Fear: The Passenger. 


Hello lovelies.

Happy Monday. (not really). Ok I shouldn’t really be so down on Monday. I mean what did it do to me? Nothing, except create the start of a brand new week. I should be thankful for that. Thankful that I am allowed to even see and experience a brand new week, or even a brand new day. Yeah, it kind of sucks having to go back to work and the hectic daily life routine, but maybe if our attitudes weren’t so negative, and instead we found a sense of thankfulness, we wouldn’t feel so unmotivated on Mondays.

So really. Let’s start over. HAPPY MONDAY! 

::big smile::

Today I come to talk to you about my little pal called “fear.” Me and this guy (or gal – who knows?) have had quite the relationship for some time. I can’t really say that it’s been a very happy one, but it has been quite the task trying to make him (or her) go away and leave me alone. Because really, nobody likes fear. It makes you panic. It makes you feel uneasy. It makes you feel like you’re about to die sometimes. And it just plain sucks, kind of like Mondays, right?

Well, just like my Monday analogy, I’ve decided to turn my attitude around towards fear. Start to look at him or her as a friend, rather than a really toxic relationship. I was inspired by the idea that Elizabeth Gilbert has mentioned in her latest book, Big Magic, where she speaks about how she combats her own fear.

Elizabeth explains that she treats fear as a passenger in her “life” vehicle. She realizes that it will always be in the car with her, but it does not mean that she must listen to it when it tries to scare her into being afraid of things that might not necessarily be real danger and are actually harming her personal growth journey. One of my favorite things I’ve heard her say in a few different talks was that she allows fear to travel with her, but she makes sure she establishes some ground rules, and she definitely doesn’t let it choose the snacks or especially ever take control of the wheel. She says that she is the one that always remains in control, and when fear does decide to speak up, she takes into account whether it is warning her of real danger, and if so, she thanks it. She also, however, thanks it when it’s trying to get her attention otherwise too, telling fear that she appreciates it’s concern, but it’s not really necessary this time.

This was an interesting concept. Thanking fear sounds very strange to me, especially when it causes so much anxiety and misery sometimes. Have you ever felt a tremendous amount of fear whether real or perceived? It’s absolutely terrible. Why would you ever want to thank something for making you feel that way?

But then I thought about it. Fear was originally designed for survival – to warn us of real danger. Unfortunately, our brains aren’t very good at detecting whether something is a real threat or simply perceived by our own minds. This is where anxiety comes into play.

When I was dealing with anxiety and panic attacks on a daily basis, there were moments where my “fear alarms” were going off nonstop at almost anything – and I mean things that really were no danger at all. There were days where I was afraid to shower because I was afraid that the shampoo would never come out of my hair. It sounds extremely silly when I think back on it now, and some people may even laugh at it, but it’s a real thing and real mental illness that many people go through.

At the time, my brain truthfully could not distinguish between what was real and what was just something my mind was triggering as potential danger. It was so debilitating having to deal with this because when your fear response goes off, it becomes almost impossible to make yourself believe that you are not really in danger. Your body will immediately go into “flight or fight” response and it will prepare itself to survive.

The way I was able to combat this debilitating panic was to simply acknowledge it instead of being more afraid of it. Little did I know, I was practicing Elizabeth’s theory of “thanking fear.”

Every time my mind would decide that something was scary and threatening, instead of allowing myself to go from 0 to 60 and panic, I would acknowledge it. I would tell my fear that I was aware that I was afraid. I would remind myself that it was ok. That I really was not in any true danger. I then began to give myself permission to feel the uneasy feelings, to sit with the uncomfortable anxiety that was weighing down on my chest, and I would simply move through it.

Over time, the fear began to ease up. It began to listen when I told it that there was no real danger. And little by little, the things I was once afraid of, became not as scary. My brain rewired the patterns of fear that were originally being triggered, and I was able to heal.

I haven’t experienced panic like that in almost two years. It happens once in a while, but only when I really am afraid of something that could potentially be dangerous or makes me feel extremely uncomfortable. So I’ve been pretty lucky to be able to recover. However, there are always those moments when anxiety and fear do creep up, but I am learning this new concept of thanking it and treating it as a passenger in my car, rather than the driver that is leading me.


(The scary roller coaster he wanted me to go on)

This past weekend, my boyfriend decided he wanted to take me to a local theme park so we could enjoy the experience of riding rollercoasters and acting like grown kids together. While it ended up being pretty amazing, I really wasn’t so apt to go at first.

Let me tell you. I don’t like rollercoasters. When I was a kid I loved them, but as I am now approaching my later 20s, my love for them has definitely ended. They make me incredibly uneasy and after reading so many horror stories of rollercoaster rides gone wrong, I am very wary of the safety of them.

But I went anyway. Because I love him. And because I wanted to experience something new together.

So he believes in that idea of jumping in the water with both feet in order to learn how to swim. I’m completely opposite. I like to test out the waters and get used to things. So he thought the best way to conquer my fear was by taking me on the fastest, scariest ride in the theme park. BAD IDEA. Especially for a recovering anxiety freak.

So we begin our trek to this rollercoaster and the panic starts to settle in. Fear is screaming it’s head off at me telling me to “TURN BACK” and “DO NOT GO ON THIS OR YOU WILL DIE.” I threw out all of my “acknowledging fear” wisdom and simply agreed. “Yup. You’re right fear. I definitely cannot do this. Let’s panic together.”

