Get in on the conversation! To leave a comment, just click on a post title.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Guest Post Group: Star-Crossed Smile's Dressing for Confidence

As part of the Guest Post Group, created by Ashley of Two Eyes in the Mirror, this month I teamed up with Jen and Kam of the closet narcissist to write this guest post!  Thank you for having me on your blog, Jen and Kam!

cardigan and flats- forever 21, dress- target, tights- old, earrings- gift
Jen and Kam's blog focuses on building confidence, so I thought I would share an outfit that I feel confident in.  This is the type of outfit I feel most comfortable in - a pretty dress, a cardigan, matching earrings, and flats.  I can use this formula for an outfit any day and feel confident that I look put-together and cute.

Even though this is a fairly simple outfit, I love the feeling that putting together a cute outfit gives me.  I can be having a crappy day and just getting dressed can make me feel tons better.  It's funny that clothes can have such an effect on us, but I would definitely say that looking 'presentable' on the outside gives me a good feeling on the inside.  Along those lines, starting a personal style blog has increased my confidence by leaps-and-bounds when it comes to what I wear.  They aren't always huge fashion risks that I'm taking, but it's fun to see when I've put together an outfit that I wouldn't even have thought of a few months ago.  

I want to know, do clothes make you feel confident too, and if so, how?

If you are interested in learning more about the Guest Post Group and/or joining, check out this post - it's got all you need to know!  Nnenna is a 21-year-old college student from CA but currently living in CT.  On her blog star-crossed smile, she writes about her personal style and daily life, including a weekly feature on her knitting. 

Thanks for partnering with us this month, Nnenna!!

Be sure to check out our return guest post on star-crossed smile on how we dress for confidence!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Stop whatever you're doing and "LET IT GO"

I don't know what took me so long to post this, really. But maybe it's arriving on your screen just in the nick of time. Maybe today it's just what you need to hear.

I've been a fan of eddy for a while now. I first came across her wedding photos randomly a little over a year ago when my now-husband and I were Googling something along the lines of outdoor-wedding-field-farm, or who knows what...but her wedding was rather inspirational to us as we planned. I then discovered her music and made the connection. It was fate!

I've heard this song of hers several times now, and, I admit, I get a little teary-eyed each time. The message aims straight for your heart, and as you listen, you can't help but believe her. This is the closet narcissist's mission encapsulated in song. She also happens to have a great voice, and the tune is catchy (in the best of ways).

She and I ALMOST made it to a Civil Wars concert together once...we kept trying to coordinate it on Twitter and kept running afoul. One day, maybe we will try again! :)

So, sit back, turn up your speakers…and “LET IT GO.” Listen until you believe it.

So...will you?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mint green, yellow, and pinky-nude lipsticks debuting 3/7!

This is what I am excited about today!!! Is it March 7th yet?!! I cannot wait to add these to my Lime Crime lipstick collection! I'm gonna wear them with abandon and extra confidence, because they are awesome!!

Would you wear mint green or banana yellow? If not, why the hell not??!! lol

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's! (this time from Jen)

Some of my favorite Dove Promises wrappers (click to enlarge) is Valentine's Day. This isn't going to be a sad post, though! Some of you already know that means the anniversary of when my mom died. If you're looking at the big picture, that's not what our blog is about, and I don't mean to drag anyone down by being sad; I know I have been talking about her a lot lately because it's been on my mind even more than normal. However, you also may know from one of my recent posts (you know, that little ditty where I spilled my guts and revealed everything that's ever made me insecure!) that my mom is one of the biggest inspirations I have to love myself. She was that inspiration while she was alive, and she tried SO HARD...she is still my inspiration from beyond, and it actually clicked more, unfortunately, after she was gone. I have always thought it was strangely appropriate that she died on the day of love - because my mom was my first love. She was the first person ever to love me...and the first person I ever loved. :) Her love is pure, true, and unconditional. I've been handling it okay today and am reflecting more on the happy memories.

People are still running across the aforementioned post and leaving comments today...and I just had to say that not only does it cheer ME up on this bittersweet day to read those comments, but it is also a way that you're unknowingly honoring my mom!! She and I are helping encourage some of you as a That's a really powerful thing for me. I know it would make her feel awesome to know that purpose comes out of my pain. I think she does know it!

