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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Hey, you out there. You're not alone.

A TV in the background at lunch today alerted me to the recent suicide-from-bullying in Florida. A 12-year-old girl from Florida, Rebecca Sedwick, committed suicide after being bullied (online and in person) for a year by two girls. Both girls have been charged with a third-degree felony. You can read more about it here

On the way home, I popped in Taylor Swift's first CD (a classic, man!! I love it!), and her song "Tied Together With a Smile" made me think of this girl and the countless others like her. While the song doesn't specifically address bullying, it talks about a girl (assuming it's a girl, but it could be anybody) who thinks she isn't pretty and is struggling to hold it all together so everyone else will think she's still "the golden one" - a/k/a perfect. She doesn't talk to anyone about her problems and cries when she's alone so no one will know. 

There are so many hurting girls and women out there who don't realize how worthy, loved, and inherently amazing they are. I hope and pray that my little section of the blogosphere can help some of them out there to at least begin the journey toward self-acceptance and, ultimately, self-celebration.

P.S. I am getting an insane amount of spam comments through Intense Debate, and since Blogger now offers a direct reply option, I'm going back to Blogger comments. If you go to any old posts and don't see anything, either the ID comments disappeared, or no one ever I hope reinstating Blogger commenting will make it easier for at least some of you out there to leave thoughts! I love reading them. If you prefer to email so it's more private, I'm at theclosetnarcissist at gmail dot com.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Labeling: The Good, the Bad, & the...IS?

Something that I have really started paying attention to in my life is how I tend to label myself, particularly emotions and traits of mine, as "good" or "bad." 

As an entrepreneur (I never get tired of saying that!), I have run across scads of other amazing and inspiring female entrepreneurs. One of them is Stephanie from Personal Branding for Introverts. While personality tests tell me I'm not exactly introverted, I definitely have some introvert traits that run deep. My horoscope explains it with my sun sign being Leo (typically extroverted/attention-loving) and my moon sign being Virgo (which apparently tempers my Leo-ness with a bit of timidity). So I really enjoy her insights on how to be confident and sell yourself and your services as a businessperson. One post in particular really resonated with me recently because she talks about those labels we tend to assign to things.

Sometimes things aren't really good or bad. They just ARE what they are. One example is how I was complaining to my business coach that I am just too impatient as a person and that I was feeling a lot of guilt over it. She said, "What if impatience didn't have to be 'good' or 'bad'? What if it's precisely your impatient nature that makes you a go-getter who has the gumption to run your own business and go after what you want in life?" 

I had never looked at it like that before, and let me tell you, that was life-changing. Ever since, I've been trying to consciously examine the things I assume about myself - whether inside or outside - and decide if it can really be labeled so concretely or if it just is what it is. It's quite freeing.

The very opener to Stephanie's post is:

Q: What makes a personality trait good or bad?

A: The word you choose to describe it.

Doesn't get much more powerful than that, right?

Sometimes, simply changing a word you use to describe yourself can make all the difference in how you view yourself - and, therefore, affects your level of confidence and sense of worth. Merely converting "timid" or "bashful" to "unpretentious" or "non-aggressive" certainly puts things in a different light, no? What if "loner" becomes "individualistic"? Stephanie offers several more examples, in addition to these, of adjective conversion in the post.

While the post is geared toward common adjectives that introverts might use to describe themselves, the principle can really be applied to so many ways we use to describe (read: judge) ourselves, whether you're introverted or not.

What is a negative self-talk adjective you commonly use, and what is the more positive equivalent you can start using instead?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

How to be a Confident Entrepreneur

As an entrepreneur and mom (a "mompreneur"), I am well aware of the daily hits confidence can take. Motherhood and entrepreneurship bring you face-to-face with every insecurity you never knew you had. Each make you wonder if you're good enough even though you love it. Each will bring out aliveness, fears, passions, emotions, stresses, wonderment, highs, and lows. Try doing both at the same time like I am (with a toddler, no less!), and you're probably gonna struggle with low confidence sometimes and question if you're cut out for either one and why the hell you ever thought you could do a good job. A business is like another child, and both require a great deal of nurturing and responsibility. Sometimes it all gets a little overwhelming.

