How to Be More Authentic (And Be Cool With It)

vanessa-serpas-270252

How meta is it that being my authentic self means writing this crazy blog post and then posting it? Kind of amazing, right? I wish I could say this post came to me in a flash of inspiration but I honestly spent most of my time this week avoiding a post because coming up with good blog ideas is hard.

So here we are at AUTHENTICITY. Honoring our true selves is so freaking challenging in this world and I swear it gets more challenging everyday. We’re so “out there” now. Our lives are recorded on multiple platforms in multiple mediums and it opens us to be judged, and questioned, and hurt. Sure, it opens a lot of doors, but with open doors comes a lot of weirdos and jerks who can just walk right on into your life.

I am the closest to my most authentic self I’ve ever been. I want to say, so very badly too, that I am my most authentic self today, but if I’ve learned anything it’s that we’re never quite right about this. But the past year has felt like a giant puzzle piece has finally found its spot and locked in. And being a puzzle with a lot of its pieces in place is a freeing feeling. And very rewarding.

The best part about this huge piece falling into place is that it isn’t surprising. I DO know what I’ve done to get here. To get to this place where I feel like I am myself in all settings: At home, at work, on this blog, on social media, on my couch, with my family, in group texts. All of those Amandas are ONE Amanda. And if you were born one version of yourself, cool, you can probably stop reading and celebrate how freaking lucky you are! But if you are like me… If you have spent a lot of your life trying to navigate all the different “yous” looking for the one that feels most comfortable… then read on.

shuto-araki-279766
I am using stock from Unsplash.com of little kids because they are the definition of authentic.

Here’s What I Did/Do…Didgeridoo:

1. I Honor My Energy

I have spent a considerable amount of my life trying to be the upbeat, problem-solver, with good energy. And that’s because 80% of the time that is who I am. That’s me. The other 20% of the time is when I am sapped of energy, or sick of someone else’s bad energy, or sad, or hurt, or overwhelmed. These days I accept that I am not at my best during these times and I do not try to pretend that I have the wherewithal to be upbeat and helpful and energetic. It’s like plugging in a cellphone. I have to take that time to charge up and fix what’s wrong with me so I have the energy to be in my natural state of being which is saying “How can I help?” on repeat.

2.  I Honor My Feelings

I started telling people how much they mean to me. I started asking for equal love and time and attention from those people too. I work on both daily because these are particularly hard for me for some unknown reason (I’ve written like 50 essays trying to figure it out). I have found that the love I pour out of me is almost always matched by the wonderful humans I surround myself with. And if it isn’t enough or right, I stop it there. I am only here to share love for love. I was once someone who was embarrassed to tell someone that I love them, that they’ve changed my life, that I need them in my life. Now… I actually say it quite a bit. And it has only freed me further. (PS I love you guys!)

3. I Honor My Beauty

I cannot tell you how hard this one is. And I’m not just talking about your face or your body. I am talking about embracing what makes you special and what makes you happy. I prefer wearing slacks and loafers to work. I prefer sneakers to heels on the weekend. It’s just who I am. I started describing my sense of style as a Punk Ellen DeGeneres and giving it a title actually helped me embrace it. It took me a long time to negotiate my femininity with my desire to dress like a 12 year old boy. And I come up against this challenge more than you would think and I am always working through it. But I can tell you, by accepting that beauty is complex and unique to the individual, you can find what your true beauty is and aim your arrow at it. Also, anyone that feels the need to tease you for your preferences is locked in their own hell. Don’t get locked in too.

4. I Honor All That is Good in My Life

Negative thinking patterns are sooooooooo soooooooo easy to fall into. I am especially prone to them when I am busy or have a lot going on. I will have a party and trip and dinner coming up and think, “Ugh there’s so much going on…blah blah.” But if I stop and center myself and think “I am so thankful I have friends who want to eat meals with me, I am so grateful that I get to travel, I am so proud I am living the life I always wanted.” I remember that I chose these things, that I am lucky to have these things, and that without them I’d feel pretty empty. Being grateful isn’t a script. You have to see it and work at it.