I also wanted to share the card I gave my hubby for Valentine's Day. He is so respectful of my grief and still gives me little things to show he's thinking of our relationship on V-Day too. I found this card last month and had to get it because it's so wonderfully narcissistic. I also wrote a note in it on the left side, but that's personal. ;) I plan to share more about him in the future...but for now, I just have to say that I got SO lucky finding a guy with such a good heart, personal integrity, everlasting patience, and some of the most beautiful eyes I've ever seen. (If you're reading this...I LOVE YOU.) I once gave him a list of 100 things I love about him, and it was so easy to fill them all out!

Wanna leave you with some inspirational things. However you feel about V-Day, and whether you're single or not, pleeeeease remember to love yourself! There are tons of resources to help you do that. Our blog, the things below, and many more are available to convince you that you're worthy of having a healthy, high opinion of yourself. Refuse to dwell on your singleness and remember that there's a reason for're forming yourself right now, getting ready for new things to come your way. :)

Have you ever wondered, (insert your name here), why most people have less trouble with walking and not falling down, talking and making perfect sense, and breathing without stop, than they do with dieting, finding love, or getting rich?

Of course not, but it wouldn't be a bad idea.

It's because with walking, talking, and breathing (which, incidentally, are infinitely more complex than the latter), they engage the magic with intent and expectation, twitch a few general muscles to get things started, and then, with faith, they turn the rest over to me.
In the second group, they try to do it all themselves.

I rock like that,
The Universe (from

If you're going, "Wha?!" - my reason for posting this is that your ability to achieve self-love CAN become as natural as breathing. It just takes practice, like anything else, as well as expecting it to happen. Unless you have a bad cold (like me), you don't wonder every day if you will just do. So stop wondering if you can feel good about yourself or when it will happen, and just start finding ways to do it.

P.S. If you need some makeup ideas for going out (or staying in - wink) tonight, here's mine!
P.P.S. Make sure you check out KameraWhore's post today on her own love story. :)

First Steps (Kam's Love Story)

Homecoming 1996
The year was 1995. I 'm pretty sure of it. I was an extremely shy 15-year-old girl. Jen had invited me to her youth group, repeatedly, and I had finally given in. I didn't grow up going to church, and my dad, with his witty, crass sense of humor, had often made remarks about the local Baptist population. We were from L.A., California after all. He had grown up Catholic. My mom never even went to church that I know of. At least not regularly. She did attend a Jewish school, though. But only because it offered her the best education.

Frankly, I was very nervous about stepping into this alien environment. My family was spiritual; we loved God and all of his people. We talked about God and religion fairly often. Our conversations, however, were likely very different than the majority of our neighbors'. Much like the lyrics to one of my favorite songs, we simply did not need the church to prove our faith. We definitely didn't need it to cleanse our souls.

Well, I know a preacher, he's a real good man
He speaks from The Good Book in his hand
And helps all people when he can
But me and God don't need a middle man

Well, I found God in a soft woman's hair
A long day's work and a good sittin' chair
The ups and downs of the treble clef lines
And five miles ago on an interstate sign
My God, my God and I don't need a middle man
My God, my God and I don't need a middle man

Now I don't doubt that The Good Book is true
What's right for me may not be right for you
To church on Sunday I'll stand beside
All the hurtin' people with the fear in their eyes
And I thank the Lord for the country land
Just like pa, I thank him for my hands
And I don't know if my soul is safe
Sometimes I use curse words when I pray

My God, my God and I don't need a middle man (repeat)

-The Avett Brothers, “Me and God”

Anyway, back to that Wednesday evening when I took my first step into the church. I was on my way to my very first youth group meeting and was terrified, to say the least. I did look cute, though. A friend who was going with me and I had taken a ridiculous amount of time primping for the evening. I remember exactly what I was wearing. A short, flowing yellow dress that had flowers printed on it. And brown sandals. My hair was fairly long at the time, and I wore it down. I went with a sweet look. And I honestly was very sweet and innocent. I don't remember everything about that evening, but what I do remember would become a pivotal moment in my life. The very moment I would meet my first love.

We were directed into small groups and handed a small, thin Bible. Next, we were told to locate a particular verse, a task that is quite difficult for one that has barely ever held the Good Book. But I tried. I flipped and flipped and did my best to find this verse. I must have been a sad sight. I was obviously lost. I felt like everyone could see how uncomfortable and clueless I was. But maybe it wasn't apparent to everyone. Who did notice was the boy sitting across from me. The boy wearing long board shorts and a plaid button down. Oh, and Converse. He didn't look like he had sat in front of the mirror for too long, but knowing him now, he definitely had.