I worked in the corporate world for a long time and was severely unhappy. But I kept sticking with it because it was good experience and because I was afraid that I couldn't make it on my own. Entrepreneurship runs in my blood from both sides of my family, and I knew "someday" I would be one. I struggled along in misery waiting for the day that would magically feel like "someday." Then I got laid off. I got hired again but decided to amp up my freelance business I'd had going forever and see if maybe I could take it further. But I got burned out after a while. I decided I couldn't have a regular job, be a mom, and have my own business, so my own business had to go. Two days after I made that decision, I got laid off for the second time. WTF?! I took that as the ultimate sign that someone was not gonna allow me to get out of it so easily! My husband - who had kept telling me all along not to give up on my business - and I decided I would not look for another job, that I would instead devote that time and energy to my business. After a couple days of quaking in my boots and being afraid I couldn't do my part to take care of our family, I jumped in with both feet even more seriously than I had ever been before. I'm no longer doing it on the side or "hoping it will work out." I am making it work out. Shiz got real. I have myself a full-fledged marketing strategy, design, and writing business that lights my fire like no job I've ever had - and guess who I am helping? Other entrepreneurs. Clients are falling in my lap without all the traditional "trying hard" - clients that light my fire too, awesome people that I care about helping. Not to mention one stressful day working for myself makes me a million times happier than one good day working for someone else. 

But even with all of this, I have down days. I have nights where I lie awake with my hamster wheel spinning in my brain, telling me that maybe it wasn't really a sign from the universe when I got laid off…maybe all this is just a fluke…seriously, who am I to think I'm capable of doing this?! 

So here is what is working for me. This is not really new information, but maybe the way I'm packaging it will resonate with you. If you are thinking of launching your own business or already have one and wonder if you can do it, I promise if you follow these three guidelines, it will catapult you in the right direction!

1) Hire a coach already!

I love to tell the story about how I met my coach, Francoise Everett with Guilt-Free Mothering. We attended the same networking event for women, and I "happened" to sit next to her. It's customary at these events for everyone to say their name and what their business is, and when she stood and said the words "Guilt-Free Mothering," I had absolutely no idea what she meant or what she does, but I turned to her and said, "I need to talk to you." So, afterward, we did. I found out that she coaches entrepreneurial moms to help them not only launch or enhance their business but also release guilt from their role as a mom and find real ways to manage all the responsibilities without losing sanity or sacrificing yourself or your family. I was an easy sell on the one hand because I instantly realized the value in something like that. I'd been freelancing on the side for several years, but actually trying to make your own business your livelihood is a whole other ballgame, and getting some professional guidance made total sense! I also struggle a lot with guilt as a mom, and knowing she could teach me to overcome that would be a gift to my daughter and to me. Business coaching + mom coaching = a two-fer! Plus, I instantly liked her. I knew we'd hit it off and that she would be able to get through to me. And if you're going to pay someone to coach you and spend oodles of time with them, you'd better like 'em as a person.

The part that held me back was cost. I was afraid I couldn't afford it. But do you know that when I decided it would work and that the investment would go right back into my business, that was when the universe recognized I was taking my business seriously…that was when things began to open up. Quickly. It's kind of like how hiring someone to do your marketing for you (such as myself) is an investment back into your business. Sometimes we need an expert in their field to hold our hand and guide us to where we need to be. It might be a lifestyle coach who helps you figure out what you want to do with yourself. It might be a parenting coach. It might be a business coach. It might be a confidence or happiness coach. Whoever it is, when you take that step and realize you don't have to handle it all yourself, it opens up great things in your life. Even my coach has a coach. No one on this earth is done growing. We can all use strategy from someone who's been there. Someone to get straight with us and drill down to the root of whatever holds us back (that we didn't even know was holding us back). Here are some coaches you can look into, and this is only a sampling of what's out there. 

Guilt-Free Mothering with Francoise - for entrepreneurial moms and women
Stratejoy with Molly Mahar - for women in transition (relationships, motherhood, business, etc.)
Mara Glatzel - for self-love and growth
Hey Shenee - business and branding coaching
Moxie with Elizabeth Malone - to get your sexy back
Passion Fruit with Wendy Watkins - getting you in touch with your purpose and passion

2) Comparison is an evil joy-sucker!

This is Self-Confidence 101 for any area in your life. I'm always preaching that we need to stop comparing our looks and lives to other women and stick together because everyone struggles. I've gotten better about that, but running a business is quite a responsibility, and looking at what others in your field are doing, while often valuable, can make you wonder if you're as good as someone else. The main thing to remember here is: you have a story only you can tell. No one else in the whole wide world can bring your experiences and your particular gifts to the table. You don't have to cater to everyone - and, in fact, you shouldn't. You only have to cater to the kind of people you specifically want to help and who are a good fit. Something about you and the way you view the world will be the best fit for the right type of client. They like your approach, and you don't even have to sell them too hard. The clients who aren't the right fit go elsewhere, but that's good, because they leave space for the right ones to fill. It's a little like the day you meet your get this feeling inside that a partnership with that client is going to enrich both your lives. 

