You Don’t Know What Others Are Going Through: Be Kind

Sad girl in hammock. You Don't Know What Others Are Going Through
*Sigh.* So, I really wanted to like the new Netflix movie
Sierra Burgess Is a Loser. It looked so endearing and starred Barb from Stranger Things and the loveable guy from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. By all accounts, it should have been amazing, but about halfway through the film, I had to turn it off due to my rising anxiety levels, second-hand embarrassment, and pure horror that one of the scenes included a character being misled about whom he was kissing with his eyes shut. (Consent, guys. Consent.)

One of my initial issues with the movie was that the stereotypical mean popular girl was over-the-top cruel to her classmates—she was the type of cruel that had me thinking, “Did these screenwriters ever attend high school or just watch movies about it?”

Thankfully, the screenwriters did explain the character’s behavior with a fleshed-out background featuring a hectic home life and pressures from her mother to be perfect.

It’s an important lesson that, though it seems to be pounded in our heads incessantly in film and books, I tend to easily forget: You never know what others are going through.

I can be a am a judgmental person. I’m trying to be better, but more often than naught, I let my thoughts get away from me, so these next few paragraphs are as much for me as they are for anyone reading this.

Once again, you never know what someone else is going through. That person who cut you off on the freeway might be rushing home in the midst of a family emergency. That person at work who put you down in front of your boss might be dealing with job insecurity. Your friend who made a snide comment about your outfit might be feeling left out.

We should, of course, stand up for ourselves, but instead of responding in anger or defensiveness, take a moment to think about what the offender may have going on his or her life.

Sometimes things we take offense to may not even be intended to be taken as an insult.

I’ll never forget, one time in junior high, my friend pulled up her hooded jacket in a really cute way, and I said something like, “Aw! You look just like a little mouse peeking out of a hole!”

She got really upset, and our friends who witnessed it all asked me why I would say that.

While I looked like the biggest jerk in the world, I had only made that statement because my father had said it to me a few days earlier, and I had thought it was really sweet. When he said it, it had come off extremely endearing. Obviously, it had not come off that way when I repeated it.

And there’s the kicker: Not only should we be mindful of what offenders may be going through, but we should also be mindful of what anyone we are around may be going through. Something we say without thinking could be harmless to us but could scar the person we’re speaking to for life.

We’re all bound to make mistakes in this department, but be mindful, be caring, be understanding, and, above all, be quick to forgive.

God knows I’ve certainly cut off my fair share of people on the freeway, hurt people’s feelings, and just been a downright unpleasant human being.

The least I can do is extend the same grace that I hope others are giving me.

Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin

Tired girl. Spread too thin.

There is an expectation as you get older to take part in all sorts of obligations. On top of your school work, you’ll also need to be in a number of different clubs. Then, on top of that, you’ll be expected to be a leader of at least one club—depending on if you are applying for colleges.

In college, you’ll be expected to still be a part of clubs, but you’ll also need internships (which often are unpaid), and depending on your financial situation, you might also need a part-time or even a full-time job.

These expectations don’t change as you get older. I find myself often feeling guilty for not taking part enough with our church; for not being able to make it to community meetings that, in the past, I would have loved to be at; and for not having enough time to give to hobbies and friends and family.

Ladies, don’t get me wrong. It is very beneficial for you to be involved with organizations you care about, but there may come a time when you realize you are simply being spread too thin. Things will start to fall between the cracks. You’ll start to feel overwhelmed, and soon the things you care most about in life may start taking a back seat.

Whenever you begin to feel like you’re in over your head or have taken on too much, I encourage you to make a priority list of the things and people in your life. For example, my priority list looks something like this:

1. God
2. Family
3. Work
4. Friends

If you start to find that items lower on your priority list are trumping higher ones, it may be time to make some changes in your schedule. For me, lately, I’ve been neglecting my No. 1 priority: God.

My husband and I have been doing a lot of work on our house and on side projects that, unfortunately, have taken priority on our weekends. As a result, we’ve missed church quite a bit these last couple of months.

By missing church or being too tired to read my Bible before going to bed, my actions do not match my priority list—that’s something I need to change.

We all spread ourselves too thin at one point or another. Take control over your time again by making sure that you’re spending the time you need on your priorities in life.

What does your priority list look like? Do your actions match your list?

Trust Life’s Unexpected Turns

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There will come a time in your life when something unexpected happens that changes the route your life was previously on. In fact, odds are that this will happen multiple times.

