Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby // 4 Ways To Be More Sex Positive

For the past few weeks, I’ve been feeling like I want to start having sex again. That’s right, I said it. 

It’s been about four months now since my breakup, and I haven’t had any partners in the meantime. I needed this time to focus on my own growth, get past the pain. But since I’ve moved out of the acceptance phase, I no longer feel an attachment, or guilt at the notion of being intimate with another person.

Recently, I’ve had the option to engage in sex again, but haven’t taken it. I wanted to speak with my therapist about it, and honestly – that’s something I have trouble with. I consider myself a pretty open person in general, but when it comes to sex, I tend to get uncomfortable. I’ve bought into the idea that sex is something you don’t talk about. While in therapy, I’ve made a conscious effort to venture past my comfort zones and that includes talking about sex. Awkward, bumbling and instantly embarrassed, I finally got the words out:

“I think I want to have sex again, but the idea of another man in my space makes me a little uncomfortable.” 

To which my therapist replied, “If you have hesitation, wait. Write about it, think on it. Sex is okay – it feels good.”

This was exactly what I needed to hear, and what prompted me to write this post. My therapist was so sex positive in that statement, and it inspired me to become more positive about my own pleasure.

Before I ever had sex, I always thought it would be with the love of my life. It would be this amazing, fantastic, super special event. In reality, it was with my first boyfriend and it wasn’t anything to write home about. I had held sex on such a pedestal my entire life (or as long as I had been aware sex existed) that my expectations were shattered. Eventually it got better, but the first boyfriend and I broke up down the line. It would be two more years until I ventured out again.

Honestly, the reason I waited so long was because of shame. As women, we get such a negative label attached to being sex positive, we are called names: 

Whore

Trashy

Slut

Naughty

Attention-seeking 

 

While men get names like fuck boy, women really have the brunt of the shaming. These puritanical ideas about sex, that having a lot of it is bad, nasty, and shameful, causes us to feel guilty for liking it.

But why? For years, I gave into what society whispered in my ear that I was shameful or “slutty,” for sleeping around, but no more.

I am a woman that knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to get it. 

I protect my body and practice safe sex, regardless of what men in the past have tried to “talk me into.” I know how to say no. Just because we enjoy sex, doesn’t mean we don’t have standards. Embrace your sexuality, don’t allow other projected ideas to hinder your experiences.

I wasn’t always this way, and I still struggle. Getting back into having sex two years ago was a challenge. I slept around, but I had literally never done that before. It started off very empowering – I was exploring my sexuality. But, after it stopped with one particular person, I sought it out in anyone, and that’s where the growth and empowerment ended.

I was seeking it out in random men, when I wasn’t in the mind frame to be engaging in that form of sexual activity anymore. Sleeping with random people is okay, if you are okay with it. I would leave feeling empty, unfulfilled and anxious. It wasn’t until a friend gave me some guidance, and my therapist told me that I was seeking validation in the wrong places, that I made a conscious effort to stop. Months later, my second boyfriend and I smacked into each other and 9 months later, here we are. Single and ready to mingle.

Being sex positive means engaging in open and honest communication. It means being accepting of all people’s consensual sexual lifestyles. It means breaking down the concept that one kind of sex practice is better than the other and building a community of people who respect each other and are thoughtful, rather than judgmental. Here are a few ways I’ve learned to become more sex positive:

 

Make room for the asexuals 

Having sex is healthy, but so is not having sex. Some people are asexual, which means they do not experience any sexual attraction. Close to 1% of the population identifies as asexual and while that may seem like a low statistic, it’s still human beings. People with hearts, souls and bodies who have a right to be respected. Others might be gray-sexual, which is a more fluid orientation between asexual and sexual. Not everyone is a completely sexual being, and sex isn’t always essential.

 

Consent is crucial

When there are two consenting adults, anything is possible. Respecting consent is an essential part of being sex positive. Everyone has the right to have sex – or not – on their own terms.

 

Say no to slut shaming

I’m sure you’ve heard someone call women who take birth control pills a slut before. While it’s unfortunate, slut shaming is still alive and well. I’ll admit it, I’ve participated in it as a young woman in my early 20’s. The word was very popular and people threw it around a lot. You were a slut for sleeping around, taking birth control, or even engaging in sexual behavior that wasn’t “the norm.”

Since close to 80% of American women take birth control, including myself, I guess we are all sluts. Whether it’s “feeling bad” for the women who work in pornography or saying that girl was “asking for it,” we must check ourselves before we shame people for voluntarily showing their sexuality.

Take the right and wrong out of being turned on 

So many of us are taught that sexuality is supposed to look a certain way. Instead of relying on porn, the media or what your friends like to do in the bedroom, focus on what you like. Write it down, delve deeper into your own mind, you might like what you find.

BDSM, fetishes, role-playing – all completely acceptable and okay when it’s among two consenting adults. Just because more unknown or unexplored sexual practices could turn you off, doesn’t mean they are wrong. This form of knee jerk reaction is what keeps people discriminated against and marginalized. Let’s respect and acknowledge everyone!

