Confession from a Former Teacher

Being a former high school teacher, my three years of experience does not compare to the time that my colleagues, teacher friends and family, even my parents, have invested. However, in my three years, my school went into “lock-down mode” quite a few times to keep our students safe when someone had escaped from a nearby mental health hospital, or when police activity was high in the nearby neighborhoods.

 The thing about lock-down mode is that we (the teachers in the classrooms) never knew what was going on until after the lock-down had been lifted. Being the only adult in a classroom full of teenagers during lock-down is terrifying. Every. Single. Time. (The “what-ifs” running through my mind, plus my classroom was the first accessible one off the main courtyard.) But that terror must never show, because they look to you when they’re afraid.
Advertisements

New Year. New Goals. New Blog. Same (Passionate and Hopeful) Me.

We claim that “new year’s resolutions” are hopeless, typically broken by day three. And more recently over the past few years, we discourage others from even thinking about making resolutions, publicly doubting not only their efforts, but their intentions, mocking their “inevitable” failure.

I want to alter your perspective, even for just a moment. The concept of a “new year’s resolution” that we know today is meant to act as a promise that we make for ourselves; to start fresh with hope and love in our hearts. We reflect on the year that we had, the memories that we made, and the journey that we endured – both good and bad – and then we make new (or renew old) goals for the year to come. This type of reflection is natural, and the start of a new calendar year helps us to make marks while on our journey. Continue reading “New Year. New Goals. New Blog. Same (Passionate and Hopeful) Me.”

Envy vs. Appreciation: The Necessary Distinction

(Part 2)

(Read Part 1 Here)

During the brainstorming process of creating the 21-Day Body Positive Challenge, I went back and forth with the inclusion of social media. Millennials are targeted as a generation of narcissism, specifically regarding their social media accounts. Body positivity requires focusing in on oneself, loving oneself, and sharing that self-love with others. So, I was trying to decide if I wanted to feed the negative criticism of others – is it just another “look at me” post? But then I realized that I’m doing exactly what the nay-sayers want – I’m immediately looking at the world with a negative perspective. Sure, those nay-sayers will always be there, but why should they dictate what we chose to put out into the world?

 

Once I crossed the bridge of including social media in this challenge, I had one more hesitation to work out. It is easy to fall into a downward spiral of self-loathing and envy while looking at others’ photos…

I love her hair. I wish mine could look like that.
I want to be toned like that fitness model.
I wish I could eat whatever I want and not gain a pound like that celebrity.
Look at all the places they travel. Must be nice to have that kind of money.
Wow, that looks like a fancy party. I wish I could live that kind of life.
Why are Chrissy Teigen’s stretch marks so much cuter than mine?

When you focus so much on what others have that you don’t, that “wish” will turn into a serious case of envy before you know it. Then all the courage it took for you to post that no make-up selfie is destroyed because you got a glimpse of Alicia Keys without make-up. Or the desire to bring healthiness back into your life is ruined because you paid too close attention to the “inspirational photo” of 12-pack abs that lays in the background of your new fitness routine. How can I look at photos of other people, and not want their lifestyle, their bodies, their wealth? How can I put my vulnerable self out there?

We cannot let this no-good-very-bad sin of envy demolish our self-worth. I may want the height of a supermodel, but it’s literally not in my genes. I may want to throw a private party on a yacht in the south of France, but my part-time job at Starbucks and the massive amount of school loan debt will prevent this from happening anytime soon (unless I win the lottery or marry a very rich man, both unlikely considering I don’t play the lottery, nor am I currently dating). Sometimes, what we “want” is out of our control. And instead of putting ourselves down because we don’t look the way we want, or have the things we want, we should be grateful for what we do have. We have to work on loving ourselves for who we are, and reminding ourselves that God made us in God’s image.

Stop comparing. You are enough.

its-when-we-turn-anothers-abundance-into-our-own-misfortune-that-we-must-be-wary-1

Instead of being envious of others, we can appreciate them. It’s good to appreciate the beauty of another, to recognize the happiness in their smile, to praise them for their accomplishments. It’s when we turn another’s abundance into our own misfortune that we must be wary.

Social media is a great avenue to show others the love we have for ourselves and for them. We just have to be vigilant in our reactions, and prevent ourselves from comparing our lives with another. After this distinction between envy and appreciation has been made, then we can continue to spread our joy and happiness to the world.

Stay body positive, my friends.

Sláinte! (with water, of course)

It Takes 21 Days to Make or Break a Habit

(Part 1)

21 days. I’ve spent the last 21 days working on positively changing the ways that I look and think about myself. I made it a habit to love myself, and broke the habit of thinking poorly about myself.

i-dare-you-to-take-the-challenge

Keep in mind the purpose of a challenge: to take you out of your normal routine and to push you further than you usually push. It helps you become aware of what you do throughout each day of the challenge. And a short time frame is important because it makes the challenge both manageable and achievable.

First of all, I definitely encourage you to try this challenge. It’s only 21 days! Not convinced merely based on the time frame? I’ll give you a little more perspective.

On Day 1, I had to take a selfie. Once the photo was taken and I reviewed it, I started to mentally point out my flaws and the things that I didn’t like about myself. I could only view myself in a negative light.

My skin is blotchy.

My hair is a mess.

My eyes look weird, and those bags under them don’t help.

But, I then realized that this is exactly why I needed to take this challenge. I was hopeful that at the end of 21 days, I would be able to see something new in myself.

