Instagram Isn’t Real

by: Alicia M. Blanco

IG

You are beautiful.

…without a filter.

Which leads me to this:

I LOVE me some instagram… it’s honestly my social media of choice. I love looking at pictures and posting pictures…

but it isn’t real! Not all the time.

Stop scrolling through it and comparing yourself to someone’s best version of themselves. You can bet they are ALSO going through some tough stuff, just like you. No one ACTUALLY posts the sucky stuff that’s actually going on.

It’s always a “booked it!” (after not booking five jobs before that one) and “selfie!” (which probably took over 70+ attempts before getting the right angle AND editing it with the right filter) and “on vacation, again!” (its like, where did they get the income to afford to go there, and there, with them, and those people, so often, and I’m over here trying to pay rent?)

I read an awesome blog just a few weeks ago called “What I Instagrammed vs What Was REALLY Happening” and it was soooo HILARIOUS and TRUE. So here it is. READ IT!! So damn good. Applause! I am so obsessed with great blogs. When I see a good one, I can’t help but to repost it. I just want to share the love and keep the wave going.

Imagine a world with no filters… just 100% honesty, transparency, realness.

Something tells me the statistics in depression would decrease if people didn’t have so much comparison throughout their days.

“Stop comparing your behind-the-scenes stuff to everyone else’s highlight reel.”

When Anxiety Attacks

by: Anonymous author

anxiety

I remember being younger and clinging to my mother at social events because I was so anxious. I would get a stomach ache whenever she would drop me off at school or at a social function. This began at the age of eight and I still deal  with anxiety today. From a young age this chemical imbalance in my brain made me feel inadequate and scared. It wasn’t until I was 17 that I decided to finally tell my mother how I felt, and I broke down crying and said that I needed help. In high school, I was so anxious all of the time that I barely spoke in class and going to school was unbearable. Imagine the anxiety that you feel before a big test, or something that you are very nervous about. Sure, that may be a temporary feeling for some, but for me it was constant and I could not turn it off. That constant feeling caused me to miss school dances, events, games, and many other social gatherings during my teenage years. I felt so ashamed of myself. I thought, “How could I let this stupid disorder take away my teenage years.” When I told my mother how I felt, I was taken to the doctor and started treating my anxiety with medication which helped immensely. As soon as I started to control my anxiety, things turned around completely. I began having fun my senior year of high school, went to the gym and lost a ton of weight that I had gained from hiding in my bedroom all of the time, and I began hanging out with friends and actually went to the homecoming and prom dances. It was finally then that I had realized that I had taken control of MY life and this chemical imbalance in my brain was not going to take away my life any longer. I think that the main thing to do is recognize it, treat it, and not be ashamed of it.

However, this wasn’t the end of the battle for me. When I graduated high school, I was on my way to college in the fall and I couldn’t have been more excited. I spent the summer on the beaches in San Diego, traveling, and getting ready to start college. Once I started my classes at the university, I was completely overwhelmed with the amount of work I had. I had always had good grades, and I was sure that it would be okay but I also was terrified at the same time. As the weeks went by, I was so consumed with schoolwork and a part time job that I began to gain weight again, and I stopped caring about myself. I was always the one to get dressed up and ready for the day, but now I was completely neglecting myself and my health. This is when my depression began. I resorted to hiding out in my bedroom, not caring about my appearance, and ignoring everyone around me. I lost so many friends because I simply would not feel like answering the phone when they called, or let alone go out somewhere. There were only a few of my close friends who understood what I was going through, but others were just quick to stop talking to me altogether. I became almost unrecognizable. I had gained over 50 pounds and was not even the same person anymore. Every time I tried to help myself and get better, I decided that it was more important to immerse myself in an insane amount of schoolwork to get good grades. I was completely neglecting myself and I had no idea if I would ever be the same again. I can not tell you how many different medications I have tried at my young age for depression. All of these medications of course had different side effects. I started gaining even more weight on some, I began feeling even worse on others, and I felt like I was completely spiraling out of control.

