So, today was one of the more stressful days in my life. Today challenged me in new ways. It was one awfully good day in fact. A cold that I thought I had finished fighting off the last 3 weeks decided it wanted to go into the 12th round with me AND has come back with a second wind and vengeance. But I’ve beaten it once before! Partly because I’m trying to cough up my insides, and partly because I am lacking on sleep, I obviously didn’t want to leave my bed, and I definitely didn’t want to see people. However, can’t do that because I had a project in school that I had to be there for. Despite feeling tired and sick, I still found a way to get up. It took everything for me to roll out of bed, leaving me with no time for breakfast and an uncomfortably quick walk to the tube. I started my day with some exercise. For those of you who don’t know, the tube is an underground railway system in London, which is exactly what it sounds like; a tube crammed full of sweaty people all trying to get somewhere. Now, early in the mornings the tube can be crowded. I knew that, BUT I did not expect it to be this crowded. People were so smushed together that we practically all became family or looked like we were trying to start one. I met a lot of new people in one day and we all got to know each other pretty well. At one point I was in the middle of a crowd with no rail to hold on to and I was just bouncing along with everyone like I was in a mosh pit at a concert. Multiple bags, briefcases and purses slapped against my butt from unknown sources and when I finally bobbed my way out of the middle, I found myself in a worse position; my face pressed against the glass window looking like a fool. It was an interesting ride full of lots of experiences that I’ll remember for a while. This was just one tube of 6 that I would ride on this awfully good day. All day it felt like I never left the tube; crammed next to people in a huge city with no space to think or breathe. Even though it felt a little crowded at times, I got to meet a lot of different people exploring London as well. I felt hot and irritable all day. I still wasn’t feeling the best but that wasn’t stopping me. The project that I had to be there for went terribly well, and for my other class we were in a museum, which was essentially just a stationary tube with prettier sights. However, that’s when things peaked for my day as in the middle of class I felt my gut turn over inside me, as if kindly letting me know that it was giving me about 5 minutes before it ejected everything from my stomach. Sticky heat was clung to me. I felt pasty and desperate and knew I had to get out of there. I tried my best to play it cool and let a classmate know I wasn’t feeling well, and as soon as I did, I took off. Sprinting passed confused museum-goers and horrified faces as I held my hand over my mouth forcing myself to keep everything inside. I burst into the bathroom and practically dove into a stall and let it rip. There I sat for a moment, listening to my stomach to see if there was more, and reflecting on my life and how I got there. In my rush I left the stall door open so that other men could see me clung to the toilet looking exasperated and defeated. I got sick and threw up, but the good news is I made it to a toilet and felt a little better afterwards. It could have been a lot worse! Finally, I left there, and the day ended slightly better and how most nights end; with my favorite house guest, Procrastination, leaving and Reality coming back to remind that despite how tired and sick I am, and how awfully good of a day I had, there’s a lot to do. Today was assurance that perspective matters.
I have explained in previous posts the importance of reflecting and how journaling has impacted my life in so many incredible ways. So, before we get started, I would recommend checking those out and to just start writing because it can be extremely beneficial. You don’t need a journal, just something to write with and something to write on. I would highly suggest physically writing out things, and not typing them on your phone or on a computer because there is something different about writing without technology. To me it feels more personal and relaxing. I have been recording things for a while now and there are some really fun things that I have done that make my journal very special to me. This series is for those of you who have a journal, or those of you who are looking to get one, and how to make the most of it. First off, journaling is whatever you want it to be. The advice I give is just interesting ways I have found to spice things up and add new and creative ways to express yourself through writing. They are not standards or demands, merely suggestions for making the most of your journal. Through this series, my goal is to help you create a journal that truly captures your personality and feelings; something that when you look back upon will bring you right back to important memories in your life. With that said, let’s get started!
