a small overflow of the gargantuan self love I’ve built within?

self love

Going into a new phase in life – a new year, a new job, a new relationship, a new decade – it brings up a lot. How honest have I been with myself along the way, and how have I risen from my own ashes? Have I addressed my underlying imbalances, or have I mistaken band-aids for white blood cells? Am I interested in lasting change, or am I just convincing myself I’m doing something to get there? I’ve never fully understood until now why New Years Resolutions and traditional goal-setting tactics never resonated with me, let alone worked. But I’m starting to think it’s because, deep down, I’ve always known that the mere act of checking something off a list will never get me that feeling I so desire: that feeling of being more full of life than I could possibly imagine.

Danielle LaPorte recently wrote a beautiful piece on self-love, saying that sometimes we “act” like we love ourselves so that we don’t have to change. A harsh reality to face, but one we must nonetheless (I urge you to go and read her words over here, they’re brilliant). Fake self-love can turn into a cop out for truly growing into the person you are meant to be to this world.

I’d like to add my own spin onto what D said…although it might not be the most flowery thing to read and definitely not the easiest. True self-love can only come when we lean into those areas of ourselves that make us uncomfortable, when we take full responsibility for the problem and full responsibility for the solution.

True self-love can only come when we take full responsibility for the problem + full responsibility for the solution. Click To Tweet

Sure, it’s easier to blame shit on your parents or exes or that punk boy in 7th grade gym class who told you to shave your legs. Sure it’s easier to find someone who will clean up the mess for you so you don’t have to touch the grime: friends, mentors, boyfriends, girlfriends, a book you read over the weekend and can quote ad-nauseum and leave it at that. “They say” that it’s important to spend some time learning who you are in this life. But what if that never happens? What if that time is spent lonely and longing, coming out on the other side no less answer-filled and no more yourself? It’s easier to place blame and agree to solutions someone else has outfitted.

But doing the work of living means doing the WORK. To not is to catch yourself in a booby trap. The bait is there, disguised as aid or sweetness or ease or love. It takes a strong will to resist, because man does it look enticing, and not at all dangerous at that. I used to think that the best things in life SHOULD be the easiest, the most carefree. Signs of struggle or lows were warning signs to get out. And, you know, sometimes they are. But it takes true exploration to be able to distinguish between red flags and the gifts of hard work and that special hybrid of both.

The best things in life, I’ve found, are never really easy. But what they are is right. Like the evening on my friend’s couch when, against my will, I came to the realization I’d been living with my eyes in the future for far too long. How things would be when XYZ happened. Checking off boxes and rushing to fill the next. Reveling in the comfort and ease of the familiar, too scared to venture into the unknown of what it would be like if I spent some time by myself – even though I was altering my needs to fit someone else’s, or altering someone else’s needs to fit my own, even though my belief-set was based in stories.

It was easier to stay where I knew I was loved enough. Because, you know, answers are never guaranteed – and fulfillment is less than a speck on a hazy horizon. Why venture toward something you can barely see?

self-love

I’m not of a religion that was brought up with the new testament, nor am I even slightly religious to begin with (spirituality ≠ religion, in my book)But religions are collections of stories, I’ve realized, and boy do I love a good story. One of my favorites…I can’t tell you where this appears or in what context. I can’t tell you the players and I can’t set the scene. But I know the lesson, I know the epiphany, and it’s what I love most. And when it comes to the words, I say it’s not just about the love we give and receive to and from others, it’s about the love we show ourselves.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Sometimes, to protect, trust, and persevere means to forego what is applauded for what is true. Sometimes it means to let go of what is easy for what is right, even if it includes the tears, the loneliness, the confusion, and the doubts; especially if it includes the tears, loneliness, confusion, and doubts. It means going through those moments to realize you wanted the ranch wedding because of the story it told of what was on the outside, not what is on the inside – and the inside is SO much better. It means going big and falling flat on your face, or actually succeeding and having the epiphany that you’ve been tied to a former version of yourself all along.

It means going on a wild, wild ride of brilliant colors and moments all sewn together by a ragged, sturdy, tear-stained thread that makes us whole and creates our real quilt and footprint. It means being brave enough to walk towards the hazy speck, and to unearth what’s underneath the flowers, and to know you are never and will never be alone, no matter what you find.