Most days, I feel confident in my talents and abilities to do what I do. It feels not only like a passion but a compulsion, like I simply must do it. But it's so easy to let doubt creep in when my defenses are down. I recently ran across a website for a super talented designer - and I admit that when I was first looking at her site, I felt intimidated until I realized her target client is completely different from mine. And until I found this blog post she wrote (You are gooder than that. Just keep going. And going. And going.) where she discusses her own insecurities that pop up. I thought, "If someone that talented struggles with self-doubt, EVERY entrepreneur probably does." And you know what? They do! Even the best of the best at the top of the entrepreneurial totem pole of success and fame STILL goes to bed occasionally wondering why they ever thought they were cut out for this and what they could possibly have to offer that isn't already being done. It's okay to be scared and feel doubt. Acknowledge the feelings; don't run from them. But remember what we feel in one moment in time does not have to define how we feel overall. 

3) Come from a place of authenticity and love. 

I did a target client exercise that my coach sent me that really drilled down into the specifics of the "ideal client" I can best help. It really got me thinking about one particular client of mine who is often stressed and burning the candle at both ends. We hadn't done any work on her business in a little while because she felt she couldn't take on anything else. I asked myself how I could try to make her feel a little better. So I texted her and told her that I hoped she would have some time to relax over the weekend and that she deserved a break. I wasn't trying to get back on her radar. I was coming from a place of genuine compassion for her. Another example is that I sent someone I met an email telling her tactfully that her website was not reaching its full potential. I wasn't trying to win her over as a client; I simply wanted to help her in some way, whether she hired me or someone else to handle it. She's in her business partly to make a living - as we all are - and was incredibly appreciative of my being willing to be honest with her.

What I do for people is more than a marketing plan to make them more money; it's getting to know them and trying to make their lives easier in some way, to make them feel supported. In just about any line of work, you're offering people some kind of service beyond just what your business is about. If you're an IT professional, you're maintaining networks and workstations so they run smoothly - and your clients' lives and jobs run more smoothly as a result. That's a service within a service. Even if you feel there is no possible service within the service for your line of work, simply being nice and smiling at people makes people's days better. When you can connect with that feeling of higher purpose, when you focus not only on what you can do but the WHY behind what you do (the passion, the drive, and making a difference in some way), that's when the magic happens. Always come from a place of truth and authenticity. That is what will attract clients to you. That's who people like to be around. And besides that, I am in love with my business, and I LOVE my clients. I love seeing their faces light up; I live for hearing their sighs of relief when they realize I'm going to help them through.

I questioned for a while if I wanted to write this post and have it associated with my business in any way. It's easy to feel like you have to present a perfect image to your clients 100% of the time or run the risk of them thinking you're not professional enough or qualified to be advising them. But what I am finding more and more is that people just want the freedom to be real and to work with people who are real too. Being vulnerable enough to admit my insecurities and struggles doesn't make me less qualified for anything at all. It makes me a real, accessible, relatable human being. The designer that wrote that blog post about her own insecurities? If I were the type of client who needed what she does, I'd hire her any day over someone who tried to look like they have it all together because she was authentic.

So here's my challenge to you. 

Try out these three guidelines for at least six weeks. Then see if you aren't in a very different place from where you started. 

What are your own strategies for kicking entrepreneurial self-doubt out on its ass with its ratty suitcase?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Guess What Radically Affects Your Self-Esteem: Sleep!

It seems so obvious now. How did I not catch it before? Sleep is directly related to self-esteem. If you don't get enough sleep, you don't feel at your best, don't act your best, don't reach your potential. When you don't do those things, it can open you up to feeling "less than." If lack of sleep makes you irritable, you might start to feel guilty when you snap at people you love, which also makes you feel terrible about yourself. You might even start to feel worthless over time just because you don't have enough energy to do much. I, The Closet Narcissist, actually said aloud to my husband yesterday in tears, "I don't like myself anymore." I realized most of that feeling was stemming from byproducts of lack of sleep. Today, when I actually woke up rested, I felt like an awesome mom who has a lot to contribute to the world; I went from one end of the spectrum to the other, all because of one good night's sleep.

