How I Survived 10 Days Without Instagram

In some ways, summer is my least favorite time of the year. Most people love the freedom to do whatever they want, but when I have too much free time I get bored. And when I get bored, I get stalker-y.

For most of this summer (truthfully, for most of the time since I downloaded the app in 2012), I used Instagram as a constant distraction. I idly refreshed my feed every few minutes, looking through the pictures my friends liked to see if anything caught my eye. More recently, I began a mini mission at the back of my head to find quality indie models and follow them, and hopefully get inspired enough to somehow become as beautiful as they were. I also thought that if I found models who looked enough like me, I could feel better about myself because I looked kind of like them.

I must have spent hours a week absorbing pictures of beautiful long-limbed girls with perfect waist-to-hip ratios, flowing ombre hair, and breasts uncannily generous for their weight. How could I ever compare?

I’m not sure how I started this obsession in the first place. Maybe it stemmed from when my ex used to follow dozens of beautiful girls on Instagram like the ones I began to like. When I came out as bisexual, I realized I had nothing to lose by shamelessly following as many gorgeous models as I liked. Maybe this act was some kind of a “f*ck you” to my exes who indirectly made me hate my own body whenever I saw they were checking out other women who I thought were more attractive than I was.

In any case, this obsession began to slowly chip away at my already fragile self-esteem. Spending hours a day looking at models with ‘perfect’ bodies does something to a person’s mind. I carried the weight of feeling imperfect on my shoulders—I spent a lot of time looking at my body in the mirror and criticizing myself for what I perceived as flaws, always comparing myself to the models I could never completely imitate.

In addition to comparing myself to other girls on Instagram, I often compared my life in general to what I saw other people doing through their pictures. This made me feel emptier inside and increased my FOMO—which is the fear of missing out on something or someone more interesting, exciting, or better than what we’re currently doing. This fear leads us to feel like we’re not doing anything productive or special with our lives because we’re comparing it with what we see other people doing on social media sites.  I never felt like I was having enough fun at the moment because everyone else seemed to be out living their lives to the fullest, while I was half-watching episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on my couch while scrolling through Instagram on my phone. I’d see one of my friends post a picture of herself lounging on a beach in Rio, a picture of another friend skydiving, or a selfie of a friend posing in front of the Eiffel Tower, and every other imaginable activity that looked more fun than what I was doing at the moment. (By the way, these are all real life examples. I hate my friends and their awesome lives sometimes.)

I sat on the floor of my room one night wondering how I could get myself out of this problem. The solution was easy: get rid of it. I needed to get rid of the toxicity that this stupid app was causing me, and it was literally as easy as pressing a button. I decided right then that I would go a week without it and see how I felt about myself and my life.

The first day was the hardest, but even then it wasn’t too bad. I deleted the app from my phone the night before and signed out on my laptop, which helped me out a lot that day. The impulse to check Instagram came up so many times throughout the day by habit, but instead of feeling mad at myself or desperate to get back on, I found it funny and interesting to see how often the urge resurfaced. Staying away from the app was a small change, but I didn’t feel noticeably displeased with my body at all that day, since I didn’t have the venue to compare myself to anyone. I did notice myself thinking about different models and girls I followed that day, though, and thought it would be a good idea to unfollow all of them if I decided to use the app again.

Around day three, I started bargaining with myself. The mind is a tricky thing, and it tries to reason its way around what you resolve not to do, so it can get back into its comfort zone. I came up with weak reasons to go back on Instagram, like I thought my friend was going to tag me in a picture, and I told myself it would be rude of me not to go on and like it. But really, Instagram etiquette is trivial and I had to be strong against my own mind tricks. This was a small change in my life, but it was actually a big change in my behavior and daily habits, so it was interesting to find out what I’m capable of and how much self-control I could exercise.

By the fourth day, I started to really think about why I was doing this challenge and how bad I felt about my body. I talked through my self-esteem issues with my cousin and a couple of close friends and resolved to do more things with my life that made me happy internally so that I could feel better about how I looked externally too. I decided to do things that empowered me, like writing, exercising for my health more than my looks, and eating better. After this day, it was easier to finish the challenge without the fear of relapsing.

On the last day, I made up a few rules on how I wanted to use Instagram after the challenge so that I wouldn’t get back into my old habits of comparing my body and life to others:

  1. No “stalking.” No looking at who’s following whom, no looking at the Activity page to see what pictures my friends are liking. It’s none of my business and it doesn’t feel good to think about insignificant things like these.

  2. Unfollow all people I don’t know in real life. I just want to use the app to keep up with my family and friends.

  3. Only use the app at far apart intervals, maybe once or twice a week at most. This way I won’t use it as a constant distraction all day and can focus on what’s going on in the present, in real life.