Sometimes, to protect, trust, and persevere means to forego what is easy for what is right. Click To Tweet

I tell myself stories often, to my benefit and to my detriment. It’s the part of me that gets high off of small-but-huge risks, the stuff that might not look the most impressive but feels astronomical. Resolutions and goal-setting are secondary – always, always secondary to the quest for fulfillment and self-expression. This year, let your lists and checkboxes come to you, magically appearing and checking themselves off along the way. Trust that the journey to self-love will bring you more than you could ever imagine – and the story it tells, I promise, will be a good one.

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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


WANT YOURSELF:
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: www.flickr.com | Anna Marie Gearhart

 

Shitstorms + Sunshine: 4 Questions To Rescue You From A Negative Holding Pattern

Shitstorms + Sunshine: 4 Questions To Rescue You From A Negative Holding Pattern

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When I was 24, I was convinced I had the worst luck ever. That I was irresponsible, clumsy, and losing the adult game. Mostly when it had to do with my car. That year, my old car broke down three times in a span of two weeks. The third time was in the middle of a downpour, the transmission had blown out, and it was revealed that my car had been a lemon. My new car got its hubcaps stolen (who does that?) over and over again for a good five months as I was subletting from a friend. After I moved to an incredibly safe neighborhood, it got broken into and I was robbed of my filled-to-the-brim gym bag, which I had left inside for a good few years with no repercussions. I moved again. Broken into again. And all the while I’d call my best friends crying: I’ve gained weight (I had). So-and-so is bulling me (they were). I don’t have money (I didn’t).

Honestly, I’m almost surprised this negative loop I was in didn’t have harsher consequences – and so thankful it didn’t. Even moreso, though, I’m thankful I got my act together enough to see a pattern in the loop – to see that none of this was random whatsoever.

Today we’re getting down n’ dirty not only when it comes to crushing negativity, but when it comes to putting an end to the negative patterns you’re seeing pop up over and over and over again in your life.

Sometimes we get so used to saying the same negative phrases and complaints on repeat that instead of being problems to solve, they morph into statements without answers. We’ll say things as if they’re “just how it is,” blurting out these definitives so often they become etched in our vocabulary. Our fallbacks when things aren’t going our way.

And then there’s the patterns. The negative, disheartening, discouraging patterns of small-yet-huge occurrences that make you feel like you can’t catch a break, or worse yet, that “this would only happen to me.”

If you keep finding yourself in the same ruts over and over again (as so many of us do), same dissatisfactions, same problems, ask yourself…

1.) What in my life outside of this problem is so out of balance that there is this external manifestation here, trying to alert me to the fact that something is out of whack?
Our lives are in a constant state of energy exchange. And in this energy exchange, the currencies might look different but are all of equal value. I don’t want to call this “karma,” because it’s not as if you’re “getting what you deserve” (what a mean way of looking at things). Think of it as more of a universe-al red flag: if you’re not using your energy to address the imbalances in your life, whether they be at home, at work, in your physical/mental health or your relationships, the world starts to take notice of the avoidance and match the level of avoidance with its warning signals.Take an honest peek at your relationship with work, with your community, with your partners and most importantly, with your self. And then be proactive – not reactive. Right away, do one thing, however tiny, that can signal to the universe that yep, you’ve got this.

2.) Am I searching for some kind of validation (or attention or sympathy), or am I truly interested in a shift – do I like the reality of shifting or do I like the drama of trying to constantly figure it out?
Many times, we’ll use negativity as a bonding tactic. Negative feelings, thoughts, and phrases are “emotionally heavy,” meaning they make us feel and react in a very specific, sensitized way. Those create drama. And you don’t need me or WANT to tell you that as humans, we are drawn to drama. Whether we love it or hate it is besides the point – drama conjures up very strong reactions from all of us. Since others are drawn to drama, you’re pretty likely to get a reaction when you say something negative. If you’re truly interested in making a shift, your thoughts and words can be a way for you to figure things out. But only you know what you’re truly interested in, and if the reality of making a shift is truly something you want – and will work to get.

3.) Am I using complaints or grievances to keep me in a safe zone or distract myself and convince myself I’m doing something to activate true, lasting change?
Another thing about negative talk, specifically complaints and grievances about yourself or others, is that it’s incredibly distracting. Distracting and convincing. It’s a form of procrastination, really – like staring at a computer screen for an entire day with Gmail and WordPress or Excel or whatever in one window and all the social media channels you follow in another, then telling yourself at the end of the day you were trying to work. Sure, you checked your email a few times and filled out a few sentences on your latest project, but if you were to really look at your day, you spent more time on social media doing “research” than actually getting down and doing the work. Don’t let the way you speak of your life get in the way of you actually living it.

