SELF-LOVE | Thoughts

From the dawn of time, I remember learning I should treat others the way I’d like to be treated. As the first-born child of God-fearing, Methodist-raised parents, this message was delightfully reinforced by studying Luke 6:31 while in Sunday school.

“Do to others as you’d have done to you, boys and girls,” the Pastor’s daughter preached as identical, corresponding coloring book pages were passed around the class. My Sunday school friends and I then scribbled in a Caucasian Jesus to bring home to our parents so they could accidentally misplace it in the recycling bin later that week.

As kids, most of us have been taught to treat others the way we want to be treated. Whether it be our parents, religion, or watching Disney’s Bambi (“if you can’t say anything nice…”), we somehow figure out that life tends to be more enjoyable and rewarding this way.

But sometimes we are so adamantly taught how to treat others; we forget how to properly treat ourselves.

How often do you hear a friend dismiss a sincere compliment, catch a parent disapprovingly looking at his or her reflection in the mirror, or see your sibling caught in a toxic relationship?

It has taken me an extraordinarily long time to write this particular post and not because I have a shortage of feelings about self-love, but because I feel as though I haven’t quite figured it out yet. I’m a work in progress, but this is a place I think many of us identify ourselves as being in. I dismiss compliments, get caught up in how my physical appearance is lacking compared to others’, and let toxic relationships fester for longer than I should let them. All these things add up to quite a lot of unhappiness.

Until recently, I identified “self-care” and “self-love” as taking five minutes out of my life to apply a face mask or buy myself a pretty dress as a reward for an achievement. These can definitely be expressions of self-care and self-love. But while doing these things can certainly be a way of properly grooming yourself to become the best version of yourself that you can be, I think there are many other facets to learning how to treat yourself with love and respect to maximize your enjoyment from life.

The first is learning how to truly love your physical appearance. The second, in my humble opinion (hey, I’ve been living for 26 years now, that gives me some clout), is who we choose to surround ourselves with.

SELF-LOVE: Physical Appearance, Diet, Exercise

While I’m never one to say “no” to an undressed wad of cold, plain spinach, and long (plyo-filled, of course) walks on the beach, I’ve learned that part of my satisfaction with my body relates to more than just what or how much I choose to eat or workout. My satisfaction comes from how I view food and exercise and what their function is in my life.

Like many women, I’ve struggled with food guilt, binging and purging, abusing the treadmill, counting calories, and struggling to adhere to a workout plan amongst countless other negative behaviors. My senior year of college, I convinced myself that a strict, vegan diet was the pinnacle of all health and further convinced myself to adopt an unmaintainable, intense workout regime.

I’ll look so great, I thought. I’ll be happy.

It’s no surprise that when I set myself up with so many lofty goals surrounding my physical appearance, I failed spectacularly. I hated working out. I didn’t see myself getting thinner. I hated food, which I now felt alienated me. My skin was still acne-prone and cutting dairy out wasn’t helping. To make matters worse, I viewed these failures as an innate character flaw in myself. Food and exercise had always been something I knew I could control, so I controlled them obsessively to feel like I had discipline in my life. Once I burned out, however, I stopped working out and limited my calories to “make up for” my decreased activity. I felt like sh*t. Was I a sh*tty person for not having a pristine physical body or lacking the consistent drive to get there?

A large part of how we see ourselves and how we determine our self-worth comes from our relationship with food and exercise. Unfortunately, in today’s culture, deviations from standards of beauty (flat abs, a miniscule waist, a dance-hall ass, you know the drill) can equate to a perceived deficiency of character or lack of self-care. We all know this is ultimately not true, but sometimes it’s quite hard to remember. It’s difficult to be a woman or gay man on social media. We’re bombarded with images on a daily basis of gorgeous tanned skin, pearly white teeth, and airbrushed perfect bodies. When we become acclimated to these images, it’s almost a cruel reminder looking in the mirror to see how we may not measure up.

Since I’ve turned 26, I’ve found that whatever images I’m plagued with on social media, I’m most happy with my body and self-image when I have a relaxed, non-image focused, sustainable attitude toward food and exercise- not when I’ve achieved a week-long calorie deficit and lost five pounds. I spent a vacation on the beach a few weeks ago and for the first time in a long time, I did not feel the need to hide or cover up my body. I found a sustainable workout regime (and I hadn’t lost weight!) that focused more on just getting me moving as well as found a non-calorie deficient diet I could manage. I enjoyed working out and appreciated preparing dinner. Confident in this, I accepted that my body is just that, – a body. A body is just that, but also so much more. It’s wonderful tool to aid me in doing what it must- living. I can enjoy hiking, dancing, hugging, laughing, and anything in between with what I have now, and I feel infinite. I can do all these things enjoyably without washboard abs, perfect skin, or after a five-day juice cleanse.

Self-love comes from a place of finding sustainable methods that help you find YOUR beautiful, whether it be on the inside, outside, or both. We all know what society finds beautiful, but when is the last time you asked yourself what you find beautiful about you? The more I’ve grown into my twenties (a tumultuous time, let’s be honest), the more I place value on loving myself for who I am and my effort to become a better version of myself. Part of this comes from remembering to practice forgiveness- forgiving myself when I’m not able to finish my workout, and not feeling guilty over eating what I want, when I want to. I’ve grown to appreciate a makeup free face, guilt-free donuts, and loving my body (and mind!) for what it can do for me. Loving yourself begins with thankfulness and forgiveness. After all, a body without a beautiful mind is simply an empty vessel.  

