Let's Talk Negative Body Image With Ledbetter Coach Annika Swanson

Body image is something I never used to care about. When I was in middle school chowing down on my cosmic brownies and mac & cheese, I put zero thought into what my body looked like in the mirror or to others. I played sports, I ate whatever I wanted, and that was that.

It wasn’t until I hit high school that dieting, body image, working out, and obsessing over all of the above really hit me. The group of people I surrounded myself with definitely didn’t help matters, and when I broached the subject of wanting to lose weight, I received negative comments that in so many words told me I should. From there, it spiraled. I never went to extreme measures like not eating or anything serious, but the mentality I had about my body every day mine as well be considered ‘extreme’. I obsessed to no end, thought I always looked ‘fat’, and constantly had friends who were counting calories to make me feel even more self conscious. 

Eventually I just considered my negative body image normal. Now looking back, especially at pictures from high school, I realize that I was nowhere near overweight. And yet, I wasted so much energy focusing on ripping my body apart in front of the mirror. This trend escalated throughout college, until I found weightlifting and crossfit. I felt more in control of my body, and started to spend less time worrying about every roll, every bit of cellulite I found. 

Since then, I have gone through a lot. Mentally, physically, emotionally-I’m a different person. And with stress, change, and moving I felt all of my negative body image issues flooding back.

Luckily, around the same time I found Ledbetter as well as my coach Annika Swanson. Annika and the Ledbetter team pride themselves on losing or gaining weight in a healthy way. A way that will lead you to ‘live every day better’. I was placed with Annika, and knew right off the bat that she was the right coach for me. She was patient when I felt like failing, she encouraged me when I needed it most (and I haven’t even met her in real life), and although I’m not looking in the mirror saying ‘I LOVE MY BODY’, I feel like I am so much closer to that point because of her. I’ve never seen Annika preach anything that she hasn’t tried or been through herself. So, I knew that she was the perfect person to interview about negative body image and overcoming it all.

Stepping away from body shaming ourselves, especially as women, is by no means easy. No matter what stage in the game you’re in, it’s a constant battle to just be happy with who you are in every stage of your fitness journey and life overall. 

It has obviously been something that I have struggled with myself, and I imagine many of your reading this as well.

So if you’re anything like me and are catching yourself saying one too many negative things about your body, keep reading to see what Annika has to say.


What would you say, looking back, triggered your own body image issues? 

My body image issues initially started when I began prepping for my first (and only) bikini competition two years ago. This was the first time that I ever made a conscious effort to look a certain way, according to someone else’s standards. It was also the first time that the idea of being “tight and tiny” became ideal, and from then on I felt I could never be small enough.

What comes to mind when you think of a ‘negative body image’?

When I think of a negative body image, the first thing I think of is picking oneself apart in the mirror. Seeing all the “flaws” in one’s body rather than appreciating it and loving it for what it is and what it can do. I would also consider it a persisting feeling of not being “enough” – lean enough, skinny enough, muscular enough, strong enough, or never feeling happy about your current appearance.

Did you ever go to extremes because your negative body image/perception of yourself took over (i.e not eating, not eating enough, excessive workouts, binge eating, etc.)

When I prepped for a bikini competition a few years ago, I was on an extremely restrictive diet with excessive cardio compared to what my body actually needed. I had no knowledge of proper training or healthy nutrition at the time. As a result of this, I was obsessed with strictly sticking to my diet to a “T.” If I had a small slip up or treat, I completely lost it mentally and emotionally. This resulted in binging on things like chocolate and peanut butter. Any time my anxiety or stress was high, it resulted in binge eating.

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What was competing on stage like for you? Did it have a negative impact on your body image because you had to maintain a certain figure?

Competing on stage was a very nerve racking and negative experience for me. This was partially because my coach at the time had not taught me a posing routine (only set poses), along with “first time” nerves, but it was also the first time I intentionally subjected myself to being judged and critiqued by someone else. I personally did not feel that the stage, particularly in the bikini division was the right place for me. I personally didn’t feel comfortable subjecting myself to intentional judgement like that, and the feeling of being judged carried over into my day to day life as well. This experience is different for everyone, so my experience won’t be the same as others’. 

Was there any specific moment where you said ‘enough is enough, I can’t keep hating on my body’? 

A few months after that show, I felt very insecure in my body, particularly after gaining weight post show. I had no idea how to achieve my fitness goals though. That summer, I took the leap and signed up for a self guided Ledbetter Inc. Reverse Dieting Program. I told myself I would do everything I possibly could to achieve a body I could feel confident in, and to eventually love myself and find confidence again through that process.

How has coaching helped your personal battle with body image or body shaming?

It’s always easier to provide a fresh perspective to others than it is to apply that same perspective to ourselves. Coaching has allowed me to apply the develop the objective, healthy perspective I  have towards others, and learn to apply it to myself. 

What has helped you maintain a positive outlook on your body?

The most important thing that helped me create and sustain a positive outlook on my body was shifting my focus from losing weight, to building muscle and strength. This went in phases and did not happen overnight, but by focusing on things other than ab definition, I have been able to see my body progress in new ways. When I switched my focus to getting physically stronger and healthier, my mindset became stronger too and positive physical changes happened almost as a side effective. 

