This is probably a blog post I thought I would never write.
I think it was about 3 years ago when I first heard the phrase, “Saturdays are for the boys!” It was shouted at some day-drinking fest I was at or maybe I just saw it as a hashtag on social media. I really don’t remember. But over the past 2-3 years, I have observed a quite interesting phenomenon. I like to call it “The Bro Movement” or “The Barstool Phenomenon.” Let me explain…
As much as society tries to dismiss and blur the barrier of gender roles and behaviors within society (I.E., seeing males wear and apply makeup now on YouTube as ‘beauty gurus,’ females starting to major in more science/engineering fields), there are some things that will always deem as “girly” or “for dudes.”
For example, it’s been more ‘accepted’ or normalized within American society for girls to have sleepovers together, go shopping, go get brunch, or just have a “girls night out.” Go take a walk through your nearest shopping mall – there will most definitely be a higher percentage of girls walking around with their girlfriends with shopping bags rather than boys shopping around with their friends. Although brunch has commonly been known as a meal between breakfast and lunch, it’s evolved into this upper class behavior/lifestyle of metropolitan women like you see from Sex and the City or Gossip Girl.
Female relationships have consistently been portrayed in the media as more emotional, close-knit, sensitive bonds rather than friendships between males. In movies you see a girl who is dumped by her boyfriend, so her female friends cuddle up with her in bed, eat ice cream, lend a shoulder to cry on, and tell them everything is going to be okay. With males, the media commonly paints a scene with characteristics portraying a “fuck her,” attitude. No time to sulk with it, go straight to the bar, indulge in some alcohol, and go find a new lady to take your mind off things. Basically a “boys don’t cry” scene.
However, over the past few years I believe there has been a shift in male camaraderie and overall ‘friendship behavior.’ It’s not like heterosexual males have been engaging in different activities like getting their nails done together or drinking rose in Central Park (okay, maybe some have). They are still going about their normal activities like golfing, going out to a bar on a Friday night, talking about Fantasy Football, etc. Yet, it seems like the attitude about “hanging out with just the boys” has been deemed to be more acceptable and even desirable recently amongst males. Again, let me explain…
Males go to the gym to look good for girls. Males wear a certain fashion brand to look good for girls. Males go into a certain career fields to impress girls. Males go to bars on the weekends to meet girls. I’m not saying this is 100% true for 100% of the male population, but the large majority of males do what they do for one main priority: to attract/attain women. Going back to our biological roots, the main purpose in early life and even still for most species is to meet a mate and reproduce offspring. Biologically, our minds are wired this way without even thinking about it. Again, not saying this is ALL of the population – as many people nowadays choose not to have children or even get married – but it has been the historical and traditional “goal” for the majority of human beings. Reproduction is typically the end-goal.
Although we have come to be entirely more aware of our actions and behaviors due to the vast and increasing amount of science and knowledge constantly developing, there are still many things that we do subconsciously, or without manual thought/effort. This is due to the long-term development of generalized gender roles, stereotypes, cognitive dissonance, behavioral/operant/classical conditioning, etc.
Some examples of stereotypes:
- Girls with blonde hair are dumb
- Asians are bad drivers
- Jewish people are cheap
- Irish people are alcoholics
- People from the south are racist
Some examples of gender roles:
- Females are nurses, men are doctors
- Females cook and clean, men go to work
- Females are to be submissive, men are to be dominant
- Females are teachers, men are business executives
And so on…
As discussed early, there are certain behaviors that have become assigned “normal” to each gender as well. Girls are more sensitive and intimate with their friends while men are less personable and more aggressive with theirs. However, this is not to say that men or females cannot both share a trait like “honesty” between their friends. It’s all about the delivery – which is something society/observant conditioning has taught us. If a female asks her friend, “Do you like this dress on me?” and the friend doesn’t really like it, she will deliver her feedback wrapped with sensitivity, such as, “It looks nice, but I think that other dress looked way better on you.” Females are more aware of their emotions, and are more aware of how their actions or words can affect other’s emotions (especially other females). Males, on the other hand, will typically have a much more ‘blunt’ conversation [yet still honest]. One male can say, “What do you think of this T-shirt?” and his friend will reply, “Nah, that’s ugly don’t get that one.” Both the male and female responded with honest feedback, however it was the way that each of them delivered their feedback that was different (again, this is just a hypothetical situation).
Society portrays men who expose their emotions to be ‘weak’ and ’emasculating.’ No male wants to be called such things. Therefore, they follow the “boys will be boys” mantra, masking any sensitivity and/or emotions that can be translated as ‘weak’ or ‘girly.’ Because if a man cannot “be a man” (typically the prototype of what females find attractive: tall, dark, & handsome, or a confident and muscular superhero-type stature), then he will not attract a female, and then he will not be able to reproduce, ultimately failing at accomplishing the main underlying goal in life.
There is one characteristic that has intrigued me so much over the past decade – has occupied hours and hours of my mind – that if I decide to write a book one day and conduct research, it will be on this characteristic/topic. Insecurity, insecure – whatever you want to call it, my hypothesis is that all of life’s problems stem from deep-set insecurity that we fail to recognize (or just completely deny) the root cause of.
The first thing that pops into your head when you hear a girl going through her boyfriends texts/social media is that she can’t trust him. But that’s just the outside reason. The internal reason is that she is insecure. There is obviously something deeper than just her not trusting him. I am not saying it’s ALWAYS this way, but 9/10 times it is because the female is not confident in herself. Yes, of course, there are times when the male has maybe lied in the past or been unfaithful… I get that. But I’m telling you, AS A FEMALE, the majority of us are just extremely insecure. Due to the overwhelming amount of beauty displayed in traditional media and now throughout social media, it’s hard to scroll through your feed without encountering at least 5 “Instagram-models.” Photoshop, Facetune, fake boobs, fake tans, fake eyelashes, highlight contour – blah blah blah. Compare, compare, compare. That’s all we fucking do. All fucking day. It’s exhausting. I’ve done it for 10 years of my life, and while I still struggle with it, I am happy to say that I’ve managed to not drive myself entirely insane like some other women I see beating themselves up or driving their man out the door. In one of the books I read last year (I believe it was Reclaiming Conversation), it stated that people who spend more time on social media have higher rates of anxiety, depression, and negative feelings about themselves. Shocking, right? It’s not surprising when you hear this statistic, but it’s not something that we would put two and two together ourselves. And of course, which gender do you believe spends more time on social media? You got it. Females.
Obviously females are not the only ones who suffer from insecurities. Men have plenty, PLENTY of insecurities (heck, I’m convinced some men may feel more insecure than women), they are just not as vocal and/or obvious about it. Men don’t talk about their problems or tend to show it like women do. Men go to the gym or maybe go out drinking with their friends to clear their head. Women? forget it… we already have a quote ready to put on our next Instagram picture and a tweet scheduled with over dramatic and emotional song lyrics. We are SO obvious – we wear our heart on our sleeves. Some men do as well, but most of them bury their emotions or just pretend like they don’t have any. Again, society, conditioning, mimicking, etc. Ask any female, I’m sure you’ve heard her say at least once or twice, “But he never wants to talk to me about his feelings!” Most men have been taught to never cry, never show emotion, and just “be strong” and “handle it like a man.”
Are men wrong? Are women wrong? No, and no. I am not writing this piece to bash either gender. Both men and women have the ability to be honest or the ability to be insecure. The way each gender embodies these characteristics is just different, and again, neither is wrong nor right. However, my ideas about insecurity is what I find correlates to the growth of the “bro movement” and greater camaraderie between men over the past few years.
“Saturdays are for the boys” has become the equivalent of a “Girls night out” (queue “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and “Man, I Feel Like A Woman” playing – two amazing songs BTW). I really don’t want to compare this to woman empowerment or politics or any of those topics since I don’t agree that this movement started out trying to “rival” female friendships. I don’t believe that men have said or are saying, “Fuck girls! Hate those bitches! Let’s show em that our friendship is better than theirs!” Lol, no. I believe this movement arose from the increasing amount of time and dependence females started to have on social media – which dug a huge internal hole filled with insecurities and doubts.
