Friday, March 18, 2016

On Body Image

I have been debating this particular post since the day I created this blog almost two years ago. This is a sensitive subject for me. I want to preface this post by stating I am not writing about it for attention, for sympathy, or for any sort of recognition. This is something I have struggled with for as long as I can remember. I am not proud of some of the things I've done, but I do not want to be ashamed anymore. I am writing this to hopefully bring comfort to anyone struggling with it. With that said, I'll begin discussing my battle with body image.

The lowest point in my life was also when I was at my lowest weight. Moving away from home at 18 was supposed to be exciting, but for me it caused a great deal of anxiety that eventually spun into the darkest thoughts I've ever had. I felt out of control of everything around me. I was insecure, timid, and frankly, lost. The one thing I knew I could control was what went into my body.

It began with the decision to become a vegetarian***. I was proud of myself for restricting my diet. The more restrictions I placed on myself, the more control I felt over my life. This pattern led to me barely eating, except maybe one thing a day. And if I did get something to eat, I would eat half of it and throw the rest away. I slept all of the time. I felt like shit. I have always been thin, but this weight loss was out of hand.

What kills me about reflecting on this point in my life is that I truly believed I didn't deserve to take up space. I literally shrunk myself down. I bought into what other people believed I should look like. I often received compliments on my long, slender frame. I don't blame anyone else for the problem I had. We do, after all, tend to value thinness. What makes me mad is that I didn't believe I was worth more than the way my body appeared to others.

As a kid, I remember looking down at my stomach and being repulsed by it. I liked my arms and my legs because they were thin, but my stomach? No, it was disgusting to me. How dare I have fleshy bits? Why couldn't my stomach be flat? I berated myself daily about it.

This vicious and poisonous cycle led to my disorderly eating, or lack of eating. This began about 8 years ago, and I feel I have made some huge strides since then. I will admit to not having a totally great relationship with food. I do not deprive myself of things, which is good. I still battle with negative thoughts and the whole "I've got to cover my stomach because it's horrible" thing.

What sparked my urge to write this post was a boudoir inspired photo shoot I did recently. The pictures are something I will always cherish, mostly because this particular shoot focused on the body I have grown into as a woman. I'm not as thin as I was at 18. I have put on a little weight over the last few years. Let me make it clear that it is not lost on me that I am still thin. I am aware that I have a long and slender frame. What's more important is that I have a healthy, functioning body. The weight I have gained reminds me that I am getting a little older, a little curvier. And that's what happens sometimes. We all have different bodies and there is no such thing as one being better than another.

There are still some days when I beat myself up about how I look, but then I remember all of the things I like about my body and I calm down a little. I hope that someday I can look in a mirror and be completely satisfied. It gets better and better every year, but I am working on making sure the toxic thoughts diminish completely.

I think that as young women, we are conditioned to tie our physical presence with our self worth. We are objectified regularly and relentlessly, which leads us to self-objectify. I am telling you about my struggles with my body image because I know for a fact that someone, somewhere reading this is going through a rough time with their own body image. And that is simply unacceptable to me. This constant battle is exhausting. I'm exhausted. I want to wrap my arms around any woman struggling with this right now. It doesn't really matter if other people call you beautiful if you don't believe it. The most beautiful women in the world still struggle with insecurities. This is so much more systematically complicated.

The media we give into is what influences our thought process. There is no such thing as a perfect body type. This "perfect body" concept is literally something our society creates. The good news is that since it's created, that also means it can be changed. So, I'll continue to work on my own body image. It's been a long and difficult process, but I'll never stop trying. I'm doing it for me and I'm doing it for every woman I know.  I'll be damned if my future daughter ever hates her body. She will always be told that her body is strong and capable. She will also always be told that she is worth more than what her body looks like. I will not allow her to be confined by the concept of being a "pretty girl". I will tell her that she is intelligent, she is thoughtful, she is hilarious, she is captivating, and she is the entire universe. Everything about her is perfectly enough.

I look at it like this: How would I talk to my five year old self? There's a quote that goes, "Be who you needed when you were younger." Would I body shame her? Of course not. So why should we be doing it now? I don't have all of the answers, but I know I'll never stop learning to accept and love myself exactly as I am. I hope the same for you.

Until next time,

***I do not blame vegetarian/vegan diets for my body image issues. I actually admire anyone with these lifestyles. Save the animals. :)

Friday, January 1, 2016

Lookin' Good, 2016!


Not to be terribly cliche, but I have to write about how excited I am for this upcoming year. I felt an overwhelming amount of positivity yesterday and it's still here today as I write this down.

This is not to say that 2015 wasn't a great year. It truly was. On January 1st, 2015 I was in Florida, wondering where my life was heading. I was only daydreaming about what the year would look like.

So many of those daydreams became a reality. I'm back in the city I have called home for a long time. I'm pursuing my academic goals. I'm making it on my own the way I have been wanting to.