SELF-LOVE: Relationships

We are who we choose to surround ourselves with. Some of these people are in our lives whether we choose to have them there or not, including family members or co-workers. Others, we choose, such as friends and partners who become family.

Much of our happiness or lack thereof comes from this community of people. Will they be there for you or abandon you when you need it most? Are they someone you trust? How do they treat you?

Self-care is taking a part in positive relationships (both romantically and platonically) with those who lift you up. A positive relationship will demand the best of both parties, show you how to truly love and be loved, and teach you more about yourself. You’ll feel safe, trusted, and empathetic and return these courtesies to the other party involved. Cutting those out of your life who do not fit this criteria can immediately be the most painful experience in the world, but how can you care for yourself if surrounded by negativity?

I’ve been pretty lucky to stumble upon some of my closest friends through sports. High school volleyball gave me some of the healthiest friendships that I’ve had for the longest time. Distance has certainly taken a toll on how often we talk, but we all know we are there to support one another whenever or wherever. Through college, I gained more friends as I weeded through others. In my toughest times, they lifted me up and shown me unconditional love not unlike my own family. Relationships are never perfect, but at the end of the day, I’m grateful knowing the friendships I continue to foster push me to be a better, happier person.

After moving away from home, I’ve attempted navigating through a different type of relationship I’m most unfamiliar with: romantic relationships. Romantic relationships have always been more of a challenge for me. This past summer and fall, I let an overall negative romantic relationship fester because I so desperately wanted affection and thought I’d found it. I couldn’t be more wrong. I had been independent for so long and I wanted someone to take care of me, someone to be my best friend and someone to support. As we all know, relationships are a two-way road. I hated who I had become when with this guy and didn’t feel like myself. I was embarrassed. I hardly recognized the girl that left her house at night just to see him for a few hours, knowing full well I’d never get what I truly wanted: a stable, loving, relationship.This past winter, I did what I knew I had to do. I broke things off. It still hurts to this day, but I learned the hard way that just because someone else does not love you, does not mean you should not love yourself.

This past year, I did not do an overall great job of surrounding myself with healthy, positive, romantic relationships. This is why I especially consider myself lucky to be surrounded with friends and family who remind me I am very much loved for who I am. I’m trying to remind myself to be grateful for the hard lesson of not letting my self-image be contingent on someone else’s perception of me. It’s taken some time to begin rebuilding myself up again, and I’ve done so through the positive relationships I choose to surround myself with.

Now that I’m in my mid-twenties, I have less time to entertain negative friendships and relationships. I’m figuring out what I value in a relationship and am learning to say “no” to anything that is not that. Remember that you always have a decision, even when it feels like you don’t or when it feels impossibly hard. By evaluating relationships consistently, I’m practicing self-care and self-love. Surrounding myself with positive relationships serves to make me an overall happier, more secure person. I’m able to more effectively navigate life’s trials and tribulations with loved ones at my side.

***

So my question to you is this: what are you doing to self-care and self-love? It could be something as simple as acknowledging a friend’s compliment or finally having the courage to end a relationship that has been negatively impacting your happiness. It could even be as simple as taking five minutes during the day to apply a GlamGlow Supermud face mask.

Learning to love and care for yourself is not as innate as we may think it is. Life happens quickly. We become complacent, allowing ourselves to think that diminishing happiness is simply a reminder we should re-adjust to this new self-prescribed norm. What we may not realize, however, is that we can be much happier than we think. It starts from within and can require practice.


What if we started treating ourselves the way we treat our loved ones?


Self-care for me is 12/10 dancing in the rain.


Goodbye, Rhode Island

IMG_5956.jpg

Fall, 2016. The first time I’d visited Fort Wetherhill in Jamestown, Rhode Island. It’s still one of my favorite places to go on weekends.

God knows it’s been awhile since I first drove down through Carolina, by way of the isle of quiet winding pine woods onto East Beach Road, past raised, bleached houses that were delicately hidden behind rolling dunes.

It was winter of 2016 when I first drove down to the south shore. Charlestown’s wind-swept beaches offered me the chance to witness the steady roaring of crystalline blue waves buffeting fine white sand. Away from the busy chatter of the city, the cool breeze off the ocean tossed tendrils of my hair around my face and bit through my thin jacket. I fell in love.

I’d been living in Providence for about five months at the time. I couldn’t tell you (and still can’t tell you) the best places to dine in Federal Hill or what coffee milk tastes like, but I can navigate the rough crags of Fort Wetherhill in Jamestown and tell you when the tide rolls out to sea, leaving hidden coves along the shores of Beavertail Lighthouse.

I was young when I moved here two years ago. I still am. But Rhode Island has offered me something beyond what I could’ve hoped for- a chance to make my life my own. A chance to make my own mistakes, a chance to learn.

When I made my first solo trip to Boston two years ago after moving into a four story house on Olney Street on the East Side of Providence, I glanced up at the towering skyscapers above and wondered who worked there. Too afraid to take the train up from Providence (how did it work?), I paid dearly for parking that January day and wandered the streets until I found a museum with free access- it was Thursday, one of my two days off at the dealership down in Warwick.

