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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

$5 Self-Love Necklaces! Last Days for Mail

A great Christmas idea for you or someone else you love. :) Why not gift a tangible reminder to be more gentle and compassionate with oneself, as well as more confident and fearless? And, for right now, you can get them for only 5 bucks each! We've marked them all down to $10 anyway, but with special code TCNXMAS12, it will knock them down to half off! (Trio necklaces will mark down to $10.) More than 20 designs to choose from...tailor them to each recipient. In case the world doesn't end on Friday, you will want one of these. ;)


I have to ship them out by Thursday (12/20/12) for Priority Mail to arrive in time for Christmas!
To get them in time, it must be designs we already have made and ready...which most are.

And, while you're on etsy, stroll over to my other shop to see if our cozy winter items might be just the things to keep you warm...everything has been marked down! (We have boot cuffs too! Pink and camo colors. I just haven't listed them yet! Also, more scarves in yellow, blue-green, and orange, plus a cute crimson newsboy cap...just let me know if you're interested.)


(Couldn't resist using an image like this since I've marked everything down! Ha!)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Disordered Eating: A Real-Life Story

A good friend of mine - we'll call her Amy for privacy - jumped to it when I asked if she'd be willing to share her story about disordered eating on this blog in the hopes that it might help someone. This was not an easy thing for her to write, as it is something she usually only shares privately with friends, and the memories are also difficult to revisit. I want to say thank you to her for being so open, honest, and real.

The first time I remember feeling self-conscious about my body, I was 6 or 7.  I was hanging out with my teenage cousin, helping her pick out a swimsuit to wear to the neighborhood pool.  With my help, she settled on a neon orange bikini.  She was athletic, tan, gorgeous.  And she knew it, despite the gripes she'd make about being "fat."  A boyfriend of hers came over, and I nervously slunk to the corner.  Suddenly, she said, "Amy, why are you sucking in?" and they both started laughing at me.  I hadn't even realized I was doing it.  I looked down at my squishy kid stomach, wearing my very conservative one-piece swimsuit, and realized, "I'm sucking in."  I was uncomfortable being around an older boy, around my beautiful cousin, and I unconsciously started sucking in, even as a first grader.

That might have been the beginning.  

I was always a normal size.  Never too big or too small.  Never too short or too tall.  Average.  My mother always told me how beautiful I was, and I always believed her.  Even when kids made fun of my thick eyebrows, thick glasses, dark hair on my arms...I never worried about my size.  Then puberty hit.  And I got breasts.  Big breasts.  A 34C by 14 years old.  Boys noticed in a grand way.  I learned that certain body types got attention — though it made me a little uncomfortable (the cat calls, lewd remarks), I did start to realize that I was made fun of less for my "quirks."  I got contacts.  Starting waxing my eyebrows.  Found a sense of warped self-confidence, thanks to all that "pretty" attention.  

When I got to my teens, I learned to appreciate my curves.  I never worried about being a certain size.  I was at peace with having a "big butt and big boobs."  As senior year approached, I was discovering that a separation was happening between myself and my usual group of friends.  They were gravitating toward drinking and smoking...and I was not.  Just the thought of my parents finding out I'd sipped a beer made me weak in the knees.  My parents weren't overly strict, but I had a short leash when it came to teenage parties and the like.  And because I was the "sober one," people didn't want to hang out with me as much.  This hurt my feelings, but if I couldn't be accepted, I had to become a loner.  I was quiet at lunch.  I didn't hang out with friends on the weekends.  I stayed home and did school work.  For one reason or another, I was losing weight.  Perhaps it was just natural, losing some of my "baby fat," as they say.  My bra size was shrinking.  I was getting less attention from boys in general.  All I could figure was that because I no longer had these "assets," I was no longer worth talking to.  My friends had left me for partying, and my ex-boyfriend had found a curvy (and easy) girlfriend.  (Despite my past popularity with boys in school, I wasn't one to "mess around," much to the disappointment of high school admirers.)

I was suddenly in-between.  Not skinny, not curvy, just sort of chubby in places.  And that bothered me.  So I started eating less.  If I couldn't be filled out and curvy, I was going to have to be thin.  I remember telling my mom I was a vegetarian to get out of eating certain things at dinner.  She forced me to eat a can of cashews a week just keep up my iron.  She figured it was a phase.

Around this time, my mom, 44 years old, was diagnosed with breast cancer.  The second cancer she'd had in her life, the first being Stage 3 Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma twelve years prior.  She nearly died the first time.  But with her positive willpower and chemo, she survived.  So to find out she was "sick" again was a major blow to us all.  "How unlucky," the oncologist said.  The tumor was small, found during a regular mammogram. When I came home from school and they told me, I was numb.  I remember lying on my bed, silently crying, and my mom coming in, sitting down.  "Hon, it's not a big deal!  They'll take it out; I'll be fine.  It's not like I'm going to DIE..." she laughed.   She rolled her eyes, in hopes of comforting me.  It was removed, and she was clinically cancer-free.  But because of this "unlucky circumstance," her doctor said she needed chemo anyway.  This news was very hard to accept.  I was five when she went through the agony of chemotherapy the first time.  I watched her, sick and bald, and it scared the heck out of me.  When the doctor said those words the second time around, my eyes welled, and it took every inch of control to keep them from spilling over.  I could barely see to walk out of the doctor's office with her.  But my mom was brave and assured us that it would all be okay.
Throughout those last couple months of my senior year, I was a zombie, trying to balance college applications and exams and helping care for my younger brother and sister, all while worrying sick about my mother.  At that point, my lack of appetite was less about losing weight and more about not having the energy to remember to eat.  I started having dizzy spells at school — to the point that I felt I'd pass out.  My pediatrician said it was stress and prescribed me Valium.  Little did they was because I was surviving on less than 500 calories a day.  My mother said to the doctor, "She's lost an awful lot of weight lately.  Is that healthy?"  The doctor thought I looked fine, despite having lost 7 pounds since my checkup a couple weeks before.  I was barely 100 pounds.  At my "chubby weight" as a 15-year-old, I was at least 130.  But, no, the doctor said I was fine, I told my mother I was fine, not to worry.