I felt pathetic. How could I let this change my life so much. I would show up to family gatherings and could feel the eyes on me and people wondering why I gained so much weight. As college went on, I decided that I needed to finish and not let this ruin my plans of a college education. I pushed through it, and with the help of my best friend and family I was okay and stable and graduated. As time went on and I slowed down on pushing myself to work so hard and I began to focus on my health, I felt better. Slowly but surely, I was going back to normal and deciding that it was important to recognize how I felt and to treat it. It’s never easy to tell somebody that you deal with depression and anxiety. I feel like there is so much stigma regarding mental health. Some people are completely embarrassed to even tell close friends and family that they need help. The most important thing for someone who is suffering from a mental health issue is SUPPORT. The worst thing is the stigma that goes along with it. It is hard enough to deal with a mental health issue, but society makes it even harder when we have so much stigma surrounding it. I learned to not be ashamed. I decide to keep it a private matter since it is my health, but those close to me know that I deal with it and help and support me. I urge anyone who is suffering to seek help and support because you are not alone, and I urge those to make fun of mental health issues or those who don’t take them seriously to stop the stigma and to help those who may be suffering because a single sign of support and encouragement could change their lives.

3 Ways Focusing on Inner Beauty is Healthy For Your Heart

by: Zera McMahon

After battling with an eating disorder for several years I’ve learned how giving more attention to one’s own inner beauty is healthy for the human heart in several ways. Here are three main ways you’ll benefit from giving more attention to your inner beauty instead of focusing on the way you look.

1) Inner beauty is not only nurturing for your own heart, but for the hearts of others as well.

I have always felt that the two {inner beauty & the heart} are largely connected; perhaps a direct reflection of the other. One of the greatest ways to delight an empty heart or soul is with acts of gentleness
and love. Help yourself by helping other people, and be instantly rewarded with an immense sense of gratification and love. Your inner beauty will flourish with selfless acts of kindness, as this is one of the best ways to pass the love around and welcome it back with an open heart.

Within the last year, Iʼve made it a habit of reaching out to complete strangers by involving them in conversation. For example…a couple of weeks ago I was in HomeDepot trying to get a swatch of paint matched for our living room. It was late in the evening, and the lady who was helping me behind the counter was exhausted and just being a total grouch. As much as I wanted to walk away from her negative attitude, Idecided to talk to her anyway and ignore the menacing glances she was giving me. So, I set a mental challenge for myself and made it my goal to lighten her mood. I began asking her questions pertaining to work and showed compassion for all of the un-paid overtime she was putting in. Before I knew it, we were sharing stories about our families, the holiday season, and even exchanging tips on our favorite nail polishes, etc.

My plan had worked! Just from acknowledging this individual whom I had never met before and by striking up a conversation, I was able to help give her laughter and enjoyment, and improve her overall state of mind.

Not only did this lady walk away with a smile on her face, but so did I. Lets face it, the last thing I wanted to be doing at 10pm was hanging out in Home Depotʼs paint department. This challenge I set for myself gave me almost instant happiness and fulfillment. It feels incredible to have such a positive impact on another individual!

Too often we obsess about our own physical beauty, and critically measure our “beauty”against other women. The mainstream media is constantly trying to sell us illusions of the “perfect body” and lifestyle that we can achieve only if purchasing their products.

They really think we can be fooled, but I know that as women we are stronger and capable of more. We donʼt need to strive for a perfect body or prettier face. When we do this, we are not truly in touch with our inner beauty. What we genuinely need is each other. Coming together peacefully with open hearts, appreciating others (and ourselves) for more than physical appearances; that is when we create and promote inner beauty that is infectious.

The media is failing to communicate the importance of nourishing the authentic self. Instead of measuring our self worth on physical traits, genuine self worth is measured from the inside out. When you cherish and manifest your inner beauty, your physical appearance is sure to be positively influenced when your heart radiates from within.

