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Review: Natural Deodorants

Review: this column is dedicated to natural products that sensitive people may enjoy. Featuring products that are ethically made without synthetic ingredients, and/or as a bonus, are sustainably sourced and/or are run by small-business owners.

Basically, I got tired of my drug store brand deodorants and antiperspirants. They left a residue, discolored my clothing, and while they mostly did the job, I do get a rash from time to time. I’m slowly removing all synthetic elements from what I wear/eat/drink because I’m pretty sure many of these things can’t be good in the long run. (…Slowly, because often, ‘natural’/organic things can cost so much more – but that’s a whole other post on its own.)

I’ll like to start off by saying that none of these natural deodorants gave me any discomfort at all. No itch, no stinging even after applying it on freshly shaved pits.

According to Jessica of OdetteAndJoni, some people experience a little discomfort or redness when switching to natural deodorants that contain baking soda – something to do with the pH level of the skin. She recommends dabbing a vinegar solution (1:1 vinegar & water) with a cotton swab, allowing it to dry, then applying the deodorant. Within a week or less, the discomfort should disappear.

Before we dive in, here are some thoughts about armpits:

  1. Sweating is normal and healthy. I’ve often used antiperspirants because I am just not fond of that sweaty feeling, but the sweat still has to come out SOMEWHERE. Sweating helps cool the body and remove toxins. It makes sense and I have decided to live with it. (Isn’t it crazy how often we have to feel embarrassed by our natural body processes?! ) I understand though, if you’re working in some profession where visibly sweating isn’t really the best (e.g. if you’re a server bending over people constantly), antiperspirants could still be your choice.
  2. Say no to aluminum? The controversy surrounding antiperspirants concerns the aluminum that’s found in it, with some sources claiming that it’s related to breast cancer and dementia, among other things. While this has been mostly unsubstantiated thus far (depending on who you ask!), some prefer to avoid the risk.
  3. How you smell = what you eat. On days if you don’t want to smell especially ripe, you could try limiting heavy spices and condiments, or these other kinds of foods. (Though I really love food too much to really do anything about this.)
  4. Switching may cause a reaction. To avoid this, you could let your armpit ‘rest’ by not applying anything for 2-3 days before trying out a new natural deodorant.
  5. You could also detox your armpits. Which supposedly helps get rid of all the synthetic ingredients your body absorbed through commercial deodorants.
  6. Seriously sweating buckets? If you’re sweating a lot, this may be a sign of hyperhidrosis, which can be caused by factors like hormonal changes.
  7. Have long pit hair? If you’re growing out your pit hair, solid/stick deodorants may not be for you. You may prefer liquid roll-ons to get the deodorant close enough to your skin for it to work, or those that you can apply with your finger.
  8. Remove waxy residue. Any deodorant containing beeswax leaves a residue buildup over time and can end up blocking your pores. To remove it, simply use any scrub, a baking soda solution, or apply a little petroleum jelly on your pits before showering.

For all of the samples below, I tested them all through various scenarios – overnight, a regular day at work/school which involves a fair bit of walking around the city, and a typical yoga class. Do note that it IS winter here so I am definitely not sweating as I would in the summer.

Eldridge Organics

Eldridge Organics Deodorant Review

Fir Needle & Lavender Deodorant

US$10, 2oz

organic coconut oil, organic arrowroot powder, organic mango butter, beeswax, baking soda, organic fir needle essential oil, organic lavender essential oil

What I love: The heavenly scent. The smell of fir trees makes me extraordinarily happy. It also comes in a paper tube, making it the most environmentally-friendly of the bunch.

Does it work? Yes, for a couple of hours. Definitely not an extensive workout on a hot summer’s day kind of deodorant. I also found that this seems to leave the most beeswax residue of the bunch.

Overall: Okay for a general day-to-day light coverage. Love the paper tube, but you may want to avoid handling with wet hands.

Fat and the Moon

Fat and the Moon Lil Deodorant Cream Review

Lil Deodorant

$5, 0.5oz

coconut oil*, baking soda (aluminum free), arrowroot starch*, beeswax, essential oils of black pepper*, clary sage*, bergamot*, tea tree*, grapefruit*
*organic

What I love: The scent – smells fresh, and is barely detectable after it goes on. It feels a little greasy to the touch but doesn’t feel greasy at all after application.

Does it work? Yes, although you do have to get a decent pea-sized amount and cover the entire area well – but that’s also true of all the creams that come in tubs.

Overall: I like it. The small tub also makes it a great size to test out whether baking soda deodorants work for you.

Fat and the Moon Lil Sensitive Pit Cream Review

Sensitive lil’ pit cream

US$5, 0.5oz

coconut oil*, arrowroot starch*, magnesium hydroxide (aka milk of magnesia), beeswax, essential oils of basil* & vetiver*
*organic

What I love: No baking soda, and is super gentle as promised. Greasy to the touch, but doesn’t feel greasy at all after application – barely-there sensation, no residue.