Sleep had always been a precious commodity to me, until I had my daughter and I started placing less importance on it (or maybe I should say she placed less importance on my sleep? Ha.). Even though I'm a night owl who prefers to stay up a little late and get up later, I usually require a good 8-10 hours consistently in order to feel rested and at my best. Unlike my husband who can get by on as little as 5 if he needs to. When we had our daughter, we had the normal newborn period of waking every two hours at night, but somehow your mind and body just get through it. You're kind of in a daze, but everything else in your life takes a backseat to the baby, and you don't have the energy to care or worry about much else. A little later on, everything else still takes a backseat to the baby, as it should, but you are forced back into the realities of life if you want to remain in your home and keep up your mortgage payment and other bills. Add to that working - and/or being a stay-at-home mom - and there are all kinds of things vying for your energy and attention. If you don't try to get a decent amount of sleep, you end up cranky, feeling guilty, extremely down on yourself, and overwhelmed. Did I say you? I meant me. But it would probably happen to you too. Those things can happen as a parent even when you do get enough sleep. Lack of sleep makes it harder.

Since I am working at home (a part-time day job, plus my own freelance business), in addition to taking care of our daughter, our pets, the house, bills, all that stuff - though my husband helps - my energy gets tapped out pretty quickly. If I don't get enough sleep, I have even less of a reserve to draw from. In order to get some kind of time to myself, or get all my work done, I often find myself staying up late and paying for it the next day. This is somewhat of a time management issue, I think. Or sometimes I just get involved in a really good book that I simply cannot stop reading until I'm done. Sometimes if I don't properly detox my thoughts before I lie down, I will either lie awake or wake up at 3 am and can't go back to sleep.

And then if your child doesn't get enough sleep, that's even worse. Your sanity starts to slowly - maybe quickly - slip away. Our daughter has always been a "good sleeper" but has always required sleeping with us and napping while being worn in the Ergo carrier until recently, which is sometimes challenging but what we feel she needs. (Please don't offer parenting advice; no offense, but we've got it. Co-sleeping at night isn't what's causing any of our sleep issues - it's other stuff. Plus, there's nothing like snuggling my angel all night and being close to her when I'm wearing her; it's just that sometimes I gotta get stuff done.) When she hit 17 months, she just stopped napping. She was irritable and tired all the time, so I was too, and my own lack of sleep wasn't helping me stay hopeful. It's taken weeks of patiently (impatiently) getting her back on a two-nap-a-day schedule, so much of my day is just devoted to helping her wind down and sleep. We are finally getting there, and it's been going well. But it's been a long road of helping her learn that sleep is safe and good again, even if she's in her own bed for naps. The upside is that it's offered me somewhat of a vacation with a lot of reading and relax time when she does sleep. My daughter is a totally different toddler when she is rested than when she's not. I love her just as much all the time regardless, of course, but when she's rested, she's such a freakin' delight; I can't get enough.

I am determined to make my own sleep as precious to me as my daughter's. We will all benefit.

I also need to view myself with the same grace as I view her. She's still not any less wonderful of a person in an unrested, irritable state; neither am I, so I need to stop berating myself.

In an effort to make sure we all get enough sleep, here is what we are doing - which is the result of a lot of trial and error.

Supplements. I have weird limb pain sometimes at night that makes it really uncomfortable to try to sleep. A doctor prescribed a muscle relaxer for me, but I didn't fill it because she said it would make me really drowsy (which might be a good thing if we didn't co-sleep, but that would make it dangerous). I read that magnesium is a natural muscle relaxer and started taking a supplement about 30 minutes before bed, sometimes along with melatonin, and it works. For my daughter, we tried a magnesium supplement called Kids Calm that worked great for a friend's kid. It didn't seem to do much for her. We're now using Bach Kids Rescue Remedy flower drops, and it seems to be helping enough that I'm planning to get some for me. It has an ingredient that is supposed to help calm erratic thoughts.

Earlier bedtimes. For both of us. She used to naturally go to sleep every night at 10 pm (from birth). When she reached a certain age, that wasn't working anymore, so we moved it back. I'm also moving mine back but not too much. I've noticed if I fall asleep too early, that's when I wake at 3 am and can't go back to sleep. If I stay up too late, then I obviously don't get enough sleep either. I think I've found the right time for me to go to sleep and wake up, and I wake up actually feeling refreshed. I make a conscious effort to stop doing anything that requires a lot of mental capacity half an hour before I lie down to give myself some time to unwind. Most toddlers thrive on consistency and routine. Not ours! She wants circumstances to vary in order to sleep. Sometimes she wants music, sometimes not. Sometimes she wants to sleep in her bed, our bed, the guest bed, the Ergo carrier. And that's fine by me; I totally identify. However, the one type of consistency that does work for her is making sure she naps or at least rests at the same two times every day (or as close as possible). With her still taking two naps a day, it's pretty tough to make plans outside the house unless it's something quick. But the alternative is much more difficult to deal with. :)

Brain dumping. Like a good crap, brain dumping can take a load off. Sorry, but I'm a bit past the magic time I need to go to bed, despite my own advice, so I'm getting a little silly. If you have a lot on your mind, you can consciously go over a list of things to do the next day in your mind or jot them down. Treat it as a purge. Once it's gone, you're not allowed to let yourself think about it anymore. Make a concerted effort to focus on a really positive memory instead - something that has already happened so you don't get excited or start planning anything. If you just can't redirect your thoughts, try this next tip.

