Won’t You Please Give Me Love…

“Give me love
Give me love
Give me peace on earth
Give me light
Give me life
Keep me free from birth
Give me hope
Help me cope, with this heavy load
Trying to, touch and reach you with,
Heart and soul”

George Harrison, ~Give Me Love~

When is the last time you gave up hope on something?

It could have been when the clock was winding down to the last few seconds of the 4th quarter of a football game and an ominous loss of your team came to fruition. May be you had a great outdoor event planned and despite checking weather.com daily, the stone cold truth is, it is going to rain. You scrambled out of the office as early as possible to make it to an event to find yourself stuck in summertime road construction–no chance you will make it.

That’s the thing about life, we all have dreams, aspirations, plans, goals, and future accomplishments that we hope come to fruition. I have been accused of being a bit of a dreamer by someone close to me. I wouldn’t say I dream as much as hope that by putting positive out into the world it will come back to me. I hope that by planning ahead for the work week, I will have enjoyable stress free mornings setting myself up for success. I hope that by being cognitive of what nutrition I put in my body I will retain good health and longevity of life. I hope that by adhering to a running schedule I will be able to attain life long goals of fitness, stress relief, and future looming races. I don’t feel I’m a dreamer; more of an optimist that relishes in my world of hope that things will turn out somewhat how I aspire for them to turn out.

So what happens when your hope turns to dismay?

Life throws curveballs and things that would never happen become reality. Death and serious illness occur. Divorce or a relationship ending can rock a person’s world. You don’t get accepted into your university of choice, you don’t have the pace to qualify for the Boston marathon, or your presentation falls flat in front of your colleagues. You succumb to a hard time in life and begin to lose hope.

The thing about hardships in life that we tend to call people out behind their backs instead of lovingly bringing them in. It is so easy to judge another person while sitting in the stands with another (friend) parent about a family in your child’s school. Its not your hope or your dreams that are shattered, its their hard time. It’s easy to state that we wish people the best; but do we really practice what we preach here?

I don’t think we do even with the best of intentions (its not our hopes and dreams being shattered after all.)

I recently witnessed someone read the front page of the newspaper about a local person being the cause of an auto accident that took power away from a patch of neighborhoods near us. It was stated this person was over the legal alcohol limit and was arrested. A person well known in the area that you would say hello to and shake their hand. I watched the person reading this call their closest friend (and someone else familiar with the individual) and say, “Hey! Did you see who is on the front page of the paper and got arrested for…” I had to walk away because I felt a feeling of disgust wash over me and wanted to not react out of a place of emotion.

(Please note that I do not condone ever operating a vehicle while under the influence as I state this below.)

Can you imagine being that person? Being the spectacle of a local town and now facing legal ramifications everyone knows about? I can empathize. This was a person who I understood had hoped to retire very soon, a person I had met in a formal interview setting and treated me with utmost respect and decency. This person is now being publically called out (behind their back more than likely.)

Guess what, we all make mistakes in life! Some mistakes have minimal impact of a $5.00 late fee on a cable bill for forgetting to pay. Some mistakes impact out health and make others responsible for our well being. Some mistakes have serious, long term, and impactful circumstances. The choices we make as a person have create our futures, and impact our hopes and dreams.

The real reality is we are always secretly glad that it’s someone else’s “bad luck or down time.” It’s not our hopes and dreams crumbling around us. I would be willing to bet that most people would not be willing to admit this out loud. I am going to take a bold step here and own the fact that I now would. I would now due to having my own hopes and dreams crash and have to be recreated this past year. The paradigm shift of being on the other side of the whispering is realizing just how very real, close to, relatable, and human a person in distress is. I look back at some of the conversations and judgment I have had of others in the past and fully see how wrong I was. How wrong it was for me to call people out behind their backs, secretly relish in the fact that it in fact wasn’t me, and consider myself a bigger person for it. There is nothing elite about judging another person. There is no moral high ground in feeling superior to someone in turmoil. Saying, “well how terrible” or “I hope things turn” around with an underlying tone of judgment does not make it right.  Thinking something could never happen to you is asinine.