 

Having – or not having – sex is a healthy part of life. Sex can be a form of intimacy, linked to relationships and complex experiences, but there can also be many other forms of intimacy without the act of sex. Whether you do everything, or nothing at all, it’s important to keep ourselves in check when it comes to sex.

While you should never police others for their sexual activity, keeping track of what does or doesn’t make you comfortable is key. Questions like: What is this doing for me? How do I feel afterward? How is my sexual activity affecting other areas of my life like my anxiety/depression/ other mental illnesses?

When we ask these questions of ourselves, we are not only engaging in sex positive behavior, we are closer to being happy healthy sexual beings. So get out there and seek pleasure, but be respectful of others and aware of your actions.

 

 

 

Do you struggle with shame when it comes to sex? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 

 

 

Skin Deep // Linn

A secret shame for most people with mental illness, skin picking isn’t a disorder regularly talked about – until now. Picking her skin for as long as she can remember, Linn’s habit began innocently. Growing into a full forced act that seemed to calm her anxiety, it felt like something she needed to do.

Sharing her story of recovery piece by piece, Linn is constantly conquering dermatillomania. Opening up about her journey through Instagram, meet Linn and learn some tips on how she battles the body image challenges that come with skin picking. 

 

 

 

Wounds. Scabs. Loose skin. Spots. Blemishes. Imperfections. We all get them, and I’m willing to bet we’ve all picked them at some point. In itself, this isn’t a problem. However, if you – like me – feel the need to pick to ease uncomfortable feelings like anxiety, intrusive thoughts, stress etc, it becomes one. When you – like me – often don’t realize you’re picking until the damage is done, it’s a problem. When this leads to a vicious cycle of thoughts and an urge to pick even more, it’s definitely a problem. So why don’t I just stop? That, my friends, is where it becomes an issue.

I have been a picker for longer than I can remember. I guess it started as an innocent habit of picking at loose skin around my fingernails to smooth it out. Seems harmless enough, and it is – until it turns into a compulsive act – something you feel like you need to do. And why stop with loose skin when there are so many other imperfections to “sort out”?

I often catch myself picking, and often I don’t even realize I’m picking until someone snaps me out of it by telling me to stop. I zone out. I get into a trance-like state where my fingers wander over my skin on autopilot as if they’re searching for something to pick at. Despite the resulting damage, the picking does help ease the discomfort in my mind that triggered it in the first place.

It was only a few years ago that I found out there is a name for what I thought was just an anxious habit. Dermatillomania, skin picking disorder, excoriation disorder, compulsive skin picking – call it what you will, it’s not pretty. This is closely linked with anxiety and OCD, and for me, anxiety is definitely a big trigger. The truth is, there are a number of reasons why I do it. A perceived need for smooth, flawless skin, which is ironic considering the damage it causes. A need for control, which I don’t possess when I’m searching my skin for spots to pick. Relief from anxiety, which it does give me most times, but only until the regret kicks in. And on the cycle goes. With time however, I’ve gotten better at dealing with the aftermath of my picking. Most times I can forgive myself and move on but other times, I get extremely self-conscious and feel like everyone can see how broken my skin is, when in reality it might not even look that bad.

Thankfully, there is help for this condition, and there are things you can do if you struggle with skin picking. It’s taken me a long time to get to where I am now, but I would like to share some tips that help me.

I try to be mindful of where I put my hands when I’m bored or anxious. I sometimes use a fidget toy to keep my hands occupied instead of tracing my fingers over my skin. I also try to keep my nails short, but what I think helps me the most, is taking care of my skin. In all honesty, I was never that big on skincare and skincare routines until I was shown the benefits it can have. Cleansers, moisturizers, facial scrubs, masks – you name it, I’ve probably tried it. What this does for me is it makes me associate touching my skin (mainly my face) with something positive – something I do out of love rather than discontentment. It doesn’t always stop me picking but it does reduce it, and sometimes, that’s enough. After all, a small step forward is still a step forward.

 

 

 

Do you struggle with a skin picking disorder? Share your story in the comments below. 

3 Tips On Coping With Conflict

The idea of confrontation has always made me sick to my stomach. Up until very recently, I got incredibly anxious even considering someone didn’t like me or that I might have to engage in conflict – whether it was at work or in my personal life.

That was, until therapy came into the picture. Each day, I’m learning that anger is a healthy emotion when valid, and that it’s completely acceptable to stick up for yourself when you know the situation is wrong. Learning to argue in a healthy way is one of the main ingredients to this whole “adulting” thing, and everything from little fights with your partner to standing your ground at work fall into that category.

Doing anything to avoid confrontation is not only counterproductive, it can stunt your emotional growth. We’ve been conditioned to think that fighting is harmful, dangerous or exposes us as vulnerable to the negative emotions of others but in the endit’s really about owning our truth and standing our ground when someone enters to shift it.