Listening to something soothing. My daughter and I both sleep better with some white noise, usually a fan. I've also been known to turn on my hypnotherapy or HypnoParenting mp3s on my phone, which usually lull us right off. I think she and I both have a similar problem of not being able to shut off our brains. I have an endless, exhausting stream of consciousness that never gives me a break unless I'm reading, watching mindless TV, or listening to hypnotherapy. I'd give anything sometimes to be able to turn it off like a light switch and get some friggin' peace once in a while. I worry. Like a LOT. About everything. As if I don't have enough legitimate stuff to worry about, I will make up things to worry about as well. Worry makes it very hard to sleep restfully. If you can really zone in on a soothing sound you hear in the room and let it fill up your senses, it helps drown out your thoughts so you can relax.

Massage. My daughter loves to have her back and feet rubbed to help her relax. So do I. I ask my husband to do so quite regularly and no longer feel bad about it because he's happy to and because if it helps me relax, it's good for everyone. I'm thinking about getting back to the chiropractor too.

Bathtime. I don't shower every day. Most newish moms don't. It's just a fact of life. And my daughter isn't usually dirty enough at this age to need one every day. But we're going to start doing it at least almost every night because it's a chance to unwind, and warm water and smelly-good things help us relax. Even though she plays in the bath and sometimes gets too playful, there is just something about going to bed feeling clean.

Removing the pressure to sleep. When you feel like you should be sleeping, all it does is make it more elusive. If my daughter is fighting sleep and doesn't want to give in (and she fights it harder than any kid I've ever seen), I will tell her, "You don't have to sleep. You do have to be still and quiet and relax." She can sense when I let go of the desperation and pressure, and it helps her to let go and sleep. And even if she doesn't sleep, she has to use the whole allotted time to relax so she at least slows down for a bit. For my problem of waking in the wee hours, I'll admit, some of my best work and ideas have come from that 2-4 am window when I couldn't sleep. One time, I woke up and could not stop thinking about one of my freelance clients. So many ideas were flooding into my mind that I had to get up and type them all out. It turned out to be very valuable info. During these times, I try to let it come if it needs to and not chastise myself for being awake. Taking the pressure off myself helps me go back to sleep easier when I'm done. Sometimes it's just flat out easier to concentrate on stuff late at night when the rest of the house is quiet and distraction-free. That's usually when I blog.

Making sleep feel safe again. If you have a lot of bad, or even really vivid dreams, you might dread sleep. If you lie awake a lot, you might dread that stretch of time lying in bed all uncomfortable. For my daughter, she is terrified of waking up alone. So we sit with her for her naps when she's in her own bed. She might stir a little and look up to see if we're there; when she sees us, she falls back asleep. After some time of doing this, we will slowly inch farther away until she feels secure waking up without us in the room. In the meantime, I try to use the time to read or work so that I'm not thinking of all the things I "could" be doing instead of sitting in her room, which will only lead to her feeling that pressure (plus, one day when she is older, I won't have such a sweet opportunity to just watch her sleep). I realize that it might sound like we're bending over backwards for her sleep schedule. We are; I have no delusions. But trust me when I say that it's much harder to deal with her not getting that sleep. It's so worth it. And it's a temporary thing; as she grows and learns, she will gradually feel more comfortable. If you're the one with the problem, think of ways to change your negative associations about sleep.

Pacifier. Okay, that only works for one of us. And I promise I will wean myself off in a few months.

Do you have any sleep tips that work for you? (Perhaps reading this post since it's super long?)

Have you noticed if you feel worse about yourself when you're tired?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Benefits of Having the Gunk

190 | 365 bedridden
photo by sweethardt

I have finally made it through one of the sickest periods of my life. I always thought that my child wouldn't be a germ factory like everyone else's kids. For the first year of my daughter's life, that was true! Then, suddenly, it was bam-bam-bam. All three of us came down with some awful cold a few weeks ago, and I had barely just started getting over it when I was hit with something else, something worse. It laid me out enough where my husband had to stay home from work one day and my in-laws came over the next. I was too out of it to be my normal mom self and take care of my child, which was a horrible feeling. I am not 100% better yet but am definitely getting there.