Clutching my phone tightly, I walked one block and turned around. The sun had long since disappeared and I felt vulnerable. I returned to the steamy underground parking garage, found my car, and pressed the start button a little too quickly than the occasion called for. The ignition roared to life and I silently sat in my car, glancing past the steering wheel to the brightly lit dashboard.

48,656 miles.

I drove home, the thought that I’d be working a few blocks away in less than one year’s time never crossing my mind. A year and a half later, I stare down at the streets of Boston from the 16th Floor of 125 Summer Street remembering the time I’d wearily driven home, not having visited the Contemporary Institute of Art that Thursday- in Seaport, as I now know.

IMG_6363.jpg

Unedited photo I took while down at Beavertail Lighthouse in Jamestown, Rhode Island. If you’ve never watched a storm roll in from the southwest while on the coast, it’s amazing.

To date, my Ford Escape has about 65,000 miles on the odometer. Hundreds of miles have been spent driving down to the frozen beaches of Newport, Jamestown, Westerly, and Charlestown during the winter of 2016. The beaches were blissfully empty during those months, but as I began to see shoots of flowers emerge from the undergrowth, so too did people begin to emerge- both in my life and on the beaches.

Gone were the days when I’d go twenty-four hours without speaking. The road down to the southern shore remains a familiar friend as I play the same music as I always had, but now I take friends and family down to the places I’ve grown to know so well.

Oh, there’s a river that winds on forever/ I’m gonna see where it leads/ Oh, there’s a mountain that no man has mounted/ I’m gonna stand on the peak.

Two years later, I know I’ll see these beaches less, but somehow I know I’ll always be able to guide myself over the cool, salty rocks that have been here long before me and will long survive me. I feel timeless as the sea foam floats eerily through the air around me, the sun beating down on my cheeks.

IMG_1990.jpg

Blue Shutters Beach, Charlestown, Rhode Island. I took my parents to my favorite Rhode Island spot last summer before they swung up to Acadia, ME.

I never realized how young I was when I graduated from college and I never knew I could experience true happiness while in solitude years later. Moving from Wisconsin offered me the chance to figure out what I value most in life, my loved ones and a sense of adventure.

It’s been one of the hardest, yet easiest choices I’ve made in my life. Getting here was the easiest part- I had supportive parents and a friend who offered me the spare room in her apartment. The next part was the hardest. I had to find a job to support myself.

Post-college, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I knew what I loved and was passionate about, but had few connections that led to anything fruitful. I’d spent hours shooting off my resume to random job sites and recruiters to no avail, becoming more and more discouraged at each turn. How could I have a four-year degree that offered me nothing?

After a jobless four months, I managed to connect with someone who put me in touch with a manager seeking to fill a position at a car dealership. Since that time, I’ve learned acquiring a new job is twofold: it’s about who you know and being patient. This is how I acquired my most recent two jobs as well as ended up switching career-paths. I’ve also learned no job is beneath me or my education. If it pays the bills, it pays the bills.

With the ability to support myself monetarily (still with some help from my parents), I began to explore. Ocean to the east, mountains to the north and west, friends to the south. I now felt a freedom like I’d never before. No longer in my college bubble, I began to find myself. I went out on dates, began caring less what others thought of me, and confronted demons that threatened to bring my delicate, newfound life crashing down.

IMG_4281.jpg

The first time I visited Blue Shutters Beach, Charlestown, Rhode Island. Though I look cold, it was an unseasonably warm January day.

Though I know I’ll never be cured of my mental heath illnesses, I am very aware what I’m able to do to manage them. While surrounded by sun bleached trees, softly chirping birds, and a trailhead, I began to challenge myself to live unapologetically a year ago. I am me, that’s all I can give. I might as well learn to tolerate myself if I want to experience everything I can about life while I can, I thought. My world became a much less depressing place as I acknowledged the beauty of the sea glass on the ocean’s shore, the sheer magnitude of the mountains in the Pemigawasset Wilderness, the soft colors of the sunlight filtering through the pine trees on a winter day.*

Shedding much of the negativity I had brought with me to Providence, I let the sand beneath my feet guide me and sky overhead remind me of how incredibly lucky I was to be alive. These fleeting moments never cease to bring me out of a funk, even if only for a short while.

I began taking up hobbies my parents so graciously introduced my siblings and I to as kids. I hiked, biked, and ran more. No longer mindlessly doing these tasks or performing them with volleyball season in mind, I consciously began learning to savor each movement of my body and how lucky I was to be able to perform each exercise. I climbed summits, pedaled through vibrant green fields aglow with wildflowers, and started enjoying the feeling of running for time, not distance.

It’s taken time (two years!) and I’m still learning to like myself. I’m taking each day for what it is and I’m working on becoming less stressed about my future.

As I leave Rhode Island for Boston (I know I’m being dramatic, it’s not that far- but still, it’ll be a two-three hour drive to get to the destinations that now take a half an hour), I feel more prepared to continue my life out on the east coast than I had two years ago. There’s been hard lessons to learn and will still be in years to come, but I’ve never been more excited to begin a new chapter of life.