In the past few months, I’ve dealt with a lot of conflict. While it can be emotionally draining, we must learn to stick up for ourselves. If you’re having trouble fighting the fear of confrontation, here are a few tips:

Respond, Don’t React 

I’ve had a lot of trouble with this. Whenever I feel attacked or cornered, the first instinct with my own anxiety is to get angry. That usually isn’t the best response, although anger can be a valid feeling.

Then there is a completely different knee-jerk reaction some people with anxiety experience. Fear. The intense feeling or need to hide, panic or even please them to make the conflict end. Fight the feeling – you are allowed to disagree with others. 

Deep breath. In and out. Focus on expressing a rational, direct and clear response – do not just react in fear. 

Getting to this place takes both practice and the right tools, so don’t beat yourself up if future conflict brings on an emotional reaction – even if you’re doing your best to avoid it.

 

Practice Saying No 

Oh boy, have I learned this. Perpetually a people pleaser, the word no wasn’t really in my vocabulary. With my own anxiety, I would avoid conflict and just agree or say yes because I was afraid of the other person leaving – abandonment. Particularly in a romantic relationship, I would appease the partner to stay away from bigger fights or getting emotional on my end, because then they would definitely leave, or so Anxiety Erica led me to believe. 

In my most recent relationship, I continued to grow and break the boundaries of conflict avoidance. Even though the relationship didn’t last, I am thankful that that specific partner respected and allowed me to get mad, to start a fight. I’ve never been comfortable with it due to my fear of abandonment, so I consider that to be growth – no matter the end result.

If saying no is something that’s on the more difficult side, start small. Whether you’re at the grocery store, a cafe, or movie theater, practice refusing. Take the baby steps and like repetition therapy, you will quickly learn that the world doesn’t end when you stand your ground. No one will yell at you, there won’t be any negative consequences – you’re allowed to say no. 

 

Know Your Value 

One of the main reasons conflict anxiety exists is from undervaluing ourselves. Especially at work, it can be hard to know we are in the right when a manager, coworker or any employee is directly engaging with you. With the normal instinct being to shrink and hide, we must firmly plant our feet on the ground and speak our truth.

Panic and fear have no place in conflict when we are clear and direct. It takes confidence, self worth, and a helluva lot of growth to reach the place where truth matters more than the negative consequences our anxiety creates, but once you get there, stay there – stay empowered. 

We are only our truth, it will set us free and keep us from any harm. If you know you are in the right, fight for that feeling.

 

Believe me, I know this takes time. This isn’t some snap of the fingers shit – practice makes perfect. In fact, the whole reason I wrote this post was because in my last therapy session, I spoke with my therapist on how I handled a confrontation in my life, and halfway through my story I noticed she had a look of approval on her face.

When I finished, she told me that she was proud of me. She said, just a little over a year ago, I would have handled a conflict exactly like that very differently. It would have been a series of hurt, anxiety, fear, and intense crying. And eventually appeasement. This time, I responded with a healthy combination of anger, authenticity, and owning my truth. I didn’t have any concern for the consequences that came after the confrontation, or a crippling fear of abandonment – I just looked to my truth. I’m proud of how far I’ve come, it’s a long journey to unlearn behaviors like these.

 

 

 

Do you have a fear of conflict or confrontation? Share how you handle it in the comments below! 

 

Post Therapy Thoughts // Finding My Fire

I won’t lie to you guys, it’s been a rough going for me lately. With life and my anxiety reaching an all-time high last week, I decided to take the long Labor Day weekend for some much-needed self care and rest. Boy, did I need it. 

I’ve always had a problem with stopping. Taking the time to reflect and knowing everything will be alright in the “in between.” Over the entire holiday, my anxiety was triggered with fearful thoughts.

 

What if your writing isn’t as good when you come back? 

What if no one cares anymore? 

What if you stop relating to others? 

 

Swirling around my mind like a toxic milkshake, these thoughts overwhelmed me – but only for a little while. Therapy has taught me to be mentally stronger, so I know how to combat these irrational thoughts. Speaking of my fantastic therapist, I was beyond ready to have my bi-weekly session today. Getting emotional even on the drive there, I knew I needed to pour out my feelings.

Starting off the session explaining my day to day triggers and stressors, the discussion eventually turned to the topic that has been giving me the most anxiety: writer’s block. 

One of the reasons I decided to take this pause from the blog was because I was completely drained. Barely making out the words, I was sobbing even at the thought of saying I couldn’t write for Anxiety Erica – it’s everything. Why I come home excited, how I heal through my words, a safe space.

With an almost saint-like grace and wisdom, it was like my therapist knew that was the root of my issues. Her immediate response was to make the most of “me” time.

Embrace the pause 

 

“We must learn to be okay with, and embrace, pause time.”

Learning to completely stop is something I’m not good at. I will go and go until I can’t anymore – and I found out exactly what that feels like this week. It’s essential to spend time within ourselves and nurture the passion we have, rekindle the fire.

Whether that means staying in bed most days powering through a Netflix marathon, being around family and close friends, or even getting outside on a hike – do what you need to feed your soul. Reclaim your motivation.

