How a Blast From the Past Taught Me About Self-Love

I nervously packed my bags for my Portland weekend trip. Should I pack heels? What about a dress? I need a hot dress. Maybe I should straighten my hair? My mom always said I looked better with straight hair. If I keep it curly, maybe I should wash my hair tonight so my curls look extra nice for the trip.

My stomach fluttered with butterflies, the kind you only get when feelings are involved. I was headed to Portland for the first time ever, for both business and pleasure. For business, I was covering a women’s soccer game for a news outlet. For pleasure, I was taking a weekend girls’ trip with a friend from L.A.

Then, in a momentous, destiny-calling kind of way, an opportunity presented itself to connect with an old friend who lived in Portland. This old friend, to be exact, was my 8th grade crush who saw me in glasses, pigtails and all the awkward phases that a kindergarten through 8th grade school entails.

We’ll call him Austin. Rumor had it, Austin had a crush on me too. (His best friend told my best friend. You know? The usual means of communication in middle school.) Austin also happened to be one of my cousin’s best friends, and his dad lived in the same suburban neighborhood as my cousin’s family throughout our entire childhood. While I hadn’t seen Austin in 10 years, I occasionally would hear tales about his adult life from my cousin or my aunt whenever I came home.

A few days before my trip, my cousin text me his number. I sent a nervous yet bold text asking Austin for the best places to go to and sights to see in Portland, and the deed was done. Austin was gracious and agreed to meet my friend and I for lunch and show us around. I ended up spending every day of my trip with Austin, every single day. I was enamored with the idea of him yet and still, and I spent the weekend hoping for something more than friendship.

To my inner child’s dismay, I realized Austin had not really changed, for both the good and the bad. Between the long talks, laughter, jokes and insults we exchanged, I realized it wasn’t so much him who I had admired all these years but the idea of him. I romanticized who I thought he was or who I wanted him to be. I made the middle school crush who I cried over at the end of 8th grade (yes, I was an emotional kid) out to be more than he actually was.

He was still the good-looking, funny and sweet guy I remember. Unfortunately, he was aware of all these things, his good looks, his charm, his confidence with the ladies. The same guy who every girl liked in middle school was now sitting across from me at a restaurant over drinks checking out women and asking me to be his wing-woman to pick up ladies. Some habits die hard, and I think being the popular, athlete who all the ladies want is one of them. He was still the same person, not ready to grow up or settle down.

The real struggle from that weekend wasn’t about Austin at all though. It was an internal battle within myself. A battle of whether or not I would allow the popular guy in school to unearth me the way he did when I was a kid. The nervousness. The shaky hands. The fast heart beat. It all came back to me.

As Austin scanned the bar for women, I began to look at myself and question if I was enough. What about me? I wondered. Am I not good enough? Why don’t you see me? Why not me? I stopped, gathered my thoughts and began to counteract the insecurities trying to surface.

You see, I am not the little, straight- A, shy girl from middle school anymore. That girl has transformed into a twenty-someting woman who has scars from heartbreak that have healed with time. She has wisdom lines on her brow from the mistakes she has made and the lessons she has learned. She has miles under her belt from the states she has lived and the countries she has visited. She has laugh lines on her face from times spent with friends who have become more like family. She has muscle from the hours she has spent serving others and learning to enjoy the moment.

Eighth grade me is gone. Although parts of her make up the mosaic of the woman I am now, that little girl grew up and is now a woman who knows she is. She is confident, strong and knows her value, and no guy, not even the hot middle school jock, gets to challenge that knowledge.

Everyone gets older but not everyone grows up. Growing up requires doing the work to learn, to change, to better yourself. Austin hasn’t grown up and reconnecting with him taught me that trying to force someone from your past into your present doesn’t work. The pieces won’t fit.

Sometimes, oftentimes, you can’t go back to the past. You might be able to revisit it momentarily or for a weekend trip to Portland, but you can’t stay there. You aren’t meant to. Life is about moving forward, letting go and accepting the now. Austin and I got older and went our separate ways, and I really believe it was for the best.

