Thumbs Up to Criticism

criticism

One of the more prominent ‘life themes’ that I’ve been noticing lately is peoples’ intolerance for receiving constructive criticism. People are resilient to change. They do not want to be told that they could be doing something better, or more efficiently. They are closed-minded, and believe that any suggestion for improvement is not only unnecessary, but also uncouth. They get unreasonably angry and defensive, leaving you with absolutely no choice but to back pedal, insert some compliments, and slowly retreat.

I notice this issue very frequently within the work place. In a corporation, there are a number of different personality types. Most of them, however, can all agree on one point: if it’s constructive criticism, I don’t want to hear it.

Why is this, more often than not, the case? Do people truly believe that all of their actions, behaviors, and beliefs are perfect, and beyond the possibility of improvement? Well, I should hope not! Of course, no matter who you are in this world, you can always always improve upon things.

Whether you’re in the work place or not, take constructive criticism with a professional approach.

  1. Don’t take it personally

Most people see constructive criticism as an attack. Step outside of yourself for a moment, and try to understand why this person is giving you this criticism and what they intend to happen or change as a result. Perhaps a simple alteration can lead to a project at work taking off with success, a complete 180 in your romantic relationship, or dramatically less hostility between you and a friend.

  1. Keep an Open Mind

Although you might be rather set in your ways, it’s never a bad idea to be open to change. Sometimes it is so easy to get stuck in a routine that you let other great ideas and opportunities pass you by, unnoticed. Somebody else might think of an idea that has never crossed your mind before, and although it wasn’t your idea, it still might be a great one. Listening to others, keeping an open mind, and being approachable are key to keeping your best interests in mind.

  1. Use an Evaluative Approach

After someone has given you constructive criticism (welcomed or not), take some time to process their suggestions. Evaluate whether you believe their points are valid, and try to come up with a solution that will appease your criticizer and also make you feel satisfied at the end of the day. Try not to be hostile or defensive, as that will only escalate the issue at hand.

On the flip side, as the criticizer, it is important to remember that you should be gentle. Use “I” statements and do not assign blame or point fingers. Try to avoid the word “you”, and instead make use of “when”, “I”, and “because”. Be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and acceptance and willingness to change take time.

Constructive criticism can be a wonderful thing, if you let it. The way you choose to perceive it entirely dictates the course that it will take. I can say, with certainty, that the more you welcome self-improvement into your life, the more you will feel at peace in your heart. There is always an opportunity to be better. Challenge yourself, and you may be surprised.

xx allie

Life is Like a Bag of Popcorn…

popcorn

I never used to get popcorn at the movie theater. I always wanted to, but could never justify the insane theater prices and the extra calories & fat. I’d always walk past the concession stand and the delectable aroma of fresh popped kernels, half with disdain for my decision to refrain and half with a sense of achievement, for not allowing the movie theater to win.

What I never bothered to realize is that I wasn’t winning either. Now don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great to have willpower. But would it have killed me to buy some popcorn every now and again? Would I have really felt that defeated? The answer is no. For so many years of my life, I denied myself the very thing I really wanted. I deprived a good experience of being great….every time I visited the movie theater.

Now this is obviously just one small example of how we automatically take the safe and familiar route every time we are given a choice. When we are presented with new decisions to make, we look to our past experiences. We do what we have done, and what has worked, in the past. On the contrary, just because what we’ve done before has ‘worked’, doesn’t mean there is no better way. If we want something, and we won’t be harming ourselves or others to attain it, my theory is…why not?

Needless to say, I have started to take this approach more in my everyday life decisions. If suddenly I see a good deal for a quick vacation—I book it (Denver, CO journey to ensue!). If I find a great new item of clothing while out shopping—I buy it. If I want a glass of moscato with dinner—you better believe I’ll order it! Because life is too short to not experience every day in the best way possible. Nothing in life is guaranteed, so if you have the means to spur your own happiness, then what are you waiting for?

