STOP! Stop Comparing Yourself to Her.

Anyone on my Facebook knows that I feel there is great importance in lifting others up, especially women. While that sounds great in theory, it seems to be something that is difficult for us. Why is that?

Think about this, ladies; when you see an attractive woman walk by, what are your first thoughts and feelings? As you stand next to each other in line at your favorite coffee shop or at the grocery store checkout, can you easily throw out a “Hey girl, cute shoes/shirt/purse/hair/lipstick!” at her? Or do you quietly judge her in your head because you are automatically comparing yourself to her. Or better yet, comparing her great parts to your flaws? In my experience as a woman, the latter is much easier, but why?

In my post, I Am More Than My Cleavage, I talk about media, advertising, and the objectification of women. In that post, I was talking about the sexualization of women/girls and all the problems that causes. This post is similar because again, the media plays a HUGE part in this. It is in our faces constantly that we are supposed to be pretty, thin, curvy, confident, have perfect hair, have perfect teeth, have clear skin, be perfect mommies, be fashionable, be a sex goddess, be perfect wives/relatives/friends, and a million other unattainable perfections. This constant “in your face” media makes it damn hard to just be happy with ourselves and happy with the woman we walk by on the street.

One area I personally struggle in is being a mom. For a ton of reasons (none of which I will list here) I often feel a pang of jealousy when I see another mom doing something great. It used to really cause negative feelings in me. I would see something posted on Facebook and I immediately would think to myself about how that mom was just being boastful. Over the years though, I have grown a lot. In that growth, I can now recognize that my negative feelings for other women are so very often a reflection of my own feelings of failure. It had nothing to do with them, I just didn’t realize it. In fact, none of that was even a conscious thought until I’d reconnected with someone I used to be friends with. She is an amazing wife and mother of 5 children, and it clearly shows on her Facebook account. On Sunday, just as I was getting ready to make pancakes, eggs, and bacon for my family for breakfast, my friend’s status showed, “Drinking mint tea and my morning smoothie! Breakfast: Fried potatoes with garlic, pepper, red and green bell peppers and onion, cinnamon rolls I made last night, bacon, sausage, English muffins and I have these fruits ready to there liking: Cantaloupe, cherries, watermelon, strawberries, blueberries, sliced up pink lady apples, green and red grapes, sliced oranges, peaches, cherry tomatoes and bananas. Veggie choices: Spinach leaves, celery and carrot sticks, red and green bell pepper, sliced raw broccoli, cucumber slices, sugar snap peas, green beans, snow peas, sliced cauliflower, cubed squash, buttered asparagus and raspberries. Three different yogurts, six cheeses, coconut milk or whole dairy milk and nuts galore to choose from! Now for these people to wake up, anytime now, serious!” For a split second, I thought oh my goodness, why can’t I be like that?! I immediately redirected my thinking and remembered that she is just that freaking awesome and it’s okay that she is amazing. It is also okay that my kids were “just” getting pancakes, eggs, and bacon. We were both feeding our families out of love and that is what matters.

Advertising works hard at making us hate ourselves. It does this because they want to sell products. Buy this teeth whitener, that brand of clothing, this brand of makeup, this diet supplement, and that bra. . . The list is endless because it is effective.  It’s mentally exhausting worrying about it and how we compare to others, and it requires conscious effort to remind ourselves that it doesn’t have to be this way.

Ladies, it is not easy to remember with all that is in our faces every single day that we are all worthy and we do not need to compare ourselves, but it is worth the effort. There will always be someone else that is more pretty, has better hair, has a more flattering figure, etc., but those other women DO NOT affect you. Embrace the differences, lift each other up, compliment what you like in others, and go to sleep at night knowing that those around you don’t make you any less of the amazing woman you are. 

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We Are Enough

It is crazy to me that I have to say this, but it is not okay to treat women like objects without feelings. Women are more than a pretty (or not so pretty) face walking by you. While I am currently working on a blog post about how women view and treat other women and how the media has an impact on how we feel about ourselves and each other, I had to interrupt my progress on that one to write this similar one.

