Welcome to The Terrifying Twenties.

We’ve all heard of the terrible twos, the temper-tantrum filled period in a child’s life where nothing makes sense and everything is upsetting. Eighteen years later, we’re back to being confused and distressed: welcome to The Terrifying Twenties.

The life of a twenty-something year old feels a lot like a game of Whose Line Is It Anyway where everything’s made up and the points don’t matter. This blog reflects the thoughts of another young adult trying to figure it all out.

Speaking the five love languages

Happy Valentine’s Day! Many consider February 14th “Single Awareness Day” or a Hallmark money making scam, but I’ve always seen Valentine’s Day as an excuse to spread some love – and I think we can all agree that the world needs a little more love.

Whether it’s for a family member, close friend or significant other, we all show love in different ways. In the book The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman argues that every person expresses and experiences love in one of five ways:

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  1. Gift giving
  2. Quality time
  3. Words of affirmation
  4. Actions of service/devotion
  5. Physical touch

You can learn your love language here.

You can generally figure out someone’s love language without forcing them to take the online quiz by observing how they show their love to you. If their love language is quality time, they show love with attention – sharing quality conversation and quality activities together. If their love language is words of affirmation, words speak louder than actions. Hearing “I love you,” or kind, encouraging words is extremely important to them. If their love language is acts of service, love is shown through actions that ease the burden of your responsibilities – doing a chore for you, running an errand, etc. If their love language is physical touch, hugs, hand holding, and physical presence are crucial. Physical touch goes beyond sexual intimacy. If their love language is receiving gifts, they enjoy putting thought and effort into gifts or gestures – no matter how small.

Chapman suggests that people generally give love in the way they prefer to receive love. The problem, then, is that the people we’re trying to show affection to might not express their love the same way we do, which can leave people frustrated. If your spouse’s love language is acts of service, you might be better off helping them with a task they want to complete than spending a ton of money on chocolates and flowers this Valentine’s Day. It sounds corny, but learning to understand people’s love languages can help you form stronger relationships with the people you care about.

 

 

 

 

Overcoming perfectionism

Hi, my name is Nicole and I’m a perfectionist.

I don’t know why I’m a perfectionist, but there’s no doubt that I am one. I have an incessant need to get things right the first time, to be a professional at everything I endeavor to do, and to exert control over all things. If it something is not done the way I want/expect it to be done, I’m not interested. It’s my way or the highway, and my way is nitpicking myself until whatever I’m doing is exactly as it should be.

Perfectionism can certainly be a very positive trait – and until very recently, I only thought if it this way. My perfectionist tendencies make me an incredibly dedicated worker, and ultimately a more successful person because I insist on doing things “right.” It enables me to always be proud of the work I do, from big undertakings at work to small DIY projects around the house.

While it’s true that my perfectionism has made me a more disciplined person, I recently began to realize that sometimes living with this mentality is not only annoying, but inhibiting. I would rather do things in a specific way or not at all – and that’s no way to live. I realized that I’m missing out on a lot of potentially great opportunities because I’m deeply afraid of failure/disappointment – a fear that sits at the root of perfectionism and does more harm than good.

This is why, at the end of December, I decided to sign up for the Get Out of Your Own Way 7-Day Challenge for Perfectionists. Sam Brown over at Smart Twenties designed the challenge to help perfectionists like me get shit done and lose the incessant fear of failure that’s holding us back.

Here’s eight takeaways:

  1. Perfectionism stems from self-doubt and a fear of disappointment or failure. We perfectionists often let the fear of letting others (or ourselves) down keep us from trying new things or being true to who we really are.
  2. For perfectionists, procrastination is a symptom of that fear of disappointment. I never considered myself to be a procrastinator because I’ve never been lazy with my work. By colluding procrastination with laziness, I failed to realize that I actually am putting things off – not because I am lazy or unmotivated, but because I’m afraid of doing them inadequately.
  3. Expecting, or even insisting on a particular result can be damaging. You’ll end up disappointed if you have tunnel-vision expectations. Instead of focusing on what you think the outcome of something should look like, take more time to enjoy and learn from the process. That is where true ingenuity grows.
  4. There are so many areas of my life that I want to work on that I often feel overwhelmed and abandon all of them, for fear that I cannot give them the proper attention. A perfectionist will often let self-doubt steal away their motivation. Try focusing on one goal at a time and resolving yourself to make a habit of working towards that goal.
  5. The only way to reach your full potential is to do. You have to put in the work if you want something. Even if it is not done perfectly every time, you will not achieve anything without taking the time to sit down and do it.
  6. Let go of the fear of making mistakes. Humans learn from mistakes. It is the only way you will improve at anything. In the same breath, giving up is the worst thing a perfectionist can do. Perfectionists will often abandon an endeavor after a period of committed effort due to our “all-or-nothing” attitude. If we become scared that our best won’t be good enough, disappointment is guaranteed.
  7. You can plan a pretty picnic but you can’t predict the weather. Perfectionists are great planners but we tend to get stuck in the planning phase and become overwhelmed by the pressure to stick to the plan.
  8. Track your excuses. I guarantee if you take the time to write down your excuse for not doing something, you’ll realize it’s not as sound as you thought.