I unfollowed everyone I didn’t know in person (at least 30 people) besides my favorite celebrities, even my super-fave-crush-models (I paused for a second to consider if I really wanted to remove two of them in particular from my life). I felt good. I avoided logging in all day because I was afraid of what it would be like, or if I would reverse all the progress I’d made. But going without something that was such a part of my daily routine taught me that as much as I think I need something in my life, or if I think I have a problem I can’t get rid of, it’s always possible to take small steps to get better. Getting rid of bad habits is a process that takes time, and most especially compassion for yourself. It’s not easy to change something about your life right away, so go easy on yourself if you mess up at first.

Post-challenge, Instagram is a lot less of a problem than it was for me before. I don’t use the app habitually anymore and delete it from my phone sometimes because it’s actually kind of uninteresting for me now. But now, I realize that Instagram wasn’t a problem I needed to work on as much as low self-esteem and jealousy were. Instagram was only a venue for me to compare myself to other people. I could take Instagram out of my life, but I can’t take away the comparisons in real life. Jealousy and insecurities are problems I know I need to work on, and I plan to explore them eventually.

I wrote this post initially as motivation for me to follow through with this mini challenge, but it was difficult for me to publish it because this problem is embarrassing for me. Why would I want all my friends (and strangers who might read my blog) to know how much I let a stupid app affect my life and self-esteem? As embarrassing as it is to admit I have this problem, I know it’s something other people probably struggle with too (to some degree—maybe not as intensely as I experienced it). If you’re going through some kind of emotional stress because of social media, know that you’re not alone. We’re going through uncharted territory by letting social media sites into our lives and their effects on our minds can be troublesome. It’s important to step back from these sites occasionally to make sure we don’t get sucked into them—to put our phones down, and remind ourselves of what we have in real life that makes our lives awesome, without having to share it with everyone online for it to be real.

Here’s a daily log I kept during the experiment, if anyone’s interested in seeing my process.

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Alone Doesn’t Mean Lonely

I have this friend who’s an amazing, beautiful person and I love her to death. She’s so smart, funny, kind, and she does so much for other people, all the time. But she doesn’t have a boyfriend. Every now and then, she’ll complain to me about how lonely she is and how she wishes she could meet a cute guy to make her happy.

I used to feel the same and would join in with her, whining about how we wanted a Sean O’Pry lookalike to walk into our lives and want us back. But now, being single makes me incredibly happy. And when she tells me about how lonely she is, it breaks my heart. I know how she feels, and it makes me so upset knowing that countless girls feel this way too.

Being alone doesn’t mean you’re any less desirable. It could mean that you haven’t met anyone that meets your standards for a partner. Or maybe you aren’t at a place in your life when you have enough time to give to one specific person. Maybe nobody is asking you out on dates. No matter what your reasons are for being single, none of them mean that you’re any less of a catch or any less desirable.

Being alone can feel horrible, but it can also be a beautiful thing. I used to be terribly afraid of being single for too long because I thought that if nobody wanted to date me, then nobody thought I was special, which meant that I wasn’t special at all. That’s bullshit, and I want everyone to realize that. If that’s your internal monologue too, then tell your inner critic to shut up and leave. And if anyone you know is actually saying that to you, forget about them — you don’t need that negativity in your life.

As I got older, I realized how much happier I was on a day to day basis while I was single, in contrast to how happy I was when I was in a relationship. In some of my relationships, I spent a lot of my time worrying about what my boyfriend thought about me or worrying if I was as pretty as other girls or thinking irrational, jealous thoughts. I’m not saying that relationships are crappy for everyone just because they weren’t always great for me. But I needed the time I had to spend alone in order to grow out of those insecurities.

During my teens, I didn’t allow myself the time to grow on my own without a boyfriend, and I continued that pattern for years. Now, I’m 20, alone, and happy beyond my wildest dreams. During my freshman year of college, I didn’t join a single organization on campus because I spent all my time talking to my long distance boyfriend. Now that I’m single, I’ve joined several organizations I’m passionate about, taken on leadership roles, made dozens of amazing friends, started an advice blog, wrote for my school’s newspaper, got a few editing/writing jobs, got closer to my family members and longtime friends, and so on. I never realized my full potential and what I could do with my time when I wasn’t giving my all to one person!

My life is amazing and fulfilling now that I’ve started to actually live it for myself. I’m so happy with my life that I’m actually tearing up as I write this. I wouldn’t have reached this peak in my life though, unless I took the time to be alone. Sure, there were plenty of nights over the past few months when I cried. I seriously considered trying to win back a guy I used to like, just so I could get that attention I craved, just so I didn’t have to feel so terribly alone.

