A big issue with the modern iteration of “body positivity” that we need to address.Read More
If you've ever felt like you need to get in shape before you join a gym, if you feel disappointed that you "only" did the scaled weight, if you're constantly in your own head or if you feel like all eyes are on you, judging your athleticism, body, fitness or life choices when you're in the gym, this post is for you.Read More
Social media sucks sometimes. Like, a lot. I mean yes it's amazing in so many ways (we wouldn't be able to connect if it weren't for social media, btw), but I think we're all familiar with how quickly it can turn to awesome to... awful.
It can be a struggle on lots of different levels. As a business owner, it's beyond frustrating to not have your audience actually see the content your working your buns off to create. It can be hard when you see the work you poured your heart and soul and endless hours into, launch to crickets; while a random meme or silly post gets a million likes and shares. And between me and you, it can also be disheartening to see other pages grow to hundreds of thousands of followers while they put out butt photos paired with "inspirational quotes", or don't offer real value in any way, while the pages who are working hard on thoughtful content get left in the dust. It's pretty tough to not play the comparison game, even a little.
It's also no secret to anyone that scrolling is a total time suck. I read recently that we check our phones upwards of 150 times a day. A DAY! What we're always looking for in there, I don't know. But I do know that the more we scroll, the less connected we actually feel to real humans in our real life.
And then, there's the actual news in our news feeds. Lately, we have just been inundated with awful story after terrible story after heartbreaking news, and it often leaves us feeling angry, sad, frustrated, or worse: ambivalent.
I've spent some time talking about social media struggles before, and most recently on this dichotomy of identity: how social media allows us to find our tribe (which is amazing), but how it also tend to split things into black and white. You're either on this side or that side, and there's no room for the actual nuance of the human experience. Let alone, calm, respectful conversation.
I've been really feeling the pull of all of this negativity lately and so I wanted to share some tips with you (and also to remind myself, let's be real) about how to get out of the social media suckfest when it starts taking hold.
1. Set boundaries. (If you have #fomo, remember social media will always be there, and you're not seeing posts in real time anymore anyway, so what are you really missing?) Some ideas:
- Turn off all notifications so that you're not pulled in by every ping all day long. Decide on check in times throughout the day and stick to them.
- Leave your phone at home/in your car while you're in the gym.
- No screens in the bedroom.
- Leave your phone in your purse and put it in the backseat while driving.
- Designate check in times and/or no-phone-allowed times and honor them.
2. Unfollow. You're in control of what media you consume (for the most part). While it's always great to be exposed to people with different views, in order to have thoughtful conversations that expand our horizons and get us out of what can definitely be an echo chamber at times, there's a fine line between positively challenging concepts and dialogues, and pure garbage that does. not. serve you. I challenge you to go into your feed right now and unfollow 10 people who leave you feeling defeated or less than, every time. Be selective and find the people who lift you up, push you forward, and make you feel empowered to take action IRL.
3. Focus on you. Ever notice how you're more susceptible to feeling insecure about something, when it's something you're insecure about? If you're getting sucked into the comparison game, whether that's in business, body, success or other areas, it's time to help these insecurities in a real way. (Not seeing what everyone else is doing about them). Get in touch with and support yourself with these strategies:
- Read. Replace your scrolling time with self improvement time. How can you get more in touch with yourself? How can you improve your relationships with those around you? What do you want to learn more about? How can you be a bigger, more complex human? Some of my favorite books to create positive growth are The Happiness Project and Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin, Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, and Loving What Is by Byron Katie.
- Move. Physical activity does so much (duh), but the rush of endorphins can often be enough to snap you out of funk all on it's own. Find something that is challenging or zen enough so that you are forced to be in the moment and let everything else fall away around you. Focus in on how your body feels in these moments, and be grateful you have this ability.
- Create. What wells of creativity can you tap into? Do you love to cook, write, paint, take photos? (And if this sends you into a comparison game all on it's own, I encourage you to go back to step 1 and read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and/or Daring Greatly. Share your magic with the world, it needs it more than ever.
