The Girl in the Mirror.

Hello, sweet friends.

I was feeling kind of introspective this weekend. Do you ever have those moods (No? Just me? Thought so.)

A couple of weekends ago I volunteered to model in a photo shoot for a local Columbus designer and blogger, the lovely and talented Allie Lehman.

When she sent me the shots, I was pretty impressed with myself. (Ok, I’m not going to lie. I couldn’t stop looking at myself.)

Hello (2)Damn, girl. You’re kinda hot. 

It’s not every day you get the chance to have professional photos taken. It’s fun!  Feeling pretty is fun. Getting “likes” on your new profile picture is fun. Looking like I just showed up in a park, with perfectly curled hair under the perfect beam of sunlight is fun.

But totally unrealistic.

Then I started to feel a little bit of guilt sink in. We all know this is how life in the year 2013 works; we post the best and the brightest moments of our lives online. We filter everything. We get jealous of the lives we see people live, even though we probably haven’t actually lived real life with them for years (or maybe ever.) There are studies which show we’re actually more alone and miserable even though we’re more connected than ever.

So I wanted to make sure I was real with you. I love that girl up in those photos. But I’m also totally crazy in love with this little lady…

In case you’re wondering, my shirt says “Jump on Board the D-Ship”…we made them for our Discipleship Team in college…we thought we were REALLY witty…

It’s really important to me that you know that. And not so you’ll think that I’m some self-righteous, got-it-all-together, saint of a human.

But because I want to make sure you know that life’s not about the wrapping. I love to talk about clothes and hair and makeup, style, shoes, you name it. It’s fun to me. It’s a way to express yourself – kind of like art. But I don’t go to those things to feel complete. I think it’s necessary that you love yourself without all of that.

And I would be doing a disservice to you, and myself, if I just hid behind a computer and pretended to be that first girl all the time. If I just sat here and only shared my filtered, edited, cream of the crop parts. Trust me, I have a lot more mediocre moments than I do picture-perfect ones.

Let’s be real, people! This is life; good, bad and fresh-out-of-the-shower-with-wet-hair. Life’s too short to hide your true self and try to be someone else. Go take a good long look in the mirror and repeat after me. Damn. You’re kinda hot. 

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A Really Long Post in Which I Give My Opinion on Life and Hope You Don’t Hate it.

A couple of months ago someone very dear to me, a student/friend/fellow young woman said to me, “Teach me how to be like you. Independent and confident.”

My gut instinct was a very short, abrupt response.

Ha.

If only, sweet friend. If only you knew the girl who crawled her way to today. If only you saw the behind-the-scenes version of me that sometimes can’t muster the courage to climb out of bed. If only.

But…then I decided to accept the compliment and produce an answer. Because if I do say so myself, I have managed both of those things. Not always with class and grace, but they have their moments. And when you realize you’re a role model, it makes you stop and think about why you do the things you do.

I didn’t give her a complete answer at the time, I had to put some more thought into it. Independent and confident…also quite often perceived as stubborn and intimidating (even by those who intimidate me.) There is a fine line to walk between being strong and being a *jerk (*fill in your expletive of choice.)

So in no specific order, here are my thoughts…

1. Know who you don’t want to be. I’ve been {fortunate?} enough to grow up around some situations that have shown me exactly who I don’t want to be in life. Habits I don’t want to have. Choices I don’t want to make. People I don’t want to settle for. For some, this could be a poor influence; I have been able to say, “I know there is better” and pursue it. Strong examples come in all forms.

2. Put on your big girl panties and deal with it. Yes, I cringe at that word but I push on! My mom and I adopted that phrase a few years ago. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. Suck it up. Get your hands dirty. Don’t sit around and wait for someone else to do it for you. And trust me, the satisfaction you’ll have after succeeding is well worth it.

3. Accept what makes you unique and embrace it. Because everybody has some weird in them. And it’s awesome. I’m an only child, I secretly want to be a broadway star, a mom and a pastry chef all at the same time,  I care about people too much, I have a short leg, I’m obsessed with my cats and I dance awkwardly all the time. You’re turn, go!

4. Trust your own decisions. Last year I bought a house on the spot. ON THE SPOT after looking at it for 10 minutes. Was that crazy? Perhaps. But was it my decision? Sure was. Trust yourself. You know what’s best for you.

5. Love yourself enough to be ok with you. This goes along with #3. Nothing gets under my skin more than a person who can’t recognize how amazing they are. We have been programmed in our culture to be self-critical. We get put up against impossible expectations. Are you great at everything? NO! But are you good at something? YES. Build on your strengths. Be competent in your weaknesses, but don’t count yourself out because of them. One of my favorite quotes…

6. Be confident enough to show your flaws. You know what? People will love you more because of them. Take that mask off right now and be real and vulnerable. (I know it’s hard.)

7. Allow yourself to fail. And after that, allow yourself a night of bawling into your pillow and eating a lot of chocolate in between sobs and thinking life is never going to be more than it is in this exact moment. Then, pull it together, put on some mascara , lipstick and some kick-ass heels and start a plan to fix it. Trust me, you’ll always come up with a better plan in heels.

8. Decide whose opinions matter. This is an important filter to discover. Everyone is going to have an opinion for you. And you’ll drive yourself absolutely insane if you try to appease all of them. Create an inner-circle; those people who you trust and know you can rely on. Listen to their voices. Use them as a compass. Identify those people who just like to give their two cents and those who actually have your best interest at heart when they speak. Listen to the latter.

9. Identify a difference between need and want. Be the girl who can be confident in herself on her own. Sit in a quiet room and learn to be content with your own silence and your own thoughts (it’s not easy!) Be the girl who wants a great guy to take her out to dinner but is perfectly ok taking herself out if he can’t be found. Be strong enough to want people in your life but not need them in order to find self-worth. Other people should enhance you, not complete you. It is an extremely powerful thing to be comfortable relying on yourself.

10. Don’t be afraid to love. It’s a fact of life, people will disappoint you. We’re human. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t love them with everything you have inside you. You’re never going to find anything more fulfilling than caring about those around you. Take a chance. People are so fascinating. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience that.

11. Smile because you’re worth it. Taking a note from L’Oreal Paris. Smile. Right now. Go take a good, long look in the mirror and be happy with the person staring back at you. You’re not perfect (guess what, ME EITHER!) You make mistakes. You fail. You hurt feelings. You get your feelings hurt. Give yourself some grace. Give other people some grace. Recognize that you are a human and that everyday is going to be an education in life. Don’t take it too seriously. Something is always going to go wrong and that’s ok. As long as you are willing to get back up and keep moving forward, you’ve succeeded.

Now, do I really think I have this all figured out? Nah. Do I think I ever will? Nope. But I am happy to share what I’ve learned in my few, short years. After all, I had people do the same for me. Without them, I wouldn’t have made it this far.

Happy day, lovelies. Go out and be strong today. I love you.