Would you say your negative perception of your body affected your relationships with others, and has that changed now that you are in a different mental space about your body?

When it was something I actively struggled with, my negative body image definitely affected my relationship with others. I was obsessive about eating and just in general had a negative outlook on life- which stemmed partly from not feeling inherently good about myself. Now that I am in a different mental space about my body, this has definitely changed. I’m no longer obsessive about eating, and I make a point not to let those obsessive food habits creep into time with my loved ones. This results in me being more present in the moment- not fearing that I’ll get “fat” from what I’m eating, and not obsessing over tracking my macros to the exact gram, either. I have some days when I feel great physically, and some days when I feel not so great. On the days when I don’t feel so great, I have had to make a conscious effort not to let that negative body image create an entirely negative day. I swore to myself I would never allow what I saw in the mirror to dictate my happiness again, as long as I was living a healthy lifestyle. Instead, I focus on what changes I can make to my habits and routine to feel better not only physically, but mentally. 

How has social media impacted your body image (negatively or positively!)?

Social media can be a slippery slope. There is a lot of potential to create a negative impact on one’s self image based on what we see on social media. I have fallen into the comparison trap – comparing myself to images on social media and feeling inadequate because I wasn’t as lean or muscular as those people. When that happens though, I’ve learned to shift my focus to myself and what I love about myself, not what I feel I’m lacking. In the positive sense, I have been able to connect with many other young women out there who are empowering themselves through a healthy lifestyle, which has not only been encouraging but refreshing to see.

How do you handle people leaving negative comments on your more vulnerable pictures on Instagram? 

Anytime someone leaves a negative comment it’s extremely important to remember that it almost always stems from their insecurity. There were times when I did feel very upset about comments people left on my page, and I allowed that to bring me down emotionally. Objectively, I know that the most important thing is how I feel and what I’m doing for myself to live a happy and healthy life- any one else’s opinion of that really doesn’t matter. So I try to take any negativity with a grain of salt. If comments are really bad, I simply delete them as I don’t need that kind of negativity and neither does anyone else. 🙂

How has working with Ledbetter changed your idea of what a woman’s body should or shouldn’t look like?

It’s interesting because I don’t really think there is a particular way that a woman’s body should or shouldn’t look. I don’t believe there is a specific way any woman “should” look, as that’s all personal preference to decide how we each feel best! How I would like to look may be different from the woman next to me. However, I do believe women should practice healthy habits and exercise in some way on a regular basis. Working with Ledbetter has helped me develop that mindset by focusing on health as a priority, always.

What has been the most rewarding part of coaching women who come to you with a lack of confidence about their body?

The most rewarding part about coaching women who start with a lack of confidence is to see them grow and transform not only their body, but their mind. It’s fulfilling to see that spark of self love and confidence slowly start, then grow with time to become something that no longer depends solely on the mirror. 

When you look in the mirror now, what do you wish you could say to the girl you were when you weren’t as confident with your body?

I wish I could tell her, “You are more than that mirror. You are more than what you look like or what other people think you look like. You are strong and capable and beautiful in your body as it is. If you have a goal, make the changes you need to get there. But you only have one body, so treat it with love.”

Is there any advice that you would give to women who can’t seem to get out of that body shaming mentality?

See above. 🙂 Also: we are each made different from one another. Your best will be different than mine, and mine will be different than hers. But feeling and looking our best can only happen when we focus on treating our own bodies with love and self respect. Shame has no place when self love and respect are present.

There you have it, and for more inspiration and really cute pictures of her dog Teddy (because as a fellow obsessive dog mom I have to shout him out) follow Annika on Instagram here: @annika_joelle_fitness and Ledbetter here: @ledbetter_inc

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If negative body image issues and body shaming is part of your day to day, make it a priority to change your thinking around. Find a program like Ledbetter that works for you, find a coach that inspires you to be more positive, take a class that makes you feel awesome. It’s a work in progress on my end, but if we don’t actively try to become more loving towards our bodies, we’re just sending this negative message out into the world. 

 

 

 

 

Determining Your Own Version of Success

 

Success: An accomplishment of an aim or purpose.

Being successful technically means accomplishing all that we’ve strived for throughout our life, but why does majority of society pin the word ‘success’ to having a stable career, a lot of money, a relationship that may (or already has) lead to marriage, kids, and that stereotypical white picket fence we always hear about?

Maybe, just maybe, that isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Maybe taking a different path for yourself where you still accomplish your aim or purpose is perfectly fine. Perfectly fine and actually extremely refreshing to see, especially in my generation of millennials.

We grew up with the ‘American Dream’ mentality that generations before instilled in upon us. The idea that we need to go to really good schools to obtain good jobs, money, homes, better relationships, and the list goes on. The world seemed black and white, like there weren’t these grey and pink and yellow areas where we could do all of that but also maintain a side hustle. Where we could create our own business that shared our passions and drive with the world. Where we were allowed to take risks that involved traveling the world and experiencing new cultures rather than mapping out when we would buy our first house and have that first kid.

We (as in us millennials) are paving a way that involves having a unique meaning to the word ‘success’, or rather applying that basic definition that I mentioned before in our own way. Whether that means buying your first home, establishing your own company, or simply paying your cell phone bill on your own without Mom and Dad’s help.