I have a career in social media and Mark Zuckerberg (even with all his mistakes and fuck ups) is still someone who I admire each and every day that goes by. However, I believe that social media affected females attitudes and behavior in more negative ways than males… by a long shot. Females spend hours on end scrolling through a feed of [often photoshopped] “instagram-models,” celebrities, their boyfriend’s ex girlfriends, influencers, etc. I wrote my senior thesis on how Instagram paved the way young females present themselves, therefore I’m not going to delve much into this topic here (senior thesis PDF on my LinkedIn). However, I have continued to believe as time goes by (5 years ago I wrote this thesis) that males have taken on social media in much of the way that it was intended to be used – networking, connecting, building camaraderie, etc, while females have used social media to compete with other females and prove their worth/status in comparison to society.
In part TWO, I will continue briefly talking about the psychological analysis of male and female social behavior, but then shift to introducing the “Barstool Phenomenon,” I.E., how founder Dave Portnoy capitalized on creating the “average guy” digital community that was missing from the extremely edited, scripted, and ‘fake’ emergence throughout various digital platforms.
I was watching Queer Eye on Netlfix this past week (which by the way, you NEED to watch. I cried after almost every episode, but they were happy tears, don’t worry) and I remember one of the Fab Five members asking, “What would you tell your younger self knowing what you know now about life?”
Maybe because it was the first time in weeks I was watching a show and I had no desire to look at my phone or browse on social media. My mind was completely absorbed in the show, the emotional, mental, and physical transformations of these contestants. I was really starting to think about this question myself. What is one thing I would change about myself if I could rewind 10-15 years?
I try to think about the most impactful moments from the past decade – the most traumatic moments, the moments that I think about almost every day. I’m confident that a lot of females my age, or those who have suffered with anxiety in the past would agree with what I would change, because it [regretfully] took a toll on my happiness for tooooo long.
If I could tell my younger self one thing – or for that matter, tell any girl who is 10-15 years old to concentrate on one thing as they grow older, it would be to not concentrate on what other people thing of you – work on what you think of you.
I do believe this is what drives most humans ‘crazy,’ what leads to increasing rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and other mental illnesses. We are so entirely consumed with social media in this era – always perfecting how we appear to our immediate community, but also to complete strangers. Increase brightness, decrease shadows, increase sharpening, tint the background. Some people take hoursssss critiquing a picture they are going to upload to their social feed. It becomes so obsessive that people sit by their phone, hitting the refresh button until they are satisfied with the number of likes/comments [engagement] they are receiving on that post. And what happens if the number of likes falls short of 100? Delete. Re-upload at another time. Text friends to like their picture or leave comments. It’s absolutely ridiculous.
Am I a victim of this behavior? Of course. I have refreshed a picture to see how many likes I was getting after 12 minutes of uploading it. I have played around with filtering an image for minutes so it would make me appeal the most attractive, but still realistic. I’ve never deleted a picture because it didn’t suffice the number of likes I was looking for, but I know PLENTY of people who do this. I know people who have made fake Instagram accounts just so they can increase the likes on their main page. Some of you may be laughing or shaking your head envisioning the people you know who do this, and some of you make think I’m completely bullshitting you. Trust me, I wish this wasn’t true.
I was going through a job application the other day and they asked, “Define social media in 3 different ways.” I thought, “Interesting.” This is something that nearly every person on the planet [who has access to the internet] uses every single day. When you type in “social media” on Google, the definition that generates states social is “websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.” Can’t argue with that, right? But when I think about social media in reference to just one individual, I think of it as “websites and applications that enable a user to create their own self-presentation and image to share/engage with others online.” Because can you honestly affirm that the person you portray yourself online is the exact representation of how you portray yourself in real life?
I definitely cannot. I’m wayyyyyyy cooler on social media than how I am in my day to day life. Everyday is pretty monotonous for me:
- Wake up exhausted
- Shower quick to wake myself up
- Apply makeup to my extremely dry and chapped winter skin
- Run out of time to make lunch, scurry over to the subway that 6/10 times I’ll miss
- Frantically make my way to my desk with still semi-wet hair from my shower
- Work a 9-6 boring day
- Go to the gym if I’m not entirely lazy and unmotivated
- Watch YouTube beauty gurus and pray I fall asleep before 1am.
That is a typical day for me. On Instagram, I am this social “Manhattenite,” taking pictures of the most glamorous sceneries and restaurants in NYC as if I live in any of those areas (nope, I live in Queens unfortunately). Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like any of these pictures were not taken by myself or that I photoshopped any of them, but it’s merely the ‘highlights’ of my life, not a true depiction of what my everyday life is typically like.
Why do I do this? Why does everyone do this? Why don’t we share the moments that aren’t so fun, exciting, and wonderful? Because we care too much what others think about us. We want to portray ourselves in the best light possible. We want people to think we are cool and hip and fun and positive.
But is that so bad? To care what other people think of you? Who wouldn’t want people to like us?
Well, we take it too far. Wayyyyyy too far [IMO]. My whole point here is not to tell you that you shouldn’t take into consideration what other people think of you [at all], but to essentially calm down your thoughts about [social] appearance in exchange for approval of others. We now look at likes and comments as the highest form of praise/accomplishment. Isn’t that, kinda weird? I bet if you upload a picture of you in a swimsuit, all greased up and tan on the beach, it will receive more like that the picture that uploaded of you standing in sweatpants with your college diploma. Mine sure did. More people “like” a picture of my ass in a bikini than the fact that I busted my ass for 5 years to receive my Magna Cum Laude diploma from a top100 university. Sex sells though, right?
But WHY? Why do we care so much if people like us? It makes sense that we want our family to think about us a certain way, but how about acquaintances? Vague co-workers? College friends from 10 years ago? Why does it matter to us what they think?
I, personally, believe that many of us have struggled with years of mental and emotional discomfort, and have never tried to seek change or therapy. I believe that we live in too strong of a “blame culture,” that dictates we should blame/assume our faults to be someone else’s responsibility (Think of #ThanksObama memes). It is generally assumed in our society that if you seek help, especially psychological help, that you are weak. This is a problem. A big problem. People put off asking for help, and therefore bury their issues deep down, and never seek a solution to the problem. Later on in life, these problems will arise in different areas whether it’s in their relationship, career, social life, etc. I do my part in urging the importance of mental and emotional health, but unfortunately, many people still believe that it is ‘fake’ or unimportant. These are the people who are extremely opposed to asking for help in any aspect of their life, since asking for assistance is seen as a sign of weakness to them, as they should be able to accomplish anything with their own ‘strong, superior self.’ ~Eye roll.~
Moreover, I believe a lot of us are fearful of change, plain and simple. We seek familiarity in life. Whether you want to believe it or not, we actually tend to mimic people that we like. We tend to mimic their gestures and facial expressions, as it delivers us a sense of comfort having people around who are similar to our own look/behavior/habits. You ever see a couple that looks like brother and sister? It’s because we actually have a higher attractiveness to people who look more like ourselves. That’s right, you narcissist, you unconsciously choose to date someone who looks most similar to you [in most cases].
Okay, so what does this have to do with wanting people to like us? As discussed earlier, I believe a lot of us have struggled with some sort of mental or emotional discomfort. Therefore, this has led us to feel insecure, not confident, and unworthy. A person who is so sure of themselves would never care of how many likes they get on a picture, right? If you are so confident in yourself, then why would you care what other people think of you? If you know you are a good person, you shouldn’t feel the need to upload dozens of pictures of all the community service you do, right?
The things that we post about the most, our highlights, are often the things we feel the most insecure about, and therefore seek further approval/praise from others. For example, have you ever been friends with someone superrrrrr into fitness? Most of them have tons of posts of them flexing, half-naked, posing, etc. You would think that if they are posting their half-naked body on the internet, that they must be confident about their body, right? Nope. Most of these fitspos are super insecure about their physique – constantly criticizing the already minimal amount of fat they have. When they post pictures of themselves on social media, they are typically seeking what they wish they could tell themselves: “you’re so in shape” or “you are so lean” or “you look amazing! I wish I could look like you!” These people are still feeling insecure about their appearance, therefore they seek praise from others so they can feel better about themselves. The problem is, you will never be satisfied unless YOU yourself are happy. You cannot depend on the approval of others until you approve of yourself internally.