My blast from the past brought laughter, moments of self-doubt and most importantly a revelation that I am good enough, who I am now, present day me. Our last day in Portland, Austin dropped my friend and I off at the airport, and I haven’t heard from him since. I walked away from the experience knowing it’s OK to grow up and not look back. You simply have to trust the process and let go of what you thought life would look like and accept it for what it is.

This post originally appeared on Hello Giggles.

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Don’t Give Your Power Away

confidenceI have always been a “wear your heart on your sleeves” type of gal. I am still deciding if that’s a good or bad thing. This trait has been a strength at times and my achilles heel at others. Most recently, it has served as the latter.

So here’s the scoop: I recently spotted my ex-boyfriend at the mall. Not just an ex, but the ex, the one that broke my heart and left the pieces scattered on the ocean floor for me to reassemble. The ex that was my first love. The ex that, at one point, I never thought I’d be able to get over. To keep the story short, I did one day, with much time and effort, heal from the wounds of that relationship. I have moved on. So what’s the big deal?

I am a very honest person, i.e. the description “a girl who wears her heart on sleeves” in the opener. So when I saw not only the ex that I haven’t spoken to in three years, but his little sister, his little brother, his best friend, and to top it all off, his new girlfriend, all at the mall where I work a part time job, I inwardly and outwardly was FREAKING out. My heart not only dropped to the ground, but before my brain could even comprehend, my entire body dipped down to hide behind a fixture of clothing. A few expletives were definitely said.

I take wearing your heart on your sleeves to a whole new level. My first instinct was to go into defense mode. Yea, I am over this guy, but so what?! Do I really want to run into him, his family, friends and girlfriend at my job, a job that I am not all that proud of? The answer to that is a sure fired no. Then, I started thinking and questioning myself: Why am I acting this way? Why am I allowing someone and something from my past to affect me? How can I cower and cringe at the sight of one person? How can I allow another human being to have that much power over me?

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

No one has power over you unless you give it to them.

It probably took me a good thirty minutes to recover and get my act together. Yea, I was shaking in my boots, but I gave myself a little kick in the rear, reminded myself that no person, past or present, defines me and I decided that only I determine who and what has power over me. I’m pretty sure my ex and his group of friends and family didn’t even notice me, but maybe one day we will cross paths again. The next time, I would only hope that my response would be better.

Here’s what a lot of bumps and bruises in my twenties have taught me: Nobody has power over you, unless you give it to them. So guess, what? Don’t give it away. I can laugh about my recent mall debacle and about how ridiculous I acted. If I could go back, I’d tell myself to breathe and remind myself not to let other people affect me so much. I have just as much the right to breathe and walk this Earth as the next person. Never should I let another human being make me want to go into hiding.

I know the twenties can be rough, but I hope you can take some encouragement from the fiasco that I call my everyday life and be reminded to not cringe, cower or hide for anyone. Don’t allow people to have power over you. You are not just a twenty something at the bottom of the totem pole. You are a twenty something with endless possibility. Keep your head held high.

-Stephkt

Twentysomethings and Self-Acceptance

I am quirky. Quirky would be a understatement actually.

I trip walking up steps most days. Sometimes, I trip over nothing at all. I love to sing (and some say I sound good), but I rarely sing in front of people. I fluctuate between being an introvert and extrovert. I have a really feisty interior hidden beneath an extremely, soft exterior. Winter is my favorite season, but, yet and still, I despise wearing cold weather clothes. If I could wear a dress every day of the week I would. I prefer not to wear high heels (otherwise I might trip more than I already do). I am extremely book smart but can be pretty naive to the world around me. To top it off, I am bowlegged, flat footed and duck footed. Basically, my lower half does not function properly.

