If It Smells Like Pride and Looks Like Pride, It’s Probably Pride

Honesty moment: I recently realized a personal vice of mine, pride.

My form of pride does not present itself in the typical form, which makes it harder to spot.

I am not like the Kims and Kanyes of the world. The over-indulgent, self-absorbed, selfie-loving, me-focused personalities. It’s a quieter, more subtle kind of pride.

My form of pride is one where I choose to withold things, whether it be my gifts or talents, my emotions- good or bad, my thoughts and opinions. I withhold communication because it’s easier to shut down than do the work of being honest and, most uncomfortable of all, vulnerable. (Yikes!)

I have always thought that steering clear of the spotlight was a commendable trait. I thought it was a form of humility, especially when it comes to talents. I thought it was better to always allow other people to take center stage and for me to step back. I thought this was normal, healthy and even admirable.

I am an artsy person, which makes living in LA such an adventure. It’s a city of creatives- actors, dancers, singers, writers, musicians and artists. It’s such a gift living in a city full of passionate people.

Talking to my artsy peers, I have found that they share a common struggle as me, wanting to withhold their gifts, talents and passions. Why? Because it’s so much easier than putting yourself out there-for ridicule, for rejection, for judgment and to be torn apart by people’s opinions.

I love to sing, but rarely, have I shared this gift. I love to write, but it took almost seven years for me to actively share my blog with people. Why? I did not want the attention but more so, the possible failure that could come from sharing my passions.

Here’s what I am learning- My gifts, my talents, my passions are not for or about me. When I withhold these things from the world, I am limiting what God can do in and through me. Diming my own light won’t make anyone else’s shine brighter. Only by shining do I give other people permission to shine. Only by sharing do I encourage other people to do the same.

Twenty-Something Advice (for Anybody): “Diming my own light won’t make anyone else shine brighter.”

I am still learning that sharing is a part of the human experience- the good, the bad and the not so pretty. I write this blog “Life as Told by an Upcoming Twenty-Something” so I can allow other people into my story, the wins, the losses, the failures and the beauty from ashes moments.

What I know is my story, my life, is not all about me but about the people journeying with me. Humility says, “Hey, this is me- the good and bad. The strengths and weaknesses. I want to let you see me.”

Here’s to identifying pride- even the sneaky, hard to spot kind.

With hope,

Stevie

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What the Men I Date Taught Me About Self-Worth and False Expectations

I am a walking, talking cliché.

Unfortunately, I had this rude awakening awhile ago. Yet and still, up until this point, I have done little to change it.

Real talk: I am the cliché good girl who likes bad boys. Well, I guess a good woman who chooses (keyword) bad men. While I argue with my guy friends about the theory that women don’t like “good guys” or “good guys just don’t win” until I’m blue in the face, I guess my dating record doesn’t do much to disapprove their theory.

Here’s the thing. I’m not much of a dater. I will literally go years without a date to the movies or out for dinner or coffee. Years.

Don’t feel bad for me. I have never really seen these “droughts” as concerning, especially when I was younger. I’ve more seen it as better suited for my personality. I’m a very independent person, but I am also a commitment type of gal. Like a serious relationship type. Like all or nothing. I’m not up for hookups, one-night anythings, or flings. I want the real thing, that four letter word. I want all the cheesy and corny things of Rom-com magic, the holding hands, the witty back-and-forth banter, and the best friend turned love. I want the hard stuff the movies don’t always show, the honest conversations, the sacrifice, and the work of adult relationships.

I’ve been content waiting until I find it, which is why I don’t really date. (Let me tell ya- There’s a lot of frogs out there!) I’ve been busy working on me, and my oh my, has that felt like a complex and at times disastrous construction site. I’ve been focused on building my career, taking care of my body (first half marathon done!), traveling as much as possible (I just got back from Italy a few weeks ago), navigating the ups and downs of friendships, working on my relationships with family (specifically my momma), and most importantly, the relationship with the person in the mirror.

It’s been hard, but I don’t think the waiting is in vain. In the last few years, I’m so much wiser, stronger, and smarter, as well as humbled by life’s hardships. I think all these things will make me a better woman and hopefully, wife someday.

But then, I got restless.

Or maybe, a better word is distracted. Or bored? Maybe, I got a little angry with myself or God and how he wasn’t meeting my expectations in my timeline. So I had an internal screw it moment (or several months rather), and I got a bit reckless.

To my surprise, guys started asking me out. I felt like for awhile I was being punked and a cameraman was going to jump out and scream, “You’re on candid camera!”

Literally the number of guys who asked me out (in person not on a dating app or online) right before I left L.A. for Italy was sheer madness. This isn’t to toot my own horn. It’s just to point out the humor in it all. My friend Jade and I always joke about how we never date and the difficulty in meeting genuine men in L.A. We have spent many a number of weekend date nights together in Target! (I literally asked Jade if she paid these guys as some sort of joke.)

So when this unicorn dating experience happened, I thought why not? I kissed a lot of frogs (figuratively), but it was fun, and I had a lot of great stories to share with friends. The note on my windshield last Christmas with the bad grammar. The guy who followed me in a coffee shop parking lot. The guy with the really nice car and a big ego to match. We had some good laughs!

Then, I took this free-spirited dating mentality with me to Italy and met my share of frogs there, too. (Note: Frogs are not exclusive to America.) It was a whirlwind, a mix of fairytale and adventure. Dates to vineyards, coffee shops, fairs, tours of small, Italian towns, and fancy restaurants with Italian men were exhilarating and fun!

I don’t regret it (well maybe a few things), but I definitely got caught up in just casual or “loose” dating, knowing that this isn’t who I am nor what I want. I made some compromises and settled for treatment that did not line up with my expectations and wants, and now that I am back in America, I’m having to do the work of dealing with the repercussions.

Why do we women settle? Why do we sometimes make love from someone else the highest goal and, in the process, compromise love for ourselves?

I know this idea of settling not only applies to women but men too. There are plenty of instances where women play “the bad guy” in love. It’s not just men.

I am having to wrestle with the “why ” at the moment (Why exactly do I gravitate toward the “the bad boy” type?) and that maybe the men I have dated reflect a bigger disconnection and chasm in my relationship with myself, in how I value myself.

“The men I have dated reflect a bigger disconnection and chasm in my relationship with myself.”

I don’t wholly blame the guys. Real growth comes when we can be honest with ourselves and hold ourselves accountable. Most of the frogs I have encountered are up front about their intentions (or some instances, what their intentions are not.) Men tend to be simplistic creators (unlike women.) They say what they mean and act accordingly. I have been guilty of wanting more than the frogs have been willing to offer and that’s my fault.

Twenty-Something Advice (for Anybody): “Real growth comes when we can be honest with ourselves and hold ourselves accountable.”

What I have learned: It is unfair to yourself and to another person to try to change them and in the process, you set falls expectations that can’t ever be met.

I’d like to note out of all the guys I met in Italy and all the dates, there was one amazingly kind, dorky, humble and gentlemanly guy. He was a keeper. I told him before I left that whomever he marries will be a lucky lady.

I think I need to remind myself that too. Whatever man I end up with is lucky. I need to remind myself of my value and my worth. Because I know the love I get from others is a reflection of how I love myself.

I just want to encourage you reader to not settle in love. I will be here with you doing the work of self-evaluation and growth. I am hoping that we can prove the stereotype wrong. Women do indeed like “the good guy.” I think the good guy can win. I hope to find one someday (but if he’s got a little bad boy swag- I’m OK with that too!)

With hope,

Stevie

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.

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