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finding BALANCE: stop pursuing perfection

balanceStacey OswaldComment

Even if you think you're a pretty chill person, you've probably pursued perfection in some way at least once in your life. Whether it's with your body, your job, your relationship, or your social status, we all fall victim to it. It's just a part of human nature- no one just wants to accept a sub-par reality, so we strive for perfection to avoid being ordinary. Unfortunately, this simple desire to be better can often become an obsession or a way of life, which is when it starts becoming an issue.

I was reading Aziz Ansari's new book, Modern Romance, and in one section he mentions that he is a "maximizer." I completely related to this, as a maximizer is someone who obsessively looks up reviews for restaurants or products in order to make the best, most educated decision. Such people have trouble being spontaneous and they're often dissatisfied with their choices in the long run, as the "best"  never lives up to their expectations. Just the other day, I walked around Target for an hour doing online research on a curl cream for my hair, only to end up not buying anything because I couldn't find conclusive enough reviews. But I relate to this on a much deeper level, too.

When I moved to LA, I thought it would be my dream place. There's a ton of healthy food here, it's sunny year-round, and there's SO MUCH TO DO. I was so excited to leave Nashville that I honestly didn't even enjoy my last few months there. I just sprinted out the door, figuratively, leaving behind all that I knew for this beautiful future I had created in my head. Surprise surprise, LA ended up being nothing like I expected. It's a huge, dirty, overwhelming city, I often feel unsafe walking around by myself, and everything (including all of the healthy food I dreamed about) is incredibly expensive. Not to mention that it's almost impossible to find an entry-level job out here, especially when no one even knows where Vanderbilt (my undergrad) is located.

It's been hard coming to terms with the fact that my dreams were so off-base, but after some thought, I've discovered the underlying issue. I've always had this image of what my perfect life would look like, and it often has nothing to do with who I am as an individual. I moved to LA because I wanted to be that thin, health-obsessed city girl who always posts the perfect Instagrams and has huge circle of friends. I wanted to be Lauren Conrad or Karena and Katrina (from Tone It Up), because I always felt fat and lonely in college and I was sick of the winter. But I love eating both healthy food and unhealthy food, and I'm way too introverted to have a ton of friends. I didn't choose LA because it was perfect for ME- I chose it because it was perfect for who I so badly wanted to be. These are completely different things, and only now am I realizing how important it is to make decisions for yourself. 

My point is- we need to stop pursuing perfection for superficial reasons. We all want to be better, and that's fine. But you shouldn't want to be a different person! We are all so special and unique, and we need to embrace our imperfections so we can discover our true potential. Otherwise, you'll end up like me, moving across the country to pursue this image of perfection that doesn't align with my actual goals and values. Hopefully, I'll be able to fix my mistakes so I don't end up miserable, but I'm using this whole experience as a lesson that perfection is overrated. Also, on a slightly different note, stop trying to find the best apartment or restaurant or boyfriend or hair product. Such perfection doesn't exist, especially when you're only looking at surface-level factors. Think about how that boy or that apartment makes you feel the majority of the time, and if it's mostly positive, go with it and stop questioning yourself!!! And for God's sake, stop Yelping restaurants for hours and just pick something already! :) 

PS- Sorry I haven't been posting that much. As you can tell from this post, a lot has been up in the air, but I have some exciting things coming up that I can't wait to share! 

finding BALANCE: create joy

balanceStacey OswaldComment

Last week, in my first installment of Finding Balance, I discussed how patience plays an integral role in the process of discovering balance on your own terms (boy that’s a mouthful). Today, I’m going to tell you all about a little lightbulb moment I had this week, and how it’s helped me with this whole balance thing in a major way. 

So far, life in LA has been tough. It’s been getting a lot better in recent weeks, but I still have so many moments where I just feel lost. I was having a really hard day right before I left for New Jersey, which the old me would have just wallowed in with the company of Netflix and ice cream. But something inside of me wanted to fight for happiness, so I put on my sneakers and went outside for a big walk. Along the way, I started to feel better, more energized, and less depressed. I realized that I had spent so much time that day browsing the Internet and getting lost that I had spent essentially NO time doing things that made me happy. And why was that? Because I didn’t think I deserved any better. 