So although I’ll be farther away from the crashing of the ocean waves on Blue Shutters Beach or the tangled vines that twine around the fences of Fort Wetherhill, I know part of me will always be amongst the salty air, waiting to return to the places I grew from a recent college grad to a young (functioning!) woman. The move I’m about to make is far less about distance than about the person I’ve become since moving here in August of 2016. And I wouldn’t change a single moment of the past two years for the world.

Goodbye, Rhode Island. Living here has been a pleasure.

xx KH

IMG_8059.jpg

My favorite photo I’ve ever taken while at Moonrise Kingdom in Jamestown, Rhode Island. If you haven’t already seen Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson), I highly recommend doing so- some of the movie’s scenes were filmed here. 

***

*Let me make this clear…I am in no way hinting depression or any other mental illness can simply be cured by sitting in the middle of the woods. It doesn’t work that way. Though it has greatly helped me by being “in nature” while depressed/anxious/obsessive-compulsive, it doesn’t replace meds or therapy. Trust me.

IMG_0665.jpg

Beavertail Lighthouse, June 2017. Nothing makes me happier than when I’m able to make it down to the coast while it’s shrouded in a thick layer of fog- it’s beautiful.

To Date or Not To Date, or In My Case: I Have Yet To Do So But I’m Working On It, Mom and Dad Plz Don’t Worry

 

I remember sitting in my 7th grade science class, absent-mindedly chewing the end of my number two Ticonderoga pencil while my teacher droned on about cell tissues when it suddenly occurred to me:

Eh mah gawd. I wonder what my future husband is doing right now, I thought self indulgently as I scribbled my self-given nickname across my notebook’s lined paper.

Ace. Ace. ACE. Ace with a little star at the end. Scribble scribble scribble.

My dad and mom let me get ACE on the back of my soccer jersey last summer because I scored a goal on another team this one time. I vaguely recall scoring the goal, only because I wasn’t sure how to celebrate at the time. So naturally, I did what any other child raised by hard core Bon Jovi fans did- held my middle and ring fingers down with my thumb, raised my hands above my head and yelled, “rock on, dudettes”.

Yeah. I got first choice of frozen grapes during half time.

“So this little guy here is called the mitochondria,” my teacher repeated as he squeaked his dry erase marker across the whiteboard in front of the class. “Anyone heard of this before?”

He looked around hopefully.

I rolled my eyes. Like hell-ooo? Didn’t everyone know it was that weird bean shaped thing? I went back to daydreaming.

Would he have blue eyes? Brown hair, maybe? Perhaps he was kinda like that one dude in the Meg Cabot book I just finished. Drrreamy! ❤

I continued to doodle stars around all the “Ace”s I’d scrawled across my notebook page. I looked to see if my teacher was paying attention to my desk in the back of the room. Slowly, I reached into my backpack until my hand brushed against the hard outer cover of my diary. The mitochondria could wait. I had to figure out how many days I’d liked my crushes for.

There were currently three of them I was keeping tallies on; Mason, Alex, and Kyle.

Varying in height, hair color, and age, all three only shared two things in common:

they were white as f*ck and didn’t know I existed (Wisconsin probs, everyone is varying degrees of fourth generation German or Scandinavian).

I flipped quietly through my diary’s crisp pages and huddled over my desk, shooting warning glances at my desk neighbor that clearly meant back awf.

By warning glances, I really mean it probably looked like I was trying hard not to sh*t my pants while painfully grimacing at poor Jenny Parkins only three feet to my right.

This was pre-Lactaid, but still.

December 11th, 2005 8:45pm, I thought. No…December 18th, 2005 7:47pm…no…yes! Finally! December 22nd, 2005 3:56pm!

“Alas!” I exclaimed as I stroked my beard.

Christmas break is almost here. Volleyball wasn’t bad except I gotta gripe man. The score thing after sucked. I had this dream last night though where (ew!!! Lol!!!!) I made out with Alex. I woke up french kissing my pillow…LOL [YUCK!!!]. It’s been 264 days or basically 8 monthes & 22 daze since I first started like him he’s is so hott ALLI IS COMING UP THE STAIRS…wait she’s gone now. But yeah. Mason wuz my homeboy for like…8 monthes and 14 daze. Lol. Anyway, heart u! Ace~

*Yes that is a real entry*

But hmmm. I just saw Alex in the hall today before third period and I think he noticed me, I thought to myself as I slowly closed my diary and shoved it into my backpack. I mean, I’d dropped my water bottle and caused a scene where my friend ended up tearing her pants against the lockers, but still?

It had been 8 monthes, with an “es”. GASP! That was longer than Mason but shorter than Kyle (little punk only lasted 246 days).

Well, fast forward ten years and Mason now has a cleft palate, Alex is somewhere off in Slovenia, and Kyle is living in his parents’ basement playing video games. It’s now been over a decade since I’ve had a crush on these three pubescent, zitty, little boys and I have yet to call them up and tell them I liked them each for two hundred and some odd days back in middle school. I’ve never told them, quite honestly, and I don’t think I ever will. I’d rather just talk sh*t about them on a low volume blog post via my WordPress site instead.

So what’s the point?