Saying all this to say, I am one quirky individual. At twenty four years of age, I know myself better today than ever before. And you know what? That is absolutely, positively wonderful. It is probably the most gratifying feeling I have ever known and the best gift the twenties have brought: feeling comfortable in my own skin.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“Don’t try so hard to fit in, and certainly don’t try so hard to be different. Just try hard to be you.” Zendaya

Do you remember what you were like as a kid? In high school? What about college? If you were anything like me, then perhaps you struggled with your confidence. I remember times where I would change or adapt who I was in order to fit the mold of what I thought I needed to be. The funny thing about being a twentysomething is frankly, we don’t care! We don’t care about what’s cool or what people think we should be. We are too busy figuring out dating, our next career moves and how to pay off student loans and bills. Time spent on other people’s opinions becomes frivolous.

The twenties is a decade of stark juxtapositions in everyday life. In all the blunders and the mess ups that this decade brings, it also brings a lot of lessons about acceptance. You become assured in yourself, your talents, your quirks, and even your downfalls. You own them. You take ownership, and eventually, pride in the person you are and the person you are becoming, and you don’t apologize to anyone for being that person.

imagesI am more confident now at 24 than ever before. Confident enough to accept myself, flaws and all. Confident enough to respectfully decline the criticism and critiques of people who may not like me or what I bring to the table. Confident enough to bend and change when people in my inner circle come to me with honest concerns and insights.

Besides accepting myself, this time in my life has also taught me the beauty of accepting others for who they are, as they are, right where they are. No use in trying to change other people. I’ve come to find that trying to change another person is a lot of wasted energy.

So here I am. A twentysomething. At the shore, peacefully and quietly, as the day begins to dawn on something beautiful: self acceptance and acceptance of other people. It’s a good place to be. I hope that you find yourself in a place of self acceptance. Don’t waste another second trying to be something or someone you’re not. Authenticity is a beautiful thing.

-Stephkt

Operation: Completely Out of My Comfort Zone

I started a new project recently that I am really excited about! I am now working with a magazine called Beautifully You, which is aimed at revolutionizing the way women see themselves in the media. The magazine is targeting girls and women of all ages in hopes to change the way we look at beauty and self image topics. The magazine printed its first issue in 2013. I am so excited to come on board the team and to assist with managing/editing online and print content!

I am so obsessed with magazines and writing so for me this is like a playground. Plus, the message is awesome! Tell women they are beautiful. Tell women they are valued. Tell women that they are good enough just as they are. I’ve been on cloud nine my first few months working with the Beautifully You team. I didn’t think anything could bring my happy train to a halt, but then something did.

Two words: photo shoot.

There was a spring photo shoot planned for the March issue of the magazine. Little did I know that all the Beautifully You staff needed to be photographed for the shoot! When I heard the news, my heart skipped a beat. It wasn’t the good skip a beat you feel when you see a cute boy. It was the kind of skip a beat a person afraid of heights feels right before they go skydiving. It was the kind of skip a beat a person afraid of public speaking feels right before they talk to a crowd at the Mall on Washington.

I was petrified. Why you may ask? It’s just a photo shoot. Right? For me it’s not. It is something else. It’s a big microscope on all my insecurities and imperfections. It’s a closeup on my flaws. It’s exposing my inadequacies and vulnerabilities for other people to see. When I heard photo shoot, all I felt was anxiety.

I’ve worked at magazines for almost a half a dozen years and in that time, I’ve worked at a number of photo shoots but always behind the scenes. I was the girl interviewing the big, glamorous cover girl. I was the person setting up the refreshments for the photographers. I was the assistant helping the stylist pick out outfits for the models. I was the person picking up garments of clothes off the ground and organizing shoes. I was always behind the scenes!

I had never been the person in front of the camera and my fears came knocking at my door.

You’re not tall enough.

You’re not skinny enough.

You’re eyes squint too much when you smile.

You’re not pretty enough.

You aren’t blemish free.