The first piece of advice I would give to bring your journal to the next level is share it with others, don’t just let it be your own words. Let those in your life speak through your journal. This is something I have done for all my journals and it is probably the best thing you can add. It is so memorable and touching to look back at later. The way I did this the first time was by having my friends and family give me one piece of advice. The things they said were astonishing and are words that I now hold dear. I did this same thing with everyone in my community for my most recent journal, and it is unbelievable the things that people have to say. People are so full of wisdom and it is a shame that we don’t take more time to listen to what they have to say. The different perspectives of everyone really opened my eyes to new ways of looking at the world, those around me, and myself. It is so powerful, and I truly cherish the words from the ones I love and hope to preserve them. If you can, get them to write it in the journal themselves so that you can capture their actual handwriting. This makes it even more special. Now when I write in my journal, I find uplifting words from friends, family, and community and I am reminded of them and my spirits are lifted. This has led to me feeling encouraged, loved, and confident and I can look at them at any time I need a pick-me-up. Don’t be afraid to get creative with what you ask others. Some things I haven’t asked yet, but that I think would be really interesting to have in my journal are; their favorite bible verse, a memory between us, their favorite word, a joke, etc. This is essentially what you might have someone do in a yearbook, but I promise you that you will be thankful for it in the future. Open your journal up to the voices around you and let your journal become something bigger than yourself, something much more meaningful.
There is something that I struggle with that has impacted my life in lots of terrible ways and is something that I feel a lot of people deal with to some degree. I want to share with you my experience with trying to respect my body. Body image issues can be extremely devastating and have so many grueling impacts on life. In writing this, I want to be open and real with you about how it’s affected my life, and the ways I have dealt with it.
Appreciating my body was hard. Everyone can always look at themselves and see something that is “wrong” or “ugly”. I used to look at myself in the mirror in the mornings and my eyes were drawn to all the imperfections of my body. I focused on the negative things and this influenced the way I thought about my body for the rest of the day. Over time this led to so much insecurity. Constantly worrying that one day others might look at me and see what I saw in the mirror. Stress would fill me when I thought about having to take my shirt off or change in front of others. Body image issues led to comparing myself to everyone, and when I would do this, I would find everything I didn’t have in other people; The way their clothes fit them, their height, their slenderness, always ignoring any of their imperfections. This drained me of any confidence. I became timid because I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. Participating in things was a real challenge. I couldn’t live my life comfortably. The biggest thing I felt, and the most devastating affect of negative body image, is shame. Part of the definition of shame is “a painful feeling of humiliation”. At one point I believed that the way I felt about myself was no longer just my own opinion, but a confirmed understanding of everyone; a fact. So that’s how I lived for a while. Going through school shy and scared. I lacked confidence and like the definition says, it was painful. I was on the outside of life looking in at others enjoying it. Something inside me knew this wasn’t how it was supposed to be, that I shouldn’t feel like such an outcast. To be honest, I wasn’t at my worst when I was at school or outside the house. Things were the worst when I was home by myself, just me and the mirror. All those negative feelings escalated to new degrees and I started eating a lot. I guess at the time I didn’t realize why I was eating, or maybe I did, and I just didn’t care. I can’t remember. But I do know that it made me feel better and my mindset was that if they see me as this nasty, imperfect blob already, then why not eat and enjoy. I found sanction in food, in books and video games, and in solitude where I could escape and didn’t feel judged. It was around the end of middle school and beginning of high school that I started making more of an effort to make a change. I’m not sure what inspired me to start working out, but that’s where I started. I had one dumbbell at home, and I would use that to do mostly curls. Along with those were the occasional sit ups. I had some friends that I felt comfortable enough with and we would play outside a lot as well. I was active and working out, but my diet stayed the same, and I remember feeling discouraged because I wasn’t changing. Some of my friends and those around me never really worked out and here I was feeling like I was busting my ass and really trying to get into better shape but results just weren’t showing. So I decided that I just wasn’t trying hard enough. My workouts got a little more advanced, I ran more, but still the consistency and proportion of my diet was ridiculous, and I still wasn’t seeing a difference. I remember one time running on the tread mill for what felt like forever, and then getting Taco Bell on the way home. I was stuck in a torturous cycle. Nonetheless, it was right around the middle of high school where I really felt like I started seeing some differences. I had gained some muscle and got a little taller. I was still working out 6 times a week, which is exhausting and no way to live your life, and didn’t really have a clue about nutrition, but things were starting to look up.
From then until now (my sophomore year of college) I can assuredly say that the three biggest things that helped me to get control of my body image problems are; my strong support group of family and friends, fitness, and my faith. Everyone around me gave me kind words and loved me for me, no matter what! My mom was always willing to get me good foods and paid for a gym membership and workout equipment. I learned so much more about working out in a healthy way and how to eat in a way that is enjoyable and nutritious. I learned how to give my body rest. And my faith, man my faith taught me that no matter what I am loved by the God of the universe. He sees me as perfect, complete, and lacking nothing. I have stopped searching so hard for other’s opinions of me, stopped listening so much to my own opinions of myself, and have been constantly reminding myself of the opinion of the only one who matters. My faith has led me to become surround by so many people who love and support me. These things have helped me to feel happy in my own skin… for the most part. Honestly, I still struggle at times. When I look in the mirror, I still sometimes see things that need improvement, but I also understand who I am in the eyes of friends, family and God.