She died, suddenly, a month later.  Not from cancer but from the chemotherapy putting her into congestive heart failure.  It was my first week of college.  By that point, I could go a day or so without so much as a cracker and water.  My digestive system wasn't "moving along" like it should, so I started taking laxatives to feel better.  And that became a crutch.  My anorexia turned into bulimia when I realized I could eat a little to stop the dizziness and headaches...then take a handful of pills...and by 6 am, it would be out of my system and I'd feel "hollow."  I've heard other disordered eaters use that word.  Feeling "empty" gave me such a high.  I could control how I felt for a few hours a day...until I ate again.  People would comment on how great I looked, my dad especially.  He's always had a constant body-image struggle — I fear I inherited some of his neuroses.  I think he also felt that by controlling what he ate and his weight, he could control part of his life, while the other parts were consumed by mourning.  Around this time, I started dating a new guy, and I had less opportunity to avoid food.  I was eating more, gaining weight, relying on laxatives.  I eventually was put on anti-depressants for stress, which also made me eat more.  I got to the point where I couldn't use the restroom without having taken at least 3x the usual dose of laxatives.  I was destroying my body.  I knew it was unhealthy, but I couldn't stop.

After a couple years, I found myself working full-time, in school full-time, feeling a little better about my life.  I had stopped taking anti-depressants not long after starting them.  (A side effect being "suicidal thoughts."  A friend noticed some marks on my wrist and convinced me to put an end to the anxiety medications.)  Now that I was busy with other things, laxatives started to have less of a functional place in my life.  I couldn't dedicate hours on end to the bowel-writhing agony they caused.  Not while working and sitting in class.  So, slowly, I had to stop.  My body had to learn how to work by itself again.  It took years to reverse the physical damage my disorders caused.

By the time I met my husband, I was no longer anorexic or bulimic, but I was still sub-clinically disordered and couldn't have a bowel movement without an enema.  I still made unhealthy pacts with myself to either not eat, or eat less, or exercise a ridiculous amount more, etc.  Meeting my husband changed my entire world, though.  He loved me for me.  He didn't care about the size of my jeans.  He cared about me being healthy.  And with my honesty and his support, I started to heal.   I still worried more than I should about my appearance and belly and thighs, but I didn't act on the threats I made to my body.  That was a start.

When I became pregnant, my perception changed again.  When you realize you have a life growing within you — that their entire well-being depends on what you're putting in your body — all of that selfishness floats away.  Or, at least it did for me.  I thought, "How could I damage this body, the one that is creating my child?"  After having my son, I would moan and groan a bit about the pounds I "needed" to lose, but it wasn't outrageous, not like before.  I cared less about being thin and more about being a present mother.  By the time I had my daughter four years later, I was in a better place, body-image-wise.  I had the greatest reason in the world to have a little extra "stretch" to my skin: I grew two amazing little beings.  I learned to appreciate my body more.

Not that I'm cured.  I can't look at an old photo without first scoping out whether it was during a "thinner" or "bigger" phase.  My weight fluctuates 5-10 pounds on a yearly basis.  But I can't obsess.  I can't be a good mother and obsess.  I can't teach my children to love their bodies if I don't love mine.  So I try very hard to keep negative thoughts to myself.  I try to talk about how we should be so thankful for our bodies because they get us around in the world.  We're all beautiful, all shapes, all sizes.  To think of my son or daughter feeling all that I did, that self-loathing and self-harm — it makes me want to cry.  I'm making it my job to remind them that they're incredible, just the way they were made.  I know that outside influences can't be completely curbed.  I just want them to have that arsenal of self-love when the onslaught of doubt hits.

I'm turning 30 in less than a month.  I always thought that by now, I would have come to terms with my self-esteem issues.  I haven't, not completely.  I know I'm beautiful.  I know my husband loves me, my kids love me, my family loves me.  But sometimes I just hear my cousin's voice in the back of my head, "Amy, why are you sucking in?"  It's a work-in-progress.  Sometimes I fear I'll be worrying about my stomach or thighs until my last breath.  And then I remind myself — every moment I stop to worry about how I look or what someone will think when they notice I've gained 5 a moment wasted.  Rather, I should be celebrating that I have a healthy body and two legs to run with my kids, two arms to hug them, to hug my husband.  I have to hear my mother's voice in my memory, reminding me, just as I remind my children, that I am beautiful and special and brilliant.  And each time I hear it, I'm finding that belief matters more to me than a number on a clothing tag.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

"I'm Sorry!" (Over-Apologizing and Guilt)

If you were my child or dog, which face would YOU prefer looking at you all day?