You’re not enough.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Marianne Williamson

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Photo via Amanda Watson Photography for Beautifully You Magazine

Luckily, fears aren’t true. Well, they are only true if you allow them to be in you’re life. Here’s what I learned: There’s nothing I can’t have, do, or become, if I want it. If I make up in my in mind to do something, I can do it and not only that, but if I am willing to work hard at it, I can do it well. This isn’t to say that I want to get into the modeling industry anytime soon, but the point is, I did something that I didn’t think I could. I did something that I didn’t think I was fit to do. I did something I didn’t think I was good at. I overcame my anxiety and told my fears to be quiet. If I can do it, so can you.

The funny thing is Beautifully You is all about telling women that they are good enough just as they are, and I was afraid of not being perfect enough for a photo. I literally contemplated playing the sick card the morning of and calling out, but I didn’t. I swallowed my anxiety and did it anyway.

Maybe seeing a normal girl like me on a website or magazine, will encourage another young woman. Maybe just by being myself and being honest, someone else’s life will be impacted. So flaws and all, here I am. This is me. I am tired of hiding and being afraid. So it’s about time I step out into the light and face my fears.

Not just me though. What are your fears? What anxiety do you have that’s holding you back? Is there something you have always wanted to do but would never dream of doing out of fear? I urge you to do it anyway. Step out into the light. You can do whatever it is that you set your mind to.

Check out Beautifully You at http://www.beautifullyyoumagazine.com. Here are more photos from the shoot!

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Photo via Amanda Watson Photography

SAMSUNGPhoto via Amanda Watson Photography

SAMSUNGPhoto via Amanda Watson Photography

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-Stephkt

You are the Only You

Writing is something I love to do. The only time I have trouble writing is when it is personal, which is why this blog can sometimes be a little hard for me to maintain. Blogging forces me to be honest about me. I have found that stepping outside of my comfort zone is a good thing and today that is what I attempt to do.

As of today, November 30, I am 22 years old and I am embarking on the hardest journey I have ever trekked. I am on the journey of self-love. However corny or cheesy that may sound, I am attempting to learn to love myself.

I am a young woman at the beginning of my adult life. What I have found so far is that the world is not always a pretty place. The world will shut you down. You may date a guy who doesn’t treat you well and you cannot seem to figure out why. You may get a job where it seems like it is your boss’ sole mission to give you hell every day when you step in the door. Your group of friends may see some drastic alterations in the next two or three years. Your car may break down. Your money situation may not be the most stable. In the midst of all the chaos around you, it is important that you learn to love yourself. If you don’t, who else will?

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This whole idea of self-love has been something that I have struggled with since I was a little kid. For one reason or another, I just always felt different. Now that I am 22, I understand that it is okay to be different. In many ways, this is a very good thing. Tell that to a younger version of me and I would not have believed you.

I can easily make a long list of my weaknesses. I over think things. I have a hard time letting go of people and the past. I run from conflict. I have dry skin. I have a slight over bite. I am slew footed (i.e. duck footed or bow-legged). When I smile, my eyes squint and you cannot see my pupils. I can be critical of myself. I worry a lot. I can be a control freak. The list goes on and on………

For the first time in my life, I came to a strange and daunting revelation. I have not loved myself. Hard to hear and even harder to admit, but I realized that I have spent so much of my life being critical of myself and comparing myself to other people that I lost sight of me. I lost sight of the awesome, strong, beautiful person God created me to be!

I am finding that when I love myself, even when I immensely screw up, that things are easier. I don’t stress as easily and worry as much. I don’t look to other people to define me. I laugh at my mistakes and am easier on myself when I fall down.

10 Good Things About Me

1. Quirky

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2. Analytical

3. Intelligent

4. Ambitious

      5. Outgoing

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6. Artistic

      7. Passionate

8. Driven

9. Strong

10. Beautiful

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Life is a process. You and I will never ever be perfect no matter how hard we try. However, we must still learn to love ourselves. The hardest relationship a person can have is the one they have with themselves. Other people’s treatment of you will reflect your treatment of yourself. People will only treat you the way you allow them to.