What would you do if you woke up tomorrow and you were front page news for your biggest mistake? Dig deep. Dig really deep and think about the biggest error in judgment you made. Something bigger than turning left, instead of right to beat traffic. I am willing to bet that you would be stuck in a shame cloud that would prevent future hope.

My point? Either show compassion and bring someone in; or say nothing at all. Be very careful for what you perceive as someone’s own fault and something they may be deserve. Your grass is never greener than that persons. Mentally actually wish someone the best. If you are person of faith, pray for them. Tell people you hear gossiping that its not okay and its hurtful. Look someone in the eye and sincerely ask them how you can be supportive of them. Categorize your own hopes and dreams, put yourself in that person’s shoes, and show compassion. Connection and compassion are two things that essentially drive the human race.

I own my past judgment of others and also own my own mistakes that I didn’t anticipate in life. I am not perfect by any means. I’ll make more “left turns” in life and I will come to snap judgments of others misfortunes. I will strive to avoid doing both and learn moving forward.

As for my own hopes and dreams, I do believe the late George Harrison’s former band mate John Lennon did state, “You may say I’m a dreamer….but I’m not the only one….” No John you aren’t the only one; I will keep on planning with hope and aspirations of a dreamer.

May be I will even special order a special pair of “Lennon style” rose colored, compassion embossed glasses.

It couldn’t hurt. Truly.

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Broken Wings to Flying

broken_angel_wings_by_madretierra-d31e0bo.jpgYou live you learn, you love you learn
You cry you learn, you lose you learn
You bleed you learn, you scream you learn

~Alanis Morissette, You Learn~

The number thirteen has never been arbitrary to me. I came into this world on Sunday, May 13th, 1984. Nearly three weeks late on Mother’s Day. As I child I would count to thirteen of specific things to separate them out and make this number a good omen. I was aware of the stigma of black cats, the number thirteen, and superstitions at a young age. I will be sitting at my desk wearing the grey/pink striped maxi dress I set out in 13 hours from now. Its been 13 years exactly since I started my amazing journey at Michigan State University. One of my favorite shows, Grey’s Anatomy was just renewed for its 13th season. My first childhood friend Keith Herman was born on April 13th; exactly a month before I was. I’ve learned to clear my mind during meditation for a solid 13 plus seconds (this took MONTHS!) In thirteen days from today it will have been six months. Thirteen days from this moment will bring me to the half year anniversary. The anniversary of my horrific sexual assault.

Thirteen.

Although my number is thirteen, I have to stop and reflect on six months. SIX MONTHS. Half a year has gone by. How is this possible? How did I get here? What did I learn? Am I okay? Have I moved forward? Do I acknowledge this? As a victory, as a small notation in my planner? As what? I may not want to, but I have to acknowledge how very many things I have abosorbed, hated, cried about, accepted, loved, embraced, failed at, exceled at, and integrated into my life the past six months. The past six months that in thirteen days changed who I was forever.

Deep Breath.

Here Goes.