 

Master the art of compartmentalization 

 

Writing has always been something I live and breathe. Not only a passion, but a purpose. It has been a goal in the past few years to make it a career, and with my current position being a Copywriter – I would say I can check off that to-do on my list.

Unfortunately, once writing became a daily part of my position, it turned from a passion to a chore. Where I once wrote about things that gave me fire, connection to others and authenticity, I was becoming completely drained from the “work” aspect of an entirely different form of the written word.

While I cried on the couch, feeling hopeless and like nothing would help me find my fire again, my therapist said these words:

“Just like we have different types of friends, we have several forms of writing too.”

Then, it clicked. Through the art of compartmentalizing, I could cultivate my fire again. When obligation and timeframe wanders its way into writing, the passion can immediately be sucked out. In order to find my fire, I needed to categorize my creativity, like so:

Work writing 

The creativity surrounding the writing I do during the day, i.e. Copywriting duties, any writing involving my work or company.

Passion writing 

Authentic, vulnerable and emotional words that I write whenever I feel inspired or motivated in life. It is where my connection to others starts, and ultimately – it’s for pleasure. 

 

The motivation to get up each and every day and slice out a piece of your soul for the world to read is fucking hard. Most people don’t realize the extent to which writers will go for authenticity and sometimes, a break is needed.

I’m proud of myself for taking this time to pause and reflect because now that I’ve rested, I’m quickly gaining back the energy and inspiration to hold my heart in front of you all again – finding my fire and coming home with my own words. 

 

 

Do you have trouble with writer’s block? Share your own tips on combating it in the comments below! 

Post Therapy Thoughts // Drive Versus Fire

Therapy this week was seriously enlightening. We discussed several topics – from handling parent/child relationships as an adult to the characteristics of a healthy relationship in general – but the subject I really learned from in my hour session was the difference between having drive and fire. 

In the discussion on healthy relationships, my therapist and I got to talking about my past romantic relationships and reasons why they may have ended. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on this exact topic, and I’ve come to the conclusion that my fire is too strong for some people. And that’s not my burden to bear. 

In the past, I’ve always gone straight to the idea that the ending of a relationship – or friendship, hookup, what have you – was something I had done. It was in this therapy session, and the past few weeks, that a lightbulb switched on and I realized: it’s not me, it’s who I’m attracting. 

Here are a few things I learned this week on drive versus fire and how to have healthy relationships in the future:

 

Reflect on the vibes you send out 

For years, I’ve been attracted to a certain kind of partner. Confident, humble, quiet. Until now, I thought that was really what I wanted. But why? If anyone meets me for more than a few minutes, they will see the fire I have inside. I’m pure passion from my head to my heart – what you see is what you get. I’m loud, laughing, and I feel what I feel.

So, why am I dating more reserved people? Well, my therapist’s answer was that opposites attract, but sometimes it’s more than that. She went on to explain that I kept picking these people because that’s what I thought I should be more like. Quiet, reserved, not “too much.” In a way, my attraction to these kind of men was really just how I saw myself – I didn’t think I was good enough being authentic, so I thought dating different qualities than my own would change that deep insecurity. Spoiler alert: it didn’t.

It’s taken some distance from my last breakup and a hell of a lot of self reflection, therapy and growth to realize this. I finally love who I am and I want someone who not only loves that fire in me, but also shares the same passion. I deserve someone authentic, romantic, and emotionally mature.

 

Drive vs. Fire 

Now, you’re probably wondering: what’s the difference between drive and fire? While they may sound similar, they aren’t. To me – and my therapist – drive is pure motivation. While it can be a genuine attribute to have in your personality, it’s more technical. In the past, I’ve dated people with a lot of drive. At first, I mistook it for fire, but really it’s something that can take over every aspect of life. If you’re not careful, having too much drive can cause you to forget the little things along the way.

The difference is too much fire can only fuel the soul. Fire is passion. It’s part of my character, personality, and within my heart. Fire means that I don’t just feel a feeling and move on. Fire means I jump into every event of my life with two feet, one giant heart, and an overwhelming rush of love, hope, and courage. It’s how I know my worth, it’s why I’m here today – writing this blog. Motivation and drive are positive qualities to have, but fire is the reason they are even there to begin with.

I also thought being “too much” was a negative, and that I had to tone my personality down for men, but the more I love myself and nurture my worth – the more I realize that I’ll find that fire in other person if I don’t hold back.

It was from defining those two qualities that I feel so free. I feel like I can shed this insecure, toned down form of myself and step back into the world truly authentic. Is there anxiety about eventually getting back into the dating world? Absolutely. From here on out, I know that this pattern I’ve created will stay exactly where it belongs – in the past. Here’s to a future of fire. 

 

Do you feel like you have “too much” fire versus drive? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

3 Ways To Embrace Uncertainty

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase – the only certainty is that nothing is certain. In life, we come face to face with uncertainty on a daily basis. Whether it’s not knowing the outcome of a romantic relationship when it’s hit rocky terrain or feeling unsure about the stability of your job, the “not knowing” makes us uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable. 