4.) What’s my priority?
Now that you’ve identified what’s out of balance, if you’re actually interested in change, and if you’re using your negative talk as a distraction, it’s time to figure out what you DO want. And moreover – if you’re making it a priority. I’ll let you take it from here.

When I was 24, I was convinced I had the worst luck ever. I had a lemon car, I had a car with highly-coveted hubs, I got my windows smashed in twice. I was out of money and I was gaining weight. In reality, I was not irresponsible, clumsy, or losing at the adult game. I was coming to the realization that everything I thought I wanted out of my life wasn’t actually what I wanted it to be. I was transitioning career paths, work environments, friend groups, and a whole stage of my life I wasn’t sure yet if I wanted to leave behind. I was spending to make myself happy and was eating to distract me from my lonely uncertainty. I was getting into arguments with people I loved, and was rarely speaking my truth. The vague feeling of rightness in my life was being overshadowed by an even louder feeling of discontent. I was in transition getting to where I needed to go. Of course my main mode of transportation was breaking down on me time and again: I had to figure out my internal GPS.

25 – really, 25.5 – hit, and I found a job, one that started to morph into a career. I decided I was sick of complaints, sick of sidelining myself, and sick of feeling uncomfortable inside and out. I stood up to the people (unknowingly) pushing me around, as awkward as it was. They still loved me. I distanced myself from situations that made me feel weak or lesser-than. I still had places to go be myself. I realized my priorities were not what I thought they once were, and started putting the things I felt strongly about, so strongly, felt it in the marrow of my bones and the cells in my capillaries, I started putting them first on my plate.

This might not be comfy, it might not be easy, but I can promise you with all of my being that if you have the courage to conquer these questions in the face, you’ll be all the better for it. It’s not a remedy for every problem in the world, and I sure as hell can guarantee you’ll still have shitstorms come your way. That’s what life is all about, the challenges and the triumphs, the sweet and the bitter. The old saying is right – but there’s a twist that most people miss in the retelling: When it rains, it pours. And when it suns, it shines.

IMG_0737



WANT yourself:
Has anything in your life ever been so far out of whack, the universe just wouldn’t let you off the hook? How did it manifest itself? More importantly, what was the first thing you did to make things start shifting around?

And if you’re currently in a rut, after answering these questions tell me – what IS your priority?

 


Bleepers Gonna Bleep: The 4-Letter Word That No One’s Censoring (But Should Be)

Bleepers Gonna Bleep: The 4-Letter Word That No One’s Censoring (But Should Be)

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I got a lot of wonderful qualities from my mom: her leadership skills, her cry-laughter, her zest for life and all its little adventures.

I also got her really colorful language.

Okay, so I’m not sailor material per se, but just like my brazen mother, I’m not one to censor myself in a real-life conversation (which I’ve been told sounds strange coming out of my mouth since I enunciate like freaking Emily Post, but hey, that’s me).

Back in my freshman year of college, I got into a nasty habit of unintentionally dropping, out of all things, the f-bomb in the worst places (ie in front of the Gymboree at the local mall). I was unaware. And then, naturally, I was horrified. I snapped a rubber band on my wrist for a month to train myself out of using that R-rated conversational tick.

It worked, and I’m now aware of the moments that are maybe not so appropriate for my oh-so-colorful language. But there’s one word I always try to catch myself on, no matter how many fbombs fly out of my mouth. Because strangely enough, it’s the one most commonly used, nasty four-letter word that no one’s ever told me to censor.

H-A-T-E.

Hate is, by definition, “intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury.” It’s violent and should be used sparingly. So why do we use it so much, especially about ourselves?

Well, for one, we don’t censor it in other areas of our life. Just like when you’re learning a new language, the best way to let it set into your brain is to practice out loud with other people. We take social cues from each other, especially when it comes to how we speak. So when we hear the word “hate” being thrown around as an everyday verb – I hate this, I hate that – it begins to feel like something we all just do. We just “hate.”

“Hate” is a form of Casual Negativity, a little conversational tick that’s become normal for us. It’s much easier and more comfortable to say we hate something than to make an actual change – it’s a way to distract and convince ourselves that we’re doing something to move forward, simply by dwelling.

