Happy 2019, everyone! It still doesn't sound like a real year to me, but I'm sure I'll come around to it after a while.
Have you made any resolutions yet?
We hear "new year, new me" every single January, and it's hard not to get swept up in that bright, shiny, new feeling. Naturally we feel like we're getting a chance to start fresh, and so we make these grand plans to transform into our best selves. With one caveat...we seem to expect it to happen overnight. Isn't there some statistic about how most fitness resolutions are abandoned by February? How many beautiful, loudly proclaimed resolutions are left behind just a few weeks after the new year begins?
Don't get me wrong, I'm undeniably guilty of this. I can't tell you how many things I've started without finishing...I'm a chronic project starter. One year, it was my "happiness corner" (a giant makeshift desk stocked with Play-Doh, coloring books, crafting materials, you name it). I wanted to create a place I could retreat to a rough day and have some real, childlike fun.
Don't get me wrong, I loved all of those things. And for a while, I really enjoyed my happiness corner. But it was just that. From work to home to everything in between, I had only provided myself a single corner for happiness. It was like I was using washi tape as a band-aid for the real problem: I was deeply unhappy with my life. I wanted a place I could escape to, to avoid the issues that were plaguing me. And instead of gripping the problems and pulling them up to see the roots, I was decorating the space around them.
So after a little time passed, my precious happiness corner sat...in a corner. Bright patterned bins filled with stickers and journals collected dust instead of memories. Clay that was once soft and malleable grew hard and unforgiving. The solid, wooden desk top that I once refused to go near with food or drink became littered with water rings and scrapes from plates. My happiness corner was no longer sacred, because I didn't view my own happiness as sacred. So after a while, I found the real solution.
I truly listened to myself.
The thing no one tells you about listening to yourself is that it might prompt you to make some pretty drastic changes. Once you hear what's going on inside, you can't ignore it any longer.
I left a job behind that came dangerously close to burning me out; I was perpetually sick, and the Sunday scaries had turned...well...scary. I refused to put myself through that for a single day more. I could find another job, but I couldn't find another body, and my body suddenly seemed like something worth protecting.
I left a city behind that had served its purpose, because I had overstayed my welcome. I enjoyed my time in college, but in that city of bright lights and loud music I could feel my identity slipping away. I still loved Nashville, but I was no longer meant to live there, and I had to come to terms with that.
Eventually, I left my self-doubt behind. This one took the longest; it had been a poisonous presence in my heart and mind for years, and I could feel the dull ache intensifying in my gut every single day...until I stopped pretending it wasn't there. I stopped avoiding situations merely because I couldn't control them, or that they were difficult, and I began to take chances on myself. And I'll tell you one thing: that first look at yourself once that miasma of self-hate has evaporated makes every bit of blood, sweat and tears worth it.
I do have a point, I promise. I used to make a lot of New Year's resolutions. They were usually to the tune of "do yoga every day" or "read at least one book every month." Those are still admirable goals. But I don't use them to cover up the real bad stuff anymore. Learning to do crow pose won't help me if I come home crying from work every day. Picking up the latest bestseller won't truly transport me if I'm longing to be anywhere else but here.
So if you make just one resolution, consider this one: "I will listen to, and trust, myself, because I am worth the effort."
Don't limit yourself to a corner for happiness this year. Fill up your entire life.
If you've ever browsed through any content in the health and wellness community, you've seen those hashtags:
Make no mistake, you've seen them in my posts too. It's a simple concept that a lot of strong presences in this community voice. Natural is good, and "unnatural" is bad.
Easy enough, right? To most people, it makes sense that putting something in or on your body that was created in a lab isn't nearly as beneficial as something straight from nature; it's not a stretch to then believe that those same unnatural ingredients could even have adverse effects. The only issue I have with this idea is when it crosses the line into obsession.
Not even half a year ago, I had quite the complex about this. To me, #natural was the gospel. I had slowly transitioned all my skincare and makeup over to "non-toxic" brands. I worshipped at the altar of natural facial oils. The thought of eating something with artificial flavors or high fructose corn syrup literally terrified me. Whenever anyone else talked about how they felt sick, a horrible little voice in my head would say "it's because of the junk they're subjecting their body to!" I was right. I was superior.
And I was miserable.