When I was a freshman in college, I had plans to be a big-time political news commentator. I had big opinions, and I wanted them to be heard—I wanted to make a difference. I was thrilled when I began chasing that dream by writing a political column for the school paper.

It only took a year for this dream to be squashed. It was a year of tears and isolation as I realized that people who share big opinions are not looked on kindly by people with opposing opinions.

Then I was told that I would not be needed back as a political commentator for the next school year. I was crushed. My dream began to unravel at the seams. Was I not a good writer? Was it my content? Was it my beliefs? My confidence spiraled.

Though this unexpected event crushed me, it was actually a blessing in disguise. That year writing publicly about politics was actually a horrible experience for me, a perpetual people pleaser. Knowing that half of the school population disliked me for my opinions was my worst nightmare.

Throughout the year, there had been other red flags that this was not a lifestyle I wanted to pursue. Not being invited back to the paper was the final kick I needed to realize that being in the spotlight was not for me. I didn’t need to grow a thicker skin. I needed to find a new career.

Since then, things have definitely improved. I found a better calling in public relations and marketing fields. I still get to write, I’ve been able to work on political campaigns, and best of all, I don’t have to cringe when opening my inbox wondering if I’ve received any hate mail.

Recently, my husband and I moved from California to Nebraska. That was another huge life change that was rather unexpected. I had no plans to leave our shiny new Southern California apartment. I had no plans to leave my first real full-time job. I had no plans to leave my family (whom we had just finally moved near).

But life happened, and just a little more than a year after starting the life of my dreams, we packed everything up and moved halfway across the country.

At first, I just wasn’t sure what God’s plan was other than us saving some money. But, only six months into our new lives, I’ve realized that this is once again a blessing in disguise.

Moving gave us the ability to buy a home (something we wouldn’t have been able to do in California for years and years), flex my creative writing skills, fall in love and raise an adorable Border Collie puppy, and I just found an amazing new job that is exactly the type of place I’ve wanted to work since I decided to move into the public relations field.

Listen, there will be times in your life when you will think, “Come on, God—what are You doing?” Those are usually the times when you will grow the most and become the person you need to be for the next season of your life—a season that might just be better than the previous.

Embrace those unexpected turns or roadblocks in your life. They will probably lead you somewhere you never considered going before—somewhere you might be glad you found.

Finding Hope in the Midst of Tragedy

As I write this, the Holy Fire in Southern California is blazing away not far from my parents’ backyard.

I hope, hope, hope, and pray that by the time this is published the fire is mostly contained or completely extinguished.

My heart breaks thinking about all of the wildlife being displaced, fighting for their lives. My heart breaks thinking about all of the people who have had to face the question of “What in my home can I not live without?”

My heart breaks for the people who have had to make the hard decision of what precious memories are to be left behind in homes they may not be able to return to. My heart breaks for the people who didn’t even have that option.

I cannot fathom how anybody could commit such an act that could cause so much pain. I cannot fathom how anybody could purposely cause such mayhem and destruction.

For those of you who have had to face tragedy, I cannot possibly know what you have gone through. You are far braver than I am.

We will all inevitably face some tragedy in our lives. We will all lose people we love. We will all go through hardships and trials.

In those times of darkness, it is so vital that we cling to the love in our lives. Think of those who give you purpose. Think of those who need you.

You could lose all of your possessions in a fire, but so long as you have loved ones and people to cling to, you’re going to be OK.

And, if you feel alone, I urge you to find a community to help you as you rebuild your life. Find it in a church or a support group. Find it through volunteer work.

It’s people who can bring us those first flutters of that “everything is going to be alright” feeling. In your darkest times, don’t hide. Don’t push people away. Cling to them. Let them in.

Don’t push hope away.

Finding Your Sunshine: Tips to Improve Your Mood

If you’re anything like me, sometimes you just get in a funk. You could be stressed about work or school or sad about a friend or family issue, or sometimes you don’t even know what’s wrong—you’re just not in a happy place.

Below are some tips that almost always improve my mood during those times.

The Three Day Rule: Health and Fitness

A lot of times I get in a funk because I start to feel bad about myself for not eating right and failing to exercise the way I want to. Sometimes it can be downright daunting to think about where you want to be fitness-goals-wise and how long it will take to get there—which can cause you to get in even more of a funk!