2015 consisted of making new friends, visiting new places, moving, conversations, heartache, anxiety, laughter, new family members, independence, and so many other wonderful and awful things. Some days, good and bad, are ingrained in my mind forever. Some people came into my life while others left. I am letting go of any sense of control I think I might have.

I have accepted that happiness is not a reasonable goal. Instead, I strive for wholeness. That means I welcome the challenges and the bad times along with every moment of happiness that occurs. I think it's important to allow yourself to feel everything that happens to you.

I am lucky enough to have people in my life who remind me what I'm capable of when I often forget. My mom wrote a letter to me not too long ago, reminding me of how proud she is of me, my passion, and my determination. It's moments like this that keep me going when I feel run down and discouraged. I am feeling inspired and more driven than ever.

With 2016 finally here, I cannot wait to see what else I can learn. Happy new year, my friends. It's gonna be a good one.

Until next time...

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

15 Things I Learned in 2015

I know everyone always says this, but how has another year passed us so quickly? It's safe to say that everything in my life is completely different than it was this time last year. I still vividly remember last New Year's Eve and thinking to myself, "This year will be a good year." Well, I have had some downs along with my ups, but all in all, I've learned a lot. And with 2016 approaching in only a few weeks, I thought I would reflect and write to myself about all of these lessons. In no particular order:

1. You are more than capable of going after the things you want. Even on your saddest nights, you still have a fire inside of you encouraging you to pursue your dreams. You often doubt yourself, but something is still pushing you. Just keep going. Keep surprising yourself.

2. Speaking of surprises, allow others to surprise you. Do not hold expectations and let things unfold as they should. Appreciate the moments you have with the people you encounter. You never know what you might learn.

3. Forgiveness is the greatest gift you can give, especially to yourself.

4. You are not obligated to spend time with people who drain your energy or make you feel bad about yourself. It is possible to care about them from a distance.

5. There are no limitations to femininity. You can be both strong and soft. You can enjoy being outdoors and buying makeup. You can like The Godfather and The Notebook. Never, ever let a guy define nor limit your femininity. You are a badass goddess and don't you forget it.

6. True love is still a huge question mark in your brain...and that's okay. You know what it used to feel like. The goal is to wait for what it can feel like now. (Hint: It shouldn't break your heart.)

7. Being kind will always be more important than being right.

8. You can think you know exactly what you want, but what you want can change. This is normal. Don't beat yourself up about it. Just be honest about your feelings and things will shake out.

9. Taking long walks while listening to music is the best therapy of all time.

10. Not everyone is going to hurt you. Don't be afraid to seek solace in others. Keep opening up and letting people in. Deep down you know it will be worth it.

11. Submitting your writing to be published was a huge accomplishment. Not only because it was actually published, but because you were brave enough to submit it in the first place. Be proud of yourself for sharing your words.

12. Whatever you do, whether it results in laughter or tears, that makes you feel alive... keep doing it.

13. Never say never. You did karaoke this year. Whatever next?

14. You may be a work in progress, but you are also a damn masterpiece in your own right. Do not be ashamed of the mistakes you have or will make. You are still worthy of love and acceptance.

15. Don't be so hard on yourself.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Fashion & Psychology

It seems that the most opportune time for me to return to this blog is when I should technically not have much time to do so. It's Dead Week here at my university and it's called Dead Week because a small piece of you dies on the inside around this time each semester. As you may or may not know, I decided to become an undergraduate (again) to pursue a degree in Psychology. Being out of school for a few years and in the "real" world allowed me to forget the absolute torture of finals. So, like any average student, I've been procrastinating this afternoon with naps and the internet.

As I have been busy with lectures and final assignments, I thought it might be nice to write about something other than Psychology. I do love it, but my brain can only take so much research and statistical analysis. Earlier this evening, I stumbled across this gem of a documentary by Alexa Chung for British Vogue.


Clearly, I have a never-ending love for anything Alexa does. She has been in the industry in one way or another for over 15 years. Her inquisitiveness and passion for the industry are evident in this documentary. It reminded me of how I felt as an 18 year old sitting in my apparel lecture halls. We were presented with a video of a runway show on the first day of one of my first apparel lectures. I still remember how my heart rate quickened at the sight of couture pieces gliding toward me on an overhead screen. I particularly love this documentary because Alexa explores the complexity and attainability of the fashion industry. Once a party for the elite, fashion week now features swarms of famous bloggers and celebrities. Though this has admittedly irritated me in the past ("Who do they think they are?"), I did eventually realize that fashion is for everyone. It is not some sort of secret club that can exclude others from being special. 