  1. People will still let you down and hurt you. One of the hardest parts of my journey post assault was the people I thought would forever be there for me no longer being in my life. I have this image of myself as a baby robin that has fallen out of its nest and broken its wing. A baby robin can fly again with proper nurturing, healing, and support. I had a supposed good friend tell me when my “wings were healing” that they “could no longer be engaged in this friendship anymore with me. That I am not a terrible person and should know that. This is too emotional for them and they can no longer engage.” This was after I thought I was going to come into town, reconnect with this friend, and even stay the evening at their home (confirmed over the phone as okay.) This person avoided me for a few days after this conversation and finally responded to me after blocking me on all forms of media (yes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you name it.) I finally emailed this person directly and asked “why?” I got my response. I replied that I wish to respect how a person feels and the boundaries they need for their own emotional needs in their life. I cannot put into words the amount of hurt this caused me or the tremendous set back this caused me in my journey to heal. This was a friend who trusted me to watch their children, I openly shared everything with, I texted back and forth quite frequently, I picked up (they don’t like to drive), used to work with, and I thought was forever going to be in my life. I may understand on some levels why they chose to protect their own feelings and emotional stability; however I will never understand their approach. I stand behind what I said in writing in this same email, “I wish you would’ve stated to me how you were feeling before taking such drastic measures so I could have been supportive to you as a friends.” I still let this friendship “divorce” and person cross my mind daily. I know me. I’m a loyal friend to a fault and have to acknowledge the deep hurt I experienced. I never thought someone could kick me while I was down or my “wings were healing…..”
  2. Moments of happiness accompany moments of guilt. I’ve had this happen so many times. I have a great day, things click, I feel confident, interactions with others go well, and I smile to myself about the blessings I have in life. Then I have the burden of guilt that comes with it. I question myself. “Am I allowed to be happy?” “Whoa, can I feel this way. Does this mean I’m forgetting?” When something tramatic happens to a person there is a blank slate placed in the person’s mind (in my opinion) and its often filled with negative, binding, overwhelming thoughts of how I should feel. I’m not supposed to smile at my reflection as I notice my new concealer covers my scar and I am starting to resemble who I used to be. I’m not supposed to feel content, happy in the moment, or catch myself laughing along with others at something humorous. The dichotomy of these feelings blending together can be overwhelming. Grief for my former life comes with guilt associated with new happiness.
  3. I still have hope. I experience butterflies for the first time in about a year this past week. Butterflies associated with presenting in front of others for the first time in a long time. Presenting and public speaking is a huge part of my professional identity. I relish in it. I’m confident in saying I am good at it! I gave up on this portion of my life when this happened. I had a physical scar and an emotional scar to my soul that ran deeper. I never thought I would be comfortable in front of an audience ever again. These butterflies proved to be a beautiful reflection for my soul. Somehow in my pain, my healing, my attempt to move on; a seed was planted. A small seed of hope that I failed to recognize. A seed that proved to be a late bloomer…but a bloomer. The self-actualization/self-realization that I still had apsirations and hope for myself was one of the most postitive points in my healing process to date. I still have a voice that believes in myself. I still have hope for more. Even more important, the seed planted carries roots growing that I am worthy of and deserve more.
  4. I make people uncomfortable. Lets just call a spade a spade. I am open about what happened to me. I acknowledge it. I address it. I write about it. I have a streak of teal in my hair as a symbol of advocacy for sexual assault awareness. My not sweeping this part of my life under the rug makes other people uncomfortable at times. My growth and attempt to move forward openly isn’t as well received as I would have hoped. In an evaluation setting, a person of HR status said to me, “you have a streak of green in your hair.” (Mind you I have had this since November, but depending on how I wear my hair could be overlooked.) I casually stated, “You mean my advocacy streak?” He stated yes, that streak of color in your hair and inquired the meaning of its advocacy. I replied matter of fact, “My streak of teal is two fold. It stands for Sexual Assault Awareness in April and Ovarian Cancer Awareness in October.” My response as a knee jerk, “Good for you!” The burning of this person’s cheeks were a blatant physical indicator to me that I had made this person uncomfortable.   I am aware that both of my causes that I strongly advocate evolve around women’s issues. one is due to the physical make up of men not having ovaries. The other is that we further stigmatize male sexual assault survivors and “demonize” women as the victims of this. I am aware that hair is not a protected class in the State of Michigan (thank you Dr. Tina Riley for my CHRS from MSUHRLR certification training!) I am also aware that the more openly I wear my advocacy and show for cause; the more uncomfortable about it. Is it I make people uncomfortable, or perhaps issues segmented towards women make people uncomfortable? I say this on Equal Pay Day April 2016 as the only person in my professional setting to ask if this is recognized. I was generally curious, and the question make others uncomfortable. My advocacy, openness about being a survivor of a brutal physical, sexual attack, a physical attack on my right ovary (a sex organ) make people uncomfortable. I think I am going to try to trend the hash tag #awkwardsilence or the 80’s song lyric #enjoythesilence! Get comfortable with the uncomfortable people!
  5. Social Media has become my backbone. I am tremendously overwhelmed by the amount of online support and new online friendships I have formed. I anticipate the day I meet some of these people and cannot wait to hug them and let them know how very much they have helped me grow as a person. I have a support system nearly 24/7 at the touch of my fingertips. Thank you to all of those who have been there for me. I look forward to my weekly chats and touch points with people. I consider these folks to be my friends and lifelines! I encourage anyone struggling and wanting to reach out to what survivor conversations are out there to tune into a few. The hash tag: #SolidarityChat is a weekly chat every Monday done by Hannah Stein. This is a fabulous group of individuals who cover these tough topics and connect. I look forward to it, engage, process, and use this as an important way to heal. I’m forever grateful for Social Media and opening up my eyes to other victims/survivors out there.
  6. I don’t sweat the small stuff. I was a nanny the summer I was 20 years old. This was not a typical nanny situation, and I will also reflect on this as one of the hardest jobs I will ever have in life. I was a nanny to a family that had lost their mother in a horrific auto accident in January of that year. I started working for their Father, son at 6 1/2, and daughter of 3 that May. This family had grandparents (maternal) that had moved across the street and a grandmother (paternal) who lovingly went by the German variation of Grandma “Omi” that I spent a great deal of time with. This family was also in the process of building a beuautiful new home on Lake Michigan’s beach. There was a lot going on. Early into this position I had spent the morning with Omi and the little girl at Omi’s house (down the road.) A crazy storm came through, turned the sky black as night, ripped trees from their roots, caused us to loose power, and sent a large tree crashing down 6 inches from the home we were in. Omi called her son (my boss) immediately to come check the damage as it was over. He was already on his way. She and I were both very shook up as the 3 year old was napping in the room where this happened. Her son calmly hugged his child, and told his mother, “We will just have to get a chainsaw to chop this up later this week.” Totally calm. When he left, Omi looked at me and stated in her warm accent, “When you have been through the things my son has, you don’t sweat the small things or make a big deal.” This moment has forever stuck with me. I now understand it. I am a planner and bit of a control freak. A stain on a shirt, delay in travel, meeting that runs over and more used to rattle me. I no longer care about these things and can now assimilate with my former supervisor. Trauma and grief change a person. The things that used to make me fret and worry are no longer the large scale items I used to create stories about being problems in my mind.  Moments that used to cause my high strung, perfectionist self to unravel no longer hold the same meaning to me.
  7. I am forever Changed. I have had stubborn moments of utter denial that I have changed as person. You must understand, I used to fear change. Change meant my planning might not be going the way it was supposed to. Change means I have to accept I am human. Change made me very uncomfortable. Change brought out triggers in my myself that also initiated my go to “withdrawal/put up walls approach.” Its the oddest thing, I am not afraid of confrontation when going to bat for a cause I believe in or for a person that doesn’t have the courage to speak up. I am often the “go to person” for matters of difficulty that need to be discusses and have a them of change or advocacy. Applying these same rules to myself have never been the case. I have a different perspective on change now. I still have growing pains, I still have anxiety and stress about the unknown, and I still have curiosity about what could be. I will face days I have firm denial anything happened. I have had these days.  Days I wish my fears weren’t my reality. I am changed. I cannot be the person I was before. I can’t be that person ever again. That person had never lived through what I went through. I have had to dig deep and embrace change. After all; “you plan what you can and adjust to the rest…”