But sometimes you need to hurt. You need to be alone. You need to push through the discomfort and the loneliness, because once you spend enough time with only yourself, you’ll learn that you’re actually an awesome person. Or if you don’t feel that awesome yet, you’ll go out of your comfort zone and pursue the things that will make you happy.

My mom always tells me that the time you spend alone is the most important time for personal growth, because it forces you to be okay with who you are, apart from anyone else. Take the time to be lonely, even if it hurts. It really does get better, and I feel like my own life is a testament to how happy you can be if you deal with the discomfort of being alone.

So be happy with being alone, and let’s all be alone, together!

And to quote Donald Glover‘s tweet from a few weeks ago, “alone doesn’t mean lonely tho.”

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P.S. Treat yo self dates are awesome ways to pass the time when you’re trying to be happy while being alone! Check out this article for some ideas to get you started!

–Chloe

Hey, I Like Girls (And Guys): My Coming Out Story

In honor of National Coming Out Day, here is my story.

This issue is a big thing and this post is highly personal, so keep that in mind as I bare my soul over the Internet.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been attracted to females (as well as males), which really confused me when I was younger. The first person I felt physically attracted to was probably Olivia Newton-John. I remember watching Grease as a child and being attracted to Sandy (at the end of the movie when she’s in the whole black-skintight-sexy outfit), but of course I didn’t tell anyone about it (I was raised in a very heteronormative environment). On the other hand, I remember having a crush on the kid Anakin from Star Wars Episode I. But I was never attracted to boys with the same raw magnetism I had for girls, until I was in high school. I’m still not even sure if I can get as insanely attracted to males as I have been with females.

These feelings got even more confusing when I started attending an all-girls high school. During my freshman year, I found myself crushing on two different girls. (Disclaimer for all my high school friends: LeeAna isn’t gay and all the times I hit on her were just jokes, calm your tits) I didn’t really know how to feel about it, but I shared these feelings with my mom and best friend. They took it well, but I didn’t feel comfortable enough to tell this to anyone else. I grew up on Guam, where it was normal (and usually socially acceptable) to call people “faggot” nonchalantly (as a synonym for “lame,” “pussy,” or “uncool”) and get teased for being gay. “You’re so gay” was a phrase commonly used to put other people down and it was understood that being gay wasn’t something you wanted to be. I knew better than all that, but I didn’t want to be rejected, so I never really accepted that I had feelings for girls while I was growing up. I continued to ignore these feelings and associated them with deep shame. Those words still hurt me to this day.

While going through adolescence, all my friends and I gushed over guys and celebrities (mostly Robert Pattinson when I was younger #Twihards). But what I didn’t tell anyone was that I was secretly attracted to hot girls with boobs way more than I was into guys. I’d fantasize about kissing my real-life female crushes more intensely than I did about guys I was actually dating, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone (not that I wanted to tell anyone about it anyway). In my later teens, I had relationships with guys that were deep enough so that I felt comfortable telling them openly (but not very seriously) about how I was “kind of” attracted to girls. I told them that “if I were into girls,” I’d marry Miranda Kerr because she’s insanely beautiful. Of course they took this extremely well (because what straight guy doesn’t love girl-on-girl action, amirite? *insert sardonic tone*).

Then with my most serious boyfriend, I told him how I actually had crushes on girls I went to high school with. I was too embarrassed to tell him their names, but I felt comfortable enough to be honest with him, and a little more honest with myself. I never admitted this to him, but one of the reasons I was really attracted to him was because we were similar in height and size (we could fit each other’s jeans) so it felt like being with a semi-androgynous person in my mind.

One of the most pivotal moments that helped me come to terms with my sexual orientation was when a friend of mine came out to me. From the first day we really became friends, I had those same confusing feelings for her that I had for other girls before. We connected so well and there was just something about her that was so interesting to me. I found myself wanting to be like her somehow, but I didn’t know why. Maybe she was just cool, maybe it was because she was pretty, maybe it was because I saw a lot of myself in her — except that she had this extra something about her that I couldn’t pinpoint right away. I told my boyfriend at the time about meeting her, and he asked me why I was acting so weird about her. I didn’t feel like I was being weird, but he had an uncanny ability to know exactly how I felt, so he could tell something was up even if I couldn’t.

I didn’t hang out with this girl much after that day, but we ended up seeing each other again months later, and shared a lot of our personal drama with each other. I told her the embarrassing, lengthy details of my recently ended relationship, and she listened patiently.

Then, she did something I didn’t anticipate at all: she came out to me. I was stunned. It made so much sense, and I felt stupid for not realizing it earlier. I didn’t just think she was cool or pretty, I actually liked her. What was most shocking for me was that I realized something, truly realized it for the first time: I wasn’t just attracted to females physically; the attraction was emotional, too.