I had the most disrespectful thing happen to me last night that has happened to me in quite a while. I stopped by the gas station on my way home from work and when I got out of my rig, I heard the noise of people behind me. Naturally, I turned to look for the source. As I turned over my right shoulder, there was a couple in a vehicle next to mine and I made eye contact with the driver. If this would have been then end of it, nothing about this stop would have been noteworthy, but in that split second that we made eye contact, he then barked at me. Yes, you read that right, he barked at me like a dog. I was so shocked that it didn’t even register with me until I was several steps further and around the corner out of sight. As I stood in line to pay for my purchase, I developed a lump in my throat. What made this man feel that it was okay to bark at me like I’m a dog? What made him feel that it was okay to deliver that blow to my self-esteem simply for looking his direction? The mean look in his eye as he did this stayed with me as I pondered his intentional hurtfulness while still in line.

While he obviously did not say anything to me, I took his barking as his way of saying I’m ugly and don’t deserve to look at him. In no way was I “checking him out” or doing anything other than instinctively looking in the direction that I’d heard noise. He didn’t know me or anything about me. And yet, somehow, he felt comfortable insulting me.

Initially, his barking at me stung my feelings. I thought right away about feeling fat and feeling like I don’t have the best clothing lately due to weight gain. I thought about my sloppy ponytail and my muffin top. It was uncomfortable walking back to my rig, and I wanted to rush so that he didn’t have a chance to say anything to me on my way back out. On the drive home though, I thought, I don’t have to let his ugly actions affect me and how I feel about myself! He does not get to have that power!

In American society, we are drowning in media and advertisement exposure. We need perfect hair, skin, and teeth. We need the newest fashions, the best products, and to buy, buy, buy. Advertising is effective because we are now constantly being told we NEED these things to be desirable, to be good women, and to attain unobtainable perfection. We are constantly faced with the photoshopped versions of beauty on every glossy magazine cover, on every clothing website, and even on ads on the side of the city bus.

We can rise above this, ladies. You don’t need to be a consumer to be a good woman, a good partner, a good employee, a good mom, a good sister, or a good anything else. Smile brightly, laugh loudly, and hold your beautiful head up high everywhere you go, because YOU own your beauty and happiness. Don’t let anyone else rob you of it.

While there are mean and hurtful people out in the world, we do not have to let them hold power over us. As women, we have a hard enough time feeling good about ourselves and feeling like we are enough. We deserve to think positively about ourselves. Please don’t let the mean-spirited people of the world steal your happiness and confidence. We deserve to KNOW that we are enough— with every stretch mark, every roll, every varicose vein, and every freckle, mole, & scar.

You. Are. Enough.

I. Am. Enough.

We. Are. Enough.

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Thrivin’ Survivor, That Is Me

*Repost from old blog site*

You’d think that knowing that I am strong, plus surviving some of the hardest things one could experience in life would automatically make me fearless, right? Wrong.

I’m facing a breakup. Lord knows that isn’t easy. After almost 3 years of dedication, 2 sets of children, and 1 combined household, I’m pretty much dreading “the talk” happening. How is that though? How is that so scary when I have been through so much—and survived?!

I’ve been sexually abused multiple times since I was a kid. I have had children as a teenager, gotten married a week after I turned 17 to a man that turned into a raging, abusive drug addict, and endured several years of mental, emotional, sexual, and physical abuse during that marriage. I have watched my then husband overdose, almost die, and recuperate—only to watch it happen all over again. I have battled chronic pain more than half my life that is at times crippling. I have held my infant daughter as her life support was turned off and she took her last breath, battled CPS, and pieced my life back together after meth. I have gotten through being homeless, jobless, and broke. I have battled court systems. I have battled people that wish me harm. And I have battled my own inner demons.

Nothing quite feels as terrifying as one’s husband hitting her in a rage, making her fear and know her life is in danger. Nothing feels as heartbreaking as laying one’s child on a hospital bed and turning away knowing one will never get to pick her baby up again and smell her scent, feel her warmth, nurture her at her breast, or hear her sweet cry again. Nothing is as hard as having to fight for one’s children against a government agency with a vendetta. And yet, I’ve been through all of that and survived and come out on top. I’ve not just survived, but I have thrived!

Even with that being the short list, I’m reading back over it and now sitting here wondering, how the hell am I afraid of a little breakup??? I need to just face it head on. Ready, set, go. 3, 2, 1, takeoff. Get it done, woman. There’s no way in hell that this is what suddenly breaks me! I am STRONG! I am powerful! I am woman—HEAR ME ROAR!!

Happy???

Happiness…

 

What is it? Why are so many people searching for it and yet it remains elusive? What is the key to it? I’ve been thinking about these questions lately, not only for how it relates to my own life, but for those around me too.