My ‘American Dream’ looks nothing like yours, and definitely doesn’t even come close to what I had imagined when I was in high school. But that’s what’s great about the freedom we as young millennials have (and that everyone should have), is that we can continuously keep changing what our definition of success looks like. It doesn’t have to abide by any rules or expectations set upon us by society. And yes, maybe that cushy job, money, house, and marriage are safe. But, it should be okay for the rest of us to take risks and forget about that safe zone if we choose to.

Of course we probably will have some failures along the way, but failure is never the end all. We keep going, keep striving, and keep reaching for our own slice of that ‘American Dream’ or really whatever dream you have.

The most difficult part of being a young adult with more creative ‘out of the box’ goals is the judgement or the ‘wtf are you actually doing with your life’ concerns (I’m still not sure if they are even concerns) from other generations. The moms, dads, or even people the same age as my peers and I on the same path, who don’t understand that creative spirit that drives some of us to do more than find a life for ourselves where we settle down and create a ‘stable’ home and income.

But, the upside is that we have each other. We have all of the other millennials out there who are mastering their own success in their own way in their own time. We hustle, we fall, we fail, and then we get up and continue pushing for the things we want.

When I had just graduated college in 2014, a video of Jim Carrey doing a commencement speech popped up on my news feed. One piece of the speech that I immediately wrote in the notes section of my phone went like this,

“You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on what you do want.”

I don’t think I truly grasped what he was saying until I recently looked back and saw the quote in my phone. And then it hit me that even if I’ve changed course, even if my dreams aren’t quite what they were when I graduated college, I could fail either way.

So, I’m taking Carrey’s advice and attempting to do what I actually want for myself in all areas of my life. Career, relationships, side hustles, what I wear, what I watch, what I listen to- it’s all what I want. And that, is a truly liberating feeling to (no matter what happens) follow my gut which will lead me to that success I’ve been talking about .

The point? Don’t let any one but YOU determine what success looks like for your life. Strive for whatever goals truly bring joy and excitement to you. That will always look different than what your parents have in mind or what your best friend is doing, but that doesn’t matter. Follow your own path to success and you will lead a fulfilling life.

 

Girl Boss 101: Meet Lauren Bongiorno Who's Making Waves In The Health Industry

 

“If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life”

Finding our dream career is no easy task. Searching for that inner drive, strength, and passion to go beyond society’s expectations and take the ‘road less traveled’ can be even more challenging. But, it is possible.For a long time I didn’t believe that. I thought that I had to go the ‘safe’ route (job wise) rather than pushing myself to combine all the things I truly loved into a career. Now I realize that finding your passion, your purpose, your niche, and creating that into a fulfilling life and career is achievable (even if it sounds absolutely terrifying).

When thinking about how I wanted to create this new project, I knew that I wanted to present truly inspiring and talented women that could not only share their experiences, but also show that there is so much beyond the typical nine to five desk job. The ‘safe’ route (aka the boring job that controls your life and makes you unhappy), and picking your career based on what that form you filled out in ninth grade told you isn’t the only thing our there for you.

So, when I took on the task of finding women to interview, I knew that Lauren Bongiorno needed to be one of them. As a follower of Lauren via Instagram, I’ve watched a talented athlete, yogi, and entrepreneur through my social media. But, what you see on Instagram is only half of it.

You know when a person’s energy is just magnetic? That’s exactly what I experienced upon meeting Lauren Bongiorno; health coach, athlete, and snack bar creator. When she walks in a room, you can just feel her positive energy, and genuine happiness (maybe that was because she agreed to meet me on her birthday, but I’m pretty sure it’s just her). That’s not something you get from many people these days, so it was refreshing to say the least when I got the chance to talk with Lauren.

But, why does all of this matter? Why Lauren Bongiorno?

In my head I thought,  “what twenty-three year old do you know that took a risk, despite what we’re all told we ‘should do’, to create her passion into her purpose which then became her career?”

 Success obviously does not happen overnight, but that hasn’t stopped Lauren, and my curious self needed to know how she had done it (and continues to do it).

In a series of questions, I learned what Lauren did to get where she is today, what fuels her drive to continue down this path, and the advice she has for other millennial women out there searching for their purpose. Not only are her answers insightful, but will leave you thinking long after reading them (at least they got me really thinking).


CW: What did you originally plan for yourself throughout college?

LB: “Everyone is always so baffled when I tell them what I studied in college haha. I actually was a history major with a psych minor and on the pre-law track. Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a trial attorney. I grew up watching my dad in court and loved the idea of fighting for justice. He used to joke that I would take over his law firm one day and that I was his retirement plan. Sorry dad! 

CW: How did you get involved in the health and wellness industry at such a young age

LB: “When I was a sophomore or junior in college I started a blog called “Lettuce Be Healthy and Happy” after watching the Netflix documentary ‘Hungry For Change’. The documentary is about the food and weight loss industry and all their deceptive tactics they use that has contributed to the rise of binge eating, eating disorders, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease in the U.S. I spent roughly two years sharing my health journey with Facebook friends/family/anyone who wanted to read, which mostly included healthy recipes, yoga for the mind and body, workouts, and anything new I was learning from books, podcasts, online videos, ect. During these two years this was my hobby, along with becoming a certified group exercise instructor and yoga instructor. It wasn’t until my last semester before my college graduation that I realized I wanted to pursue health as a possible career.”