To be completely honest, I was a mess. My skin, which has been a constant uphill battle my entire life, was breaking out worse than it had in years as a result of my non-toxic facial oil routine. My all-natural makeup compounded the issue. I didn't have all the joy or energy I was led to believe an all-natural lifestyle would bring me. Most of the time I actually felt guilty, as if it was my fault that the non-toxic lifestyle wasn't living up to expectations. I was doing everything right...so why wasn't it working? Was it just me?
It wasn't until I took a step back that I realized I was so focused on "natural" that I had stopped focusing on healthy.
I had been so fixated on keeping toxins out of my body that I'd somehow allowed them into my mind. I was so low, it was difficult to find the passion or even the willpower to post any photos. Anything I put on Instagram would feel like a complete lie. My impossible standards for "clean living" weren't helping me. They were hurting me.
So...I just stopped. It wasn't doing me any good to wear makeup that was ruining my skin and was honestly just not as effective, so I started using some of my old "toxic" brands again. I remembered then how much I used to enjoy doing my makeup! Same for skincare, back to the dermatologist-recommended basics...which are technically considered "toxic." And I decided that once in a while, I could have some of my favorite sour gummy candy. Even though corn syrup was the first ingredient.
And guess what? My world didn't come grinding to a halt. I'm still here. And I finally feel okay.
We hear all the time how important moderation is. It's easy in theory, but decidedly more difficult in practice...especially if you have the tendency to get obsessive about diets or routines like I do. But no amount of junk food or chemical-laden makeup could ever make me feel as bad about myself as sticking to a routine that clearly wasn't doing me any good.
(I feel like it needs to be said: this is by NO MEANS an attack on natural products. Some of them are great! And it is important to know what's in your food. But when it gets to the point that everything in your life has been sorted into either "non-toxic" or "toxic," a dangerous line has been crossed. Especially if you continue to follow that lifestyle in spite of the damage it's causing you.)
So if you take anything away from this blog post, let it be this: you are not obligated to adopt a lifestyle that causes you pain or discomfort, especially if you're feeling guilted into it by outside influences (I see you, Instagram). Your sole obligation is to do what's right for you. If that means only using natural products, that's great! If it means getting a few cheap lipsticks at the drugstore because they're cute and they stay on for 8 hours, you do you. At the end of the day, the only person having to answer for your life choices is you.
I owe it to myself to do what's right for my body. And so do you.
If there's one thing you need to know about me, it's that I'm stubborn.
Most people think that's a bad thing, but honestly, it's one of my favorite traits. Stubbornness doesn't always mean resisting change- in my case, it's what's driven me to better myself. I want something so bad that I won't give up until I get it.
I want to tell you about a young woman I knew a few years ago. She treated her body like it was disposable- she ate foods that made her feel sluggish and sick, and "a good night's sleep" was a concept with which she was unfamiliar. "Fitness" wasn't something she ever believed she'd achieve; she didn't know where to start, and she didn't care enough to find out. She wasn't happy, because she didn't think she deserved happiness. She was embarrassed about the way she looked and felt, yet she kept letting her anxiety and self-doubt grow and grow. A small voice inside her cried out "you're worth it, please love yourself," but she didn't listen.
Until one day, she did.
She signed up for personal training, she stopped eating the "comfort foods" that were draining her health and energy, and she started to listen to what was going on inside. She said goodbye to the people and negative self-talk that were weighing her down, and she felt lighter. For the first time in a long time...she felt happy.
You may have figured out by now that I'm talking about myself. When I think of my life not even two years ago, it's like I'm looking at a different person. Since that time, I've lost weight, and my eating habits have drastically changed. I even started meditating and developing a spiritual practice. The "me" from two years ago never saw herself trying any of those things, let alone succeeding. But that pesky personality trait- my stubbornness- finally started working in my favor. I let go of the fear and doubt I was holding on to so desperately, and grabbed onto self-love instead.
Today, I feel full of light. I have begun a journey to heal myself from the inside out, and it's been a pretty wild ride so far! I'm learning to listen to my body and mind, and care for myself in a way that's never been possible for me. I am my own biggest cheerleader and fiercest protector. I am a priority in my own life, because it's the only life I have and I want it to be a happy one.
Looking at photos of myself from "before" is still difficult. The woman in the photos looks and feels like a different person- I have almost nothing in common with her.
But she was me. She just didn't know it yet.