Empower

The Amazing Gift of Empowerment

Maybe I’m just speaking for myself here,  but in my experience, aside from a quiet, peaceful house, there are few things a mom really wants for her birthday:  

  • A tighter ass
  • Perkier boobs
  • Less jelly rolls
  • A whiter smile
  • Fewer wrinkles
  • A cure for chin hair

Okay, maybe just a few things.  My 37th birthday was yesterday and I gave myself a gift nobody else could give me.  I gave myself the gift of empowerment.  As I stood in front of the mirror looking at myself, fully exposed, I thought about all I had endured.  As a girl, as a single, independent, educated woman, as a mother of 3, as a wife; as a lover, as a survivor, as a fighter, I’m all here.

My presence was the best present I got and I didn’t even mean to give it.  My husband and kids woke me up to coffee and gifts.  Before my amazing hubby left, he gave me a $100 bill and told me to go pamper myself (he’s pretty awesome).  By the time noon rolled around, I was just finishing work on my blog and still in my PJ’s.  I decided to take a hot shower and go from there.  

That’s when I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.  Usually I see fat, then I silently berate myself for not going to the gym enough or eating like crap lately.  Usually I see wrinkles and droopy body parts that time (and childbirth) has bestowed upon me.  Usually I see spots, and paleness, and unwanted body hair, and the list goes on, and on, and on.  

Usually I see flaws, but on my 37th birthday, I saw sexiness and felt empowered.  I saw a woman whose strength has carried herself, and her family through sadness, anger, and fear.  I saw lines around eyes that first looked upon the miracle of her daughters.  I saw wrinkles forming around lips that have been given so many reasons to smile and laugh.  I saw soft skin worshipped by a man who loves her.  I saw a beautiful, powerful 37 year young woman.

Did this just happen?  Is it a gift from the universe?  Are my hormones aligned perfectly right now to help me see this beautiful image of myself on the 37th anniversary of my birth?

Nah, although I’m a sucker for Shakespeare, I’m no fortune’s fool.  My life has been a culmination of triumph and failure.  I have overcome challenges and loss.  I’ve created the life I’m living and I’m making a conscious choice not to let insecurity overshadow happiness.

It helps to be surrounded by amazing people.  Parents who aren’t perfect, but have always reminded me of my amazing presence in the world.  My husband who makes me feel beautiful and encourages me in everything I do.  My kids who give me more love than I could ever imagine.  Finally, close friends and family who support me without judgement.  At 37, you pretty much get to choose your circle and I’ve selected carefully.

I spent a lot of time searching for my purpose; wondering, questioning, guilting myself along the way.  I’ve taken a lot of risks in my life in order to find true happiness.  While I will continue to make mistakes and fumble through life, I’ll remember my 37th birthday.  

I’ll remember to take a moment, and give myself the gift of appreciating who I am right now.  From where I’m standing, that naked chick is pretty freakin’ amazing!

3 things you can do to empower yourself today

 Embrace flaws

1.  Embrace your flaws

Our flaws are part of who we are; stop fighting them and start accepting them.  You may never have that squat booty but you’ve worked your booty off to get where you are today.  Eat right, cheat a little, exercise as much as you can tolerate and stop comparing yourself to others who have a different story than yours.

 

2.  Create an unbreakable circle

I already mentioned how important it is to choose a circle of people who encourage, support, love and appreciate you, but I think we all have people in our lives who make us feel bad about ourselves.  I have 2 at the present moment.  These are people who stalk you on social media and find fault with just about everything you do.  As if we don’t already know what our flaws are, these people find it necessary to point them out.  If you’re like me, you’ve tried to be who you think they want you to be, only to fail and feel even more inadequate.   The thing is, to people like this, you will never be skinny enough or pretty enough.  You will never have a better car or bigger house.  These people want you to feel small, because it makes them feel better about themselves.  