Maybe you are in the same boat as me, a 20 something and just embarking on your life. Maybe you are a teenager and just getting a first taste of freedom. Maybe you are in your 30s and raising kids or you are in your 50s experiencing empty-nest syndrome. Whatever stage of life you find yourself in, I hope you learn to love yourself, flaws and all. Love yourself and see all the good things that have been in you all along.  You are worthy. You are important. You are special. You are loved.

So far embarking on this journey of self-love is the best decision I have ever made. It is a process but I am learning how to love me for me. Nobody else can be me but me. God must have put me here for a reason. So I have decided to be the best version of myself possible.

Make your own list of good things about yourself.  Throw away what other people think and what’s happening in the world around you. I dare you to fall in love with you!

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Stephkt

No Comparison

Rainy, cloudy, overcast days like today…… I love them. I absolutely love them. They are absolutely the best days for thinking, introspection and self reflection. If you are a writer like me, then of course days like today are great for writing as well, my favorite past time.

I’ve been thinking a lot about myself lately. That may sound like an arrogant or extremely haughty statement to make, but stay with me.  There is a point. I have been thinking about myself in the sense of self reflection and why I am the way I am. Have you ever done that? Just sat down and really thought about what makes you who you are. Have you ever asked yourself why are you wired the way you are?

I hope you still like me after the statement I made in that last paragraph. I hope that you have continued reading to this paragraph and are happily surprised to realize that my “me” moments recently have been times for self reflection and thinking.  This thinking has brought me to a greater understanding of the person I am and my purpose. It has also brought me face to face with some of my biggest struggles.

I recently took some me time to think about a breakup of mine, my first breakup, my first love. Although it wasn’t very fun, I can definitely say that I really learned a lot. I learned a lot about myself, my needs, the things a guy needs in a relationship, how I deserve to be treated and the list goes on. Then I started getting down to the nitty gritty, the not so easy stuff.  I started thinking about why it hurt me so badly and why it took so long to really recover after the blow. So I started to look at myself…..and boy that wasn’t easy but it was well worth the effort and time.

What I realized is that the relationship hurt so much because it left me feeling not good enough. It left me feeling less than the self I had always known. It left me with those nagging questions…… Am I good enough? Am I pretty enough? Am I smart enough? Am I funny enough? Am I enough? The resounding answer was no. Then I started to think how could one guy or one relationship do all this? How could it strip me of my identity so completely? Tick tock tick tock tick tock………..I had to do some real digging.

After some prayer, some tears and a lot of thinking, I found that this relationship that I valued so much didn’t cause me to feel this way.  It added to a whirlwind of feelings and questions that I had struggled with my entire life. I have always dealt with feelings of being alone, not being good enough and just not belonging. Why? Why? Why Steph? I asked myself the same thing. I have come to realize, through my own relationships with friends, family and myself that this search for identity and worth is something all women deal with. I am sure men deal with it as well, but because I am not a man I cannot say for certain how their search for identity works exactly.

For women, however, it is one big similar quest for us all. From a young age, we are put in a our ribbons, bows and curls. We are surrounded by pink pastels and everything that sparkles and shines. We are surrounded by beauty and we strive to become beautiful. More than anything we just want to be wanted. This desire to be beautiful and to be wanted doesn’t end with childhood.  It carries over into our hearts as women, which is probably why every time I have been hurt or left I always feel like a little girl again.

Two of my cabin girls at camp this summer!

In women’s quest to feel beauty and a sense of belonging, it seems like our society has begun an assault on this journey throughout history. Just think about it.  Think about the number of girls who have been physically or mentally abused. Think about the number of divorces that occur each year and what it does to children. How do you think that little girl felt when her daddy packed his bags and left to start another family of his own? I can guarantee you not very wanted or beautiful.