In talking with my business/life coach, Francoise Everett of Guilt-Free Mothering, during a recent session, we realized there are some positive things that can come out of being sick - things you don't usually recognize until after you're feeling fine again, because none of it seems positive in the thick of it when you can't breathe and your abs feel like you've done 250 crunches from all the sneezing and coughing you've done.

These positive byproducts are things I hope to incorporate more into my normal, everyday, non-sick life as well so that it doesn't always take being sick to remind me of them.

Being sick makes you unapologetic. 

I have long struggled with some incessant need to explain myself to people and justify my actions. I think it largely comes from a place of just wanting to feel understood, to make sure people don't have the wrong impression of me. What it took me a while to realize is that constantly needing to explain or prove yourself to people does not usually make you look better to people; instead, it can have the opposite effect of making you appear insecure. "Explaining yourself all the time actually weakens your power," Francoise says. "It chips away at your vitality and aliveness." And your sense of self. As she pointed out, being sick is an excuse unto itself why you can't do something that someone might ask of you. No more justification than that is necessary. If you don't feel up to doing what they're asking you to do, you simply tell them that you're sick and can't do it. 9 times out of 10, people will understand. You don't even have to say you're sorry; it's not like you can help it. This is something I want to get better at. Part of being confident is respectfully saying how you feel without feeling like you need to over-state your case, as well as saying no to things that don't feel good to you and knowing that you don't need to explain yourself for it. It doesn't mean you have a pompous attitude that says you do what you want whenever you want because you're the queen of everything. It just means you know how you feel and why, and you rest in that knowledge without fear of what everyone will think of you.

Being sick forces self-care and rest.

New moms probably have some of the weakest immune systems in the world. You rarely truly "rest." My version of resting usually involves reading for a bit after my daughter goes to sleep or intending to read and falling asleep with her. I do take small breaks when my husband is home and have gotten much better about carving out "me" time, time with my friends, etc. But it's still really hard for me. I don't mean it to be a martyr-y thing at all. It's simply really hard for me to be apart from her. Being this sick allowed forced me to rest a lot. I really didn't have much choice. I didn't like not being able to be her normal mom. But my body was telling me flat out that it needed rest and was going to take it whether I liked it or not, by God. I wasn't capable of much more than lying in bed in a congested stupor. I went to bed early every night. I rested during the day. Those are things I hadn't done in a long time. I want going to bed at a decent hour to be my norm when I am well too. In a morbid way, even though I missed my daughter so much because I was here but not "here," it was kind of nice to have an excuse to do a lot of being still and quiet, which is not something I get much of these days!

Being sick makes you weed out the unimportant. 

As I said, I wasn't capable of doing much more than resting. So I was not at all concerned about constantly checking email and Facebook on my phone like normal. I could've cared less what most emails had to say because I simply didn't have the mental capacity to process it, and I only dealt with ones I really needed to deal with and skipped over time-wasting email newsletters and sale blasts. Such small things that actually add up to quite a bit of the time people spend. Being sick also cured me for a while of wanting things. Who cares about a new pair of earrings you had your eye on when you start to question whether you will ever get out of bed and be seen in public again anyway? I'm not saying it's wrong to want things or waste some time farting around online here and there. But being sick taught me to try and keep those things in check better.

Being sick makes you grateful for things you take for granted.

Like breathing and other small victories. It also made me so happy when I became Normal Mom again and could play with my daughter and be silly with her again. Suddenly, you are grateful for air, for food tasting right again, for not waking up twelve times a night hacking, for being able to sit through a conversation and understand and participate because your brain isn't in a sickness-induced fog anymore. It just makes you more appreciative in general. And that, perhaps, is the most important thing we should get out of being sick: learning to live in a state of gratitude for big things and small.

Hopefully you can live vicariously through my sickness and consciously implement these four things into your daily life without having to go through the gunk part. And I hope to remain conscious of them as much as possible.

What is your biggest silver lining after you get well?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Quest for Precious - AKA First World Problems

Riding sidesaddle with envy is a dangerous practice: I would be happy if I had what he or she possesses. By contrast, giving thanks constantly and in all circumstances liberates us from envy.

Edward Hays - The Great Escape Manual

Is this you? You see something you like, and then you want it. Like...really want it. To the point where you feel like it is not a want but a need. Whatever "it" is, it becomes an obsession. You deliberate for a little bit on whether or not you can justify the purchase. Things have been a little tight lately. You could make it work, but should you? So then you spend hours - yes, hours - perusing the interwebs and shops to see if you can find the same thing somewhere else for a cheaper price. You might even run across a pretty good facsimile of the thing and almost convince yourself that the more affordable item will do the trick...but, deep down, you know it won't. You realize that spending less money on something sub-par that's not quite what you really want is more wasteful than spending more on something you know you will use, which only serves to help you justify the purchase that much more. Even though you are perfectly aware of how ridiculous it is scrolling endlessly through a Google Image search, Craigslist, or eBay or favoriting things on etsy, you can't stop thinking about it until you've bought it. It's like an itch you have to scratch. Your own version of a "Precious."

