Nothing in life, nothing worth having comes without work, comes without some pain, comes without guts to make changes, comes without living courageously.
We will not do everything perfectly, although we’ll expect that from ourselves because we’re women and we’re programmed to believe we must be perfect. We’ll spend our time, money and energy fixing imperfections like wrinkles and the extra 10lbs we gained while we ignore the inner parts that make us real, make us vulnerable.
Now and then we’ll read a book, or see a movie, or meet someone who makes us recognize our authentic selves and we’ll catch a glimpse of who we thought we could have always been, but it’s too much work to stay in that place, it makes us “feel” too much so we apply more eye cream, eat one less piece of chocolate.
Independence Day workout. Stand tall.
Try it. Hold your shoulders back, pull your chin up, deep breath in from your gut, let the air fill your chest, breathe out a breath of confidence, repeat. It’s the workout they forget to tell you to do in Cosmo and Vogue. Practice it, perfect it.
You have a spirit inside of you, and I in me that deserves to be embraced, noticed. Your family, friends, the world benefits from you letting that authentic spirit show. Wear it proudly like it’s your sexiest pair of heels or most comfortable pair of jeans. I have a friend that told me her mother used to tell her when she’s having a bad day put on your heels and lipstick and go dance. I always visualized that as her saying, when life kicks you in the ass, kick it back, just do it with style, do it with a little color and do it standing tall.
Be the woman you want to be. Endure the pain that comes along with that. It’s worth it. You’re worth the blisters and bruises.
Let’s face it, nothing about being a woman is comfortable. From puberty to menopause and all the pms in between. Uncomfortable.
Bras, heels, stockings… Uncomfortable
Honestly for most of us being in our own skin… Uncomfortable.
It’s no wonder we seek comfort in our lives and daily routines. But does that daily routine make you happy, or do you go through the motions everyday just accepting that’s the way it is?
Let’s talk about a different kind of comfort, the one we call our “comfort zone”. The one we hold on to with all our might and then proceed to complain how we don’t have what we want in our lives. The comfort zone that keeps us in dead end jobs and relationships. Keeps us in our proverbial rut.
Well, sorry to say but if you want things to be different for yourself then you’re going to have to get intentional about growth. Your going to have to leave that comfort zone behind.
We may have to deal with pms and menapouse as a fact of life, but so much more in our lives is up to us.
Is there something you’ve always wanted to try, always wanted to accomplish? Those “wish I could” moments are usually the result of us staying “comfortable and not exploring what’s outside that comfort zone.
Until 3 years ago, the idea of painting in front of people was terrifying to me. Alone in my studio, my comfort zone, that was just fine, but you couldn’t even sit in there with me while I paint, no less me set up an easel to entertain you so you could watch, or climb a wall to do a mural so you could see me possibly fail miserably. I could actually hear your voices in my head saying, “She doesn’t know what she’s doing”, “She’s really not that talented”. And why in the world at the age of 45 would I start doing things differently when it came to my art? I had been accepted as an artist and was doing well showing in galleries and around town. Why would I risk “looking bad”, when I was finally doing “it”. Being an artist.
Because I wanted more, because I had dreamed since I was a little kid about setting up an easel outside while music pulsed my veins and creating something, anything. I dreamt since I was a teenager of making a difference and sharing my work.
So, I did it. I accepted an invitation to paint with three other artists, live. Yes, in front of people. I was a nervous wreck and I was convinced my painting would be horrible and everyone would see me as a fraud. Instead I had fun, and created a piece I was actually proud of. What I took from that experience wasn’t that I had made a nice painting but that I did something that terrified me and I was ok. There was no reason for me not to be ok. Even if my painting wasn’t good. I showed up, and I did it. I would decide if I was ok, not the opinions of the people watching.