5. I Let The Dead Things Go

Being upset and angry and really, downright enraged is okay. What’s not okay is harboring those things and letting them lead your life. Get good and mad and then find a solution. Get sad when someone leaves your life, and then find happy things to fill that space. Let. The. Dead. Shit. Go. It can’t serve you anymore.

6. I Honor My Future

I actually hate this one but I do it because it’s good for me. When I meditate… I totally meditate like 5 times a week you guys! Who am I?… One of my go-to mantras is “I will find my gift to give.” It gives me peace when I feel lost about the direction of my life. I use it when I have a bad day at work. When I feel like I am not doing enough. When I am wondering if I’ll actually publish anything worthwhile. It keeps the spiral at bay and keeps me working toward my goals.

7. I Honor My Place

Ever get impostor syndrome? Where you’re like… Why do these people like me? I can’t do my job properly? Why would someone love me? That’s some toxic shit and you gotta stop. Chances are you have a job because you’re pretty good at it. You have friends because they like you (or you have a yard… lol jk jk). You are awesome so stop pushing the good stuff away from you and hugging in the bad.

Well, this turned out to be a lot longer than I thought but I’m glad! I carry this stuff around with me all the time and feels good to store it somewhere and HOPEFULLY help someone. Once you start doing some of things, or one of these things, or half of one of these things you’ll start to notice a difference. And that difference will make you want to do more! Take it easy, don’t rush, and listen to the you that you like.

annie-spratt-42056

I’m Scared of Other Writers

Image result for stay at home club pins

It is inevitable that every time I sit down to outline new goals, go over the results of old goals, go through my planner, schedule my life, talk to people I trust, meditate–basically anytime I try to move my life forward– I hit the same roadblock.

I am flat-out scared of other writers. Fiction? Scary. Poets? Yep. Scary. Non-Fiction? Quaking in my (combat) boots. It’s been a problem since I can remember but I never actually turned around to look it square in the eyes and figure out why I have this problem or how I am possibly going to fix it. I just keep avoiding it. I forget about it. I find another way.

My whole life I’ve wanted to write, of course without any specific goals other than “pen to paper on the reg”. I’ve swung around like a deflated balloon in a tree. Trapped, once buoyant, sad to see. I worked on lit mag in high school but come college the idea of being surrounded by my better-than-thou peers sent me into a panic. I didn’t submit. I didn’t apply. I didn’t do anything. When my favorite authors came through town, as they always did because it was Iowa City, I’d have my books signed and say “Hey” but nothing more. I can’t speak to anyone I admire. Ask my boyfriend about the time I met Aaron Sanchez.

In the city I am always on the lookout for writing meet-ups, readings, places to meet people like me. But I don’t ever go. The dates come and go. I don’t meet anyone new, I don’t ask how to move this whole thing along. I just put my head down and write. I just avoid the problem. I avoid writers. I avoid the people who are most like me.

They should be my people. I should want to surround myself with writers like me, who I enjoy, who I respect, who I can grow with. But they scare me. I am certain they are all more talented than I am. Certain that if I put myself out there, I’ll be rejected immediately. That I’ll never find the right ones, you know, the writing people made for me. I’m exactly like your friend who refuses to date– there’s no one out there worth meeting.

And I know it’s wrong and yet I still do it. Never meeting anyone new. Avoiding other writers. Pretending that isolating myself from my own community is okay.

Image result for anti social club

It’s finally time I stop doing this to myself and set out and find my people. I don’t know where they are, these writers like me, but I intend to find them. One small event at a time. Maybe I’ll even speak to someone at these events. Who knows?

This week I wrote a couple posts on Reddit under r/writing. That was scary enough, but next week I’m going to post something to be critiqued. I’ll need a Valium for that. And in June I plan to go to a reading. I’ll need some wine for that.

The scary thing is that I’ve been avoiding other writers for almost my entire life and I’ve only just noticed it. There could be other things I am completely avoiding out of fear and not even know they are there. Is it possible we all have these weird things we lie to ourselves about? Things that scare us so deeply that we erase all memory of even ever being afraid?

How do we find them? And how do we go about getting rid of them?

I always end these blog posts asking questions and no one ever answers me. Are you all robots? Are you scared too? Tell me… now really tell me… What is something you actively avoid? It has to be something that is so scary your brain automatically deletes it as an option for your life.