It's ironic that my coach, Francoise from Guilt-Free Mothering, highlighted my previous post on letting go of guilt on her blog this week, because guilt is something I had let myself slip back into over the past few months because of some things going on in my life. It wasn't ever something I had completely mastered. But I had really let myself drown in it the last few weeks. I was burned out and needed a mommy break, yet I felt guilty for feeling that way and was not giving myself permission to feel frustrated. We are dealing with yet another pet with cancer, so my brain automatically makes it my fault somehow. And on and on. I had honestly begun to convince myself I was a failure at just about everything.

I have already started to let go of so much since my first two sessions. I could literally feel myself breathing easier when we started getting to the root of some things. Before the first session, I had to fill out a 15-page questionnaire that really caused me to dig deep into some of the things that have been holding me back. I consider myself to be pretty self-aware, and I still realized some things about myself that I hadn't noticed before. I realized even more during the session.

One of the big things I realized is that I apologize too much.

I didn't even know I was doing it. But I was going around apologizing for not being enough this or that.

I would apologize to my husband for little things like not doing the dishes that day or not being the kind of girl who likes beer and can just hang out while we have one. This is so silly. We both do the dishes, and it isn't the end of the world if I don't have time sometimes, and he would never, ever criticize me for something like that, so why would I let it make me feel like a failure? Every time I would apologize for something, he'd tell me not to be so hard on myself and that it wasn't a big deal. And he doesn't care if I like beer or not. He told me to stop worrying and that he wants me to be exactly the way I am. When it comes to our dogs, instead of being happy and playful with them, I was always looking at them with sad eyes and apologizing for not being able to walk them that day and whatnot. I don't even want to begin to think of the kind of negative energy I was projecting to my daughter during this time...or else I will probably start apologizing for it.

Not only was my over-apologizing causing this constant sad, "something is wrong" type of energy in our household and probably leaving everyone else on edge as well, but it was reinforcing my own misguided belief that I was a failure.

Every time I apologized for something that did not warrant an apology or guilt, I was subconsciously tallying up more reasons to think less of myself.

When I discovered I was doing this, I became more conscious of it and started correcting myself every time I'd start and then change the statement to something filled with gratitude and happiness. Let me tell you...this simple change has completely turned my perspective around. I'm lighter and more forgiving of myself. I'm remembering that I'm doing a great job and am a pleasure to be around, darnit. :) With my dogs, for example, instead of, "I feel so bad; I'm sorry I can't play with you right now," I turned it into, "Who's a good dog? You are! I'm so happy you're my dog!" Instead of, "What am I going to do without you? I'm so sorry you have this!" while crying to my cat who has cancer, it's become, "I'm so thankful we're together in this moment. I'm so enjoying being with you and seeing you feel good right now." There is a noticeable change not just in my face and attitude but in theirs, in response to mine. I'm not saying you should squelch or hide your real emotions. I'm not saying showing sadness in front of your loved ones is bad. It's not! But if it's all the time, that's not beneficial to you or them. It's draining.

You need to change the energy you're sending out, both for your loved ones' sake and your own sense of self. Gratitude. Not guilt.

Sometimes apologizing for something is necessary and good! But, like guilt and most other things, when taken to extremes, it's highly destructive to your sense of self-worth.

You've heard me say it a thousand times: if you tell yourself something enough times, positive or negative, you will eventually believe it. By apologizing to others, I was actually telling myself that I wasn't measuring up. Now I am choosing to tell myself I'm enough.

It can be life-changing to change one simple thing you're constantly telling yourself. Try it and see what happens.

So we don't end on too heavy of a's something I've found consistently hysterical over the years...a parody of the great song by One Republic, "Apologize," of course.

Friday, December 7, 2012

I've Been Featured by Guilt-Free Mothering!

I feel very honored that Francoise of Guilt-Free Mothering chose to feature my post on guilt on her own blog. Not only is that validating to me as a writer (since that is one of the things I want to do more of professionally), but it is an honor to open the message of The Closet Narcissist to new readers. I might not have the art of self-love perfected, but who does? I don't pretend to have it mastered. We're all in this together, in this daily attempt to live consciously and authentically with more genuine love for who we are, and my dream is to spread this message with my own unique perspectives on how to get there. If you can glean something from my own struggles, then they're even more worthwhile.

And guilt is often still a struggle for me. But I bet if you read my post and try to become more aware of lingering guilt in your life, it can open you up to more self-worth and love for yourself as a person when you learn to let go of it!

I mentioned in my last post, about getting serious about my career dreams, that I am doing coaching sessions with Francoise. I've had two sessions with her so far, and it is amazing how powerful it is and how much it is opening up to allow me to receive what I know I am supposed to be doing. She has a gentle way of giving you analogies that really make something click. She has clients worldwide, so if you are an entrepreneurial mom, you will be doing yourself, your business, and your family a service by checking her out. It's all about learning how to balance the commitments in your life without feeling depleted at the end of the day and how to grow your business.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Confidence in Following Your Career Dreams

This is the "Note from the Universe" I got in my email the day after I got laid off from my job after seven years this summer:

Me? Concerned, Jennifer? Let's see, at the moment, you're exactly
where you're supposed to be. Whenever the going has gotten tough,
you've always bounced back even higher than you were before. 
And, somehow, you keep getting even better looking.
But you are a dear for thinking of me.