2) You’ll discover your inspiration & creativity…

When we realize and cherish our inner beauty, we are consciously granting ourselves the permission to be open and accepting to the beauty and talents around us.

Speaking from experience, I understand that the search for that “magical something” to ignite our inspiration is not always so simple. When I find myself in a mental slump, it can be really tough to pull myself out of it. One thing I have learned though, is that the inspiration I crave will always emerge when I least expect it. This sometimes take days to happen, but when it does I am shaken out of my slump and my spirit is instantly lifted and renewed with a sense of hope.

Sometimes, deviating from my typical routine can help ʻcureʼ me of the blues. Itʼs so easy to get ourselves caught in routine, stuck in the same motions day after day. I have to almost force myself out of it at times. What I like to do when this happens is to go somewhere ʻspur-of-the-momentʼ; somewhere I donʼt typically make the time to visit. I like to call these, ʻmini adventure daysʼ. This can be anything from checking out a museum downtown, taking a walk around a nature preserve to feed the ducks, treating myself to a movie (by myself), or indulging in an Oreo blizzard from Dairy Queen. These things may seem a little ridiculous, but itʼs what helps me to get outside of myself and the destructive thinking patterns.

Inspiration stimulates our heart and soul. It can be that mini miracle we need to get us back on track to creating opportunities and realizing our dreams.

3) It builds a beautiful and healthy life…

Its been said that positive attracts positive, and negative attracts negative. The same goes for people holding onto positive and negative thoughts. I am a total believer in this theory, and I have applied it as a general rule to my life, involving the people I surround myself with.

Have you ever felt completely empowered and delighted by something, only to then have that excitement be ripped away from you by someone with a negative mindset? I have definitely experienced this, and at times would find myself powerless and unable to shed myself of those negative feelings.

This is not only counteractive to strengthen your confidence and inner beauty ʻpowerhouseʼ, but is also very toxicant. After feeling depleted time and again from seeking outside approval, I decided that this
was not how I wanted to live my life and I was done with it.

This realization became my fundamental building blocks for a powerful inner beauty. Through this change in my thought process, I was able to create a mental barrier against negative energies that had previously blocked my inspiration and happiness. I made the conscious decision to choose my happiness and health, and to live my life through an authentic, and beautiful inner soul.

I donʼt believe we were intended to live our lives carelessly at the expense of others. Rather, I believe we have been gifted a heart and soul to nurture and love so that we can fulfill a truly gratifying existence.

Tip to block out the negative vibes:

Creating a mental bubble around myself is the easiest way for me to create an impervious blockade against negative vibes that are bound and determined to lower my positive energy. By establishing this kind of forcefield, you are preparing yourself to confront negativity without allowing your inner peace to be sacrificed in the process.

There is a beautiful quote by Audrie Hepburn that Iʼd like to share. Itʼs incredibly inspiring and respectful, and I feel that it reflects the pursuit of inner beauty quite perfectly….

‘For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people. For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry. For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day. People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed. Never throw out anybody. The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole. True beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows, and the beauty of a woman with passing years only grows.’ – Audrie Hepburn

How To Have Happy Holidays When You’re Sad

by: Alicia M. Blanco

elf

I’ve been receiving several messages lately from people who want to know how I stay so happy during this time of year. It’s supposed to be a season of celebration and joy but in reality, it’s a season of heightened depression for many.

At first I was confused how anyone could RESIST happiness during this time of year because Christmas (and this entire season in general) is when I’m in total bliss. I’m like a big kid; I’ve had my Michael Buble Christmas CD playing in my car since October (I know…), I get giddy when the mall starts to decorate and set up for Santa, and even though I don’t drink coffee, I get excited knowing Starbucks is in the season of their famous red cups and holiday themed drinks. I can go on and on but I think you get it- I am obsessed with this time of year. The only thing I find depressing is that I have to wait a whole year for it again as soon as it’s all over.

But as more and more messages came in asking me for advice on how to “endure” the season, I started to really think about why people might feel so anxious or unhappy when the holidays come around.