Isn’t that what typically holds us back? What we think other people will think? I’m starting to realize I’m not all that important to other people. They may have a fleeting opinion about me, but those who judge are too busy looking for the next person to judge to be worried about me and what I’m doing. Those that care about me will admire I took a chance and encourage me. I choose those people. Yes, I get to. I get to choose to surround myself with those people. And I get to make the decisions in my life that point me towards growth and acceptance. Acceptance of myself. Maybe then that skin I was talking about earlier will feel a little more comfortable.
Now I look for opportunities to paint live in front of people all the time, and it’s shaped my career as an artist. It’s one of the most fulfilling, spiritual things I do in my life. To think I may have never discovered that had I not been willing to get out of my own way.
What in your comfort zone holds you back? Who do you surround yourself with, critics or cheerleaders?
Take off your bra and let yourself get uncomfortable in the ways that matter.
“If you think this world as a place intended simply for your happiness, you find it quite intolerable: think of it as a place of training and correction and it’s not so bad” C.S. Lewis
I don’t know if your like me, but I’ve spent most of my life trying to figure out happy. I mean generally, yes I am, but deep down in the gut of things I search, I dissect and I yearn for the true meaning of that word. I could spend hours and pages listing the likes of what has made me unhappy in my life, but have trouble finding just a few sentences to describe the real “happy’ I think I deserve.
“Deserve”, I love that word. I tend to throw it around quite often. I deserve, and I most definitely deserve happy. Happy should be sitting on a silver platter waiting for me each day to pick it up and carry it around with me. I think because of my struggles, my obstacles and the hurt and pain I’ve endured I should be given happy as a gift, wrapped in pretty paper and tied neatly with a bow. But is that a backwards way of thinking? To think that my happiness should be measured by the things that have made me unhappy? Happiness is there, it always has been, and yes it is a gift, but its not so much I deserve it, as its mine to have anytime I want it, as much as I can handle of it. It’s just going to take some practice. Maybe because once I have it I’m not quite sure what to do with it, how to handle it, nurture it, make it grow.
You can’t just think about being happy, you have to live being happy. Habits are replaced with habits. All the stuff you do to yourself that makes you unhappy, makes you feel bad about yourself, weather it be negative self talk, overeating, not making it to the gym today, not enough time with your loved ones, relationships that don’t serve you, over working, saying yes, when you wanted to say no, too much time staring at your phone, tv or whatever other source you use to blur out life. Those things can only be replaced by other habits. Good ones. They’re not hard to figure out, they just seem hard to stick to, to nail down and say, “Today I make me happy”. It’s easier just to fall back onto the old bad habit. We’re comfortable there. It snuggles us like a warm blanket. Good lord, throw off the blanket and go live your life! Easier said than done? Yes I know, I want to go crawl back under the blanket at the end of the day as well.
The reality is I am given the gift every day to correct old behaviors, learn new ways to happiness. There may always be times where things feel so heavy, so impossible, so unfair and that I feel I have no control over what is happening. But can I learn to make it through those times looking back and knowing I’m stronger, wiser and maybe even a better person because of them? Can I be grateful for every moment? I mean every single one? Because they all hold lessons, they all hold opportunities for growth, for correction, for change. Do I appreciate all the little things? Things I take for granted like the sun shining, and the slow steady breathing of my dog pressed next to me as I type this?
Happiness is mine, it’s yours. It’s deliberate and a choice. In the messy, piercing ache of now happiness is possible, its always present waiting for us to take hold of it. Why did I select the photo above for this post? You can see the joy in this photograph, you can see the now. Stop right where you are, look inside yourself and choose now, choose happy. There you go, see that, you just practiced. Now let’s get good at it.
Quetcy was 17 when I featured her as the Troy, NY Girl Noticed. Her bravery and resilience does not go unnoticed. She owns her story and continues to push through. She has allowed herself to be vulnerable in telling her story.
With her permission I share this with you in her words.