Also… how are you going to plan on chasing it? If I am chasing mine, you gotta chase yours too.

Seriously, I Don’t Have a Gym Membership

I am well aware that there’s a lot of problems with this statement. Draft after draft of this post butt up against them and I kept trying to counter any argument that could be made and make sure I didn’t leave anyone out. Exhausting.

So… Disclaimers

1. I am not anti-gym. I love the gym! My mom just joined a gym and I am so proud of her! If you love the gym, please, go forth and get swole as hell and then come and tell me all about it. I am proud of you too!

2. I’m not asking people to give up their gym memberships and join me in some at-home workout cult or pyramid scheme. Or making some claim that you don’t need to work out and that eating chips on the couch is the best workout of my life. (But I do wish that was reality.) With this post, I want to share the strange encyclopedia of free and low cost workouts that I use daily to stay in the best shape of my life.

3. I am by no means jacked with a six pack you can rest a giant block of ice on and then break with an ice pick (I saw this once) but I am personally, in the best shape I have ever been–better than when I did have a gym membership.

me

So…What happened? 

I let my last gym membership fizzle out. I was transitioning from one phase of life to the next and I was honestly burnt out of the “lift heavy, run sometimes” mindset. I was low on dough and low on motivation. A terrible combo.

I decided the best solution was to give heavy lifting a rest (goodbye squat PRs) and focus on shorter workouts I could do from home. I needed to save time (so I could freelance to make extra income) and money (because again, rough times = broke). It sort of happened naturally and getting sick of the gym didn’t mean I was sick of working out.

To get started, I invested in a few key pieces–couple of dumbbells, a jump rope– and re-purposed others. I use a wooden storage box as a bench. I hang bands from door frames. I actually did box jumps on a couch once… And I did some research.

BTW, an added bonus to working out at home is zero excuses. I am really stubborn with time. I like to be able to do what I want, when I want. Having my home be my gym, instead of traveling to one, has been INCREDIBLE. It’s always open on my schedule and it’s there whenever I want… or don’t want.

me2

So… Here they are finally…

That was a really roundabout way for me to get where we are going. In the end I just want to give people proper tools to get fit at anytime, anywhere, on any budget. I think it’s so important to get your sweat on, and money is the last thing that should hold you back from being your best self! I am only including programs I have participated in.

There are many more I’ve researched, but these are my favorite resources. The workouts range from TOTALLY, HONEST-TO-GOODNESS FREE to Eh, There’s Some Cost Associated Here. Let’s begin…

FREE

Yoga With Adriene – Adriene goes to the top of my list because her videos aren’t just free, they’re amazing and life changing. (No BS!) I’ve never loved yoga, but went occasionally because I knew I should. Adriene’s funny, calm, sweet, forgiving, wonderful way taught me to have fun with yoga and to also be gentle with myself. I look forward to her videos and find myself doing yoga far more often. She has videos of all lengths and types.

Find Her: https://www.youtube.com/user/yogawithadriene

adriene

DoYogaWithMe – A second free yoga option is DoYogaWithMe because I feel like everyone needs to find their perfect instructor and though Adriene is mine, maybe she isn’t for you. DoYogaWithMe features a whole bunch of different yoga teachers with videos of all different kinds and lengths–all searchable.

Find Them: http://www.doyogawithme.com

Blogilates/Cassey Ho – If you’re a dude you’re probably thinking, “Oh Pilates, how hard can it be?” Freaking hard, dude, freaking HARD! To this day Casey’s videos remain some of the most challenging I’ve done. I even sometimes find myself yelling at her during the videos. But in the end, I love her. Everything on her YouTube page is free to use. If you fall in love she does have full programs you can buy as well. If you sign-up for her e-mail blasts you’ll gain access to her FREE monthly workout calendar that instructs you to use the YouTube videos in a structured and beneficial way. You don’t need to figure it out on your own! Plus, she just has a really good energy.

Find Her: https://www.youtube.com/user/blogilates

Betty Rocker – For a long time Betty was all I did. Morning, noon, night. She has an amazing band of followers whom I’ve bonded with via social media for YEARS. Literally, years! She hosts great challenges and is truly inspiring. Her recipes are amazing. If you like her freebies, she also has more complex routines available for purchase.