So we panicked. And I instantly broke out into sweat and tears and hyperventilating. My boyfriend was completely confused and couldn’t quite understand why I was so afraid because he didn’t think rollercoasters were that bad. He did his best to convince me that it would be ok and that the ride would be over quickly. But I wasn’t having it. As soon as it was our turn to get on the ride, I bolted. Literally. I jumped out of the seat and I told my boyfriend I couldn’t do it. Then I proceeded to go cry near the exit sign.

Total embarrassment.

After my boyfriend came off the ride, I apologized profusely. I told him that I didn’t think it was a good idea for us to come and that we should just go home. I gave in to fear. I let fear win. HOW AWFUL.

My boyfriend told me I shouldn’t allow fear to rule me like this. That eventually, I would need to face it and I couldn’t just keep running from it and hiding away. It was only making it stronger.

I decided he was right. My better brain came back and also decided he was right. But I still thanked fear anyway, because maybe going on the biggest rollercoaster there was not a good idea for my first ride. So we decided we would start small and work our way up.

I’m proud to say that I did end up going on plenty of rides, mostly smaller, but I did go on one pretty crazy, fast, twisty, turny rollercoaster. It wasn’t the biggest one of them all. But it was definitely up there. And I’m pretty proud of myself for getting on it. And I must say, I did survive. (HAHA!) But thank you fear anyway for keeping me safe.

(The roller coaster I conquered!)

Will I ever go on another rollercoaster? Um…maybe, or maybe not just because I really don’t like them. But maybe I won’t let fear freak me out as much anymore with other things. Instead, I’m going to thank it more often because it really does a pretty good job at keeping me alive day after day. And that’s something worthy of gratitude.

What are some things you’re afraid of? Are they really dangerous or simply perceived? Can you work on acknowledging your fear and thanking it instead of running away from it?

Next time we feel afraid as we are driving along on our path of life, let’s ask ourselves whether it’s something real or not. And if it’s not, tell fear to quiet down back there and to stop being a backseat driver, because in reality, you are in control of the wheel so don’t let it take over and keep you from living a grand life!



The Self Love Daily Challenge:

Distinguish between your real and perceived fears. Then work on acknowledging and thanking your fear, rather than giving into it right away.

xx

Christina

p.s. Don’t forget to follow my new and improved Instagram page – @The.Self.Love.Challenge!

 

 

 

 

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Pity Parties: Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That. 

Image result for ain't nobody got time for that

Please note: I had this post written out earlier this week, but because I was dealing with a few things, I did not have a chance to actually post this. So here it is now, semi-edited to be more relevant to today. I hope you enjoy!:

Bad habits die hard. Bad habits that you aren’t fully consciously aware of die even harder. I’m all too familiar with the habit of throwing pity parties. And although, I didn’t quite know that they had a name, I definitely knew the behavior very well. My life has been a bit stressful lately, especially these last few weeks. I’ve been throwing myself multiple pity parties. I allowed myself to be consumed with my worries and anxiety. I sat there in the depths of my sorrow and I whined and complained about how everyone around me was at fault, when all the while, it really has always been in my control.

Thanks to my boyfriend for leading me to a principle in a Wayne Dyer book called, Your Sacred Self, and after doing some research on my own, I’ve opened up my mind to learning how stop throwing pity parties and instead taking responsibility for my own happiness and progress in my life. and some research on my own.

Although I was too caught up in my shroud of misery to actually learn the principle last week when he was telling me about it, I’ve now learned that we are in control of our own happiness and our reactions towards the happenings in our lives. Nobody else. To quote Mr. Dyer himself he says,

“All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you. The only thing blame does is to keep the focus off you when you are looking for external reasons to explain your unhappiness or frustration. You may succeed in making another feel guilty about something by blaming him, but you won’t succeed in changing whatever it is about you that is making you unhappy.”

To sum it up, Mr. Dyer is basically saying: GET OUT OF YOUR PITY PARTY AND TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR OWN EMOTIONS.

Was that a bit too much?

Sorry.

But it was apparently loud enough for me to hear as I was trying to pull myself out of my own pity party and snap me back into progress mode.

Now what is a pity party, you say? It’s basically a few things. First it is being excessively self-absorbed in our own unhappiness and troubles. It is taking on that victim mindset of “why me?” or “what did I do to deserve this?”. It is seeking out condolence from everyone by whining about our circumstances and blaming external sources for our own despair.

When I learned about this definition, my first thought was, “what, no. I don’t do that. Right?” But then I realized it is EXACTLY what I do. But because I am so self-absorbed in my own sadness, anger, or frustration, I don’t realize that I am consciously doing this. I know there are a ton of us who are guilty of this bad habit, and many of us are not aware that we are even doing it.

Think about the last time something went wrong or was stressing you out excessively. Were you quick to blame outside circumstances as the cause of your unhappiness? Did you want to talk about it relentlessly to anyone who would listen and secretly enjoy when they would give you their compassion? Did you go on and on wasting time blaming things or people, when all the while you could’ve easily just changed the circumstance or done something about it to better the situation?

All signs of a pity party attendee.