First off, the media bombardment of smiling family and friends can be overwhelming and annoying.  I get it! Nonstop commercials on TV are showcasing these perfect happy model looking families and groups of good looking friends going shopping and spending money without a care in the world.

While we all know these are entirely staged productions intended to attract consumer spending, some people may start to compare their lives to the lives of others- even more so on social media. They begin to question the relationships in their lives as well as their financial situation. It’s a huge stressor! They also might reflect on another year coming to an end and think about what they DON’T have.

One individual who wrote me said the reason she struggles with staying happy during the holidays is because she never had a father figure in her life and her mother struggled immensely to afford the basic necessities.  She grew up really resenting the process of exchanging gifts and even associates the holidays with guilt for receiving anything.

Its even been said that suicide rates and mood disorders increase in this season due to triggers of loneliness, financial stress, inadequacy, and lack of belonging.  How can we fix this?

If you’re feeling down about the holidays, here are 8 ways I stay happy through them:

1. DON’T COMPARE: I am as guilty as anybody for comparing what I have to what others have, but the less I do this, the happier I am. Keep in mind what you see on TV is not real and what you see on social media is just the same. I came across a great quote the other day – “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” – Steven Furtick – Super true.

2. I CATER TO THE 5 SENSES- I decorate my home beautifully so what I SEE is visually appealing and stimulating. I eat want I want – it’s not bikini season, it’s cookies and milk season! Treat yourself to eating what you know TASTES amazing. You earned it! Also, my home SMELLS like vanilla cookies, cake and pumpkin spice – anything that’s reverent of the season. Next, I almost always have music on that makes me feel good to HEAR. It doesn’t have to be Christmas music, (mine is) but I’m such a lover of music year-round and even fall asleep to a playlist.

3. BE A KID AGAIN- I embrace an intense sense of childlike wonder and dive into the season as if I were a little girl again. In fact, I need to get myself to Disneyland ASAP. Rafael if you’re reading this, let’s go.

4. I strive to make new MEMORIES – this one would be especially helpful for those of you who associate the season with a bad memory. Clean those up and replace them with new and uplifting ones starting today!

5. BUILD TRADITIONS – make those memories you created truly last by establishing them as rock solid TRADITIONS. This should be something you know you’ll eagerly anticipate year round whether it’s shopping for a Christmas tree with your nephew or decorating the house with your boyfriend with your favorite movie on – set something up in stone as “yours” and “ours.” Ever since I was a little girl, all the women in my family get together a week or so before Christmas and make dozens (and dozens) of tamales. We laugh, cry, joke around with each other, have deep conversations, and have mariachi music playing in the background while we work because that’s what my Nana likes – It’s something we all look forward to every year. It’s messy and hilarious. It’s tradition.

6. I’M AROUND THE ONES I LOVE- you really should do this all year round but during this season it’s all the more imperative. My boyfriend and I will be spending two weeks in Arizona in a couple weeks with my family and I couldn’t be more thrilled about that. Being around the ones I love and who love us means the world to me…

7. On that same note, pay attention to people. FOCUS ON OTHERS more than yourself. By now you know I’m a huge advocate of random acts of kindness in hopes that it will impact someone who might be struggling with depression or just having a bad day – so I really step it up even more during this time of year and in return, I’m happier for it.

I find that the less I focus on myself, like what I have or don’t have, and instead use all of that time and energy for others, the happier I am. I have no time to get sad about my circumstances if I’m more focused on improving the circumstances of others. I’m distracted in the best way possible.  I strive to demolish statistics in depression and suicide by being kinder – especially during this time of year when people might need it the most. Try it!

I encourage you to keep in mind that although the year is coming to an end, it’s your opportunity for a new beginning. If you really struggle to embrace the season, ask yourself why. Recognize the root of any issues you are having with this time of year and completely release it all. Give the negativity zero power.

If all else fails, “the best way to spread Christmas cheer is by singing loud for all to hear!” Elf is on TV right now as I’m writing this, so I had to do that. Cheesy me!