Mmmmmwaw - The Universe

Needless to say, losing my job totally threw me in so many ways. Even though layoffs are rarely personal (I wasn't fired), you still feel like it's personal. Why me? Why was I the one chosen...and when I had a new baby, at that? 

I got a month's severance pay and started frantically looking for a new job. I was terrified. Would I find one quickly enough that would allow me to continue working from home to be with my daughter? Was I good enough to work for someone else after doing the same thing over and over for seven years? What if we couldn't pay our bills after the severance pay ran out? Granted, the job was not one I had ever really liked in that span of time, and I won't bore you with why. But it had become...comfortable. Well, in its own way. Comfortable in that I was familiar with everything and knew what was expected of me. It was fairly mindless and could be easily accomplished while my daughter was napping. It was also decidedly uncomfortable in many ways as well. Even though sometimes I complained about the mindlessness and wanting to use my creativity more, what if a new job required more than I was able to give while still giving my daughter enough of me? 

It finally started coming to me what I already knew and had known for some time: I want to do my own thing. I want to do freelance graphic design, writing, and editing, and I want to have enough clients to help with my share of the expenses and then some. I want to enjoy my work again! I want to feel that fervor and have it spill over into the other areas of my life, to have my daughter pick up on that sense of pride and freedom instead of the same old drudgery every day. I decided I was okay with being laid off, that bigger and better things were coming for me, and that losing my job was just the swift kick in the ass I needed to stop letting fear of the unknown hold me back. I didn't have the luxury anymore of doubting my talents. I needed to find a way to make money again! The irony of staying at a job that is unfulfilling because you lack the confidence to branch out is that the longer you stay doing the same old thing, the more it eats away at your confidence.

It was precisely within days of mentally accepting the layoff that they called and wanted to rehire me. And not just rehire me. Promote me. What did I do, you ask? Did I tell them to shove it and then go out and start making tons of money on my own? I wish. No. We have a child and pets and a mortgage. After much deliberation, I went back. I can't say I even got much satisfaction knowing they wanted me back. I really had become accustomed to the idea that I was going to start doing my own thing and make it work. But "in this economy," which I think has officially become a real cliché now, you are told to take what you can get.

But. Between the time I was laid off and rehired, I got a hastily written email from a friend who found out I was laid off and had another friend who might be looking for some freelance writing work. Her regular writer was on vacation, and they found themselves with extra work that needed to be done. This woman didn't know me from Adam, but she took a chance on me. Three times. And she really liked what I wrote. She popped into my world and gave me the chance to experience what it felt like to enjoy my work again. To some people, the things I wrote might have seemed boring. But they lit me up just because I was putting words together and using them to make some type of impact. You might have noticed I really love the power of words! She also gifted me with the opportunity to regain some of my old confidence back. I did some freelance assignments, and someone liked them enough to pay me for them! Now, that is a boost. I've been freelancing off and on through the years, but it felt differently to have someone like my work when I had actually decided I wanted this to be my full-time gig.

Through her, I ended up attending some networking events, which required me to finally finish updating my portfolio and get my own business cards printed for the first time, a big step in telling the Universe, "Hey, this is what I'm doing now!" I was scared to death to go and was sweating bullets. Who did I think I was to assume I was good enough to make a living out of my talents and start passing out business cards? But I met some really important people through those events that changed me and my perspective in some way, not to mention some potential clients. I can only say that I was exactly where I was supposed to be in those moments in time.

And you know what - I totally surprised myself. One of the events had an amazing speaker, Wendy Watkins of Passion Fruit, and the entire lecture was taped. Not knowing this at first, I found myself raising my hand to contribute when she asked questions. I went from not knowing anyone in the room (yet) and feeling clammy to realizing I had some important things to share and feeling like I'd burst if I didn't say them. The other women in the room actually laughed with me at some of my comments and nodded or verbalized their agreement, validating that what I was sharing was meaningful. (I've been told I made the cut for the videos that will be posted on her web site sometime soon, so I'll see if I actually appeared as brilliant in reality as I was in my memory, haha, and share them with you if I was!) And when the speaker asked what our passions were outside of work and family, do you know what my answer was? This blog. This blog that has given me the opportunity to help girls and women change the way they see themselves for the better. In addition to wanting to get my freelance career off the ground, I really want to take this thing places. I have a message to deliver in a way that only I can deliver it. 

I'm sad to say I have found myself getting "comfortable" again in my job. Because I'd been there so long, I eased right back on in. There was no wondering what to expect. Maybe there is or was a place for that mentality. But no more. I'm publishing this post as my written letter of intent to the Universe that I am going for it. As I was telling the woman I'm consulting as my business/time management/mom-life coach from Guilt-Free Mothering (whom I met at one of the networking events), comfort zones are not always actually that comfortable. It might be easier to have a mindless job in one sense. But blandness eats away at you. I don't want a work life of bland. I want a work life of Tony's Cajun seasoned salt. heehee I want to be that girl in the movies who suddenly decides she can't take it anymore and quits her job, with no concrete plan for what happens next, just throwing all caution to the wind. Like Julia in the show "Parenthood" just did. Does that really work in real life? I don't know. Maybe for people who can survive a while on one income or people with huge savings accounts. I have a family counting on me, so I don't plan on doing anything rash. I do, however, plan on taking some risks and finally getting more than just a taste of what it's like to enjoy my work. I'm ready to lay fear to waste and take the design, writing, and editing world by storm!