- Hang IRL. Social media is slippery little minx because it gives us this illusion of connectivity but without any of the real benefits. Humans need social connection; we are just wired this way. If you're slacking on the in-real-life connection time with your friends, your partner, your mom, or literally anyone who you love and who supports you, it's time to pick up the phone and make a date to make that happen. (Or literally just talk on the phone. It's better than scrolling, I promise). Bonus points if you hang outside somewhere. Go for a walk, get some sun, get in the nature. Small acts of kindness for others IRL can go a long way in spreading good vibes and helping you feel better, simultaneously.
- Ask for help. No matter what's bringing you down (the news, your own feelings about things, or anything else), you don't have to go it alone. As Melissa Hartwig says, when you have moments of courage, tell on yourself. Meaning, share your feelings with a friend, because shame cannot survive being spoken. Don't be afraid to speak up or have a difficult conversation.
4. Take action. While focusing on you is always a noble endeavor, it can help to get outside of ourselves and minds and actually DO something. If you are looking for motivation, put the fucking phone down (your motivation isn't in there, no matter what #motivationmonday might have you believe). Motivation comes from taking action, NOT the other way around. What's one small thing you can do RIGHT NOW that will be a small step in the direction you want to go or make an impact on what's important to you? It doesn't need to be a sweeping overhaul, it can be one. tiny. step. Just do something.
5. Shut it down. Now I realize that for those of us who run an online business, this isn't always possible. You can't just shut off your phone for 2 weeks at any given moment. But, there might be some ways to create workarounds. Due to the scheduling feature that every app (except for IG) has, you can spend some extra time up front getting a bunch of your posts ready to go, so that you can carve out a whole day or a whole weekend where you don't log in even once. And if you have the ability to do this at any given time, try it. I deleted Instagram off my phone for a week this summer and it was the most incredible thing I could have done for my mental health. I wrote all about it here.
6. Share your light. If you're feeling overwhelmed by the stuff you're seeing in the news, know that it's ok to feel sadness or grief or anger. Let these feelings sit with you and embrace them. Then, decide how you want to move forward. My best suggestion is this:
- Channel that energy and create something. Put your voice out there, connect with someone else, share your story, spread your magic. It might seem insignificant, but it's not. The world needs you right now.
- Get involved. Similar to #5, but in a more community focused way. Take action in a way that matters to you. Donate money, or better yet, time, or find a way to help make an impact. The little things go a long way, so don't be discouraged that you're just one person. Again, the world needs you right now.
And above all else, remember this:
What you see in your feed is the polished, edited, filtered, best-of, highlight reel. Do not compare your behind the scenes to everyone else's highlight reel. It might look like they have their shit together and figured out, but let me tell you right now: no one has their shit together. We are all just figuring it out as we go. Have patience with yourself.
And most importantly, your worth as a woman, entrepreneur, mom, exerciser, and overall human being does not lie in your likes per photo or your follower count. Remember what's important in this world and let the numbers go.
Social media can be an incredible thing, and it can (and has!) done so much good. Try to remember to use it as a tool to help better the world and yourself, and don't let the rest get you down.
It’s no surprise to anyone that the health and fitness world is one with LOTS of noise. The problems in this industry range far and wide, from old science and just BAD information, to assaulting you with you with “shoulds” every minute of every day, to preying on your own insecurities to make you feel guilty or ashamed of your body or your lifestyle. As such, there’s A LOT of things I could rant on here (and I tend to address some of these points in most of my posts here on this blog), but today I wanted to focus on the following four, as these misconceptions can leave us feeling broken, hungry, frustrated or, at worst, sick. And notably, all of these are coming from industry leaders.
Because even as most of us become more knowledgable, more confident, and more aware of the fitness and nutrition industry nonsense machine, a few messages still seem to be getting through that I wish my readers (and everyone!) would stop believing.
And of course, all of these could be their own post (or book!), so I’m touching on the most important points briefly. You ready? Here goes.
#1: EAT LESS, MOVE MORE
This one can be confusing, because not only is it age old advice that we’ve all heard in some capacity a million times over from doctors and nutritionists and magazines and even our coaches or trainers, but it CAN actually work for some people.
For some folks, all they need to do to change their health, body and life is to begin to move more, and mind what they're eating; usually dropping their daily caloric intake and going for a run. These people are usually severely overweight, untrained, sedentary, or otherwise totally new to their own health journey. As such, this advice can be impactful for this population, at least for some period of time.
