Confidence when you aren’t skinny

The last time I went hiking near my Northern California home, I wore my standard workout crops and tee with a thin, moisture-wicking outer layer. There was a lot more canopy coverage from the trees than I had anticipated, and I was freezing.

So when I got dressed for our hike on December 29 (aka winter), I decked out in warm layers: running tights, a soft and thin long sleeve from a past race, and a Patagonia fleece vest, all underneath a neoprene baseball cap. I was feeling pretty smug when we got to a similar sight: a trailhead totally shrouded in branches. I even remember saying to my husband Tim, “I think that once we get moving and I warm up a bit, I’m going to be at the perfect temperature.” (I probably also said something obnoxious like “I really nailed this one,” but I’m too embarrassed to commit to that memory.)

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By now you’ve likely realized that I did not, in fact, nail that outfit. After about half a mile maximum, we found ourselves traversing the sunny side of the top of a mountain with absolutely no hope of shade. I was wearing all black and pouring out wine sweats (having just returned from wine tourism in Argentina) and that damn fleece vest had no sleeves to tie around my waist. The views were dynamite but WHO COULD CARE because I just wanted to hide behind a tree and pay Tim to fan me.

And then I realized: My tights are kind of high-waisted. I’ve got a sports bra on. The only thing I lack is the self-confidence to bare any form of midsection. And since I was basically under a direct solar spotlight with no respite, I took it off. I tied my long-sleeve around my waist (high up, but whatever, there was veritable bare torso on display) and I was able to dangle that formidably-warm fleece vest from my tied up shirt. I was IMMEDIATELY A THOUSAND TIMES BETTER.

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By some miracle, we didn’t pass anyone on the trail for at least 30 minutes. By the time we did, I wasn’t even thinking about my appearance. I think I was in the middle of an intense word game that we play to pass time on hikes. And I survived that hike without reaching Survivor-level dehydration.

I’ll probably never have a body type like the women who I normally see working out in bras and tights. But maybe the bras-n-tights pendulum will swing to just anyone who wants to rock the look. Or, maybe, it’ll just happen to ladies like me who experience weather too strong for a longsleeve and vest and gets the cool rush of subsequent confidence. Whatever the reason, if you want to bare your torso on a hike — or in an exercise class, or just because — DO IT! Except maybe not at your office job because, y’know. We’re not that progressive as a society, and that’s not really high up my list of things to fight for. ūüėČ

What self-acceptance milestones have you experienced?

I guess I’m a fainter again

In second grade, my class went on a field trip to a hospital. My dad was chaperoning, and I was excited to get out of the norm for a day. I don’t really remember what we saw, except the x-rays. There were weird objects that people swallowed. And then there was the one with the stubbed toe. That’s the last image I remember before I felt the blood drain from me; before I was suddenly and at once chilled and clammy; before I hit the ground and lost consciousness.

I’m a fainter. From ages 8-12 I had a few unlucky incidents, all medical-ickiness-induced. I grew up, got used to the reality of the body, and it stopped. Until I decided, as a poor college student, to be a good person and give blood. I went to the on-campus¬†Blood & Platelet center and got strapped into a blood bag, then immediately passed out (luckily, again, in front of medically-trained people). I had to be tilted back in the donation seat, surrounded by other people getting their blood sucked into clear bags. They gave me oreos and a lot of water, though, so that was pretty neat.

My father was a fainter in his youth for the same reasons as I am: medical stuff. He encouraged me: “You’ll grow out of it. When I worked in a hospital in my 20s, I even watched surgeries!” My sister is a fainter (by the way, can I post about you? Love you!), but it seems to be sometimes when she’s ill.

Tonight I discovered that I might be the unlucky blend of both. I had spent an hour or two browsing at Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s in Palo Alto. (Browsing = only buying a few things.) I decided that I could treat myself a little and pick up something to eat. Near my place, I stop into a pizza place. The line is moving glacially, but they’ve already started preparing it. After about 5 minutes of standing (and getting annoyed with the VERY CRANKY mother behind me), I start to feel nauseous. I think I’m going to throw up. I think about running to the bathroom but decide against it because two guys in front of me in line already abandoned their pre-cooked pizzas from the wait, and the employees were none too pleased. The mom behind me gets crankier and blunter. I panic because I don’t know what to do. Suddenly, a familiar feeling returns: the blood is draining from me. I am at once clammy and cold. I am going to faint. I am going to faint.

I turn to a table behind me, with one kid reserving the other 3 seats. The cranky mom asks if I’m leaving, and I manage¬†the words, “I feel I should tell you, I think I am going to faint.” She doesn’t really care. Thankfully she does turn back later and say, “Is there someone I can call for you?” This reminds me to call. The one kid at the table tells me repeatedly that the table is being saved, so I say, “I need to sit for a minute.” I feel embarrassed and dramatic. I am going to faint.