As I mentioned, fashion is for the people. Fashion and society will be forever intertwined. Apparel History was, and forever will be, one of the best classes I have ever taken. You can trace economical and social changes from how our way of dressing has changed over the years. This documentary sheds light on different job opportunities. Yes, fashion can provide "real" jobs to people. Most importantly to me, this documentary sheds light on how this industry is not as frivolous and shallow as people are led to believe. As an apparel major, I often felt I had to justify my area of study to people. I was told that I seemed too smart to be a fashion major. Whatever that means. Little did my peers realize, my apparel program was connected closely with a minor in business. I did learn a lot about design and textiles, but I also learned about brand management and marketing. To further justify because I can't help myself, the particular program I was a part of encouraged an incredibly well-rounded education of apparel and treated it as a business. Business may seem a more practical route, but that does not mean fashion design is any less credible. Fashion is a multi-billion dollar industry for a reason, no? 

I became exhausted with the justifications and admittedly became a bit pessimistic about finding a job I would like in the industry. I lost a large amount of the passion I once had four years prior. Granted, I still love clothes. I still walk into stores and analyze the way they have merchandised their products. And documentaries, such as this one, stir up the love I have for fashion. My choice in dress has been an outlet for me my entire life. It is connected with my identity, my creative freedom. Sometimes I think, "What will I wear once I work in an office setting?" and then go about buying cute sweaters like I'm already there. Fashion has been a comfort to me my whole life. Knowing that I get to decide how I wish to be perceived is a powerful feeling. On a more collective scale, fashion produces revolutions. Remember the mini skirt? And I do love a good revolution. 

My absolute favorite part of this documentary (other than staring at Alexa and her clothes) is her interview with Carolyn Mair, who teaches psychology in the context of fashion. As a current student of psychology, these two industries obviously (!!!) go hand in hand. I love observing and analyzing human behavior. It is human behavior to decide what you will wear. This seems so obvious, but it is seldom discussed. I don't think I should have to explain how great it feels to realize there is some sort of cyclical pattern in my interests and studies. Once again, fashion has awakened and inspired something in me. That is why I will always love it.

Until next time,

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

On New Beginnings

Happy September, my friends.

It is finally the cusp of my favorite time of year. September through November fill me with more joy than I could ever attempt to verbalize. I have always been an Autumnal person. I am naturally drawn to warmer shades, thicker textures. I am usually made fun of for trying to wear sweaters in June.

I love the Fall because she teaches me. Around this time every year, I feel a shift inside of me. I feel things changing within me in unison with the colors changing on the leaves.

You see, changes have always been difficult for me. I value planning and knowing what to expect. A sensitive person, especially someone as sensitive as I am, desperately needs to have some sort of solid ground to stand on. I have mentioned before how big life changes trigger my anxiety and panic attacks.

I crave new experiences, yet I am left with the growing pains as a result. This, I've realized, is a good thing. I watch the leaves bloom into their various shades of red, and they bravely face their fate to fall to the ground. They die, and eventually are reborn. That is the lesson I must learn over and over again when it comes to facing my own fears. I have actively chosen to pursue my dreams, and it has scared the hell out of me.

I hope I continue to push myself. I hope I continue to surprise myself. I hope that with each step of my life, I bloom a little brighter, only to be faced with another fear to work through. I never want to become complacent or too comfortable. I only wish to grow, even with the pains, so that I can continue to share what I am learning.

If you have any blog post topic requests, don't be shy and please let me know.

Until next time,

Thursday, May 28, 2015

My Thoughts On When Things Don't Work Out

It feels like it's been about a million years since I've been on here to share what I have been thinking about. There are many things that are about to change in my life and I can honestly say that I am anxious, excited, and scared like hell. I have been working toward a specific goal for a couple of years now and things are finally beginning to unfold the way I have wanted them to. Although big life changes can trigger my anxiety and panic attacks, I am more than ready for this next step in my life. I am looking forward to what the next few years have in store for me. Mostly, I feel like I am doing the right thing for me and it feels great.

Ever since I graduated from college a few years ago, I have felt like my life path has led me all over the place. I have done a lot of thinking and reflecting on what these years and paths have taught me about myself and the world around me. I can't help but wonder where I would be if certain dreams of mine had come true. I wonder what my life would be like if I had never moved to Chicago. I wonder what my life would be like if I had stayed in certain relationships. I wonder what my life would be like if I had never left my hometown. I have left so many places and people, but I know that at the end of the day I have to do what's best for me. Sounds selfish, right? Maybe it is. However, at this moment in time I can say that I am proud of myself. I have made several mistakes and made some messes along the way, but I have continued to follow my intuition and learned to speak my mind. I am continuing to grow into who I am becoming and I like who she is.