Does it work? I sweat a bunch during yoga but this kept the worst at bay.

Overall: Recommended – I found myself gravitating towards this one after testing them all out. Mostly because I’m partial to the scent of basil & vetiver!

Odette and Joni

Odette and Joni All Natural Vegan Deodorant

Naked and Organic Deodorant

US$8, 2oz

Cocoa Butter, Coconut Oil, Baking Soda, Arrowroot Flour, Kaolin Clay, Sunflower Oil, Shea Butter, All Organic

What I love: Has a barely detectable scent, great for those who aren’t a fan of scented things. Contains Kaolin Clay which is supposed to be great for nourishing and purifying the skin, and also helps to manage moisture. Triple deodorizing power of Baking Soda + Clay + Arrowroot flour.

Does it work? Yes. Also held up well during a sweaty yoga class!

Overall: Recommended – this also offers the most bang for your buck.

Emily’s Homestead

Emilys Homestead Probiotic Deodorant

Sensitive Skin Probiotic Deodorant

$4.75, 0.75oz twist-up tube

shea butter, beeswax, avocado oil, sunflower oil, cocoa butter, arrowroot powder, shelf stable probiotics, vitamin e oil, magnesium oil

What I love: It’s unscented, and will be suitable for those who are sensitive to scents of all kind. Since sweat is basically odorless (unless you’re eating a lot of foods that can contribute to body odor), and odor is exacerbated by bacteria that’s on your skin, the probiotic promises to nix this problem by regulating and discouraging the growth of bad bacteria. Also love the easy-to-handle packaging.

Does it work? Yes. The probiotic + magnesium oil combination seemed to work like a charm for me.

Overall: I like this for easy application! Recommended for those sensitive to baking soda.

P.S. I received these free samples in exchange for an unbiased review.  

While I sampled only five, there are really a ton of other natural deodorants out there – a friend swears by the Arm & Hammer one while I’ve also tried the Crystal Salt deodorant. The salt one did not work so great for me – just an hour or two of protection before it wore off.

Do you use a natural deodorant? Which one do you swear by? Let me know in the comments!

 

Living

The truth is, everything is beautifully imperfect now (& forever)

(Including this cake from a surprise party that was thrown for me, which was apparently not the cake that was ordered – the flavor of the cake was a surprise – and also had a seemingly hastily scrawled on ‘Kerrie’, which is hilarious to me but I love it anyway. Also, look at those candles!)

A post to mark my beautifully imperfect 26th year – this year has got me practicing being attuned to the unfolding of my heart and trying to be as present and patient with it as possible. My ego is trying to break free, straining against the leash I’ve put on it – to go, to plan, to do and to know. To MOVE already!

Our society is set up so that Not Knowing is a kind of capital sin. But you know what? What’s worse is believing that we DO know, when we really, really don’t. Because the truth is, I don’t know. I don’t know how things are going to look in a year, or two, or five. As a reformed people-pleaser, I still feel those urges to pretend to know just so that I can make my loved ones feel better, and to reassure them. But I can’t find it in me to do that any longer. Because I believe they deserve more than than illusion of security – they deserve truth, even though it’s not always very beautiful or comfortable in the moment.

So I try to stop myself from future-tripping, and to live and breathe in the now instead.

The heart will always know the next step though. It has access beyond the veil. It whispers and gives messages very calmly. Vaguely but insistently. Though sometimes I wish it would just sit me down and give me specifics, like: ‘Here. This is what’s going to happen. I know what you’re doing now, even though it feels right, doesn’t make sense to your conscious mind and ego in this moment, but trust me, it’s all unfolding as it should.’ But it knows.

I’m sure my 27th year will bring me more opportunities to get even more comfortable with being uncomfortable i.e. Not-Knowing. A year ago, this thought would have made me very antsy. But now? I’m ready. Growth!

Living life according to the rhythms of the heart takes getting used to, because it’s often discordant with the rhythms of this material world of ours. But I do know that when it is ready to act, it’s unstoppable. Are you following the beating of your heart too?

Living Sensitivity

Setting Boundaries As An Empath

How’s your boundary setting going? I wanted to talk about the process of setting boundaries as an empath specifically because I felt like certain issues may come up, especially if you’re exploring it consciously for the first time – Dana’s post is a great primer if you’re new to it! For me, I kept coming up against resistance within myself, and having situations become potentially explosive before I realized, damn, a boundary is needed here! But as always, it’s a learning process – I only truly embody my lessons when I’ve had a couple of hard knocks anyway, so… Keep that in mind lovers, if you find yourself faltering sometimes, it’s really okay – we’re all learning!

