Knowing Your Worth & When to Walk Away

Like many women, I myself have been guilty of this in past relationships. You hold on long past the relationship’s expiration date hoping that something will change, but all the waiting often leads to disappointment. Now let me qualify this by stating that this post is not meant to disrespect men. I absolutely adore men, and I do believe deeply that love and relationships can be lasting with the right person. For me, this is more about knowing your value as a woman and holding on to your dignity in love and life in general.

Knowing Your Worth

As women, many of us tend to act as caregivers and nurturers and this is a beautiful thing. We are used to giving love and affection to those around us whether that person is a child, friend, family member, husband, or lover. I myself thrive off of caring for others, but the problem arises when we begin putting everyone else’s needs before our own. Although tempting, especially in the butterfly-ridden, early stages of a relationship, don’t neglect your friends and hobbies for a man. This will only leave you feeling unfulfilled and unhappy.

Of course you want to make time for someone you care for, but just remember to make time for the other wonderful things that make you, YOU. I love adventure, hiking and trying new things I am afraid of and I enjoy spending some time alone. These are a few of the things that make me beautifully who I am, just as you have things that make you beautifully you. My supportive friendships with the other women in my life are also a big part of who I am as a woman. Spending time with my friends lifts me up and makes me a better human being.

Chances are that many of these things are exactly what made you attractive to someone in the first place. So in giving those things up, you are throwing away a very alluring and valuable piece of yourself. I also recognize that my time and attention are just as important as any one else’s and if my time is not respected then I just simply stop giving that person attention – this goes for any relationship (friendship, love, etc.). Save your dignity and refuse to beg for someone’s attention – it won’t work anyways (trust me I have tried).

The point is you are valuable, you are loving and you are beautiful. You simply need to find that person who sees these qualities you possess and understands that these gifts are precious.

When to Walk Away

Men are different creatures that I will never claim to completely understand. However, they are human just as we are, and will sometimes make mistakes and fail. It is okay to give good men the space to make mistakes. I can only hope to be shown the same grace in a healthy relationship. Some men also just need space and don’t know how to ask for it without hurting a woman’s feelings – space they should respectfully be given.

In the past I have been inclined to worry (there’s my anxiety kicking in) and ask what’s wrong and overthink everything until I have driven myself completely crazy. I know that I cannot be the only one who has done this in relationships. Recently, I have made a commitment to myself. I don’t take things personally until someone makes it personal. If someone is too busy for me or needs space, I simply give it to them and make time for all the wonderful things that I love. Sometimes men and women need alone time and you should allow a person to have that. My life is full and I don’t need someone to complete me, but if a man can add value and join me for a beautiful ride then amazing! That being said you can not control someone else’s actions and they are not a reflection of your worth as a woman. Sometimes it isn’t about you at all, it’s about fulfilling their own needs.

The problem is knowing when a relationship has crossed into unhealthy territory. As I mentioned, we all need space to ourselves and time for our own hobbies and friendships. That being said, if a man can not find any space for you on his calendar then don’t take it personally and don’t push for attention (again, save your dignity). Pull back and focus on you. Trying to force something that doesn’t fit is unhealthy for both people involved. You have too many amazing things going on in your life to focus all of your attention on someone who isn’t willing to be there.

I have held on to some relationships in the past where I gave everything I had of myself, but was not made a priority in any way. This will never change and sticking around is degrading, disheartening and disappointing. I held on because my hopelessly romantic heart thought that if I loved harder and gave more then they would see my value. I am here to tell you, I have tested this theory and it DOES NOT work. Forgive them, move on and focus on yourself. Make room in your life in case the right person comes along.

A woman is not defined by her relationship status, a woman is uniquely defined by what sets her apart and reflects the beauty inside of her soul. I am currently single and dating. This does not define me, as it does not define you. I am a career-driven, family-oriented, loving, daughter, sister, dog mom, and friend. I crave adventure, need time outdoors, and time for reflection. These things make me the woman I am. Focus on your relationship with yourself and the rest will fall into place the way it is meant to, but don’t force things to fit. Just let them go.

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Alone Time – A How To Guide

Learning to enjoy your own company can be more challenging than most realize, but finding contentment with your own company can also provide a sense of peace and empowerment. Doing things on your own, as trivial as it sounds, can often be intimidating and out of an individual’s comfort zone.