And I’m taking my puppy Romeo to go visit Santa at the mall this week too… yes I am.

Happy Holidays!

Enough

by: Brittany Winston

enough

“Brittany get up, you need to go run.” This is how most of my mornings started off at 5:15am when my mother would wake me up and make me go for a run before school. On the weekends it was 5:00am to go hiking. Being a child and teenager, I would grumble in my head and be so exasperated at these early morning wakeups, but it was more than the early wakeup times that upset me.

The reason she woke me up so early everyday was so that I wouldn’t become “fat”.

I was always told that I had a predisposition to be heavy and if I didn’t “stay on top of it” I would be overweight. From the moment I hit puberty I developed hips, thighs and a booty even though I was a runner and extremely active. I was taught that my curves weren’t beautiful and that I shouldn’t want to have a big butt or hips. So much focus was on my appearance.

When I was in high school I didn’t realize the effect my “outer beauty” was having on my confidence and personality. I retreated more and more into a shell of self-doubt and low self-esteem because of my curves. I never felt that I was enough; pretty enough, thin enough, tall enough (all I was focusing on what my outer beauty traits.) And when it came to boys, it was even worse. Anytime I received any attention from a guy I always thought
to myself, “why me, what does he SEE?”

I didn’t stop to think of the other non-physical attributes and traits I had to offer someone.

I made poor decisions on how far I went with a boy because I thought it was the only way to keep him around. I told myself, “he can’t really want me. I’m not skinny and I’m not that pretty. If I don’t do this, he will leave me.”

I was constantly starving for physical attention and outer acceptance.

When I started college it got even worse because I started to get a lot of consistent attention for my outer “looks and figure”, and it hit me like a ton of bricks in the worst way. I didn’t know what was going on. I still had the internal feeling of “why me, I’m not enough.”

Yet still, I flourished in a totally superficial way.

I dated men with money and status, I partied and I made it appear as though I was thoroughly and genuinely enjoying my life. I looked happy from the outside, but I was empty and depressed on the inside. There were so many times I cried myself to sleep at night but then would go to work and school with a smile on my face pretending I was okay.

Actually, I even started losing weight because the depression stopped me from mustering up the energy to eat!

I didn’t run anymore because I associated it with punishment, I drank too much and when I did eat, I ate like crap. Plain and simple, I wasn’t happy and everywhere that I was looking for happiness was on the OUTSIDE – and it was superficial and empty, no matter how much attention I received.

Desperate for a cure to my depression, I made an abrupt move across the country and changed my surroundings entirely. But still, the depression continued to haunt me.

I considered ending my life.

But then my moment of clarity came when I realized I didn’t care what people thought about the way I LOOKED, and that my INNER BEAUTY was more than enough to deserve all this love and attention.

I realized I had a lot to love from within! I love that I have an awesome sense of humor, I’m quirky, I love to read and travel the world – and I can think of no better place to spend a warm day than outside soaking in the sun and enjoying nature. I think these are just a few of the many things that make me pretty darn amazing on the INSIDE, and that’s where it counts.

Through first mastering the art of self-acceptance and inner healing, I began to embrace, accept and LOVE my outer beauty too! Living in the south helped me appreciate my body type, so I even began to do plus size modeling! I love being a plus size model because I pray some little girl or woman will see me and realize there is more than one type of physical beauty. I hope it helps lead others to healing and loving themselves just as they are and not comparing themselves to images in magazines and billboards. It is so disheartening to see what society and media does to little girls from an early age… just like it did to me. So much is based on OUTER BEAUTY and it’s an unattainable standard of beauty and body image. It makes me want to cry.

Naturally, I still need to remind myself every now and then that there’s so much more to life than having the “perfect body.” Beauty fades and no two women are just alike on the outside anyways. And that’s a beautiful thing.

Depression has no stereotype on who it attacks. And despite working in a stereotypically “superficial industry”, I’ve learned so much about self-love and self-worth from so many women I’ve encountered.