“Confidence is silent. Insecurities are loud.” Ever hear of that phrase? It’s something that I tend to remind myself every few weeks. I sometimes get down on myself when I see people my age  (or even younger) going on extravagant trips overseas, wearing expensive jewelry and clothing – things that I WISH I could afford. I’m like, “What the heck? How can they afford this? They don’t even have a full-time job? They don’t work nearly as hard as I do!? Not fair.” Something that my mom would always tell me when I was younger, “Most of the time, the people who flaunt how much money they have, are typically the ones that don’t actually have it.” It’s safe to say that these people are insecure about their financial [or lack there of] security, and try to reassert to the world that they are in fact not broke by flaunting lavish and expensive things/behavior. Obviously this is not the case 100% of the time, since the Kardashians and Hiltons have no problem flaunting their lavish lifestyles and fashions, and it’s doubtful that either family is swimming in pools of debt. However, think of people like Tom Hanks, Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres, etc. These three celebrities are some of the most successful personalities of the past century, and I can’t think of the last time any of them socially documented anything more than ‘average.’ Yet I’m 99% certain each of these three don’t make the ‘average’ paycheck that you and I are making each week.
You might be asking yourself, “Well okay, obviously it’s normal for people to have insecurities… what are you suggesting we do about it?”
Here is the thing – I believe that most people tend to live in denial of their weaknesses and insecurities. It isn’t until one day they wake up and realize how unhappy or depressed they are. That’s when other issues occur: depression, alcohol/drug abuse, overeating, anxiety, manic episodes, anger issues, etc. How many people do you know that have fled to alcohol, food, or sex when they are in a bad mood? Often times, this pattern is not broken, and that cycle of abuse tends to ruin our lives.
My suggestion? Get help. Obviously, that is vague and not very easy. I know that some people have a harder time than others opening up about their struggles, but we as a society need to come to the realization that opening up about our weaknesses is not WEAK. It is not WRONG or STUPID. If you are insecure about your weight or your finances or your education, the answer shouldn’t be to post on social media to trick everyone into thinking this is actually not something you are insecure about. You need to talk to someone. We are evolving into a community of heads-down, constantly on our phone, unsocial humans. Social media has made a lot of us unsocial and awkward. If you are insecure that you have $1200 in your bank, you shouldn’t be posting photos of your Louboutin shoes or Prada bag to mind-fuck yourself into thinking you’re super well off – in denial about your finances. DO SOMETHING.
We avoid change like we would avoid a bubonic plague. We don’t want change because we know it’s hard. It’s easy to stick with the same job for 10 years, to buy the same groceries and maintain the same group of friends. It’s hard to try and meet new people, learn a new language, or start a new career. Change is hard, but in my opinion, living a lie is harder. Living a life filled with insecurities will make you unhappy, and when you are unhappy… you will start to question, “What is the point of living?”
Instead of trying to convince your social following of how awesome your life is, go out and live your awesome life instead. Deep down, there is something we are all individually insecure about and we have a problem accepting it. So instead, we create this edited self online that masks what we are truly insecure about, so others don’t see the weakness that we see inside ourselves. Wouldn’t it be nice to focus on improving this insecurity instead of hiding behind our online profile?
“If the whole world was blind, how many people would you try to impress?”
(Started this last week but of course, didn’t finish. Pretend like this was last week, k? 🙂
This week I watched one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to sit through. I cried more this week than I’ve cried in years – on the subway, at work, in bed, in the bathroom… everywhere. I decided to type out this piece on a day that starts on a more positive note so I wouldn’t cry – it’s finally Friday, I got a raise/promotion yesterday, and I’m literally just hoping that my tear production has become so exhausted that I can’t physically cry anymore.
I’ve talked about one of my closest friends Megan a few times in my blog pieces. I reference her in my piece about reading especially, talking about how she was my inspiration to read more and appreciate the vast amount of knowledge we have access to. Megan was my college roommate for 3 years in a row, and she has remained to be one of my best friends since 2009.
There is one thing I say to people when I talk about Megan: “If you have a problem with Megan, there is most likely a problem with you.” I hate to say that there is a “problem” with anyone, but I tend to use this blunt statement specifically to portray how incredibly friendly and likable Megan is. I don’t think I know anyone who has ever got in a fight with, or stated that they disliked Megan – I mean, I just wouldn’t believe it. Megan walks into the room with the brightest smile and most joyful giggle. Physically, she is youthfully adorable yet exquisitely beautiful at the same time. If you only knew her from seeing her outward appearance, you would comment about how lovely her long blonde hair is, or how stunning her smile is, or how admirable her athletic and toned body is. As beautiful as Megan is from the outside, it’s almost incomparable to how insanely gorgeous her heart and soul is.
Megan is that girl that instantly puts a smile on your face when you come into contact with her. It’s rare that she isn’t giggling or smiling or doing some insanely cute gesture. She has to be one of the most likable humans I’ve ever met in my entire life. I talked about the power of likability in another piece here, discussing the difference between being popular and being likable. It’s of course possible to attain both of these statuses, however, being likable is what drives more cases of happiness, success, and triumph (Think of celebrities: Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton both have status, but they do not have overall likability. Ellen DeGeneres and Tom Hanks both have status AND likability). Megan is the epitome of a likable person: easy-going, open-minded, kind, generous, positive, fun, and compassionate. She was there for me during some of the hardest years of my life, and stuck by my side when others disappeared.
There are people in your life who wear their heart on their sleeve, i.e., you can automatically sense when something negative happened in their life. They walk around with a pout on their face, it’s the only thing they talk about, they start behaving in unconventional ways, etc. And then there other people that don’t talk about their problems or express any form of deviant behavior. I’ve been told I’m a little bit of both. Some people tell me that they were shocked when they heard I struggled with anxiety and depression, because they found me to be such an outgoing and fun person to be around. Yet in other cases, there are times when hands down I’m just a mess – I can’t control my feelings or emotions and it’s just plastered across my face for days or weeks. Megan is definitely not someone that wears their heart on their sleeve – and not in a negative way, but in a way that is just so fascinating and unbelievable.
There have been times where Megan was going through personal problems, relationship problems, or even something with her family, but she was never someone to bring up her problems on anyone else. Everyday she continued to walk into the apartment with a smile on her face, asking everyone how their day was, and rarely ever talking about herself or venting about her own problems. I don’t know how she puts on the most poised and unperturbed display, but you would never know Megan is hurting on the inside from her appearance on the outside.
This week was different. It’s not like I’ve never seen Megan cry before, but this was a different type of cry. The countenance she had on when I watched her walk over to the podium and make her statement was something I’ve never seen before from her. In addition, I can’t even coherently address what I was feeling as I watched this video. I felt anxious, even though I knew [to some extent] what words would be spilling out of her mouth. I felt scared, even though I knew that the worst was already over. And I felt guilty, because I couldn’t be there with her as she made her public statement, for millions of people to discover.
Megan was one of the hundreds of victims abused by former US Gymnastics coach Larry Nassar. Even as I type this out, my body feels warmer and my hands feel unsteady. Last week – forget about it. I couldn’t even get through maybe an hour at work without crying and envisioning myself swinging a baseball bat or giant hammer at this guy’s head. And then when I started to wipe away the mascara pouring down my face, I stopped and thought, “This is how I’m feeling right now. I can’t even begin to image how Megan is feeling.” And then, a stream of tears started to trickle down and over my clenched jaw all over again.
When I first opened the link Megan sent me of her making her public statement, I was initially thinking, “Okay, she looks okay, this isn’t going to be that bad.” She was smiling so politely – that perfect Megan smile of hers – dimples and bright white teeth. She looks great – articulate, professional, and poised. She spelled out her name for the Judge, and then she started to recite the most disturbing and heartbreaking encounter I’ve ever had my ears to witness.
It took me a few tries to actually get through this whole video. I was experiencing so many emotions – anger, heartbreak, guilt, sadness, shock, and frustration. I knew details about Megan’s past, but never did I think that something so horrible happened to someone so wholesomely ‘good.’ I wanted to legit murder this man after I heard everything that Megan talked about. I wanted to hold her in my arms. I wanted to tell her everything is going to be okay. I wanted to tell her that the worst is already over. But I couldn’t. And there is just no single word to explain how much that fucking sucks.