Exploring my resistance

So, my first attempts around setting boundaries was pretty rough-going in hindsight. What made enforcing boundaries a lot easier over time was really digging deep and delving into the root causes of my resistance to setting and sticking to them. (This book – The Empath as Archetype – was really helpful in the process, by the way.) Bringing those root causes up into the level of my conscious awareness, and rigorously examining them, nipped a lot of the guilt and mixed emotions over setting boundaries in the bud. Those emotions and beliefs created the energy that fueled my resistance.

Understanding two major things really helped the process. The first piece was identifying why it felt strange and counterintuitive to me to enforce certain boundaries, thus making it seem like a painful or unnatural thing to do. Part of it was because my ego and skeptical mind were putting up a big fight in accepting the whole idea of being an empath, along with all its spiritual implications. I had to not just understand but also fully accept that as an empath, Oneness is my reality, and I had to start participating in that reality! At the same time, I was also subconsciously resisting certain boundaries on the soul level, because healthy boundaries in the physical world felt a lot like separation, which can feel lonely and alienating; it didn’t feel natural to me as an empath. What a crazy internal struggle! It was a really confusing time for me…only right now, years later, can I even put into words that foggy, soupy time.

The second thing that really helped was tackling the deep seated issues that that prevented me from accepting certain boundaries. For example, one was the false belief that ‘giving’ endlessly = love.

That’s because the natural way of the empath is to ‘give’ – in the sense of unconsciously wanting to heal others, and to make them ‘whole’. Which is actually a really beautiful thing! But an untrained empath ends up doing that by carrying others’ burdens energetically. Learning how to consciously wield that gift of energetic support feels a little strange and counterintuitive, at least at first. Plus, I had to understand that carrying others’ stuff like that ISN’T actually truly giving – it might temporarily help others as it gives them a sense of psychic relief – but in the long run, it actually gets in the way of them figuring out their own stuff, and evolving in their own time, on their own spiritual journeys. Which achieves the opposite effect of the initial intention! So I’ve had to let that belief go…and channel that energy into other creative projects, such as this blog 🙂

It hasn’t been a particularly easy process, but it’s definitely been a worthwhile endeavor. Because since embarking on this empath empowerment path for more than 3 years now, I now feel more confident and at peace than I have before. I feel safer around people and and new situations, yet still keeping myself open to the world. Hopefully others feel more comfortable around me too, now that I’ve stopped getting right to the heart of things in casual conversations, bringing up uncomfortable topics just because I see them as Truth, plain as day to me!

My goal is to be able to have boundaries without rigidity – keeping my heart open and wielding my personal power with strength and compassion. I know one day I’ll get there, and so will you, if that’s your wish too! Here are some other things I’ve learnt on this journey.

When enforcing boundaries, be prepared to:

  1. Communicate. Be prepared to voice your needs often. Practice saying no and stating – and standing by – your boundaries firmly, despite the initial discomfort.
  2. Deal with people not liking it.
  3. Stand firm. Especially at the beginning, when it still feels novel and uncomfortable.
  4. Observe the emotions that come up for you in the process of enforcing your boundaries. These will be the clues that will help you in understanding yourself and any baggage around asserting your needs.

Boundaries around communicating with others

1. As an empath, I’m able to viscerally empathize with others’ points of view so easily that I tend to forget my own. I have to remind myself – hey! I have needs too! The solution? To give myself time to respond, rather than just react. To get back in touch with my core and to allow myself to take that time before making a decision. As empaths often feel their decisions in their bodies and their intuition, it often takes a little longer for that decision to reach their conscious minds. This sometimes means having to physically remove myself from the situation, e.g. excusing myself to go to the bathroom or even just simply saying “Give me 5 minutes to think about it!”

2. I might observe someone struggling or having a problem they are trying to work out, and the solution MIGHT seem to be clear to me, but before I offer them any advice or opinion, I would either ask them if they want it, or they would have to ask me for it. If they do want it, I take care to assert it in a mindful and gentle way. It’s important to be gentle because often, many people’s seemingly simple struggles are tied to deeper emotional issues that are deep rooted, complex and multifaceted… addressing them in a direct or brusque way could be akin to a psychic attack or be extremely triggering. It’s like telling a person struggling with depression to just ‘get over it!’ And if they say no, LEAVE IT ALONE. Even if it is staring at you in the face, do not comment, do not bring it up again, and continue treating them as who they really are: a whole person, a unique soul, who is just on their path. Ultimately, it’s all about trusting that:

“Spirit provides the people, places, and things we need, if we are not dependent on specifics.” – The Empath as Archetype, by Elaine La Joie

Boundaries around feeling safe in my skin as a sensitive

1. When I have a strong gut feeling, I trust it. Even when everything on the surface seems okay, I trust my gut about what I pick up about people – and I draw a line to make it clear (preferably not in a confrontational way!). It doesn’t mean I judge them, just that if it seems off, especially if an exchange or transaction is about to happen, I would rather not go through with it, even if it is inconvenient.