CW: What made you finally decide to take the ‘unconventional’ route rather than a more solid 9-5 job? Or in your case, choose the wellness industry over your law degree

LB: “During the fall semester of my senior year of college I was studying for my LSATS. I took it once in September and another time in early December. Whenever I made my “to-do” list for the day, writing a blog post, answering emails or comments on my blog, or watching a health video always came before LSAT studying. But even though it was so evident to those around me how passionate I was about the wellness world, I never once considered the option of not going to law school. It was my plan. It was what I was meant to do. So I thought…

That was until one day I went to a hot yoga class at my yoga center that I religiously practiced at and had a complete epiphany. I was laying in savasana at the end of class and as quickly as the idea popped into my head, I made the decision that I was going to put off law school for a year to try and pursue being a health coach. I ran home and told my best friend Emily about this program I had seen ads for on Facebook called the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. The first thing she said was, “What do you think your parents are going to say?”. I picked up the phone and told my dad to get my mom because I had something important I needed to tell them. I told them my plan and promised if it didn’t work out I would go to law school the following fall. I explained that  if I started law school immediately after college, I would go for 3 years and be on this hamster wheel of law school, then working in the District Attorneys office, then working in my dad’s firm, and having the responsibility to take it over once he retired. I knew that if I didn’t go after my passion first and at least try, I’d be 40 years old before I ever considered it again. In my head that just didn’t make sense to waste those years to later decide to follow my passion.”

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CW: How long did it take you to really build a following for your programs and social media?

LB: “My blog and Instagram had a few hundred followers that organically and gradually just grew overtime. I remember when I hit 3k followers on Instagram I went to Costco and bought a box of larabars to do a giveaway on my page. I was so excited. I was just so amazed and grateful that people wanted to follow my journey. My social media presence became a little bigger when I transitioned from blogger to the Health Coach, Entrepreneur, Yoga and Bootcamp Instructor who believed in the power of the mind and body and all that encompasses total health. I started to post more that incorporated all aspects of my life- yoga, fitness, healthy food, traveling. I think the more transparent I was with my ups and downs and what I was up to, the more people could relate to me.”

CW: What gave you the courage to follow the path of online health coaching (especially when society has always told us to do the ‘safe’ career route)?

LB: “I believe that having a support system and people that believe in you is huge. When I told my parents my plan of putting off law school they were 100% behind me, and told me if that’s what made me happy than I should do it. I do know though that there are a lot of people who don’t have support from many friends/ family because why would anyone leave a good paying 9-5 job for something that in their eyes should be reserved as a side project/hobby? To that I’d say, believe in yourself. Be your own cheerleader. Listen to your heart and just go for it. I know it sounds cheesy but it’s 100% true. Quiet your mind and listen to what lights your soul on fire.”

CW: Do you or did you ever have any moments of self-doubt, and what pushed you to keep going?

LB: “Being super honest, the only time I doubted my career was when my dad sat me down and laid out all my expenses that I’d have to eventually start paying once I started “adulting”. Car insurance, car inspections, gas, transportation, gym membership, restaurants, movies, groceries, health insurance….the numbers just add up so quickly and I definitely questioned whether I’d be able to support myself as a health coach in my own business…at 22 years old none the less.

I like to consider myself a minimalist in the sense that I don’t need fancy clothes, cars, nice apartments, etc. However, I do know that I never wanted to struggle with money and I need it to do the things I love (basically shop at Whole Foods and travel haha). After the big hit of how much money I would need, my dad assured me  to ‘do what you love and the money will come.’. I’ve had so many amazing opportunities and side projects that I am super grateful and now believe if you set out doing what you love and stick to your morals with good intentions, the money will come.”

CW: Where do you think your positivity comes from (it’s so evident through your work how passionate and positive you are about life), and how do you remain positive in the face of the ups and downs of life and your work?

LB: “Ironically enough, when I was 7 years old I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and I think my positivity now largely stems from that. Growing up with a disease where you constantly have to be checking your blood sugar, monitoring every piece of food you put in your mouth, and dealing with the sickness of having blood sugars too high or too low at least once every day forces you to be pretty tough and mature beyond your years. Living with diabetes for over 15 years now, being a division 1 soccer player in college, and finding a love for yoga, I’ve learned that our reactions to the world are not what happens to us, but rather how our minds see it. Nothing is forever, challenges and life’s ups and downs are only temporary and you just have to ride the wave.”

CW: What’s your favorite part of sharing/connecting with your followers on social media?

LB: “I love that social media allows for you to connect with people all around the world. Just from Instagram I have made friends in Australia, Aruba, India, Utah, Texas… 3 of my clients actually found me through Instagram and they are from Scotland, London, and California. A reach that I wouldn’t otherwise have had. People put down social media sometimes saying we’re too consumed in it or that we only portray the best versions of lives, but let me tell you, it’s a powerful tool if used the right way. I feel that sharing your purpose, connecting and learning from others, it’s what life is truly about.”

CW: Are there any difficult parts about putting your business all out there on social media?