I started to write this piece since I was struggling to function the whole week after I listened to that video. I would cry, and then be okay, and then cry again after I saw a new news article pop up on my feed about this disgusting monster. Even though this entire thing is 0% about me, and everything about Megan and the other strong survivors, I needed to write to let go of everything I was experiencing. I know that I should essentially be happy – happy that Megan and these women can finally receive some closure from their haunting past. I know that I should feel proud of all of the women who had the strength and courage to step forward and talk about this traumatizing experience. I know that I should feel relief that Megan has an amazing support system with her during this time. But I rarely felt these emotions. I was being selfish through this experience – I wanted Megan all to myself. I wanted to be the one there for her. I wanted to comfort her, hold her, and cry with her when she needed support. But I couldn’t, and I realized that this was making me cry even more. Because Megan is one of the few people in my life who has never left my side. She was there for me when I found out my ex-boyfriend cheated on me. She was there for me at 3am when I saw that he was engaged on Facebook. She was there for me when I found out my dad was diagnosed with leukemia. She was there for me when I saw nasty emails my mom wrote about me to my doctors. When I was struggling with chronic depression and an eating disorder. Megan never left, and many others have. Others told me I was crazy. Others told me I was a burden. Others flew from my life. Megan always stayed by my side, and I was mad that I couldn’t be there for her when she needed support more than ever.
They say “time heals all wounds.” I agree with this in some aspect. As someone who has had chronic anxiety for 10+ years, and suffers through panic attacks from time to time, there is nothing worse than the few minutes or even hours of that suffrage. The only thing that helps get me through these moments is reciting, “this too shall pass.” I don’t know why, but this phrase just resonates with me. I remember when I was going through a terrible anxiety attack in college, and I had to call out of work to go see my therapist. I was freaking out because I ate too much the night before (you truly don’t understand how frightening this is if you’ve never experienced an eating disorder. When you have a fear or gaining weight/fat, eating too much is literally correlated with “I rather die”). I clearly remember my therapist telling me, “This feeling is temporary. This will pass.” And even though this is something SO incredibly simple, it finally clicked with me. When you have anxiety or even depression, in your darkest moments you sometimes feel like this is how your life is, permanently. I sometimes feel like the dark cloud over my head is just something I’ll have to live with forever. As with any mental illness, everyone experiences it differently, however… there is one commonality that [I believe] most of all of us feel… which is confusion. Many of the times we don’t know why we are feeling a certain way. I wake up on Sundays many times and have this overall feeling of worry that I truly cannot understand. I say to myself, “What am I worried about? Do I have somewhere I need to be? Something I forgot to do?” It’s a constant worry of what could happen or what already happened. It’s terrible and destructive. But now I know that time is all I need… since this feeling doesn’t last forever, and “this [feeling] too shall pass.”
I desperately hope that Megan can see this traumatizing experience approaching an awaited termination. I hope that she realizes time is on her side, and that day by day, the darkest days will become brighter again. I know that my feeling of guilt will fade once I see how much support Megan has with her now. I know that I will see her soon when I have the opportunity to visit again in California. I know this separation is temporary. But I know that in order for time to pass, I need to take action as well. I need to show my support, I need to write, I need to pray, and do whatever I can to help myself for Megan. Because I am my best support for Megan when I’m at my personal best. I need to be OK so I am OK for Megan. I can’t show that I am weak when I need to be strong for her. Even though Megan has already displayed unmeasurable amounts of strength and grit, this sort of experience and trauma is not easy to recover from, no matter how old or healthy you are. But at least I know that each of us being strong on our own will help us be stronger together.
The most common question I’m asked at least 2-3x a week. Yesterday, my psychiatrist asked me this. I’ve noticed that I tend to switch answers every time I reply to this question, depending on my mood. In my head, I have about 20 reasons why ~I think~ I’m single. However, no one is going to listen to more than maybe 2 reasons why, and if I even dared to respond to the question in a text with multiple reasons, forget it, I’m “crazy.” Anything more than 3-4 sentences at once is just too overwhelming for people I’ve noticed…
Yesterday my answer to my psychiatrist was, “I guess I haven’t found someone yet.” The most plausible and rational answer to this question I believe. I’m 26, I’m young, I have a few years left until I want to get married and have kids. I believe that I was put on this earth to be a mom. I literally cannot wait to have babies. I know, I know, I probably sound naive since I have ‘no idea what I’m talking about,’ or that I haven’t even witnessed all the sleepless nights, babies vomiting, crying 12 hours every day, etc. To be honest, I feel like the negative aspects of having kids are more heavily portrayed online and in the media than the wonderful ones. I haven’t lived a life of rainbows and sunshine, I’ve had more complicated childhood and college years than most people I know. So even though there is an overwhelming amount of negativity associated with having kids, I am doubtful that I can’t handle it with the wonderful support system I have around me. I’ve never hesitated once about having babies.
Back to this whole relationship/single thing, essentially I’m just so excited to start a family, that I am really, really, just dying to meet someone and give them all of the love that I have to offer. Of course, I can have a family without marrying someone or having a partner, but seriously, I’m young… and until I’m 35 and still single, I’m not toying with that option. I WANT a partner, someone to share my life with, someone to wake up next to, someone so create memories with. People ask me, “Why are you single?” as if I chose this life for the past 5 and a half years. Going to bed alone for 5 years. Eating alone for 5 years. Having no +1 for 5 years. But, didn’t I choose this?
I’m a big believer in taking control of the things that you can control in your life. You don’t like your job? Apply to a new one. Not happy with the way you look? Go to a gym. Eat healthier. Etc. I’m not someone who sits at home complaining about how my life is unraveling and does nothing to change it. I HATE those kind of people. I don’t have the highest paying job right now, and I wasn’t going to be the one complaining about buying people gifts during Christmas like it was a chore. I love to buy people gifts whether it’s for Christmas, their Birthday, etc. I have an organically creative mind, so I tend to view gift-giving as a creative challenge; what can I do to make this gift special and unique? Something different and memorable? So what did I do, I got a second job during the holidays so I wouldn’t be stressed about finances. The holiday has become filled with negative energy due to the financial constraints of many Americans. I get it – I live in NYC and have been busting my ass trying to make extra money and cut back on expenses. However, I don’t want to dread such a magical and holy time of the year when I have the control to make it more or less stressful.
There are some things you can’t control: when a family member gets sick, the weather conditions, the stock market, etc. So I try to make the most of the things I can control: my health (obv not genetics) exterior appearance, career, and my relationship status. Isn’t the status of being single or not a choice? Didn’t I choose this after all? How can I say “I didn’t choose to be single” if no one else is making decisions for me?
I did choose this life, this relationship status, or lack there of. I did choose and am choosing single right now. We live in a blame culture where we tend to blame people for things that don’t go our way #ThanksObama #ThanksTrump #ThanksAmerica ~sarcasm~. Impulsively, I sometimes say that I didn’t choose to be single since I want to blame the overwhelming amount of assholes who send me dick pics, the flaky guys who don’t show up to our date, the creepy guys who cat-call me on my commute home from work. I want to say, “Well I mean look at the guys who hit on me, it’s their fault I’m single! This is why I’m single! It’s because they’re all assholes!” Not like this statement is false or anything, they are assholes, but it’s not their fault I am single. I am just choosing not to date them, because well… for obvious reasons.
I sometimes forget to make myself aware of this, because no one wants to hear you rattle off reasons why you’re the victim, and why everyone else (men/society) is to blame for you being single. It just sounds like you’re not taking responsibility for your own situation. For the first 3 years of being single after my last relationship in 2012, I was very self-aware of my choice to be single. My ex cheated on me in Vegas and then got engaged to the girl he cheated on me with 3 months after we broke up. That, um, took a toll on me, lol. That was heartbreaking, not the actual breakup, but the ultimate disintegration of trust and loyalty. Of course he lied to me when I first confronted him about acting different when he came back from Vegas. The worst part of the whole thing was being lied to, face to face, and having your throat grow dry and your stomach feel hallow as you finally lock eyes, and BOOM. You just know it. There’s something that can sense the slightest difference and unfamiliarity in someone who you thought you knew, who you thought you could trust, who you thought you could depend on. And then it’s all gone with a blink of the eye.
After the breakup, I genuinely wanted to be single and have zero commitment with a guy in the near future. I was like, “Fuck this relationship crap for a while. I ain’t going through that pain again anytime soon.” After I graduated college, I was working full time M-F and part time Saturday and Sunday. I was working 7 days a week – legit exhausted and miserable. As someone who was still recovering from an eating disorder, I was still working on parting ways with my anxious mind and getting back to the behaviors of a mentally stable human being – not forcing myself to workout 6-7 days a week, not weighing and measuring everything I ate, etc. When you’re dealing with a mental illness, your hormones are out of wack, your perspective of life is skewed and often irrational. I didn’t have much sex drive during this time [when I was sick and recovering] since I’d rather go to the gym than take a rest day and go on a date, consume unnecessary/unknown calories, and leave me panicking the rest of the night and upcoming week.