My name is Jennifer, and I AM a graphic designer, writer, and editor. And illustrator. And whatever else I decide to pursue! And I am damn good at what I do, with enough clients under my belt to vouch for it, so no longer will I let doubt creep in and sidle up next to me. I've learned, at least for myself, that when I conquer one fear, another one inevitably takes form. For instance, first I'm worried that I'm not good enough to pay the bills as a freelancer...I kick that fear in the butt and decide to go for it. But that gives way to the next fears. What if I'm so successful that I become too busy and even more stretched than I already am? What if I find out it's not all it's cracked up to be, and I miss the structure and comfort of a full-time job? I'm a bit afraid of success because, not ever having known it, I don't know what kind of changes it will mean in my life. 

Something my husband often says when my thoughts are spiraling and I am having a hard time making a decision (even when I know in my gut what I should do) is, "What's the worst that can happen?" And when I answer that question, I usually realize that the worst ain't that bad or at least isn't any worse than my current situation if I do nothing. Tonight, when I was hesitant to go to another networking event because I would be a little late, I asked him, "What if I get there and I can't get in?" and he replied simply, "Then you'll come home." It sounds so elementary. But when he put it like that, suddenly it didn't seem so huge to at least attempt going, and I hustled myself out the door and was immensely glad I went. Instead of focusing so hard on conquering fears, I think what I really need to be asking myself is how am I going to feel this time next month or next year if I have not taken steps to change my current situation? And also this question: what if I find I really, really like it?! I was afraid of being a mom too, but my desire to be a mom was bigger than my I wonder how I ever could have second-guessed myself. Having her is waaay better than I even knew it could be. 

While I'm at it, I want to see my name in lights. Ha! What that means for me, I don't even know yet, but I know I want to see it.

Since I started with a quote-type thing, I'll end with one as well. This one I came across on Twitter.

In almost every case, nothing is stopping you, nothing is holding you back 
but your own thoughts about yourself and "how life is." - NealeDWalsch

Do you like your job? If money were no object, what job would you be doing? 

What is holding you back from having the job of your dreams?

The pictures, with their credits, can be found on the TCN Pinterest under Jen's Vision Board.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Get the Picture?

Egads! My crooked tooth is showing! Do I care? Nope. I mean, God, look at the way I'm looking at her!!

I was having a conversation not long ago with a friend who admitted she shies away from family portraits (or being in any pictures if she can help it) because she isn't happy with her weight/post-birth bod. I told her that her child wouldn't want to look back at pictures someday and not have her in them. When my mom died, even though I was an adult - albeit, far too young of one - all I had besides my memories were photos and not nearly enough of them. People sometimes lovingly tease us for always wanting to take (and be in) pictures, and Kam and I always joke about it being our brand of narcissistic, but actually, it's mostly about preserving the moments and the memories. 

I came across this article on The Huffington Post by a woman who had the same feelings as my friend on being in pictures with her kids...and then she decided to hell with that; she started getting in on the pictures and made some beautiful memories she would've otherwise missed out on. She realized her kids would not care someday how she looked...just that she was THERE.

Here's the article:

I've made sure to be in as many pictures with my baby girl as possible, even when I was less than thrilled about how I looked. I wanted her to see the light and love in my eyes that come from being her mom. She recently turned one - how is that possible?! - and I hate saying it, but time feels so fleeting. Pictures help us capture something special in the moment lest we forget or if we just want to savor it later on. 

So next time you feel like ducking out of a picture, even if you're not a mom and don't ever plan to be, there are plenty of people in your life who love you and want your beautiful, sparkling face in photos. Don't deny them! :)

Are you first in line to be in front of the camera? Or are you camera-shy because you're embarrassed? Will you take the plunge?

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Inner Beauty Movement / Are Self-Love Blogs Fluff?

My daughter checking out her reflection. (It's a child-safe mirror, which is why it looks a little distorted.)
If only we all kept the same friendly relationship with the mirror as we got older!

Let me be honest. Because I always am here. :) And I'm not fishing for compliments. Sometimes I can start to wonder if this blog really means anything to anyone or if it actually makes a difference. How's that for ironic: the self-love blogger feeling insecure about her blog?! Just like anyone else, I can start to let a lack of comments make me question my purpose here. Just about the time I start wondering that, I will receive a comment from someone I've never heard from before saying that something I wrote meant something to them. (You'd think I would learn by now.) And the truth is, whether this blog ever reaches an audience on a wide scale, it has helped me more than I ever thought possible as well. The simple act of constantly thinking of self-love posts I want to write about naturally induces more of it in my life. As a mom, I don't have the time I used to have to devote to it, but it's never far from my thoughts. Every time I watch TV or hear a song or have a conversation with a friend, my mind is thinking of how I can weave a post from some sort of nugget I got because my goal is simply to help people. And if people can glean something positive from my bad experiences (and my good ones!), it adds more purpose to things I went through.

This is not the only blog out there that talks about self-love. There are quite a few of them out there. There is somewhat of a female self-love movement going on in our world right now, and not just from Dove. Even though as far as I can tell, we started this project before the big movement started, sometimes I wonder if I actually have anything valuable to add to this movement when there is already so much going on towards it. Some of those other blogs are so, so good. But then I snap myself back to reality and remember that no one else can tell this "story" the way I tell it. Someone might read my blog and get more out of it than another one because something about it resonates with them more. Someone might read mine and it doesn't resonate with them, but it propels them toward another blog that does. Maybe someone doesn't regularly read this blog but happened upon one particular post that mattered to them that day. All of those things are great. What's important is that the person is actively seeking that journey. My blog isn't any better or worse than the others and vice versa because, while we may all be discussing the same basic principle, we're all doing it in our own unique ways.  I am not jealous of the other, more successful blogs in actuality. I am just happy if people find something that makes them see how beautiful they really are inside and out. 