I’ll end this post on number 8, because the perfectionist in me wanted to get to 10. Baby steps, my fellow perfectionists, baby steps.

For more information on the perfectionist challenge and more advice for perfectionists, head over to smart-twenties.com!

More than your measurements

I recently saw a post on Instagram that I’ve been unable to erase from my mind.

A girl around my age posted a before-and-after comparison of her body. She appeared more toned and tight in the “after” photo – but otherwise, I saw two similar photos of the same beautiful girl. Her caption is what disturbed me, and I can’t seem to forget the way it made me feel.

“I’m never taking another week off from clean eating and exercise,” she began. “I let myself go over the holidays, and cannot believe how much my body changed in such a short period of time. You should never get so comfortable with your body that you settle for less than your best. Feeling that level of comfort in your own skin is a detriment to forward-progress.”

Hold up.

Did she really just tell people not to feel comfortable in their own skin? The more I mulled this over, the less surprised I became. Should it really come as a shock that girls and women feel this way?

There has been a lot [not nearly enough] written about how pervasive negative body image is in our media and culture, especially for girls and women. We are constantly being told that our best is not good enough. To make matters worse, celebrities like the Kardashians will pay for millions of dollars’ worth of surgery to construct society’s ideal body, then tell you it’s naturally theirs, that you can do it too with some squats and a little help from Khloe’s waist trainer and Kylie’s contour kit.

This is not going to be an easy problem to solve. Our entire culture was built on the foundation of oppressing bodies, and it’s going to take a lot more than one blog post to impact that. American consumerism is literally driven by people’s dissatisfaction with their bodies. Think about it. We spend thousands of dollars annually trying to keep up with appearances. Consumer culture does not want you to feel comfortable with your own body. If women started feeling confident as-is, thousands of companies that capitalize on our dissatisfaction would go belly-up.

It is impossible for ordinary Americans to control the message being plugged by people and companies in power. Shit, even our top elected official is perpetuating the message that women must look a certain way, on a daily basis. My point is, if we are perpetuating this message on an individual level too, we are failing.

There is nothing wrong with posting a progress photo, eating clean or wanting a more fit body. The problem is that we are telling people that healthy = a specific body type. We should be encouraging girls to be healthier, not to change their bodies into something they are not. Any person who has struggled with an eating disorder will be the first to tell you that skinny doesn’t always mean healthy.

I think most of us can agree that we could do a better job of taking care of our bodies: we should all drink more water, exercise more frequently and eat healthier foods – but we need to stop telling women above a size two that they are not allowed to feel comfortable and confident with their body as-is. Side note: you can still work towards a better, stronger body without condemning the skin you’re in now.

The message in this Instagram post was very clear: “You should not feel comfortable with your body unless it looks a certain way.”

Fuck that.

You do not need to be society’s ideal body type to be worthy of love and confidence.

We need to, on an individual level, start spreading the message that any woman can and should feel comfortable in their own skin. You are no less worthy of love or happiness because you gained a few pounds over the holidays.

Unfortunately we cannot flip a switch and suddenly start loving our bodies. I still struggle with insecurities, and I probably always will. The objective is to love yourself despite these self-perceived flaws. Next time you think something negative about your physical appearance, ask yourself how you would feel saying the same thing to your daughter, sister or best friend.

My point is: our lives are already a constant barrage of people trying to tell us that we are not good enough, or what we need more or less of to be happy. The very least we can do is practice being kinder to one another on an individual level.

Ladies, we’re not going to win this battle if we’re not united in the fight. Being more accepting of others begins with being more accepting of yourself. Be kinder to yourself, and the world with follow suit.