So maybe some of my dreams didn't come true. I thought I knew what I wanted, but it obviously wasn't meant for me. I am at peace with the fact that what is meant to be in my life will be and whatever isn't meant for me will find it's way out of my life. As far as a situation, all I can do is try my hardest and the rest will fall into place. Hard work does pay off. As for people, all I can do is meet someone half way. If someone wants to stay, they will find a way to stay. Otherwise, it is not meant to happen. I have been completely heartbroken over situations that didn't happen for me, but now I am able to see why they didn't. Dreams don't always come true, but I have always found another dream.

I guess what I want you to take away from this is if you're going through a tough time right now, I promise you it's going to teach you a lot about who you are. You will be thrown into situations that will ultimately make you a stronger and better person. It has taken me a long time to understand this. I have been lost in a fog more than once and I did a lot of stupid things to escape that feeling. I advise anyone reading this to not repeat my mistakes. I have always enjoyed being alone, but I have felt lonely many times. I challenge you to embrace your solitude. It turns out that spending a lot of time on your own can remind you of what it is you truly want to do with your life. There are a lot of dreams living inside of you. Find a dream and chase it.

I hope this helps you feel a little better.

Until next time...

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Some Ways To Help Reduce Anxiety

Hey friends,

As you may or may not already be aware, I have struggled with anxiety from an early age. I have discussed my anxiety a bit on here before, which I will link here, but I still find it important to continue educating myself on how to manage it. I have come up with a list of things I do when I feel  anxiety creeping in. I also took some photos to accompany the list because I've found looking at pretty images helps reduce my anxiety and allows me to daydream of happier things.

Light a candle. Lighting affects our minds and moods more than we realize. I prefer natural daylight during the day. Fluorescent lighting truly gives me a headache, so I have to get outside as often as I can. At night, I like turning on my little lamps and lighting candles around my room so that my brain understands that it is finally time to unwind. If you find that your anxiety levels are already pretty bad and you cannot fall asleep, then get up and get out of your dark room. Turn on a light and read until your eyes feel heavy and then turn the lights off. Forcing yourself to lie in the dark while your mind is consumed with anxious thoughts will only worsen the situation.You will begin thinking about how much sleep you are losing and how tired you will be the next day and it perpetuates your already anxious mind. It's best to just get out of bed and do something until you are tired.

Take a bath or shower. The entire process of drawing a bath is soothing to me. I don't take them that often, but when I do I feel more relaxed. I usually opt for a shower and I make sure to slather myself  with lavender oil afterward.
Listen to music that soothes you. Whatever music calms you down and helps you feel tired is the best. I distinctly remember falling asleep to Iron & Wine when I was 19. Music that your soul feels connected to will help heal you in ways I can't even begin to describe. I just know that any time I am feeling blue, I turn to music. It's my favorite escape.

Focus on a small task. Whether it's making a cup of tea or washing the dishes, give yourself something to do. I mentioned this in my original anxiety post, but it is very important to focus on the present moment when you struggle with anxiety. One of my favorite quotes is, "If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present." Focus on what is in front of you, on every single thing you are doing in this particular moment, and remember that the things you are dwelling on are not happening. You are in this moment and you are safe.

Color. Grab a coloring book and zone out with colored pencils and crayons. Get wild and use a paint set. Coloring is said to help naturally reduce stress and I find that it helps me calm down. There are even coloring books for grown ups now, like this beauty I found at Barnes & Noble. Really any sort of creative endeavor is good for you. Any outlet that allows you to channel all of your anxious energy into something productive is worth doing.

Read a book. I know, it seems silly to suggest this, but it is the easiest way to transport yourself into a different world for awhile. Put down your phone and your iPad. They will only make you more anxious. Snuggle up with a real book and get lost in the words you are reading. You will more than likely fall asleep, which is what always ends up happening to me, but at least your mind can be at ease for a while this way.

Watch a movie. I sometimes watch an old Disney movie, like Cinderella, because I am apparently still a child. In all seriousness, a lighthearted film can really help you feel better. My go-to movie for when I'm feeling particularly anxious is Breakfast at Tiffany's. I have mentioned this before, but I am mentioning it again. The opening scene of a peaceful New York City street, the beautiful tones of the cinematography, all of it takes me to a place I want to be when I don't want to be where I am. Not to mention Audrey. Someone's voice can really calm a person down and that is exactly what Audrey's voice does for me. The best part is Holly Golightly mentions her own struggle with anxiety, calling it The Mean Reds, and it's nice to be reminded that you are not the only one feeling this way.

Get outside. I personally like to take walks or go on a long, aimless drive. But really any sort of outdoor experience is good for a person. I spend a lot of my time alone because I enjoy my solitude, but I enjoy it even more when that time is spent outdoors. I feel so much more connected to what is real and what is important. There is nothing more grounding than feeling dirt or water under your bare feet, reminding you that you exist and that everything is going to be okay.

"We often forget that we are nature. Nature is not something separate from us. So when we say that we have lost our connection to nature, we’ve lost our connection to ourselves."
 Andy Goldsworthy

I hope this helps.
Love, Amelia