Therefore, I really didn’t even have a desire to get into a relationship until I mended the relationship I had with my own anxious mind. I’m aware that this is going to be something that I will have to continue working on for the rest of my life, however, only until 2 years ago did I really feel ‘healthy’ enough to get into a relationship again. Even when I first dated my ex ~6 years ago, I was no where near healthy or mentally stable to get into a relationship. Yet I was young then, I was 20, and I wasn’t as self-aware as I am now about my anxiety and behavior. From ~August 2016 until now, I’ve finally felt “ready” to be with someone else as I’ve learned how to love myself first. That’s the good ‘ole cliche phrase they tell you about in therapy and self-help books anyway, right? As much as I hate that phrase, it’s true. It’s necessary.
Since I was 13 I have been working on my self-esteem, anxiety, OCD, self-confidence, and body image with my therapist and support system. So now, 13 years later, after I finally learned how to love myself, why doesn’t someone love me?
The worst part about people asking you, “Why are you single?” is the constant feeling of failure [IMO]. Like, “Why are you single? You’re pretty, smart, athletic, kind – I don’t get it?” If I’m all of these wonderful things, I must have done something wrong – I must have failed or made a mistake somewhere that is causing me to go to bed alone every night, right? I’ve been learning that the most frustrating part of this whole question/experience is the way that people view “being single.” There’s obvious misconceptions portrayed by those who are naturally dependent or possibly even insecure with being single. People who don’t have that organic independent nature have a hard time comprehending that, I don’t know, I can function without another person’s hand holding mine? Okay, that was petty, butttttttttt… I seriously run into so many people who ask, “But don’t you want someone to go to the movies or dinner with?” Um, fucking obviously Karen! But I don’t NEED someone to go to the movies with me, to dinner with me, or to kiss me on the forehead before I go to bed. That would be nice, yeah, but it’s not necessary. ~ I don’t need no man. ~
I’m not gonna lie, I bitch and vent to my friends a lot about being single, but mainly cause I don’t have any other single friends, lol. I love to go out, I love to meet people, but a lot of my friends… don’t. I don’t have the “partner in crime” or wing-woman friend to go out with, so it leaves me by myself most of the time. It’s okay, because like I said, I’m used to being alone after all the years, but of course it just gets old sometimes. It’s always easier to “do single” when you have someone else doing it with you.
Here are the answers I would give before when someone asked me, “Why are you single:”
- There’s too many options (dating apps, dating websites, dating events, etc) to [want] to commit to just one person
- People in NYC are too busy to date
- The guys I meet don’t want to commit
- The guys I meet are assholes
- No one likes me
- I’m not skinny enough
- I’m not pretty enough
- I don’t have time to date
- I don’t have money to date
- My standards are too high
- I must be too picky
- I just haven’t met someone I really like yet
…and… that’s it, I think. While all of the above points are things that I wouldn’t claim as “false statements,” cause yeah, there are guys who are assholes, I am picky, I haven’t met someone I really like yet, etc. Yet these statements are not answers to why I am single. The answer is because I have chosen to be single. I have chosen not to commit to someone who I wasn’t really crazy about. I have chosen not to commit to someone who didn’t have enough time to devote to me. In these cases, I assume I could have dated them, but I chose not to. Being single is a choice, and so is being a relationship. If you aren’t happy in your current relationship, then leave. No one is forcing you to stay in a relationship that isn’t making you smile each and every day. No one is forcing me to be independent and go home alone every night – I have chosen this life. I have chosen to remain loyal to my standards, and not let them drop just because I’m sick and tired of going to bed by myself every night. I have chosen to put myself before any guy that tries to mess with my confidence and mental health.
Why Am I Single?
I choose to be.
Since it’s the first day of my monthly !You’re!Not!Pregnant! 5-day nightmare, and I have cried 3 different times this morning reading cute Buzzfeed articles, I figured I needed a good ‘ole writing catharsis. I haven’t wrote in a while since my full-time work days are now 9am-8pm, Monday-Friday, and my part-time work days are two 9 hour long shifts on both Saturday and Sunday. I have a few hours to spare when I’m not working, but honestly, drinking a martini or watching SNL clips in bed sound 10x more desirable compared to writing right now.
On average, I am working 70-75 hours per week. I’ve been a psychotic workaholic since as long as I can remember. I’ve never related to the whole “Millennials are lazy, entitled assholes who do nothing and expect everything to be handed to them” comments. When I was in college I took 18 credits a semester and worked part time 16 hours a week at Comcast HQ. Since graduating college 3.5 years ago, I’ve had 3 different part-time jobs that I held all during the same time I was working another full-time job. I think it’s part of the near-perfect work ethic my father instilled into my head when I was younger. I think it’s also part of my organic Virgo nature – being a perfectionist and trying to take on as much as I can. And I think it’s also because New York City is fucking expensive and I really don’t want to swim in debt for the rest of my life.
Yet there is one more reason why I work so much that may not be as obvious to the outside spectator. The thing is, I’m not very good at relaxing. I’m constantly seeking a new challenge or adventure to take on. I’m always looking for ways to better myself whether that means going to the gym or reading another self-improvement book in Starbucks. I go grocery shopping, photographing Manhattan, or even just reorganize my entire room when I’ms stuck at home with nothing to do. I’m physically unable to take naps unless I spent the whole morning day-drinking Bloody Mary’s with my friends (alcohol is typically the only thing that puts me to sleep instantly as depressing and concerning as that sounds). I don’t like going to the movies (unless I REALLY want to see it) because I feel like I could be more productive rather than sitting/starting at a screen for 3 hours. This is a small glimpse into my anxiety, as people with anxiety have a hard time “living in the moment.” People who suffer from anxiety disorders are constantly worrying about the past and the future: something that has happened already or something that has never happened (and may never even happen). We are unable to focus and enjoy the current moment because we are too caught up on the “what ifs” and “could be’s.” As much as I have progressed with my anxiety over the past 13 years, this is still a huge struggle of mine.
But since I am someone who has suffered with anxiety for more than half my life now, I’m strongly acquainted with the factors that can either trigger or prevent my anxious mind from unleashing. Anyone who has suffered with any mental illness for that matter can understand that your mind is your own worst enemy. As much as we like to blame society, family, or friends for feeling the way we do, we are the only ones in control of our own thoughts. When we let our anxious mind control the majority of our thoughts, our perception of reality becomes more skewed and less clear each and every day.
I realized that constantly filling my days with work and things to do occupied more of my mind for less anxiety to creep in. It’s like my body needs constant stimulation for my mind to feel completely still and unbothered. Ask anyone who has suffered from an anxiety attack or depressive episode: being completely alone with your thoughts can be the most harmful and dangerous thing when you’re not mentally stable. The things we tell ourselves are often the most destructive things we will ever hear. When people are trapped with their own harmful thoughts, the consequences often require serious medical attention or possible hospitalization.
To put this all in “Millennial” terms, I’m not much of a ‘Netflix & Chill-er.’ I have a hard time concentrating during movies and TV shows, since my mind is wandering off creating a visual To-Do list of things I ‘should’ be doing. It’s not normal to have this lacking desire of relaxation and serenity – I know that, and I have known that for years. Yet thankfully I’m in a place where my physical health is stable and my mental health has been a lotttttt better than it has been in previous years. I think that’s the problem with others who suffer from mental illness: they are always seeking something that will completely rid their mind from the personal destruction, yet I have come to accept that working to minimize the struggle has been more successful than seeking to destroy it completely.
This year has been a tough one for me, and I’m sure for many others as well. My apartment was broken into in January, 6 different dates bailed on me an hour before we were supposed to meet, the 2 guys I *actually* grew to like had a girlfriend on the side that I later found out about, this is my last year of health insurance under my family’s policy and I’m petrified about affording medical insurance next year, I suffered through a relapse in the spring and ended up crying on hold with the suicide prevention hotline on a Friday night, I wasn’t able to visit my friends in Philly or LA nearly as much as I have in the past due to financial struggles, and the list goes on.