This is something I had to learn to do the hard way. Nearly 3 years ago I moved from my small, comfortable hometown of Owensboro, KY to Louisville. Although Louisville isn’t a huge city, it is much larger than where I am from and needless to say I was a bit intimidated. The first year was pretty rough, as I had gone through a recent break up and didn’t really have a group of friends here yet. As challenging as that first year was (and there were many homesick, teary-eyed nights), it was probably the most transformative year of my life, as I learned to be truly independent.

This is not the “I moved out of Mom & Dad’s independence” – but the I am comfortable and happy with my own company kind of independence. My experience with forced solitude pushed me out of my comfort zone and challenged me to do things on my own without companionship, which in turn gave me an amazing feeling of empowerment. This period of time has also pushed me to look inwardly at the things I like about myself, as well as the things I need to improve upon.

So with that I wanted to share that from my experience, the best way to learn to be alone is to just push yourself to try new things and see what you learn. Here is a list of a few of my favorite alone time activities:

  1. Enjoy a spa day getting a manicure/pedicure.
  2. Go buy yourself an outfit that makes you feel beautiful.
  3. Enjoy a picnic at a park under a nice shade tree.
  4. Read a book.
  5. Plant a garden, or if you don’t have a yard plant some potted plants.
  6. Go for a bike ride – if you don’t have one, rent one.
  7. Volunteer to walk the dogs at your local animal shelter.
  8. Volunteer your time to a local charity you’re passionate about.
  9. Grab your camera and go take interesting pictures around town.
  10. Learn to cook a new dish.
  11. Spend the day hiking in nature.
  12. Take yourself to a nice dinner at a new restaurant.
  13. Organize your closet and drawers.
  14. Learn a new skill (photography, sewing, cooking – there are classes in every town if you look).
  15. Take a yoga class.
  16. Make time for exercise and join a gym.
  17. Go on a road trip to a nearby town.
  18. Join a group to meet new people (I joined the Junior League of Louisville).
  19. Take yourself to see a new movie at the theater.
  20. Make time for journaling.
  21. Spend some time meditating.
  22. Make up a dance – if your home alone there’s no one there to judge you lol.
  23. Think of a random act of kindness and then go do it to make someone’s day.
  24. Go to the farmer’s market – there’s one in every town.
  25. Clean out your refriderator.
  26. Spend a day nesting in bed watching your favorite Netflix series.
  27. Explore your local public library.
  28. Enjoy a day at a local art, history or science museum.
  29. Visit a local tourist hot spot that you’ve never been to – here in Louisville it’s bourbon tours!
  30. Make a list of personal goals.

My Experience with High-Functioning Anxiety

I first notice it in my throat, a tightening, like I just swallowed a pill that didn’t quite go down the right way. Other times, I will notice it in my neck and shoulders at night, when I finally quiet myself enough to realize all the tension I’ve been carrying throughout the day. Often this makes it hard to fall asleep. Even still there are times that I am left wide awake by the endless stream of thoughts that permeate my brain when all I want is rest. Then there’s even the feeling I get in my chest. The palpitations and the nervous feeling only made worse by the fact that my heart is racing, an endless cycle. Usually when this is happening, I say nothing and push through until the wave of anxiety subsides.

Last night was one of those nights. I tossed and turned and replayed every scenario of everything going on in my life up to the current moment. Work has been pretty challenging for the last several weeks. Things have been extremely busy, and there are a few people that I have felt I am constantly walking on egg shells around. Trying to manage this with my need to make everyone happy is exhausting. I deal with the stress with a smile on my face and try very hard to not let anyone see behind the façade.

I have been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, but I tend to refer to it as high-functioning anxiety despite the fact that it is not an officially recognized diagnosis. For me it is just a better description of my personal experience. Sometimes people mistakenly assume that someone with anxiety tucks themselves away hiding from the world outside, and this may be the case for some people, but my experience has been very different. For me it has more to do with my endless pursuit of perfection. The carefully constructed image of myself that I want to convey to others in order to hide my insecurities and imperfections.