2. I don’t justify my down time to anyone. I don’t apologize for needing extra time to myself or allow myself to feel guilty about it. THIS has been the most life-changing form of self-care for me. It means no longer apologizing for who I am, no longer judging myself for my needs.

3.  Consciously letting things go – energetically and mentally. Picking a lot of stuff up means also having information and emotional overload. I’ve had to learn to regard most of these as static and white noise – feeling any kind of way about it doesn’t mean I have to react to it or to even respond at all. 99% of it is truly not my responsibility. And even if I feel sad, or upset… sometimes I’ve had to accept there’s really nothing to be done about it. And constantly practice letting things go.

4. Filtering. I am careful about whose opinions and thoughts I accept, and the extent to which I allow them to influence my own, and also trusting my reading of the energy or underlying intention of someone’s words, especially if it’s at odds with what they’re saying on the surface. What matters most is always your internal guidance.

“Having strong boundaries means exercising control over what ideas and opinions we take in, and which we disregard.” – This is What It Really Means to Have Healthy Boundaries

And most importantly, have a lot of compassion for yourself on this process, dear empaths. Be gentle. It really isn’t easy – a lot of it is really deep inner work that’s not for the faint hearted! But it will be rewarding, I promise.

We all deserve to feel safe and supported on our journeys.

So much love to all of you!

Living

“Hello Lover You Sexy Beast” And Other Adventures in Compassionate Self-Talk

The voice that I used to talk to myself in my head with typically sounded like a cross between Judge Judy (on good days) and the evil stepmother from Cinderella (bad ones). Critical, to the point, sometimes disguised as for my own good, but came down way too hard and wasn’t particularly kind.

But ever since I realized, hey, I love myself why am I talking to myself as though I’m a prison warden in a one-woman-only Alcatraz on Kerrie Island? – I’ve been vigilant about reprogramming the voice I use to talk to myself in my head.

1. In times of embarrassment, foot-in-mouth situations and public faux pas

Before: “Why did you do that! Oh my god I hate myself.” Accompanied by wanting to hide away forever.

Now: “It’s okay. It’s just a mistake. No one really noticed. EVEN IF they did, no one really cares that much/You’re doing your best to make it right.”

It’s not as if I no longer feel mortified or embarrassed. Because if there’s one thing I learnt, there’s no way to exorcise feelings completely – feelings are what makes us human! So in these moments, I just hold on and ride these waves. But, the difference is that instead of intensifying those emotions and over-stimulating myself even more with with nasty self-talk, I make an effort to soothe myself, and to be kind instead.

This has really changed everything.

Being noticed, especially having mistakes noticed, can be a huge deal for highly sensitive people. I know I get really overstimulated by the sensation of having done something wrong – plus, horror, having it pointed out – and it makes me overly cautious. But I’m learning to talk myself gently off the ledge in those moments, and more importantly, to let go.

Oftentimes for HSPs, we think that EVERYONE is watching, everyone notices, but that’s not really true. No one really looks that closely. And even if they did, they wouldn’t think much of it; it would usually be forgotten about soon enough. And in those times when people DO notice, and DO pick up on it, and get on your case about it or pass a judgmental comment…? If they are unkind about it, then it’s really their problem! Especially if you’ve done all you can to apologize or to rectify the situation. Most likely, they’re probably just being plain tactless, and in that case, let it roll off your back, baby.

Try: “It’s okay, it’s a new day, and I’m good. You’re kind. Your heart will shine through and people who matter will see that and will overlook any mistake or faux pas.”

It’s also taught me to be kinder, and to keep my blunt self in check with others – because no one wants their mortifying moments to be pointed out. No one.

2. In more intense situations of fear, doubt and uncertainty

When you feel like you have the rug pulled out from under your feet, especially in situations like dealing with losing your job, finding a job, having all your plans crumble before your eyes etc., it can be so easy to be down on yourself even more. But think about it – if your best friend comes to you with a major life crisis, would you berate them further?

Before: “You should have known better, you should have done XYZ, why didn’t you XYZ…?!”

“This relationship/job/project failed, therefore I failed and am a failure, the end.”

I used to put a WHOLE ton of pressure on myself to ‘stay ahead of the game’, way beyond reasonable expectations i.e. being able to divine the future in crystal clarity – thus all the ‘shoulds’. What the ‘shoulds’ only served to do was to freeze me into a state of paralysis, unable to forgive myself, unable to truly move forward.

But the truth is: we are never in 100% control of any situation. Expecting total control, including in situations where other people are involved – people with FREE WILL – is not only an exercise in futility, but also a form of arrogance! But it’s okay, everyone’s arrogant at some point, it’s like a Badge of Immaturity we all wear for a while. Eventually, we all learn. (See? Compassionate talk happening here.)