I’ve been on Earth for twenty-three years, eight months, and some odd days and I still get those fleeting thoughts wondering what my future husband is doing at this given moment. I used to think to myself, oh golly gee, I wonder what I’ll be doing with my boyfriend in like, ten years or twenty years from now maybe we’ll be doing brunch somewhere together somewhere in a big city like Green Bay, Wisconsin. BUT, girls in middle school, high school, college, and even now:

You don’t need to be defined by whether you date or not. Either way, you’re much more than who you’ve dated, who you will date, or who you’re currently dating.

But anyway, back to our feature presentation, as we’ve just left Kristin as a little hopeful, wonder-stricken teen.

Young Kristin was quite the card, she was quite the little dreamer! I pictured myself floating gracefully across the gum strewn sidewalks with my Kohl’s clogs, boyfriend in tow twelve years from now. Great things were in store! My family would be so proud!

Well, high school came, handed me braces, and kicked me in the groin a little but I still persevered past the person my freshman yearbook photo portrayed me to be (lol, yikez). But still, no boyfriend. Maybe what I needed was a guy who was older than me, more mature than the horndogs who I was growing up with!

God bless, I was able to find that much-wanted boyfriend through volleyball.

Well, “he” being volleyball itself. Lol! ❤

Like any other hairy-armpitted, arm shaving, sixteen-year-old virgin, my parents had me join a year-round sport in hopes I’d find some friends to distract me from my teenage angst about the impending Iraqi War. It was either that or do crystal meth in my basement with my cool but kind of creepy next door neighbor.

Volleyball it was!

Countless hours later, I emerged as a semi-human, semi-lesbian looking weirdo my senior year. So what if the only fling I’d had was with another girl who now denied everything? I had a ❤ BOY ❤ taking me to both Homecoming and Prom! How blissfully “normal”!

After texting back and forth, exchanging flirtatious winky faces and accidental T9 auto-corrects from my totally sick Motorolla Razr, I found the whole “talking to a boy” thing to be a lot of pressure. I had too many volleyballs to hit, too many digs to be dug, too many long, romantic car rides to practice an hour and a half away. I couldn’t juggle talking to a boy as well! The dream of seeing myself walking down the street with a boyfriend seemed to fade slightly as I’d tie my shoes before practice after school almost every day.

This led me to college where I was delighted to see more human boys all over the place. By golly, some of them seemed to like me too! I had shed my braces, dyed my hair a few times, learned some time management skills, and wore horribly short dresses to bars that I could’ve purchased for my kid sister. This would get me that long-awaited boyfriend! My friends around me seemed to find humans they liked, and don’t get me wrong, I did too, but nothing seemed to work out beyond the whole “well we both think each other are totes hawt” deal.

So the big question Oprah definitely has for me, “where are you now, Kristin?”

I’m here. I’ve never had a boyfriend, but somehow I’m alive, by golly! If I can do it, you can too! I will however, reserve the right to b*tch to my friends about this any time they unwillingly lend an ear.

I must confess, it’s hard to see all these young women around me worrying about the future status of their love life like I used to back in my old 7th grade science classroom. We sometimes can try to determine how to finagle where we’re going to find our significant other who can propose within two or three years of meeting us, set a date a year beyond that, and god willing, settle and have children after that as well.

There’s nothing wrong with dating, there’s nothing wrong with not dating. What I’ve noticed in my past behavior is the urge to date only because everyone else was doing it, not because I felt ready or like I truly felt a connection with another human. Don’t get me wrong; there had been moments where I thought, “this could be it! I could come home for the holidays and show off this guy to my family and brag about what a catch I’d had”, but they were few and far in between.

Some part of me wishes I could go back and tell myself not to try too hard, to settle back and not take life too seriously. Some of the happiest couples I’ve met just started out as casual flings that turned into something much more, while others started off as friendships that grew into ❤ luv <3. The other part of me is glad I’ve been the old celebate hag (sarcasm, obvi) I have been because EH MAH GAWD I am just learning so much about myself, like how quickly I can down a McGang Bang, or how many shots of tequila I can do before I never want to see that stuff again. It’d be rewarding either way.

So what I’m trying to say is this:

When it comes to relationships, boyfriends, girlfriends, and whatnot, there’s value in just respecting where we’re currently at, whether it be single for twenty-three years, or dating someone new every two days as long as you have respect for yourself and others. Things will fall into place, you just have to trust this. Don’t force it. It’s like taking a big dump, right?

My 7th grade self didn’t realize this as she scribbled tally marks in her diary with the amount of days she’d like her crushes for. She pined away, longing for relationships she genuinely wasn’t ready for at the time and yearning for the idea of a boyfriend. I wish I could’ve told her everything would work out fine, and that she’d be fine either way, but I know she’d find this out in a decade anyway.

Through my many years, I’ve been sort of embarrassed that I’ve only been on one date in my life, thinking it was something to hide or not mention to others. Until recently, I haven’t thought of it as something I could use as a way to determine what I want out of life. This in mind, I think you’ll be able to use your lack of relationships, or even past and present relationships to determine what you’d like in the future for yourself. It’s a great learning experience either way, but just remember: it’s not worth writing over three hundred pages of pure angst in your diary over, especially when your sister can find awkward entries you’ve written and then proceed to never let you live down the fact you woke up trying to make out with your pillow.

Just some food for thought and words of advice.

#blessed

 

 

Can We Attribute Our Unhappiness to Social Media?