But you know what comes from being uncomfortable? You guessed it – growth. Before I started my own journey with therapy, I had a very hard time with this. Uncertainty and change were swear words to me, I didn’t embrace the idea – I either ran from it or ruminated to the point of exhaustion.

Anything from not knowing the outcome of a job interview, test, paper, or even not hearing back from a person about plans made would send me into a toxic cycle of obsessive thoughts and crippling anxiety. It was only through speaking with my therapist that I’ve come to this realization: Uncertainty is a natural part of life…and it can be a positive. 

It’s all in how you think about it. Then again, that’s usually the case with most situations. Like I always say, how you think moment to moment matters. This is no different.

I think the hardest part about dealing with uncertainty is the attachment we give to any specific outcome. When an event or situation has a genuine significance to us, it’s almost a knee jerk reaction to get comfortable with one way things could turn out.

While many attempt to control or avoid it, let’s talk about some ways we can embrace uncertainty and learn to tolerate it.

Cut off the control

When things don’t go our way, or have the potential not to, what’s the first thing anxiety holds onto? Control.

Through uncertainty, we learn that control is tricky. While we cannot control the situation or others – how they react or feel to certain situations – we can control ourselves.

Take control of your language and the words, thoughts you use. Negative talk is not going to help you grow through an uncomfortable situation. Thinking thoughts like, “I’m just going to fail,” “This is killing me,” or “Worst day ever,” are just fueling your negative automatic thought spiral. Instead, get in the driver’s seat of your own mind. Control the questions you ask yourself:

“Why is this happening?” 

“How can this be a good thing?”

“What can I do – or think – to help my situation?”

 

This is known as cognitive restructuring – a very powerful way to get more comfortable with uncertainty. When we no longer blindly accept the automatic negative thoughts that have come so easily in the past, we are developing the skills to battle them.

Another example would be if the thought, “I can’t handle this uncertainty” goes through your mind, challenge it with “Uncertainty is less than ideal, but I accept it and I can handle whatever comes my way.”

Your inner monologue is really the only thing you can truly control in an event of uncertainty.

See the future as open, not empty 

When the unknowns in life are looming like a dark cloud, it can be so easy for our minds to go straight to the negative. Whether you are just graduating college and starting out in the “real” world, experiencing a breakup, or any other form of change you don’t have a handle on, do not allow yourself to see the future as a wasteland.

Interpret the future as open, not empty. While we may think worse case scenario, there are endless possibilities waiting in the unknown, and that is kind of exciting. From one door closing, or an event ending a chapter of your life, something bigger might be just around the corner – it’s all how you perceive it.

Get some extra support

Dealing with uncertainty is tough and while our normal support system can be comforting – sometimes you need a little extra help.

My own therapist has some great tools and mantras for me when uncertainty crowds my thoughts. She suggested repeating the Serenity Prayer to myself in times of high anxiety during change, or uncertainty. While I am not religious, when taken in an empowering way, this prayer can be helpful (this is a section of the prayer, not the entire thing):

“Grant me the serenity, to accept the things I cannot change. Courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.”

You can even write it down. Create a list of what you believe is in your control and take action with those activities, if you need to do something to ease your anxiety. Also, make a list of what you cannot control, and visualize yourself handing it off to whatever you deem a higher power – or just releasing it. It doesn’t have to be handing off. For me, I visualize writing the list and then just actively letting it go. Allowing it to float away, into the sky. It’s calming and empowering to let go. 

That extra support doesn’t always have to be a therapist though. While I lean on my therapist in trying times, I also have researched and found other, smaller ways to ease my anxiety. One of those is Simple Habit. A guided meditation app with exercises tailored for any kind of situation, I have a specific session I always find myself going back to when I’m high anxiety. It’s called Dealing With Failure and one of the mantras that they have you repeat goes like this:

“I do not have to be perfect and I learn from situations that have outcomes other than what I anticipated.” 

Whenever I find myself anxious from an outcome I didn’t envision, I repeat this to myself over and over again, until the reality of the statement overpowers my irrational thoughts. We can learn from uncertainty and change, if we chose to.

 

Uncertainty is inevitable. No matter how hard we may try, controlling it doesn’t work – and can even make our anxiety even worse. Change or “not knowing” isn’t necessarily a bad thing, or something to wish away. It’s merely calling on us to practice acceptance, learn healthy control, and let go of created expectations.

 

 

Do you struggle with uncertainty? Share your story in the comments below! 

 

Post Therapy Thoughts // How To Handle Bullies

It’s been a rough two weeks for me, but therapy always manages to make me feel validated and stronger than ever. Today was triggering for a number of reasons and the minute I sat down on that couch, I let it all out.

Several situations occurred today and over the weekend that led to a deeper discussion with my therapist on bullying. Emotional bullies are toxic – they want to hurt. 

When I got into more detail on the situation, my therapist began to describe the defining characteristics of what a bully normally looks like. Realizing that we can never actually win with a bully, she validated my hurt feelings and told me this:

“A bully has this blaring dynamic that whatever they do, they project onto others.”