“You're not going to find it in there.”

“Hmmm?” I think I whispered back.

I remember looking into his eyes. It's a moment that is frozen in time for me. It wasn't a love at first sight moment like in a Hollywood movie. It was...a knowing. Like an I'm definitely supposed to be here right now to meet you kind of knowing.

“It's not in the New Testament. It's in the Old Testament. You don't have it.”

I was mortified. In a teenage girl kind of way. “Why was I here? I don't belong here,” I thought to myself. This was so not me. And now this tall, skinny boy with long hair and a cute baby face was aware that I was an outsider. What could he possibly be thinking of me? Why would they pass out half of a Bible and then ask me to find a verse in the part I didn't have? Why?

The evening went on just fine, and someone eventually found me the missing part of that Bible. I doubt anyone else even noticed. But when you're 15, it seems as if all eyes are on you all of the time.

The top one is his very 1st note to me :)
I returned to that youth group and continued to go for the next three years. I never fully fit in, but that ended up being okay. That boy and I soon became friends. He wasn't much like everyone else either. After a year, we started “going out.” We had our first kiss on a September evening in 1996. We were at the ballfields at a park. We climbed up into score box #9. He asked me, “Can I kiss you?” My heart was beating like mad.

Three months later, we had confessed our love for one another. It happened in the driveway of my mom's house, under a blanket of stars. Next to his white Ford Festiva. A year later, on New Year's Eve, he would be sitting on his knee, for hours, building up the courage to propose. He finally did, in my bedroom at my dad's house. He gave me a ring bought with his Christmas money. Money that he had asked for rather than gifts.

That boy has grown up into a beautiful man. A man that I adore with every part of my being. I thank God for him every day. I was meant to be in that very church, that very evening. That indescribable moment that I looked into his eyes had been destined.

We've been married for twelve years now, and I can't imagine what my life would be like had I never taken that first, terrifying step...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Oh, a-thrifting we will go! (+ my new jeggings!)

Last weekend, KameraWhore and I went thrifting! We went to Goodwill and Plato's Closet. That's all we had time for, but we both had some successful finds. If you're not lucky enough to have a Plato's in your area, I am sorry for you. :( It's a consignment chain that caters mostly to a juniors dept. crowd. Some of the items cost a little more than you might traditionally find in a thrift store, especially if it's designer, but you're almost guaranteed to find something you like and in good condition. Much of my wardrobe has come from there. Another thing I like about it is the ambiance; they have really cute outfit ideas on mannequins and just hanging throughout the store, so you can get some good ideas.

I like the denim shirt over the dress! I'm not sure I'm cut out for wearing belts over two layers, though...
I love the look, but it's not real flattering on me when the material bunches up at the hips. :(

Kam found a pair of super awesome 70s-style plaid trousers. She didn't get them because she just didn't feel like she'd wear them enough, but they looked so cute on her. That can be one of the pitfalls of thrifting - everything is so cheap that it's easy to rationalize buying it, but you can end up with a closet full of things you'll barely wear. You have to really decide what "speaks" to you. She got a few shirts she needed. I got a shirt and a jersey dress. It seems like whenever I go thrifting and spot something I like, it's inevitably from Forever 21. If I see it and like it and grab it, I check the tag, and it happens almost EVERY TIME. In a way, it seems silly to buy thrifted stuff from stores you'd normally buy from anyway, but you know, if you like it, there's a reason.

KameraWhore being whore. ;) And rightly so!

Something else I recently got was...drumroll please...

That's my new fave word! I find excuses to say it. You know I've been wanting Pajama Jeans. Someone suggested I try out jeggings first. I did a quick search online, found some cute ones at Walmart for a whopping $12, and rushed over and bought myself two pairs!! The brand is Faded Glory. I got dark denim and black. Oh, my God, they are amazing! They are so comfortable. I know I'm late to the game here, but I think one reason I didn't get any sooner was because my one pair of skinny jeans is not comfortable and always leaves me feeling a little self-conscious about my hips. The stretchy fabric of these, the pockets, the way they're stitched, etc. make them much more comfy and forgiving. Walmart has really stepped up its game if you know where to look! Here's an outfit from their site that includes the same jeggings I got (they often group whole outfits you can buy at once); I actually think it's really cute and something I'd wear. The ensemble is out of stock now, but you could easily piece something similar together.