Of course, I don’t always give in to every whim or desire. As with all things, you have to have balance. But the important thing to remember is that, from time to time, it won’t hurt to live a little. Let your guard down, be open to new possibilities, and for goodness sakes..buy the damn popcorn!

xx allie

 

The Happy Path

“Find out who you are, and do it on purpose” -Dolly Parton

happiness

In this busy world full of distractions, it is easy to lose touch with who we are and what we enjoy doing to make us happy. Months go by until you finally realize that you’ve neglected yourself, and you no longer remember what you enjoy.

This is your reminder: Prioritize yourself, and do what makes you happy.

Allot time every week for activities that make you feel alive.

What does this mean for me?

I LOVE to dance, and unfortunately there are fewer and fewer opportunities to dance as you mature through school, graduate, and enter the workforce. I am not looking to spend a fortune on joining a company dance class or team, and I am not looking for a huge commitment of my time [since I am always SUPER busy]. With these personal restrictions in mind, I was able to find the perfect solution to my passion for dance. ZUMBA! For a nominal fee, my gym offers hour-long Zumba dance classes every day after work.  I love these classes because they are very high energy, non-stop, interactive, and fun! It’s the perfect way to get my cardio in, while also feeling like a confident and strong woman among a group of other friendly and lively individuals. If you’re looking for a fun way to workout—look no further than Zumba!

Another way to restore and harvest confidence is by taking care of yourself. For me, this means tending to my skincare needs. For the longest time, I neglected my skin. I’d load a ton of makeup on every day, and oftentimes refuse to properly wash it all off before bed. For this reason, my skin would suffer. I would have regular breakouts and annoyingly oily skin. For the past few months, I’ve been devoting time every morning and night to engage in a multi-step face cleansing routine. I use high-end cleansers, name-brand face masks, and rich moisturizers. For something as important as your face, you can’t take the easy way out—go with the good stuff. My skin now feels healthier, and more resilient to impurities. My confidence jumps through the roof once I’ve finished with my routine, as a clean face = one happy girl.

Self-Expression has also been a major source of happiness for me. I absolutely love to write, and sometimes with a busy schedule it’s hard to make the time. I’ve been actively trying to journal nearly every day. Journaling helps me to collect my thoughts and express them in a way that is therapeutic to me. I have also just received a new guitar from my lovely boyfriend this Christmas, and I wholeheartedly can’t wait to take a crack at it and learn to express myself through music and song. Learning an instrument has always been a goal I’ve set for myself, and now I feel is as good a time as any!

Learn. I’ve always had the thirst for new knowledge. Although I’m out of school for now, I make it a priority to keep pushing my brain to learn new things. I have just subscribed to Psychology Today magazine, and I read about 1-2 self-help books per month. Most of the books I read are written by licensed Psychologists or medical doctors, who draw from published research studies to help make their points.  Keeping my brain active and sharp makes me feel proud of myself. Feeling proud of yourself is one of the easiest ways to gain self-confidence and achieve happiness.

Relax & Pamper. Lastly, I think it is important to treat yourself to a relaxing and revitalizing experience every now and again. I enjoy bubble baths—using bath bombs from Lush Cosmetics, hour-long full body massages from a local Chinese Foot Massage, a gel manicure about every 2 weeks, and a baking sesh of yummy homemade cookies. You can’t go wrong when you make your own self feel like the princess you are! Nobody in this world should treat you better than you treat yourself. So don’t be too conservative.

When you begin to discover who you are and what you love, it’s easy to find happiness from within. As long as you keep yourself feeling challenged, appreciated, and cared for, you can’t lose. When you are happy from the inside out, outside influences are less likely to disturb your peace. You are a strong and stable force that cannot be swayed by the unpredictable outside world. You are your own rock.

xx allie

on transience

“A flower that blossoms for only a single night does not seem to us, on that account, less lovely.”

The reason for this being my favorite quote, is that it is by far the hardest one to live by.