I call my boyfriend. He doesn’t answer. He¬†is at least¬†45 miles away, anyway, not to mention during a peak traffic time and without a car. Oh no, I have my car. I drove here. I can’t drive like this. I call my mother, who is hundreds of miles away. She answers and makes small talk immediately. She doesn’t know I am sitting at¬†someone else’s table, barely able to watch my purse as I lean forward and take deep breaths to fight for consciousness. Finally I share what I feel, and she talks me through it. I transition to an outside seat (not reserved by a pushy kid). After 10 minutes, I get in my car and make my mother stay on the phone until I’m home. It is under a mile.

At home I vacillate. Even now, as I sit on the couch in the absolute comfiest item I own (oversized t-shirt and slippers) (why does that sound so TMI) I am not sure if I just need sleep or if I am suffering a weird strain of the flu or if¬†I’ve got some hot new strain of disease or if it’s a one-time weird thing. I know it’s not a regular panic attack, because if you have ever read my blog you should know I know what panic attacks are.

This whole incident made me (re-)realize: I’m crazy lucky to have someone here that I call when I feel embarrassed and dramatic about a near-faint. Even if he doesn’t pick up. (He called me back, by the way. Points to him.) I am also crazy lucky to not have many times where I face a situation where I’m panicked to be alone. That’s a nice realization. But I also realize: I still feel unwell. So that’s there too. End of happy reflections.

Cursory Google search results reveal neurocardiogenic or vasovagal syncope. It’s caused by standing too long, seeing blood, etc. I hadn’t been standing long during this time, though, so I don’t know what the deal is.¬†I feel so dramatic. Fainting is so very Victorian. I’m almost glad no one I know was around, because no one I know will have seen me like that. I may not be so lucky next time, though. I may actually faint. And that’s OK. I’ve got someone to call for that.

Optimism in the most expensive place in the US

Calgary Stampede

I shared earlier this week that being in the Bay Area has made me severely dial back the money I spend on fun things. I am essentially in the lay-off process of all the fun excursions and adventures that are presented to me.

For this upcoming Thanksgiving, my S.O. and I¬†thought about going on vacation instead of visiting family. That was when I realized: I’ve spent SO MUCH on little weekend trips, that I’m really not in a place to (responsibly) shell out $600+ for a flight plus all the money spent on actually being on vacation. We weren’t thinking cheap, either: we thought about Hawaii. I fell into the weirdest, most unsettling temporary depression about the realization that I shouldn’t go. I’d been really “living”: in the past 12 months, I’d been to Chicago, New York, Vegas (3x), Calgary, Seattle, Spokane, and back to Southern California a few times. I’d made the most of my local weekends, as well, staying in Sonoma and visiting coastal cities like Monterey. I dine out a LOT, and I pay hundreds for improv courses. On top of that, Amazon Prime is the best and also the worst, because it’s way too easy to spend money on a whim.

In sum, I’d been spending way too much. This budget was fine when my rent was 50% of its current total; now, I can still absolutely go on vacation, but I can’t be spending $1000+ on my average quick weekend trip, and take those weekend trips 2x per month, while also spending decent money locally.

The bigger toll of these weekends and mini-trips: I’m EXHAUSTED. The more I am away from my normal life, the more I spend money unnecessarily, the more I have to wake up at 4am to catch a 6am flight to get back to work on time, the more I create stress on myself. Why was I so unable to stand still for so long? I’m happy in my life. I have a sweet man at home (my cat) (and also my S.O., haha, hi honey). Why was I constantly in need of that next trip?

When I was in college, I never was able to spend money. I worked a part-time job at the main library on campus making just over minimum wage. I didn’t go anywhere for the weekend unless it was mostly free (family vacation homes, etc) and I knew not to spend money on the “nice to haves” for the most part. Somewhere in the years after college, a paradigm shift occurred, and I got to the point of buying anything I wanted (to a degree) and having the ability to not feel financial pain. The day before I left for Europe in 2013, I got a flat tire and ended up replacing multiple¬†tires, and it didn’t make a bit of difference. I bought a really nice and expensive leather jacket in Italy without a flinch. I loved the idea of spending my money on experiences.

Now, I’ve realized, I’m entering the point in my life where I genuinely want to slow down. Jetting from place to place was exhilarating, and it’s something I won’t be able to do¬†one day when I have children or a mortgage. I’ve been through much of Europe, sunbathed in Mexico (and, uh, bathed my insides with tequila), gotten rowdy at rodeos, spent a weekend at a music festival only to wake up early the next morning to go to Disneyland. But I have a really happy life right now, and it’s my time to put my weight into that, to build toward lifelong happiness. That might mean that for a while I won’t be quite as flush with airline miles and awesome Instagram posts. But you know what?¬†I’m pretty darn excited. When I was leaning in to my ability to travel and to spend money, I was doing that because I was entirely independent. Now, there’s a life at home that’s just as good as a life spent seeing the world, and¬†I don’t have to buy a plane ticket to get there.

Ageism and understanding yourself

For much of my life, I felt like I was the wrong age, or born in the wrong year, or just not the same as people my age. I would avoid telling people my age and relished the times that my grandparents’ near-blind friends asked my¬†sixteen-year-old self¬†if I was in college.

