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.

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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)

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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?

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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

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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”

On Death and Healing

As I wake up each morning, I don’t check my phone or reach for the TV remote. The first thing I do is notice how bright the rays of sunshine are as they creep in through the slats of the blinds. I notice the small piece of blue tape on one wall that indicates how far the bathroom door will slide. I notice how large the suite is, the brightness of the white walls, and the clarity of the mirrored closet doors. I notice all of this first because, you see, this room was not designed for me. I did not pick out the carpet color, the tiles in the shower, or the light fixtures, nor were these decisions made on my behalf when the designs were finalized. This suite was mapped out, constructed, and designed from bottom to top for my grandmother, my Nana. Continue reading “On Death and Healing”

How To: Communicate with Someone Who Speaks a Different Language

I could list a number of possible ways to communicate with someone who speaks a different language: learn their language, ask someone who knows both languages to translate, use hand gestures or point, play charades, etc. I attempted each of these, and sometimes I was successful. (I should win an award for my performance of rake, just sayin’.)

Although, my favorite way to communicate is a simple, effortless gesture: smile. Continue reading “How To: Communicate with Someone Who Speaks a Different Language”

A Foreign Concept in a Foreign Land

I’ve been camping a handful of times with a friend’s family, but I never lasted longer than 3 days. Not because I couldn’t hack it, but I’m sure self-doubt was hidden in there somewhere. During those times I learned how to put up a tent, and take it down. I learned to live without technology (although the dependency was not quite as crippling 10 years ago). I learned how to fall asleep to the whistling of the wind, and awake with the sunrise. I learned these things as a teenager, but just like my high school trigonometry, I quickly forgot. Continue reading “A Foreign Concept in a Foreign Land”