This is old news by now, but does the name Essena O’Neill ring a bell? No? In case you missed out on her video that went viral last November, I’ll give you a semi-quick rundown on the seventeen minute video. You can also check out her video here

Amidst tears, O’Neill draws attention to how “fake” she believes the social media world has become and how unaware the average viewer is to what really goes on behind the beautiful, yet highly unrealistic images viewers see on a daily basis. She claims her departure from this impractical world should serve as a wake up call for all her followers.

She tearfully continues on with her video (sans makeup) arguing “culture creates validation and insecurities” and later begs viewers and social media personalities to create content that isn’t based on “views, likes, or followers”. Furthermore, she launches a tirade against the business behind sponsored or paid social and posts, a current hot topic for those interested in law (and more particularly, fashion law). This topic has recently forced one of our independent federal agencies, the Federal Trade Commission, to pay more attention to how they can protect consumers on social media in the future*. More on this below, but back to O’Neill’s video for now.

While watching this young Australian’s video, I found it shocking to think someone could blame many of their insecurities on apps that pubescent Silicon Valley geeks dreamt of in their parents’ basements (I’m only half sarcastic, here). Could social media really be blamed for this young woman’s unhappiness?

This brings me to my question for you today: does quitting social media remedy the true nature of our unhappiness?  Is this truly going to help fix negative feelings you have toward yourself?

O’Neill believed this was the answer. Soon after posting her self-declared “last Youtube video”, she proceeded to delete all her social media sites save for one, Instagram, but only after deleting two thousand photos off her account. Keeping a few select pictures, she quickly gave new captions to those that remained with newer, brutally honest captions:

essena4.jpg

She later deleted her Instagram account as well.

After she made these changes, O’Neill said she hoped to start a movement where the average viewer could realize their self worth isn’t determined by their physical attributes or social media influence. Just because O’Neill thought she wasted many years living a lie didn’t mean others should as well.

This being said, there’s many varying opinions on whether social media serves an overall good purpose or not. We see lovers connect, celebrities make millions, and teens cyberbully others all within seconds of a simple flick of the thumb. It’s simultaneously amazing, yet terrifying.

Personally, I admit I’m no stranger to unhappiness which I can partially attribute to social media, and on a deeper level, my deep rooted desire to be perfect. I can definitely admit I’ve felt validated after reaching a new high of “likes” or “views” on social media platforms, while also feeling crushed when a new profile picture doesn’t get as many likes as I would’ve thought. Was I not thin enough? Had I not marketed my post effectively? Should I feel embarrassed to post a selfie? As my Pop Culture professor so wisely said, “I receive likes, therefore I exist”. Any “like” I’ve received has given me validation. Though I know this ultimately to be false, it’s hard to continually remind myself of this over and over again. I’m sure many others would agree.

In saying this, I realize I’m part of the problem I’ve created for myself. I’ve spent HOURS clicking through photos, scrolling down my home feed, and stalking girls I don’t know, obsessing how I’m not as pretty, thin, or worry free and happy as they seem. How can I realistically think another person’s life is trouble free based on photos they are able to manipulate? All my own photos are edited, retouched, and manipulated to catch me in both the best lighting and during the most flattering “picture perfect moments”. How is fair to assume their photos haven’t been as well?

I seem to get the most likes on the most perfect photos of myself and my behavior seems to continue to snowball into what could resemble a highly predictable lab experiment as a result. People like following people who look happy and pretty. It’s inspirational. I accumulate likes, therefore I am. More happy photos, more likes. More likes, more happiness. It’s a vicious negative feedback loop we’ve created for ourselves.

So should I abandon my Facebook, multiple Twitter accounts, Snapchat, and Instagram in search of this ever elusive happiness I’ve been chasing for a large portion of my life? I’ve tried. For a couple months I wasn’t on Facebook, I didn’t enjoy Snapchat until a year after it became popular, and quit using my beloved Twitter because I didn’t think I could handle the responsibility. We’ve all had friends who express their distaste at the world of social media and delete accounts only to reinstate their profiles some odd months or weeks later.

So does unplugging our lives make us happier in the end?

I’m not so sure. I’m not so sure we’ll ever know the answer, or whether there even is a “right” answer (don’t get me started on existentialist theories). Finding happiness may or may not be as simple as deleting your accounts if you’re disconsolate. Quite simply, this is a discussion up for debate and it’s a highly personal and contested matter. I understand deleting accounts out of inactivity, but deleting based on lack of self esteem?

Though there’s no simple solution to this complex problem, I firmly believe we have the power to be part of the solution, not the problem as social media users. I think it’s time to stop viewing social media as an untamable beast, because we have the opportunity to control what we post and what we view to an extent. We have small opportunities to put a positive spin on what we see every day!

Armed with this positivity, I decided to do my own experiment on Instagram a few months ago. I posted a close up photo of my face, one half with makeup and editing, the other without any makeup or retouching. The response I received was more than I could’ve ever asked for. It was my most popular post since joining Instagram five years ago, and still would’ve been considered it my top post even if it had gotten no likes. It’s possible to use social media for good purposes to outweigh the bad. It felt like I was holding up my middle finger to all the negative feelings that haunted me from this picture perfect image of myself that I had wanted to be.