However, if you have been training for a while, are a regular exerciser or a regular intense exerciser (hello, CrossFitters!), this strategy simply does not work. At some point, being on a severe caloric deficit actually begins to work AGAINST you, and if you’re trying to fix it by training even more and eating even less, you will not only feel it in the gym and in your overall energy levels, but you'll probably see it on your waistline too.
The path to a hard body, a healthy gut and a happy mind is paved with smart training and sufficient fuel. Not lettuce for dinner and 3 hours of cardio. In fact, spending hours on end at low or moderate intensity (jogging, etc) can also be working against you. Want to get lean and strong? Ditch the cardio and pick up the weights. And eat to support your training.
Eating more can be a scary thing for a lot of women, because the industry has told us it's wrong or bad. The best place to start to ensure you’re eating enough to support your muscle, fat loss efforts, energy levels and overall health and well being? Enough carbs and adequate protein. (And no, I don’t just mean 2 eggs for breakfast and a yogurt snack pack). This leads us into myth #2.
More reading on this topic:
#2: YOUR BODY CAN ONLY ABSORB 20-30G OF PROTEIN PER SITTING
Years and years ago, there used to be a concept swirling around in the nutrition world that said that a human body can only absorb 20-30g of protein in one sitting, and all protein consumed beyond this point would either go to waste or be stored as fat. These days, this is widely understood to be a myth (any quick Google could tell you that— this topic is WELL researched, with many definitive studies), but yet I STILL see it being perpetuated in some circles. This can be especially misleading and confusing for those who are trying their darnedest to up their protein intake and properly address myth #1. You're eating too much, you need to eat more. You need more protein, you're eating too much protein.. So, let’s talk.
First of all we need to remember that protein does a hell of a lot more than just support our gainz. Studies have shown that 20-30g of protein seems to be the amount that tends to be used towards protein synthesis, or muscle repair and building, and about how much we absorb at any given time. But just because we don't absorb it ALL AT ONCE doesn't mean it doesn't eventually get absorbed and used! Our body’s use for protein does not begin and end with muscle building. And most studies on this topic have shown that upward of 90% of the protein you eat, eventually gets absorbed and gets put to good use in one way or another.
(But on the topic of muscle building, studies on intermittent fasting and protein consumption have shown that consuming an entire day’s worth of protein in a short window did not negatively impact muscle retention and growth, which further shows us that protein absorption was not hindered by high intake all at once).
And evolutionarily speaking, how could that really make sense? When our primal ancestors hunted and feasted on a rare animal protein, do you think their bodies simply stopped absorbing more than a neat little 3 oz serving at one time? Um, no. As Mark Sisson puts it, "Digestion takes a long time, and it’s not a segmented procession of different meals through the gastrointestinal tract. Food isn’t separated into 'meals' in your stomach. It’s just all food, all mashed together. If you still have breakfast in your stomach when your lunch enters the picture, lunch and breakfast will meet and mingle."
Now, I will say there's a variability element to consider here. For example, a petite, 5’ 2” 100 pound sedentary woman might not absorb and utilize the exact same amount as a 250 lb, 6’ 4” strongman competitor or linebacker, because your body will absorb and use what it NEEDS— it doesn’t just stop at some arbitrary number or "meal". (And how much do you really need? That's a huge source of confusion, too. But no. it's NOT the RDA, and no, you're not getting enough. Read this & the links below).
Other factors, like your protein sources and your body’s levels of micronutrients like zinc (along with anti-nutrients like lectin and phytate) also play a role in absorption. And wild excess CAN start to work against some bodies at some point, just like anything else (we’re talking WILD excess though).
The research and science is clear here. So can we put this myth to rest already? Your body will use ANY amount of protein you feed it in a sitting, somehow, someway, so always be sure you're getting enough.
Read more on this topic:
#3: PLANT BASED IS THE HEALTHIEST DIET
So I do want to preface this section with this: I am a firm supporter of the Do You Boo system. Meaning, if plant based makes you feel fucking radiant, then do it. I also realize that some people choose this eating style for a variety of reasons, like simple taste or texture preference, and I understand that. This is mostly for those who feel like they NEED to be plant based in order to be healthier.