It’s natural to feel regret, sadness, anger – all stemming from a sense of helplessness and fear, but turning those feelings into self-destructive thoughts serves no one, least of all yourself. Resist the temptation!

Try: “You did the best you could with what you knew. You made the best decision you knew how to make. Now that it’s turned out like this, okay, let’s see how we can work this. Let’s see how we can fix it or make it better. Now you know better!”

“Even though this relationship ended / job opportunity didn’t work out / project didn’t pan out, doesn’t mean that have failed. It taught me XYZ; it was a really valuable lesson. Yes, I did make a mistake, but I’ll find out what that is and make sure I don’t repeat it again. I know I will learn it this time around.”

Give yourself some breathing room. Take a step back – and suddenly, options seem clearer when you stop throwing yourself under the bus or condemning yourself. Suddenly, there’s space to move forward.

3. When dealing with work pressure

There are times I just don’t feel like getting down to work. I procrastinate. I get distracted. I find a million other little things to do instead. It’s also the side of me I usually associate with my HSS self – sensation seeking and that gets bored easily.

Before:Oh my god what’s wrong with you, just focus, you’re being lazy, if you don’t do this, this means you’re going to…(dire consequence)

That used to result in me doing the work, but feeling heavy-hearted with lots of feet dragging. The work is usually uninspired.

Now: “Okay Kerrie, what do you need in order to focus? Can you focus for 20 minutes and then go read that site/go for a drink/talk a walk instead? What’s bothering you? What’s the REAL reason behind not wanting to do this?”

I might discover that I have a niggling worry I need to sort out with myself first, or have some issue that I need to take care of. Or it might be the work, or the project itself – something is making me drag my feet (I might have intuited something that’s off about it, but that I’m not yet conscious or cognizant about; I can’t quite yet put a finger on it.). Sometimes that dragging of feet means something. Sometimes it means that a decision DOES need to be put on hold, more information is needed before moving ahead. My intuition needs to be checked in with. I wouldn’t have been able to realize all of these possibilities if I had just kept being super harsh towards myself.

4. General day-to-day appearance-related self-talk

First thing in the morning. Bathroom. I look into the mirror.

Before: “Oh my god. Check out that pimple! And your dark eye rings! Your skin is XYZ. Your face is XYZ. (Replace XYZ with any criticism you can think of.)”

Now:Hello Lover You Sexy Beast.

(Though I’m not usually quite that pumped up.)

“Hello self! It’s a new day. You’re choosing to face the world with an open heart, and that’s amazing.” Then, big grin.

Because every day IS a new day. Can you be kind and friendly to yourself? Over time, it gets easier, more natural, and more of a reflex. Try it and watch yourself blossom under the loving nature of your sweet, sweet (real) talk – and watch it spill out of your mouth in conversation with others.

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the Universe, deserve your love and affection.” – Unknown, but Not Buddha

P.S. A journalist once asked Dalai Lama what he thought about self-hatred and he was totally baffled! It had never crossed his mind before that someone might hate themselves.

 

How do you talk to yourself in your head? Is it always judging, criticizing, full of admonishment? Or loving and kind? I’d love to hear. We can all learn to sweet talk ourselves together.  

Living

Lessons from Jupiter in Leo

I was an avid list-maker. I LOVED my lists. I would make lists just to feel the pleasure of striking things off them. I liked to plan and uncertainty most decidedly was NOT my thing. Not surprisingly, I also identify with an aspect usually ascribed to Virgos – over thinking, analyzing or strategizing – I felt that thinking my way through life was the way to go, and would be the way it would go forever and ever, the end. I thought I had it ALL figured out back then, at the ripe old age of 24 (ha!).

Unsurprisingly, while that gave me some sense of satisfaction and security that I’m doing things ‘right’, my life wasn’t exactly very joyful either.

So of course, the Universe did what it usually does – broke in and shook me up, at the same time that Jupiter* was in Leo, my house of healing and release. (Coincidence?! I think not.)  While I won’t go into the details here, I’ll say that it had to be super dramatic in order to get my attention, to pierce through those illusions of control I had, and to get me to curb my judgmental ways, which was really doing nothing but to put me in a cage of my own making. (Spoiler: There isn’t just ONE right way to ‘do’ life.)

And while I’m super relieved and excited that Jupiter will be finally leaving Leo to enter Virgo TODAY (and hopefully I’m not expecting too much! But knowing myself, I PROBABLY AM), I’ve also taken away so much. And I want to share what I’ve learnt, because I know that many of you have been going through upheavals as well – these are tumultuous times! – to let you know that you’re really not alone on your journey.

*Jupiter is the planet of luck and expansion, so whichever house it happens to be in for your sign, that area of your life will be a major focus.