So once I discovered the comfort of elastic-waisted jeggings, I knew I had to have some bootcut Pajama Jeans. Forever 21 has bell bottom jeggings, but last I checked, they only have smalls for sale online and none in stores, and I'd need a medium. So I found a pair of Pajama Jeans on ebay...and I WON!!! I am so excited that I can hardly stand it. I no longer fear entering into an old lady world of elastic waistbands...the cut and shape are what matter the most, and actually, flat-banded elastic waists, at least on these jeggings, are way more flattering on me. You don't have the added bulk from buttons, seams, and zippers. These have a faux zipper, faux front pockets (except the teeny one is real, whatever that one is called), and real back pockets that are set at a place that is really flattering to your butt.

So here are the outfits I came up with around my new jersey dress, shirt, and jeggings.
Jacket: Rainbow, Shirt: Forever 21 via Plato's Closet, 
Jeggings: Walmart, Boots: Forever 21, Necklace: etsy

Jersey dress: Old Navy via Goodwill (with tank underneath), 
Sweater Tights: Anthropologie, Boots: Ross, Necklace: ours

After we got through shopping, we went to dinner at On the Border, and it was soooo good. I had fish tacos and accidentally left my leftovers at her house! Sigh. Hope she enjoyed them. But it was rather nice eating a good meal and NOT having to feel the discomfort of my jeans button denting into my full tummy since I was wearing jeggings. Then we watched almost three hours of Celebrity Ghost Stories on TV and spooked each other silly. There were two stories where a ghost had suddenly popped up in people's rearview mirrors, and normally I don't think seeing a ghost would scare me, but I made VainShane (Kam's husband) walk me to my car and then talked to my husband all the way home!! haha All in all, a good night. :)

Are you already on the jeggings bandwagon? How about Pajama Jeans? Why or why not?

And how do you feel about ghosts in your rearview? ;)

Monday, February 7, 2011

How to turn around your self-destructive thoughts.

I just sent an email to my new pal, Ashelle from Pink Beautiful Love, and I realized when I was about to send it that it sounded like the makings of a new post. So here you go!

As you may know, especially if you've been in an abusive relationship, if someone tells you something enough times and for long enough, eventually you'll believe it.

Well, the good news is, this works for the things YOU tell yourself too. This goes hand in hand with what you were saying about the "fake it til you make it" mentality. When you act confident and when you tell yourself that you ARE some point, you can't help but BECOME more confident. Instead of listening to the lies in your mind that you're not good enough, flip those around as soon as you "hear" them into something better. "I'm not worthy of X" becomes "I am so grateful that I am worthy of X." "I wish I were more X" becomes "I'm so glad I'm X." Act like you already ARE/HAVE X even if you don't think it's true yet; soon, you will. It's a very powerful turnaround in phrasing that truly can make all the difference. Changing the tape recordings in your mind that play over and over is vital to changing your perception of yourself. 

I actually went to hypnotherapy somewhat for this. I did two sessions, one on letting go of fears and one on letting go of the anger I had after my mom died. I had a half-hour of counseling and then a half-hour of hypnotherapy each time. Let me first dispel any myths you may have about hypnotherapy. It's not like what you've seen on TV where they make someone quack like a duck. You're not actually in a trance; you're just in a SUPER relaxed state where your subconscious is penetrated more easily. My hypnotherapist also put my sessions on CDs for me in mp3 format, and now and again, I'll still listen to them as I'm falling asleep. So when I say that I know firsthand that telling yourself something over and over again until you believe it works...I know what I'm talking about! You do have to believe that it's going to work, though, or it probably won't; that's fairly true of anything in life. You have to be accepting and open to it and allow it to do what it's supposed to do.

flickr photo by AXEHD

A BIG thank you, thank you to Medicinal Marzipan for featuring my extremely-hard-to-write-but-necessary post, Jenarcissist Bares All: A History of Insecurity, in her latest Body Loving Blogosphere for 2/6/11. This is where she does a roundup of blog posts about self-confidence, and let me tell you, there are some especially good ones in this edition! I've recommended her blog to y'all at least a couple times before (see that Body Image Warrior badge in the sidebar too?) - our two blogs have somewhat similar goals behind them but with different presentations. She writes beautifully, and I just know you will relate to her and instantly feel more validated and self-assured just from reading her blog!

