Media Beware

We are our own worst critics. I have met so many women (in my personal life, professional life, and through my photography) that see themselves in the mirror in a much different light than the rest of us see them. Why is that?

How we view the world is largely impacted by what we surround ourselves with. Social media, movies, magazines, advertisements, and the people around us are large influences in our self-image.

Last year I realized that I was following a person on social media that are beautiful and kind, but for some reason would trigger bad thoughts about myself. I tried to adjust my frame of mind, but I was still struggling with self-image when seeing this person’s posts and I decided that it was time to unfollow her profile. I had decided that my mental health was more important than viewing the images of someone I didn’t really know. At first I felt guilty, but then I realized that it was the best decision for me.

A lot of the movies that are screened involve a love interest that is thin and tanned. Magazines include covers with women in revealing clothing to show their petite bodies. Advertisements include celebrities that very obviously train regularly to achieve a particular body shape. Many people (men and women) either repeatedly verbalize their own body insecurities or mimic others due to their bodies. Although all of these women are gorgeous, only seeing one or two body shapes being celebrated continuously can negatively affect anyone’s self-esteem and you need to decide what is/are the most important change(s) that need to be made to improve your mental health.

It’s okay to admit that something in your life affects your mental health. What isn’t okay is to ignore how it makes you feel and continue to allow those things to negatively affect you. You deserve better than that.

Take care of yourself.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Impressionable Future

So much of the person we are today was taught to us and molded from our childhoods. From our values to our self-esteem, we start picking up on ques at a young age. Being an adult now, I have started to think about the affect that what I say and do will have on the children around me.

I remember being an impressionable young woman and looking up to other females around me. Hearing the critiques that adults had about themselves made me, in some respects, more critical of myself. It was hard to be confident in myself when women who I thought were beautiful would talk  about their “flaws” frequently. Weight was a big factor in these discussions. I want to premise this by saying that I have been 5′ 6″ and curvy since I was in the sixth grade. It was frustrating for me to hear women who were smaller in stature than me to negatively comment on their weight.

If and when I have children, I want to try my hardest to refrain from using negative self-talk around them. Weight can be such a dangerous topic and I don’t want my daughter (or son) to feel like their worth is correlated to the number on a scale. It can be incredibly easy to become obsessed with weight, weight-loss, diet, and food consumption which is a slippery slope to begin at any age, let alone as young person.

The things we say often affect the people around us more than we realize. We should focus on positive self-talk and influencing those around us to think more positively.  We should be molding our future leaders into strong and independent individuals instead of instilling our own self-doubt into the children growing around us.

Live radiantly for yourself and your loved ones.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Boudoir For-Sure

So recently I did a thing. One of my friends is a professional photographer and I finally scheduled a boudoir session with him. Yeah, I have photographed dozens of boudoir photos, but never have I ever been photographed in one of those sessions. I was terrified. I felt like all of the photos he posted were of people who had “perfect” bodies and I knew that I would never look like them in my photos. I almost chickened out of the session a few days before, but Tracy (my photographer friend) convinced me to keep our appointment. He showed me some photos of women who had similar body types as me and they looked amazing! They looked so beautiful that I instantly realized that everything was going to be okay.

When I first got there, I was nervous. But then, after a few minutes, I felt completely comfortable and confident! He let me see the photos right from his camera and when I saw how things were going, I was super excited to continue shooting. We took photos for about three hours and by the end of it I was tired, but i was also feeling really great about myself. I have always struggled with confidence issues and hated having my photos taken, so it was amazing to see how getting these photos taken changed the way I saw myself.

Since then, the photographer has sent me a photo (or two) each day that he edited and it is an awesome confidence building surprise for the end of my day. I did this for myself and it was one of the best gifts I have given myself. The gift of self-esteem. It helped me to realize that although I have stretchmarks, thick thighs, wide-set hips, and don’t look the way I want to, I am still beautiful. I am glad that I didn’t continue to put off photos until “my body is ready” like I said for years. I realized that my body would never “be ready” and I would always have issues with my appearance and feel that there was room for improvement regardless of how much weight I lost.

You are beautiful right now. In the body you have in this moment. You don’t need to lose weight before you start appreciating yourself. The sooner you love yourself, the happier you will be. It’s not about loving a result, it’s about loving a process. Don’t spend your life waiting, enjoy every day and every stage of your life.

I’m taking baby steps in the right direction. One step closer to self-acceptance and self-love. No apologies and no regret.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Perfectly Imperfect

You would think that because I am an anxious person, I am great at dealing with other anxious people. On paper, I am. Through text, I am. In person, it’s often a train wreck. My anxiety builds off of their anxiety which builds from mine which…well, you get the point. Or we both have no idea what to say and its just awkward.

