Falling For Myself

I have never been the type to be fully comfortable in my own skin.  There has always been a laundry list of things that I would love to change about my appearance tucked away in the back of my mind.  Whenever I’m having a rough day I can recite the things I dislike about myself as readily as if I were being asked to recite the alphabet.  My almost non-existent shoulders, my lazy eye, my nose, my not-so-white teeth, my round face, my thick and often unmanageable hair….

The list goes on and on.

I have also never been the type to like to admit that I have insecurities.  But then I guess no one is.  I hide my insecurities under a smile and makeup, hoping that if I do it just right it will somehow imitate the confidence I seem to have lost so long ago.  It’s gone on this way for a few years now, and it could probably go on for a few years longer.  But what way is that to live?  Who wants to live in fear of mirrors and transparency their entire life?  I make money telling young adults that they cannot live this way, yet I have made it a habit myself.  I have become a hypocrite, and coming to that realization was so incredibly hard to swallow.

I have been my greatest enemy, constantly letting the whispers and expectations of society fill my ears until they get to my head and the lies dance around in my mind.  I let myself lose control over my self image, and in doing so I let the idea of confidence fade away until it was nothing but a nice yet unattainable concept.

It was time to go to war with myself.

When I look in the mirror and feel the urge to look away, I stare myself down instead.  I dare myself to think a negative thought so that I can shut it down and replace it with the truth I have been denying myself: that I am enough.  When I am afraid to look someone in the eye for the fear that they might see right through me, I instead silently dare them to look away first and make sure that I flash them a smile (after all, I’ve always had a brilliant smile).

It isn’t easy to reverse the negative, false image of myself that my mind has so generously created for me.  But it’s something I have to do, and something I will continue to strive to do every day of my life.  I owe it to myself.  If I choose to wear lipstick, it is for myself.  If I decide to wear no makeup and wear clothes that are dangerously on the border of not matching, I will smile because I know I’m doing it for me.  Maybe it’s selfish, and that’s okay.  Because if I can’t be happy with who I am, if I can’t look in the mirror and like what I see, then I’m doing something wrong.

If we as individuals cannot learn to be kind to ourselves and appreciate the things that make us unique, if we are unable to fall in love with ourselves all over again every day, then how could we ever ask or expect that of anyone else?  Or even more importantly, how can we give that kind of love and acceptance to someone else if we deny ourselves it?

Treat others the way you would want to be treated, but also remember to treat yourself the way you would want others to treat you.

-SM

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Tasty Tuesday

Today is all about two of my favorite ‘S’ words: smoothies and salmon!

With two jobs, school, and Bible study two nights a week I have a lot of appreciation for easy, yet delicious recipes.  My husband and I are three months into our marriage and until this past weekend still have had yet to use the blender my mother gifted to us at my bridal shower.  I was so excited when I got it, because it was the same Ninja that my parents have at their home so I knew exactly how easy yet effective it was to use.  So after months of collecting dust on our shelf, I finally took it down and decided to try some smoothie recipes I had found on Pinterest.

I knew that making homemade healthy smoothies would mean they wouldn’t taste like Jamba Juice, but I was still very disappointed after my first smoothie making attempt.  The second day I did a little better, but it wasn’t today until I decided to try to make my own recipe on the spot and hope for better results than the past two attempts.  I was so happy with the results that I actually felt myself break out into a huge smile.

This recipe isn’t anything special, but I figured if I posted it I would never lose it, and also it might help anyone who is new to the art of the smoothie like I am.  The measurements I used were for one serving.

Breakfast Smoothie: (I couldn’t think of a more creative name on the spot)

  • 3/4 cup milk (I used 2% since it’s all I had, but any kind would do)
  • 1 Tbsp. plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 of a fresh banana
  • 1 handful frozen strawberries
  • 1 handful frozen pineapple
  • Chia Seed (however much you like)

Since I used frozen fruit, I didn’t feel the need to add ice cubes, but feel free to add ice or anything else to achieve the desired consistency.

Finding a smoothie I really like is a big deal to me because I am one of those people who have fallen into the horrible habit of skipping breakfast on a daily basis.  I don’t have enough time in the morning to make myself much of anything, and I typically don’t even feel hungry in the mornings.  However, as soon as I sit at my desk at work I instantly regret skipping the most important meal of the day.

In addition to a quick breakfast, I also appreciate a quick dinner recipe.  My favorite at the moment (and my husband’s favorite as well) as a quick salmon recipe.  This particular recipe only calls for two seasonings and takes no longer than 25 minutes to prepare.