If you are opting to go without any animal products (or animal protein) simply based on the claim that this is the superior diet for ultimate health, I encourage you do some more reading on this topic.
(And there’s no denying the health benefits of plants here— I’m NOT suggesting you stop eating veggies! We must make sure we are getting adequate greens and micronutrients in a large variety and volume on a daily basis for our health, period. But if we stop there, we are coming up short.)
Because there's SO MUCH to unpack in this topic, and the rabbit holes run DEEP down every single argument to this claim, I decided to just offer some extra reading for you here, if you're interested. Again, do what makes YOU feel BEST.
But I do want to say this, as it builds off out last 2 myths: If you are attempting to sustain yourself on solely plant based protein sources, man alive have you got your work cut out for you. Adding hemp seeds to your salad just isn’t going to cut it. If getting TRUE adequate protein while eating chicken breast and steak is a lot of work, can you image how hard it is to get there with seeds and grains alone? (Which, btw, aren't protein sources, they are fat and carb sources, respectively, with a little protein).
And while there are some legit plant based protein sources, most of the popular ones actually work against internal health: namely things like soy, grains and legumes.
There is no one diet that is perfect for everyone and I encourage you to experiment with everything to find what works for you, but if you're feeling pressure and think "plant based is the only route to health", you need to know that this concept is simply false.
Read more on this topic:
Also see: any book from my favorites shop
#4: NO PAIN, NO GAIN. WHAT'S A "REST DAY"?
Lastly, we have another popular belief that drives me crazy to see, especially as a coach! Closely related to the first myth, "move more, eat less", this idea that you have to push your body to it’s absolute limits to either see results, be healthy or fit, or that rest days are for the weak, is not only misleading and wrong, but downright dangerous.
More is NOT better. The concept of “minimal effective dose” is an important one to keep in mind when it comes to intense exercise. Meaning, while movement and pushing your limits is great for your body and mind and health, it can absolutely be taken too far. Getting in the minimum effective dose (one that brings you fitness and health and mental clarity and makes you better) is essential, but taking it beyond that starts to erode a few very important systems-- and ultimately, your health.
Because at the end of the day, what your body sees this as, is STRESS. Your body doesn’t know the difference between stress from work, from that fight with your partner, from that one rep max back squat, from that epic to do list, and that half marathon you ran last weekend. It all gets processed the same.
This doesn’t just make us feel tired-- it actually sets off a “cascade of biochemical responses that can cause serious damage to one’s health in both the short and long term”, as Chris Kresser puts it.
This idea of bragging about “no rest days” or pushing our bodies so hard we get ill makes me CRINGE. It is not cool, not “hard core” or disciplined or impressive, and most certainly not a healthy relationship to exercise. If you are feeling like you are addicted to your training (or stimulus); if you struggle to take a rest day; if you're training like a pro but you're not a pro; if the thought of going a week or 2 months without your exercise of choice sends you into a panic; then you really need to take a long, hard look here.
Movement is so important to health, and I believe firmly in the benefits of a tough, physical challenge and regular exercise. But there's a fine line between training hard and overtraining, or even exercise addiction. How many rest days are you taking and how often (not "active recovery"). How much and how well are you sleeping? Are you allowing for quieter seasons or pushing hard 24/7?
It's important to know the distinction between pushing hard and muscle burn/fatigue, vs a real injury or pushing too far to stay safe and illness/injury free. And you must be recovering JUST as hard as you're training if you intend to see any lasting results from your hard work.
And it's always a good idea to take an honest look at our relationship to exercise, and ask ourselves if it's truly serving us with how we are using it.
More reading on this topic:
TO SUM UP:
Ditch the hamster wheel and pick up some weights. Eat! Be sure you're getting enough fuel to support your training and build strong bones and lean muscles, especially protein. And yes your body will absorb and use it all, so don't skimp. Don’t be pressured into thinking that plant based is superior to omnivorous diets-- while it's not for everyone, eating high quality animal products and protein IS part of a healthy diet. Train with intensity, not intense volume, and be sure it’s fun. Four hours of cardio every day is not effective and likely woking against you in myriad ways. Rest and recovery is JUST as important as your exercise, and should come at a 1:1 ratio. And, don't fear the slower seasons. More isn't better. Better is better.