Toxic people usually come in and out of your life, and for good reason.  If it’s possible to prevent them for infecting your life for good, move on.  If not, take away their control by being yourself in their presence. Maybe your happiness will infect them (probably not, but it’s worth a shot).

Note:  If you find yourself comparing your armpit fat to the armpit fat of every new girl you meet, it’s not her, it’s you.  Once you can get over your own issues, you’ll develop better relationships, beginning with your relationship to yourself.

 

3.  Be present

Who you were, and who you are yet to be, can only be controlled by how you handle it right now.  If you decide to hold on the your failures and mistakes, or live in fear of what may be (or what may never be), it will distort the image looking back at you.  

Instead, accept who you are right now. Look at your flaws and remember everything that brought you to this moment.  Say them out loud if you’re finding that voice in your head hard to believe.  I promise you will stand taller when you realize how powerful those flaws are to who you are and why you are here.   

If these affirmations don’t work, seek support.  We all need someone in our life we can talk about our fears and inadequacies.  If you don’t have someone, reach out via support groups online.  If you need information on support groups out there, please let me know.

My 37th birthday was a reminder that while I am not perfect, I am healthy, and happy, and loved, and so proud to be expertly flawed.

Empowerment

 

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13 Ways to Save a Life: Inspired by 13 Reasons Why

Nobody wants to be the one asking what they could have done after someone they care about has committed suicide.  Unfortunately, those suffering often don’t ask for help and do everything to protect the secret that is destroying them.  

So, how do we get through to them before it’s too late?  How do we tell them they are loved and that people care?  How do we spare them from further pain when they no longer trust anyone?  

HERE are 13 WAYS TO SAVE A LIFE:

WHAT ANYONE CAN DO

SHARE YOUR STORIES!  Whether you’re a parent, someone who works directly with teens, or just a concerned human being, you can help save a life by sharing your story.

13 reasons 

Those who suffer with suicidal thoughts, say they feel empty or alone.  Sharing your personal stories and how you got through it, could save a life.  It shows suffering teens that their pain is real and by acknowledging it, you’re giving them a chance to feel safe and express their own story.

The Netflix series 13 Reasons Why deals with real high school issues, such as, gossip and how it can destroy a reputation, social hierarchy/bullying, sexual assault, and substance abuse.  This is not a “kids these days” problem, and it’s not one we can ignore.  Real people suffer, I suffered, my mother suffered, and future generations will suffer if we don’t put a stop to it.

So, how do we spare kids like Hannah Baker from a broken heart, a destroyed reputation, and a soul so broken, they feel taking their life is their only option?

  1. SHARE YOUR STORIES!  Stories of teenage sexuality, struggles and overcoming pain  
  2. Stop brushing off teenage drama as natural rebellion and hormones.  
  3. Stop normalizing bullying as a right of passage.

Seems simple, but it’s only a start.  Shows like 13 Reasons Why and your stories will get the conversation going but putting an end to things like social hierarchy in schools and sexual entitlement means changing patterns that have been in place for decades.

WHAT TEACHERS CAN DO

I’m not a psychiatrist, but as a high school teacher, I have experience working with teenagers and here is what I’ve learned:

4.  Give them outlets.  

    • Outlets are a way for them to express themselves and can be anything from writing in a journal, to creating art, or playing a sport. 

5.  Tell them they can come to you with anything

  • When they do, stop what you’re doing, put everything down and give them your full attention.

6.  LISTEN

  • Don’t talk, just LISTEN. Did I say LISTEN?

7.  Offer understanding and validation when they’re done talking

  • Thank them for trusting you to share their feelings with you.  Share a time when you felt that way.  Tell them you’re worried about them but give them confidence by mentioning their strengths.
  • Whatever you do, do not make a generalized statement.  Phrases like “suck it up,” or “you just gotta get through it,” don’t acknowledge their personal feelings and could make them feel even more hopeless.

8.  Offer a safe place

  • A crowded hallway, a lunchroom where they don’t have a seat, can be very overwhelming.  Offer your classroom as a safe place.

