Love Your Body Because YOGO

YOGO: You Only Get One.

“Why do you live in your body like you will be given another? As if it were temporary. You starve it, you let anyone touch it, you berate it. Tell it that should be completely different. You tug at your soft flesh, wish it thinner, wish it gone. You fall in love with those who praise the way it sighs under their hands, but who praises the way it holds up your weight, even when you are falling apart?”

–Warsan Shir (I got this quote from Tumblr so I’m not 100% sure the source is accurate)

I came across this quote months ago and it touched me. I’ve gone through periods of my life when I hated parts of my body. Everyone always told me how skinny I was, but I didn’t see it. I saw a belly that covered the rock-solid abs I wanted. I saw boobs that weren’t big enough. I saw a big fat mole covering my face. And after gorging myself this summer, I see a butt that won’t fit into my favorite size 0 shorts, and thighs that ripped a seam in my jeggings.

Coming to terms with loving my body has been an uphill battle since middle school, but I’m getting there, slowly. This summer has helped me greatly.

Today I went to a follow-up check-up with a nutritionist I’ve been seeing for a few months. All summer, I’ve looked forward to this check-up because I got to tell her how much I’ve progressed this summer.

It started in May, when I saw the nutritionist because I thought I had an eating disorder (don’t worry, it was a false alarm). She told me, however, that I was very underweight (which I already knew) and that I needed to gain about 15 lbs to be healthier.

I’m ashamed to admit this, but the thought of gaining weight used to scare me, subconsciously, although it took me a long time to admit it. I’ll be honest, I was only 97 lbs and I’m 5’4. My body image standards probably stem from knowing that most of the women in my family are very thin and are around my height. And being constantly bombarded with images of beautiful women everywhere didn’t help either–from Victoria’s Secret commercials to those unrealistically thin girls on Tumblr with the huge thigh gaps, and images of skinny-yet-busty women are everywhere. You get used to it, but that doesn’t stop it from chipping away at your self-esteem.

So this summer, I decided to just say, fuck it.  Maybe I won’t be Victoria’s Secret Angel thin, but I’m going to eat, exercise, and have fun doing it. I started keeping a food journal, but eventually stopped because it was too tedious. I probably overdid the eating this summer (I’ll blame/thank my parents for feeding me so well and so much), but the exercising was the key to the increase in my self-love. I still have some body image issues (I mean, who doesn’t?), but what really helped me grow personally and love my body were exercising, eating healthier, and blogging.

I’ve never been athletic in any capacity, but I’ve been trying the less-coordinated sports over the summer. My 4 parents are all regular runners (my mom co-coaches a running group and my dad was training for a 50 miler this year) so their enthusiasm rubbed off on me. I went for jogs with my mom and her running group once in awhile, which was really helpful because they’re all super nice and encouraging, strong women. Seeing women who are 20-40 years my senior kick my ass with endurance and distance was also a good motivator–if they can run like badasses in their 40s-60s, why can’t I do the same in my prime?

Running alone was also helpful for my positive body image and increased self-esteem. Not only did it feel super rewarding to push my limits without anyone but me to push myself, but it was a good opportunity to get some me-time and sort out my thoughts. I highly recommend running–but I’ll also add that people who don’t run very much should start out very small (as I’ve learned from Zen Habits about creating lasting habits). Running was also great for me because you can’t really mess up when you do it, unlike most sports. I have zero coordination, so running was a good way for me to stay fit without having to actually be that athletic.

Aside from running, I started really getting into yoga. Luckily there was an amazing deal for yoga classes at FIT House Davis, where I got to go to yoga for 10 days for $10. I’ve wanted to do more yoga before, but going with my mom and having a set time and date to go were great for getting me to actually do it. If you plan on getting into exercising, (whether it’s yoga, running, or anything else) I recommend going with a friend, family member, or any type of partner who you like enough to follow through with your workout meet-ups. A workout partner can help keep you accountable and can motivate you to actually exercise, since you have an obligation to meet up with them.

Yoga made me feel strong and healthy. I’ve honestly never sweat as much in my life as I did while doing Vinyasa (makes you sweat like a motherf*cker). I’ve also never felt as content with myself and my life as I was when I did yoga and meditation.  I promise to do a whole post about de-stressing and yoga/meditating later, but for now, I very highly recommend yoga to everyone–whether you have body image problems (you can get an awesome body quickly by doing yoga), stress issues, anger problems, and so on.