We should all be a team and help one another to remember what’s most important in life – and that’s inner happiness and inner beauty.

“A woman’s beauty should be that of [her] inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” Peter 3:4

Today, I know that I am ENOUGH. And that’s worth being alive for.

Waving Goodbye to Robin Williams

by: Alicia M. Blanco

ROBINWILLIAMS

I just love this picture of him. It’s crazy that behind his one of kind smile and his contagious laughter was so much pain. It still doesn’t seem real to me. Its taken me several days to even accept it and gather up the composure to write this blog. How could one of the funniest comedians in the whole wide world who made me laugh my entire childhood, commit suicide? It’s just not fair. He’s gone. Just like that. No warnings. No signs. No goodbyes. I mean sure he’d had issues with drug abuse in his past, but he was over and done with all of that now, wasn’t he?? He had the ability to make all of us laugh so hard our stomaches hurt. He was the man.

That’s why this sucks SO bad— the fact that while he spent his whole life making everyone else laugh and feel alive, inside he was broken, depressed…and ultimately dying. He ended his life in such a tragic way and it broke hearts around the world. I know my heart is truly broken…

This is exactly WHY I want to see a huge wave of random acts of kindness. YOU have the potential to save someone’s life just by being kind to them, asking them how they are doing, (like REALLY doing), complimenting their smiles, encouraging them, spending actual time with them, writing them a handwritten note, ANYTHING. I can’t help but to wonder when was the last time someone had genuinely asked Mr. Williams how he was REALLY doing. Ugh.

It’s wild to me that someone can give off the impression that everything’s okay, just like Robin Williams did, when really they’re screaming on the inside.

WE NEED TO STOP ASSUMING!! Just because someone seems okay, maybe they’re really NOT.

I personally know a lot of men and women who appear to be happy, but yet have candidly opened up to me and let me know that they’re not as happy as they portray to the rest of the world. And I think that’s really brave of them to be so honest with me. With the world of social media we live in, it can be really hard to admit that there’s an inner battle going on. Maybe Robin Williams didn’t want to admit how depressed he was. No one likes to be judged… especially when they feel pressure to uphold a certain upbeat image. We live in a world of filters. We gatta look and appear to be at our best, right?

In reality, life is a journey of ups and downs though… and sometimes the journey includes a lot of heartache, rejection, unsuccessful attempts, shut doors, “no’s”… all of which can feed depression, mental illness, and even trigger suicide. It’s just a downward spiral and if we don’t start doing something about it, small as it may seem, we’ll continue watching people lose their battle to the disease. Because that’s what it is you know… a disease.

I’ve always just been told that no one wants to talk about it and that instead, we should read some self-help books, take your meds, “get over it”, “look on the bright side” and “count your blessings.” …… and while that all sounds like positive steps moving foward, it’s also just not the easiest thing to do when you’re suffering in the dark. As someone who has had to be in extensive conversation with mental hospitals, doctors, social workers, insurance companies and beyond, I can tell you right now, there is MAJOR work to be done.

I’ve been wanting to start this movement in the way we think and talk about (and conquer!!) depression for years but I always felt like there was so much shame on the subject. Even personally: I have a very close relative of mine who has suffered with manic depression bipolar disorder (just like Robin Williams) since he was 16yrs old. At this point in time I don’t have his permission to disclose his name or share his full story, but I’m hoping that I will in the very near future.

I can’t sit back and see another secretly unhappy person end his or her life when it could’ve been prevented by love.

So let’s keep going with this HUGE wave of random acts of kindness everywhere! I know the wave may start off small, but as more and more people catch on and begin to pay it forward, I honestly believe with all my heart that we can truly change lives and even SAVE LIVES by helping the silent sufferers of the world feel better, feel loved, feel seen, and to cope with their darkness.

Afterall, we are called to be a light in a dark place.

Thank you Robin Williams for being such a light in mine.

xo,
Alicia