LB: “People are harsh sometimes if they misinterpret something you write in a caption or a post. I had this one instance a few months back where on a diabetic page I left my website and information as a diabetic health coach and I got backlash from a member saying I was spamming them and trying to sell my services. I don’t think of what I do as a “business”. To me what I do is help people. That’s my only intention. So to get those backlashes from time to time, it hurts. Because you just want to call that person up and say I’m so sorry you felt that way when you read my post but it really came from a good place!”

CW: What do you think sets your online coaching business and new endeavor with your snack bars apart from the rest?

LB: “Both of what I am doing are kind of an untapped market which is pretty cool. For my health coaching, I specialize with diabetics and give them a resource other than their endocrinologist, diabetes educator, or nutritionist. We look at their health goals and I stay by their side for 3-6 months as their guidance, support, and accountability to help them make long standing changes in the realm of home cooking, home environment, stress, exercise, optimal nutrition, and learning how their body works best. As for my Low Glycemic protein bars, there is not one single bar on the market that is low glycemic and does not have a long list of ingredients with some kind of chemical,sugar alcohol, preservative, or word you cannot pronounce. I’m not another big company, I’m just a woman that truly cares about the health of others and I just want to help make lives and this world better.”

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CW: Being that you’re an active athlete and yogi, is there any advice you would give other woman out there who feel lost when it comes to trying yoga or any type of fitness program in general?

LB: “Just because a type of workout is popular or it’s your friend’s favorite, doesn’t mean it’s right for you! Find a workout that helps you grow both physically and mentally. Find a workout that you look forward to doing. Find a workout that you do to become a better version of yourself and not just to get a nice butt. Try different classes out, get on a routine of the classes/workouts you enjoy, and stick to that routine the best you can with dedication and commitment to help you reach your goals!”

CW: What advice do you have to young millennial woman who are trying to grow a business, and are taking that ‘road less traveled’?
LB: “Follow your passion to find your purpose. Life is too short to waste it going through the motions of something you don’t enjoy doing. We’re lucky enough to live in a world these days with so many amazing tools and resources that you can use to create any vision you have. If you take a leap of faith, opportunities will present themselves.”

CW: What’s something that no one would know about you from just looking at your Instagram or website?

LB: “I really love listening music, like I don’t like rap or any radio music, I love like jazz or Motown music. Jackson 5 is my jam, I listen to that so hard during my workouts. I love music clubs in the city, I would rather be listening to a guy jamming on the cello rather than going to a club. That’s me in a nutshell, I’m an old soul in a way. I can get teary eyed listening to someone play the acoustic guitar.

Oh another good one, my friends and family still call me ‘Lo’ to this day because in high school I felt like ‘Lauren’ wasn’t exotic enough, like I wanted to be more exotic, so I made everyone in high school call me ‘Lo’ (I wouldn’t answer if they didn’t call me that), and it actually just stuck.”


Finding a person who only knows one or two rap songs (one being Kanye’s ‘Stronger’) was probably the most shocking part of our interview, especially for a rap lover like myself. But, aside from the laugh I got out of that, I was able to walk away from our breakfast with a new found love of chia seeds in my yogurt, a laundry list of insightful thoughts shared, and a whole lot of inspiration that I didn’t realize I needed myself.

Taking a chance on yourself can be fear inducing, but as you can see from Lauren, the risk is so worth the rewards.

So, go follow this girl on Instagram if you haven’t already. You’ll be inspired if nothing else, and maybe even a little jealous of her amazing yoga skills!

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And for more information on her health coaching check out Lauren’s Website!

Respect The Grieving, Because Social Media Hate Isn't The Solution

In light of the recent shootings of both Alton Sterling, and again last night with the death of Philando Castile, I can’t help but feel completely heartbroken, and disgusted all at the same time.

Last night I was scrolling through my Facebook feed per usual, and couldn’t believe the amount of hateful, disrespectful, and just ignorant memes, videos, posts, etc. that were bombarding Facebook over the Alton Sterling shooting. While there were beautiful quotes, images, etc. being shared in his honor, there were far too many memes blaming this man, blaming cops in general, blaming black people, blaming white people, and the list goes on.

While you are allowed to have your own opinion (despite not having all of the facts of this case), and I am allowed to have mine- aren’t we forgetting about the families that are mourning the loss of a son, husband, father, and friend. What about the fact that despite what political stance, opinionated meme you want to throw on your social media, or what have you, there are still people who not only lost their loved one but have to witness it all over the media.

While I find no need to go into who is right, wrong, what the facts are, etc., I do find the need to remind you that there are two grieving families out there who could use your compassion and respect, not you sharing opinionated and hateful posts about the incident.

Imagine if it was your Dad, brother, husband, or friend who was shot and killed. Use your social media for the good, not for bashing this, that, and the other one. Have respect for a grieving wife and mother, kids who just lost their dad, and a frantic girlfriend (in regards to last nights shooting).

Yes,  we need to do something different. Things need to change. But maybe that can start with you, right now. Remember what you post online says a lot about the person you are behind that computer or phone.

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Treat Yo' Self: Balance Is Major Key

 

When I was growing up, my Mom was always pretty chill about letting me stay home from school occasionally. If I didn’t have anything crazy going on with tests or sports, she let me have my ‘mental health’ days as we liked to call them. If I was feeling overwhelmed, extremely tired, or just had that feeling of ‘I absolutely cannot sit in classes all day today’, she let me bail.