Luckily, I’ve found that all it really takes is three days to build back up your self-esteem. You don’t need to hit any goals; you just need three days straight of eating better and exercising the way you want. I guarantee you that just those three days will drastically improve your mood (probably from being healthier!) and build up your confidence. 

Get Out of the House

My husband and I are both introverted people, so sometimes we can spend a whole weekend just hanging out at home, and since I am not working right now, sometimes that means I don’t leave my house for a whole week at a time outside of grocery shopping or taking our dog, Cooper, to the vet.

I often won’t even realize how in a funk I am until I finally do get out of the house for a non-chore-related event and feel my mood improve. Make a point to get out and do at least one fun thing a week. You need it!

Do Something Productive

Ever heard the saying “messy room, messy mind?” It’s kind of true. If you’re feeling down, it may seem counterintuitive to force yourself to do chores, but when you’re done, you’ll feel so much better. It can be something small, like cleaning your room or organizing your closet. You could even do some virtual cleaning by cleaning up your computer desktop or organizing the apps on your phone.

Watch an Old Movie

Sometimes, if you’re feeling really down, the last thing you want to do is go out or be productive. If that’s the case, I recommend watching an old movie you loved from your childhood or a guilty pleasure. Watching childhood favorites brings back old feelings of comfort and safety, while guilty pleasures can just be pure fun to watch. Some of my favorite films to watch when I’m feeling sad are Lady and the Tramp, The Little Mermaid, and Something Borrowed.

Find Reasons to Be Thankful

Another way to bring some positivity back to your day is to take a moment to think of three things in your life for which you’re thankful. A lot of the times when we’re in bad moods, we just need perspective switches. You can read more about the benefits of gratefulness in our blog post on the topic. It might be the best mood booster on the list!

 

Facing Rejection Like a Champ

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I know it’s trashy, but I live for my weekly viewing of The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, or—the king of them all—Bachelor in Paradise.

Maybe it’s because I live a boring and drama-free life compared to the people who go on these shows, but sometimes after a stressful week, nothing can make you feel better about your own life than watching guys or girls (depending on whether it’s a bachelor or bachelorette time of year) lose their minds over a love interest they barely know.

I find the most common thought I have (or statement yelled at the TV) while viewing is “why are you crying? It’s OK!”

Especially early on in the seasons, it’s a little silly when contestants start crying when they aren’t chosen to continue on to the next week of dates.

The thing is, these contestants aren’t crying because they are brokenhearted over losing a chance with the bachelor or bachelorette; they’re crying because they’re facing rejection.

Rejection is a tricky emotion. It can manipulate you into thinking you care about something you really don’t. It can trick you into thinking you have feelings for someone you don’t.

This happened to me as a teen. I was not happy in a relationship, but once I was the one facing rejection, I did everything in my power to get the guy back because I thought those feelings of rejection were something that they weren’t.

Just because those feelings of sadness aren’t real feelings for a person or for something in your life (maybe it’s a job offer or not being included by a friend), that doesn’t mean those feelings of rejection don’t hurt. They hurt a lot! That’s why it’s all so confusing.

The pain is still very real and has to be dealt with. The key to accepting rejection in a healthier and less painful way is to change your perspective.

The reason people cry when they’re rejected on The Bachelor or The Bachelorette is because they compare themselves to all of those other candidates who were chosen to continue on. They think they don’t stack up compared to them. Perhaps the girls are prettier or funnier. Perhaps the guys are more attractive or have more appealing careers.

This way of thinking is toxic and completely the wrong way to look at it—that’s why I end up yelling at the TV, “Why are you crying?!”

It’s not because I think they shouldn’t be sad; of course they should be. It’s extremely disappointing to be sent home, but they usually start spouting off a bunch of self-deprecating, pity-me comments about how they don’t understand what the remaining contestants have that they don’t.

That’s the thing—it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what those candidates might have that the person crying in the back seat of the limo doesn’t.

What should matter is that it wasn’t a love connection. Those remaining people just click a little better with whoever is handing out the roses that season. They are by no means better people than the ones being sent home (well, most of the time!); they just are better matches.

It’s the same with being rejected after a job interview. Whoever got the job isn’t better than you; that person just fits better with the position you both were vying for.

It doesn’t make the rejection sting less or make it any less disappointing, but it can keep you from losing your confidence or being too hard on yourself if you think of rejection as more of a two-way street.

Even if you are going through a time in your life when you feel like you’re facing rejection in the dating world, in your career, or amongst your friends or family, think of it as a saving grace.