Find Her: https://www.youtube.com/user/TheBettyRocker

betty

Tone It Up – I’ve switched it up and done Tone It Up before as well. They fall lower on the list because some of their challenges are just far too intense for me. They have you working out a lot and doing A LOT of cardio. But, it’s a great way to mix up your routine if you feel stuck and in need of a good push. All of their workouts are FREE if you sign-up for their e-mail blasts. They tend to shill a lot of things to purchase (from meal plans to bikinis to towels) but if you’re just in it for the workouts, it’s well worth signing up. They have a good energy and an INSANE following.

Find Them: http://www.toneitup.com

Not-Free 

These programs aren’t free but in the long run, fairly reasonable to buy.

Hot & Healthy Habits – With a hashtag like #OMGNeverDietAgain, you have to love these ladies. I bought their 8 Week routine for something like… $12. It’s no longer available on their site but they’ve recently launched a FULL e-Course that focuses on not just workouts but healthy eating habits. NOT a diet. They’re workouts are perfect for doing at home and most can be done in 30 minutes (or less!)

Find them: http://www.hothealthyhabits.com/

AmandaA

Kayla Itsines – Omg omg omg. Where do I even begin with my love affair with the BBG? I love these workouts. They are TOUGH! I mean TOUGH! You have to be ready to sweat your ass off and WORK but they are amazing. Workout guide costs a little more than $50 but it is fully comprehensive and has been one of my go-tos for a couple of years now. (There is also a BBG2.) This routine taught me that yes– you can feel like you’re dying without a gym. I cycle back to Kayla still every few months to shred (and I mean SHRED) body fat. I have to cycle it in though because its so intense, I like to give my body other things to enjoy. Worth every penny.

Find her: https://www.kaylaitsines.com/

ZBody Fitness – No freakin’ joke. If you want to build a booty. Get thee to Zoe. I actually had to stop doing this for a time because I couldn’t fit my butt into my jeans anymore!! This is another one I need to pick back up for a good change of pace. If you follow her instructions exactly you will change your butt. It’s crazy effective. Book costs a little ($20) but it’s well worth it if you want to work on your butt 3x a week.

Find Her: https://www.instagram.com/zoelivelovelift

zoe

 

WHEW! And that’s it. These women are incredible and offer amazing services at low prices. They’ve managed to keep me in shape, happy, and totally, 100% on my own schedule– which my stubborn ass loves. 🙂

Never think you don’t have the time or money to be your best self. There are always options. You just have to look and work a little.

 

 

 

 

Self-Care for People Who Hate Self-Care

tumblr_oej3svnC9d1u1vc1xo1_1280
Photo courtesy of Motivational Tattoo Shop on ETSY!

In my last blog post I wrote about being nicer to myself and enjoying all the events and chaos I faced during the month of April. I tend to get worried that I am not “doing enough” or getting “stuff” done when in reality, I am doing quite a bit. Sometimes, it’s just not what I’d rather be doing; that’s ok because life happens and we cope. During and after that post I took some time to figure out what this super trendy thing called self-care meant to me. In a past life I would have found this kind of stuff sort of… *eye roll inducing** but I am totally into it now!

So if you’be been confused about (or a hater of) what self-care means too, join me, I am about to walk you through it!

WHAT IT’S NOT

Self-care isn’t just pampering… (though it could be).  Self-care doesn’t require you to spend a ton of money and self-care isn’t about being selfish. It isn’t about being lazy and it’s not about being self-centered.

 

WHAT IT IS

Self-care is all about giving yourself what you need. This doesn’t mean that you’re going to start ignoring the people you love, but maybe instead taking a night to enjoy your own company. It doesn’t mean blowing through your budget to buy a new leather jacket, but maybe instead finally going to the tailor to hem a pair of pants you bought months ago. Self-care isn’t letting dishes pile up for days and spilling milk and leaving it to spoil. It’s picking one day to relax and one day to tidy. It’s being kind to your time.

WHAT IT IS FOR ME

I took some time to just sit and think about what a) makes me happy but also b) what I need. Now what I need changes on a daily-weekly-monthly basis, but this is a good look at what I needed in April and what I need this spring.