I would take those opportunities to lay in my bed all day reading, binge watching Lifetime movies, or hanging out with her. And although I’m not here saying ‘skip class’, ‘skip work’, ‘ditch your responsibilities’, I am here saying that taking a ‘mental health’ day is important every once in a while.

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Take a lesson from Tom and Donna from Parks and Rec who on the show take one day to ditch all responsibilities, stress, and worrying about how much everything costs to indulge in the things they love (mainly shopping). They have a point, why shouldn’t we take one day a month, or even one day a week to stop worrying over the little things and go get that pedi we’ve been wanting so badly?

It’s all about balance. 

All work and no play, makes us all super overworked, overtired, and no fun to be around. We can’t make work 100% of our lives, and we can’t make taking care of every one else around us 100% of our lives either- balance, balance, balance.

Buy yourself a bouquet of flowers you love, get that shirt you’ve been dying to buy, lay in bed all day and binge watch Orange Is The New Black, read a really great book, sleep in until noon. The list is endless of how you can indulge in this ‘treat yo self’ way of life. The most important part is that you leave work and your worries behind, and do something that will make YOU happy. Because this ‘mental health’ day is all about YOU.

Sometimes we need to take a back seat, stop fixing everyone else, stop pushing ourselves so hard, and just take a day to enjoy life a little. Whatever that means to you-do it. There is nothing wrong with taking a day for yourself. You don’t need all of your friends to ditch their plans to enjoy a day like this. Because remember, it’s about treating yourself not others.

As the summer months keep rolling in, balance is key (insert key emoji here). We have cookouts after cookouts, traveling to do, work to keep up with, and although it can be a really fun time, it’s also a time when we tend to burn ourselves out. So, remember to take a day for you and treat yo’ self.

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So It’s Gonna to Be Forever, Or It’s Gonna Go Down In Flames

Whether you’re young, middle-aged, old, love is always a part of our lives. Chasing love, lust, desire, ‘the one’, the one night stand, the one you can fix, the one that’ll break your heart-constantly chasing. But it’s a chase, a game rather, that we can’t seem to get enough of.

He doesn’t text, we mull it over for days. She dodges you in the halls, you decide to make her jealous with another girl. You fight like a war is about to break, and yet you can’t break away from each other. The game of love can either feel like a paradise we’ve been waiting to reach our whole lives, or like there are flames swarming through the home we built, and we can’t seem to get out of it.

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The best kind of love is when you can take away the lust, the one night stands, the fixing, the control, the jealousy, the fighting-and just love. But, not all of us are lucky to find that the first time around, or the second, or the third. For some reason we don’t learn from our mistakes, we can’t take the blinders off and realize how toxic a relationship is until it’s broken us down to pieces.

I’ve been there, we all have. Not only is it a hard thing to admit when a relationship isn’t working, but it’s even more difficult to pull away from said relationship.

We all want to be loved, but at what cost? When you’re personal freedom, success, and dreams are thrown to the side for a toxic relationship, is it worth it?

I’d say, no. But I’ve also been in the haze of not realizing that a relationship wasn’t really going anywhere towards paradise, but rather towards those flames (the bad kind, that burn your shit to the ground).

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So my point? My advice? Don’t let the game of love destroy YOU. You’ll know when the right ‘one’ comes along, but until then focus on your success and most importantly, your happiness.

There is no rule that says you need to chase a failing relationship no matter what, that you don’t need to be with your significant other because it’s ‘comfortable’, or because you know nothing else.

Sometimes people turn out to be something we never even imagined. They lie, cheat, and steal our happiness when we thought they would create a happily ever after for us. But, that’s okay. Because whether you believe it or not, life goes on even when you have to let those people go (and usually goes on for the better).

So, let the rain pour down, wipe away the flames, and do you.

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Bow Down To The Alpha Females In The Room

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Until I reached my 20’s, I never really thought of myself as an ‘alpha female’. I mean, I’ve always been independent (insert Destiny’s Child lyrics here), I’ve never relied on a male (unless it was my awesome Dad), and I’ve always done what I wanted to do. I’ve always been shy, timid at times, and yet some would call me ‘intimidating’, and boys wouldn’t talk to me because of that. I had issues in relationships because I wanted to do me, and wouldn’t let any jealous boy get in the way of that. I wanted to accomplish goals, travel, experience the world, and I didn’t need anyone to hold my hand through it. 

Now, I realize that although people (manly boys) were intimidated by my independence, it’s one of my best assets-one I won’t let go of for anyone.

The ‘alpha’ female in me has grown and changed throughout the years, sometimes wanted to break down and give up, but has always stayed and pushed me through some seriously rough times. It’s broken the barriers between wanting to reach my goal and being too afraid, allowing me to just go for it no matter what happened in the end. It’s allowed me to never settle for a relationship that weighs me down, but rather one where I can have an equal counter part who allows me to be me. It holds my head up when others question my decisions, and gives me the strength I need to keep pushing.

Being an independent, ‘alpha’ women in today’s world is generally more accepted than it once was, but there are still people (men and women both) who think it’s a negative trait for a woman to have. Luckily, myself along with the other strong women in the room don’t give a sh*t what ‘others’ say, and won’t settle for the basic essentials in life.