I believe that social media, film, and advertising are just a few of the things that set the standards for what is considered “beautiful”. Unrealistic expectations are constantly being portrayed in multiple ways and platforms which are accessible to everyone, including children, so that from a young age it is very easy to get the wrong mindset on your body. The truth is, there is no mold that can contain you, no model that could mimic you, and that is something that you should cherish. Your body is perfect in its imperfectness. You should be proud and respect that your body is yours, and yours alone. One thing I have learned is that part of dealing with something like body image, is enjoying the journey and understanding and accepting the ups and downs. Some things aren’t in your control when it comes to your body. Life happens and if you focus on the things out of your hands it will drive you crazy. Also, working out can be tricky if you struggle with your image. It can easily turn into an obsession and quickly become unhealthy. As long as you don’t let it get to that point and don’t let it control your life, then I think that exercising is one of the best things you can do. Not only are you working on your body, but you are helping yourself to become healthier and it is a great way to relieve stress.
Not everyone has access to friends or even family that are there for them. You may not have that support group that encourages you and reminds you that you are loved despite your body. You may not have the ability or resources to pursue fitness. It may just not be realistic for you to find time and finances to eat a certain way or work out. Maybe you’re even dealing with a hindrance in some way that limits your body in physical ways, or mental issues that leave you too fatigued to exercise. But everyone, everyone, has access to a God that loves them just the way they are. I really hope that you don’t live in shame and insecurity, battling this on your own. Don’t give up on yourself. The fight against body image negativity is one that may never end, but you don’t have to do it alone. I am more than willing to be someone that you can talk to. It can get easier, and it will. It is a journey and it’s super important that you realize that because if you keep trying to reach some end point of perfection you are going to be constantly disappointed. I really encourage you to reach out to me if you need, and if you are at the end of your ropes, I can’t give you any better advice than to try reaching out to God, the one who made you out of love and sees you as beautiful.
Today I will leave you with a short message, but I think that it is worth sharing. I have recently arrived in London for a study abroad program, and it has been amazing! I will definitely talk more about London and my experiences here as my adventure in the city continues to unfold. But first I want to talk about something else that happened this morning. I have been here for about 5 days and things have been extremely busy. Even a few days before I left for London things were hectic. Between the planning, the packing, the checking, and the rechecking there has been A LOT of things going on! This morning was the first time I didn’t have to be anywhere or worry about anything and so I decided to go workout at a park. Early in the morning on my walk there, it crossed my mind that I hadn’t said a word to God in a long time. Immediately I started talking to God, catching him up on things, and then listening to what he had to say. It is very hard to describe the joy, peace, and assurance that floods you when you engage in conversation with God. It’s like I had all these things I was trying to keep organized, worries cluttering my brain, and thoughts clouded with concern, and it all got wiped clean and I remembered how good life is when God is involved. The main thing I felt like God was reminding me in that moment, is that sometimes all we need to do is catch up with Him to be reminded how amazing the life He’s got planned for us is, and to remember how blessed we are. So once I got to the park I sat on a bench and just reflected on the amazing experience I just had. I realized that one of the best things you can do with your time, is give it to God. We all get busy and it is so easy to shrink into a tiny, compressed ball of stress and anxiety worrying about things with our minds racing and before you know it, you are sucked into this tiny little orbit called your world. Where it is impossible to think more than a few hours ahead and everything else around you becomes a cloudy blur. It is in those moments that reaching out to God is so crucial. Sometimes all it takes is a quick conversation. But when you do that, I can guarantee that it will set you up for an amazing day. You will begin to see outside your little bubble. If you do it consistently, I can also assure you that He will fill your life with so many real experiences. He will place people in your life, and take you places, and give you the most fulfilling life you could ever imagine. He is a God that wants us to be with others. In the times you’re by yourself and you feel lonely, or even small, He can make those moments where you feel rested and recover instead. Once you commit your life to Him, He will never lead you away from these things. However, it gets hard to see His work and appreciate it if you don’t check in occasionally. So my prayer for you, even if you’ve never tried talking to Him before, is that you just start talking. Whenever you are ready just catch up with Him, because He is ready for a conversation with you, ready to love you, and if you let Him, ready to lead you through an unbelievably fulfilling life.