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Living

How to Believe in Yourself (Part 2)

In between writing this post and the previous one, life has been tossing me curveballs left and right. It was a great reminder that practicing self-care amidst even the most chaotic of moments is of utmost importance. Don’t wait till life deals you a reminder before you take a little time out for yourself! 

Now that you’ve found out a little more about yourself… 

You See Your Light

There’s the good stuff: your interests, what sets your heart on fire, what you find yourself doing with just pure unadulterated joy. How you make others happy, the roles you play in others’ lives. Also, the things you truly enjoy; it’s stuff that doesn’t get intellectualized – you’re just in the flow, enjoying the moment. (P.S. Whether you believe it or not, your pure existence IS already a light.)

You Encounter Your Shadow

And there’s also the not so shiny, happy bits of yourself. Stuff that you’d much rather not see or look at. This is the part where it gets tricky – difficult things come up. But you know what? There’s no need to fear it, or to avoid it. Instead, take some time out to really look at it.

So that instead of them having an unconscious hold on you, you are able to look at your shadows and say: You are there. I see you. What will I do about them? Can I accept them? How can I allow it to sit at the table of my life without taking over my thoughts and actions? Or projecting them onto others?

*I know that it’s not so easy to really look at what we dislike about ourselves. Because even just being open and willing to delve in requires a ton of courage. But truly, every one of us is capable of it. 

To arrive at true self-acceptance involves embracing both your light and your shadow. 

I’m a Virgo, and this year, Jupiter – the planet of luck and expansion – is in my house of closure, healing and surrender till August 2015 – since last July! (Wherever Jupiter is, it expands.) And man, has it been a rough ride. But it has also been a great opportunity to drop things – attitudes, baggage – that no longer serve me.

When we’re growing up, we pick up habits and beliefs from our family of origin that we take to be Truth. Sometimes that truth just isn’t… true anymore. Or maybe it was never true to begin with. And the painful bits are sometimes the very things we need to delve into to unlock our true selves from self-limiting beliefs. Beyond those beliefs, there lies our true self. Shame might come up…Or guilt. Sticky, squirmy, uncomfortable feelings. It helps to spend time sitting with them for a little while. And in this process, it’ll be helpful to…

3. Develop a guiding principle when it comes to how you treat yourself. 

Because if you’re sitting with these sticky, squirmy feelings, while simultaneously being mean and unkind to yourself about even having them, then you’d probably be less likely to want to inspect them again – it would be an all-round unpleasant experience. Only the most masochistic would be willing to go through all of that.

“Honesty without kindness, humor and goodheartedness can be just mean.” – Pema Chodron 

I realized how important this was, because meditation and introspection were starting to become really grim affairs. Being naturally self-critical and setting really high standards for myself, just meant that I was getting myself down over all these perceived flaws…

There’s also nothing wrong with being self-critical, by the way. Intelligent people tend to be. That’s how we look for ways to improve situations, to amass more information and resources. But when we turn this critical nature onto ourselves, that’s when it becomes self-defeating.

Those flaws, or habits, or anything you might dislike about yourself? Perhaps shift your perspective a little: these were just ways we were taught to relate and make sense of the world. It might have worked or served us well in certain situations, and we clung on to them. But when it starts hurting you or the people around you, then perhaps it’s time to examine them and let them go. Because we ARE capable of change as evolving human beings – condemnation is never helpful, because it pins a person or situation down to a static state, which is just not being fair to ourselves.

So when you encounter something you dislike about yourself, or you make a mistake. Start observing. How do you talk to yourself (and others) when this happens? Does it sound like this?

“What’s wrong with me?” “How could I have…?” “You’re so dumb/forgetful/clumsy/other insult”

Instead of this, could you be more gentle? Be less harsh with your tone and the words you use to think about yourself?

The voices in your head are shaped by your parents, or any other major parental figure in your life growing up. I realized this even more acutely just recently. My parents are currently visiting me in NYC now, and as we were crossing the road, my dad said in his reflexive way,  ‘Watch out.’ I smiled to myself, because it was as though I was hearing the voices in my head out loud. As a kid, they must have dealt you admonishments, advice, feedback. Good stuff. They stuck in your head, they help you to navigate the world as an adult. But how about when it doesn’t help? As well-meaning and loving as your parents are, they are human too. Not every method of dealing with life might have been the best, or relevant to your own, unique life – so be willing to start talking to yourself in how your most loving self would. What would you say to your own child?

Because being an adult also means parenting yourself, taking your own hand while you go out there in the world.

Next post in How to Believe in Yourself series: Taking Action

Living

April: Spring Forward

Kerrie Li Brooklyn

It’s been a crazy hectic first quarter! Is everyone feeling all the intense vibes of change, change and more change? I sure have.