I recently read on another self-love blog, however, that blogs like mine are essentially fluff. That you can't develop more self-love simply by focusing on it. That you really need to take her e-course to discover how to love yourself more. Now, her course might be a total awakening for some people, and if so, I think that is wonderful. I will not call her out because I sincerely believe that her purpose is the same as mine: to help people. But I don't think it's fair to downplay blogs like mine that promote self-love or try to convince all women that they're beautiful. All of us self-love bloggers have our place in this movement, a place that only each one of us can fill in our individual ways from our unique experiences in our lives. I do believe the more you focus on something, the more it becomes your reality. If you're reading my blog and/or some of the others, I think it's naturally going to start to rub off on you. How you get there isn't as important as the fact that you are trying to get there. There's no one right way or right answer that applies to all women.

My daughter and me.
She's beautiful inside and out,
and I want her to always know!
I really love, LOVE, LOOOOOVE Lifetime's new show, "The Conversation." I have been keeping some notes and quotes from every episode as I've gone along and am just waiting for the right way to convey my thoughts, but sum it up now to say: IF YOU ARE A WOMAN AND YOU ARE NOT WATCHING THIS SHOW, YOU ARE DOING A GREAT DISSERVICE TO YOURSELF. So anyway, I've been perusing their web site now that season one is over, and there is some great stuff there. I came across this post, and it so beautifully describes how I feel - that the inner beauty movement does not have to exclude outer beauty. Let's not get so caught up in the inner stuff that we convince ourselves the outer part doesn't even matter. We're women. We're human. To some degree, for most of us, it does matter. And as the post points out: "By relying on your inner beauty to get you through the long days and cold nights, you might miss a very valuable truth: you ARE beautiful... Here’s the lie: You are either beautiful on the inside or pretty on the outside. Here’s what I say: That’s a load of bull. You as a woman are inherently both." That's why one of our TCN mottos is "Inner AND outer beauty promoted here." They aren't mutually exclusive. 

I'll leave you for now with a list of some of my favorite self-love blogs/sites run by some courageous and inspiring women - all of whom, like me, probably started out in a place of insecurity and worked their way out...I dare say we all still struggle, but we have learned how to fight it better and just want to help others do the same. You don't even have to agree with everything they or I say; you can pick and choose what resonates with you and build on it. There are a wealth of other blogs and sites that are great; these just happen to have found their way into my list.

I also have what I think is a really great Twitter list I've made public of all my favorite self-love tweeters (many of those above, plus others). Check it out and make your own...and don't forget to add us, @narcissisters, to your list. ;)

What is your opinion of the self-love movement? Do you think it is working? Do you believe in promoting or diminishing the importance of feeling beautiful on the outside?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Price of Perfection

While looking to add Yo Gabba Gabba to our Netflix instant queue for our daughter, we stumbled upon a Korean horror film called "Yoga: the Movie." Sounds innocuous enough, right? Well, it was creepy enough that I'm glad I didn't watch it alone. :) Don't worry, yoga fans; it's not an attack on yoga.

It's about a home shopping channel host who gets fired and replaced by a woman who was supposed to be just her co-host, for the reason that she wasn't attractive enough. After reuniting with an old acquaintance from high school who looks drastically different now than she did then, she's referred to what she thinks is a yoga training center that can help her become "more" and therefore successful.

But, of course, once she gets in, she and the other young women in the group find out there's much more to it than that. It is supposedly run by a beautiful, ageless actress, and only one girl who makes the cut at the end of the week is allowed to meet her and learn the secret of ultimate beauty. Until then, they just have their trainer, who imposes a lot of rules they find difficult to follow. No unauthorized eating. No cell phones. No showers within an hour after training. No looking in mirrors. Baaaad things happen when you break the rules. At first, they think they're having hallucinations from fasting, but it is apparently all real.

There is a famous celebrity in the group, a singer whom the public once adored and now make fun of to the point where she's tried to kill herself over the rejection. She can't handle the way the public changes its mind about a celebrity overnight. Then there is a young mother who spends more time and money on plastic surgery than on her child and is there because she thinks a botched nose job has rendered her useless and ugly. There is a girl who used to be "fat," which, by her standards, was 45 pounds heavier. Now that she's thin, she is obsessed with weighing herself everyday and can't go without it. 

The main character eventually realizes this is not what she signed up for and not what she wants. You'll have to watch to find out whether she gets out of it or not.

But the storyline is definitely a poignant take on women's pursuit of physical perfection and a good metaphor for how that quest can almost make you lose your soul. Or at least your perspective and your sanity. The women were willing to go to almost any length to achieve perfection. And we were wondering why when they were all very pretty already...but maybe that's the point...they didn't know they were, just like a lot of us.