As I got a bit older and began undergoing the maturation discovery phase that is college and early adult life, I found myself acting like most people my age. I joined a sorority, shook off a lot of inhibitions (and gained some back, thankfully, after graduation), and began learning the balance of caring for myself and having a really great and memorable life. There were plenty of times I felt “mature,” probably due to the perceived independence of being on a campus and not in your parents’ home. But there would be spans of time when I would be a near-hermit, get really thrown into scheduling my part-time job, internship, and school and would avoid my social life. During these times, I almost felt estranged from my peers. This isn’t their doing at all: it was mine. I couldn’t reconcile having fun with being responsible.

Fast forward to today. I think I can officially say that while I’ve certainly not perfected my balance, I’m absolutely the closest I’ve ever been. Here’s a snapshot of what I’ve learned makes me comfortable:

  • My one-bedroom apartment is kept clean and tidy. For the most part, this is by doing small things regularly — not one big clean-up on occasion.
  • I put my financial health very high on the priority list. This has been the biggest struggle for me, surprisingly. Historically I’ve been very financially savvy and disciplined, but since my cost of living is so enormous in the Bay Area, I’m learning to dial down my “fun budget” to keep me happy.
  • My cat actually gets the attention he deserves, including lots of cuddles and actually cleaning his litter box. (I can’t believe I only did this once a week or so when he was little. Poor guy.) It’s little, but it’s got huge payoff.
  • I’m in a really, really good relationship that makes me want to keep myself happy in all other regards so I can keep the relationship happy.
  • Exercise is an absolute necessity to manage my anxiety. If I don’t exercise, anxiety reduces my productivity and makes me less rational and generally sends me into an unhealthy snowball-effect.
  • Thanks to a year with the best therapist in the world, I know a lot of “triggers” that set off my anxiety, including little things like being tired and getting overheated.

Age DGAF-er

Age DGAF-er now

And now, for the first time in my life, as I’m just a few weeks away from my 26th birthday, I’ve noticed that I no longer am quite as afraid to share my age. Part of that is because at a certain point age difference is not much of a factor¬†when relating to others.¬†A bigger part of my newfound age-acceptance, though, is knowing that exactly who I am is exactly right for me. I always felt like I wasn’t in the right skin from an age perspective,¬†and instead of fighting the uphill battle of being the “right” age, I am the right me. At times I’m a little boring now. I don’t care. I love it. It’s perfect.

Perfectionism, aka the Newman to my Jerry Seinfeld.

In case I haven’t mentioned it enough, Perfectionism is the WORST. It’s never recognized as a horrible affliction like addiction, but isn’t that what it is? Your mind doesn’t recognize when you are good and well, and it craves this unattainable state that you harm yourself in pursuing.

With an extreme degree of vulnerability, I present to you many of the things I feel are imperfect about me. Regardless of whether you agree, these are what feel like HUGE flaws to me:

  • I’m not funny enough
  • I’m extremely unphotogenic
  • I haven’t traveled enough
  • My face isn’t that attractive
  • I don’t always react coolly when someone jokes
  • I apologize too often for things I didn’t necessarily do wrong
  • I won’t be able to buy a house in the foreseeable future
  • When I’m having a bad day, admitting to that is failure
  • If I don’t have a well-formed opinion on something, I’m not educated or smart enough

The list is FAR longer than that, but that sample should illustrate all the things I can find in myself that I don’t like. But guess what? At the same time, when I feel in control of my perfectionism, I feel really GOOD about a lot of those areas! Point for point, here’s how I feel when I have overcome my perfectionism:

  • I’m definitely known in my circles as someone who’s funny
  • I have some awesome profile pics on Facebook, which means that at least some of the time I look pretty good
  • I’ve been to a lot of countries with a healthy mix of first- and third-world, and I go out of town on weekends pretty darn often
  • I know my family and friends and SO don’t think I’m unattractive
  • I can joke back and forth with people without going negative
  • Standing my ground comes more easily as I practice it
  • Maybe I can’t buy a house in the Bay right now, but I really like what I’ve done with my own little apartment, and maybe one day — someplace else, or combined with my future spouse’s income — I can create a lovely home, regardless of the status attached with owning a home
  • Everyone has bad days, and I’m thankful to have people in my life who WILL listen and encourage me on those bad days
  • I know a lot about certain things. It’s awesome that I don’t try to argue a point despite being ignorant. That’s super annoying when people do that, and I don’t. Go me!

Not every day is perfect — in fact, no day is. And you know what’s even better? Taking the John Legend approach and celebrating “all your perfect imperfections.” I’m not going to argue that perfection would be boring, because we don’t know that. No one has been able to prove that theory. But I am going to argue that imperfections give us exciting opportunities to learn things about ourselves, or our partners, or our friends and family.¬†Sometimes those realizations are painful, but most of the time they really help you strengthen yourself or know when to cut a relationship. And if you DON’T need to cut a¬†relationship due to a¬†realization, it usually emerges stronger and in turn develops you as well. I think that might be the best part of all.

I want to know more about perfection. What do you all know about perfectionism? How do you overcome your self-doubt?