It’s also an extremely emotionally charged word. It gives us something to care about. It gives us something intense to feel.
hate

And so hate permeates our lives, our relationships, and our self image. If we’re unhappy, if we’re upset, if we’re uncomfortable or unsure – we hate. It stirs up such an intense reaction that ultimately becomes familiar. To transcend the hate becomes too risky. So we don’t. And when we don’t, we hold ourselves back from working out the kinks in our psyche that just need a little love.

Just like me and the f-bombs I used to drop around small children, out-training your h-bomb habit is something you have to do intentionally. I don’t recommend using the rubber band trick – because a) it doesn’t get to the root of the problem and b) it really hurts. Instead, here’s how I’ve censored the h*te out of my life – strategically placed asterick and all – and what can maybe work for you, too.

1) Catch Yourself. Be alert. Whenever you’re about to say the word h*te, or even right after you say it, pause and take note.

For the sake of this exercise, I’m going to use two examples: internal and externally focused hate.

Example #1: I hate my stomach. (self – internal)

Example #2: I hate that person. (someone/something else – external)

2) Find The Filler. You’re saying “h*te” – but what’s that filler word really taking up space for? Is it shorthand for frustration? Confusion? Hurt? Maybe it’s the word you use to describe something that doesn’t fit your idea of how things “should” be. 

Example #1: I’m frustrated and uncomfortable. I’m uncomfortable because my clothes don’t fit the way I’d like them to, I’m frustrated because I’m comparing myself to someone else (or maybe even a former version of myself). I’m uncomfortable because my digestion is out of whack and it makes me bloated, I’m frustrated because it happens all the time (or maybe I’m frustrated with my lack of motivation to try and make a change).

Example #2: I’m hurt and confused. This person isn’t the way they used to be. Our relationship has changed. I keep holding onto expectations. I feel judged. I feel tuned out. I don’t know what happened and I’m scared to try and fix it.

3) Use Your Words. There are so many other more descriptive, more accurate, more useful words you can use to express how you feel besides h*te!

Look back on Step 2. How do you really feel? Start infusing those words into your life, and get as specific as possible. Then ask the simple question: what am I going to do about it?

Just like the other choice words and phrases, I sometimes unconsciously slip. But those instances are now the rare exceptions, not the norm. And in the last few years, a strange thing has happened: a causal use of the h-bomb has felt foreign and actually dirty rolling off of my lips. I’ve noticed that there are very, very, very few things I actually do hate in life, none of which have to do with the way I look, act, or feel on a day-to-day basis.

We all have our conversational ticks and our characteristic norms. We all laugh differently, we all lead differently, we all find the kinds of adventures that work for us. The language we use, then, should be a reflection of that – of the nuanced, brilliant individuals we are. At the root of what you say you hate is really just a longing for what you love. Click To Tweet

Let that live.

It’s fucking spectacular.

 


WANT YOURSELF
Tell me in the comments: What do you usually drop h-bombs about in your own life?
Using the mini-exercise above, what do you think your use of “hate” is filler for?
And – bonus points for this one! – what’s ONE tiny action step you can take now to help you overcome that feeling?

*my dad, an avid WANT fan, wanted to be sure you knew that he despises the H-word and always discourages members of my family from using it. that’s a MANT – Man Against Negative Talk – if I ever did see one! thanks, Dad.

Gone Girl: Coping With Loss (When You Just Cannot Deal)

Gone Girl: Coping With Loss (When You Just Cannot Deal)

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I have many character strengths.

Coping with loss is not one of them.

Whether it’s a stitch in time or a relationship gone sour, I’ve never fully come to terms with the “right” way to deal with loss. Maybe it’s the eternal pragmatic positivist in me or maybe it’s the attachment to what was, but every time I’ve dealt with loss it’s felt like a part of myself has driven away.

just a smaller version of who i still am today. she's still in there.
just a smaller version of who i still am today. she’s still in there.

This weekend, I saw a lot of family I have not seen in ages. A couple members had no clue I write. They said they were looking for me at the Oscars, asked what play I was in right now. And I explained, with full confidence, that I’ve since taken a step away from the acting world to focus on something more aligned with what I feel my purpose is. I wondered if that identity had been lost forever.