Almost every day I think about it, and how I would love more than anything to fully implement its lesson into the practice of my life.

All things in life are ephemeral. There is nothing that lasts forever. Oftentimes knowing this truth makes it hard to fully accept and appreciate something that is beautiful or dear to us, as we know that it will only exist temporarily.  That one day, we will be forced to let go of our attachment to it, and it will cease to be present in our lives in the way that it once was. That is why things that are beautiful, are also sad. We are afraid to grasp onto something that is transient, because then we feel vulnerable. We are scared to lose what we love so much.

Some would say to never get attached in the first place. That when something amazing reaches its demise, it loses all of the value that it ever had. It is useless, and meaningless if it exists no more.

I don’t agree, and neither does Freud. The idea instead is to cling tighter to the moments that are near and dear to us. To live entirely in those moments, because that is what makes life beautiful. The things that take our breath away are the very things worth living for. And when they inevitably end, there will still be something to be said for them. They will still eternally hold value and meaning to us. Something can still be regarded as beautiful even though its duration was short.

It is imperative to live life moment by moment. To not get caught up in the past, or paralyzed by expectations for the future. Present-moment awareness is key. When we experience life right now, nothing gets tainted. Allow yourself to be captivated without fear of what the future might bring. Once you have mastered this, you have mastered the art of living happily.

xx allie

*The above quote was extracted by Freud’s “On Transience” in Requiem for a Dream.

It is, without question, the best piece of literature I’ve read, and by far the most stimulating. View its full entirety by clicking this link: http://www.freuds-requiem.com/transience.html

 

 

not so anti-antidepressants

*Pre-curser: Before publishing this post, I was hesitant. Do I really want to publicize this aspect of myself? To refrain would be dishonest. This is who I am, and therefore there’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Growing up, I was always a happy and cheerful child. Jubilant, energetic, positive, and lively. Making friends was easy, and keeping them was even easier. Most things just seemed simple.

As I got older, I started to notice a gradual decline in my mental well-being. In college, I experienced a typical amount of work-load stress, roommate tiffs, and boy drama. Normally I was resilient to minor drawbacks. However, at the age of 20, I experienced my first bout of depression.

Kick started by rejection and cheating from my supposed boyfriend at the time, suddenly I was not myself. My personality changed. I could not find happiness in the things that would normally give me so much. I could not wholeheartedly laugh at jokes that normally I’d find funny. I was overwhelmed by the start of every day, and could barely find the will to get out of bed in the morning. When I’d return from school in the afternoon, I’d crawl back into bed, throw the blankets over my head, and wish that the day would hurry up and end so that I could fall into a deep sleep and forget about my responsibilities.  I started to avoid people. People that I cared about and loved. Mostly because I could not find the strength to carry out conversations with them, but also because I could not handle the stress and guilt of bringing my sadness around other happy, unaffected individuals. I would cry a few times a day, lost my appetite, and also any motivation that I was ever lucky enough to have in the first place. This lasted a good 6-8 weeks. Slowly, things got better and I was cured. I returned to my normal self.

Again I was afflicted by depression at the age of 22. I had just graduated from college, a time of my life that I was expecting to be incredibly fulfilling. Instead, I had never felt so lost and empty in my life. Like many, I had a post-college crisis. Suddenly I knew nothing…about who I was, who I wanted to be, and what I wanted to do with my life. I delve into a state of depression yet again. I started to avoid people, snap at them, cry more frequently, and spiral into what seemed like a never-ending pit of negativity. Although this episode lasted for less time than the last, it was still bad enough to have thoughts of slamming my car into walls and trees on my way to and from work. Again, this passed and I returned to my normal self.