Side Note: In my pursuit for a good photo for this post I find a website to an amazing post, with the perfect picture, by C D Swanson. He talks about things similar to what I shared in this post and he poses through his writing the idea of meeting God on a bench and the theoretical conversation that you would have with Him. It is definitely worth it to check it out and give it a read. Here is the link: https://www.cdswanson.com/?p=973
The heart is a curious thing. I don’t mean heart in the sense of the organ that pumps blood through our body. No, I’m talking about the heart that is connected with our emotions and intertwined with our soul. I’m talking about that fragile thing inside us that lets us feel love, empathy, and sadness. The thing that drives our passions in the pursuit of our dreams. It may not be a real, tangible object, but the power it has in us is very real. How we think about our heart and how we present it to others reveals a lot about the story of who we are.
I think it’s safe to say a broken heart is one of the most devastating things someone can experience in their lifetime. There is no cry like that of the broken hearted. Unlike physical wounds there is no treatment for a broken heart. We can try and use our friends and family like a cast to help us heal, use worldly pleasures as a sling, or consume alcohol and drugs like doctor prescribed medications. But the truth is, a broken heart never fully heals. Things get better and the ache you felt at first may not be as painful as it once was, but it is still there. It is a part of you and your story now. There are many things that can lead to a broken heart, but at the core of the sorrow is loss. Loss of a loved one, a friend, an ability, an opportunity, the point is something is gone, and it left with a piece of your heart. That’s why it is impossible to fully recover, because you invested a piece of yourself into whatever you lost. I urge the broken hearted to not let that missing piece be a reminder of what’s gone, but a reminder of what you had. You invested a piece of yourself into whatever you lost for a reason, most likely because you believed in it, had love towards it, or it brought a value to your life. So, next time you feel the ache in your heart where that scar is, let it remind you of all the good memories you had. Embrace that stirring in your heart and never let it take good things and turn them into negative things.
This is someone who has been broken hearted in life, someone who has hit rock bottom but hasn’t let that stop them from sharing their heart with others again. A brave hearted person can give their love when it seems like there is none left to give. A brave hearted person loves those that are hard to love at times. They are courageous with their love in the face of adversity, and are a strong example of continuing to love despite being hurt before.
The most vulnerable of them all is the open hearted. They express their love without concealment. Their actions and words align with the feelings in their heart. Having an open heart means your love pours out into your everyday life and is very noticeable to others. There is honesty and clarity in the words and actions of people with an open heart. It is comforting being around them because they share their feelings in a truthful and real way, which creates a comforting environment and makes others feel like they can be open in return.
Kind Hearted/Big Hearted
Being kind hearted or having a big heart means that your heart takes on the burdens of others. You care as much about others hearts as you do your own. Having a kind and big heart is like having an open heart, both have a foundation of love for yourself first, so that you can give love to others. However, a kind-hearted person’s intentions aren’t always as noticeable. Someone with a big heart might take on the pain of someone else, but that doesn’t always translate into big, apparent actions. A kind-hearted person is there for others and is full of compassion.
The cold-hearted person is a sad story. I believe that this is someone who has been broken hearted one to many times. They have had to many bad experiences when they’ve shared their love, so they wall it off so that don’t get hurt anymore. It is scary to keep putting yourself out their when you’ve only been damaged from doing so. It becomes safe and secure to keep your heart and love guarded.
Looking at this in terms of action, like doing something full heartedly, means doing that task with full commitment and emotional investment. But being full hearted means, you are at peace. You have a deep and healthy love with your circumstances and current situations in life. Being full hearted gives you confidence and produces joy.
No matter what condition you heart is in, I urge you not to give up on sharing your love. Be there for the broken hearted and remind them they’ll be okay. I ask you to try and understand the cold hearted. They have been hurt and if we can be considerate and help by bringing a healthy love into their life instead of shutting them out, I believe that they can start to tear down their walls. I hope after reading this you can appreciate the brave and open hearted. I hope you strive to be full hearted and kind hearted. Love can be a frightening thing. I believe that truly loving is one of the scariest things you can do in life, and one of the most rewarding. Understanding your heart and what you are feeling is so important for your journey in life. If you only walk away with one thing from this article, I hope it’s this: Love is powerful and if we all use it to help build each other up, then we can accomplish so many amazing things as a society. So, don’t be selfish with your love and be aware of your own hearts condition, as well as others.