And another BIG thank you to Ashelle for discussing my post on her blog as well and being raw and open in her own right as she talked about it. I know it wasn't that easy for her to do either, and I commend her for doing it anyway. She is bravely facing some difficult stuff right now, but it is going to soon lead her into a new and better perception of herself. I, for one, am kinda excited to sit back and watch it happen. ;)

Over the last week or so, I've been doing a lot of searching around the net for posts about self-love in general. Marzi, please don't think I'm trying to copy your roundup, lol, but here are a few that I've found that really spoke to me (one of hers is included in the list too). But do please make sure to check out the ones she lists in her roundup too! (I've started trying to involve myself more on BlogHer, and I'm amazed at the quality of writing and content you can find there; their Own Your Beauty campaign [see other sidebar badge] is phenomenal and I'm sure is opening doors for girls and women everywhere.) (one gal's willingness to post a real swimsuit photo and confront all the hard things associated with that) ("On Not Being Afraid of Your Own Ambition") 

My wish for you is to start your week off ignoring the Monday Blahs and treating yourself well and telling yourself good things about who you are. 

What is a reoccurring thought you have about yourself that you are now deciding to turn around?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Jenarcissist Bares All: A History of Insecurity

Sounds like a TV documentary, right? Or maybe a Pay-Per-View special? :) This is maybe the ultimate test of my bravery and willingness to be vulnerable on here. As our blog project is still relatively new for a lot of you, so far, we've kept things largely general. I guess we wanted to kind of test the waters and see what kind of response we'd get before exposing all our greatest hurts and insecurities! For all that we preach self-confidence, there is, of course, something very difficult about baring your soul on the internet where anyone can happen upon it. 

Also, though the main purpose behind this project called the closet narcissist is to promote self-love and make you more aware of how utterly incredible you are, sometimes we also just like to be girly and have fun. Kind of like when a heavy movie has a bit of comic relief now and then to keep you from getting bogged down. Our heavier posts, though, have still not gone too deep into who we are personally, just touched on it some. We're still hoping for more survey responses (HINT, HINT!!), but everyone so far has responded that they'd like to see more personal posts about us. I'm honored that you deem us worthy of getting to know better! 

I recently read two blog posts about women who are living in a state of self-loathing. One of them in particular actually made me cry. I couldn't believe how beautiful she is and the fact that she thinks she is ugly. So in the off-chance that what we have to share about our own experiences will actually help someone rethink the way she views herself, goes. This is not going to be short; that would be impossible. 

Just to be perfectly honest, I really am not relishing doing this; it's forcing me to remember a lot of things I'd rather just forget. Many have had it worse than I did by far, but I'd rather just dust some of these memories under the rug...and yet, they are part of who I am today, part of the puzzle that is me. I tend to be wordy, and I will try to get in all the important details without keeping you here all damn day. ;)

Age 7 or 8?

I was always told I was pretty, but I didn't always believe it. I can remember feeling insecure about my looks even before I started kindergarten, as I would get frustrated with my hair not doing what I wanted and threw my hairbrushes in fits of anger, breaking them against the wall. My mom finally threatened to stop buying me new ones if I didn't stop. I remember feeling self-conscious in kindergarten later on when I got a short haircut and didn't like it, and it was time for school pictures, and I thought the world was coming to an end. When I was 8, I thought I was too fat and begged my mom to take me to the doctor to see what could be done about it. She thought I was crazy and took me to the doctor in hopes that hearing the doctor tell me I was okay would make me feel better. Looking back, I guess I'm lucky I never succumbed to an eating disorder, having been so concerned about my appearance so young, but it never crossed my mind at the time. I think it mostly stemmed from playing the comparison game ALL girls seem to do...walking into a room, you scan for other females and subconsciously stack up your looks to theirs and internalize it. I had friends who were skinnier than me and must have assumed I was fat since I wasn't as small as them. 

I have no idea where I got any of this from. Neither of my parents EVER exerted pressure on me to be perfect, inside or outside. It was all self-imposed and apparently just part of my inherent nature. So it's something I've spent most of my 30 years fighting.  Up until fairly recently, I lived in a state of self-induced guilt and tortured myself with perfectionism, not just over my looks but more over things I did, needing to measure up to my standards. But I won't say all of this completely consumed me all the time. I actually had a really happy childhood and thrived on it! I had a lot of friends and supportive parents, and I was always CREATING something. One cool part was I loved to express myself through my outfits when I was little...I would cut up my dresses or wear tutus and was obsessed with play makeup and play heels. 