I’ve just moved to Brooklyn from DC and I’m loving it. I’m still in the midst of settling in though – an IKEA trip is definitely on the horizon (love-hate relationship with that place!). My sister and I are here in the city to make our dreams happen, and though it’s a real challenge too, I’m really hopeful and optimistic about it.

And luckily, sunny days are here to help bolster confidence. I’m so glad that temperatures are finally rising and I don’t have to be all bundled up in my coat – it’s so good to feel unencumbered, and to start baring skin without fear of freezing over.

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Little things have been helping to ground me in my transition. Other than having family around, which is a true blessing, and having great friends who Skype (or Google Hangout!) regularly, I’ve been trying to take more time out in nature – now thrillingly possible because it’s Spring (have I mentioned this yet?!). Eating and sleeping well is really important for me too – I’ve been cutting down on sugar in my diet among other things, and well, sleep? Still working on that!

Also, little self-pampering treats that don’t cost a lot: like flowers – those pretty eustomas and ranunculus are now sitting on the windowsill in our apartment, and they are a lovely sight to wake up to, little touches that remind me to pause and simply appreciate the beauty that’s all around me. It’s both a balm and a boost!

Plus, a scent that I’m so in love with – the Macaron Rosé. It’s a scent from UO that’s surprisingly bright and fresh, and subtly changes throughout the day to become a clean and slightly sweet scent. Catching whiffs of it as I go about my day puts me in a great mood.

IMG_9329Spring essentials: Little beautiful things, and my pretty swirly shell from Tahiti, to keep a tiny part of the ocean close.

So what else has been going on in my world?

In March, I spent a week on the French Polynesian islands with my childhood best friend E for our twentieth friend anniversary. (Yes! 20 years!) I was a lucky +1, as it was more of a family trip for her really – her sister, brother-in-law & nephew were visiting family on Tahiti, and it was a great opportunity for E to have some quality sister time. It was a real thrill – I got to visit Tahiti and Mo’orea, both gorgeous French Polynesian islands, and of course to spend time by the wondrous Pacific Ocean. I’ll be blogging about that soon!

Meanwhile, a little teaser:

Moorea

Have a bold and beautiful April ahead loves!

Living

How to Believe in Yourself (Part 1)

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 presetStanding in the light helps.

“Just believe in yourself.”

It’s one of those throwaway pieces of advice that people tend to dole out.

Like “Take it easy.” or “Let it go.” In the darkest, fuzziest moments of my seemingly endless quarter life crisis/spiritual awakening/complete breakdown, it was particularly frustrating to hear it. Because even though as a little kid I just knew there was something I was here to do, like a beacon shining out to me, blinking from afar, it felt like I’d lost the map, the instruction manual. How do I even get there, to navigate across those dark waters, to wherever there is?

So “Just believe in yourself” was pretty galling to me, as you can imagine. As my need and urgency to find my place in the world grew, there were times I felt disparaged just hearing this phrase.

How? How do you actually believe in yourself? I wanted to shout… while melodramatically running across rainy streets and sun-scorched deserts.

Looking back, I’ve since realized why it was tough for me to even start believing in myself. At that point, I didn’t even have a firm grip on who my fundamental Self is. To be sure, I knew things about myself. I like to write. That’s been true since I was little. I knew myself in terms of taste and preferences – what I liked and what I disliked; but it basically boiled down to knowing stuff about myself. At my core, I didn’t really know who I was. Up till then, it felt like I had been fumbling around, taking clumsy steps towards what I wanted, like following a trail of breadcrumbs on the path Home, while one part of me secretly believed I had to compromise to fit into the ‘real world’, to be ‘practical’, to mould myself into the world I saw around me to make a living like everyone else. So I compromised. In other words, ugh. U.G.H.

Sounds like a recipe for happiness doesn’t it? And yes, I was pretty miserable. Because deep down inside, I knew I wasn’t living an authentic life. I was safe, yes, secure, yup – but I was also unhappy. Being a Virgo, this unhappiness often manifested as over-critical, judgmental behavior.

Part of not having a handle on my empath abilities at that point also meant that those traits only served to confuse me about who I am and what I believe in. As the sensitive-person-in-denial that I was, it was also easier to be drowned out in this noisy, wonderful world of ours than to add my voice into the cacophony. It was often easier to reflect others around me instead of standing out and risking that stimulation – all for an unknown reward. So how could I have even begun to believe in something – my Self – that I didn’t even truly know?

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Living

Midweek Reads: New Moon Edition

1. Nourished Journal. I’m always stoked to discover new publications. I LOVE magazines; I’m a wholehearted proponent of print. Nourished gives me a sense of calm just flipping through their pages (and perusing their site!)… I’m a digital girl with an analog heart, what can I say.

2. Copyblogger. There’s a ton of good stuff in this interview with Sally Hogshead, copywriter. Puts into words what the highest goal of content marketing is – expressing the essence of who you are / what your brand is all about, and sharing the true value of this inimitable core:

“The goal is not to change who you are into somebody else. The goal is to identify those parts of you that are so valuable, that are so different, and become more of who you are.”