All the working out that I did made me really hungry. And personally, I don’t give a shit about being skinny when I’m hungry. We only eat vegan food at my dad’s house, and I don’t eat red meat at my mom’s house, so I ended up eating very healthy while I was back home for the summer. I missed the days of frozen cheap Totino’s  pizzas and bags on bags on bags of sour Skittles, but I got used to their absence when I didn’t have an opportunity to eat much junk-food with my family.

I have the biggest sweet tooth you’ve ever seen, but my tastes changed over the 3 months of healthier eating. I started craving fruit much more than candy. I ate the salads my mom prepared without complaining. I craved veggie burgers from the Habit instead of beef burgers. I only ate McDonald’s once all summer–a stark contrast to the weekly (often more than once a week) McDonald’s I had during the school year. If you make small changes in your diet, your tastes will change eventually, and your body will thank you for it in the long run.

Eating healthier and exercising got my me into good physical shape, but I wouldn’t love my body the way I do now if I hadn’t started this blog. Sorting all my thoughts into writing, sharing my stories with the world, and getting feedback on my writing increased my self-esteem immensely. It’s an amazing experience to hear people I know (and don’t know) tell me about how they’ve gone through the same things I have, or tell me that my advice actually helps. Just knowing that my advice is valid increased my self-esteem, and in turn made me feel better about myself overall–body image included. So I thank my super awesome readers for helping me on this journey; I wouldn’t be where I am today without all your love and support.

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I see so many girls around me–girls I love and respect so much–who all go through this same problem. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard my friends tell each other “ugh, you’re so skinny, I hate you” or “I wish I had a thigh gap” or flat out talk about how much they hate their own bodies. It makes me sick to my stomach to see so many beautiful women hate the way they look and in turn hate themselves. I’m sick of seeing guys say “girls, you’re beautiful no matter what” then talk about girls’ flaws to no end. It’s fake. But this is real.

To whoever is reading this right now, I want you to know that you’re beautiful. Even if you don’t think you’re beautiful by society’s unrealistic standards, just know that you are. So do yourself a favor: stop comparing yourself to others. We are all made the way we are genetically, so there’s really no use in hating yourself for something you can’t change. The problem isn’t the way you look, it’s the way ads and our culture that focuses on symmetrical perfection and unrealistic standards. So fuck the standards! Love yourself!

What makes you most beautiful is having a beautiful heart and really loving yourself. Eat healthy, exercise, be good to yourself, and be genuine towards other people. That’s what makes you beautiful~

Lemme be your Zayn Malik gurl, because you don’t know you’re beautiful

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–Chloe

14 Tips for All 14 Year Old Girls

My dear younger sister Maia is turning 14 this week and we’re all making a big deal about it. I keep making jokes about her growing womanly body, much to her chagrin. I can’t believe how old she’s getting, and I keep thinking about what it was like to be her age. Fourteen was an emotional age for me (as were many of the subsequent and earlier years) and I wish I’d had someone to tell me these things about life, love, and growing up.

So for Maia, and for any other teenagers out there who might read this, here are a few things I’ve learned:

  1. Boys suck. Especially ones who are your age. I don’t know if they get any smarter or nicer, but here’s hoping they do. Instead of spending all your time thinking about boys (not accusing you of anything, but I definitely used to do this), forget about them. You’ll have plenty of time to fall in love and get your heart broken several times over, so save that for later, when you and your future partner will be much more mature and better equipped to handle all the mess that comes with committed relationships.
  2. Your identity as someone’s girlfriend isn’t an accurate measure of your worth.  I used to think that I wasn’t pretty, wasn’t desirable, wasn’t good enough for anyone because nobody asked me to date them in middle school. Do you realize how incredibly stupid that is? As if I were any less of an awesome person just because no 14 year old boys asked me to be their girlfriend! I hope you do realize how stupid that was, and never think of yourself in those terms. Just because you’re not in a relationship doesn’t mean you’re not attractive or desirable. It might mean that boys are too intimidated by your coolness to even approach you. Or it might mean that nobody knows you well enough to see what a catch you are. Either way, it doesn’t matter. The only opinion about you that matters is your own.
  3. Don’t change who you are for anyone. There will be many times when you will want to pretend to like what everyone else likes, just to fit in. But let me paint a picture for you: you are no longer in high school, you don’t have to see the “cool kids” anymore, and you are free to do whatever you please without anyone caring. This is real life, beyond the drama-filled teenage years you’re going through. Although it might seem important to act, talk, or dress a certain way just to make other people like you, don’t sell out. Be yourself, and the people who matter will appreciate your genuineness, and the ones who don’t appreciate you are the ones you don’t want to keep around anyway.
  4. Don’t let anyone make you feel less than the amazing person you are. There are always going to be those girls with their designer handbags, their makeup done to perfection, their shiny hair, their I-couldn’t-care-less attitude, blah blah blah. I always felt like a loser around those kinds of girls in high school, and I still catch myself feeling bad around them today. Then I remember, it’s stupid! So what if they dress better than I do? That doesn’t make me any less of a great person, and the same goes for you. (See #14 on this list)
  5. Be nice to your sisters and brothers. I remember being so angst-y (for no real reason) in my early teens. I always wanted to be either alone in my room or blocking out the rest of the world around me with my earphones (because listening to Green Day was way more important than anything else). Thankfully I’m at a less angry point in my life, and I’m much closer to my siblings now than I was when we actually lived together all year. I wish I’d made more of an effort to get to know them as people when we were younger, and hopefully you can learn from my mistake of being a hermit for a few years.
  6. Be good to your parents. (refer to the previous angst-y teenager description) I shut my parents out a lot because I thought they were lame, because even though my parents are actually really cool, TV and general society told me that parents are sooo lame. But that isn’t true! I was too self-involved to think about it before, but I realized later that my parents were always so supportive of me and even paid for me to go to Japan for student exchange, even when they were making a lot less money than they do now and had other kids to care for. I truly love them for that and everything else they’ve done for me. Someday you’re going to regret it if you disrespect your parents, so be good to them and appreciate all that they do for you.
  7. Stick to your passions, even if all your friends think it’s lame. I used to love reading when I was a kid. Up to this day, people I only knew in elementary school remember me as the kid who loved Harry Potter more than anyone. Then when I got to middle school, my world turned upside-down. Apparently sports were cool and reading sucked! I failed at all sports, but the real failure was when I stopped reading for fun like I used to. Eventually I got back into it, but it took awhile for me to realize that you shouldn’t stop doing something just because everyone else thinks it’s uncool. You know what’s really uncool? Quitting on something you love. Whatever your interests may be, forget what everyone else thinks, and keep doing what makes you happy. You’ll never be happy if you spend all your time trying to make everyone else happy.
  8. Friends who make you feel bad aren’t really your friends. In my freshman year of high school, I ended up hanging out with the bad girls group — the girls who smoked pot/cigarettes, had sex, cut themselves, etc. I’m not sure why I even stayed friends with them because we didn’t have anything in common besides an interest in music (which everyone has). They made me feel bad about stupid things, like being too skinny or dying my hair (although in hindsight, the dye job was really gross and they were right about that). I didn’t realize until later that these girls weren’t really my friends, and sought out a new group of girls who I’m still close to today. Even if it’s inconvenient, try and find friends who share your interests and values, even if it means going out of your way to do it. You’ll be much happier in the long run once you ditch the people who are toxic in your life.
  9. The most embarrassing times in your life aren’t all that bad. Believe it or not, I actually appreciate the embarrassing things that happened to me. They’re the funniest stories I have to tell people! At the time, I didn’t enjoy it when I got dumped over Facebook or Myspace or text message, or the time I dated someone with the same first and last name as my grandpa, but it’s hilarious now. So don’t worry about the times when you feel so embarrassed you want to dig your way to China — those are going to be your most treasured anecdotes someday.
  10. Your body is beautiful. Sure, you’re going through that awkward transition between little girl and sexualized woman. As awkward as you might feel, love your body anyway. I remember feeling horrible inside when we had to change our clothes in the locker room for P.E. — I felt like the most flat-chested girl there. It took me a long time to come to terms with being happy in my own skin, maybe because I didn’t have people telling me to embrace the body I had. Instead, I had people teasing me about my tiny boobs. But you know what? You’re beautiful. F*ck everyone who says otherwise. Look at yourself with love and you’ll grow to love yourself.
  11. It’s never the end of the world when you think it is. I felt like I was dying inside when I got dumped at 15. I even cried to my Geometry teacher after class because I had to explain to her why I was too distraught to do my homework the night before. I wish I could go back to my younger self and tell her that it gets better (and there are much worse times to come), and that he’s not even worth crying over anyway. So when something bad inevitably happens to you, just know that it gets better (although there are also much worse times to come), and that pain is temporary.
  12. Keep a journal. I went back and read through a bunch of my old diaries from high school recently, and the entries were priceless. It took me back to those years and I remembered exactly how I felt. Those journal entries reminded me of what kind of person I was back then and made me appreciate how much I’ve grown into the person I am now, and I want everyone else to have that same gift too.
  13. Don’t waste all your time on Facebook even if everyone else does. When I look back on my early teens/tweens, one of the parts I remember most clearly is being on Myspace 24/7 (yes, I’m old, and Myspace was to me what Facebook is to you). That’s pretty unfortunate, because I grew up on a sunny island with beautiful beaches, and I can count on my fingers the number of times I actually went to the beach in high school. I wasted so much of my time stalking crushes on Myspace or deciding which gross selfie to use as my default picture that I didn’t get to enjoy life as much as I could’ve. So put down your phone/laptop for a sec, and make the most of your teens, because YOLO~
  14. You may not always think so, but you’re awesome. I truly wish I could’ve known this when I was a teen. There were so many times when I felt like a total loser, but looking back, I wasn’t all that bad. Maia, you are one of the most genuinely kind and thoughtful people I know. You have a good head on your shoulders and you take care of all of us, even if you’re not the oldest. Always always always remember that you’re awesome and that I love you.