“The Story of Me” by Quetcy Jacobs
Everyone has a story, some stories are good and some are bad but through all the stories there are meaningful messages to them all. I hope to share my story with you all and I hope to inspire all of you who read this.
It all began a little before birth, I was born premature to a mother who was addicted to all sorts of illegal substances and she did things that weren’t healthy for her or the babies that she was carrying; or even those around her. She was an unstable individual. Let’s just say my journey into this world wasn’t easy. If any of you were to look at me, physically I would appear average, if any of you were to look at me, mentally I would appear average. You wouldn’t be able to tell just by looking at someone what there life story was. This is why I am sharing mine with all of you. I don’t really remember much from birth so I am going to skip a few years…
My birth mother was unable to care for me in the proper way, and because of this I was given to my paternal aunt. From the moment that decision was made, I remained in the custody of my aunt for a few years. Those years weren’t the best years of my life.
There were some days that were good but there were some days that were bad. As a child, I was physically and mentally abused. As far as education went, my aunt and uncle, whom I called “mom and dad” rarely took me to school. I didn’t really have friends, I didn’t even know how to make friends. I lacked so many skills that are important to a child’s development. On the days that I didn’t go to school I remember being very sad. School was like an escape for me. An escape from the chaos and havoc in my life. I felt like I was living a different life while I was at school.
I was always kept inside, isolated from the outside world. Due to the instability of my environment, living with my paternal aunt and uncle, I was removed and put into foster care.
My years in foster care were from ages 7 till about the age of 10. I bounced around from foster home to foster home. I wasn’t an angel. I was at times a misbehaved little child. I was very rambunctious. I was afraid to let anyone in. Afraid, that someone would hurt me. My life didn’t really get better until I was about 10 years old. On my tenth birthday my then fabulous social worker, took me to the park where I was going to meet my foster parents that were soon going to be my adoptive parents. That visit to the park was one of the best visits. I remember playing scrabble with my soon to be foster parents and laughing. It was then that I knew my life would completely change…. for the better!
I am very happy with the life that I have now. Two moms and a family that I can call my own is the greatest thing that I could ever ask for. My parents are the light of my life, they are my whole world. They inspire me to reach for the stars and strive to be the best that I can be. Both of my parents believe that education is very important so I made it a point to make education a huge part of my life. I managed to graduate at the top of my class and I even received the only scholarship that there was from my principal as well as getting a music recipient award from my music teacher.
Fast forward to the year 2016-17
I am 18 years old about to be 19. I am an active member in the LGBT community. I am happy to be in a community that accepts individuals for who they are, flaws and all. Back then being gay, wasn’t the easiest thing for anyone; but things have changed quite a bit, especially when the Supreme Court legalizing gay marriage. This was a huge positive turning point for many.
Knowing that you no longer have to hide is one of the greatest things in the whole wide world! I love life, even though life is hard I manage to find the good in every situation no matter how big or how small. When my skies are grey, I use the one gift that God gave me. My voice. I sing whenever I can. I sing in the car, in my room, and in public. I just recently sang at my parents wedding. I am still so happy that my parents were able to get married.
Over all, life is rough but with love and God on your side everything will be okay. I leave you with this: “ We may not have it all together, but together we have it all”
I just want to thank Lori Pratico for giving me the opportunity to write in her blog and share my life experiences with those around me. I hope that you all find my story inspiring and leave knowing that you are not alone!
If you would like to share your story, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Memorial Day weekend. Even though I live in Florida and can go to the beach any day of the year, it still ended up marking the day to pull out the bathing suit, see if it fit, and decide how I would define my body image this summer? Would the runway judges in my head be saying “bravo, you look marvelous”, or “eh hem…what are you thinking? Cover up and get your excuses ready, because honestly you just shouldn’t go to the beach or pool at all.”