When my grandparents moved out of their house of 52 years, I did not help pack the boxes. I don’t regret it per se (as I feel regret’s a useless emotion), but I wonder if I would have felt more of a sense of closure if I had. Leaving behind that house, my own second home, broke my heart. I still play out scenes in my mind, walk through the hallways and up the stairs to the wall filled with family photos. I don’t want to forget. Not remembering would mean death and I just cannot deal.

my grandparents on their honeymoon. total babes.
my grandparents on their honeymoon. total babes.

There are members of my family, older members, who are just not like how they used to be. Approaching the golden years of one’s life, it’s fascinating to watch how everyone deals differently. Some are in denial. Some have had a gameplan for years, decades even. Some choose to use their lifetime of wisdom for a greater good. Some just cannot deal.

We all grieve a tiny bit throughout each day. The loss of the morning, the loss of the first cup of coffee, the missed phone call you were so waiting to get.

And each of us deals differently. Some of us make jokes. Some remain silent. Some pour their feelings out to a friend, and some cry out their pain. Some distract themselves with possessions or plans; some become angry and bitter that what they want has slipped from their reach. Some deal. Some cannot.

As I deal with my own sense of loss, ironically in a time of my life in which there is so much newness and possibility, I struggle to find what works for me. Because in the past, my coping mechanism is to detach. Engaging in the loss is way too sad; hanging on to the glimmers of hope just feel futile.

But I feel as if all the loss tumbleweeding towards me at the same time is a lesson to be learned: you have a choice as to how you deal with it this time.

We might not be able to do anything about our past, but we sure as hell can do something about our present and future. For they too, one day, will be lost. Learning how to cope in a way that’s right for you, in line with your own ethics and values, is something you can always rewrite. Just because you didn’t reach out then doesn’t mean you can’t reach out now. Just because you mourn the loss of those high school years you didn’t even realize were the safest ones you’d ever know doesn’t mean you can’t reconnect with the influential figures who shaped your young life back then, building new relationships and marveling at where the world has taken you both and yet how you’re essentially the same. Just because the house is sold, the job is done, the relationship is over, doesn’t mean that you don’t still carry with you a little piece of what you were supposed to take with you as you step-by-step down your own hero’s journey.

Allow yourself time and space to grieve in a way that feels in line with who you are, in that moment. No shame, no regret. At worst, you’ll learn a lesson about who you are. At best…you’ll learn a lesson about who you are.

We sometimes forget that we get another morning, another first-cup of coffee, another chance to connect. Our lives are splattered with loss – yet the more we learn how to embrace it in a way that feels right for us, the less those losses will feel like forevers. They become transitions. They become touchstones. They train us how to feel…and how to deal.

katie-horwitch
Coping with loss might not be one of my strongest suits, but that’s because it’s constantly in flux. There is no “right” way to deal with loss – there’s just the way that’s right for you. And coping, in a sense, is really just a way of hoping, a way of praying that tomorrow will begin again and be just as bright as the yesterdays you knew. Here’s the deal: if you allow them to, they always are.

 


WANT Yourself:
Question – how have you dealt with a particularly difficult loss in your life? What’s some advice you can give for people who might be struggling?

A Crash Course In Casual Negativity: The Not-So-Silent (Confidence) Killer

A Crash Course In Casual Negativity: The Not-So-Silent (Confidence) Killer

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Casual Friday, casual workplace, casual friendship, casual hookups. Casual dating, casual sex.

The way we dress to go out to the movies or the mall looks pretty much the same as going to a five-star restaurant. Yoga pants are fancypants. Our smartphones have gotten so smart, they’ve started to recognize our abbreviations and acronyms as real words (at least mine does)…

Another thing that’s gone the route of dress codes and dating? The way we talk about ourselves.

“I am so fat.”
”I hate my _____.”
”I can’t do that.”
“My ideas are stupid.”
“I’m such a klutz.”

This is a very real virus I call Casual Negativity.

Casual Negativity is the automatic negative talk we use over and over again without thinking, so muchso it’s become a part of who we are.

Don’t get me wrong, we all have bad days: those days when we just don’t like the way our jeans fit, or skin looks, or when we see roadblocks everywhere and just want to give up.

But most of the time, we bring up these instances without even thinking. We’ll nonchalantly say we “look huge” or “hate our bodies” – and we’ll say it with the same kind of detachment we’d use to comment on the sky’s color.