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–Chloe

Be the Source of Your Own Happiness

Enter my life a year ago (or even a few months ago): 

I carefully compose a text, inserting “lol” or “haha” in the appropriate places. I send it.

I flip my phone over so that I won’t think about whether or not he responds right away.

I pick the phone back up in about 15 seconds. Yup, it’s on ‘vibrate’. No, I haven’t received any new texts yet.

I throw the phone under my bed. It can’t demand my attention while it’s under my bed, right?

Wrong. I reach my arm under the bed, feeling around for the phone, after a failed attempt at trying to distract myself  by reading.

It’s been a few minutes. Why hasn’t he responded? What the hell does he have going on in his life right now that’s more important than talking to me?

Obviously he doesn’t want to talk to you because you’re an idiot!

No you’re not! Stop it. Get a grip. Jesus.

Okay. Okay. Well I have homework, might as well start on —phone vibrates, buzzes twice– SHIT.

He responded.

All is right in the world. He doesn’t hate me. I’m not stupid. I LOVE MY LIFE.

I text him back, making sure I sound nonchalant, charming, and funny.

I flip my phone over again.

End scene.

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Does this sound familiar to you? If it doesn’t, then good news: you’re much less crazy than I used to be! But if it does sound painfully familiar, then you have a problem. In other good news: it’s a fixable problem.

It’s completely normal to freak out over someone not texting you back when you expect them to. I know lots of people who antagonize over late replies and wonder why someone isn’t responding. It may be normal, but that doesn’t mean it’s healthy.

It’s dangerous to let your happiness depend on external factors. If someone doesn’t like you back, or if someone cuts you off in traffic, or if your boyfriend gets mad at you about something even if you didn’t do anything, you need to learn that it isn’t about you. 

One of the most important life lessons (which I’m still trying to learn myself) is that most of the time, it really isn’t about you. While you’re busy focusing on your own internal narrative, everyone else is doing the same thing too. For all you know, you’re probably hurting someone else or even unwittingly making their day better, without even trying. You’re too busy focusing on what’s going on with you to notice, but so is everyone else.

Although it’s hard to remember not to take things so personally, you need to remember that everyone is going through their own hardships and doesn’t mean to negatively affect you. So if your crush doesn’t respond to your messages, it’s probably not that he doesn’t like you, it’s because he has his own things going on in his life. And you should have things going on in your own life independent of him, too.

If one of the sources of your unhappiness is feeling neglected, you should re-evaluate how much attention you really need from a person. You shouldn’t expect someone to give you their attention 24/7 — that’s humanly impossible (not to mention stalker-y).

Whenever you feel sad because your special someone isn’t texting you back, text someone else instead. Unless you’re a hermit, you have other people in your life who’d love to hear from you (your BFF, your mom, your cousin, a friend you haven’t talked to in a long time, or even me!). This gives you the opportunity to talk to other people in your life, and you should never make one person be your everything. That’s unhealthy too. Appreciate what you do have.