Image result for pity party

Self-pity is a selfish response. It is one where we are so focused on ourselves and why we are so unfortunate, that we become ignorant to the fact that we have any real control or say over the situation. We look to others to solve our issues or to at least make us feel better.

The other little known fact that I learned was that self-pity is actually driven by pride! Who knew?! Pride makes us feel that we deserve better and when we feel unhappy and are pitying ourselves, we are basically lamenting over the fact that we have sacrificed so much or have done so much that we just don’t deserve the kind of sorrow that we feel.  

See how easily it is to think that we are not throwing ourselves a pity party. In my mind, I would have never guessed that this was all driven by pride or selfish reasons. In my mind, I was simply venting out my frustrations, hoping that by doing so, something would resolve. But then I realized, what actually got resolved? NOTHING!

All I ended up doing was blaming all of these external circumstances for my own stress, when I could have easily taken responsibility for my emotions or actions and lessened the feeling of distress.

The cure to self-pity is humility. It is taking responsibility rather than blaming outside things or people. Of course, there may be times when outside things or people do cause us pain, hurt, or frustration, and I’m not saying that you should not feel those emotions, but what I am saying is not to continue living in them so that you are paralyzed into believing that you are stuck and there is no way to get out of the despair that you feel. There is always a way out of everything, even if it seems like an incredibly hopeless situation.

So what else can we do to stop throwing ourselves multiple pity parties and instead start living lives full of abundance and happiness? Here’s a few principles I’ve come up with.

1.Take responsibility!

Instead of blaming others or outside circumstances, realize that you, too, are part of the problem in some way, even if you may not see it. Take a good look at your own actions. Maybe there is something that you might have done or said that contributed to the issue. Usually in every problem, we are partly at fault. Don’t stay in that victim mentality that only enables you to feel stuck, instead take control by understanding you do have that choice.

2.What can you change?

Once you realize that you can change your circumstances, figure out what is the root cause of your stress or unhappiness. Are there toxic people in your life that you need to cut out or create stricter boundaries with? Do you have any destructive habits that need nixing? Can you change or improve in an area in your life where you may feel stuck in – a job, relationship, personal issue, etc? Maybe it is the way you are reacting emotionally – are you a bit negative? Take little steps to create change so that you will feel that you have control over your own happiness.

3. Realize that Life isn’t fair and it was never promised to be.

Stop comparing your life to others. Just because one person has something you don’t have (yet), doesn’t mean that you need to feel that it is unfair and begin to feel sorry for yourself that you don’t have it. Life isn’t fair. And the quicker you are able to believe this truth, the less stressed or upset you will feel. Remember that you are worthy of good things and that these good things will come into your life when you are ready for receiving them. The reality is there will always be good and bad days, but just because the bad ones exist, doesn’t mean we should give them more weight in determine our happiness.

4. Remember you aren’t special.

Ok. You are special, but only to yourself (and to those who love you.) But as far as the universe goes, you aren’t the exception when it comes to facing adversities. Just like everyone else, you will face hard times and you will go through troubles. Just because you feel that you don’t deserve something, doesn’t mean it’s going to stop it from happening. Take the good and the bad. Learn from the bad. Make the best of the bad. But don’t feel bad just because something bad is happening to you. Its power over you will pass as soon as you learn to accept it and choose your reaction towards it.

5. You will survive.

Last but not least, you will survive because that’s what you are built to do at your most primal self. Remind yourself that you have gone through tough times before, and even though you believed you couldn’t possibility make it through, you are here – so obviously you survived. And just because it feels terrible right now, doesn’t mean it always will be. It will pass and you will survive until it’s passing.

 

So there you go. Do me a favor and don’t go throwing yourself any more pity parties. It’s not good for you. It’s not good for me. And it’s not good for the rest of humanity, because honestly, ain’t nobody got time for that. Take charge of your own life and your own happiness. If you feel a bit down, remember, you can change that. You can change your attitude or you do something that might make you feel better, but don’t go around complaining about it and not doing anything to make it actually better.

The Self Love Daily Challenge:

No more pity parties. Follow the five principles to beat the habit of self-pity. And start living a better life where you take control of your own happiness.

xx

Christina

Honestly Speaking.


Did you know that today is the two year anniversary of the day I broke down completely? I’m not sure if anniversary is really the right word to use when remembering a mental breakdown you once had, because the word ‘anniversary’ usually connotes something happy that you’d like to remember. And that moment is definitely not something I really want to remember, but at the same time, I do in this weird way. I want to remember because something that came out of it is something worth celebrating – the rebirth of myself.

I like to try to find silver lining in everything, the good in every bad you could say, because you know there is one somewhere deep down in there. While that experience was incredibly terrifying, it was also the moment when I found out I could be brave. It also pushed me to recognize that there was indeed more to who I was, and that I was made for something more as well. I figured out how to love myself. To take care of me for once, after a life full of constantly dimming my own light and making sure that everyone else around me is still shining.
This post is difficult to write and even as I sit here and write, I still struggle with these flashes of memories from that awful day that are currently making my body tense up. I remember how deathly afraid I was and incapable of understanding that I would be ok, and that I was not going to die right there. Panic attacks are no joke. And to those who have experienced one, they will understand. But for those who haven’t, it is not something to be taken lightly. They are real. And they make you feel like your worst fears are really real. And no, you can’t just snap out of it.