Most recently, I experienced depression for the third time (at the age of 23). Unlike the prior times, there were no breakups or crazy life transitions to account for my sudden onset of depression. In fact, everything in my life was seamless. I had a loving, caring boyfriend. A good job with friendly co-workers, a supportive family, and amazing friends. I had everything I wanted. Before I knew it, depression crept in. Suddenly every day seemed like a marathon. Every morning I would cry before going in to work. I just didn’t want to go, and couldn’t handle the overwhelming feelings that it entailed. On Fridays, I was already worried about the anxiety I would inevitably feel on Sundays, for the Monday that would ensue shortly thereafter. I enjoyed Sundays less than Mondays, because at least when Monday was over then Tuesday would come and we’d be one step closer to another weekend. The crying continued, and the irritability was almost intolerable. I would feel myself getting angry any time someone tried to speak to me, or reach me on the phone. Not just angry, but enraged. I took routes that would mean avoiding others. I would take everything personally, and could not, for the life of me, find an inkling of positivity in anything. I lost my appetite entirely, causing me to lose almost 20 pounds in the span of only a few months. I hit a low. I felt dangerous to myself and all of those around me. When I finally had the opportunity to see my general doctor, it was in just the nick of time. He prescribed me a low dose of Lexapro (5mg), an SSRI that is intended to help with anxiety and depression.

Up until this point, I had always been anti-medication. If I had a headache, I’d let it pass. If I had cramps, those could pass too. A cold? Flu? Nothing was too impossible for my good ol’ body to fight off. This time was different though. Try as I might, I did not have any control over the depression. When it gets you, it gets you good. You succumb to all that it is. Begrudgingly, I accepted the medication. I figured I did not have much to lose, but I could potentially have everything to gain. I could have my life back. If I didn’t like it, I promised myself that I could simply stop taking it. I wondered how it might alter my brain. I wondered if I would feel like myself, or if I would feel like a prisoner to the substance. I wondered if my reactions to everyday events would feel unnatural, and un-me. I was fearful. Had it really come to this? Was I really going to be someone on anti-depressants? Was I psychotic? Why couldn’t I just shake it all off, and be stronger than the ‘sickness’?—for lack of a better term.

Taking antidepressants was even more difficult to me, as I aspire to be a counseling psychologist and wondered if this drawback meant that the field of psychology was not for me. Since I need medication, do I really have the right to counsel others on how to be happy and live a fulfilling life? What would make me an expert if I can’t even be medication-free?

It was at this point in my life that I had to make a choice. I could continue to feel lifeless and depressed, or give the antidepressants a chance to help me. Pushing all of my pride aside, I allowed the medication to work its magic.

Initial Symptoms

The first 2-3 days felt odd. I experienced a dream-like, hazy state for most of the day. I felt drugged, and even a little emotionless. I was extremely tired, and lackadaisical.  However, I did not feel angry, sad, or even irritable. I was too busy being tired.

As the days went on, the sleepiness wore off. I started to feel normal throughout the day. I avoided people less, had an increased level of patience for things, developed an appetite again, gained motivation to do the things I enjoy, and felt a great deal less anxiety. Negative thoughts vanished. It was amazing. Suddenly all of the negativity was just gone. Positivity came into the picture for the first time in forever. I started to actually look forward to work! Everything was easier, and I was able to enjoy things again. I cannot say enough how truly magnificent this little pill worked for me. I am myself again, and I’ve never felt better.

Aside from vivid, mostly bad dreams and night sweats, I have no more symptoms from the pill. It’s been five months now, and I’ve gained less than 5 pounds since being on the pill, which was to be expected since I was eating next to nothing while depressed.

For the level of improvement I’ve experience, the side effects feel almost non-existent.

Self-Work

Although I don’t doubt that the antidepressants aided in my recovery immensely, I have also done a lot of self-work that coincided with the effects of the medication. I have been seeing a therapist regularly, which has been a major help to me. The therapist helps me to see things in different ways, and gives me strategies for dealing with things that are troubling. It feels extremely comforting to have a contact that I know is on my ‘team’, so to speak. She is someone who is here to help me find strength within myself. She has been facilitating my personal transformation.