I have an endless array of hobbies, volunteer work, achievements and pursuits. Many of these things do bring me joy and fulfillment. But there is also my need to be busy, to fill my time so that I can stay out of my own head.  There is also my embarrassing nervous laughter. Laughing to fill the space in a conversation, when maybe I am feeling insecure. Other times it is my shortness with someone caused by how overwhelmed I am feeling at that moment. Different things trigger this for me and I am aware of what those triggers are, but every once in a while the wave of anxiety still pours over me.

Most people (outside of those who read my blog, and those very close to me) would never realize that I am constantly at battle with my own mind. This is significantly better – I do take medication, practice yoga and breathing techniques nightly and try to eat healthy and live a healthy lifestyle. But occasionally nights like last night sneak up on me and suck me into that black hole of my mind, with the endless gravitational pull of my incessant thoughts.

It’s often hard to remember but if you are coping with an anxiety disorder, realize that you’re not alone. Often those you may least expect may be dealing with similar issues. Anxiety isn’t a stereotype, it looks different on some people than it does on others. Exercise and breathing techniques work, talking to someone is even better, self care is a necessity.

Finding Balance

So I am a week behind on blog posts, but last week was a killer for me. I was stressed to the max and felt like I just couldn’t keep up with my to-do list (both for work & at home). By Friday, I was  so irritable I just knew I needed to readjust my attitude and get centered for the busy week ahead.

Do you ever just feel like… I am going to scream if I get one more email request for something someone needs “now”? Yea… that was me. Needless to say, if you spoke to me last week, I apologize for my less than bubbly disposition. There are certain things I have noticed have a tendency to greatly affect my mood throughout the week including the amount of sleep and rest I get and the time I make for myself.

Thanks to my generation (yes… I am a millennial) there is an expectation we should always be connected and available. Work days, are no longer 8 hours, and I know there are times I find myself checking email late at night. This is one thing that I have tried to really get a handle on not doing. After 8PM, I feel like whatever it is can wait until the morning. My evenings are for catching up with friends/family, snuggling on the couch, walking the dog, and taking care of me. It’s not that I’m less committed than those who do, it’s that ‘ME’ time is a necessity.

And now at the risk of sounding like an extremely old lady (I swear I am only 32), I try to get 8 hours of sleep throughout the work week. My devices go off at 8PM, and I am in bed reading a good book at 9PM. YIKES… I sound so old! It’s amazing how my evenings have changed over the last 5-10 years.

Gone are the days carousing at a bar on the weekends – although I’ll proudly admit I poured myself a bourbon or two last Friday. I need weekends to be restful and I particularly enjoy spending time outdoors. My work week is fast-paced and stressful, not to mention, I spend time the majority of my day at a desk in an interior (no windows/fluorescent light) office.

I am still figuring out balance and how to achieve it. But these are things I think we all need to be a bit more mindful of – particularly allowing yourself to unplug every once in a while. This doesn’t make you less committed or productive. This allows you to have time to pursue other interests, which in turn guards against burn out and makes for a more positive working environment for both you and your team. Make time for rest, the hobbies you love, and of course your family and friends.

Next weekend I challenge you to explore a new town, read a book, or take a yoga class – invest in your own happiness and well being.

 

Coping with Anxiety 3

Uncomfortable Truth

Even as I just write this post, I am beginning to feel quite self-conscious and anxious. Partially because the topic has been stigmatized, and though I have mentioned it in passing on other posts, I have never focused completely on this topic. I am the face of someone who copes daily with anxiety and depression. It is something I have struggled with since my early teens, but there are times it seems to rear its ugly head more than others. This often surprises those I’m not super close with, especially since I try to share mostly positive images of my life.

The fact is I do feel really positive in my life right now, but there’s sometimes a quiet whisper in the back of my mind that likes to focus on the fact that I’m not at the place I thought I would be at this point in my life. I have mentioned this before, but it often feels lonely that I haven’t found someone to share my life with, and that I am not sure if having children of my own will ever be something that happens for me (if my dating life is any indication – probably not). As horrible as it can make me feel, sometimes I am jealous when I see others moving through the phases of life like motherhood, and I feel left behind.