12241535_10207969483177725_7281412549986276295_n.jpg

The photo I took of myself showing both sides of social media. Perception versus reality.

So even though I’ve dragged you through a lengthy post just to give you no solid answer to the question of whether quitting social media remedies the true nature of our unhappiness, I hope this makes you think. Maybe the question shouldn’t lie in whether social media can make us unhappy or not, but instead on how we can participate in this world with more realistic expectations of ourselves. Yes, bloggers will edit their photos. Many girls will airbrush their skin to perfection, and others will show off expensive meals, new makeup and cars or share lengthy posts of their vacations to Ibiza on Snapchat. This all is inevitable, especially given social is a huuuge, untapped resource for anyone who’d like to market to millennials (at the very least!). I wouldn’t be shocked at all to see many brands add or increase both organic and paid social within the next few years. My only hope is that we all get a little more educated and that the Federal Trade Commission is able to keep up and catch unlawful practices**. However, it’s up to us to get stronger.

Long story short, when Essena O’Neill decided to post her last YouTube video last November, she set off a firestorm of response from her peers and viewers. The question of whether social media serves a positive or negative purpose is too difficult a question to give one finite answer to. For some, quitting social media may help reduce feelings of inadequateness, decrease their maladaptive pleasure seeking impulses, and potential depression. As O’Neill showed, even those who seem at the top on social media platforms can suffer behind closed doors. Their lives and paychecks revolve around likes, views, and shares. But our lives don’t have to.

I’ve felt both positively validated and negatively impacted through what others and myself have posted. The answer we seek may not lie with whether our happiness is a direct result of social media, but instead, whether we’re able to control the intake of information through educating ourselves and constant reminders that this world has the aptitude to seem airbrushed and perfect. I’m going to challenge myself to view the social world as less of an intimidating place, but as a burgeoning market for retailers and promoters. I’m also going to vow to constantly remind myself there’s more to life than a “bikini ready” beach bod or nailing that perfect cat eye. Both are great, yes, but remember that you alone are enough. You breath, you love, you are loved, therefore you are!

xx

Kristin

Please don’t hesitate to comment and reach out, whether you agree or disagree with me. Let’s keep the discussion going!

 

*As many of you know, influencers and bloggers are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to wear, drink, or promote a company’s merchandise, often ignoring the rules the FTC lays down to protect consumers from what they determine to be “unfair, deceptive or fraudulent practices in the marketplace” (per their site’s “What We Do” section). For more information on the FTC, I encourage you to visit their site

**One of my favorite fashion law bloggers continues to call out popular bloggers (L’Oreal’s 15 L’Orealista bloggers, the Man Repeller, amongst many other offenders) for not appropriately disclosing paid posts. Putting #sp in the description part of photos is no longer enough. The Fashion Law’s founder and editor-in-chief explains this all much better than I ever could. Find her explorations of calling out bloggers here.

 

K HOVS UNCUT: Why I’m Going to Stop Editing the ^&%$ Out of Instagram Pics and Why I Won’t Let the Neenah Dump Man Get Me Down

So if you begrudgingly follow me on Snapchat and saw my (literally) 150 second long story today, you know I wasn’t exactly feelin’ myself today.

BUT LET ME EXPLAIN.

Given I’m still on the hunt for a job, I am currently working manual labor jobs that need to be done at the apartments my family owns. We’re talking like sub $400/month, “let’s just repaint the ceiling and walls to get rid of the yellow stains from the cigarette smoke”, “is that a dead body..?” type of deal. I’m like, way too fab for this. I destroyed two of my acrylic nails from chucking around musty carpet. Eh mah gawd, ew?!

Life is obviously pretty hard. But anyway, bottom line is that I’ve been nixing makeup and my hair every day because whyyyyy would I want to look like a stripper in the apartments I’m cleaning? I stand on the corner outside the complex with some highlighter, contoured cheekbones, and my brows done- I look like a hard 3 out of 10 on the hotness scale. And let’s just say that around there, 2’s would get picked up no question. Clearly I am in immediate danger everywhere I go.

Long story short, your homie has been looking ratchet AF lately. I avoid Snapchats of my face, I’ve gone MIA on selfies on Insta (perhaps a blessing in disguise <3), and certainly don’t plan on going anywhere but Walmart or the city dump on without trying to look god awfully superficial. So that’s where I went today and what leads me to my 10pm-on-a-Thursday-let’s-do-a-blog-post! I visited the good ole Neenah dump. I was feeling “defiantly ugly” (compared to the not even realistic pics of me on social media) as I said in my own words on Twitter this morning and was mentally daring someone to make a comment on my appearance or shield their child’s eyes from looking upon my lack of hygiene/self care.

Clearly, guys, I’m being a little dramatic here. Definitely even more than “little”. I consider myself #blessed to have what I do have and am fully capable of doing my makeup to emphasize what I like and de-emphasize what I don’t to flaunt the fact that I am indeed a %^& damn woman. But keeping this in mind, when I was at the dump today, that kinda flew all out the window. Self confidence is a fickle thing, my friends.