First off, I would like to say the number one piece of advice I can give you as a Christian, is to follow Jesus. It is the best choice I have made in life by far and it will change your life. However, I want this post to apply to everyone, regardless of beliefs. So, here are 10 things that will help you get the most out of life.
- Take time for yourself. Pray, reflect, meditate, journal, blog, do something that is just for you to process and be with yourself. Life is busy and filled with people, and I think it is easy to forget how to communicate with just ourselves and understand what we are feeling. Take time to feed your soul and ask yourself the hard questions in life. Keeping in touch with yourself and your beliefs will help keep you focused on the important things in life. More importantly, taking time to be alone with your thoughts will remind you of the path you are on and why you are on it. It helps you see the purpose of living.
- Work hard. Whatever you are working towards, I guarantee you that if you put in the work and time you will get the benefits. It may not happen the way you want, how fast you want it to, or how you pictured it, but it will happen. You will get there. It may be difficult and require a lot of sacrifice, but the best things do. You know what you are giving towards something. Whatever it is, earn it.
- Know your value. Acknowledge who you are, and the unique presence that you bring with you. Appreciate the type of person you are and what you contribute to others lives. You are special, and it is important that you know and value yourself. If you can’t do this for yourself, it makes it hard to do it for others.
- Surround yourself with good community. Stay close to those that push you to better yourself and help remind you of who you are. Keep friends in your life that truly want what’s best for you. Those that are willing to pick you up when you are down and humble you when you’re too proud. Your environment and community should be something that helps bring out the best version of yourself.
- Love others and love them fully. Truly loving others is one of the scariest and best things you can do in life. It’s scary because it makes you vulnerable and can lead to you being hurt. But I promise you that it is always worth it to give with all your heart to others because the good moments that come from that, will always outweigh the bad ones. I believe that when you look back on your life you will never regret knowing that you loved with an open heart.
- Have forgiveness. Holding on to a grudge or a hurt, regardless of who was wrong or right, is so detrimental to your health and well-being. It will only weigh you down and restrict your confidence in others. Forgiveness is the foundation of trust. Being understanding and forbearing with others frees your mind and relieves you from the burden of stress that holding a grudge can cause. If you let your animosity for someone or an event fester, it will turn into bitterness, spite, and resentment. Something that is sometimes harder than forgiving someone else, is forgiving yourself. If you can’t let go of things that have happened to you and forgive yourself and those that from your past, then you will never truly be able to move forward.
- Be generous. This one seems straight-forward. Of course, I think there are plenty of benefits to sharing financially when you can to help those that need it. However, I urge you to consider being generous with your time and attention. I know for me one of the best things someone can give me is just some of their undivided attention. When you put away your phone and disconnect from the world and give your time to someone it is so meaningful and considerate. So, be present and engaged with people and deliberate with your time because it shows you really care.
- Listen and Share. There is no avoiding hardship and struggle in life. No matter who you are there have been times in your life that are difficult for you to talk about. These times of adversity play a big role and shaping who we are but often scar us with silence. We need to address our silences and help others with theirs. One of the best things we can do for others is listen to their story. Be somebody that they can talk to and help them overcome the silence in their life caused by tragedy. As for yourself, find your voice to speak about the misfortunes that you have dealt with. The worst thing you can do is try to handle your hurt on your own. Don’t let the silence consume you. Share your pain and listen to others and you can overcome, and help others overcome, even the worst trials.
- Be scared in all the right ways. If you’re scared of losing someone, failing, or not knowing what the future holds, then you are doing everything right! That means that you are fully committing yourself, your heart, and your energy. You have something to lose. I think that is the best place to be in because regardless of what happens, you are going to grow. You are challenging yourself and taking a risk. If you fail, then you learn from that and grow. If you succeed, then you learn from that and grow as well. So, get out of your comfort zone and get in uncomfortable situations, because that’s how you better yourself.
- Be thankful. It is so easy to focus on all the things we don’t have or the situations we want to be in, that we forget to be appreciative of the here and now. All the things I have shared here are good things to keep in mind. I would like to end on the point of being thankful because if you can be thankful when it seems things are at their worst, you are going to develop a joy that is unbreakable. Whoever you are with, be thankful they are there with you. Wherever you are, be thankful to be in that place. Even if circumstances aren’t the best at the moment, you can still be appreciative because you know things can get better.
I hope you have learned something or at least been reminding of something you want to work on in your life. These things are easier said than done and I know it is unreasonable to do all these things, all the time. But try your best to apply these in your life and I am sure you will notice a difference.