Ingredients:

  • salmon fillets (2-4 depending on how many people you are feeding)
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  While the oven is preheating, place the salmon on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Sprinkle the chili powder and salt evenly over the meat side of the salmon (if you prefer skinless salmon as I do, simply sprinkle over whichever side is facing up).
  2. Once oven is preheated, bake the salmon for 20 minutes.
  3. Once salmon is finished, place a few paper towels on a plate and transfer the salmon from the baking sheet on top of the paper towels to remove any extra oil.
  4. Serve with a side of choice.

As with the smoothie recipe, experienced cooks who are used to dealing with salmon probably wouldn’t even glance at this recipe.  However, for someone like myself who doesn’t have a lot of cooking experience or a lot of time to make gourmet meals, this recipe is perfect.  Also, it tastes absolutely amazing.  When I’m in a hurry I usually make frozen veggies to go with it, but it goes well with almost any side!

This is my first “Tasty Tuesday” post, but as I continue to come across or come up with quick and yummy recipes, I will definitely be sharing them.  Enjoy!

-SM

You Are Enough

Dear Son/Daughter,

You are enough.

Plain and simple.

We live in a world that wants you to feel worthless.  Our society will constantly tell you that if you reach a little bit further or try a little harder you might finally reach the illusion of perfection.

Please believe me when I tell you that perfection is not something that can be attained.  We are imperfect people living in an flawed world.  But also believe me when I tell you that life does not have to be flawless to be wonderful.

If you are female you are constantly being fed the lies that you are not pretty enough, not feminine enough, not thin enough, not tall enough.  If you are male you are being told that you are not masculine enough, not tough enough, not strong enough.  Regardless of who you are you will be told that you are not smart enough, not cool enough, not outgoing enough.

You will be told that you are not enough.

One of my biggest fears is that you will believe these vile, loathsome lies.  However, I know that everyone will feel that they are not enough at some point.  It’s inevitable, and it absolutely breaks my heart to know that there will come a time when you will start to believe that you are less than enough.

You are enough. You are more than enough.  I want to speak this truth into your veins so that it flows throughout your being and is as real to you as the air that you breathe.

You are so worth loving simply because you exist.  You are beautiful because you are you.  There is no one else like you, and there never will be.  You can spend your whole life chasing after a perfect image that you will never reach.  Some people waste their days away trying to be something that they are told they should be but they never will be.  That kind of life can drive you mad.

The truth is that there are days when I feel that I’m not enough.  And there will be days when you feel that way too.  On those days we have two options.   We can choose to give in to society’s demands and make ourselves miserable trying to be something we simply were not made to be, or we can choose joy.

I hope you remember that nothing is worth it if you are not happy.

I hope you choose joy.

I hope you know that you are enough.  Because you will always be enough for me.

-SM

Because We Don’t Have Time

I haven’t written anything for a while, and to be honest, I had to try really hard to convince myself to write right now.  It’s easy to blame it on being too busy, because it’s definitely a hectic time of year for me.  However, I soon started to realize that being too busy was becoming less and less of a fact, and more of a convenient excuse.  It’s true, and it gives me a way out. Sounds like a win-win to me.

The truth of the matter is that I’m not too busy to write.  It’ll take me maybe fifteen minutes max to finish this post.  Yet, I tell myself that I don’t have the time to do it, or that there are more important things that need to be done.  I never really thought about why I find excuses to not do the things I love (partially because I never realized I was doing it), until I read the blog post of a friend of mine this morning.  Her post was about her passion, her absolute favorite thing to do, which is cooking.  As I was reading it I found myself thinking about how wonderful it was that she had something she was both extremely talented at and loved to do.  I caught myself thinking “I wish had something like that”.  Then I thought about this little blog I write on from time to time, and how I used to write nearly every day when I first started it, but now only submit a post every few months.  I love to write.  It’s one of the talents I know I have been blessed with. So, why do I never do it?  Sure, I’ve started a book or two and I run a couple blogs, but soon enough I start to pay less and less attention to them until they’re nothing more than unfinished pages and empty goals. 

Writing isn’t the only thing that I’ve quit on before I really got started.  My first love was music.  I played flute from the age of nine all the way through high school.  I taught myself how to play piano, and in high school I picked up three more instruments.  Yet, as soon as high school was over with it all came to a halt.  I stopped writing songs, the instruments in my house started to collect dust, and my music books were soon moved up to the attic.  I tell myself that the spark was gone.  That it was fun while it lasted, but that it’s not what I want to do anymore.  I tell myself that I just don’t have time.