Then middle school...THE single most awkward, horrible three years of anyone's life! YOU know what I'm talkin' 'bout. At some point, I think I became afraid to be pretty or too thin in fear of attracting unwanted male attention; I was terrified of boys. There had been this kid on the bus who kept making crude, dirty comments about me (particularly my chest), and after a couple of days of this, I reported his ass to the bus driver, and he got in big trouble for sexual harassment. I've never regretted telling. Then KW and I had a science class with these two kids, Cole and Eric, and if they had any romantic interest at all, they never let on...they were just our buddies. I was forced into their company because our desks were arranged together, and I think the first couple days, I just sat there in awkward silence until they finally wore me down by cracking jokes and just being nice. It was seriously a whole new view that guys could just be your friend. I haven't spoken to them since middle school, but they really helped me a lot. Also in middle school, I developed a couple of comparison complexes. One was over Faith Hill, who was a budding star. I thought she was the most beautiful celebrity on the planet (and still do), and for some reason, I was not good enough because I didn't look like her. Since then, I've imitated her hairstyles more times than I can count, but now I just appreciate her beauty and my own as unrelated things. The other was over a girl I went to school with who never knew my name and certainly never knew I existed, as she was in the popular crowd, and they didn't speak to us lowly, pretty-but-shy-and-awkward girls. She was so model-like - tall and thin and graceful - and made me feel short and stocky in comparison. On good days, though, I thought I had a pretty face with potential if I could just figure out how to tap into it.

My mom used to try and encourage me all the time. She had an "I am me and I am okay" poster hanging in her home office and was constantly reminding me to read it. She would also quote Psalm 139 from the Bible a lot. 

KameraWhore and me at summer camp, age 16? I distinctly remember 
how insecure I felt all week having to be in a swimsuit in front of 
so many people. I thought my boobs were too small, my stomach 
and hips too big. It was pretty excruciating.

Then came high school, which was, for me, only a step above middle school's level of hell. I've always had a lot of friends, and as long as I was with them, I was fine. But I never really liked school. Outside of school, I was really very happy. I got really good grades and was social, but I always felt self-conscious and on display at school. The worst was if I had a class or lunch period without my friends! I tended to seek out and make a new friend in those situations, but it was still scary wondering, "Will I have to sit alone today?" The only place I felt truly comfortable even if I didn't have close friends was any one of my art classes. I could just get lost in my paintings and drawings, and the time would pass so quickly. (To this day, I am still acquainted with my high school art teacher.) But I have to say, going to school while hating it was good for me. It taught me so many things besides what I learned in class. If my mom had home-schooled me (and, no, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with it), I might have crawled further into my shell. Sometimes I'd work out to a Cindy Crawford exercise video in my room and lament every time she expressed that she wore a size 6 jeans because I was a size 8 at the time. Good Lord.

I get a bit emotional looking at this pic. I was 16. And I THOUGHT I WAS FAT 
and hated my body. Really?!? High school was so awkward. I felt pretty good 
in this pic at the time, though, because I was borrowing one of 
KameraWhore's T-shirts. I always felt more stylish and confident when 
I wore her clothes instead of mine. Oh, and check out my beautiful Siamese 
cat's ears...he and I grew up together.

We couldn't afford a lot of really nice clothes for me growing up, and looking back now, I'm kind of glad because it makes me appreciate things so much now. But during such an awkward time like high school, I always wished I had better clothes; I totally lost the fearless self-expression of my childhood. I distinctly remember one day when KW let me borrow a sweater that was light blue with dark blue stripes, and I paired it with a nice-fitting pair of jeans, and I felt so pretty simply because it wasn't mine! I walked into English and felt every eye in that room on me, and one of my friends told me I looked so pretty. From then on, I felt gorgeous anytime I borrowed clothes from someone else! If I had the confidence I have now, I would have created my own outfits around what I had and rocked them. I am amazed at some high school girls nowadays who go thrifting and make these amazing outfits and look so stylish - I can do it now, but back then, not only was I too insecure, but it just meant you were poor. Now it's the trendy thing to do, and I love it. But it took me a while to realize I actually have style. I'm artistic; how could I not? But I always kind of felt like that high school girl who didn't know how to shop. I thought about hiring a style consultant at one point until I realized I could have it bagged if I just let go of my fears about it. One time last year when we went over to my in-laws' for dinner, they complimented my outfit, and I said that I was trying to dress less boring...they looked at me like I had two heads and said, "Jen, I don't think we've EVER seen you dress boring." It was all in my own perception. I feel now like my style expresses my personality pretty well. I may not have an everyday look that rivals some of the most prominent bloggers out there, but it suits me for what I need, and I know how to glam myself up when I want to!