It also hasn’t helped that my dating life has been less than extraordinary. I’ve been in countless relationships that start out AMAZING, but somewhere down the line I tend to begin investing too much. I invest my time, and energy, and emotional support to make someone else happy, which is certainly fine to do in a balanced relationship, unfortunately I tend to be the giver and wind up feeling completely drained and empty. In past relationships, I have spread myself far too thin, as I feel many women probably do. I become the cheerleader, the confidante, and I try so hard to be light and positive with little given in return. Often after these relationships end I slip into a bit of a depression because I have invested so much time and energy and I feel betrayed.

This is actually how the hiking hobby began for me. I had ended a toxic, long term relationship, moved to a new city where I didn’t have any close friends, and began a new career. The first 6 months were lonely, and although I told no one, a lot of tears were shed. I desperately needed to feel strong and independent – I already was, but needed to prove it to myself. Hiking began to make me feel empowered, and I often do it when I need to clear my mind and feel strong, and capable on my own as a woman.

Aside from hiking, I try to be healthy and active which is a natural mood elevator for me. I also say “No” more – without guilt. Sometimes if I am feeling off, I back out of plans. I do this, not to be an ass, but because I know that is what I need to feel recharged. Sometimes I’m a crappy friend because I don’t text right back, but its because I need some time to myself to refocus my energy. And I am not writing this as a personal pity party, because I am slowly getting a handle on my life (I think). Really, I wanted to share this because I feel like if even one of my friends feels lonely, heartbroken, or like they just aren’t where they feel they should be, that they aren’t alone.  As we all share (myself DEFINITELY included) the happiest, most beautiful parts of our lives, and rarely give glimpses into the darker corners, it feels more important than ever to share my struggles.

I want others to know it’s okay to put yourself first, not answer your phone sometimes, and choose to do the things you enjoy. It’s okay to leave unhealthy, unbalanced relationships behind, because you want to invest your energy where it’s wanted and appreciated. And it’s okay to do these things unapologetically.

Why I Hike Alone

One question I consistently get from family and friends is, “Why do you hike alone?” and “Don’t you know how dangerous that is?” and the answer is there are many reasons I do, and I am fully aware of the risks involved. Hiking alone can be dangerous and I would never suggest it for just anyone. In fact, as many of my friends know I took a little spill on the ice this week.

 

*Before and after my little accident. 

Luckily my fall wasn’t too bad since I was out alone and pretty far from my car. For me the rewards just outweigh the risks by far.

Empowerment

Being able to complete a challenging hike on my own gives me a sense of confidence like I have never know before. Learning to use a compass, map and my own sense of direction while navigating miles on my own fills me with an amazing sense of accomplishment. This is something that I would never have had the confidence to do alone a few years ago. And these empowering hikes have pushed me to see what other goals I can accomplish (hopefully one day the AT). I am woman – hear me ROAR!

Anxiety Relief

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I have coped with an anxiety disorder since my early teen years. It has been one of those struggles that has at times seemed like I am in an exhausting, unending battle with my mind. One thing gives me relief more than anything else, and that is spending time alone in nature. There is something about getting back to the basics – no makeup, hair in a ponytail, no internet/cell phone and just fresh air, dirt, and me and my dog. I LOVE time with my friends and I love staying connected, but sometimes I need to just take the time to unplug and appreciate the beauty around me. I need this time to unwind and remember that tomorrow is a new day; just breathe and let things go.

Gratitude

When I am alone in the woods or in the eastern hills of Kentucky I often find myself in awe of the beauty that surrounds me. I feel so grateful for my body, my life and the experiences I have and I just feel so joyful. Joyful isn’t a word I normally use, but it seems like the only word that truly conveys the feeling of happiness that fills my heart. I sometimes even catch myself just smiling alone for no reason. Being grateful doesn’t mean everything in your life is perfect – there are so many things I could improve on – but I acknowledge what things I do have in my life instead of constantly seeking the next best thing. I am grateful.

What empowers you? What brings you joy and makes you feel grateful? I would love to hear from you.

Please note: Although I enjoy taking a hike and enjoying the solitude, I always let someone know where I am going, distance and expected completion time and I always go prepared. I have a pack filled with emergency gear, extra water and I always study my routes prior to hitting the dirt. I also know how to read a topographical map in case I get lost – pretty important before setting out alone.