We use Casual Negativity – and hear it being used – all. the. time. What we don’t realize is that the way we talk rubs off on others, making it seem commonplace and even acceptable to speak this way. Think about it: how many times have you joined in when your friends or family start criticizing themselves, “empathizing” by sharing what it is about yourself you’re dissatisfied with?

The thing with Casual Negativity is that it’s an expert at sneak-attacking your entire way of communicating with yourself. What might seem like a few negative comments here and there start to work their way into your verbiage and morph into a daily diatribe that’s on loop both out in the open and under the surface. Sure, most negative talk is bad – but this kind is particularly harmful. If this is what our unconscious self talk sounds like, how can we ever expect to conquer the negative self-talk that’s conscious?

Sometimes we don’t realize how often we use Casual Negativity. Sometimes it happens so much, over and over again, that we don’t know how to get out of the pattern.

And so we don’t.

We get addicted to the problems instead of freed by the solutions.

casual-negativity-pin
We get addicted to the problems instead of freed by the solutions. Click To Tweet

So how *do* we move forward into a state of solutions, then? How do we just “get over” this pattern that’s now so engrained in the language that we use every single day?

Here are four steps to crushing Casual Negativity. Here’s what I do when I find myself hanging around in Casual Negativityville. Ask yourself…

1) Am I listening and recognizing where my Casual Negativity likes to hang out?

Listen to yourself for a day. What are the 3 things you criticize the most? Be aware, be honest, and listen without judgement. If a day seems too long, try an hour or an afternoon. Just like always, make this work for you.

For the sake of this exercise, let’s use the example of hair – “My hair is so ugly.”

2) Am I searching for some kind of validation, or am I truly interested in change? Consequently, do I like the reality of changing, or do I just like the drama of trying to constantly figure it out?

If your Casual Negativity likes a group setting – is this a way you’re hoping to connect with others? Are you hoping that by complaining, someone else will view you as more relatable? Are you just using Casual Negativity because everyone else is? Or maybe even because you’re craving a bit of positive attention? (ps. there is NOTHING wrong with wanting to be seen and loved – maybe this just isn’t the best tactic.)

Of the things you listed in question #1 – and be honest with yourself – do you really want to change them, or is it comfortable to just critique? Do you really want to change, or are you addicted to the dramatics?

So if we’re sticking with hair here – do you want someone to tell you your hair is beautiful, or maybe even connect with someone else over your mutual hairdo loathage? Do you really loathe your hair, or do you just get a kick out of complaining about it all the time? There’s no right or wrong answer here.

3) Am I using complaints or grievances to keep me in a safe zone, distract myself, and/or convince myself I’m doing something to activate true, lasting change?

Casual negativity keeps us in a safe zone of sameness. It’s a deceptive mother-effer that sneaks up and distracts us, convinces us we’re doing something to activate true, lasting change.

Back to the hair. Is your life really how you want it to be and that is actually what you want to change – your hair? Or…is it that you’re not happy with other things – your job, your life, your relationships – but those are too big to handle? Are you using negativity as a buffer for other things you’re not bringing up/addressing?

Again, be honest. No right or wrong and absolutely no judgement necessary. You’re on the right track.

4) What’s my priority? Is this one of them?

Make a list of your top 3-5 priorities in your life. This is a great time to go back and find your through line. Now take a peek at your list from exercise #1. Are you critiquing your priority/priorities, or are you really critiquing the thing that’s going unspoken?

If the answers to #2 and #3 are NO (and the above answer is yes), there is nothing else going on and you genuinely dislike the thing you dislike about yourself – then great! Fantastic! You’re now in control and know exactly what it is you need to work on in order to be your very best self. Use your network of family, friends, and acquaintances. Search this site. Search Google. Write me! I’ll send you links! You know what you need so you can get what you WANT.

If your Casual Negativity is not in line with your priorities, then maybe it’s time to address that “something else” that’s going on. Maybe it’s your social life, your career, your hobbies, your self care habits. Recognize the areas that really deserve all that energy you’re spending on Casual Negativity, and then go use it to your advantage where it matters most. Use that through line you’ve been gifted. You’ve got this. You’re golden.


 

WANT Yourself Action Plan:
In the comments below, let me know exactly where Casual Negativity pops up in your life, and one action step you can take today to either address that priority or shift your energy towards what really matters.

Remember to be specific – I know this is not an easy or comfy exercise to do, but I promise that it can change your life if you let it. It did for me.
P.S. I love my hair now.


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