Chances are that, if you’re being rejected from something, it probably isn’t a good fit, and that rejection is saving you from a possibly miserable situation dating someone you wouldn’t be happy with, working in a job you’d hate, or spending time with someone you maybe shouldn’t.

Rejection never means someone is better than you. We all have different flaws and strengths. Rejection just means someone may be a better fit than you for that particular situation.

It means you probably have something way better out there waiting for you. And isn’t that worth celebrating?

 

It’s OK to Be Quiet

My Post (37)Recently, I was at Petco with my 6-month-old puppy, Cooper. Now, Cooper has had some fear issues. She is extremely apprehensive of strangers and the outdoors, in general. She’s been improving a ton, though, and we try to take her everywhere we go (when possible) so that she can socialize with more people and other dogs.

A week or so ago, I was in Petco with Cooper. I usually have to carry her around the store because she’s so aware and fearful of the other dogs and humans doing their own shopping. This time, though, Cooper was doing amazing. She pranced right in and sniffed around, walking down aisle after aisle with me. I was so pleased and excited for her that she reached this new milestone.

A woman approached and asked if she could pet Cooper. I said yes but asked her to go slowly. Cooper has been known to snarl if people approach her too quickly (we are working with her on this).

The woman tried to let Cooper sniff her hand, but Cooper wasn’t interested and stayed near me. I could tell that the woman thought this wasn’t normal dog behavior. She started asking questions about Cooper with a concerned tone as if she was trying to pinpoint where we’d gone wrong with her training. In the end, she suggested we try socialization classes.

I was polite but left the encounter rather upset. I kept thinking to myself, “just because my dog isn’t interested in you doesn’t mean she’s broken.”

Now, I’m not saying this line of thought is healthy; I was taking this all way too personally, and Cooper really does need more socialization. That’s why she was at Petco, after all.

But it did remind me of how I sometimes feel since I’m a more introverted and shy person. I have often felt as if people can think less of me for being too quiet or too private or see me as unsocial.

I’ve seen this with other shy or introverted folks, as well. I think all too often that we can look at quiet people and think that they’re broken, that they need our help. We need to break them into the social scene. We need to drag them out of their houses and to parties. We need to build their confidence.

What I want to stress here is that it’s OK to be an introvert. It’s OK to be shy. It’s OK to be an extrovert. It’s OK to be outgoing. It’s OK to be a combination of these traits. We are all broken in our own way, and usually it has nothing to do with how much we enjoy socializing or talking.

Quiet introverts can still be confident—maybe they just express that in different forms than spoken words. Quiet introverts can still enjoy socializing—they just need time alone to recharge. Quiet introverts have just as much to offer as outgoing extroverts, and we desperately need both in the world.

Regardless of where you fall on that shy or loud, introvert or extrovert spectrum, the world needs you. Because, yes, we all love a good party, but sometimes we need the quiet.

You are not broken because you prefer the latter.

 

Some Advice for College Freshmen

My Post (34).jpgAs we close out our Fourth of July celebrations and the end of summer looms closer, many of you will be about to head off to college.

College is an amazing—but sometimes horrifying—time to grow and figure out who you want to be in this life. As someone who didn’t enjoy or take advantage of her time in college, here are some pieces of advice so that you, hopefully, won’t make the same mistakes I did.

You don’t have to be BFFs with your roommates.

I moved into a triple dorm room during my freshman year. I was so excited. Two automatic friends instead of just one, right?

Unfortunately, in my case, the other two girls became best friends, and I felt odd for not fitting in. I wish I would have realized at the time that it was completely OK. You cannot get along or be best friends with everyone. You do not have to be BFFs with your roommates. There is nothing wrong with you if you don’t click with them. Just be nice and courteous; that’s all that really matters.

Join clubs, and find your people.

You may get lucky and find your new friend group right in your dorm building, but even if so, college is the time to get involved and discover your interests.

Go to your campus’ club showcase, and sign up for a few clubs that match your general interests. Try them out, and then narrow it down to one ot two that really excite you. This is also a great way to figure out what you may want to do career-wise.

Be a little silly.

College is the last stop before adulthood responsibilities set in. Sure, there’s a lot you still have to be responsible for in college—definitely more so than when you’re in high school—but paying rent sure is less stressful when you don’t have student loans to pay!