This may seem like “third world problems” for some people, and it may seem like a nightmare to others. I know I’m blessed by God in so many ways – ways that make all of this seem like over-dramatic nonsense. My dad is almost 5 years healthy and free from cancer, my boss and co-workers have been an amazing support system through every battle this year, I have not self-harmed in many ways that I have in the past years, and lastly… even though it SUCKS so bad to discover the guy that you are falling for kissing some other girl online, thank freaking GOD I am not that girl – the one who tells her friends how “faithful and loyal” her man is to her. Seriously, thank God I am not in her shoes.
When the shitty stuff happens, I turn to work. I turn to spreadsheets and numbers and PowerPoints to take my mind off the burglary, fuckboy problems, and family illnesses. It’s a way of avoiding the problem sometimes, I know that, but from the moment I started working full-time when I was 19, I said one thing to myself that has consistently stayed with me: “No matter what is going on in my personal life, I will never let it affect my work.” I am so driven, so determined, and so hungry to succeed independently in my career, that it’s something I will never choose to let go of. I believe that sometimes the only way to recover from something is to fill the mind with something else to concentrate on. A lot of people don’t get over an ex until they meet someone else. Some people can’t give up smoking unless they find something else to fill that void. I don’t think it’s the absolute worst thing to do, especially when that replacement is 5x better than it’s precedent. I know when I’ve reached my limit when I start to get sick or haven’t seen my friends/family in weeks – I know when I need to step back. But at least my career is something I have control over when everything else in life seems to be spiraling out of my control.
“Some women choose to follow men, and some women choose to follow their dreams. If you’re wondering which way to go, remember that your career will never wake up and tell you that it doesn’t love you anymore.” – Lady Gaga
Disclaimer: Before you start to assume that this is some anti-male radical feminist piece – it’s not. This is a piece about common human decency.
I am the only girl of two brothers – one older, and one younger. I started to play soccer when I was 5 years old, and found myself gravitating to more “masculine fashion” in grammar school – AKA, I was a tomboy. I liked to wear my brothers clothes and hang out with his older friends. I would play Zelda, Mario Cart, Super Smash Brothers – any Nintendo64 game you could think of – with a bunch of dudes after school. They were always nice to me, and never did they say I couldn’t ‘play’ with them after dinner with my brother. I remember my winter jacket in 4th grade was a Tommy Hilfiger yellow and navy bubble jacket from the little boy’s section. I wore a lot of baggy T-shirts to school paired with my Adidas shorts I wore to soccer practice.
I was really good at soccer – so good that when I was 17, I was recruited to play for a Division 1 university. When I was younger, I would always try and play soccer with the boys at recess. When you are an athlete, you have this organic competitive nature that is constantly seeking a challenge. I started playing soccer with the boys at recess – lightly monitored by school aids – and I would end up being pushed and shoved with my knees bleeding and dirt stains on my shorts. Yet I would get back up, rub down my muddy knees, and get back to playing. I started to get mad since some of the boys would complain that since I was a girl, I wasn’t allowed to play with “them.” I would tell the school aid that this wasn’t fair since I was just as good as them, and they would reply, “Boys will be boys.”
Thankfully, I grew out of my tomboy phase and started to study fashion and beauty magazines in high school. Now – at age 26 – putting on makeup is actually something I look forward to in the morning. Shoes are essentially my favorite thing to buy, and every Christmas I ask for a new designer bag to take to work each year. I just started working at a second job for extra money – Anthropologie – and I’m actually concerned if this job will even be profitable. With a 40% employee discount and a 60% ‘business wear’ discount each month on certain pieces, this has my wallet growing smaller even thinking about what I plan to buy.
The thing is, as much as I love fashion and beauty, it has been more of a frustrating process to go shopping lately. When I go shopping, I have to worry about a shirt being too low cut, a jacket being too cropped that it won’t cover my butt, and shorts that are too tight on my legs. I have to worry about the way my hair is when I leave my apartment, wanting to wear red lipstick, and walking out in heels that are too loud. I have to consider all these things since it will essentially heighten the chances of me being cat-called. I don’t remember the last time I went a day without having a man shout names at me, whistle at me, pucker at me, lick his lips at me, or approach me when I was commuting. And NO – this isn’t me being cocky or flattering myself. This isn’t me bragging that I look nice or I must be ‘just so pretty’ that guys approach me like this. This is me complaining – not bragging. This is me EXHAUSTED from the constant harassment I have to deal with everyday #CommutingWhileFemale.
Sexual Harassment is nothing new, but it is being mentioned now more than ever for appropriate reason(s). Over the past 2-3 weeks, Harvey Weinstein has been one of the most talked about topics in the media – no matter which news channel or blog you get your information from. Multiple celebrities are currently speaking out about their horridly inappropriate experiences working with Weinstein, strongly claiming that he has been sexually harassing women the the past 3 decades. According to ET Online, “Weinstein has reached at least eight settlements with women over sexual harassment claims from 1990 to 2015.” However, these past encounters are now resurfacing thanks to Ashley Judd, “the first big name star to go on the record,” with her allegation against Weinstein for sexual harassment.
You might be thinking – but why now? Why is Kate Beckinsale just speaking out NOW about her inappropriate experience with Weinstein – after 27 years have passed by? For attention? For press?
I can see why you’re thinking that, however, it’s a no and a no. It’s not for attention and it’s not to gain press. People like Beckinsale are just speaking out about this now because when you are 17 years old and just being introduced into this extremely competitive and fast-moving industry, you’re first thought about meeting a powerful producer is not, “I have to worry about being sexually harassed.” It’s typically, “I will do anything to make it in this industry,” or “I really hope he likes me so I get this part,” or “I have to make sure I make a good impression.” As she stated, “It did not cross my mind that this older, unattractive man would expect me to have any sexual interest in him,”
To think that females [as young as 17 years old] need to start considering sexual assault as a likely possibility throughout their schooling and career is absolutely pitiful. You would think that anyone’s first reaction is to tell their parents/friends/management that this is unacceptable – right? I’ve seen men say this online, “well why didn’t they just go tell someone if it was such a problem?” News flash, idiots – most of the time these women will have their careers destroyed or be threatened by the accuser if they even think about opening their mouth. As you see in many movies and television shows including sexual assault and/or domestic abuse, the abuser will threaten the victim in more ways than you can imagine: threatening to kill them, kill other people, beat them, take the kids, ruin their life, ruin their career, etc. So to the men who say, “well why didn’t she just tell someone,” I would like to see how easy it is for you to report a case of assault or abuse when your abuser threatened to kill you or ruin your career if you even uttered a word about the occurrence.
Going back to the everyday sexual assault that I witness commuting to and from work – it would seem the most plausible to just keep quiet and keep walking. Sometimes in life, the best thing to do is ignore the noise and continuing walking in your own path. Yet I have ‘ignored the noise’ for the past 5-6 years. With all of the stories of sexual assault arising in the news today, and the heartbreaking stories I read every morning on my social media, I’ve had enough of ‘keeping quiet.’ I don’t want to put myself in a scenario where I can be threatened or chased, but I am disgusted and exhausted with this behavior occurring. Maybe if I speak up against this behavior the next time it happens, I can prevent it from happening to the next girl walking behind me.
For HELP and More Information on this serious matter, call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.
I am a bookworm. My mom is an avid reader, however, we have entirely different interests when it comes to reading. I started reading for leisure purposes in high school. I’m pretty sure the first series I read that got me interested in books was Twilight – I know, judge me. While this writing wasn’t anything exceptional in my opinion, this novel-turned-movie sparked the world’s (and my temporary) obsession with vampires, oddly…
I read a few other light reading books such as Five People You Meet in Heaven, I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, etc. Reading wasn’t something that was a priority for me, though, since I was already reading so much material in high school and college, constantly falling asleep in my 600 page textbooks and barely finishing those summer reading novels. It wasn’t until my 3rd year of university that I started spending hours wandering around Barnes & Noble.
My roommate Megan is who I thank for this developed passion. Megan and I were roommates for 3 years and she is still one of my best friends to this day. Megan is one of the nicest people you will ever meet, like… if you have a problem with Megan, then there is a probably a problem with you #SorryNotSorry. She is bubbly, enthusiastic, loving, thoughtful, and optimistic. I was in therapy all throughout college, and although I absolutely loved my college counselor, I said that sometimes the best therapy was just surrounding yourself around the right people. To this day, my favorite quote is, “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. ” Being around Megan’s positive and effervescent energy helped me look at things in a brighter light even on my darkest days. I was starting to believe that I could actually achieve happiness rather than just daydream about it. Megan was recommending certain speakers and authors to me that helped [even] her with certain mental and emotional battles she was fighting against. This marked the beginning of my true investment into self-care and self-improvement. I am forever grateful for Megan’s impact on my life, and helping me seek the power of reading.