Speaking of building my emotions off of other people’s feelings, I have something really embarrassing to share. When I was younger, I thought that my over-sensitivity and anxiety was my “superpower”. I thought that deeply feeling the emotions of those around me was my Superwoman skill. I remember one instance in particular when we (my family and I) were driving by a group of people who were at a roadside memorial for someone who was recently killed in an automobile accident and I could feel their sorrow so deeply that it actually brought me to tears. I hadn’t experienced a loss in my life yet at that time, but somehow I felt their pain. I was amazed and scared at that point, but now I know that it was due to being a highly-emotional person. But what if it is also my superpower?

Empathy is one of my strengths and it is something that has guided me into a nursing career. What if we thought of some of our “flaws” (such as being overly sensitive and emotional) and twisted them into strengths (such as the ability to be empathetic)?

Why does being emotional always have to be a bad thing? Why does having anxiety always have to be a bad thing?

Having anxiety has saved my life at least once. In the fall after I graduated high school, I tried going to a university. The night before classes started, I went to an outdoor concert. I convinced the guy I was with at the time that we needed to start leaving two songs before the end of the concert. He fought me about it, but I said I needed to go and had a bad feeling about staying any longer. Long story short, we made it to the buses that drove us to the parking lot down the street. The buses never came back to get more people from the concert. Everyone else had to walk in the dark down the road and through the woods to the parking lot. Someone was hit by a car and died that night walking to the parking lot. I remember hearing the news a day later and how everyone who was left by the buses had to wait hours for the police and medics to clear the scene. That could have been me that night and if it weren’t for my anxiety and deciding to go with my gut, I would have been there when the tragedy occurred.

Maybe the things that set us apart aren’t all bad. Maybe those are the things that make us better at what we do and will protect us in certain situations. Sometimes you don’t have to understand why things are the way they are or why you are the way you are. Go with your instincts and try to put a positive spin on all things in your life. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it will make your life much more manageable.

You are perfectly imperfect.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Frizz-free Self-care

I’m not one of those women who go to the salon to get their hair done regularly. Honestly, I haven’t been to a salon to get my hair cut in over a year and a half. I have decided to just trim my hair on my own in our bathroom. My experience with hair dressers has not been pleasant. I am sure that there are some stellar stylists out there, but in my area there aren’t many who know how to deal with my hair texture.

I have very fine hair, but it is curly. Let me tell you that frizz is a real thing. I cringe at the thought of a blow-dryer. Every time I go to the salon, no matter how many times I tell them I can’t use a hair dryer and that I will just let my hair air dry, they insist that they know what they’re doing and use the dryer anyway. And alas my hair becomes a puffy mess. I dread it. I’ve left salons in tears more times than not. I know it’s just hair, but when you finally decide to do something for yourself and invest money in your appearance and then leave feeling worse about yourself, it sucks.

I continue to style and cut my own hair. The last time I’ve dyed my hair was about two years ago and it was unfortunately from a box. I know, bad idea. I am glad that hair dyes and heating products are no longer a part of my routine, but I miss the self-care aspect of things.

So how can I pamper myself without the anxiety of going to a salon? There are a ton of options. I can use a face mask or paint my nails. I can convince my husband to give me a foot massage or enjoy a hair mask. I can take a warm bath or give myself a makeover. There are so many options.

Instead of making self-care a frustrating part of life, I can focus on creating pleasant moments in my day that recharge my energy. Even just drinking plenty of water, exercising, sleeping enough hours, and thinking more positively are huge self-care items.

What makes you feel good about yourself?

Do you make self-care an important part of your day?

Love yourself so you can love the people around you.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Chronic Sorry-er

I am a chronic sorry-er. I don’t know why I say it, but “I’m sorry” is an impulsive response for so many things in my life. I don’t even mean to say it, but it come out of my mouth without thinking. It’s a work in progress.

I realize that saying I’m sorry so often not only makes me seem weak, but also makes the words mean less. I think it stems from being a perfectionist and never wanting to inconvenience anyone. Maybe it’s from always feeling like I was doing something wrong or at fault for something when I was a kid. I don’t know, I’m not a psychologist. What I o know, however, is that over the years it has become a pattern ingrained in my daily conversations.

I need to stop being so sorry. Stop being sorry for doing my job. Stop being sorry for having a question. Stop being sorry for all of the mundane things that don’t need an apology.

I need to build other phrases in my vocabulary that can be used in place. Maybe I could say “excuse me” or just get right to the point. I talked before about “fake it until you make it” and I think confidence is another great example. If I’m not feeling super confident in myself, maybe I can just fake it until I believe it myself. Belief in having confidence and having confidence itself aren’t that much different in the end.

Can you think of someone in your life who is a chronic “sorry-er”?

If that person is you, maybe it’s time to stop the habit and start a new conversation.