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Yea, that’s right. UNFUCKWITHABLE. Otherwise known as: Unshakeable. Confident. Resilient. Unbothered by the opinion of others. Ambitious. Fierce. Happy in your skin. Self reliant. Self assured. Unapologetically you. True to yourself in every badass way. Living the life you’ve always wanted. Basically, the Beyonce of your own life.
How does one become an unfuckwithable woman, you ask? In these 5 easy steps.
1. FIND YOUR STRENGTH
More often than not, finding your physical strength acts as a catalyst for finding your internal strength. Getting the opportunity to put value in your body’s function rather than form can be a life altering experience for most women. The legs that you hide in warm weather because of lumps and bumps take on a whole new meaning when they are deadlifting twice your bodyweight, running you across a finish line, or jumping you into a feeling of accomplishment in the gym. Your broad shoulders that you cover in tee shirts become precious assets when they are pulling your body up over a bar, busting out push ups like you never thought possible, or stabilizing an impressive handstand hold.
While everyone’s flavor of sport varies (#doyou), something must be said for the magic that happens when a woman picks up a barbell. It’s like she immediately rebels against the society that is asking her to be smaller, daintier, quieter, and is instead intent on being bigger, louder and stronger. This act in itself can set off a domino effect of badassery, making you immediately one step closer to being unfuckwithable.
Move. Push your limits. Get strong. Challenge your body and blow your own damn mind.
2. TAP INTO YOUR POWER
Too often in life we walk around feeling like we’re the victim of bad circumstance and we just throw our hands up in resignation and say there’s nothing we can do about it. That shit is a cop out, and you can’t be unfuckwithable if you’re living in a victim mentality, period. It’s time for us to make an important distinction. Take a close look around every corner of your life. Everything will fall squarely into one of two categories: the things we can change, and the things we cannot. And if you’re honest with yourself, the things in the Can Change bucket is probably upwards of 90% of what you’re looking at.
We do not give ourselves enough credit for the control we have over our own lives. And the place that control is hiding? Your mindset. You’ve got more power sitting in your own damn mind than you could ever realize, and we’ve got to tap into that well. Don’t like your job? Quit. Don’t like your neighborhood? Move. Don’t like how your clothes fit? Do something about it. Don't like your mood? Change it.
Some changes require more work (and risk-- we'll get to that in a minute) than others, but don’t let the excuses and overwhelm confuse anything here: your life is up to you. And only you. No one else is going to make a change for you, so take responsibility and step the fuck up. And don’t be scared, because it’s the most liberating feeling you could possibly hope for. This is where confidence gets born. Oh and those things you can’t change? Stop fighting with them and embrace them. There’s power there, too.
Own your choices. Take the wheel. Step up to the plate of your own life. Feel the rush that comes when you finally tap into your internal power.
3. KNOW WHO YOU ARE
You might think I’m full of it to sit here and recommend you spending time in the self help corner of your local bookstore, but the wealth of knowledge you will find there is unparalleled. Doing research into who you are can have one of the biggest payoffs in not only your relationship with yourself, but your relationship with those around you: from your mailman to your colleagues to your partner.
How do you respond to conflict? Expectations? Rules? Set backs? Being told no? Do you know the difference between what you actually love doing and what you think you should love doing? How do you show love? How do you tackle to-do lists and deadlines and big scary goals? How do you cope with stress? How do you react to challenge, curiosity, control? How about competition or recognition? Are you intrinsically or externally motivated? Are you drained or renewed by alone time? I could go on. (The Queen of Kingdom Know Thyself, IMO, is Gretchen Rubin, and her books can be an excellent starting place.)
You might just find that you've been more focused on trying to be who you think you should be than who you truly are. No matter what you discover, it's a goldmine.
Research your own damn self. Take every quiz (The Four Tendencies, Myers Briggs, Strengths Finder, Love Language, zodiac, whatever!), read every book, be honest with your introspection. This data is invaluable and can change everything in your ability to enact change, pursue goals, and build an unfuckwithable life.