Self-care is something that is truly undervalued and underestimated in today’s society. I am a victim of putting other people first and myself last. I used to say to my therapist that making other people is what made me happy (since I truly didn’t know what made me happy anymore in the depths of my anxiety and depression). Although making people smile and laugh does deliver a great amount of joy to my mood, it is not something that delivered long-term happiness. I would be so elated for those 30 seconds after a friend opened my gift, or if a little girl smiled at me when I opened the door for her at the mall. After 30 seconds to a minute, I was back to my normal “bleh” attitude. I put other people’s happiness before my own, I bought things to please other people instead of buying what I actually needed, and I cared more about what other people thought of me than what I actually thought of me.
This is a huge commonality between males and females, especially in the digital age. We have a constant stimulation of new information and people thrown at us everyday. We are endlessly trying to keep up with all the superficial positive reinforcement online from friends, family, and even strangers. We have become obsessed with what other people think about of us, which has caused us to fall aloof of what we think about our true selves, and how we want to think our true selves When we prioritize other people’s opinions of us first, we become slaves of their approval, and therefore forget to take care of what we really need, want, believe, etc.
I started studying psychology initially in high school when I took AP Psychology. In college, I took so many psychology electives that I’m pretty sure if I took one more it would have qualified me as a psych minor. I became immensely intrigued in the thought processes of the human mind. I read pages and pages of data just out of my own genuine interest. From a young age, I was always hearing from my doctors, “It’s all in your head. Your thoughts are not reality.” I was confused at the time being a young teenager, but the pieces were starting to fall together the deeper I dived into psychology. I was realizing that my thoughts controlled my behavior, and my behavior was destroying me inside and out. My thoughts of being too fat and not good enough would cause me to not eat. Not eating caused me to feel cranky throughout the day and lash out on my family and friends. Lashing out on my family and friends caused me to feel alone and angry at everyone. I was self-sabotaging myself, yet the whole time I thought it was because people thought I wasn’t good enough. But the only person who thought that was me.
“What consumes your mind controls your life.” One of my favorite quotes. When I started to read these self-improvement, I started to see a brighter light ahead of me. I was reading books that weren’t just a dump of data and charts, but REAL people who wrote about their REAL life experiences — that were exactly like mine! I was finally able to recognize that I’m not the only one battling these mental thoughts, and MOST people feel pretty negative about themselves from time to time. However, the crucial difference is that most people do not change or take action to transform these thoughts. Most people do not seek guidance, as they find it to be a form of weakness. I can relate – that was totally me. But after a long long long time of suffering, I realized that it is beneficial to everyone in my life to seek help. Many people look at “self-help” books as a form of desperation, which is why so many people are unhappy with their life; they do nothing to change, even if it’s just reading a book. I’m sorry, but the fact that maybe your partner cheated on you or that you lost your job is not #ThanksObama worthy. We live in a blame culture that is toxic and contagious. If you’re unhappy and you do nothing about it, how do you expect to achieve your goals? Do you think people are going to consistently do things for you? Or even continue to help you? Luck only goes so far…
To this day, I have read over 30 or so books on self-development and self-improvement. I don’t like calling these books self-help due to the negative connotation. When people refer to these books as “self-help books,” or even ask, “Why do you read so many of those depression books?” – I respond back with something along these lines…
“It’s a self-improvement book, since last time I checked, I’m not perfect and neither are you. I like reading about how I can change my thoughts to become more productive, more optimistic, more driven, and more successful. I honestly just want to continue to be more awesome tomorrow than I was the day before.”
Typically after that response, they have no more naive questions :).
It’s been over a month since I last published a piece on here, and every time a hiatus like this occurs, I am compelled to explain myself as if anyone even cares. We tend to feel responsible to explain to people what’s going on in our lives when we have decided to make it public. Social media influencers complain that they shouldn’t have to tell their followers about a recent break-up, fight, etc. that happened – but when you choose to tell your audience about your private life, they wanna know everything, duh? And *especially* the juicy stuff – #WeWantTheDrama.
Yet, I am no celebrity (shocking, I know), and I unfortunately have no juicy news to disperse. It is the most common answer that many of us refrain from stating since giving a legit excuse seems more acceptable. I just didn’t feel like writing. I read a great book (highly recommend), “The War of Art,” which states the most relatable problem humans have: starting is the hardest part. Whether it’s quitting smoking, going to the gym, writing, reading, etc., the first step (which would seem the easiest) is the hardest. You would think that just getting dressed for the gym would be easier than finishing sprints on the treadmill, right? Nah, cause once you are there, the rest is taken care of – the motivation kicks in, adrenaline is pumping, and your body is taking care of the rest once you surpassed the mental battle. Sometimes, you are just in “that mood” of not wanting to do anything, not wanting to put in effort to something else when you are already feeling exhausted from your regular day-to-day responsibilities. “I already worked for 9 hours, stood into a sardine-packaged subway train drenched in sweat and B.O., and now you’re telling me to go lift 150 lbs of weight on my back?!” Yeah, I’ll pass. The more you think of it, the more it sucks.
People ask me all the time how I have the motivation to workout, how I have the motivation to read, etc. I think a lot of people who struggle with “getting started” look at bodybuilders and freelance writers and think, “I can’t believe they look forward to doing that every day.” No no no no. Gosh, we hate doing it, just like you! Okay so I don’t hate writing or dislike reading, but I have the same “ugh, I just don’t wanna” feelings as you do. I honestly can’t even remember the last time I genuinely wanted to go workout. I would love to just go home and lay in bed and binge watch Dexter every day, but this contributes 0% to the goals I want to accomplish in life. I’ve learned that looking at these certain behaviors as part of your lifestyle rather than end-goals has been extremely helpful in diffusing that “ugh, I don’t wanna do it,” feeling.
For example, most people hate working out. Working out takes effort, sweat, money, etc. It’s easier to just go home and watch Netflix all evening. Who would choose to pant for breath and pick up 100s of weights than lay down in their cozy comforter? People who dread working out typically have an end-goal that they want to accomplish; lose 30 lbs, get rid of their love-handles, tone their arms, etc. When you look at it this way, it just creates a superficial coating around exercise. I workout to look good, yes – which is normal. However, when I look at working out as a lifestyle that will benefit my future health, it’s easier to accomplish. God knows, everyone knows I cannot wait to have kids. In order to have kids and be around for them as long as possible, I need to be healthy. I need to have a healthy heart, healthy blood sugar levels, healthy blood pressure, etc. Now this doesn’t mean I have to workout 5-6 days a week at 5 a.m., this just means that I should try to get to the gym 3-4 days a week and get in an hour of exercise. That’s it. Nothing extreme, nothing too painful. When you look at it this way, 1 hour 3-4 days a week to benefit your future health doesn’t seem as intimidating. You see America now, and everyday there is a new headline of how ‘The US is the fattest country’ and ‘More People Diagnosed with Diabetes.’ Like Jesus Christ, if this isn’t a wake up call, what is? Does anyone want Diabetes? High Blood Pressure? A stroke? I would assume no. So what do you do? You put in the work NOW. You start taking care of yourself NOW so you don’t have to be on 10 medications later. It is never too late to start, but it can be too late to start caring.
Let’s look at another example: reading. I posted an Instagram photo of all the books that I have read over the past year. I got one comment that said, “How do you have the motivation to read, I can never get started and I buy so many books!” Listen, I love reading. I love getting so wrapped up into a good book that you genuinely feel upset when it ends, or you have tears rolling down your face as your flip through the pages. But there are some days when I rather just sleep on the train rather than read. There are some days where I rather watch Netflix than read a book. Yet, when I tell myself, “Just read 15 pages, then you can go back to doing whatever you want to do.” And almost every time, I end up reading more than those 15 pages. Starting is the hardest part. Opening the book is the first step. Also, every time I end up reading or working out, I have a surge of endorphins. I feel good. It’s not that I feel better than if I didn’t read or workout, but I feel happy that I did it – I feel positive and satisfied. In the end, you will feel like it was worth it.