I always mention this in my posts, but you should remember that you’re awesome. Whoever this person is that’s making you so miserable should be so lucky to have your attention. If they’re not making the effort, then why should you? You have a lot going for yourself. Sometimes you just need to remember the good aspects of your life when the bad parts are really weighing on you. (When I need to remember the good parts about myself, I make a list — that usually helps.) You might not believe it at first, but you are enough and you can make yourself happy. Other people will come and go in your life, but you’re going to be stuck with yourself forever, so you might as well learn to make yourself happy.

–Chloe

What to Do When You Want Your Ex Back

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(Don’t listen to Cher Lloyd.)

I had a minor freakout this morning because I thought I had residual feelings for an ex. I blew up my friends’ phones with long texts about my fears, asking them what I should do. I let my imagination run wild and imagined worst case scenarios, in which I was stuck pining over someone who wanted to be with other people. I imagined running into him everywhere I went or seeing him making out with another girl at a party. I told myself I wouldn’t be able to handle it. I even told one of my friends “I’m dying” because I got a small anxiety attack just thinking about everything. I turned to Google, as I do with most of my problems, and went on a fast streak of skimming through Wiki How articles on what to do when you still have feelings for your ex.

Then I took a deep breath. I realized as I read those Wiki How articles that this is absurd. It isn’t a good idea (on my behalf) for us to get back together. I felt all my dormant insecurities creep back and take center stage in my mind. I was letting my fears win. I realized that all of this is stupid. I don’t need him and I don’t need a boyfriend at all. I made a choice to date myself, and I needed to honor that commitment.

When you chose to date yourself, you’re going to get lonely at some point, no matter what. It’s hard to be satisfied with only yourself when you see happy couples all around you, or when you crave physical affection you can only get with another person. But the trick is to wait it out. As my dear Andrew VanWyngarden said, “the trick is to try to be free / and tend to the void, don’t just fill it.” When you get lonely, don’t just find a person to fill the space that feels empty inside (totally not talking about sex either) — you need to learn how to be whole instead of covering up your emotional wounds with a new relationship.

Your emotions are like the tide — sometimes the water will be calm and you’ll be fine with being alone. Then suddenly, something will trigger your negative emotions and amplify your fears; it will get stormy. But you are your own ship and captain, and you can get through the storm.

When waters get rough, talk to a friend. Let out all your crazy thoughts and feelings to a trusted friend. The fears and worries you keep to yourself usually sound insignificant or silly when you actually say them aloud. Plus, your friend can give you an outside, objective perspective on your situation (and if you need a friend, I’m always here!).

If you’re not comfortable sharing your deeply personal feelings with another person, journaling about your feelings can help a lot too. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your own thoughts, and writing them out can bring order to the chaos in your head. Complicated situations get simpler for me after I sort it out in writing. You can even get creative and turn your thoughts into poetry, which can also be really cathartic.

Remind yourself that you’re awesome. You’re stronger than you think you are. When you get lonely, just remember that the feeling is temporary. As Kelly Clarkson said, it doesn’t mean you’re lonely when you’re alone. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger (Kelly Clarkson lyrics are actually great advice).

Note: My friend/cousin/older-sister Emma gave me the Kelly Clarkson lyrics as advice and also made this picture of her face on Kelly’s body just for this post. Enjoy!

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–Chloe

The Secret to Being Attractive

Maybe it’s because I went to an all-girls school during the part of my life when my body transitioned from kid-ish to womanly. Maybe it’s because I was mostly friends with girls until I went to college. Or maybe I’m just not willing to believe that it’s okay for men to be pigs, but it’s not okay for girls to dress *mildly* attractive and not expect to get hounded by unwanted suitors.

Over the last 12 months, I’ve been hit on by guys more than I have in my entire life. It’s new. It’s kind of interesting. But I don’t like it. I probably sound like a bitch (you might tell me I’m not even that hot, get off my high horse) and I’m complaining about people finding me attractive (boo-hoo). It’s not the “finding me attractive” part that bothers me, though. It’s how a lot of guys go about hitting on girls that bothers me. I’m very choosy with who I actually date, and if you come across as a LOS-ing douche, you won’t get very far.