Set New Year’s intentions, not resolutions

I am big enough to admit that I do not have the self-discipline required to maintain a New Year’s resolution. I’m the type of person to set a loose goal of “being healthier in the new year,” which plays out in the form of me thinking about doing some crunches and ordering a salad for lunch on Jan. 1 before I relapse on junk food.

Rather than start another year with false promises to myself, I’m ditching the resolutions and instead setting intentions for 2017.

An intention is not the same as a resolution. By setting an intention, I am not resolving myself to change my behavior with a direct outcome in mind. It is swapping “in the New Year I will lose 30 pounds” for “in the New Year I will be more mindful of how I treat my body.” Resolutions are almost always action-oriented, while an intention is not an action that will produce a concrete goal. “I will go to the gym every week” becomes “I will practice self-love by exercising and appreciating my body.” There is no pressure to “succeed” when setting intentions because you cannot fail.

Setting an intention is taking the first step towards the person you want to be. Philosopher Wayne Dyer said, “Our intention creates our reality.” While a resolution is a promise to act a certain way in order to achieve a certain result, an intention is a conscious change in mentality that will lead to a change in your life – but not necessarily a visible or tangible change.

Resolutions are often the self-depreciating product of our perceived flaws, i.e. I’m too fat so I need to lose weight. Intention-setting should be an act of self-love. To set an intention for the New Year, visualize the person you want to be, and think about the small, positive changes you can make to move closer to being that person. Your intention for the New Year should be a commitment to bettering yourself by focusing on the journey, not the objective. If setting intentions for an entire year is daunting, start smaller. You can set an intention for a month, week, or even a day.

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My intention for the year 2017 is to face my fears. I intend to make a conscious effort to step out of my comfort zone. I intend to do things that make me uncomfortable, because they make me uncomfortable. I intend to dial-in on my own fears and anxieties, and make the necessary changes to stop letting them control my life. I will work to relinquish control by confronting my own perfectionism and fear of failure.

 

What are your intentions for 2017?

DIY: Holiday hot chocolate favors

IMG_2897.jpgHappy first day of winter, everyone! Or not, if you hate the cold as much as I do. I needed to put together a fast DIY holiday favor on a shoestring budget this year, so I decided to make these hot chocolate favors to give to friends and family.

For about $20

WHAT I USED

*I shopped at the Dollar Store for this project!

  • 3 boxes of Swiss Miss hot chocolate packages • $3 or 27 oz Nestle hot chocolate container • $5
  • 10 plastic ornaments ($1 each) or 10 mason jars • $10
  • Package of 10 bows • $1
  • Bag of candy canes • $1
  • Decorative ribbon • $1
  • Bag of mini marshmallows • $1
  • Bag of milk chocolate or chocolate chips • $1

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  1. Fill each container with enough powder for 1-2 cups of hot chocolate.
  2. Drop in an even layer of mini marshmallows.
  3. Chop chocolates, or place chocolates in a ziplock bag and crush with a rolling pin. Sprinkles the chocolates. If you ain’t got time for that, sprinkle chocolate chips on top of the marshmallows.
  4. Optional: Sprinkle crushed peppermints on top of the chocolates for an additional layer.
  5. Because I used large plastic ornaments from the Dollar Store instead of mason jars, I used mini candycanes as hooks.
  6. I added some bows for decoration, along with tags cut from cardboard (the reverse says ‘just add hot water or warm milk’).

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It takes less than 10 to make 10, and they’re super cute! An easy, affordable gift to give to your loved ones this holiday season.

xND

 

 

 

Donating hair: how and where to donate

Hi everyone! After two years of growing out my hair, I just chopped and donated my locks for the third time. In this post, I’m going to explain why you should consider donating your hair, which organization to give to and how to donate.

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WHY DONATE

There are a number of reasons why people lose their hair, from old age to disease treatments like chemotherapy. Regardless of age, hair loss, especially for children and women, can be especially traumatic, significantly impacting a person’s self-esteem. While a wig might seem like a viable solution to hair loss, the more realistic looking real-hair wigs can be extremely pricey, retailing for more than $3,000. Fortunately there are several organizations dedicated to making free or affordable wigs from hair donations for those in need.

WHERE TO DONATE

There are several organizations that accept hair donations to make wigs for people suffering from debilitating illnesses such as cancer and lupus. I’ve donated to two such organizations: Locks of Love and Pantene Beautiful Lengths. Where you donate is ultimately up to you, but I would encourage you not to donate to the Locks of Love organization. This Forbes article does a pretty good job arguing my case, but long story short: approximately $6 mil. worth of hair donations to Locks of Love are unaccounted for each year, and there’s a good chance your donation will not help a sick child. In fact, a lot of donations end up being sold for a profit.