I want to write about this, not only just to celebrate another year of growth in my own personal journey, but because I want to start living in a more honest world, even if that world is so small and I am the only one keeping that policy. I figured I’m pretty tired of hiding. I’ve been tired for a long time and it can get pretty annoying keeping up this charade of acting normal. Let’s just be real. We’re all weird in some way. We all struggle with something. And nobody, even Kim Kardashian or Cher or any other celebrity who you might envy, is perfect.

I want to start telling the truth. After being inspired by one of my most recently discovered favorite writers, Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery, she claims that the reason behind the creation for her blog, was simply because she wanted to start being honest. She wanted to be her real self. And she wanted to start “living out loud.” I think I want to as well.

So let’s be real.

I know it’s scary. And to tell you the truth, I still hide parts of myself in some way because it’s terrifying of showing your real self to people. Humans can be so cruel and I’m not even sure why because it’s not like they are any better themselves. So what if we appear to be weak? At least we are honest about our struggles and I think that in itself is more brave and  a sign of strength than pretending to have it all together.

I don’t really know exactly where I’m going with this. I think it’s more of a post just trying to reach out to those of you who are struggling, who are dealing with something, some kind of human crisis. I want to give you permission so that you will know that it’s ok. It’s ok to be where you’re at. It’s ok to not be perfect. And you know what’s even better news – that you will be ok even if you’re found out.

I wish I knew that back then.

And I think if we knew this early on, we wouldn’t have so much unbearable pain weighing down on us. We would almost feel a kind of freedom or lightness to just be. We wouldn’t have to hide parts of ourselves that we were ashamed of. And maybe, just maybe, if people did actually give us permission to be imperfect, we would want to get help and better ourselves or our situations. But because we are living in such a pro-shame society, we feel like these weirdoes and outcasts that have to hide our true selves, which only puts more pressure and stress upon our bodies and minds, and then it’s almost impossible to get better.

I think the reason why I was able to push through it all was because of these “love warriors” as Glennon describes them. Love warriors like herself, Elizabeth Gilbert, Brene Brown, Jennifer Pastiloff, and Cheryl Strayed. These human beings did the brave thing by simply being honest about their struggles or the fact that they were imperfect. And you know what that did for me to hear their stories and to see how real they were; it gave me permission to be myself and to start living authentically too.

So thank you my fellow writers who I cannot thank enough for being brave souls. And I wish someday you will be able to know just how much you helped me and inspired me to be brave too. I think this why I have an even greater passion and burning desire to write. Because I aspire to be as brave as they are. I want to be honest. I want to show others that it’s ok to be imperfect, and it’s ok to love who you are, and it’s ok to struggle. I want to start that revolution inside of you beautiful human beings so that we can combat this false idea of perfection.

What can you be honest about today? Maybe you don’t have to take that next level and live honestly with everyone around you, but maybe it’s time to even just be honest with yourself. Because sometimes we even try to fool ourselves into believing we are perfect. And after years of doing that, I can say it is definitely the worst thing you can do.
That’s want to challenge you with today. Just that. Just be honest with yourself first and then see how that feels. Does it make you feel scared? Anxious? Depressed? Angry? Are you disappointed? Whatever you feel, accept it and then tell yourself it’s ok, because I love you anyway. Then see how you feel. Don’t be surprised if you begin to feel a little lighter and little bit more free.

And it’s a process. Just because you’re trying honestly out today, doesn’t mean it’ll last until tomorrow. You have to constantly choose to be honest and authentic. You have to constantly choose to give yourself grace. Trust me, I’m still working on it.


(Me being my honest self. A side profile photograph I would not normally post because I am so self conscious, but because I want to stop hiding out of fear, here I am.

In fact, I’ll share with you a little struggle right now. That anxiety I mentioned, it’s kind of rearing it’s ugly head right now. Not permanently and not as intensely but I can feel it lingering around and it’s definitely not welcome. My body feels tense, too tense, and I just can’t seem to slow my mind down. It’s most likely from stress, and thank God, I am much stronger than I used to be so I am able to function pretty well, but it is still extremely uncomfortable. And you know what I’ve noticed, I am beginning to try to hide it because I’m ashamed. Because that fear inside me has welled up into believing that people are going to think I’m weak for this or that I’m going to relapse and all of my progress is going to mean nothing. But you know what I say to that…

“It’s ok, I love you anyway. I’m not going to hide you from anybody. In fact, I’m going to shine some light in your direction, just so you know that I’m not intimidated by you anymore. And when you pass, I will still continue on being brave. Still being me, my imperfect little self.”


You are much braver than you believe, my friends.


Love you all.

The Self Love Daily Challenge: Be honest with yourself. Accept what you feel and tell yourself it’s ok, I love you anyway. Then try incorporating that same honesty and acceptance in your life with others.

xx

Christina Ciro

p.s.

Don’t forget to reach out to me. It gets a bit lonely not seeing anyone respond (haha) and I’d really love to hear from you. Follow me on instagram @christina.ciro or Facebook!

One Year Ago.