 

I’ve been searching desperately for happiness since I was a teenager. Back then, I searched in all the wrong areas—some of which I continued with for many years. I searched for it through my friends and their poor choices. I searched for it with my body and the affection of boys. I searched for it high and low and had an intense longing to feel this happy that everyone speaks of. It was nowhere to be found though.

 

I spent the years of my 20’s still searching for happiness as I struggled with so much more than most even know of. While dealing with my abusive husband, while taking care of little ones I had so close together, while crying alone with no friends and no support and hating myself, I continued to desperately seek happiness. I desired it so much that while drowning in the misery of my life circumstances, I sought it out with my physician in the form of an antidepressant, then a different antidepressant, then another one, and then with anti-anxiety meds too. Do you know that antidepressants do not equal happy? Most people realize this, but when I was a desperate young woman clinging to the hope of feeling better, I did not. In my naïve state, I also did not realize that there weren’t any drugs in the world that could fix my life circumstances and the impact they had on my health and well-being.

 

Over time, much of my situation got better. I left the abusive husband, I left the town and bad friends I’d gotten into trouble with immediately after my marriage ended, and I moved back to the safety of my hometown. But guess what? I still wasn’t feeling happy. Don’t worry though, this one is really a happy story (no pun intended) and a breakthrough was in the making…

 

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Don’t get me wrong, I had moments I felt happy when my life was really hard. My children obviously were something to feel happy about. I would occasionally have friends to talk to too and that made me feel happy. But overall, miserable would be a much more accurate adjective for my life through my 20’s.

 

The breakthrough…

 

A pivotal moment in my life was when I decided to go back to school (for the 3rd time) and…I succeeded! I had tried twice previously and stopped going. The first time I began college, I was already enrolled and waiting to begin when my daughter passed away. I thought that I could still do it, but I was wrong and couldn’t handle it. The second time I went back, I managed to succeed one semester and was onto my second when I finally had the guts to leave my husband. The downfall of that was that my entire life fell apart at first, including my attempt at college. So understandably, I was incredibly scared to try again. I feared failure more than anything for several reasons (other blog posts will happen later to describe those events). Taking the step to get back into college was scary. Two years later when I finished that last class and knew my degree was coming, I was on top of the world! I had endured working full time, a breakup, the daily life of being a mom, and so much more, but I still did it. That coming on the heels of having to get myself out of a very large hole that I’d dug myself into without any support or help from anyone else (again, as I referenced in my very first blog post, there will come a time I’m ready to write about that, but that time is not here yet) made me feel like I was on top of the world. I was starting to make something of myself finally in my late 20’s!

 

Would you like to guess what came about with that success? That’s right—happiness! It was my first step in adulthood that I was truly proud of and could share with everyone. I finally felt like I was worthy in this world. I finally felt like I could contribute to society instead of feeling like I was a problem. For the first time, I finally felt like I was more than a teen mom, more than a screw up, more than just someone for my family to gossip about and look down their noses upon. It was truly joyous for me.

 

After that came more baby steps to being a better person. I continued working, I improved many areas of my life through hard work and dedication, and then came a pivotal moment…I learned that I am more in control of my own emotions, thoughts, and feelings than I could have ever guessed.

 

I have a dear friend that told me one day that I could indeed control my feelings. I was shocked and thought she was maybe being a little self-righteous as she was explaining that it was something she works on with herself. She talked about training one’s thoughts and redirecting oneself when the mind turns to negative thinking. I thought she was crazy. Now…I wonder how many people think I’m crazy when I talk about the same thing—because it works!

 

As my life has changed as time has gone on and I’ve gained some wisdom with age, I’ve also become even more independent and self-sufficient. I’ve worked on controlling the negativity in my head and that’s something I continue to work on daily. When I get weighted down with thoughts that aren’t positive, I remind myself that that’s not where my focus should be. It’s constant redirection. In that focus on positivity, I’ve made much personal growth.

 

When I went through a break-up a year ago and began to struggle severely financially, I didn’t cry about it, I didn’t take to Facebook to whine about it, and I didn’t expect someone to fix it for me. I went out and got a second job. I worked my tail off to get myself into a better financial state and was able to quit the second job. I felt so good knowing I could depend on myself and take care of my own needs. I felt…you guessed it—happy!

 

I’m not without struggles now. I have normal stress just like anyone else. I deal with financial issues, teenagers, household stress, and hurts. I just choose to put my focus on my blessings. I’ve taught myself (with the help of others) how to be happy.