I think that’s something that we all do, subconsciously. We think that we don’t deserve to put ourselves first, even though putting others' needs before our own leads to stress and unhappiness. Sure, there are people we’re responsible for/to, and if you’re a parent, that’s even more true. But at the same time, if you’re not happy, then you won’t be able to care as deeply for those other people or do a top-notch job at work or spread joy to the world around you. You’ll just be going through the motions of life without any real purpose, because what’s the point of doing anything if it doesn’t lead to happiness? Most of us do a great job at making other people happy, and that’s AWESOME. But our happiness as individuals is just as important, and that doesn’t make you selfish or stupid or a burden to society. It makes you better

If we’re actively pursuing joy in our lives, we’re able to give more of ourselves to the world and to those we love. We’re able to fight for that job that we want, because we have the confidence to do so. We’re able to find balance, because balance --> happiness, and we truly believe we deserve both of those things. By putting your happiness first, you’ll be able to make even MORE people happy as a result. Sounds like a win/win right? 

findingbalance

So how do you start finding joy? I suggest you make a list. Think of all of your favorite things, from the stupid things you loved as a kid to the things that make you smile on even your worst days.  I think of coloring, being outside in the sun, dogs, music, cooking, reading, and spending time with my friends. Whenever I feel really down, I force myself to recall this list and do something on it that would promote happiness. And slowly but surely, these little actions are helping me to pursue joy on a larger scale. Because I’m spending my days finding happiness, I’m able to open up my mind to options that previously would have seemed out of reach, from where I want to live to what I want to do. The world is my oyster, because I BELIEVE it. And because I also believe my happiness is important enough to warrant risk-taking and adventure. 

Now, I’m not telling you to give up your shitty 9-5 job or to dump your kids at an orphanage and run away into the sunset. I’m just saying that you should start fighting for your happiness, on a small scale, and see what it unearths for you on a personal level. Maybe you’ll find that that little thing that makes you happy can become a full-time job. Maybe you’ll see that you’ve been spending too much time stressing about your kids instead of spending quality time with them. Who knows what you’ll find? But the more you practice finding joy, the EASIER it will be to find balance. I promise! 

So make your list tonight, and vow to start prioritizing joy this week. Because what's the point of waking up in the morning if you don't have anything to look forward to? 

finding BALANCE: practice patience

balanceStacey OswaldComment

Not too long ago, I introduced the topic of intuitive eating and told y'all about my progress, which you can read about hereBut how are you supposed to start implementing intuitive eating into YOUR life? I know it might seem easy at first- how hard can it be to give yourself the freedom to eat whatever you want? However, it's actually pretty tricky, because you have to start paying legitimate attention to your body's natural cues, which if you're like me, you've been avoiding since elementary school. You have to stop all of the body name-calling you do on a daily basis, practice patience with your progress, and eat what you want when you want it but only until you're full. 

AKA it takes some work. So I thought I'd introduce a weekly column called "finding balance," where I update y'all on my progress and tell you about something that I've done recently to make intuitive eating a permanent part of my life. It'll be published every Sunday, as a way to help you guys start your week on a more positive, balanced note! 

As far as my progress goes, I've had some bigs ups and downs this week. I'm still unemployed and I haven't made a ton of new friends, so I've been feeling a tad lonely. Also, while I've worked a lot on the blog this week and gotten back into running, I've still had my anxious moments and my supremely bored, uninspired moments. I've noticed, by listening to my body, that I tend to want to snack when these moments hit. Running has really helped, and I've found myself avoiding mindless snacking by either getting out of the house or focusing on a TV show or blog post. But I'm still struggling with listening to my hunger cues when I'm in a bit of a blah period. It's not like I'm binging on food anymore (thank God this has stopped since I started this process), but I do still eat past my desired level of fullness sometimes, which is something I'd like to get better at in the coming weeks. 

Which leads me to my first nugget of wisdom for you guys: YOU HAVE TO BE PATIENT. I am literally the least patient person in the world, so this was a hard one for me to learn. I'm that girl who will literally walk away from the coolest restaurant in the world if forced to wait in a five-person line... I just don't do lines. Or traffic or "six-week programs" or 90-minute yoga classes. When I first started intuitive eating, I would hate on myself all the time for not being able to "do it right." But eventually, I learned that there is no way of doing it right. There's simply doing it, keeping tabs on your progress, and loving yourself even when you make mistakes. I make mistakes ALL the time, and when I start being hard on myself, I remember that this is simply a process. I can't be 100% perfect all the time because I just started a couple months ago. It can take YEARS to get this down, and yeah, that's scary as hell. But I just tell myself that it's worth it, that I've already made SO much progress, and that I'll be so thankful in a year for making this choice now, instead of choosing to go on yet another diet. 

So, to all of you brave souls wanting to get started with intuitive eating, just go for it. And when you make a mistake, be patient with yourself because in five years, you'll be the fit one eating an ice cream sundae without any guilt... you just might not be eating the whole thing ;)