I talk about realizing you're enough and accepting yourself for who you are. But trust me, I know sometimes it's easier said than done. I haven't mastered it. I just try to work really hard on it every day. The alternative may not literally suck you into a world of hallucinations and terror. But, then again, it might. If you can't see yourself realistically and constantly think you're too much this or not enough that, that is a hallucination in a sense. I'm not saying it is bad to try and look your best. But don't let the elusive, unattainable pursuit of perfection rule or control you. You'll miss out on so much and gain nothing. Try to practice little ways each day of appreciating yourself and work up to bigger ones until it becomes a habit.

Have you ever done anything extreme in the name of trying to beautify yourself and regretted it?

Our First Craft Fair!

Okay, so this actually happened on April 21, and I'm only just now getting around to posting about it. :) Kam and I had our first booth at a small, local fair. Neither of us had ever done anything quite like that, and it was a great experience. We had our usual self-love necklaces, in addition to some new designs we hope to have listed in our shop soon: some cute, narcissistic necklaces and hair pins. I had a popped blood vessel in one eye that day, and let me tell you, I had to work harder to feel confident when I was supposed to be looking people in the eye and selling confidence jewelry. I pushed through and had some of the most amazing conversations with people that day that I will always remember, and I'm glad I didn't let it stop me. Truthfully, I almost didn't go, and Kam told me that wasn't an option. Real friends remind you of what's really important and encourage you to brave your fears.

We only sold two necklaces, but you know what? I could tell their messages really meant something to the two people who bought them. They each pored over everything we had to make sure they were getting just the right ones that spoke to them. I feel like it would be sort of a breach of trust to publicly tell why they got the ones they did, even if their stories were inspirational to me. Suffice it to say they were both amazing, strong women who will take the messages to heart. That, to me, means more than how many we sold. It was also interesting to hear other takes on our messages, and it goes to show that each one can have a different, yet equally powerful, meaning to you depending on your experiences and what you need.

Here are some pictures from our day!

Not quite finished setting up here; I don't think we got one of the final table in all its glory! :( 
You know me...Rob had to come along and lend his support by sporting a hat and some necklaces.

Only one person (besides me) asked to have their picture taken with him - I was shocked! 
He did get a lot of attention, though.

 A sneak peak at some of our new designs.
An accidentally broken mirror became Kam's display inspiration!

Something I hope she always believes at her core.

Kam with her daughter peeking over her shoulder.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Our Version of "Pretty Little Liars" Fashion

Emily Fields, Spencer Hastings, Aria Montgomery, and Hanna Marin -
looking as nervous as always as they anticipate A's next message!
If you're anything like me, you can barely contain your excitement because you know what Tuesday, June 5th means. You've been twiddling your thumbs every Monday night for the last few months with no "Pretty Little Liars" to watch, and now it's coming back! Although it's apparently switching to Tuesdays now. Well, being a mama means I don't always get to watch shows on the actual night they air and almost never a full episode in one sitting (and I'm not complaining; thank goodness for TiVo!). Being a mama also means I never have time to sit and twiddle my thumbs, for that matter. :) But I have been anxiously awaiting PLL's return. 

PLL is one of my favorite guilty pleasures obsessions. I watch it for the fashion just as much as the mystery and intrigue. Incidentally, some nitwit - nit-Twit? hehe - on Twitter told the whole ending, and I accidentally came across it, and it really made me mad because I wanted to read the books and find out for myself first...but still, it did not assuage my obsession. There's just something about it. I've always been a sucker for WB-esque shows (probably really telling my age here - hey, I'm only 31, but I know there are some of you out there who have nooo idea what the WB was), and this is no exception, but it's really a very smart and well-done show. It centers around four friends who become estranged after the death of their mutual friend, Alison, who is, well, a bitch, and, for the life of me, I can't figure out the hold she had on them. But they are brought back together when they all start receiving threatening messages from some anonymous source who calls themselves "A." The girls are on constant alert trying to keep A from sabotaging everything they've worked for and protect their loved ones and themselves. A seems to be all-knowing and has tabs on their every move and threatens to expose every little secret they have if they don't comply. At the end of the last season, A was semi-revealed, still leaving you not knowing the full story. In addition to the main mystery of who killed Alison and who's been threatening the girls, there are tons of other little mysteries that keep you guessing all along the way.

I simply can't get enough of the fashion choices on this show. Their costume designer, Mandi Line, is brilliant. Somehow she's able to choose the perfect outfits for four completely different types of characters and nails it every single time. Kam and I thought it would be fun to do our own PLL fashion shoot using clothes we already have. It was more of a challenge (the fun kind) to use pieces we already own and decide how to put them together rather than buy new stuff, and plus, we're both broke. I won't go into tons of detail about each of the four girls, simply because this site has done a great job of describing each of their characters and their fashion senses - and has also since done a separate and more detailed post on each girl. But I'll do a quick synopsis for those of you who are unfamiliar with them, with pictures pulled from that site. The one thing they all have in common: big bags or purses.
Emily is the most casual of the bunch fashion-wise, but that's not to say she's lacking in style or color. She's a swimmer, and some of her clothes are more sporty. She comes to terms with being a lesbian, and living authentically is very important to her, even in the face of people who want to see her fall.  
Spencer is focused on her grades and really has a good head on her shoulders. Well, maybe except when it comes to dating her sister's boyfriends. :) She was the least affected by Alison's control and is also not affected by her family's wealth. Her fashion choices lean toward masculine and preppy but still feminine.
Aria's fashion sense is eclectic - a little boho, a tad punky, always imaginative and unexpected. Lots of black and brown. She's very mature and sweet and gets to date pretty much the hottest teacher ever. She holds her head high in the midst of the problems between her parents and having to hide her own relationship.
Hanna is all about designer labels and high fashion. Neither Kam nor I could care less about designer labels, so this was more challenging for me. Hanna is a good person who just keeps getting pulled down by various family struggles, in addition to the A perils, and is trying to keep her head above water.      