You are strong and you are confident.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

 

Fake it ’til you Make it

There was a month break between my last job and current employment. In theory it sounds great, but in actuality I was going crazy. I am not good at having too much free time. I like to keep busy and with the break being a surprise, I didn’t have time to plan anything. By the time I started my current job, I wasn’t feeling myself.

Sure I had time to pick up the house, but I felt like I was losing myself. I wasn’t allowed to drive until I got clearance from my neurologist, so I spent the days in the house alone until my husband got home. I love my dog, but she was driving me crazy. I was losing patience because my entire day was spent chasing after her, cleaning up her messes, grabbing things from her, letting her inside (and outside and inside and outside…). Let’s just say she is a very high maintenance pooch. I felt horrible for being so frustrated with her, but I was becoming overwhelmed. I don’t know how stay-at-moms do it. They are amazing superheros.

My anxiety was getting worse. The more time I spent in the house, the harder it was for me to get out. I wasn’t a nurse. I wasn’t a hard worker. I wasn’t the things that I pride myself in. So I felt like I was nothing.

I was actually really excited to start working again and not only has it decreased my anxiety, but my self-esteem has gotten so much better. I feel like I am helping people again and my life has meaning. I am working toward appreciating myself more aside from my career, but for now I will take it.

For years my motto has been “Fake it until you make it” and that rings entirely too true for my anxiety. I am a high functioning person with anxiety, but I have learned over the years that when I stop making myself highly function, my anxiety creeps back in. If I don’t keep myself super busy, my mind wanders and it gets the best of me. It’s not the healthiest cycle to live in, but I am in a much better place than I was when first diagnosed with anxiety.

I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety and panic disorder when I was in tenth grade. My anxiety was worst in my history class and I ended up being placed in an emotional support class (independent studies) for the remainder of that class. I’m not proud of it, but at the time I couldn’t handle how my anxiety made me feel. Half way through tenth grade, I changed to a home-bound program where I did my studies at home with a tutor. I would learn independently and take tests with the tutor. At the time, I was going through therapy and trying medication (I’m notorious for being a non-compliant patient, so it wasn’t consistent). I was too afraid to go to the mall, car wash, elevator, and pretty much anything that wasn’t just sitting at home. After about two months of being out of school, I switched to a new district.

This was my chance for a new start and this is when my motto started. Nobody in my new school knew about my mental health (not that anyone in my old school really knew what was going on entirely anyway). I told myself that I had anxiety issues and that was okay, but that I had to pretend that everything was okay when I was in school. Overall this was successful for me. It taught me to acknowledge how I felt, but to not allow my feelings to overwhelm me.

Switching schools and changing my mentality was one of the best decisions I could have ever made. I met so many new people and made a million memories that I will have for a lifetime. One of my best friends is someone I met from the school I graduated from and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to grow our friendship. Not to mention the fact that I graduated from high school instead of getting my G.E.D which was the other option at that point. The day I crossed the stage and received my diploma was one of the proudest days of my life.

If you are someone who is struggling with anxiety (or mental health issues in general), there is hope. It will be hard work, but it will be worth it. It’s okay if you have to “fake it ’til you make it” right now because one day you will make it.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Confidence is Key

Confidence is something that a lot of people struggle to find, but I’ve learned that it’s actually something that you create for yourself. I always wondered how some women found such confidence. It’s not that they don’t deserve it, we all do, but it looked so easily accomplished for them.

Recently I noticed that the moments when I felt most confident were when I was investing in myself. By working on the things that I love and that give value to my life, such as photography, I valued myself more. I stopped making my worth equivalent to my appearance and started appreciating that I am so much more than what I look like.

Have you ever heard someone say to “fall in love with a person’s personality and not their beauty” (or some something along those lines)? That’s because looks fade and/or alter, but who a person truly is will stay for a lifetime. Building your sense of identity from who you are as a being instead of your physical appearance is bound to make you much happier in the end.

Take time to enjoy your passions. Find things that you love to do and practice them. Building your skill set and realizing your talents is a great way to increase confidence. Sure, you are going to have days that are tougher than others, but know that you are beautiful AND so much more. If you need to remind yourself of that every day, then so be it.

I’m a wife, a dog mom, a sister, an aunt, a cousin, a friend, a coworker, a photographer, a blogger…but on a deeper level I’m creative, kind, smart, intuitive, compassionate, and strong-willed. By respecting myself and investing in my interests/health, I have found a greater worth in my life and more confidence in myself.

Find what makes you happy and focus on it! Capitalize on your strengths and what makes you happy.

I have a challenge for you today: I want you to list five things that make you a great friend/significant other/parent, five things that you love to do, and five things that you love about yourself.