I love it because first of all – IT MAKES TOTAL SENSE. Not struggling against yourself to fit into a mould of what you think the world wants, and secondly, isn’t it so healing on a certain level too? That we all come with certain strengths, and these are also the gifts that you can share with the world.

Plus – a free personality test, and who isn’t secretly into those things?

3. Florence is back!!! How Big How Blue How Beautiful. Not a read … But. I love her, she is a goddess, queen mother, high priestess…

4. What Happens When Poor People Marry Rich People.

5. And lastly, I’ve been really into Nayyirah Waheed‘s poetry lately:

she asked

‘you are in love

what does that love look like’

to which I replied

‘like everything I’ve ever lost

come back to me’

Living

How to Fall in Love with Yourself

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It’s Valentine’s Day! Attending an all-girls’ high school meant that this day was absolutely amazing – it was like Christmas (but better; more chocolate), in the form of an explosion of candy and gifts and girls going around leaving treats on your desk like wonderful candy fairies on a sugar high. There was a lot of squealing and hugging. It was great. Till this day, I associate vday with an outpouring of love from my girlfriends.

But now that those days are firmly in the rear view mirror, vday as a, ahem, grown-up is all about romantic love and somehow it’s full of weird pressure about performing or showing some kind of affection to this one person in your life – and it seems like either doing something or NOT doing something is some kind of statement either way! As well as a giant spotlight on your relationship status. And since I am a fan of non-pressurizing holidays, I want to dedicate today’s post to a pressure-free how-to on falling in love with that one person you can never escape from having a relationship with: yourself. Yes, your glorious self – I mean, you’re bonded for life, so you might as well start romancing her right away.

Fall in love, from your thoughts to your toes:

1. Say hi to yourself in the morning. So today is the day you’re going to fall in love with yourself (if you haven’t already!) So how you start is important. First, look in the mirror. Smile and say, hey there, good morning you, it’s another day. Yesterday is over and done with, and you’re here – it’s an accomplishment! Is it your default to frown or zoom in on that zit or wrinkle or blemish that absolutely no one would else ever notice? Take note of that – and turn it around; compliment those features you love best. Turn on that charm, only towards yourself, you witty, vibrant animal.

2. Bring yourself on a date. What do you wish your boyfriend/girlfriend would do for you? Go, do it for yourself. My idea of a perfect date is to hang out at a bookstore, look at magazines together, drink an overpriced beverage and just chill. With absolutely no pressure to go anywhere or to do anything, but to enjoy his company and spend time. So whenever I need a pick me up, I do this by myself. And it’s always supremely therapeutic every time! Spending that time and attention and lavishing it on yourself feels surprisingly luxurious, always.

3. Feel pretty. I do my nails in red when I want to feel glamourous. I wear bold lipstick just because. For no special reason or occasion, except for the fact that it’s pink. Pink is the colour of LIFE itself. Have you seen a flamingo? That thing knows what colour can do for you. Flamingos know how to live.

 4. Make yourself your favourite meal. Something comforting, or decadent, or just plain over the top, just because. Feeding and nourishing yourself is a very satisfying act.

5. Check in on your thoughts. We all talk to ourselves in our heads. When I’m especially hungry/tired, that voice becomes a crazy, shrewish and especially shrill monster. (I’m a Virgo, that critical nature is pretty much de facto. I come down hard on myself. I still remember that one mistake I made when I was 5 in Kindergarten, I misspelled ‘market’ and it was a tragedy.) It also comes out IRL to others and it’s not so great. I’ve learnt to gently tell her to shush up. Sometimes that voice is there to help check us – to keep us out of perceived danger, and to keep us safe. But when we listen to it too much and it turns us into fearful creatures, it’s time to stop! So I’ve learnt to catch myself in the act, breathe, and say something positive to myself instead. So, instead of ‘Oh my god, you just screwed that up. It’s so lame.’ – I say, ‘It’s alright. You tried your best. Take a break and come back again, maybe you’ll know what to do then.’ The trick is to say to yourself what you’ll say to your best friend, your lover – anyone you love. And then just watch as you decompress and breathe easier. Everything becomes better instantly.

6. Create something. Anything. Paint a picture. Write a poem. Doodle. And then don’t judge it – just revel in how good it feels to make something like a kid, sans inhibitions. To me, this is the ultimate love letter to life, and to yourself, because our ability to create is what makes us amazing as humans. And when I find myself getting listless and bored I know it’s because I’ve been consuming all day (super easy with our addictive social media feeds and endless media! And Netflix… best and worst thing in my life) and not putting something out there. (So I wrote this blog post.)

7. Know you’re loved. Because you are.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! xo