For example, I went to a party a few weeks ago and I had a few guys hanging onto me for a lot of the night, and the whole time they made me feel pressured. I already could tell what they wanted from me, and it wasn’t something I wanted to give them. I got texts for the rest of the night, while I was lying in bed in the room I share with my little sisters, and a guy asked me to go out to meet him. I told him I was tired and my phone was about to die, then he proceeded to beg me, then told me I was “lame” for not wanting to go out (in the cold, walking alone in San Francisco) at night to meet him.

It’s disgusting. You put on a push-up bra and people automatically assume you’re DTF. I found myself wondering on multiple occasions about whether I gave off some kind of vibe that suggests I want sex from everyone. It’s sad because they made me feel like I was doing something wrong.

Meanwhile, the whole time I was being pursued by horny losers, I slowly became more interested in someone else. He was genuinely nice to me and talked to me about things I liked. Movies, travel, types of adventures we’d like to go on eventually. He connected with me on an intellectual level and made me feel like there was more to me than having a pretty face. I can’t recall him telling me I was physically attractive, ever. That took the pressure off of me and let me feel comfortable enough to be myself. Guys like him give me hope.

What set him and the losers apart was his approach. I don’t know about all girls, but I hate being treated like a piece of meat. If I ranked the qualities I liked best about myself, intelligence, sense of humor, the ability to quote dozens of quality TV shows on command, and my identity as a grammar police would all come before beauty. I understand that other people might be flattered and into it when someone hits on them in a sexually aggressive way, but most girls I know are more attracted to a guy who wants more than a hot piece of ass.

If you want to try this highly effective approach too, here are a few pointers.

Find out what she likes and really listen to her talk about it. Don’t interrupt. Don’t nod like you’re interested while your mind is elsewhere. Be a decent human being and listen to this person talk about their passions. If you really can’t handle listening, then maybe find another person you have more in common with and will be more interested in.

Tell her about what you’re passionate about and be honest. Don’t embellish the truth and don’t pretend you’re interested in what she’s interested in — if there’s anything we’ve learned from comedies/rom-coms, this leads to misunderstandings and/or hijinks. She’ll either appreciate your enthusiasm and openness, or she’ll think you’re boring (in which case, the two of you aren’t very compatible and she isn’t a keeper).

Be genuine. This is the most important of all. Most people can tell if you’re acting (unless you’re actually an actor or are Barney Stinson), and nobody likes a person who’s dishonest. When you’re genuine, a person can tell. This is definitely the quality I find most attractive in anyone.

So the secret here isn’t really much of a secret. Be yourself, be genuine, and be interested in getting to know a person below surface level. It might seem counterintuitive but it’s much more attractive when you show interest in a person’s personality rather than their looks. This should also go without saying, but if you treat others with respect, more often than not, they’ll appreciate it and appreciate you.

–Chloe

There Are Plenty of Fish in the Sea, But Focus on the Fisherman

“You’re so young and there are so many people out there for you.”

This is the phrase I find myself telling my friends more than anything else, in regards to love advice. So many people I know (myself included) get hung up over their own relationship drama. We make ourselves miserable when things don’t go the way we want them to in our romantic relationships. But really, what’s the point?

I’ve spent so much of my time feeling bad about issues I create in my head about guys I like, which only distracts me from the awesome things I do have going for me. I’m not trying to brag, but I love my life — I have an incredibly supportive group of family and friends who love me (for whatever reason that may be), I get to travel to fun places several times a year without paying for anything, I go to a UC and have parents who are able to support me, I’m not in debt, and for 9 months out of the year, I live within walking distance of the Pacific Ocean. But most of the time, I forget all of this and let myself focus on the little relationship problems that don’t really matter.

Eventually (recently) I realized that at this point in my life, romance only holds me back from being the person I’m meant to be. When I’m in a relationship, I turn into this needy crybaby who over-analyzes every single thing her partner does. I hope to become better at relationships someday, but I know that I have to work on myself before I get involved with anyone else. Even though it hurt, I took my last breakup as a blessing in disguise. I love being in love, but I realize now that I have to take this time being single to focus on learning to love myself before I can really love another person, without being insecure and bringing myself down.

Part of my realization stemmed from things I read about what people are like while they’re in their 20s. A few months ago, a friend of mine gave me a book about how the 20s are the most formative years of a person’s life (it’s called The Defining Decade by the way, and I recommend it to anyone in their 20s). The book talks about how romantic love is important, but when you’re young, you’re not emotionally or mentally equipped to deal with the stress and other issues that come with serious committed relationships.