These are a few thoughts I have had after a busy, complex, somewhat overwhelming, emotion laced week. I had a thought today. Do I wish this never happened to me? The answer is of course. The second internal question was further complex. Do I regret my journey since then? I don’t not for a second. I embrace some of the lessons, heartache, and realization I’ve encountered. I go back to the salon tomorrow to get my highlights redone. Something I’ve been doing since I was 16 years old. Here is the thing though, now I get my teal streak touched up. I didn’t even blink or think about it while getting ready for tomorrow. Who I am as a person was drastically changed 13 days to six months ago. The person I’m growing into is going to be even better. I’ll be even better and with a fabulous streak of teal in my hair. I’m “toughasteal” and working towards 13 days to 6 months…

 

 

 

Springtime and Setbacks

“I’ve felt the coldness of my winter
I never thought it would ever go”

Led Zeppelin, The Rain Song

 

Sunlight lasting past dinner. Robins chirping. Sprouts of green grass poking through a winter of isolation. The first warm day that allows you to open up your windows and breathe fresh air into the stark staleness of winter. Spring cleaning to purge your world of clutter and rejuvenate physically, mentally, emotionally.

Ah, Spring is finally here! We bundle up in the Great Lakes State for months, submit to dark hours in the morning en route to work and during our commute home, and pop Vitamin D supplements to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder.