Make sure that, in between studying and internships, you remember to have some fun. You won’t always have hour breaks in the middle of your day or Fridays off.

You will fail, but don’t give up.

During your freshmen year of college, you will probably end up failing in some way. Classes are harder than they were in high school (or at least they should be), professors aren’t quite as accessible (especially if you attend a large university), and it may be hard to be without your family and friends from back home.

Don’t give up when you mess up. Learn from those mistakes, and keep going. Some mistakes may even cause you to rethink your major. Give it time before you make any drastic changes. Easy roads are not necessarily better.

Spend Wisely!

Money, money, money. If you’re moving away for college, my No. 1 piece of advice to you is to start saving now. Shop as cheaply as you can, and try to avoid unnecessary entertainment or eating out costs. Come up with a reward system so that you don’t miss out on something you really want, while still putting money away for the next year. You’ll thank yourself later.

Don’t compare.

When you’re in classes with people all competing for similar career goals, it becomes easy to compare yourself to your classmates’ progress. Comparison is never a good idea, but it can be especially harmful if you fall into that trap during your freshman year. You don’t want it to become a habit.

Everyone will have different career successes and majors. Don’t compare. You’re each on your own special path to reach your goals.

Stick to your beliefs and convictions.

College campuses are a bit tricky today. There will inevitably be some unpopular opinions that won’t be “cool” or even seen as acceptable to have. You might completely agree with the majority, or you could be in the minority.

Wherever you lie, I challenge you to research your own beliefs and convictions if you begin to have doubts. We should always strive to become more knowledgeable about what we believe and what the alternatives may be, but don’t change just because people tell you you’re wrong. You’re better and stronger than that. Look into the issue for yourself. Do the research. Present your case. Come to your own conclusions.

Make up your own mind. Don’t follow just to follow.

Stay in touch with your people back home.  

Lastly, stay in touch with your friends and loved ones back home or who have left on their own college adventures. You’re going to miss them a lot—especially in your first year. Send handwritten notes and sweet texts, and call or FaceTime whenever you can.

After all, they miss you, too.

Having It All: Career, Love, and Family

Having it all: career, love, and family. Girl in field.Women are under extraordinary pressure today to “have it all.” To have the dream job, to raise not only well-behaved but also gifted children, to keep the house in order, and to keep up their appearances.

Some women believe “having it all” is possible; some do not. In reality, the definition of “having it all” needs to change.

We are not cookie-cutter personalities. All women do not have the same dream. Some are ambitious and want to rise to the top in their careers. Others dream of being homemakers—which is never something other women should criticize. Others want something in the middle.

Yet, today—and this happens to young men, too—young women seem to be funneled into the same path: College. Career. Marriage. Family. If you stray from this path, there is a societal pressure and mindset that you have failed.

The thing is, society’s standard does not equate to a happy life. In fact, meeting that standard is practically impossible even if you have a personality type that would thrive in that lifestyle!

There are only so many hours in a day, and the reality is that you cannot “have it all” in the way society has defined it.

I’ll never forget the quiet realization that fell over my global communications class during a Q&A with some successful guest journalists several years ago. These were the type of journalists who are out there living the dream. They traveled to far off places, spoke with amazing people, and really experienced life on a global scale.

We were all off in daydreams picturing romanticized views of their lifestyles when someone asked how it affected their relationships back home.

A girl sitting behind me scoffed loudly at the question. She was the career type. She thought the question was immature and inappropriate.

The girl who asked the question was smart, though. She was clearly not completely career-focused. She wanted to know if this type of journalism was something she could actually do and be happy with.

As it turns out, everyone’s romanticized view of the job was quickly shattered; one journalist shared she was single and had never married, and two others shared they had both been divorced—though they had found love with one another.

Our teacher, also a traveling journalist, confirmed the same: she had trouble making relationships work as well because of her job.  

For these journalists, their careers took priority. They no doubt have amazing lives, amazing stories, and success, but because of how much they have to travel, they have had to sacrifice relationships and marriages.

The students were rather quiet as they considered if that’s something they could do.

There is no right or wrong answer for what you choose to pursue in your life, but you have to be honest with yourself. What does your “having it all” look like? What will you have to sacrifice to get there?

Your “all” does not need to look like someone else’s. If you want to be a stay-at-home mom, do it. If you don’t want kids, that’s OK, too. If you want a meaningful career and a family, you’ll find a way to balance it.

We can’t be everything. So just be who you want to be.

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