We decided I would be Aria and Hanna - they wear more makeup, just like I usually wear more than Kam, even though it got a little washed out in our photos. My typical style is mostly a combination of Aria and Emily, I think, and Kam is mostly an Emily. We had a lot of fun doing it. Here's the final result!

Emily Fields, Spencer Hastings, Aria Montgomery, and Hanna Marin.
We've had most of this stuff for too long to bother listing where anything came from.
For example, my Aria dress is from high school!
Since our blog is all about growing your self-love, how does this relate, you ask? Well, each character (if they were real) has figured out how to style herself in such a way that truly reflects and enhances her identity and sense of self. That's not to say that you have to dress one way all the time in real life. I certainly don't; I love following certain trends just as much as I love running across a unique vintage dress. And it's not to say you have to spend a lot of money or "manufacture" a style or that how you dress is all-important. I think your own unique style naturally starts coming out the more confidence you develop, and the more you develop your own style, the more confidence you will feel. It's a cycle. According to Mandi, a great way to develop your style is to go with pieces you already own and start mixing and matching them in ways you've never tried. I used to worry that I didn't have my own sense of style to identify with, and I think it was when I stopped trying so hard and just let myself gravitate toward things that resonated with me, it came. It shouldn't be something you copy 100% from someone else, though it's natural to get ideas and inspiration from many sources, or something you create because you think it's what you should wear. Go with what feels right. The core of fashion should be about expressing who you are and not being afraid to pull it off. I think that's where the confidence lies.

Do you feel you have your own sense of style, or do you think you're still searching for it?

P.S. You can also find more PLL outfit ideas we found and pinned to our Pinterest style board.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Vintage Fashion at Salvage Market!

This morning, I dragged went with my husband (and our daughter, of course) to an event called Salvage - a Modern Vintage Marketplace. Ah, how I love living in Atlanta during times like these! I'd been looking forward to it for weeks since I saw it online described as "a curated vintage show produced by the Indie Craft Experience. The event features clothing, decor, home goods, furniture, books and more!" We got there right at 11 am and still weren't one of the 100 lucky folks who got a free swag bag. I was bummed. I actually went up to a couple of people and asked what was in their bag because I wanted to know what I missed. :(

We walked around three or four times taking in all the booths and the ambiance in general. Many of you know how fond I am of vintage clothes and decor, so going to anything like this is like a candy store for me. I can't believe I actually had enough restraint to walk away with only one purchase (for my daughter's room - sweet deeries for my dearie!) and NO vintage dresses. There was one I really wanted too...a kelly green beauty with daisies all over it. I didn't get a picture, but it's just as well, or it would only serve to deepen my regret. I have so many vintage dresses and sometimes aspire to be one of those gals who dresses in a different vintage dress every day, yet I usually end up in some kind of jeans because it's more comfortable when I'm out walking with my baby strapped to me. See what I mean? I'd rather be wearing her, though, given the choice. :)

While I was very taken by much of the decor, what really got me was the fashion...and not just the clothing hanging on the racks but the ensembles the SHOPPERS and vendors were wearing! There were some really stylish people - a common sight in our city. It was definitely the land of vintage dresses paired with boots (or socks and sandals), colored tights, and cardigans. I started snapping pics of random people's outfits for my own inspiration and then thought, why not blog about it? As you know, putting together a unique outfit that makes you feel good IS one thing that can make you feel more confident, and that's what we're about here! I mostly took pics of people from behind so as not to freak them out...and if I were them, I'd HATE me for posting pics from that angle ;), but I didn't think people would appreciate their faces showing up on some stranger's blog for the world (the whole world does read this blog...right?) to see. I still had to disguise some people with sunglasses and mustaches so they could be incognito. hehe

So take a stroll through the Market with me, and see if you come up with any outfit inspiration! (Click any image to enlarge.)

(1) These two on the left looked so great in their mod dress and socks with sandals. The girl in the orange and yellow also had cute glasses. (2) Love how she paired a polkadot dress with an unexpected floral cardigan, and the boots bring it all together.

(1) Looks like a Shabby Chic brand skirt to me...ahhh! The way she put her outfit together keeps it from looking too prairie-ish but still soft and sweet. (2) I've been wanting to wear my jean jacket with something, and I love how she put it with a long skirt. So casual-chic and perfect for when you don't want to wear jeans but don't really want to dress up.
(1) The boots work perfectly with this dress. This is the booth with the dress I wanted too! (2) How cute are these girls? I LOVE how they layered. I might not have thought to put black leggings and a black lacy sweater over a dress like that, and it totally works!! Love the purple tights with the yellow dress too.

(1) This is one chic look...yellow stripey jersey dress, purple tights with black dots, and leopard print flats! YES! And the belt perfectly finishes the look. (2) Wish this were clearer and from the front...she had on a really cool vintagey headpiece and lovely shirt under the sweater. Also, her tattoos make me want more...I have three, but I want something that's visible more of the time!

Which outfit is your favorite? Describe how you think it would make you feel to wear it!