I thought about this and agreed —  I noticed that a lot of my relationship problems were a result of my immaturity, or the combined immaturity of my former partners and myself. I see so many other young couples going through crappy relationship problems because both of them aren’t ready to be in a non-codependent relationship in which they treat each other with respect.

Instead, I think young people should spend these formative years focusing on personal growth. We’re young, so we still have a lot to learn about the world and ourselves. Take the time to try new things and push your boundaries. There are plenty of people to fall in love with and plenty of time to do it, but you don’t have all the time in the world to be young or the opportunities you might have now to figure out what you love to do. Focus on doing what you love, and learn to love yourself.

–Chloe

Be the Role Model You Wish You Had

A while back, I was in a toxic relationship. My boyfriend fought with me (verbally) and cussed at me, got mad at me over the littlest things, and made me feel bad about myself deeply. After crying my eyes out while he yelled at me over Skype, I decided that enough was enough. I needed to do better for myself and get out of the relationship.

I’ll also mention that I’m the oldest of 6 children and many cousins in my family, so naturally I serve as a role model for lots of my younger loved ones. So when I decided I needed to get out of the toxic relationship, I knew that I didn’t just need to do it for myself, but for my siblings. They saw my crazy mood swings, from crying at home to being elated and browsing Pinterest for our wedding ideas. They didn’t mention it to me, but I could tell they knew that this relationship was taking a toll on me.

If I let my little sisters see me stay with a guy who treated me with disrespect, I’d be sending them the message that it’s okay to let someone abuse you and not do anything about it. And if I let my younger brothers see me take the emotional abuse and still give love to my partner who wronged me, they might think it’s okay to treat their future girlfriends or wives that way too.

I used the goal of setting a good example for my siblings as a driving force to be the strongest person I could be. I said goodbye to the bad relationship with the intention of never looking back.

I have strong female role models in my life, and I wanted to be the same kind of person who could inspire those who look to me as an example. I couldn’t handle if it if I saw my little sisters in abusive relationships, much less if I knew it was because they learned the passive behavior from me. So when it gets hard to try to do the right thing, I remember the boys and especially the girls who look up to me and use them as my motivation. If you have anyone in your life who has you as a role model, keep them in mind when life gets rough. Even if you can’t be better for yourself, be strong for them.

–Chloe

How to Get Your Partner to Spend More Time with You Without Seeming Needy

Asking your partner to give you more attention or spend more time with you is tricky because it’s easy to come off as needy, if you approach the subject incorrectly. It’s a problem many people face, and is definitely a one I’ve faced many times in past relationships. To figure out the root of your problem, you might want to try thinking introspectively first before talking to your partner about it.

So before you go and tell off your partner for being a horrible negligent asshole, you should re-evaluate how much attention you really need. If you wish your partner would at least see you once or twice a week, that’s a reasonable request. But if you expect your partner to be with you 24/7, and you get upset when he doesn’t meet that expectation, that’s another story.

I used to freak out if my boyfriend didn’t respond to a text for over an hour or if I saw him talking to other people on Facebook when I was still waiting for him to talk to me (yes, I know I used to be a psycho). But instead of blaming him for not making enough time for me, I should’ve made more time for myself. I should’ve been content with the time we spent together but make myself happy when we were apart.

Nobody should make their partner the only thing that makes them happy (much less when you’ve only been dating for a few months). If you think it through and realize that you do spend a reasonable amount of time with your partner, find other things to occupy your time that make you happy, or spend time with other friends. Your partner isn’t the only person in the world who you can have a good time with.

If you notice that your partner doesn’t make time to see you regularly (at least a few times a week, if not once minimum) or doesn’t even bother to contact you through texts or calls every day or so, then you have a reason to ask for more time together. If you two agreed to be in a relationship, that usually entails spending time with each other.

When approaching this subject with your partner, keep a few things in mind: First, don’t accuse him of ignoring you or not wanting to spend time with you. He’ll probably get hurt, angry, or defensive, and will be less receptive to giving you more attention. Second, let him know how you feel. You are his partner, you adore him, and you just want more time with him. If you explain it in a way that makes him feel good about himself and help him to understand where you’re coming from, the outcome is more likely to be positive. Don’t tell him you need to be with him all the time, because you’ll come off as clingy. Just let him know you’d love to see him more often.