  
A lot can change in a year. It’s funny how when we consciously think about it, we feel as though time is moving so slowly, but when we look back, we realize how quickly it is actually passing by and how quickly things are changing. This time last year I had just broken off my eight year long relationship with my ex. It was one of the hardest decisions of my life, but I knew that it was something I needed to do. I had just finally started to feel like myself again, after a 6 month long recovery from my nervous breakdown. This time, however, I wasn’t completely my old self. It was as if the purpose of my breaking down completely was to reveal something deep inside me that had been kept hidden for a long time – my real self.

I knew the way I had been leading my life up until that point was obstructing my potential growth from within and I knew that there were still parts of myself that were dying to be revealed, only if I were willing to take the risks that were required of me to reveal them. I knew I had to make the decision to end things. And sometimes, although we may care for and love something deeply, it is not meant to be in our lives for more than the period of time that was needed in order to teach us something. My first love taught me just that. How to love. The innocence of it all. The purity of it all. The heartbreak of it all. But that was it’s only purpose. The rest was up to me to discover on my own. I needed to figure out who I was truly. My own identity. What I wanted from life. What I wanted to give back in return.

So a year ago, I decided just that. To give myself that chance. To move forward with my own personal journey and discover the beauty of loving myself. I’m not going to lie. It has been a difficult journey – one filled with loneliness, more heartbreak, anxiety, fear, sadness, and anger. But it has also been the most eye-opening, growth-producing, strength-building journey of them all. I was forced to push my limits. I had to step outside my own comfort zone and really depend on myself, something I had not done for I’m not sure how long since I had always attached my identity to someone else previously. I have gained wisdom that I would not have otherwise gained. I have learned what I dislike and what I do like. I have figured out what I want and do not want to include in my life on a daily basis. I have gone on adventures, taken chances, and faced many fears. I have tried the new and let go of the old. I have broken away from many old patterns of thoughts and replaced them with ones that were more positive and pure. I have learned what it is like to enjoy my own company and solitude. I have gone through periods of time when I was the only person I did have to lean on, aside from God. I’ve had to hold myself, love myself, and comfort myself in times of loneliness. But through it all, I have discovered who I am, and as I continue on this journey, I am still learning every day who that is.

It’s amazing how we can evolve. How making one choice can change our entire world, especially if it is the right choice. Previously, I always wondered how people changed. How one day they could just wake up and decide to lead a completely different life. But then I realized that change doesn’t just happen. It requires risk. It requires making choices. It requires sacrifice. And it requires a whole ton of effort. But then one day, you look back after a year, and realize how much you have growth and how much you have evolved and you begin to understand that it was worth it. That everything you went through was for a reason to bring you to this moment in time. That even the bad parts were part of the equation of helping you in your journey to get to this point.

I know sometimes we don’t get to make that choice for ourselves. Sometimes, life just happens and it doesn’t ask if we’re ready. So we are forced to evolve and adapt, but even then, I feel that everything does have its purpose and has a part in our stories.

I’m not entirely sure what the purpose was of this post, so don’t get mad at me if it doesn’t have some kind of deeper message or meaning that I’m trying to teach today. I think it’s more of a reflective post. One where I can just look back and notice how far I have come and to just take a moment and be proud of myself for accomplishing getting this far. I think it’s a post to encourage everyone really to look back and see where you were a year ago, two years ago, maybe even five years ago, and just be thankful that you are not where you used to be but that you are ever-evolving. Maybe you’re not even where you want to be yet, maybe you are still in the process, but be grateful for every single step you are taking towards moving forward, towards your calling, towards your own purpose and true self.

I am proud of myself and sometimes we have to be and that in itself is a great act of self love. Be proud of yourself. Be proud of who you are becoming. Of who you are now. And just keep going. One step at a time. Keep changing. Because changing means you’re alive and inspired, so don’t ever stop adding to who you are.

                                                                  

The Self Love Challenge:

Look back at least six months and see how much you have grown as a person, in your skills, in your relationship, in your career, etc. Then simply be proud of yourself. And be thankful for how far you have come.

xx

Christina Ciro

Current life motto: I am Wonderful!

  

Have you ever had a wakeup call? Like you were so stuck in this one pattern of thought and God kept on shouting at you over and over again but you just weren’t getting it. So finally He decides to humble you by breaking your pride down just so He could get your attention. Well. This kind of just happened to me. And I wanted to share the wisdom I’ve been imparted with, because it really is important and it definitely pertains to loving yourself – because apparently I haven’t been doing that, and it was no wonder why I felt the way I did.
If you’ve been following my blog, you know that recently I have been in a sort of depressive funk. Most of the reason being because I recently cut my hair pretty short (somewhat accidentally), and from someone having really long hair for the last 5 years, it was a dramatic change. What made me feel even more self-conscious was the fact that after I cut my hair everyone told me how relieved they were that I cut it because the hairstyle and color I had before was pretty bad (and that’s saying it lightly.) I love when people are honest, but when people are honest and start to poke jabs at my appearance, I become extremely self-conscious because it takes a direct hit to my self-worth.

  
(Here I am! – Hi!)

I’ve always equated part of my self-worth to my physical appearance on some level or another. I mean I’ve always been pretty confident about my appearance (not trying to be vain here!). However, it wasn’t always that way. As a child I was teased plenty. I’m going to get real honest and vulnerable here so bear with me. I have a very prominent nose and children in school used to always make fun it, calling me “big nose” or “flamingo.” It was so hurtful to the point where I would come home crying very often saying that I was ugly. I fed myself this lie constantly and because there were so many around me that confirmed it, I started to truly believe that I was ugly. 