Alpha Females are; strong, leaders, independent, goal oriented, driven, and know how to stand up for themselves.


I think these women are forgotten in the midst of everyone craving that beautiful, Instagram model with 1M followers, and other ‘assets’. These women get pushed aside while the men are congratulated for all of the successes, pay raises, and for sleeping with X amount of women (yea I went there).

But, we’re still here. We’re still pushing for what we want out of this world, we’re still aiming high. And maybe that doesn’t align with the cookie cutter life that women are told we’re supposed to have. Maybe that doesn’t fall into place with having 2.5 kids by the time we’re 25, and staying at home to take care of those kids. Maybe there’s a lot more out of this life that we crave than a white picket fence by 30.

So, here’s to the ‘alphas’ in the room. Here’s to the ladies that strive for more no matter the circumstances, and no matter the obstacles that they face. Here’s to the women that are leaders, who show that if you are driven and determined you will succeed.

And if you are one of these women, applaud yourself. Don’t let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t be a leader, that you shouldn’t want more, that you can’t have all that you want.

Keep striving, keep reaching, don’t quit.

Experiencing 'All The Feels': Why Being 'Sensitive' Is Okay

For some of us, ‘sensitive’ is one of those words people use to describe us. Along with hot mess, emotional, and a few others I’m sure. We may seem ‘too sensitive’ to others, and naturally feel bad about ourselves when people explain us in that way. However, if you fall under this category of being labeled ‘too sensitive’ (like myself), I say GOOD. Why? Because that means you care. You care deeply, wildly, maybe sometimes a little too much, but at least you care. Whether it’s about your friends, family, job, significant other, pet, you feel what they feel.

You probably are an extreme people pleaser, a little crazy at times, and when someone hurts you, you feel it just a little bit harder than the average person.

New Girl nick miller emotional all the feels so many emotions

I get it, I’m there with you. If your loved one is hurt, you hurt with them. If your dog has to go to the vet, you feel like you’re walking into a horrible doctor’s office with them (okay, maybe that’s just me…). And when someone throws shade your way, you have a hard time taking it lightly.

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It’s a tough personality trait to deal with. We’re ‘too sensitive’, but then appreciated when we’re the only one’s there for a friend in need. We’re a ‘hot mess’, but then a welcome shoulder to cry on. We can’t seem to win, but that’s okay. Being sensitive, emotional, it makes us who we are. We can relate to our peers better, we can understand one another better (most of the time), and naturally have more empathy for others.

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But, let’s not get these characteristics confused with bat shit crazy. If you’re constantly stealing your boyfriends phone and scrolling through his texts, you’re not being a hot mess, too sensitive, or overly caring, you’re being insecure. Know when you are experiencing ALL of the feels too much, and when you need to push yourself out of the emotional chaos you’ve created. Know when you’re people pleasing is actually just turning into getting yourself walked all over. Know how to maintain the balance of wanting to please everyone but also needing to please yourself.

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My advice?

Continue to be your emotional self, be vulnerable, take others under your wing-but don’t forget to think about you.

It’s okay to care (a lot), but remember that you matter as well. Let others take care of you every now and then, pull back from certain situations if they’re exhausting all of your energy, and keep in mind that you don’t have to be the saving grace every time. You are just as important as everyone else.

The Art Of Not Settling That Goes Beyond A Bad Relationship

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I’ve realized a lot about life in the last couple of months since moving my life to Boston and starting my new job. Here are a few things that I have learned; I am not by any means a morning person, Boston traffic makes me have terrible road rage, I am a caffeine addict whether I want to admit it or not, and finally with a record eight feet of snow in the Bean I have learned to parallel park and never leave my spot open to the Southie savages.

However, if we take a more serious turn down the everyday life of this recent college grad, I have learned one very valuable lesson. Never, ever, under any circumstances should you “settle.” Now that I’ve said the big no-no, let’s talk about what it actually means to settle. When most people hear the term “settle,” they normally think of never settling for a bad relationship. But this goes so much further than that, and lucky for you I’m here to enlighten you!

In my experience, the act of settling goes so far beyond your egotistical sh*tty boyfriend. You could be settling for the wrong friend, apartment, roommate, job, or even that crappy cup of coffee you keep getting every morning. It goes to every aspect of your life. Once you have realized that little piece, you’re surely on the right track to fixing whatever it is that you are stuck in.

The dictionary definition of the word “settle” is:

1. To appoint, fix, or resolve definitely or conclusively agree upon (as time, price, or conditions)
2. To pay, as a bill
3. To migrate and organize
4. To cause to take up residence

Now, at a glance many of these definitions, if not all, don’t seem to take on the negative connotation that society has seemed to give to the word “settle.” However, being the English major that I am, I cannot let the deeper meaning here slide past me.

What I see in these four definitions is the lack of choice. They are all about paying back, resolving on something, or agreeing upon it. Where is my choice?! I don’t want to conclude my morning with a crappy coffee. I want the choice to argue and get a better one. I don’t want to resolve my work issues by telling my company exactly what they want to hear. I want the choice to stand up for myself, and have my opinions be heard (in a polite manner of course, I’m not trying to get fired here).