It’s a cruel and vicious cycle that I have trapped myself in.  Whenever I get passionate about something that I might actually be good at, I run away from it.  I make excuses for myself and push it to the back of my mind.  I don’t think I’m the only person that does this.  Remember when we were little and people would ask us what we wanted to be when we grew up?  We didn’t limit ourselves to what we thought we would have time for or what seemed realistic, we set our goals high.  We were excited to grow up and be what we wanted to be.  How many of us are actually doing the things we said we would?  I bet not very many.  Now of course, we grow up and get a better feel for reality, and we do what we need to do to support ourselves and our families.  That’s okay.  What isn’t okay, is when we stop doing the things we love, the things that make us who we are, because we’re afraid of what will happen if we decide to make a commitment to it.  We become afraid of what will happen if we utilize our talents and try to make something come out of them.  Will people judge us for wasting our time?  Will we not be as good as it as we thought we were? Or even worse: what if we are even better at it than we thought?  What will we do then?  Surely we can’t dedicate any more time to a mere hobby.  After all, we have to work and run errands and do all of the important grown up things we’re supposed to do.  I’m the queen of making excuses to not do the things I love to do.  However, I think we’re not just letting ourselves down when we don’t utilize our talents.  We’re letting God down.  Every single person is blessed with their own unique abilities and qualities that make them who they are.  What if we’re given these talents because we need to learn how to make time for ourselves? Even scarier, what if we’re given these talents because they’re what we are meant to do? 

I’m not saying that I’m going to crank out a book within the next year and a blog post every day.  To be honest, I probably won’t ever write a book and there will definitely be days where I don’t write at all.  But, I’m going to make an effort to make time for myself.  To express myself in the best way I know how: through pen and paper (or, in this case, keyboard and screen).  I challenge you to do the same.  What makes you feel alive?  What’s something that you love to do, but maybe tell yourself you just don’t have time to?  I dare you to do it.  Time is only a barrier if we tell ourselves it is. 

 

A Voiceless Generation

Today as I was scrolling through Facebook while killing some time before class I came across an article that sparked my interest.  I won’t say who wrote this article or what site it can be found on, as my goal is not to call anyone out or start any controversy, but I will say that after getting less than half way through it I was pretty disappointed.  The objective of this article was to advise young adults of mistakes they shouldn’t make in their 20’s.  Turning twenty this year, I thought that maybe I could learn something from this article.  To say I was wrong would be an understatement. 

There were a number of little things I disagreed with, but the one thing that really shocked me was when the author of the article stated that you should avoid falling in love in your twenties.  Here’s a sample of what I read:

Not only does it make you complacent with where you are in life, but it makes you boring.  When your business is at stake and your future is resting on your shoulders, the last thing you need is to be bogged down by an insecure lover rushing you home.

The author goes on to write about testing limits and how just because some of your friends are doing it, you shouldn’t fall into the “trap of a relationship”.  So I naturally jumped to three possible conclusions: 1.) This guy has had a really bad relationship, 2.)This guy watches too many sitcoms, or 3.) This guy just isn’t ready for a serious relationship. 

If the author of this article is not in a place in his life where he wants to settle down and have a serious relationship that’s totally okay.  Good for him!  However, what’s not okay is saying that if you fall in love in your 20’s you’re falling into a trap.  Curious to see if I was the only one that was bothered by this I skipped the rest of the article and read the comments, and saw I was not the only one who was less than satisfied with what looked to be a promising post.  A lot of the comments complained about it being sexist, which I guess in a way it could be, but my reason behind writing this post is not fueled by any feminist angst.  It runs just a bit deeper than that.

My parents got married when my dad was 24.  My in-laws got married when they were in their twenties.  My fiancé and I know plenty of couples who are married and in their twenties.  In fact, every Saturday night I attend a group that is exclusively for couples who are engaged or have been married seven years or less, and believe it or not a good number of these couples were married in their twenties.  You know what’s even crazier?  I’m engaged and I’m only nineteen!  So obviously, all of these relationships I’ve listed are boring and restrictive to one or both spouses, right?

Wrong.  So, very wrong. 

Not everyone should get married in their twenties.  Not everyone wants to get married in their twenties.  So they shouldn’t, and that’s okay.  But what isn’t okay is to write an article that attempts to act as a guideline for twenty-something’s everywhere.  In fact, it’s not okay to write anything that attempts to speak on behalf of anyone.  My concern isn’t just with this article alone, my concern is with my generation letting others speak for them.  Every day on Facebook I see at least one link to an article or blog post with a title along the lines of “10 things short girls hate”  or “8 questions people of mixed ethnicity are tired of hearing”.  People my about my age and younger gobble these things up, they can’t get enough of them.  I’m just as guilty as anyone else, because obviously I was reading this article about twenty year olds for something. Every time I see a post like this that I think I might relate to, I read it. Yet, I’ve found that while these articles can sometimes be entertaining, and on occasion have something I can relate to in them, more often than not I find myself disagreeing with the author. 