“Finally! Spring cleaning!” I thought as I pushed open the window to my bedroom, took a long drag from my Cinnamon Role flavored coffee, rolled up my “Saturday sweats” and plopped down to sort through a stack of clutter. I moved unexpectantly during a turbulent time in my life and have been pining for a morning just as this to organize so many things. I put on my Apple Music. and set out to Covey method style through my list. Halfway through humming one of Adele’s newest hits I came across it.

Spring reverted back to the gloom of winter. I felt like the past five months had been erased in a gust of wind. This was no longer a happy moment of Spring organization. I felt polarized. Literally. Polarized by cold, fear, emotion, and recall of the past five months of hard work I had put in to heal.

My hospital paperwork. My god damn hospital paperwork and the 11’000 plus bill I had to fight with insurance to get paid. Proof of what happened to me on October 21st, 2015. Solid medical proof that I was attacked, beaten unconscious, raped, and left for dead by a stranger. The paperwork I had never wanted to see it again. At that moment it all came back.

I tried to make myself get up and walk away from what my eyes were pouring over. I couldn’t though.  I was transfixed. I am not sure if I ever read through the entire paperwork of what happened to me when I begged a complete stranger for help. When I was raped, knocked out cold, knocked on a stranger’s door, and was then wheeled into am ambulance. The ambulance serves as a metaphor of the hell my life became after that. My life was sparred, but my descent into darkness began that day.

I sucked in my breath and reminded myself to breathe out. I have severe asthma/luncg issues since infancy. I have to be able to breathe to function. I know this. I took a deep breath, and settled into very single typed word of this document….

I let my mind wander…my mind wandered not to the songs of yesterday I loved so much…but 5 months prior….

I moved on. I moved literally back to my hometown. I have done everything I can to climb out of my depths of shame, depression, hell, guilt, and more that came with my world 5 months ago. I lost my entire life the week of my assault. I lost independence. I lost a best friend. I lost my dignity. I lost a person I thought would always be in my life.

My heart was  broken.

I have a new job. I started running long distances again. I read, I wrote, I spoke with others, I put down roots, and I TRIED to move forward. I combed through my favorite authors at the library and wrote down things I have learned from these readings. I worked so hard to “make do” with my new life. I embraced it; but was still haunted.

Finding my hospital paperwork was my single largest setback I’ve had to date.

I’ve never read through it all. I couldn’t. I lived through it. Do I feel proud of myself for being in a better place? Do I digest what happened? Am I back to being that shell of a person on the morning of October 22nd, 2015? Do I hold in anger towards not only going through this, but fighting an enormous bill for my injuries?

What really is moving forward?

It was at this exact moment that I realized something. I can transition to countless new careers, continue to run 100s of miles, read every piece of literature I think will help me and so much more. I can tune out this part of my life, but I can’t make it go away. This is now a part of my truth, my identity, my past, my everything. I will feel this moment again. I will continue to move forward, but I will have a moment of setback and painful hurt.

I will cry.

I will hurt.

I will continue to survive.

I embrace a scar on my left check socket everyday as a part of who I am now. A scar left from my attack. I exude advocacy with my self appointed streak of teal in my blonde tresses. I have physical reminders I chose to and some I don’t chose to have.

I have just realized a hard cold fact. Spring cleaning will never be getting rid of this part of my story. My past. My identity as a survivor, woman, and more. This part of my truth will always be that pair of jeans we hang onto every year. The pair that once brought us happiness, made us feel confident, we will never wear again, but we hang onto year after year.

We hang onto as there is that slim chance we can capture that moment in time again. I may never capture that snapshot again, but I will continue to move forward.

After all, doesn’t fashion recirculate?

If not that I can still embrace classic Jimmy Page guitar…”It is the Springtime of my Love…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Embracing Imperfection with Every Step

“Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it.”
Oprah Winfrey

My Dad sat me down mid-summer before I was to be a junior in high school. He said, “let’s talk about what you are going to do in terms of sports for this Fall.” He was doing this from the mentality of “using your best strengths for success.” I was playing three sports a year and really only excelling in Track every Spring. I have my Mom’s genetic height of 5’1 and a naturally petite build. I also have a personality that thrives on competition, winning, and giving everything in athletics 100%. It was during this conversation that my Dad and I first spoke of me running Cross Country this fall instead of Girl’s Basketball.  I remember thinking huh; this could be a real thing.