I was excited to move through each day, even though some days were more difficult than others (that no-makeup selfie was a struggle). But not only did I see a change in the way I thought about myself, I also saw a change in the way I viewed others. I applaud those who post selfies, not for the likes, but because they are purely happy and want to share that happiness. Also, I noticed my internal comments about them moved from envy to appreciation (more on this in Part 2).

I’d have to say that, of all the challenges, focusing on my posture was the most difficult. The number of times that I found myself slouching were far too many in just one day. It is so important for our health to hold our shoulders back. Because I was so terrible at that, I started to work on my core so that I can hold myself better. I’ve certainly seen a difference (as long as I don’t stand next to a ballerina). Not only is this good for your core and your back, it’s also very good for your confidence. Holding yourself up shows others the confidence that you have in who you are and what you do. So keep those shoulders back!

This challenge is worth the time and effort. Most days don’t last longer than a few minutes, and some just give your normal routine a twist. Life won’t end if you miss a day, so if you do, just double up. The important part is to commit and stay committed. Take a step out of your comfort zone, and challenge yourself. The only thing that you have to lose is another day of hating yourself. Change the way you think about you, and it will change the way you think about others.

day-1
Can I see a difference? Absolutely. The difference is in the way I see myself, not how I look.

Sláinte! (with water, of course)

21-Day Body Positive Challenge

Having a positive sense of self has never been a strength of mine. In fact, my introverted personality developed because of low self-esteem. While growing up and well into my twenties, I struggled with perfectionism, thinking that the way I looked, what I thought, and how I acted should be done in a certain way. And, in my mind, I always fell short. My low self-esteem negatively affected my relationships and how I perceived other people. I compared myself to celebrities, models, classmates, strangers; those who were thinner, smarter, prettier, wealthier; those who had toned arms, clear skin, fashionable clothes, and higher grades. I saw myself as “not good enough.”

It wasn’t until graduate school that I was exposed to a different way of thinking about myself. I became very interested in Ignatian and Holistic Spirituality. I recognized how perfectionism was holding me back, and I worked through the “shoulds” that I placed upon myself. I gained a greater sense of self-awareness and self-worth. My thesis focused on Jesus’ commandment to love God, and to love your neighbor as yourself. My eyes had been opened to the importance of self-love, and the impact of self-love on relationships. How we view ourselves has a direct correlation with the relationships that we form and maintain.

In the years following graduate school, I have tried to continue practices in self-love. I will admit that it isn’t always easy. I still struggle with moments, days, weeks of low self-esteem. But, I also work on new ways to love myself.

I share all of this with you – not because I’m fishing for pity or compliments – because it’s in our shared experiences that we can relate to one another. Low self-esteem is an epidemic, especially in our digital world. We compare ourselves to other people, and become envious of what we don’t have. Instead of embracing ourselves for who we are and how God made us (in God’s image), we wish, hope, and pray to change the unchangeable.

Today, I encourage you to change the way you think about yourself. I dare you break the habit of putting yourself down, and to make a habit of loving yourself. Once you see the positive side of who you are, you will begin to see a difference in your relationships too.

I like to be a woman of action, so I’ve designed a 21-Day Body Positive Challenge. For me, Day 1 starts today. What are you waiting for?

i-dare-you-to-take-the-challenge

Sláinte! (with water, of course)

The Joseph in Us All

As we approach Christmas in less than one week, I can’t help but reflect on the Nativity Story and what Mary and Joseph went through leading up to the birth of Jesus. Only two of the four Gospel accounts tell us about the birth of Jesus, and there are some significant differences between the two. In fact, the Nativity Story, as you may know it, is typically a combination of the two Gospel accounts. In the Gospel of Matthew, an angel appears to Joseph (not Mary), and the Magi and King Herod play a large role, ending in the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt to escape the slaughter of baby boys in Bethlehem. In the Gospel of Luke, Mary’s cousin Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah make an appearance, along with the angel Gabriel approaching Mary. We hear from shepherds (not Magi), Jesus is circumcised and presented in the Temple. To reconcile the differences, people have combined the two stories, and so Nativity scenes include both Magi and shepherds, angels appear to both Mary and Joseph, and Jesus is found laying in a manger. Continue reading “The Joseph in Us All”

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Advent

empty-manger-night-side-view-60387879

Growing up, Advent had been “just another season” in my Catholic eyes. I always received some sort of Advent calendar which moved me through the days, counting down until Christmas. I knew that the main colors were purple and pink, and sometimes Christmas tree green and Poinsettia red. I did not correlate the season of Advent with having to “wait” for Christmas. Sure, the connection is easy to make now, but it wasn’t important enough for me to truly understand when I was younger. Recently, I’ve been reflecting on the meaning of Advent (and of course, Christmas). When I work at Starbucks, I am inundated with Christmas décor and music. As I watch my beloved Hallmark Channel, I see Christmas movies 24 hours a day. When I go shopping for necessities or groceries or gifts, the stores act as a constant reminder that Christmas is almost here. With Christmas all around me, I noticed that it is quite difficult to focus on Advent.

But is it really that difficult? When I tried to explain Advent to myself (stop laughing at me), I thought of this: Advent is like the preparation of a surprise birthday party. You know, that time that we have when we’re waiting to pop out and yell, “SURPRISE!” We’ve seen the birthday decorations; we know the theme of the party; we know many of the guests; we already purchased and wrapped the gifts. All we’re waiting for is the guest of honor! So, there’s that excitement and joy and hope that the surprise party is well-received. However, we also have to endure all of that waiting, which seems to take FOREVER (or approximately four weeks) when we’re crouched down behind the couch. (Just imagine how long the Hebrews had to wait!!)

Continue reading “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Advent”