Closely related and worth noting: know who the people around you are. They impact you in big ways, and as Maya Angelou once said, “when someone shows you who they are, believe them”. In other words, know who’s worth your precious time & energy, and vet your inner circle with care.
4. STOP APOLOGIZING FOR ALL OF THE ABOVE
Have you ever stopped to count the amount of times you say the word “sorry” on any given day, for any given reason? The average woman is apologizing for everything, all the time: for reaching for the same thing at the same time as someone else, for not hearing someone when they’re mumbling, for being bumped INTO (wtf?), for speaking up, for having an opinion, for taking up space, for existing. Can we fucking stop apologizing already?
Not only do we NOT need to apologize for the awkward moments in our day that do not warrant an apology by ANY stretch, but it’s time to stop issuing apologies for our strength, for our bodies, for our internal power, for our intelligence, for our ambition, and for knowing who we are. Stop apologizing for living the life you want, and stop handing out your precious fucks to things that don't deserve them-- save them instead for what truly matters. Bending your life over backwards to accommodate someone else's idea of success, beauty, or happiness is no way to live. Do you, unapologetically.
Anyone who takes issue with the stereotype you’re breaking, the status quo you’re ignoring, the rules you are rewriting, and the noise you are making along the way, is someone who should be schooled, not apologized to. Believe that.
Own your voice. Take up space. Be proud of you. Stop. saying. sorry.
5. BET ON YOU
When it’s time to take a risk, make a change, go out on a limb, face a transition, or gamble on a decision, where are you putting your money? To be unfuckwithable, it’s got to be on YOU, every. damn. time.
Having faith in your ability to succeed, adapt, or ultimately make it through any sort of risk is paramount to an unfuckwithable life. Sure, the what-ifs can go on for days, and the consequences could be dire, and the loss could be great. You might fall. But, what if you fly? When it comes down to the wire and it’s time to take a leap, you’ve got to jump, and know that no matter where you land, you’re going to be fine (in fact you’ll probably be exactly where you need to be). There will always be a safety net to your leaps of faith, because YOU, my dear, are the net.
Trusting your gut and believing in yourself enough to take action can be scary at first, I’ll grant you that. If you’re not there yet, simply repeat steps 1-4 until you start to feel it. (Or read this great list of tips for getting out of your comfort zone). And when you feel it, you’ll know.
You’ll have a deep rooted confidence in who you are. You’ll feel empowered and know you can pursue anything you want in life, no matter how scary, daunting or risky. You'll listen less and less to the naysayers and the haters and more to your own mind and your own gut. You’ll understand that no matter what the outcome may be, and no matter what you may lose, you will never lose yourself, and that is your superpower.
You’ll be confident. You’ll be strong in every sense of the word. You’ll know what’s worth giving your fucks to and what should roll off your back. You’ll be a leader. You’ll have harnessed your power. You’ll be a force to be reckoned with. You will be unfuckwithable.
Did you know I literally made a whole course on this concept?! Wanna know how to embrace who you are and stop giving a fuck what other people think of you? Join me:
THE UNFUCKWITHABLE CROP IS HERE!
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Who are you?
You might be inclined to answer this with a list of your hobbies or day job: a weightlifter, a lawyer, a vegan, a runner, a teacher.
But what if instead, you answered this with qualities about yourself that are intrinsic? With things that cannot be taken away from you? After all, you may decide one day that you want to leave veganism. Or you get laid off from your job. Or you suffer an injury and cannot train in your sport. What happens then? What happens when the thing we sink our identity into is stripped from us?
Who are you then?
As marketing guru Seth Godin once spoke about in a TED talk, the internet has done incredible things when it comes to allowing people to find their people. Their community. Their tribe.
He says, “tribes are [now] everywhere. The internet was supposed to homogenize everyone by connecting us all, but instead what it’s allowed is silos of interest… People once on the fringes can find each other, connect and go somewhere.”
As someone who has a business in the digital space, and is working every day to build and foster an online community, I know this is true, and I am eternally grateful for the opportunities the internet has afforded me.
I think about the friendships I’ve made, the relationships I’ve built, and the way my own life has been shaped and impacted by things or people on the internet. It’s pretty remarkable stuff.