You are a great person and I hope you are able to build your confidence and realize your worth.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Personal Fitness

Let me premise this by saying that I am not an exercise expert by any means. I am, however, someone who realizes the importance of being active. I have tried countless exercise plans and always find difficulty with following them. I will start off loving the regimen, but then will dread it a few days in. I will tell myself that “I don’t feel like it” and then I will end up not doing any exercise at all. So, recently, I learned that I need to just listen to my body and do what feels good to me that day. If you find yourself in an exercising slump, keep on reading.

  • Use your surroundings: One of my favorite new exercises only needs a staircase.  I put one foot up on the second step and my hands on the stairs where comfortable. Then I switch my feet (right on stairs and left on floor – left on stairs and right on floor). I will do this as fast as I can for as long as I can. It’s kind of like mountain-climbers, stair-climbers, and jogging all-in-one. Also, we have a metal bar in an open doorway (I’m not entirely sure what the intended purpose is, but it’s super sturdy) that I will attempt pull-ups on and do abdominal exercises with. You could also do “chair steps” by placing a sturdy chair against a wall and stepping up and then back down continually. There are so many opportunities for exercising while using your surroundings!
  • Cater to your time: When figuring out what you will do for exercise, you first will need to figure out how much time you have. If you only have ten minutes, you might not want to commit yourself to running three miles. You don’t need a ton of time to get active. Little bits of exercise at a time adds up if you are persistent. Even if you just have enough time to do fifty sit-ups now and a mile on the treadmill later, it is better than nothing!
  • Every little bit helps: Don’t have an “all or nothing” mentality. That’s something that I have learned to overcome. I always felt that if I couldn’t do a complete exercise routine, then what’s that point? A few months ago, before I started having some health issues, I was practicing handstands every day. That alone helped with my ab definition and that’s when I realized that the little things really do help. No matter how fun they may be.
  • Take it easy: Don’t be so hard on yourself! It’s been really difficult for me to start exercising again. I used to run at least three miles a day and use weight machines regularly. That was about four years ago. Now, running one mile is a maximum for me. Ten pound weights are comfortable. At first, I was mad at myself. I thought, “how could I let myself go” so badly? I hated the idea of exercising because I couldn’t accomplish what I used to. But then I realized that it was a process before too. I started off with one mile and worked my way up. I eventually cut my mile time down by over four minutes. But it was all a process. And it will be process to get back to where I was. So I am taking a deep breath and giving myself grace because life is a learning process and it’s not always up-hill.
  • Listen to your body: Some days I feel like doing ab workouts and walking/hiking outside. Sometimes I feel like running and/or jump roping. Other times, I feel like just relaxing and letting my body rest and that’s okay. I’ve learned a lot about my body over the past year. When I am frustrated or angry, I feel the urge to run. It’s almost like a craving. It’s my way of releasing tension and being able to relax. Find your release and figure out how your body communicates with you.
  • Love yourself through the process: Don’t wait until you hit your goal to love your body. Because once you hit that goal, there will always be another one. Learn to love yourself and your body now. “Flaws” and all. Your body is beautiful and this process is about feeling your best. This is your first step.

 

Exercise and fitness isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation. Find what works for you and what your body needs.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Boudoir Photography

I have learned a lot about body-image and self-love through boudoir photography. For about a year I focused my photography primarily on boudoir photography and I loved it. Photographing women in a vulnerable situation was a great opportunity to alter their self-image and hopefully grow their self-esteem. I loved when women would get their photos and message me to say, “Liz, I have never felt as beautiful as I did at the session or looking at these photos.” Or when they couldn’t believe the photos were of them (even though I would do very minimal editing). It was one of the most rewarding things that I have done thus far.

Each woman was beautiful in their own way and it was awesome to see them transform throughout the session. Typically the women would be nervous (understandably) at the beginning of the session. And then as we continued to talk and photograph, they became visibly more confident and comfortable with their body.

I found that the more I did these types of photo sessions and saw women begin to accept and love themselves, the more comfortable I became with myself and my body. Working on photos of women of all shapes and sizes that were each gorgeous, made me realize that there is no one true “perfect body type.” Each woman, regardless of how perfect their body would seem to society, had a part of their physical appearance that they did not like.

I think we, as women, need to not only practice more positive self talk, but also need to tell the women around us how beautiful and important they are. I believe that practicing positive peer talk will make it easier to see ourselves in a more graceful light. We are our own worst critics. I know that I would never talk to or think about the women in my life the way that I think about myself at times. That’s something that needs to change.

We need to start uplifting those around us and maybe in turn we will start thinking more positively about ourselves. It is all about a positive mindset. Get yourself in the routine of thinking more positively (no matter how difficult it may be at times) and you will find yourself in a healthier and happier mindset.

Fake it until you make it.

Love Always,

Elizabeth