What is the best part of all of this you may ask? We absolutely DO have a choice. The real trick is whether or not we decide to take it or not. So, I urge not only myself but everyone to take the leap of faith and stop settling. Your friends (including mine) don’t want to hear you complain about your awful desk job, your sh*tty boyfriend (who probably thinks he’s great), your boss who won’t give you the time of day, or that crappy cup of coffee.

So, let’s do something about it. If you find yourself settling, stop it. Quit now while you’ve realized you’re doing it. If you haven’t realized it, here are a few ways you might be able to tell:

1. You complain obsessively to anyone that will listen, but it’s been six months and you’re still in the same commitment. (I.E Low paying desk job with an irritable boss, boyfriend or girlfriend who doesn’t give you the time to day, etc.)

2. You say more negative things about yourself, significant other, job, etc. than you do positive. Aka you’re a serious “Negative Nancy”

3. Simply put, you’re not happy.

If you are ever these three things, you are absolutely one hundred and ten percent settling for whatever commitment you are in. It’s probably eating you up inside, and it has completely taken over your day to day life.

If you’re waiting for me to give you a magic answer or waive a wand to make you break your settling ways, you may as well stop reading right here. I have no answer for you. As I sit here writing this I have realized that I too am settling in my life. But do not lose hope, because I have compiled a short list of steps that may help both of us break this cycle.

1. Settling for a bad boyfriend/girlfriend or friend and you’ve realized it?

Ask yourself why you’re still in the relationship. Are you gaining anything from it? Are you happy with him or her? Do have fun with him/her? Do you want to brag about them? No? Then dump them (yes, you can break up with friends too), you’ll live. You’ll even find your new happy self-emerging once you’ve made the decision to do it.

2. Settling for a downright awful job where you are not appreciated?

(I AM I AM). Well, like me you may not be able to quit immediately. But, you can definitely spare an hour, get your resume sparkling again, and shoot out some e-mails! What have you really got to lose? It’ll be hard, time consuming, and tiring BUT isn’t being challenged better than settling? Just say yes, please.

So, I beg and plead for you to join me in making a plan of attack. End this rut of bad relationships, bad food, bad jobs, bad books, bad coffee, End it if not for yourself, but for your poor friends who are tired of hearing how awful your boss or boyfriend is. We can’t walk through our lives in a haze.

Broaden your horizons! Travel, experience great food, go to a new museum, try a new profession, ANYTHING that will cut the ties that hold you to your past settling self. We should be happy, challenged, and excited. Of course there are bad days even when you’re doing something that you love. But at least you’ll have a fun job, loving significant other, or a really great coffee to drown your sorrows in when that happens. Realize it, learn the art, and stop settling.

How I Learned To Cope With Grief Through The Loss of My Pet

On this day last year, I lost my best guy-my 100lb lap dog Buddy. Not only was he a gentle giant, he was the most fun-loving dog you could ever meet. And while I was teaching him to; sit, give paw, and not drag me down the street while on his leash, without even knowing it, he was teaching me how deeply I could love. He was giving me invaluable life lessons that I didn’t even realize a dog could teach us, until he was gone.

When cancer took my  best friend’s life May 16th, 2015, I finally knew what it meant to be completely heart-broken. I had never experienced that feeling before, despite losing other loved ones in the past. It felt like our time was cut way too short, like I couldn’t go back to my parents house if Buddy wasn’t going to be there to greet me, and like I had been stripped of this bond that no one could understand.

Buddy’s passing was the first time I didn’t shove the grief down so far that it would be locked away tight, with no key. It was the first time I let myself crumble and actually feel the sadness, heartbreak, and anger that came along with losing him.

It feels like I’ve attended more funerals than the average 24 year should, having lost a lot of loved ones and friends throughout my teenage years. But in those situations I would shove that grief down as far as possible, and not speak about it. I wouldn’t share my sadness with anyone, and would just let it all turn to anger.

However, Buddy passing (and this crazy amazing dog in general), made me realize that it’s okay to feel something. It’s okay to talk about them, to miss them, to cry about it (a lot), and to reflect on all the really amazing times you had together.

Who knew it would take a really goofy golden retriever to teach me something so important?

So, if you’ve lost a loved one (even a pet), understand that it’s okay to truly grieve that loss. It’s okay to cry in the middle of a get together because someone mentioned their name, it’s okay to laugh really hard after remembering that time he got on the counter and ate half a batch of chocolate chip cookies, and most importantly-it’s okay to not feel heartbroken forever.

Of course today, I miss Buddy with every piece of me. I miss him rushing at me when I go home to see my parents. I miss him sitting at my feet snoring and having puppy dreams. But I also know that I had an amazing ten years with him, ten whole years that I will forever cherish.

No one dog will ever replace Buddy, but I know that it’s okay to continue having other dogs in my life-even if I know our time together won’t be forever. Because it’s the memories that you build while you are together that truly matter.

My giant lap dog passed on a lot of life lessons (whether he knew it or not), but I’m most grateful that I was able to learn how to actually cope with loss and the bad times because of him.

When the brunt of the grief has passed, don’t forget to remember all of the lessons learned, the amazing times you had with your loved one, and all of the pictures and memories that you will be able to take with you wherever you go.

Because how can I not smile when I look back on that face?

 

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