Simply meaning, their own issues are unleashed onto others in the form of shame, anger, and guilt. Remember – hurt people hurt people. Here are a few other qualities to spot in a bully:

They insult character, not behavior 

This took a little explaining, but my therapist gave me an example. If someone insults your behavior, they would say something along the lines of, “You leave your clothes everywhere, it’s so annoying.” When someone insults your character, they would say, “You’re such a slob.” Spot the difference. 

They live for a reaction 

I’m sure you’ve been told this before, but bullies are fueled by a reaction. No matter the emotion – guilt, shame, fear, anger. They live for something, anything that results from the constant poking and engaging others.

My therapist went on to tell me that a bully is a lot like spaghetti – hang in there, it’ll make sense. They are messy – not unlike the pasta dish – and with each noodle they feed you, you must pick it up, see it, and simply put it back down. This can be equated to darts as well. They throw darts at you, but you must stop, see it, and not let it pierce you. Do not engage. 

Before we went into the tools on healthy ways to handle a bully, my therapist – once again – perfectly worded my own situation, and exactly the definition of someone with bullying tendencies:

“They try to get as many people as angry as they are so they can release that volatile anger in a justifiable way.”

Ding, ding ding! These words were like an alarm ringing so loudly in my mind. Not only did it validate my own feelings, I began to see things as they really were. I was a target. 

I happened to be a target, and when I no longer engaged, the bully found others to latch onto. Bullies don’t just invade your space. They invade your thoughts, your self worth, and your energy. We must not allow this. 

Stressing this section of the session as the highest importance, my therapist taught me a few tips on how to stick up to a bully, and keep your mental health a priority.

Disengage 

Disengaging is a healthy boundary for a bully. Like I previously stated, they live for a reaction, it fuels their fire. While most people might say it’s better to stick up for yourself or confront the bully, that’s not always the healthy decision.

It’s not cowardly to disengage or meant to be seen as shrinking – you are choosing not to give into the poking and there is a power in that. 

Establish boundaries

Having healthy boundaries is an essential part of so many relationships. Disengaging is a healthy boundary, as well as standing in your own truth. My therapist made up a mantra for me when I’m feeling the guilt and shame that can come with creating these boundaries:

I’m choosing not to be around you because you’re mean. 

While it might seem a little simple, that is my personal mantra based on my own experience. Modified, it can be helpful for any kind of situation you may find yourself in with a bully. Don’t beat yourself up for building boundaries – protect your heart.

Clarify your truth 

Bullies like to create stories. Big, grand stories that sometimes can be triggering for the person who actually experienced the truth. When we are confronted with exaggeration in a bully, it’s crucial to clarify our intentions and move on. Because in the end, we can only control our own reactions, not anyone else’s. Stand tall in your truth and you won’t need to react. 

Don’t believe the bully 

Wanna know how bullies thrive? By picking away at your self esteem. Something that you already view as a negative, or a flaw in yourself – they will find it and use that. Those unhealthy triggers linked to self worth, guilt, and confidence are waiting to be chipped and chipped until all that’s left is I’m not good enough. And when you reach that thought, they’ve won.

Please, please. Don’t give into that thought process and let a bully beat you down. Know your worth, and realize they are not living in reality. 

 

My therapist ended our session today by telling me that I deserve a trophy for effectively handling all the triggers that have come my way in the past few weeks. I won’t lie, I almost want to have that trophy made for myself. Jokes aside, I truly am proud of myself for how I’ve been handling these situations. Triggers are never easy, but with therapy and finding the right tools to navigate through them, I’ve been able to sit with my emotions and tell my anxiety to take a backseat.

I feel empowered. Right now, at this stage in my life I’m truly beginning to make decisions for me. My mental health. My heart. My emotions. My life. 

If you find yourself having to handle a bully – battle them with your truth. You are worth more than the words of someone weaker. 

 

 

Have you dealt with a bully before? Share your story in the comments below! 

Post Therapy Thoughts // Recognizing A Narcissist

When I got into therapy on Tuesday, it was a regular session. We discussed smaller triggers I had experienced throughout the two weeks, such as the fight about money with my father and even former hook-ups of mine starting to message me again, and not really being ready for that kind of male attention.

However, it wasn’t until I began to discuss a certain person in my life (who I am choosing not to name due to sensitivity) that the real discussion started. We’ll call her Sally. I had been in several fights with this person over the last month, and for me – it’s always difficult to handle.

I needed space, and Sally just hasn’t been able to respect that. Calling and texting me every single day, I would grow more and more anxious and angry at even the thought of picking up the phone. Writing a new blog post on money anxiety, Sally texted me with her opinion of what she read, and it was borderline emotionally abusive – according to my therapist. I was shamed for even having money troubles to begin with. Rather than seeing how much vulnerability it took to write the post, she focused on tearing me down. The relationship can be described as my therapist states,

“They pull you in with charm, only to slap you then kiss you.”

This is a narcissist.