 

So let me share this; if you’re longing for happiness, it’s not something you will magically find. It’s definitely not something that you can purchase. And it’s not even something you find in someone else. We each hold happy inside of us. It’s each person’s job to pull it out of him or herself, and it starts with deciding…I’m happy.

Healing in a Hat

When I told my boyfriend this morning that I was going to write a blog about my new hat, I literally laughed out loud. It sounds like such a silly thing, but there’s a big reason behind it.

 

Let me backtrack for a second and explain that on Sunday morning, as the skies were blue and the sun was bright and the day was already heating up towards 70 degrees, we were preparing for a day outside in the sunshine. We stopped at good ol’ Walmart for a few necessities; water, sunscreen, a couple pairs of shorts for The Littles, and sun hats were on our list of needs. As we rushed through each department grabbing the items we were in search of, we ended at the sun hats. I personally would rather have my children’s faces shielded from the sun than to continuously slather them in sunblock, but the big deal for me was deciding what to do for myself. My 13 year old picked a mesh cowboy hat that complimented her personal style and I knew would be worn several times over the next few months of sun. The 5 year old picked a sun visor that matched the hat of one of her favorite people in the whole world—my 13 year old, and the 3 year old picked an adorable black traditional sun hat. I looked at the wall of choices that I’ve seen several times over the years when the weather turns warm, and I was secretly nervous.

 

So many times, I’ve walked by that wall and thought there were many cute choices, but I was too afraid to stop and try any on. Why, you ask? Because like many women in today’s times, I struggle with insecurity. This time, I was stopping because it was a true necessity, but I still worried about judgment. Am I too old to try the cute mesh cowboy hats? Are the big floppy brimmed hats too “old” for me in my early 30’s? Is there something in between that would be seen as more appropriate for my age and weight and looks? Would people judge what they see with me wearing one of these choices? Would younger/skinnier/more attractive women giggle to each other if they walked by while I was trying on hats with my kids? I was flustered at the thought of it all.

 

I realize that to many, it would seem silly to be so worried about picking out a hat, but for me, it’s something I’ve always been really self-conscious about. Lately, I’ve had a hard time in general with self-esteem. I seem to have periods of time that I feel confident and attractive, but then I have other periods of time where I feel fat and ashamed and unattractive. I’ve been struggling greatly with the latter these days. This is in part due to the fact I was recently a victim of Internet bullying. To have another human being put me down and shame me for my looks was a little bit of a hard pill to swallow. To have some woman that I don’t even know decide to single me out, taunt me publicly on social media, and then message my boyfriend about it all and put together a side by side picture of her and I pointing out how she’s thin and “more attractive” was more difficult to deal with than I thought it would be. That had a bigger impact that I thought possible. Every picture I’ve put on social media since, I’ve thought of people like her. I’ve wondered who is judging. I’ve wondered who is looking at it and thinking I’m unattractive and unappealing. I’ve wondered if there are those that think to themselves, “Oh, she’s pretty.” My point is, I’ve spent way too much time worrying over these things.

 

Back to standing in front of the wall of hats…my daughter and my boyfriend made it fun for me to try on different ones. I wanted one that was cute, but more than anything, I wanted one that greatly served the purpose I was looking for—to shade my face from the sun I would spend my entire afternoon standing in. As I picked up different styles and colors to try, I relaxed a lot with my fears of other people seeing me. I realized that to anyone walking by, I would look like every other Walmart patron and that most people wouldn’t even notice, let alone care that I was trying out hats. It was in that moment that I took a leap of faith and said to myself, “F’ what anyone thinks,” and I bought the big, floppy billed hat that I knew would be best for blocking the sun.

 

Looking back now just a day later, I can’t believe that I was really considering sacrificing the safety and comfort of my skin over what people ~might~ think of me. I decided to not care about what other people’s judgments might be. I put that hat on in the parking lot as soon as we left, and I proudly wore it all day long, and guess what? It worked wonderfully and protected my face, ears, and the back of my neck from the sun without the use of sunscreen, and I didn’t catch a single person looking at me funny because of my choice. I’ve decided that I need to take this approach with the rest of my life and all of my insecurities. I refuse to be a victim anymore to the mean people of the world. At the end of the day, while I may not be everyone’s cup of tea physically, that woman that chose to be cruel to me is much more ugly than I could ever be. She’s a special kind of ugly on the inside and no matter what the outside looks like, when you’re that ugly in your heart, you’re ugly everywhere.

 

Oh! And guess what else I did yesterday? I took a picture in my favorite new hat…and I put it on Facebook for the world to see.