I had a bold reminder of where that thinking comes from when I spoke to my mom on the phone Saturday. She was deciding at 73 years old what to wear to a Memorial Day party, since she’ll only wear 3/4 length sleeves because she doesn’t want her arms to show. She was thinking of not going because it was hot and she didn’t know what she’d wear. I asked “Mom, what’s wrong with your arms?” and I received a resounding “Oh, they’re horrible, all skin and wrinkly, it’s terrible.” Never mind that my mom lives in a senior community and she’s probably the most fit and stylish one there.
Surprisingly for myself, I chose to go with “bravo, you look marvelous”. Ok, maybe not marvelous but certainly good enough. I suppose after blogging last week that “I am ok, when I say I am”, I did indeed decide to say, “I am ok, just the way I am.”
The result, I had a wonderful weekend enjoying the beach and ocean with wonderful friends. I kind of figure we are all, at some level, a little self conscious. We can all find something we don’t like about ourselves. This weekend I chose to focus on enjoying myself, and it worked.
If this was a tough weekend for you, if you just can’t be seen in a bathing suit or even short sleeves, what would happen if you didn’t care and just had fun? It may feel like a very vulnerable place to put yourself in, but you slay vulnerability by doing the very thing that feels scary. Vulnerability looses it’s power when you take action, and you end up coming out on the other side of it with a new found courage.
Try it, and if you didn’t get out to the beach or pool this weekend, call me. I’ll meet you there next weekend.
I’m 49 years old and I’ve spent most of my post adolescent life searching for approval.
Friends, co-workers, family, partners, sometimes even the barista at Starbucks or the cashier at 7Eleven. I go to these places several times a week, do they like me? Does the cashier at 7Eleven who called me sir the first time I went there still think I look like a man? It doesn’t matter that she barely lifted her head to look at me and assumed short hair and baseball cap I was a guy. How do I look today?
I’m even thinking, do you approve when I’m writing this blog? Will they get it, is it worth writing, does anyone really read this stuff?
Are you shaking your head in disbelief, or nodding your head saying yep, me too?
Can you remember when you were a child and you felt like you could conquer the world and then all of a sudden you started doubting everything. Do you still doubt yourself more than trust yourself? Do you trust yourself to make decisions without having to ask a half dozen of your friends for validation or approval? Geez, I hate when I do that.
Here’s the thing, put me in front of an easel or on a ladder in front of a wall I’m painting, and like magic, I’m ok with myself. Torn-up jeans, bandana tied around my head, charcoal smudged across my face from wiping the sweat off… yes in that moment I’m just fine. As a matter of fact, I’m even better than fine, I’m down right confident. And sometimes I even feel a little sexy. True story.
So why, when I probably look the worst, do I feel the best. I imagine it’s because in that moment I’m believing in what I am doing. Why I am doing it, and the person I am. Nothing and no one could break that confidence in those moments. If someone stopped and said why are you doing that, you’re too old to be climbing ladders, women don’t do that, or even, you’re a sweaty mess, I’d hold myself even taller. I’d respond with something like, because women are worth it. I’m showing women their value, I’m empowering women with my murals, and I have been given a gift with my art and have found my voice through my art. You wouldn’t be able to shake me, or put even a mustard seed of doubt in my mind.
Take me off my ladder, put me somewhere, where no one knows my cause, or my art, and all of a sudden opinions matter and judgment hurts.
You’re OK when you say you are.
I have to begin saying I’m OK, even when I’m not standing with a paintbrush in my hand. Because I am pretty darn ok, and if you nodded or even related just a little bit to my 7Eleven experience, stop now, take a deep breath and say, “I AM OK”. Maybe if we practice saying it, we’ll start believing it.
Maybe when there is no one around and you’re completely by yourself that is the place you should be saying you’re ok. I know that is where I need to be saying “I am ok”, because that is the place that really matters. That is where when you believe it, you’ll carry it around with you and hold your head up and shoulders back and that little girl you trusted years ago will shine again. It’s called authenticity. Your true self. There’s really no better person you could be, than you.