I listened a lot and I wanted to save every single one of them.  I never lost one, but I know teachers who did.  It’s devastating and something nobody ever gets over.  So, let’s stop minimizing our kids problems and start dealing with them together.   

WHAT PARENTS CAN DO

Teachers save lives and the burden to reach every student is huge, but it doesn’t compare to the responsibility a parent has to their own child.  In the show, Hannah had great parents.  They were caring and attentive yet she still felt she couldn’t talk to them about what she was going through.  Why?

  • Teens want their parents to be proud of them. They’d never want you to think they’d put themselves in a harmful situation
  • Teens want to spare their parents from pain and worry.  Sometimes it’s because they think they’ll lose their independence and other times they’d rather burden the pain than have you hurting too.
  • Teens don’t want their parents marching into their school pointing fingers at every “bully” who hurt their wittle baby.  Embarrassment is the ultimate betrayal to a teen.

So what do parents do?  I’m a loving mom to 3 girls who are entering this stage of life.  I want to preserve their innocence and protect them, but I know they are entering a world of chaos that I can’t completely spare them from.  Here’s what I can do:

9.  Stop looking for answers in everything and everyone else, and get real with them.

  • My kid is not perfect and neither am I, but as a parent, I always want to believe that my child is better, they’re a representation of me, after all.  This is a flaw!  Allowing our kids to fail and holding them accountable is part of the maturation process.  The key is making sure one mistake doesn’t spiral into 10.

10.  Make sure they feel safe enough to ask me personal questions rather than relying on technology or the school.

    • I do this by sharing odd questions I had as a teen and funny stories about how I found the answers.  One time I asked my mom what a period was and she said it’s the dot at the end of a sentence.

11.  Be open with them about my own choices and acknowledge how they are affected.  

    • For me this is divorce, marriage, moving schools, but for others it could be parental neglect, substance abuse, etc.  These choices affect our kids and can make them feel powerless.  

12.  Make sure they know that no matter what I will love them unconditionally

    • But also that my unconditional love does not mean their actions will not have consequences.

13.  Make sure they know I will drop everything to bail them out of a peer pressure situation.

    • I’m naive to think this will always happen but giving them the option could be the difference between life or death.  I have given them specific examples of how to do this. No matter the situation or where they are, if they text me 111 and drop a pin, I will pick them up. They can tell their friends their grandma is in the hospital or their mom is being a bitch, or just slip out when nobody’s looking.

You can’t parent high school kids thinking it’s going to be all rainbows, you have to prepare for the storms that come first.  Being open with your kids and making them feel safe enough to come to you is much better than ignoring the problems in hopes they’ll just go away.  If the end result is a Tropical Storm, instead of a Cat 5 hurricane, you’ve done your job well.

The show ends with Hannah saying, “I felt something shift after I poured it all out (on the tapes). I felt like I could beat this, but this time I was asking for help because I knew I couldn’t do it alone.”  Unfortunately, when she went for help she was told her pain was no big deal and she should try and get over it.

Rape is a big deal.  Safety is a big deal.  Protecting our children is a big deal.

State legislatures need to get active in making laws that allow schools to take action in the best interest of students, not funding.  Schools should focus on destroying social hierarchies, rather than minimizing a destroyed reputation.  

Schools do not bear this burden alone.  Many people blame schools for not using social media accounts in bullying cases, but guess what, that’s on the parent.  Parents should have full access to their child’s social media accounts and if you don’t, you can only point the finger at yourself.  If a naked photo of a minor or devastating texts come through that phone at the hands of your kid, why do they even still have the privilege of technology?  

We all have to find a way to work together because whether it happens on school grounds or off, it is embedded in these kids lives forever.

When it comes down to it, no single person is to blame for the death of Hannah Baker, or the 44,000 other people who died in 2015 at the hand of suicide, but we can all do something about it together.  We can all save a life, not just by talking about suicide, but by getting personal.


 

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