So whether it is working out, reading, writing, yoga, meditating, etc., remember that the hardest part is just the first step. The hardest part is all in your head. I am obsessed with psychology, and I’m constantly reading books about people’s thought processes and behaviors, so it’s biased for me to say that every mental battle in life will be harder than the physical battle. However, when you think of the worst moments in your life, were they physical happenings or emotions/feelings? The worst moment in my life was when I was in the hospital to see my dad as he was battling leukemia. Physically, I was fine, but that was the absolute worst day of my life. Seeing him so weak and fragile shattered my heart. I was feeling sad, depressed, and hopeless. It was the feelings, the emotions, the thoughts in my head that were so damaging – so hard to recover from. When you learn how to deal with your thoughts – how to combat certain emotions and negative sayings in your head – you can overcome nearly any challenge in life.
It’s all about the mind. There is a quote I saw on a Nike poster once, “Everything you need is already inside.” All you need to get started is to train your thoughts to look at things differently. Once you start viewing these “things you should be doing” as “things to help better your health/career/life,” it will most definitely increase the frequency of you accomplishing them.
There are two types of people: those who experienced their glory days in high school, and those who experienced an endless nightmare. People will say that college is a “fresh start” in terms of establishing your status and persona amongst your peers. You no longer have to worry about the football captain throwing spitballs in your hair, or the “Regina George” of your school making fun of your outfits every single day. Although these people may not be around anymore physically, the experience you go through from age 3 to 18 will essentially affect the rest of your life for better or for worse.
I recently finished Mitch Prinstein’s book, Popular: The Power of Likability in a Status-Obsessed World. I can’t lie, I was considered “popular” in high school. I was one of the captains of the soccer team, I was a cheerleader in middle school, and I was in the top 6 finalists for Homecoming Queen. On the outside, it appears that I had a dandy high school experience; hanging out with the “cool kids,” dating the most popular boys in the school, and being known by pretty much everyone in my gradating class. I was pretty, smart, and athletic. If you have any of the same characteristics, you were probably considered “popular” in high school, too.
However, when I look back on my high school experience, I can’t say that I was necessarily ‘happy.’ The thing about being part of the popular crowd is that I always had anxiety circulating my mind about what people thought of me. Since most of the school actually knows who you are, you are constantly in the spotlight. Other students look at you walking down the hall, keep up to date with who you are dating, check online profiles for the most recent gossip, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely aware that my high school experience was probably ideal compared to many. I was not fiercely bullied or made fun of or laughed at. I had my moments too, though, and would come home crying when people made fun of the way I did my makeup, or call me “the anorexic girl” behind my back. When you are in the spotlight, you are held to a higher standard than everyone else. You are expected to look pretty everyday, have the nicest clothes, and have the most confidence. I, however, struggled heavily in the confidence department, so I tried to make up for it by overcompensating in the other 2 categories. This meant: waking up extremely early every day to do my makeup and straighten my hair (I don’t remember ever going to school without makeup on), and picking out an outfit styled with the latest brands like Juicy Couture, Abercrombie & Fitch, Seven for all Mankind, etc.
I know what you’re thinking, “Oh God, what a harddddd life you had. You must have been so exhausting trying to look pretty every day while the other students were bullied and harassed in the middle of every class.” Trust me, I know I had it better than others. I know that many people would have traded places with me. The point I am trying to make here is that popularity does not end after high school. What you went through in your adolescent years does not disappear after graduation. There is no “clean slate” in college. What you go through in adolescence affects there rest of your life: your career, your relationships, etc. It affects what you choose to seek later on in life – status or happiness.
There are two types of popularity: status, and likability. It’s nice to have both, but one is far superior than the other. Let’s take status for example. Someone of status can be someone like Paris Hilton or Donald Trump. They were both born into wealth, and what we all know, money = power. The more money you have, the more “power” you are assumed to have since you have access to many things that 90% of us do not. You have more financial freedom to do the things you want to do, and do the things that many others could only wish they could do.
However, both Paris Hilton and Donald Trump are not the most “liked” celebrities out there. They are not necessarily two celebrities who you would say #goals to (unless you are a radical, irrational, and close-minded Republican), or celebrities that you would probably want to hang out with if you had the chance. This is where “likability” comes in. Being likable is the most determining factor of happiness. When you are well liked, people want to be around you, and think of you as a positive influence in their life. Well liked people are often understanding, humorous, good listeners, and compassionate. Some well-liked celebrities are Ellen DeGeneres, Beyonce, Tom Hanks, etc (there was so much on Tom Hanks had to include another hyperlink here on how cute and awesome he is). Compare these 3 celebrities to the Kardashians, and most people will choose to spend time with the first group. This is likability vs. status.
The thing is, many people believe that just because you were popular in high school, means that you will go forward being a successful human later in life. In essence, it’s hard to have a high status and high likability factor. Many people correlate high status with characteristics like: egotistical, selfish, narcissistic, self-centered, petty, etc. Ever see previews of that show Rich Kids of Beverly Hills? Or the Real Housewives? They come off extremely pretentious, exposing their lavish lifestyles to the rest of the world, AKA, people who come no where close to their financial status. Many of these people do not have the best approval rating compared to the rest of the world. Therefore, it is a challenge for them to essentially humanize their life – make it seem like they are “just one of us.” They are put on this pedestal that has a negative connotation many times, so they have to try and show their ‘likable’ side if they want to succeed even more in life (which equates with either making more money because all rich people want to become richer – or becoming happier – since of course having a high status does not make you happy).
The likability factor in popularity is key. Many of the popular kids you knew in high school who were just popular due to their financial status (being the rich kid), their looks (best looking of the grade), or their athletic ability (senior captain, fastest player, etc) do not end up the most successful or the happiest people later on in life according to Prinstein. The thing is, having a higher status will not make you happier. Being popular in high school will not guarantee you to become a reality TV star or the most popular person at your new job. So how does this relate to the digital revolution?
Right now, we are living in a society where everything you do or say is displayed on social media. Due to the rise of Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and other social networking sites, we have essentially become obsessed with sharing our lives with the rest of the world. Social media marketing is one of the most successful forms of advertising in 2017. Brands are learning how to infiltrate your news feeds and timelines, and you will rarely see a company that does not have a Facebook or Twitter link on their Contact Us page. Although social media is supposed to be about connecting with each other, I believe it has become a medium we use to advertise ourselves as who we want to be, not who we really are. We use social media to share our “edited selves” rather than our “authentic selves.” And no matter how much we deny it, all of us just want to be liked by others.
Therefore, the power of likability is extremely relative to how we portray ourselves on social media. We have become a society who gains instant gratification from new followers and likes on the last selfie we posted. We feel more confident in ourselves when someone leaves a comment on our page telling us how skinny we look, or #bodygoals. We are constantly seeking gratification from others – whether it be strangers online or our close friends – it’s become an unhealthy obsession.
It’s normal for us to feel good about ourselves when someone compliments us – why wouldn’t we smile and have a spark of happiness? Yet, we have become so dependent on relying on other’s for acceptance, that is has completely transformed the way we display ourselves online. We are desperately seeking that likability and status combo – we want to appear like we have an awesome life, but we also want people to tell us how great they think we are. Both popular and unpopular people go through this, as popular people seek to keep up their image, and unpopular people seek to repair theirs. Typically, the more we try to impress people with our amenities and advanced status, the unhappier we become.
I know it’s a sore subject, but how many times have you read about celebrities who have committed suicide or battled with depression? You would think the #LifestylesOfTheRichAndFamous (thanks Good Charlotte) are the ones with the happiest people since they attain everything that us plebes do not have. Do you see the pattern yet? Status does not equal happiness. Status does not equal happiness. Status does not equal happiness. If you were unpopular in high school and thought the “popular” kids had it all, think again.
In conclusion, it is important to realize that most people who are popular have a hard time achieving both likability and status. There are some, like the celebrities I mentioned earlier, who are definitely well-liked and well-accomplished. However, I think most of us automatically think of status first when thinking about success. When we think about “being successful,” we typically correlate it with material goods like nice cars, big houses, and designer clothes. In reality, most of us just want to live a life where they don’t hate their job, they don’t have to battle through a divorce, and they don’t have to face much confrontation. Whether that means living in an apartment in NYC or on a small ranch in Montana, your desire to be happy will be more dependent on how likable you are, rather than what social status you’ve acquired. In the end, isn’t happiness the greatest form of success?
Concentrate on your positive qualities rather than your impressive quantities.