I have also been reading a number of self-help books. I believe that the more you immerse yourself in positivity, the more your mind will naturally tend to think in those ways. Soon, the habits that I am trying to create for myself will be effortless and natural.

Here is my reading list:

Codependent No More by Melody Beattie

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay

Love is Letting Go of Fear by Gerald G. Jampolsky

Next on the list:

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge

You are a Badass by Jen Sincero

The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in life and in business by Charles Duhigg

The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein

Lastly, I have done a great deal of self-reflection and journaling in the last few months. I have been very mindful of my personal setbacks, weaknesses, and habits. When I catch myself being a certain way that I no longer endorse, I try my best to reset my thinking and behave accordingly. Through writing and reflection, I have gained a great deal of insight. I am not the same person that I was 6 months ago. I am mentally stronger. I have a greater love for myself. I have a greater appreciation for what I’ve been through and how far I’ve come.

I am the happiest I’ve ever been right now, antidepressants and all. Sometimes, whether we like it or not, we need a little outside help. I am no less of a person now because I am on medication. In fact, I’m the greatest version of myself up to date. I do not feel that I’ve taken the easy way out, because I’ve been doing my fair share of self-work…more than a lot of people might ever do in their lifetime. And that’s a lot to be proud of.

If you’re experiencing depression and aren’t quite sure where to turn, you are welcome to contact me or someone you trust and can confide in. Medication (and therapy) might be the key to your recovery. Remember to be gentle with yourself. You are human, and feelings are a part of being alive. In spite of all you might be feeling right now, one thing is for sure, you are not alone. Happiness is right around the corner.

‘Tis the Season to be Thankful

The holidays are right around the corner, and lately I’ve taken extra time each day to reflect upon the little things in life that I am thankful for. When I say the ‘little’ things, I truly mean the things that we take for granted every day. The things that we inherently have, but don’t necessarily recognize…or for that matter, appreciate.

I am thankful for…

My two hands–because not everyone is so lucky. How much more difficult would life be without these? I do everything with them, and know no other way.

My bills–because although I don’t love having to pay a large sum of money every month on things we deem as necessities, I only have bills because I have the means to pay them.

A job–it’s no fun to job search..we all know that. It feels comfortable to have a job that I know how to do, benefits, paid time off, and co-workers that I look forward to seeing every day. I am fortunate.

My car–the traffic that I experience every day from my commute is by no means my fave. But, what if I had to walk to work in snow every day? What if I had to bike in the rain? What if I had to catch a 30 minute train ride? When you really think about it, I’m lucky to have traffic! At least I’m sitting in my warm car, with seat heaters on & Michael Buble playing. Who the heck am I to complain?

The people who I love, and who love me–My best friends, my boyfriend, co-workers, and my family. There is nothing more important than a sturdy and reliable support group. Without these people, I’m not sure where I would be in life.

A bed to sleep in–This one in particular has been frequenting my mind relatively often. A few weeks ago, my boyfriend and I were in downtown L.A. on a date night to see the film, La La Land. As we walked from the theater to our car, I couldn’t help but notice a middle-aged woman curled up in a comforter and sleeping on the side of the street. She was sound asleep, and looked as peaceful as she possibly could (given the circumstances). A part of me died a little inside when I saw that. Not because I had never seen it before, but because in that moment, I was a little less ignorant. I cried there on the streets of L.A., because it is sad to imagine that this lady had gotten comfortable with this lifestyle. That she has no one to turn to, no home for safety, no phone for contacting loved ones, and no bed to sleep in at night. This is her reality…one that I’ve never had the misfortune to experience. One that I hope I never have to. Since that day, I feel lucky and thankful every night that I get the opportunity to sleep in a bed, in my home. For what I have today, is not necessarily what I will have tomorrow.

Make each day count, and be grateful for all things that you are given in life. Being appreciative of the little things makes each new day a joy to be alive. I am thankful to be alive and well today.

Happy Holidays. May your new year be filled with all good things.

xx allie