Be a Wildflower

So the month of August was really, really rough. A few friends and myself decided to take the no makeup challenge for the month of August, the ENTIRE month. I never realized how much I enjoy wearing makeup until I couldn’t wear it!

It was a very taxing month. Funny thing, the first week of September came and I had the flu. So I didn’t even wear makeup the first week I was actually free to. Jokes on me!

Well since I am a super retrospective person, who always looks for the lesson in things, I took some time to stop and think about my no makeup experience. Am I really so dependent upon makeup? Is my confidence linked to my outward appearance? Can I speak while looking people in the eye and walk with my head held high even when I don’t have any paint on my face? Is beauty really an outward thing?

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“Authenticity is….about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” Brene Brown

I am not going to lie. There were a number of days that I wanted to quit on the no makeup challenge for a plethora of reasons, i.e. dinner dates with friends, job interviews, getting dressed up for really just about anything. I am proud to say I did not quit. (All bets were off if I ran into an ex-boyfriend though. The makeup was going on!)

This challenge was an eye opening experience to examine beauty and my own confidence. It was also a lesson about authenticity. As twenty somethings, we all are trying to achieve something. We want to look professional, adult and successful. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, it’s also okay to not be adult sometimes. It’s okay to take down the facade and just be genuine you.

The no makeup challenge opened my eyes to a world of genuineness and authenticity. Not wearing makeup was hard, yes, but it was also freeing. It was my way of saying, “Hey, world! This is me. Take or leave it. Like it or hate it. This is me.” Maybe just by being my authentic self, I can inspire the people around me to do the same. We all need and crave authenticity in our lives. I encourage you today, to get rid of whatever facades you hid behind as an upcoming, twenty something, and to just be genuine (imperfect, flawed, bright eyed and amazing) you!

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-Stephkt

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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

A Woman of Noble Strength

Mae Audrey Taylor was my grandmother’s name. I smile just thinking of her. I cannot put into words the kind of women she was. To keep it really short and simple, when I think of my grandmother, one word comes to mind, good. She had a really good heart. You could ask anyone who knew her what kind of person she was and they would likely say caring, kind, nice, giving, which are words all synonymous with good. My grandmother was a good woman.

Recently, a friend of mine told me that her mom has been diagnosed with cancer. As I digested the news and tried to desperately find words to console my friend, I thought of my grandmother. My grandmother had breast cancer and ovarian cancer. The latter, sadly to say, took her life in February 2006. I sat in my room earlier this week trying to possibly grasp how hurt my friend must be while also remembering the sadness I felt when I lost my grandmother.

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My grandmother was the best woman I have ever known. She really was my super hero. With her, I was never lacking. There was never a time when I was with her that I did not feel safe. I started wondering what it was about her that made me look up to her with such esteem for 16 years of my life. I looked up the meaning of her name. Of course that was the most logical next step to research the history and origin of my grandmother’s name. (Please sense my journalistic sarcasm.)

I seriously do believe in the significance of a name though. I think people’s names have a lot to do with their personalities. People say words are powerful. Well, names are words spoken over and into a person’s life for their entire life. Names must carry some weight in determining a person’s character.

After I did some research, I found that Mae means ‘welcome’ and Audrey means noble strength. My instant reaction was “Woooow that is so spot on.” My grandmother was caring and giving to everyone she met. Whether she knew you or not, she loved with arms wide open. You always felt welcomed in her presence. As for her middle name Audrey, well that is my favorite part. My grandmother was a humble woman with a big heart. Like I said before, I always felt safe and at home in her presence. I felt protected. She had a strength about her that went beyond words. Everything about her spoke integrity, strength and humility. She personified the meaning of her name.

Remembering my grandmother is bittersweet for me. I miss her of course. I sometimes wonder if she would be proud of the 22-year-old woman that I have grown into and the person I am becoming. Deep down, I really think she would be. I smile when I remember little things about her or the memories we made together. I am so glad to have had her in my life. Although I miss her, I am just grateful to have had the time that I did have with her. It was so precious looking back on it.

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At 22, I constantly feel myself changing and growing up in all the right ways. I think a lot about the woman and eventually wife and mother that I want to become. I now know. I want to be the kind of woman my grandmother was. My grandmother’s caring heart and her selflessness were her strengths. Most people look at vulnerability as a weakness, but my grandmother showed me that a tender heart is a good thing. It allows you to show others crazy amounts of grace when they don’t deserve it. It allows you to love when you have been hurt, to show empathy for people who are suffering and to be the person that helps heal others’ pain. I want to be a woman with a tender heart who isn’t afraid to be vulnerable. I want to be selfless and caring. I believe a woman with a caring heart is a strong woman. I want to be the kind of woman my grandmother was, one of noble, loving strength.

What kind of woman or man do you want to be? Who inspires you? Feel free to comment below.

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