So at this age I embarked on my newest hurdle in life and joined the school’s Cross Country team. Lake Michigan Catholic’s all male Cross Country team. I didn’t just make my first feminist move at the age of 16 I set a personal challenge to myself. There was teasing, some struggles, and many challenges associated with this new adventure. Some of my peers thought I had completely lost my mind. I didn’t take this new endeavor lightly and challenged myself in every practice, with every weight repetition, and at every meet to give it my best. My hard work paid off. I was all conference (the old Red Arrow conference) by the end of the season and I had the support of my team behind me.

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(Photo of me after our Cross Country banquet with all conference medals)

I look back at this time and am grateful I followed my parent’s guidance to work on something I was already good at and to become greater. This was also something I loved to do and loved the challenge it brought. I continued on with Cross Country my senior year as well. My love affair with running continued and enhanced when I began my undergraduate education at Michigan State University in 2002. MSU has an amazingly beautiful campus; in the Fall especially. I am a small town girl who graduated from a small private high school. Running gave me a sense of inclusion and community as I daily lapped around campus. I felt my body growing stronger and my confidence with my decision to choose MSU strengthened as well.

The toll of life happening took running as a norm out of my daily routine. I would occasionally hit the trails, but not for long enough to build endurance, a routine, or get back into the mindset of running I once had. I kept in shape with healthy eating (the best I could), group fitness classes, outdoor am boot camp, and walking as often as possible. I am a workaholic by nature and often put work ahead of making time to exercise.

You could say I lost my identity as a “runner” along my way in my late 20s.

Last October I was attacked in a way no human being should ever be. I will not go into details of this, as I wish to respect the East Lansing police department’s investigation and my desire for justice to be served.  The spiral of events at this time had me relocate back to being with family. To say I felt lost would be an understatement. As I sat in the back seat of my parent’s SUV during a trip of moving some of my belongings home; we saw a young women running. My Mom pointed her out and said to me, “that is exactly what you need to be doing, that would be very good for you right now.” I allowed my mind to swirl back to the scenery of my favorite running locations. I reflected back to my cousin saying to me, “what do you mean you don’t run anymore? That has always been your thing.” She was not the first person to point that out to me in the past year. “Why DON’T I run anymore I thought?”

I didn’t have a good answer.

I rang in 2015 on crutches due to a fractured pelvis. I used my injury and physical therapy as a reason for why I was not getting regular cardio. I laced up a few times in the summer to run or sprint intervals. The end result was always being too sore to continue the next day. I often would feel dejected I didn’t have the endurance and speed I’d had at 18. (Because its totally realistic to be in the same athletic shape 13 years later, right?)

Still I had the confidence to start again; why wasn’t I finishing? Why wasn’t I competing with myself and doing something I used to love? “Why wasn’t I running anymore? Where was the mental disconnect?”

I discovered Dr. Brene Brown and her teachings in 2015. As I mulled over my disconnect with exercise and cardio I thought back to some of her thoughts on perfectionism. I reflected back to one of her quotes, “When perfectionism is driving…..shame is always riding shotgun.” AHA moment! I wasn’t running because I no longer loved it, I was fixated on beating myself up for no longer being in running shape. For no longer lacing up daily and easily raking up a few miles. I was fixated on how imperfect I currently was with my running game and not embracing the challenge in front of me (and I love a good challenge!)

I reflected back to myself at 16. I didn’t join an all male Cross Country team because I thought it was going to be perfect. The boldness of making this move was the definition of imperfect….possibly imperfect madness. And boy did I love the challenge of imperfect madness! If I could look beyond perfectionism and be openly vulnerable to something at 16, I needed to break down the barriers I had set up at 31 and do just the same.

I laced up again mid November 2015 with this attitude and the realization of needing some major self-care. I reactivated my Nike Run app on my phone and took off. I also started off slow knowing that the perfect 5K run from day one wasn’t going to happen. Instead of being upset I only went for a mile or two; I celebrated the fact that I ran another day. I set smaller weekly and monthly goals to have mini victories. I tracked every run with this app and relished the small increase in miles. I literally felt myself start to hit my stride!