Okay, next comes college, and I won't linger here too long except to talk about the 3 horribly mean girls in my psychology class who taunted me endlessly. They were all blonde and looked almost exactly alike. You know the movie "Mean Girls"? Yeah. That was them. You'd think by college age, they would have been past such juvenile behavior. I was interested in psych but did not get very much out of that class because of those girls. The worst part was that one of them didn't actually join in this taunting...but she did not speak up for me either. She would look at me apologetically and sit back and watch her friends berate me. I think that made me madder than the other two. I also don't like that I didn't stand up for mySELF.

Fast forward again to when I got married the first time, something I don't think I've ever talked about on here. I got married just shy of 19. Not smart, but I thought he was great, my parents thought he was great, why wait (though my parents still wished I would wait). Things were great for about the first two years. Then he became extremely emotionally abusive. I know now that it all stemmed from his own insecurities. He used to constantly tell me I was too fat, he was always asking me questions about where I'd been and who I'd seen, he was suspicious if I painted my nails or wore nice makeup, he told me I was too unstable to have children with, he would yell at me for forgetting to dust something if he came home after I'd been cleaning, he made me get down on my hands and knees one time and mop the floor when the toilet overflowed and threw towels in my face...and that last one was right before I was about to surprise him with a visit from his family for Christmas one year. They showed up at the door minutes later. I cleaned up the mess and dried my tears, and I don't think they ever knew. 

There was also one time when he almost beat our dog with a painting pole. I stopped him before he could. He never hit me, but he did plenty of damage emotionally, and sometimes those are the hardest scars to heal because the effects last for years. I hated my body and believed I really was fat enough as it was without him adding to it, and the worst was the one about being too unstable to have children. That one really stayed with me BAD. I love how I look now and think I will make a wonderful mom. But I had to do some serious work to get to that point. It took a while before I felt ready to marry my current (and AWESOME) husband...not because I wasn't sure about him but because I knew I needed to push through all that baggage first. Fortunately, he was really patient with me and understood. He could tell you about all the times I cried because I was afraid he'd get tired of me like my ex-husband did. I kept thinking one day he would wake up and realize I wasn't as great as he thought I was, and then he'd want me to leave too. But the important thing about my first marriage is: I left. When I had exhausted every last resource and abandoned any hope that the guy would change, I left. He had strung me along for long enough. 

During that marriage, I had developed a pretty severe anxiety disorder. Part of it stemmed from my inborn need for perfectionism...I had previously sung in public a lot and then couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't even go to the grocery store on my own at one point. And part of it was from feeling trapped in that hellhole of a marriage. Sometimes I would derealize, a phenomenon where you feel like nothing is real, like you're living in a bad dream, and it scared the living shit out of me. I got on medication that helped me tremendously. I stayed on it for a couple years, but once I'd been out on my own for a while and realized I WAS capable of living alone and supporting myself, I didn't need it anymore. When I didn't have a controlling husband telling me I was fat anymore, I stopped worrying about it at all, and I put on an extra 20 pounds or so that wasn't healthy for me. I don't even regret it; I think it was my private rebellion. I gain and lose weight proportionally, and I don't think I looked bad, but I did not FEEL good at that weight.

My mom.

I think I really started to rebuild myself in my late 20s after my mom's death when I was 24. She died pretty suddenly of lung cancer. After being a complete and total wreck and going through the worst pain I could ever imagine, I eventually started trying to be happy again. I owed it to her; I owed it to myself. My mom was stunningly beautiful. Though she tried not to let me see it, especially when I was really young, she didn't know how beautiful she was inside and out...she turned out to have a lot of self-esteem issues. Maybe that's where I got it from - not nurture but nature. But I vowed that I wasn't going to live the rest of my life without knowing how wonderful I was, because it was such a damn shame that she did. I looked back at pics of myself in high school and thought, "Wow, I was pretty and had no idea back then...I spent YEARS hating the way I looked for NOTHING." I then looked at myself from an old lady version of me's eyes, looking back on me in the present, and made a decision to start appreciating myself for how I am NOW, on the inside and the outside, while I can. I also vowed that I was going to live a healthy lifestyle that included exercising and eating better. It would be a whole other essay to talk about how I coped with my grief and came out of it, which I would gladly share sometime if someone wanted me to, but I started working out regularly and stopped eating out so much, and eventually I lost a little over 30 pounds and got to a weight that feels comfortable for me. When I stopped eating meat, it helped me lose the last 10. The key here is: I didn't lose weight to get skinny. I just wanted to be healthy. I want to live as long of a life as possible and feel good doing it.