I do it. I get something in my head, and it's over with. There is no resting until that thing is mine. It's silly and kind of embarrassing to admit, really, even though they're almost never expensive things. But I convince myself so easily that I will just feel good once I get this thing. But then what happens? I get the thing, and I totally love it, and I use it. It's not like it just gets shoved in the back of the closet to collect dust bunnies, never to be heard from again. But in no time at all, I'm onto the next quest that has caught my attention. Call me spoiled, but I think it's actually so much deeper than that for most of us. So, once again, I'm laying my flaws out there as an effort to give you something real you can relate to.

The instance my husband teases me about the most is THE BLUE DRESS. A few years ago, I was out somewhere and saw a girl walk by in a royal blue jersey dress. Nowadays, I'd just walk right up and ask her where she bought it and hopefully save myself a lot of time and restless energy, but I didn't do that. She looked so casual-pretty. Breezy. And in that instant, I decided I had to have a royal blue jersey dress. I scoured stores and the web. I finally found one, months later (the obsession didn't die down in all that time), and bought it. And it was cheap. wasn't royal blue. It was more electric blue. I hardly ever wear that dress. I actually did see almost the exact same dress last year at Target, but I already had one in teal, and I couldn't justify buying the blue one. But do you know part of me kind of wishes I had? It’s just a freaking T-shirt dress, for God’s sake! Seriously, y'all, ridiculous. I feel so embarrassed right now that I'm beyond tempted to delete this whole example from the post, for fear of a loathsome comment telling me this is why terrorists hate the Western world and to stop moaning and groaning over non-existent problems. Lest you think I grew up on Easy St., I didn't. I'm not used to always getting what I want. I never got the Barbie Dreamhouse I coveted; instead, I got plastic bookshelves that I turned into condos, complete with my own hand-sewn textiles and hand-drawn wall art. (To this day, I credit not getting what I wanted with a huge chunk of my creativity.) 

So then...where does this come from, and why do we let these things consume us? Here are some reasons you might relate to.

We are attracted to beautiful things. 

That might sound elementary, but not everyone is. My husband isn't. (Except for me! ha) He is a functional kind of guy. He could care less if the ambience of a room is set by the paint color; he just wants the rooms and house to function well for what he needs. I, on the other hand, need it to be pretty as well. My current quest: redoing my home office. Now, I honestly don't think this is unjustified. You'd agree if you knew what it looks like in its current state. I am now running my own business, and I need a creative, inspiring, clean space in which to work more productively. We didn't have a real desk, so that was the first thing on my list. Luckily, Kam felt her "thrifty senses tingling" and found exactly the kind of desk I wanted on Craigslist for a steal. (Incidentally, she shares this syndrome; she just has far more patience to wait than I do.) But prior to that, I'd done several searches on the web and at antique stores for this type of desk. No other type of desk would do. And the only reason I so-called "have time" to do this type of thing? Smart phones make it way too damn easy.

We are looking to get a certain type of feeling out of it. 

Did you notice the way I described Royal Blue Dress Girl? I was after the feeling she projected. I wanted to feel breezy and pretty too. I thought if I had a dress like that, I would feel that way, i.e., good about myself. If you are a girl - and, chances are, you are if you are reading this blog - there's a pretty high chance that you often compare yourself to other girls. Whether it's the way they look, their weight, their hair, their skin, their family, their job, their home, their car, their income, their are constantly scanning other girls everywhere you go to subconsciously decide if you measure up to them. How much of the things you want or buy come from latching onto the notion that if you can only get a certain thing or look a certain way, that is when you will like yourself or think you're pretty?

It makes for an easy distraction. 
I'd much rather soothe the pain of something sad in my life by buying something than actually thinking about what's making me sad. It’s easy to justify because it seems much healthier than booze or drugs. A few days ago marked 8 years since my mom died. It haunts me every day. When I'm obsessing over some purchase, there's less room for my brain to focus on the sad. As a mom to a toddler, my brain doesn't actually have that much time to focus on anything but her to begin with (much less anything sad because she's pure sunshine!)...until the house is quiet and still at night, and I'm left with my swirling thoughts. 

We like the feeling of getting “a deal.” 
Makes you feel so clever, doesn’t it?! Like you really pulled one over on someone or were so smart that you didn’t have to pay more.