Those are some of the more obvious ways, but it happens subtly as well. For me, my battle with belonging and feeling wanted was a slow progressive process. As a little girl, I never quite felt like I fit in. I grew up in a conservative, Christian home that I am extremely proud of, but it definitely made me different.  The list of things I was allowed to do and could not do was long enough to put a big gap between myself and my peers. I was friendly and outgoing, but still I just never like I fit. I thought there must be something wrong with me. Assault #1. I grew up a little and went off to high school and the same problems from middle school persisted except the girls were meaner. Assault #2. Then my sophomore year, just as I was starting to feel a little less awkward, my  grandmother, the woman I looked up to the most and felt most loved by, suddenly passed away. Then my family moved across the country to Tulsa, Oklahoma and I was the new kid. I was alone. Assault # 3. As I was getting adjusted to life in Tulsa and moving in to my senior year of high school, my best friend, Felicia passed away from cancer. Assault # 4. The list goes on and on. There was the football player who tried to use me for sex, the time my mom was diagnosed with having a mental illness, the loss of my first love….on and on.

I am not telling you any of this for you to feel sorry for me. What I am learning is that life is a complicated, messy place. We all have struggles, pain and loss. I think with children, especially with little girls, it is important for them to know that they are loved. All the circumstances I listed above left me feeling alone. They left me feeling broken. Each one added on to the unresolved hurt of the other. They made me think something was wrong with me. Not fitting in made me feel like something was wrong with me. People I cared about who passed away left me feeling alone. The guys who broke my heart made me feel not good enough and again like something was wrong with me. Broken is the word.

Every girl goes through it. Your battle may not have looked exactly like mine. Maybe it was a parent passing away or the absence of a father. Maybe it was sexual abuse. Maybe it was a dysfunctional relationship with your mom. Maybe it was bullying at school. Maybe it was a boyfriend who cheated on you. I don’t know your story or struggle, but I know we are similar. I know us girls just want to be loved and feel beautiful. We want a sense of belonging and knowing that we bring to the table is good enough.

One thing that I have come to realize is that who I am, my identity, is not rooted in the things of this world. It is something so heavenly and beyond the sphere of this world. It doesn’t change. The identity I have is in God and it never changes. It tells me I am loved. I don’t have to strive to be beautiful. I am beauty.

If you are a women or girl reading this, I hope you are encouraged to know that you are beauty. You don’t have to strive to be beautiful. You are also loved. So if you ever feel alone or not good enough, please know that voice in your head that says those things is lying. Every time you feel something in you say you are not good enough that is a lie.

My last relationship added to this lie. After it ended, I found myself comparing myself to other girls. I had done this before but now it had become so routine that it was unhealthy. We are not to compare ourselves to others. It is really crazy if you think about it. Does the beautiful boutique of roses in the vase take away from the beauty of the lilies growing in the pond? No. Think of two of your favorite female celebrities who you think are gorgeous. Now tell me this, does one being beautiful take away from the beauty of the other? I didn’t think so. Now change your perspective about yourself and understand that you are YOU. No one else can be you.  If you are spending all your time trying to be like everybody else, who will be you in the meantime? You are you and no one else can compare in that area. I firmly believe that every woman is beautiful and that there is an amazingly sovereign God up above who made each of us. I hope you find this to be true for yourself.

In closing, I’d like to tell you about a little girl I met this summer. Her name is Scarlett. I was her camp counselor this summer and to me, she was such a pretty girl but she didn’t see it. One night as me and my cabin were getting ready for bed, she blurted out randomly that she was ugly. I stopped in my tracks when I heard these words. She said it laughingly but I knew she wasn’t kidding. She said it more than once. After that I started to take note of her more. I would watch as she admired the other girls or compared herself to them or followed their every move. I just wanted Scarlett to see how pretty she was. Yes, she was different from the other girls but that is a good thing.

Girls like Scarlett make me passionate about my purpose. I want to make a difference in the lives of girls and young women and help them see their beauty through the lies. I just want other girls to come to a sense of self acceptance. I know that the things I have been through have been a training field for me to help other girls. I hope you are encouraged from reading this and please, please if you take one thing from this, I hope it is that you have no need to compare yourself to others. You are beauty and that’s enough.

My cabin girls and I this summer. (From top left to right) Scarlett, Chandler, Kate, Emma, Lexie and me.

Stephkt