Here's a sneak peek from our wedding photos. :)

My husband has helped me so much and is so supportive and encouraging of everything I do. He did not fix me, because I had to do it for myself. But he makes sure to tell me that he loves my body and has never once criticized anything about my appearance (or who I am as a person, for that matter). If you don't have a partner like that, YOU'VE GOT THE WRONG PARTNER.

Fast forward again to last year when KW and I started this blog and then when I turned sense of self and confidence has grown by even more leaps and bounds! I've already talked about this here and here, so I won't revisit it now. But just a little bit of age can make a world of difference in how you see the world, your past experiences, and yourself.  

I still have plenty of days when I look in the mirror and think, "Oh, God, what is UP with me today?!" Every woman does. Even the most beautiful women you can think of have those days, even Faith Hill, Kate Beckinsale, and all the Victoria's Secret models. The thing is, people can appear to have everything put together very nicely in their online persona, but you never know what's really going on behind the scenes. They may be struggling right now as we speak, or like me, they may have gone through a hell of a lot to get to the happy place they're finally in. So be careful not to assume, judge, or compare yourself to people online. 

After my wedding in October, I got lazy and haven't been exercising regularly (after several years of doing so) and haven't felt as good physically because of that. After my last post about being super confident over the weekend, I had a couple days of plummeting back down temporarily! Monday came after my staying up literally all night redoing the blog layout, so I was beyond exhausted. I'm a bit OCD about making it all perfect (I'm sure you could've figured out that part!). Plus, I hadn't eaten great stuff all weekend. I'm a pescatarian, which means I am a vegetarian except for eating fish, so I usually eat pretty healthy in general, but it's definitely possible to be a veg and eat lots of junk! Add up tired and bloated, and you had a me who looked about as good as she felt. Now that it's Wednesday, I'm more into normal routines and feeling much more like myself. You've heard it a million times, I'm sure, but regular exercise, getting enough sleep, and healthier eating (though I am not talking about dieting or restricting yourself) are crucial keys to how you feel emotionally.

So these are some things I think about myself now in general. I will not apologize for them; they do not make me full of myself. I am redefining for myself what it means to like me and be okay with that.

1) I am a beautiful girl inside and out. I've decided to just believe it when people say it, though it's not their opinion that gives me the validation.
2) I am not fat. Oh, the "other" F-word. And such a loaded word it is. We each have our own definition of what the word means for our individual body, and I try to see myself more realistically now. It's not about how I look; it's about being healthy.
3) It is okay to believe that people don't just love me or pity me but actually *like* me. Everyone has dark parts. It's what you do with them that counts. I've had the same two best friends for almost my entire life; they've seen the dark parts of me and are still here. My husband may have seen more of my bad side in our years together than anyone else, and he's still here too. I no longer believe he will leave just because someone in my past did.
4) I do not believe in living in constant guilt or being perfect. Everyone has done things they regret; it's just part of being human. I choose to live by my conscience but free from past guilt. If I'm not perfect at something, I do it anyway and enjoy the hell out of myself. Perfect is highly boring and overrated.
5) I am funny. When I let my guard down and allow myself to be my REAL goofy, silly me (the one that my pets see but that I sometimes reel in for humans), people respond to it. Most of the time, I no longer live in a state of perpetual self-consciousness to the point where I let my fear of being judged override the fun side of my personality. Nowadays, I assume people DO like me until proven wrong, rather than assuming they don't like me and are scrutinizing everything I say and do.
6) I like my ass. It's round and it's nice. :)
7) I've become one of the most positive people I know. Even on off days or days when I'm hurting so much that I can hardly bear it, there is still some sort of resolve I have to stay positive. I always climb back up. And I'm always full of irritatingly positive advice. :)

I have a suspicion that this is not the only life we get to live. But whether you believe we get one shot on this earth or many, the time to embrace yourself is now. 

You spend more time with YOU than with any other person. Step back and start recognizing how great she is.