So why do we read this stuff?  The bottom line is that people like knowing that they are not alone.  We as individuals like knowing that there are people we can relate to and that our way of thinking isn’t totally wrong.  We need some type of reassurance, and these articles give us exactly the sense of belonging we’re looking for.  At first this isn’t really a problem, it’s perfectly natural.  But what we don’t realize (what I didn’t realize until about two hours ago) is that what these types of posts and articles do is allow someone else to speak for us.  And when we do that, we start to lose are sense of individuality and with that we lose our voice.  We see a post that kinda-sorta relates to us and are so quick to click like, share, reblog, etc. that we don’t even realize that we are letting someone else speak for us.  And this really boggles my mind because my generation, “Generation Y”, claims to be all about individuality and being different. On top of that, we are blessed with so much technology that allows us to do just that: to put our thoughts out there, give our opinions, and speak for ourselves. So why let someone else speak for us?

The author of the article I mentioned at the beginning of this post is not a bad writer. I’m sure that a lot of people probably agree with the things he said. I’m not trying to say that he’s a bad person because he shared his opinion, I applaud him for that. What I want more than anything is for people to have the courage to speak for themselves. To open up and share their ideas and thoughts with the world in a way that is unique to them. Sure, it’s a lot more comfortable and way easier to sit back and let someone else do the talking for us. But do you want to be comfortable, or do you want to be heard?

A Letter to You

I’ve been thinking about you lately.

To be honest, I’m always thinking about you. You may be tucked away in the back of my mind, but there are always things that show up in every day life that act as if their sole to remind me that you are there.

I don’t believe in death the way it is defined. It took me a while to realize what it means to truly die. Just because your body is gone, doesn’t mean that you have to be. As long as people continue to remember you, then your spirit is still alive.

I know that you are still here with me. You are the ray of light emerging from the clouds for just a moment on a cloudy day. You are the smile from a stranger, the breeze that whispers around me.

The day that God took you home I didn’t cry. We were coming to see you one last time, but we were too late. You knew we were there though. I know you did.

I didn’t cry the next day, or the day after that. I felt silly crying, I was only twelve and there were so many people there that knew you longer. They were the ones that earned the right to cry. I didn’t cry until five years later. You see, I was trying to move on, and in doing so I was also trying to forget you.

I finally realized that I was starting to lose you for good. I forgot what your hand writing looked like, I forgot what your laugh sounded like. You were becoming dead to me. You were such a remarkable person, you deserved better than that. I locked myself in the bathroom, turned on the faucet so I wouldn’t be heard, and I cried.

You told me once that when bad things happen to us, we can have one long good cry about it, but then we have to pick ourselves up and carry on. So that’s what I did.

I miss you everyday. I wish you could see us now. So much has changed. But in some ways, so many things are still the same. It’s hard not to imagine what it would be like if you were here.

I had never really felt hate until the day cancer took you away from us. For the longest time I was so angry about it and couldn’t comprehend why it had to claim the life of someone like you.

As I’ve grown closer to The Lord, I know that everything happens for a reason, and you knew that too. Through all of it, you demonstrated such admirable faith and peace that still inspires me to this day.

I rode a Ferris wheel this weekend, and it immediately brought me back to when I was just nine years old sitting next to you. We sat there high above everyone else and talked about everything there was to talk about. Up there with you I was invincible. I never wanted to come down.

It’s memories like that one that are proof that you’re still here with me. I can’t see you, but I can feel you. And I know that you’re safe now.I want you to know that I love you. We all do, and even though we might not admit it, we are thinking of you.

I love you, and I’ll be seeing you.

Finding Real Confidence

At one point or another in our lives, we all develop some sort of insecurity.  When people hear the word “insecure”, they often associate it in their mind with someone being self-conscious of their appearance, whether that be their height, weight, facial features, hair, etc.  Because of this, I often thought that I somehow was invincible to the curse of insecurity.  I’ve been blessed enough that I’ve always been happy with my appearance.  I always figured that if I didn’t like my hair I could cut it, if I didn’t like my height I could wear heels, or if I didn’t like my weight I could exercise more and eat healthier.  However, insecurities run a whole lot deeper than physical appearance.