Also, you could try setting up fun dates to go on with him. If he has fun, enjoys the time spent with you, and sees how much effort you put into it, he might just want to do the same for you.

–Chloe

What to Do When Your Partner Isn’t Perfect

This is something everyone should find relatable — nobody is perfect. 

Most people have a mental checklist of qualities they look for in a partner. For example, my ideal guy would be 6 ft or taller, have amazing dark eyebrows (basically I just want someone who looks vaguely like Brandon Routh and will serenade me like Darren Criss), watches all of my favorite TV shows, reads a lot, doesn’t play video games, loves to cuddle, etc.

But if you look back on the people I’ve actually dated, none of them meet any of those standards. You may argue that I don’t have game or that I don’t choose good partners, but that isn’t true (at least on one of those counts). I choose people who are nice to me, treat me with respect, enjoy my company, and laugh at my lame jokes.

The point is, these standards of perfection for a partner don’t matter. If I don’t expect my boyfriend to meet all of those superficial standards, why should I expect anything else of him, other than to treat me with love and respect?

It’s so easy to find things about your partner that annoy you or that you think are deal breakers. But really, you’re dating a human. Imperfection is in our nature. And if you did somehow find a person who’s “perfect,” then he’d be boring because he lacks that passion and spice you get with a real person who has quirks.

Don’t expect anyone to be exactly who you think they are, because then you’ll never be happy. Instead, be aware of those expectations. They’re a result of years of brainwashing by Disney movies (I apologize for bashing Disney movies because it seems like everyone loves to blame them for all our emotional/psychological problems nowadays) in which the princess and prince fall in love and live happily ever after, rom-coms in which characters end up with their modern-day happily-ever-after,  and our society’s too-idealistic take on love in general.

Recognize that your partner is flawed, but love him anyway (unless those flaws are serious, like he doesn’t respect you, doesn’t make any effort in the relationship, or makes you feel bad about yourself intentionally. In which case, dump his ass). And remember that you’re flawed too, but you should expect people to love you in return as well.

I feel a little sad that I don’t look at life through the same rose-colored glasses that I used to, but I’m starting to accept that people aren’t exactly what you want them to be, and that’s okay. Be grateful just knowing that you actually have someone to love, who loves you back. Without being greedy, there isn’t much more you need to ask for.

-Chloe

Don’t Look Back in Anger: Your Mistakes and Hardships Help You Grow

I won’t get into the whole story, but I ended up Googling myself today (don’t judge — we’ve all done it). One of the search results was for a wedding registry on the Knot for my ex-fiance and me, and the wedding date was set for next summer. My initial reaction was to shout “no!” from the top of my lungs. I couldn’t believe there was still evidence of that extremely painful part of my life on the Internet, especially something so easy to for anyone stumble upon. Then I went through feeling briefly sad at how things turned out, to extremely relieved. I can’t imagine how my life would’ve turned out if I’d actually gotten married. I often get upset with myself for being that dumb and naïve, for putting myself through so much emotional and mental stress, and ignoring all my loved ones who tried to advise me against it.

But really, what’s the point in hating yourself for making a mistake? Sure, I know better now, but I wouldn’t know what I do now if I hadn’t made that mistake. It doesn’t matter how badly you mess up — what matters is what you take away from the experience. I didn’t know these seemingly obvious things when I was younger, but because of this experience, I learned never to stay in a relationship with someone who wanted to control or change me. I learned that I have so much more to offer than just being someone’s girlfriend. I learned that nothing lasts forever (no matter how much you will it), but that isn’t always a bad thing. I’m not perfect now, but because of that mistake, I became the much stronger, smarter person I am today, and I wouldn’t have come this far otherwise.

You may feel like shit when you think about the embarrassing choices you’ve made in the past, the people you dated, the opportunities you missed, and so on. But you can’t change the past. What you can control are your attitude and actions in the present. So don’t be angry when you think about your past mistakes or failures. Be glad that you put yourself out there and tried, and motivate yourself with the knowledge that if you could get through this, you could get through anything.

-Chloe

Note: I feel like I always have to mention this at the end of my ex-relationship-bashing posts. I’m in no way trying to hate on/bash my ex or our past relationship. I loved him a lot and we had great times — it wasn’t always great but I learned a lot and am at a place now where I can write about it cathartically.