Whether it’s a friend, partner, or even family member, narcissists can have a serious, negative impact on everyday life and relationships. We tend not to see narcissists in our lives until confronted with the cold, hard facts about their personalities. Sometimes, we are just too close to see, but once you do – it all becomes very clear. You stop feeling the shame and guilt, and start seeing that this is their problem, not yours.

After the session, my therapist emailed me a handout that helped me to better understand narcissistic behavior, and validated my experience all these years. The information below is loosely based off that handout by Elisabeth Caetano.

 

They’re likable, at first glance. 

Narcissists tend to be well versed in first impressions, coming across as personable and charismatic. In the beginning, all you see is the positive, but over the long term more and more negativity seeps through.

They always manage to make it about themselves.

While they engage initially, they always eventually turn the conversation around to talk about themselves, their accomplishments and achievements and typically don’t ask about you and your life or interests.

Not all stories are victorious ones. 

Narcissists often tell stories about themselves – sometimes even repeating the same story over and over again – and many times, the story will be surrounding an instance of personal heroism or an exploit. But, even when the story is something negative, it will never be the narcissist’s fault. There’s an air of entitlement in the victory story and victimization in the failure.

The key is seeing through the facade, as they never take responsibility for anything negative.

Appearance is everything. 

While they aren’t necessarily more attractive than other people, they do take care of their appearance and place an importance on looking good. This doesn’t just apply to physical, the emotional has to seem perfect all the time as well.

Making sure everyone knows how hard they work, how much they make money-wise, how much they have, and how deserving they are of it is essential.

They are hyper sensitive to criticism.

Fragility of the ego is paramount in narcissistic behavior. They simply cannot be wrong, or responsible, therefore – you cannot give them even constructive criticism without it turning into an argument.

With no ability to see themselves as less than, or flawed, they are almost delusional in their “truth” of who they are. It’s not your fault if you can’t help them see.

They love to make excuses. 

Tending to externalize blame, pinning the blame on everyone but themselves, narcissists are skilled at making excuses and not taking credit for mistakes.

They even tend to get extremely defensive and then go on the attack – sometimes in an aggressive manner – to prove it’s not their fault. This usually involves tearing others down to make their “point.”

They do not honor boundaries. 

This one I have experienced all too well. While this is more of an informational post helping others to understand when a narcissist might be in their lives – I still think back to my own situation. I have someone very close to me who fits the bill in most of these traits. While I love her, it’s incredibly hard to handle. She has always been problematic with this specific behavior.

Narcissists do not honor boundaries because they simply don’t believe it applies to them. That’s where the sense of entitlement comes back into play. Healthy emotional boundaries are essential for any relationship – especially for people suffering with mental illness. To disrespect that is toxic, inconsiderate, and potentially dangerous for another person.

It’s likely they have no clue they are a narcissist. 

With no real insight or ability to see themselves at that level, it’s likely they will never understand how their behavior effects the people around them.

Because they feel so superior and may even have some success, they’re unlikely to seek treatment. In itself, this issue is a double whammy because the things they see in themselves prevent them from seeing they have real problems that need to be dealt with.

Flattery maintains the peace.

Have you found yourself resorting to flattery to maintain the peace in a relationship? You’re dealing with a narcissist. While it’s the best way to avoid conflict, it can cause you to doubt yourself – your feelings, perceptions.

 

Did any of these situations above feel all too real? If so, it might be time to make some changes. If you don’t feel emotionally safe with someone, cut the cord.

While it can feel like being in a relationship with a narcissist is necessary for survival, your mental health is worth more.

It’s a long process to recover yourself after being in any type of relationship, but it can be done. You can rebuild your life, emotional health, and come back from being lost in the toxic world of a narcissist.

 

Have you dealt with a narcissist in your life? Share your story in the comments below. 

3 Tips on Coping With Money Anxiety

Today, I had a triggering conversation about money. In some shape or form, we’ve all been there. Money and financial struggles is a tender topic to talk about, but it’s one that can easily affect our mental health.

Let me just start this off by saying that I have a stable job that allows me to live in a studio all my own, and have my emotional support animal – I realize how fortunate I am. There are plenty of people suffering devastating financial struggles all over the world.

Earlier today, I spoke with my father about how I don’t have enough right now to pay for a certain bill, and he got upset with me. Thinking like the rational lawyer that he is, he was completely right. I did need to pay it now, but I just didn’t have the money available. It turned into a projection from his bad day, but in the end I was left feeling like a failure. I linked my own self worth with how much was in my bank account.

Adulting is really hard – sometimes, we just don’t get it right the first, second, or even fifteenth try and that’s okay. Whether you’re rollin’ in it or stressing over getting gas each week, your self worth doesn’t have a price tag attached to it. You are always good enough – regardless of how much you make financially. 

I am not perfect by any means, but here are some tips I’ve learned that can help ease money anxiety:

Banish the shame 

How you’ve handled money in the past, or even currently, can lead to a mountain of shame. Whether it’s a lack of money, incorrect budgeting, or simply being unaware of the right practices (I’m still this person, believe me), stop with the shame and realize you are doing the best you can with what you have.