Then came high school. I found out more about make-up and fashion and how you can manipulate your looks with the two, so that’s precisely what I did. This carried on well into my mid-twenties. I would put myself in significant debt with the amounts of money I spent on clothing and make-up just so I could feel beautiful and win the approval of others. I wanted people to tell me I was pretty. I wanted them to comment on how good I looked or how my make-up was beautiful. But I never realized that I was always hiding behind my insecurity. I was putting on a façade just so I didn’t have to face my deepest fear that I felt ugly and unworthy.

It wasn’t until my breakdown and financial meltdown in 2014, when my façade finally collapsed. I was ridden with the worst anxiety in my life that I did not care what I looked like because I could barely even function, let alone find the energy to care about my appearance. I had lost my home. Lost my ability to buy any new clothes or make up. Lost my desire to even get dressed up because I was so depressed over everything else. So people were faced to see the real me. Once I finally began my recovery, I was pretty terrified over what people would think. I remember going back to work feeling so weak as a person. I didn’t have any money or cool clothes or any kind of fashion sense anymore because I felt so out of the loop. I looked so plain. And I felt that people could tell I was different. I felt even more depressed because of this.

However, things did change in one way. I began discovering how to accept myself for where I was at. To accept this new self that did not have anything to hide behind. To accept showing people my real self, my vulnerable self. I began The Self Love Challenge and started discovering ways how to love myself more and show more kindness to who I was. I started to grow again, but of course I still wasn’t the same as before. And while I may not have thought so at first, now I believe that it is good that I am not the same as I was before.

However, even though I am doing much better than I was, God recently revealed to me a deeper wound that I was still carrying – one where I still was not able to accept myself completely. Sure, I may seem that I value myself on the outside and I may even show kindness to myself on some days, but deep down, I still feel the wound of feeling unworthy, and most of it comes from my own insecurity of feeling ugly or unlovable. I know, it may sound silly to some of you. You may say, “no way, you are so pretty!” or “there’s nothing wrong with you, you are beautiful.” But I don’t think it’s fair to discount anyone’s issues. What may be insignificant to one person, may be a severely damaging thought pattern to someone else. I was ingrained to believe that I was ugly because of my nose, which began to form even deeper core beliefs that I was ugly, unworthy, and not valued. We may not ever realize where these deep beliefs come from on the surface, but if we dig deep enough we will eventually find that somewhere in our past we were wounded very deeply and that that wound never healed properly, leaving with it a deep scar or thought pattern that was never mended.

When I cut my hair, the old wound decided to resurface. Maybe it wasn’t my nose this time, but it was still the same underlying belief that I was unworthy. I felt so insecure because I had been hiding behind my hair again and now that it was chopped off, I was revealed once more. Thoughts kept popping up into my mind, “would people still think I’m worthy?” “Am I still loved?” “Am I still considered beautiful?” These thoughts seem a bit silly to my now, but in the last few weeks I have been crying because I could not figure out the answers. And then I would analyze and re-analyze every single comment from someone, almost hoping to find some kind of confirmation that I really was ugly. That’s what we do when we are wounded. We look for reasons that confirm our negative beliefs. We don’t do it purposely because we are looking to deliberately hurt ourselves, but we do this because the mind is wired to look for reasons to confirm a belief, especially a negative one, so that it could trigger a sign of danger and make itself become defensive. And then we end up becoming defensive because of these reaffirmed beliefs and put up these walls to guard ourselves further from getting hurt, all the while not realizing that this act hinders our chances of healing the wound in the first place. It’s a cycle we put ourselves through subconsciously over and over again, until we can become consciously aware of it through awareness and eventually heal ourselves of this negative core belief.

Wow. That was a mouthful. But this is where I am at today. It took me a good few weeks of crying and feeling sorry for myself, but I’ve finally arrived thanks to God’s little wake up call. Today He allowed me to see the truth. He revealed to me that I was playing victim once again and catering to my negative thought patterns by purposely seeking out affirmations through others that I was indeed unworthy. He also revealed to me that I have been hiding behind that façade once more. That maybe it wasn’t hair and make-up, but it was definitely people pleasing and trying to mold myself into someone I was not just so I could feel valuable once more.

I’m learning through Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, that the only way to truly feel belonging is by accepting our true selves and allowing ourselves to be revealed to others through vulnerability.  

She says, “When we can let go of what others think and own our story, we gain access to our worthiness – the feeling that we are enough just as we are and that we are worthy of love and belonging. When we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that don’t fit with who we think we’re supposed to be, we stand outside of our story and hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving. Our sense of worthiness – that critically important piece that gives us access to love and belonging – lives inside of our story.”

This is the only way we can find true belonging. This is the only way we will ever truly feel like we are loved, if we allow people to see the real us and if we allow ourselves to be the real us. We need to stop “hustling” for our worthiness and realizing that we are perfectly wonderful just as we are. And if people really don’t like us for who we are, it is not our problem to try to convince them otherwise. The people who genuinely will love you will love you for you, just the way you are. You don’t need to perform or please or perfect or prove yourself in order to gain love. Love is something that should be given freely. And it should never be given after being proven worthy of it.