I thank my lucky stars every day that I am a part of such a supportive and welcoming community. And I’m forever grateful to the magic of the internet for allowing these niches, these little tribes, to exist, because they enhance our feeling of acceptance, belonging and purpose— which are all fundamental to not only our quality of life, but our health.
Last week I wrote about why I dropped the label of “paleo” when explaining to people how I currently personally eat. I was really surprised to see just how many of you resonated with this, and I loved chatting with so many of you about your own journey to find a label-less diet.
I can’t help but notice an interesting dichotomy. One where we are itching to embed ourselves in a community of likeminded people, to connect and deepen an area of our identity, and one where we are liberated by tossing out anything that could pin us onto one specific idea or premise.
So where are we supposed to land? How do we navigate the need to find our tribe but not let it define us? And in an age where the internet -- the good, the bad and the ugly-- reigns as king, how do we figure out who we are, without growing into a polarized, oversimplified, dogmatic and unbendable symbol of the things we identify with?
If we take an honest look, is there maybe an instance where our allegiance to a community, identity or ideology overrides who we actually are in our day to day lives? And whether we realize it or not, are we sinking our identity into and defining who we are by these constructs? Or are we really honoring our true selves?
In other words, are we practicing what we're preaching?
While I’m still figuring this out in my own life, and am quick to tell you that I certainly do not have all the answers, I think there’s a few ways we can begin to tackle this.
One is the pursuit of self knowledge and thoughtful introspection. We can do this a few ways, but my favorite way is reading (my favorite books are here). The more we can learn about ourselves and the way we respond to people, circumstances, expectations, rules, and set backs, the better off we are, in general.
The benefits of this include a better sense of how to improve our lives; how to create habits that stick, how to get ourselves to do hard things or face difficult situations, how to better connect with those around us. It also brings a sense of confidence and even power. After all, knowledge is power. The more we know, the more we can do with it.
We can take note of how we handle conflict, we can listen closely to the space between what someone is saying, and how we hear it. We can think about the ways in which we express ourselves, the ways in which our fears and insecurities show up, and the ways in which we empower and lift those around us.
We can collect the qualities about ourselves that live beyond a title, or Facebook group, or hobby.
The things like how we (really) support and connect with our friends and family, and those closest to us. How we (really) talk to and engage with those who don’t agree with us. Objectively tuning in to the lenses through which we view the world at large, and the small decisions we make every day.
The ways we use our voice, and the things we stand for. And the things we don't.
And in a time when social media and the internet as a whole is just a finger pointing screaming match, I think these pursuits hold even higher value.
The comfort and closeness of the ancient pursuit of connectedness is a worthwhile cause, and finding our tribe can fulfill us as humans in real, valuable ways, and can give us a sense of purpose.
But knowing who you are, outside of your job and your hobbies and your sport and your diet and your neighborhood and your Liked pages and anything that could be taken away from you at any given moment in time, is where the really important work happens.
Learning about these intrinsic qualities, even as they ebb and flow and grow and dissolve, is paramount. These are the pockets where we should be planting our precious self worth and our identity. These are the gardens where we should be watering and weeding and tending to. These are the qualities about ourselves that even though may evolve over time, cannot be stripped from us overnight. This is who we are.
If you aren’t thrilled with what you find under there, or it's difficult to sit with, or you're afraid what you're going to uncover? That's ok, and is part of the process; and I would argue where your energy to strengthen and improve yourself should go-- first.
And if your answers are just a pile of contradictions or you still aren’t quite sure, thats ok, too. In fact, that’s my whole point. Because we are nuanced, and multi layered and difficult to understand sometimes— difficult to define, to pin, to label, to throw into one camp or put into one box.
This is where we figure out how to become bigger, better, stronger, fuller, and ultimately happier humans. This is also where the rubber meets the road with our purpose.
Our ability to enact change on a bigger level, to make a mark and impact lives, to leave the world better than we found it, to see our life's purpose through -- it all begins with us.
Yes, our tribes and our communities are certainly a facet of who we are, and it’s a beautiful thing to see and experience these connections be made. And yes, our external habits and hobbies and preferences are an important part of us, too. They make us interesting and diversified and smarter.
But when we shut out all the noise and lines and forums and labels and the social media, and you are alone with yourself in the dark...
Who are you?