…A manicure
…A weekend to myself, time to be filled however I choose
…To say no
…A cheeseburger
…A bath
…To skip a workout (or two or three)
…Organize my budget again

WHAT IT COULD BE FOR YOU

Take time to explore what you need and what you aren’t giving yourself. Here are some starters!

…Take a long walk without your phone
…Call your mom
…Clean out your bathroom cabinet
…Take a nap
…Watch Keeping up with the Kardashians #guiltypleasuremuch
…Organize the papers on your desk
…Read a magazine
…Stretch
…Read about something you don’t usually read about (science, sports, fashion)
…Take a free class online
…Buy some new tea and a new mug
…Bake something fabulous
…Have a burger and beer and don’t schedule an extra workout to “burn it off”
…Write a motivational note on your mirror
…Stop answering work e-mails after 7pm

The options for self-care are limitless and you don’t need a ton of money, or a really stunning Instagram feed, or lots of extra free days to start taking care of yourself. You can start today! Small things, even stopping to NOTICE the city around you, are the key here. Take care of yourself! You’re the only you we have!

(I sound so glowingly optimistic here… must be all the self-care.)

How do you perform self-care? What else can I add to my list?

 

Part of Writing Non-Fiction is Not Writing

averie-woodard-122274Spring has flung me across the country multiple times already and it’s only mid-April. I knew my work life and social life were both going to ramp up at the same time (showers, events, travel) but I didn’t realize just how much it was going to put my ever beloved writing life on hold. You don’t really know how much you love to stare at a blank screen, willing yourself to write something brilliant, until it’s ripped away from you for a couple of weeks. A couple of weeks can feel like a lifetime.

It was in a particularly bad moment, when I was spiralling about not writing enough, not writing ever, potentially never again (?!), that my boyfriend pointed out that part of being a writer is also living. And that is even more important for someone like me, who writes non-fiction. My stories are the stories that I have lived. My stories exist because I was not alone in front of a computer screen at every chance I had. They exist because I went on dates, and traveled with my friends, and broke some bones, and almost lost my brother. They exist because I was off living, not worrying about getting a certain essay completed.

When the travel calmed a bit, and I was able to see two beautiful weeks ahead of me with time to write, I came across a Self Care Challenge. 7 days worth of Self Care. A challenge to love ourselves and give ourselves the time we need. How freakin’ radical. It came at the perfect time because I was so frantic last week to get back to work on my essays and my poetry that I was willing to forego a much needed haircut, to lock myself up and get the work done. I was desperate to be left alone and work. I put every other single need– work, side gigs, writing, family, friends, dog– ahead of my own. I was willing to put myself at the very bottom of the list because that’s what I’ve always done. Seeing that so many people struggled with Self Care last week helped me to at least try and take care of myself too.

Outside of taking care of myself I have to remind myself that I am so very lucky to find myself traveling, visiting friends, having things to celebrate. Yes, it does take me away from my writing but in the end it is enriching my life with memories and lessons and inspirations that will ultimately help me when I do finally find those glorious couple of hours to sit and pen something. Why is it so hard for us to see what’s full in our lives? Why are we trained to always see lack? Almost every bucket of our lives could be full to the brim, but it is the one that is empty that we worry about. I am so guilty of this and it’s embarrassing to admit to the greater public.

But I am hoping there are others out there, that feel overwhelmed as well. Overwhelmed with not just life’s annoyances, but overwhelmed with goodness too. And maybe together we can find some tactics to stay grateful for a little bit longer. Live in our present a little bit more. And accept that we cannot be all things at all times and let each part of us (sister, girlfriend, employee, writer, friend, daughter, SELF) have their moments to shine, and let the others take a step back. The others are still awake, still learning lessons that can be applied in any situation.

It’s a painful cliche–but I have found that the older I get the more I understand these cliches–but life is meant to be lived. And even though figuring out how to do that with success is killing me (I will figure this out one day!) it still feels worth it. Remarkable.

Now tell me, how often do you forgive yourself for having a little fun? How often do you avoid something fun because of your work, your “dreams”, your diet? How do you find balance between all the yous there are, and when do you find time for self care? FILL ME IN!