I am not at my perfect running speed today. I am very proud to have run 70 miles in December, and headed towards more miles in January with 21.1 already logged as of January 8th. I am proud of feeling myself grow physically stronger and faster. I’m prouder of healing mentally and feeling my confidence grow with every run logged. I am the most proud of embracing being imperfect and growing more comfortable in my skin. I know there will be times when I need a “rest day” or may have to adjust a missed run by taking a few longer ones. This is ok. I will be okay when these things happen and continue on my pursuit of running.

My identity as a runner is back. 5K anyone?

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(Photo taken with @NikeRunning app after a run outside in December 2015)

Sometimes it’s hard to keep on running
We work so hard to keep it going ~No Doubt~

 

 

 

The Measuring Stick of Social Media

My Own Personal Musings on Social Media and the Positive/Negative Effects on Self Esteem

Every morning, like millions of Americans, I start my day by tuning into the news, enjoying a cup of coffee, glancing through emails, and checking my social media accounts. I am already in touch with thousands of other social media “friends” or users by looking through my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts.  I have a chance to wish friends Happy Birthday via reminders, view posted musings about politics and global news, and smile back at posted photos. So in a nutshell; every morning I have already exposed myself to thousands of others putting their best foot out there. Every morning I have already challenged and compared myself to what others have showcased to the world via their social media accounts.

But why?

Social media is a main connecting point for millions of users. Its a way I can stay in touch with former college friends, past work colleagues, and acquaintances along the way. I see my friends posting their accomplishments of new jobs, promotions, engagement announcements, amazing feats of cooking accomplishments, nights out socializing, fitness milestones, new children, and in my age demographic (31), lots of photos of their young children doing adorable things. I am single, currently job searching, recently moved, and also not: with a cute child to share, engagement photo album, craftathon, 8 layer creation, or more to showcase to the world at this time. So by my own standards of being “enough” and perfectionism; by engaging in social media every morning I have already established I am less than others. I am allowing myself to believe that I am not enough and not living the ideal perfection life I had sought out to live.

So I have to ask myself….Is Social Media fostering my own inadequacies, quest to perfection, journey to break through the façade of perfectionism? Is social media making me feel less than? Is this an overwhelming factor in our society that we are breeding these feelings of inadequacy and creating a measuring stick of where our lives should be?

In an interview between legendary talk show host Oprah Winfrey and renounced shame researcher Dr. Brene Brown, Winfrey talks about her aha moment with perfectionism. Dr. Brown tells Oprah. “It’s… a way of thinking and feeling that says this: ‘If I look perfect, do it perfect, work perfect and live perfect, I can avoid or minimize shame, blame and judgment.’ Winfrey had the following to respond to Brown’s statement of perfectionism.

“This was my other aha [moment]!” Oprah says, giving Dr. Brown a high-five. “Perfectionism is the ultimate fear… People who are walking around as perfectionists… They are ultimately afraid that the world is going to see them for who they really are and they won’t measure up.”

AHA!

So in an essence, social media is a way to foster the image of a having a perfect life. Its a cultural identity crisis to mold what we want our social media friends to see. Its how we want the world to perceive our world to be. I am guilty of this too. I frequently post my runs with the Nike Run App. In my mind its a part of holding myself accountable to achieving these goals and allowing others to encourage and celebrate in my victories. To play devil’s advocate there is not a chance in hell I am going to post anything about having a day filled with overindulging in food, and non gumption to exercise. After all, this would make me human and showcase to the world what I perceive as an imperfection. Its the same way that I would not put up an unflattering photo of myself as a selected profile picture. I too am the person that crops the best photo of myself, uses instagram, and chooses to put that image of myself out there. I own this.

So I have to ask if being authentic and human is putting it all out there, what IS the appropriate way to showcase yourself via social media? What are the ways to combat feelings of inadequacies via social media usage? How do we show empathy for an individual sharing a struggle via social media without judgment? How do we engage in social media as a way to connect, share ideas, and enjoy our celebrations of life as well as our own? How do we put down the measuring stick?