If that article wasn’t enough to convince you, Locks of Love hairpieces are not free for sick children – the price of the hairpiece is determined on a sliding scale based on financial need. On the other hand, Panetene’s Beautiful Lengths program is partnered with the American Cancer Society to make and distribute free wigs for women with cancer. Another bonus to donating to Pantene over Locks of Love: Pantene’s length requirement is only 8 inches (Locks of Lock is 10).

HOW TO DONATE

  1. Make sure your hair fits the organization’s donation requirements.
  2. Shampoo/condition your hair, but do not use any additional products such as oils or hairspray.
  3. Gather your hair at the nape of your neck, brushing out any knots or tangles. Fasten the hair with an elastic just below the place where you will make the cut. Measure the length of your ponytail with a ruler to make sure it’s long enough to donate.
  4. You’ll want to cut off the ponytail above the elastic so that the ponytail is still secured together with the elastic after you make the cut. Make sure you aren’t cutting off more than you intended. Note that before cleaning up your cut, the hair in the front of your head will be longer than the hair in the back of your head when you use this method.
  5. Once completely dry, place the ponytail, still secured with the elastic, in a ziplock bag and seal. Send, in a plastic or padded envelope, to your organization of choice.

This time around I donated almost 12 inches, and I’m obsessed with my new haircut. Donating is a win-win: you get a fresh look while helping a worthy cause. It takes 6-15 ponytails to make a single wig, so donations are always needed! If you’re thinking about going for the big chop, consider asking your hairdresser to save your ponytail for you. It takes two seconds, but can make a real difference in the someone’s life.

xN

DIY: Easy, affordable autumn wreath

This post was originally published on Oct. 22, 2016.dsc_0667

I have a love/hate relationship with craft stores. They’re a DIY dreamland, sucking me in with their aisles of scrapbook stickers and seasonal sales, and I don’t have the self control to walk past without filling an entire shopping cart with assorted things. It’s seriously dangerous. An autumn wreath at Michael’s can cost between $50 and $100. I decided to throw together my own wreath this year – in 10 minutes – for only $25.

WHAT I USED

  • Wire wreath frame • $7
  • Leaf garland • $1-$7
  • Burlap ribbon • $5
  • Styrofoam pumpkin accent • $3
  • Craft wire • $3
  • (Optional) maple leaf or pinecone accents • $3

*I shopped at Michael’s, but you can find most of these things at a dollar store!

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DIRECTIONS

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  1. Weave the leaf garland through the wire frame, securing it in place with craft wire.
  2. Add accents. I used a styrofoam pumpkin, secured in place with wire, and some sparkly maple leafs. I finished her off with a burlap bow (I’m on the burlap bandwagon and I’m not sorry about it). You can add pretty much anything to make this project your own, such as adding a wooden letter, more gourds or sunflowers.

xND

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RECIPE: Pumpkin pie crumble cake

This post was originally published on Oct. 9, 2016.

Happy Fall, y’all!

Disclaimer: I am not a fan of pumpkin flavored anything, but this recipe is fantastic and I’ve been (quickly) devouring it. It tastes great cold – which, I think, justifies eating it for breakfast – and warm with some vanilla ice cream or whipped cream/cool whip.

Despite having an entire can of pumpkin pie filling, this one is pretty light on the pumpkin flavor.

INGREDIENTS dsc_0585

  • 1 box cake mix
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup + 3 tbsp butter (softened)
  • 1 can pumpkin pie filling or pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

DIRECTIONS
1.) Preheat oven to 350F. Grease/spray a 9×13 in. pan.

2.) Set aside 1 cup of cake mix for the topping

3.) CRUST: In a bowl, mix the remaining cake mix, 1 egg and 1/2
cup of softened butter.

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4.) Spread mix into bottom of the pan.

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5.) FILLING: In a bowl, mix 1 can of pumpkin puree/pie filling, 3 eggs, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup of brown sugar, and 1 and 1/2 tsp of cinnamon.

6.) Spread mix into pan evenly to cover crust layer.

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7.) TOPPING: Mix remaining (1 cup) cake mix, 1/2 cup of sugar, 3 tsp brown sugar, 3 tbsp of softened butter. Additionally, you may add crushed nuts or pecans to the topping.

dsc_05988.) Spread mix evenly to cover the layer of pumpkin filling.

9.) Bake 1 hour.

xND

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