Merriam-Webster defines the word “insecure” as the state of being “not confident or sure”.  In other words, being insecure means that you are uncertain of that area of your life.  After analyzing this word and trying to figure out how it applies to my life, the answer hit me square in the face via Facebook.  While I may be confident about my physical appearance, I have pretty much zero confidence when it comes to who I am inside.  Now, I know exactly who I am. I know my strengths and weaknesses, so that’s not what I am “uncertain” of.  My big insecurity is whether or not I belong, or whether or not people will accept or like me.  A lot of the time I meet people and they think that I’m really shy or quiet, but as time goes on and they spend more and more time with my they learn that I’m actually not quiet at all.  I’m perfectly okay with talking to strangers whether it be at school or somewhere like the store because chances are I’m not expecting to form some sort of long relationship with them, therefore it doesn’t matter to me what they think of my personality.  The big issue is when I’m trying to form meaningful, lasting relationships.  New friends, family friends, family members I don’t see too often, etc.  Those are usually the situations in which my anxiety really kicks in and I just want to hide in a corner and disappear.  Once I came to terms with the fact that this is in fact a form of insecurity, I have to admit that I felt pretty embarrassed.  I felt like a high school freshman who’s afraid of not fitting in with the cool kids.  But after thinking about it harder, I realized that it really is nothing to be ashamed of.  It’s not as though I want to fit in a worldly way, I’m simply afraid of not being able to form healthy relationships because of the fear that others will not find my personality as dazzling as I would like them to. 

Admittedly, I’m still pretty embarrassed to even be writing about this.  As a human, I’d much rather broadcast my strengths and positive aspects.  So, in an effort to make this a positive post, I did some thinking.  Following that thinking, I did some Biblical research (my favorite kind), and what I found really helped me.  First, I analyzed my issue and narrowed it down to one simple statement: I am afraid of feeling as though I don’t belong when it comes to _____.  I could finish that sentence with a couple different things (friends, family, etc.), so I left it open ended.  Then I did my oh-so-scholarly research by going to Bing and literally typing word for word “what does the Bible say about belonging”.  In the blink of an eye (what a time to be alive, am I right?) my computer was filled with various verses and explanations.  A lot of them had to do with how we shouldn’t desire to fit in with the world or to partake with worldly things, which while that is always excellent advice, I didn’t feel it was applicable to my current lack of self-esteem.  One verse that stood out was this one:

“All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”

John 6:37

I felt some instant relief after reading this, because it serves as a reminder that Jesus has accepted me with all of my sins, flaws, and weird quirks, and that should be all that matters.  Then, it occurred to me that there was something I read in my Bible study this morning that went along with this.  At one in the afternoon, that seven o’clock Bible study seemed like forever ago, but after some searching I found what I was looking for, and the best part was that it was in a footnote that I myself had written this morning.  There at the bottom of my page in my first-grade like handwriting I saw, “God is greater than our self-condemnation.”  The verse I had written this in reference to was the following:

If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.  Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God.” -1 John 3:20-21

To me, this verse was saying that no matter what I may not like about myself or what I have done or will do wrong, I have to remember that if God, who is much greater than us, can forgive, love, and accept me through it all, then I need to be able to see past my flaws.  Once I’m able to do that, that’s when I will be able to have true confidence.  I shouldn’t be so concerned about whether or not people accept me.  When I do this, I cause myself to become closed off and don’t allow others to see the light of God in me.  My main purpose in life should be to serve the Lord in everything that I do, and one of the ways I can do this is to open myself up and greet others with the love and grace that God has shown me. 

Whenever we open ourselves up to others we run the risk of being judged or disliked.  Not everyone is going to like us, and that’s okay.  That is to be expected.  Our goal in life shouldn’t be to win people over to satisfy our own selfish needs, it should be to allow other to see God work through us.  If we are allowing others to see Him at work in us, then we are doing his will, and that is all that matters.

I wish that I could say that all of this is going to allow me to open up and be myself 100% of the time without any speck of fear, but I know that wouldn’t be a realistic expectation.  The next time I’m thrust into one of those situations in which I tend to become withdrawn and quiet my anxiety will definitely kick in and the negative self talk telling me that I’m not good enough will be going on in my head.  However, the difference is that now I know how to handle it, and instead of letting those doubts and insecurities take away from who I am, I’m going to utilize the confidence I have in God’s love for me to overcome those insecurities.  It won’t be easy, it’s something that I’ll probably have to struggle with for the rest of my life, but the good news is that it’s not something I have to face alone.

Whatever your insecurity might be, whether it’s regarding who you are externally or internally, know that it doesn’t have to define who you are or how you go about your life.  Focus on those strengths and traits that you love about yourself and really work on embracing those, and once you do that those flaws that used to seem so huge to you will no longer have control over how you live your life.