So I’ve vowed to stop trying. To stop performing. To stop perfecting. To stop pleasing. And to stop proving. I’ve decided to adopt the current life motto of I AM WONDERFUL and keep it at that. I know who I am. And the greatest gift and act of self-love I could ever give myself is to allow that privilege of simply being me. So what if I have short hair now? So what if my nose is bigger than average? So what if I’m not the hottest chick alive? I’m not perfect. I never will be. But I am me. And that’s all I could give. And if you like that already, then I’m pretty stoked.

I think that’s all we can ever really ask of anyone really. For them to just be themselves for us. Because in reality, that’s the only thing we should ever strive to be. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “to be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” Indeed it is. Because the world is always asking us for more. And more isn’t always good in that case. Just being ourselves is wonderful enough.

So I encourage you, don’t try to be anyone else. Be you. Just as you are. If you have flaws, OWN them. Be proud of them even. I know it’s scary and it makes you feel vulnerable, but I’m finding that the more confidence you show, the more your value will shine. That’s what true value is. That’s what true beauty is. Owning ourselves and owning our stories.

The Self Love Challenge:

Be You. Own who you are (flaws and all) and realize that person is very wonderful, very beautiful, and very worthy.

xx

Christina Ciro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smile More Often.

I’ve been focusing on smiling more lately. For a few reasons, actually. One, because it has been scientifically proven that if you are in a bad mood, if you force yourself to smile, it will actually trigger your brain into feeling happy. Two, because several people have complimented me on my smile today and said that I look more attractive with a smile on my face. And three, because if I find more reasons to smile, then it means I am recognizing more reasons to be grateful for things in my life. There are also plenty of other reasons to smile more often. I’ve heard it can boost your immune system, that it’s contagious so you can boost someone else up, it relieves stress, and it’s muscularly (is that word?) easier to smile than frown because it uses only five facial muscles rather than the 53 used when frowning.

Whatever the reason may be, I don’t think smiling is ever negative for our minds, bodies, or spirits. Smiling is always something positive and always sending off a vibe of happiness. I’ve been stuck in another funk (I seem to get those quite often don’t I?) and it’s really disturbing me because I do not like being in these so-called funks. I’m supposed to be this positive, well-being advocate, and look at me – always depressed about something. So what better way to force myself into a better mood than by doing some writing on something positive to inspire others. That’s one thing I’ve recently learned – when we feel sad, it’s most often caused by our focus on our inner selves and our inner emotions. If we can just take ourselves outside of our minds for a moment and focus on other people, maybe we wouldn’t feel so caught up by what our own feelings are telling us. Feelings are fleeting. They come and go. Sadness will come and go. Happiness will even come and go. That’s why it’s important to just stay present. To enjoy whatever it is that you’re feeling, but also to not purposely dig yourself deeper into the hole of despair. I mean why go deeper unnecessarily. Do you really enjoy being sad? Isn’t feeling happy a better feeling? So don’t add to it.

So here’s my quick fix for the blues. Smile. Smile more. Smile often. It’s simple. Like I said before, it only takes five muscles to do. Even if it’s fake at first, do it anyway because eventually your brain will catch on. What if you say – “well I don’t really have anything in my life to even smile about, my life is so miserable.” Let me ask you, are you alive? Are you healthy? Do you have a place to live? Things to eat? Clothes to keep warm? Running water? A car? Friends? Family? Pets? Anything at all that makes you feel happy?

Those are all reasons to smile. Even if it’s as simple as today I woke up. Good job! Be proud of yourself for waking up. We can always find a reason to smile, even if it’s something super tiny. It’s still a reason. Soon after, that reason will catch fire and you’ll find a hundred more reasons to smile. Maybe tomorrow you’ll notice how pretty the flowers in front of your workplace are. Or maybe the cashier at the grocery store will ask you how you are and that will make you smile. Or maybe your favorite movie came on television. If you seek reasons to smile, you will find reasons to smile. So seek after them. Be consciously aware of reasons to smile. Actively search for reasons. And then sooner or later you will begin to notice that you are smiling all on your own without any need for force and that you will be finding reasons more naturally.

I don’t know why I allow myself to get so down when things don’t go my way. Disappointment is so silly sometimes. We have these expectations for what we’d like to happen, knowing very well that they are just expectations and that reality sometimes doesn’t follow those expectations, and then when they really go off course, we get sad. We get upset. We wonder why things didn’t happen the way we wanted them to. And then we turn inward, blaming ourselves. Telling ourselves, “well maybe if I was just better looking I’d be married by now,” or “maybe I didn’t screw up so much in my past, things would be smoother for me right now.” Stop blaming yourself. Stop shaming yourself. Stop feeling guilty. It’s done! It’s over. But it’s not too late to start new. It’s not too late to start smiling today and to start creating something better for yourself. To start working toward new goals or focusing yourself on other projects. There’s always something you can do.

I need to keep reminding myself that things aren’t always about me. God didn’t create us so that we could live self-centered lives focusing only on achieving things that make us happy. He created us to help each other. To bring happiness and love into the lives of others. To uplift other people. To share with other people. Community. Community has never come naturally to me. I hate to admit that, but it’s true and that’s why with this blog, I’m really trying to give back to other people. I’m really trying to help others get into a better place in their own lives by sharing what I’ve learned or am learning along the way in my own journey. I can’t just sit here and focus on my own problems. I can’t just be unhappy waiting for things to go my way. I have to find reasons to smile now. To be grateful for what I have now. It all goes back to being present in the moment, doesn’t it? (Do I need to re-read what I wrote last week – YES!)