We envision ourselves blogging about it! 
You other bloggers out there will have to chuckle at this one. You get the thing in your head and are already plotting out your photoshoot while you visualize yourself wearing it.

Pinterest is the devil. 
Okay, not really. Pinterest is actually a very useful tool for being able to remember things and ideas. It’s also an awesome way to create a vision board. However, if you let it, it can also make you feel really, really bad about yourself and all the things you are not doing/making/buying that these moms with six kids and jobs and blogs somehow find the time and money for, while you just feel accomplished if you find the extra energy to shower. You’ll decide you’re completely inept as a mom, wife, housekeeper, decorator, beauty queen, [insert role here]. Appreciate it for what it is and nothing more. Don’t use it to breed obsessions and keep up with the Joneses and their latest purchases.

Getting packages in the mail feels awesome. 
It's like Christmas or your birthday. On a random Thursday.

I'm not saying that the way I am is "bad." And I'm better about it than I used to be and am much smarter about the decisions I make about things I buy. Waste has become kind of disgusting to me, not to mention that storage in our small home is an issue as well. I am also very grateful for the things I have and do not take them for granted. My two pairs of vintage boots I got a few months ago (at great prices) are alternated staples in my wardrobe pretty much every day. They do help me feel more confident and put-together – and, dare I say, happy.

Your deepest sense of self-worth, confidence, and happiness should never come from anywhere outside your heart and soul, but let's be realistic and admit it is perfectly fine and healthy if a particular kind of shoe or shade of lipstick just makes you carry yourself differently! I would never say that is wrong! That is all part of the fun of fashion. I do believe in trying to look better if it's within reason, healthy, and realistic. It doesn't have to be shallow unless you take it to an extreme and make it your highest pursuit.

I also don't think it's wrong to chase after a particular feeling if you can recognize that this "thing" is not going to make you feel whole. It's not going to be a permanent fix to make you happy. There is no one thing that is finally going to make you feel beautiful 24-7, 365 days a year, and never have an off day. I'm not saying don't buy things that will make you feel good. I'm not saying don't buy expensive things if you have the money for them. All I'm saying is next time you get this burning desire, just try to pause and get in touch with your motives. Go ahead and buy it (I probably will!); just be realistic about what it's going to do for you. 

Do you go on insatiable quests like these? What do you think you get out of it?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Outfit Post: Peplum and Plum

I have to admit, I wasn't sure at first about the return of peplum as a trend...I guess I associate it with the 80s. But then I saw it here on Ally's blog and here as a DIY T-shirt project, and I was intrigued. So when I found this sweater on sale at Anthropologie a few weeks ago (and an additional 25% off the sale price), it was so different from any top I have that I decided to get it. Nothing 80s about this top! Being a short-waisted girl - and I'm not saying anything bad; just stating what is - I didn't think it would look right on me. I tried it on over the thin shirt I was wearing that day and realized a little layering would add the length I need.

Kam had our Christmas gathering at her house this year, so I decided to wear the sweater. I paired it with what I'm convinced are the perfect pants: Faded Glory jeggings for $12 at Walmart. I've collected them in various colors over the last couple years. They're cheap. They're not too thin or too thick. They have no front pockets or buttons to add visual bulk under tops. Doesn't get much better than that! Throw in a tanktop, vintage boots, the perfect red liptick, and some handmade jewelry, and I have an outfit I love.

I'm trying to be bolder with layering accessories, and these are some of my very favorites. The orange ring was a $7 etsy find that was too cute to pass up. The quote bracelet was my Christmas gift from my husband's cousin; I wanted it after seeing it on the Miskabelle blog because it is a variation on something my business coach told me when we first started and reminds me that once you put something out into the universe, things will unfold to make it happen! The cuff came as a little bonus surprise when I bought a vintage maternity dress on etsy when I was pregnant.
Kam snapped all these pictures of me in her pretty backyard, and, of course, my little lady joined in the fun! I cannot believe she is fourteen months old.

Here's how to get a similar gold, green, and red holiday makeup look:
It was a fun evening. We all had dinner, opened gifts, and made salt dough ornaments. Which I set down on top of our car and forgot about til we got home. I'm kinda sick over it. Never set anything down on top of your car! Just don't do it!

Happy holidays from the Narcissisters! We wish you much love and light!

Sweater - Anthropologie
Pants - Walmart Faded Glory jeggings
Boots - vintage via etsy
Tank - H&M
Ring - Dondalee's on etsy
Cuff - ElmsEcho on etsy
Bracelet - Cobweb Corner on etsy
Lipstick - Retrofuturist by Lime Crime