There’s no shame in wanting to be better with money, so don’t feel awkward if you have to bring up the subject with a therapist, partner, friend, or even a family member.

Cut out the comparison 

This is a biggie. In my past relationship, this is all I did. My ex did pretty well for himself – much better than I did – and I gave myself some anxiety about that. It’s usually an awkward subject when a partner makes more money than you do, but it doesn’t have to be. Eventually, I realized that I should be proud of him for working hard and doing well financially. While there were moments I felt guilt or embarrassment, I did not need to link my self worth to how much I made compared to him.

Our social media is filled with pictures of people’s trips, cars, and other expensive things. No matter what your friend posts, comparing yourself and your own finances to others will only trigger you.

Here are some things to remember next time you feel the urge to compare money-wise:

  • You don’t know what’s in their bank account. While a friend may seem to enjoy plenty of nice things, it could be supplied by credit cards and debt. 

 

  • Usually, you don’t see the hard work and sacrifice that goes along with financial success – just the spending. 

 

  • Your friends’ journeys are not yours – your experiences are unique. 

 

  • Like I previously stated in my post on comparison, people tend to post only the best version of themselves on social media, so our perception is skewed. 

 

  • The only person you can change is yourself. Instead of ruminating over the success of others, focus on what you can do to better control your thoughts or make your situation more manageable. 

 

Educate yourself 

If you find yourself getting high anxiety over your money problems, take control by learning more about it. By turning your unknowns into knowns, you can silence some of the voices telling you you’re not good enough, or not prepared enough, or doing enough with your situation.

Whether that looks like talking to a financial advisor, signing up for a local course in financial management and budgeting, or asking someone for advice who understands your specific situation, you can take matters into your own hands. Once you begin to learn, money stops being a trigger and morphs into something you’re able to understand and control.

No amount of money puts a price on your self worth. If you’re struggling with money or financial problems, learning how to calm those fears and anxiety is a matter of education, understanding, and action – rather than reaction. Rich or poor, you are always good enough. 

 

Do you have anxiety about finances? What tools do you use to cope? 

You Are Enough // How To Combat Comparison

You know the drill. It’s inching towards 1am on a Wednesday night and you can’t get to sleep, so you open up your Instagram and start the scroll. Ah, the endless scroll through unlimited posts. It’s here that our anxiety pops up and thinks, look at all these people having fun, or getting engaged, married, having kids. Why am I not on that same path? Or why don’t I look that beautiful? 

Comparison is a curse. Unforgiving and overflowing with doubt and insecurity, our mental health feeds off of it. Society tells us we have to be on one, certain path. Whether it’s men or women: date, fall in love, get married, have kids and die. 

But, what is that’s not everyone’s path? Does that mean you aren’t succeeding? Absolutely not. Comparing cars, houses, jobs, money, and relationships is destructive to your own growth.

How do we stop this toxic cycle? Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way:

 

Stop with the social media 

Comparing starts on social media. While you might have begun your social escape liking photos of puppies or pins, you usually always end up seeing something that triggers comparison.

Whether it’s a friend humble bragging about her new business, engagement, or pregnancy, that ping of jealousy and panic sets in immediately. How is she so successful and I’m not? What is she doing that I can’t? And ultimately:

I’m not good enough. 

When you’re feeling insecure on social media, remember that people normally don’t post about the bad parts of life. On Instagram and Facebook, we are never seeing the whole story. Yes, mental health bloggers tend to open up and show both sides of emotion on social media, but this is not the case with most. So, instead of putting your complete self-worth into the post of someone else’s, remember that you’re only seeing the most polished pieces.

Someone’s success is not your failure

Don’t play that comparison game. Not everyone’s path looks the same, so it’s essential to remember that your friend from high school getting engaged, or your sister getting that promotion does not mean your opportunity or future success has been taken away – your time will come. 

Whenever I feel comparison brewing, I refer to this wonderful quote:

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Your day will still come around, so instead of giving into those feelings of jealousy and spite, feel happy for them.

 

Compare yourself to yourself 

Instead of comparing yourself to others, create the habit of comparing yourself to yourself. Focus on how much you’ve grown, what you have achieved and what progress you have made towards your goals.

When we shift our attention within, it creates gratitude, appreciation, and kindness towards yourself. Give yourself some props – what you’ve gone through matters.

Remind yourself of what you have 

With endless vacation photos to Thailand, and perfectly Pinterest wedding photography, it can start to seem like everyone is doing something with their lives but you.

I’ve found the best way to combat comparison is to take a moment and write down have you do have. What you’re proud of accomplishing. Use your energy to focus on what you’ve built for your own life, it will force that comparing to fade.

 

At the end of the day, we don’t need to be accepted by others – we must accept ourselves. 

The only way to climb out of the hole of comparison is to direct our attention within. When we are happy with our own accomplishments, those feelings of comparison won’t emerge.

So, it’s like the band Jimmy Eat World says,

“Live right now, just be yourself. It doesn’t matter if it’s good enough for someone else.”

 

 

 

How do you combat comparison? Share your comments below!