So I encourage you all. Smile more often, ok? Find something to smile about. Anything. It’s just one step at a time, one day at a time on this journey of life. What matters is that we’re improving. That we are taking tiny steps towards healing and well-being. It takes time. Nothing ever really comes easy, but if you put in the work, you will eventually see results. So keep going, friends. Keep smiling. Because I’m sure you look twenty times better when you’re smiling too!

The Self Love Daily Challenge: Smile more often. Find reasons to smile throughout your days.

xx

Christina Ciro

 

You are Deserving of Love.

“Most of the time when we feel chronically unhappy with our relationships, it is because we are struggling with our own insecurities and fears. Deep down we do not feel worthy of love or happiness, and when we feel like we don’t deserve it, we won’t be able to let it in.”

I read this statement today in a relationship book I am currently reading. It was talking about how most of the time when we are unhappy with our mates, it is usually a reflection of how we are feeling about ourselves – whether that is insecurity or some type of inadequacy or fear. And most of the time when have these unhealthy feelings towards ourselves, it blocks our paths to receiving the love our mates give us. And then we get caught up in an unhealthy cycle of being disappointed in our partners for them not giving us the type of “love” we want, but in reality, it’s our own fault for not believing in the fact that we are deserving of love in the first place.

This theory relates to loving ourselves as well. Most of the time when we feel unable to love ourselves or think kindly towards ourselves, it is because we do not feel like we are deserving of love. We have some sort of insecurity that is holding us back, believing that we are simply not good enough or worthy enough to be loved in the way we desire. Or sometimes the cause can come from a deep-seeded fear. Maybe in our past, we were abandoned or hurt in some significant way, which caused us to create beliefs that we are not deserving of love or that any love we do get, will inevitably hurt us in some form. This prevents us from experiencing love or trusting in its goodness. It also prevents us from loving ourselves and believing that we are deserving of good things.

It is so important to have healthy beliefs about ourselves. We must truly believe that we are worthy, that we are enough, and that we are valuable. We must also seek our value not from others or this world, but from deep within – from God. I listened to a sermon today that stated that the only one who can give true value to something is the Creator of that object. Since God is our Creator, He is the only one who has that right to give us our value, and of course we are more than valuable in His eyes. And yet so many of us do not believe this. We believe that in order to be valuable, we must feel worthy in the eyes of others. They must see that value in us through our looks or our personalities or whatever goods we have as part of who we are, and then they can properly assess how valuable we are as a person. If they give us a good value, then we feel worthy. We feel like we are worthy of their love and of love in general, including our own. If they dismiss us or give us poor value, we feel rejected. We feel as though we are not worthy of any kind of love, including our own.

It took me a long time to figure this out. I always looked to the world or to friends or family or even my job or how many goals I achieved to give me my value. And most of the time, each person gave me a different value, so I was often confused. But of course, it’s human nature to pay attention to the negative first before the positive so I always went with the lowest value that one person gave. Eventually, I believed that this was my true value. That I really wasn’t worth that much and because of this, I had to work extremely hard to raise my value. I had to become better. I had to mold myself into something more worthy or attractive. And even though I tried (and sometimes keep trying), I was never able to succeed to proving that I was more valuable than what others believed. So the belief stuck in my head for many years and it damaged me to the point that it was even difficult to love myself or see my own value. It still is sometimes. I still have to remind myself over and over that I am an amazing person and deserving of love.

I’ve noticed though when I do start to feel insecure or fearful that I am not valuable, I begin to panic. I strive again. I try too hard. I start to seek out wholeness from other people and I place demands on them to fill me up and show me that I am deserving. But this creates the opposite effect. It only creates a deeper unhappiness and discontentment on my part. And then I am not able to receive the love that really are giving me because I am so focused on getting this desired “wholeness” from them, (that is impossible to give to anyone in the first place) that I completely let the love they are already giving me pass me by. It’s so stupid! Isn’t it? And yet we do this over and over and over again.

So I want to change that. I want to be an encourager. I want to prove that everyone is worthy, that we just have to see it for ourselves rather than relying on outside sources to prove it to us. We have to believe that God made us exactly the way He did for a reason and it is because He knew what an amazing creation we were going to be. He tells us that we are more valuable than birds (Matt. 10:31) or that we are precious and honored in his sight (Isaiah 43:4). We must believe that if our own Creator is telling us that we are deserving of His own love. We must be valuable then!

I’m tired of allowing my insecurities and fears over feeling inadequate ruin relationships and friendships and whatever else in my life over and over again. I want to receive the love that I deserve. I want everyone to because we are all deserving of it! Please believe this. I beg you.

I know we will all find more happiness if we can begin to open up those pathways inside of ourselves. If we can begin to believe that we are deserving of good things, then good things will come our way. It’s all about our belief system in the end. So change up those thoughts! Start setting your mind on the right things!

The Self Love Daily Challenge:

Trust in your value. Trust that you are worthy of love and finally unblock that path of receiving it.

xx

Christina Ciro