This morning I woke up with a huge-ass zit and tried to fix it by using a heat compress (normally this works great) but instead proceeded to scald the shit out of my face and create an even more obnoxious mark than before. Before I left the house, I half haphazardly smeared some concealer over it knowing the only thing it was really helping was getting my ass out the door in a timely manner (ask any of my friends about the time I had a barely noticeable sty in my eye sophomore year of college- I refused to leave my dorm and go out on a Friday night because of it).

After I reached the dump, I offered up my driver’s license to this old man who basically sits there all day checking ID’s and telling people where to dump their stuff. I absentmindedly gave it to him as he squinted at it.

“This isn’t you”, he said looking back at me, “…you have…more hair here.”

The fuck I have more hair in that driver’s license.

He was clearly confused at why this $ young thug $ with a butt-ton of acne (just started the Clarisonic and am going through the purge phase) and greasy hair was trying to dump her shit at the Neenah dump with her stolen older sister’s ID. I honestly didn’t know what to tell him, so I just told him, “oh. El-oh-el, yeah….” or something lame like that. Truth be told, I was completely offended by his response to my ID, so I chucked a cinderblock in Bin #2 when I fully knew it belonged in “Concrete”. Oo, burn. That’ll show him.

This led me to go home and mope around for a little while, make some brownies, and watch some makeup tutorials on Youtube. I felt as though I was definitely treated differently by some people depending on if I was wearing makeup or not. I considered myself to look like nothing special without anything on, ugly compared to Candice Swanepoel, beauty gurus on Youtube, and other celebrities and the like. That’s when I put on the breaks and got to where I am tonight- sitting on my bed at home trying to type on my laptop with these freaking talon-like nails on (but they look absolutely fab, dahhling).

Well first off, I told myself, it is more than likely all in my head that I’m treated differently whether I’m wearing makeup or not.

Secondly,

who

gives

a

shit.

Whogivesashitwhatothersthink?!

I had been wrapped up in my head about comparing myself to others, thinking extremely superficially (I mean, not even wanting to leave the house because of a crater on my face?!), and worrying about a guy not liking me because I don’t look like those super hot Instagram models with the ripped AF abs and hair down to their ass (definitely extensions, anyway) all of the time.

I have a wonderful family, running water, a ❤ toilet <3, more clothes than a lot of kids could ever ask for, and a shit ton of other things. Yes, I got down to that point. Kind of pathetic, but given today’s social media situation and the fact that barely anyone uploads pics without editing them first (yes, I edit my pics too, I look at my own Instagram and think wow, I wish I really was her- this “Kristin Hovie” idea- I feel like my videos are a much better reflection of myself). Bottom line is that getting too absorbed in that world will never make me or you happy. There’s always going to be someone skinnier, more ripped, tanner, yadda-yadda than you. So why buy into it?

It’s hard not to. The fact that I am writing this post is a clear sign that I’m almost 23 and completely lost my way even after uploading “body image” posts on this very blog. I want to believe that I’m this perfect-but-not-too-perfect girl that appears on Instagram and Facebook, but truth is I am completely not. The only difference between myself on social media six years ago as opposed to now is that I don’t make lame Facebook statuses about getting grounded and I know how to edit and retouch my pictures, and not to hold the camera below my face so I get the double chin going on. Oh, also, puberty I suppose. Shit hit me like a brick wall.

1927824_1097018268424_9236_n

Pre-editing skills and mid-puberty. That’s actually my natural hair color too. What a natural picture. I wonder if this made it on the Christmas card that year…

Yeah, that's right. Hold up the boogie board. Whenever you feel insecure in a pic just grab the nearest boogie board and hold it up in front of your insecurity.

Yeah, that’s right. Hold up the boogie board. Whenever you feel insecure in a pic just grab the nearest boogie board and hold it up in front of your insecurity.

If you’re going to get anything out of this god-awfully long post besides me just bitching about how I don’t look like Kim K. or Gisele Bundchen, I hope that this is a reminder that what you see on social media isn’t often the full story. No one’s skin is as clear and smooth as the pictures and yes, celebs often use apps to thin out their legs (I even paid 99 cents for the app Kylie Jenner uses- 99 FRICKIN’ CENTS WHO AM I). My challenge to myself in the next months is to stop editing pictures unless its redeye or cropping my friends out of pics because I want a pic of how great my ass looked in those jeans that one time (tee-hee!). In turn, I hope to be less of a part of the problem that is becoming the norm. Girls (guys too) shouldn’t have to look at all these pictures and think they are inadequate based based purely on physical features. No one should. Life’s too short to worry about that shit. I’d like to think the world would be a whole less superficial if we concentrated on making ourselves more beautiful on the inside than on the outside- which is as stereotypical as I can get ever, but it definitely reaffirms it for myself typing it here. As a person who dabbles much of her spare time in cosmetics, beauty, fashion, and other such things, it’s never too much hearing this again and again, and I don’t think it’s bad for others like myself to be reminded this as well.

The basic bitch in me says, “YOU ARE ALL BEAUTIFUL”. Believe it even when you don’t because there’s a whole lot more to life then fretting about how crooked your cat-eye is or if your concealer went on patchy. Life is more than skin-deep, grasshoppahs. Some day you won’t be able to count soley on your looks making you happy- that much is true (that’s up for debate but let me have my moment,  I want to drop the mic here).

And lastly, don’t let the man at the Neenah dump tear you down! SOLIDARITY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Xoxo,

Ace~