I always knew it somehow, in a vague sort of way. I mean, all girls I know have “girl crushes” on Scarlett Johansson, Megan Fox, Olivia Wilde, Angelina Jolie, etc. So did I. But what nobody else knew was how much more deeply attracted I was to women, but I wouldn’t admit this to anyone. When my friend came out to me, she helped me to realize that it wasn’t just physical attraction I felt for females; it proved that I was drawn to something in girls deeper than superficial attraction. I didn’t just have “girl crushes” (which is a term I really resent — just call it a “crush,” because the term “girl crush” implies that it’s irregular/unnatural for girls to have crushes on other girls), I had real feelings.

After that day, I couldn’t stop thinking about her. Maybe not about her as a person because I didn’t know her entirely that well, but the idea of her. The idea that I could fall in deeply in love with a woman someday. It was scary. And It still kind of is. My whole life, I had a plan at the back of my head, put in by years of being surrounded primarily by heterosexual adults. The only way I knew how to love was from what I saw my parents or older relatives doing. I always assumed I’d fall in love with some gorgeous (yet adorably nerdy) guy in college, then get married and have kids with him (the standard heteronormative game plan).

But what this girl did for me was open up a realm of possibilities. I wasn’t limited to the hetero fantasy I’d kept around for years — my dating prospects were no longer limited to the male half of the population. I could fall in love with a girl in college, maybe we’d be in the same discussion section for one of my literature classes. Maybe we’d click instantly and I’d love her like a best friend until she told me she wanted me as more than a friend. Maybe we’d try it out and end up falling deeply in love, get married (or not) and adopt kids. Or maybe not, but the possibilities were there and were real because I saw a person I thought I could hypothetically do this with.

The thought that my life might not turn out as planned scares the shit out of me. But at the same time, it’s beautiful. I have to credit a lot of this period of self-discovery to the friend who brought me to this realization (side note: I actually told her about all of this and she’s been super cool about it, and I appreciate her so much more for that). But even more so, I have myself to thank. Coming to terms with your sexual orientation takes a huge amount of courage. I saw this in my friend, in my other queer friends, and in one of my closest relatives who serves as my role model on our journeys through learning what it’s like to fall in love with a member of our shared gender.

The reason I wrote this long, revealing post was because I want to give everyone who may be struggling with this issue, the gift that my queer role models gave to me. They helped me find the strength to be honest with who I truly am. The courage to be honest with others about who I am. The love and support I needed to go through this period of self-discovery.

As my close relative said to me, how can you not let love screw you up if you don’t even know what sorts of loves are for you? Figuring out who you are and what you want is an important step to finding a real, rewarding love. I encourage all my family, friends, and readers to reflect on their own preferences and try to be honest with themselves, because it’s much more difficult to be happy with your love life if you don’t allow yourself to seek out the kind of love you actually want.

So thank you to all my fabulous queer friends who shared their stories and love with me, my straight friends who accept me for who I am, my family members who love me no matter what, and the douchey guys I used to like (for turning me off to the whole idea of only loving men even if they’re assholes); you all helped me on my journey to finding and loving myself.

And thank you, whoever you may be, for taking the time to read my most personal story. I truly hope that I can help you the way my role models helped me. And of course, I’d love to hear your stories too — add me on Facebook or post your comments below!

I’ll end this post with a link to Girls on Girls, because as I’ve come to learn, girls are fucking awesome (and so are guys).

P.S. Fuck you to the person I used to trust, who outed me to his friends — that’s not something you should do to anyone, no matter how open they are about it. You have no idea how much it can hurt to know someone is going around telling their friends about this deeply personal part of your identity. Don’t ever do it to anyone again. Bye.

–Chloe

My Loneliness Ain’t Killin’ Me No More (But a Serial Killer Might?)

One of the problems that plagues me most is loneliness. I have a big family (I have 5 siblings) so when I’m home, I’m constantly surrounded by people who love me. Now that I’m back at school, I no longer have my family to distract me from my loneliness. At the moment, I’m sitting on my bed, alone in my apartment. I try to spend most of my time with friends and just come back to my place when I need to shower or sleep, but I’ll inevitably be alone sometimes. The feeling of loneliness sometimes leaves me with this deep, painful sadness. I used to cry a lot when I was alone, but I’m better about handling it now.

The fact is, loneliness is a part of life. There’s no way you can keep yourself surrounded by people every second of the day — even when you’re in a public, crowded place, you’re left alone with your thoughts. And even when you lie in a bed with someone else, you’re alone in your dreams and subconscious thoughts while you sleep.

People (myself included) often use technology to try to curb the feelings of loneliness. Tonight I found myself cycling rhythmically between social media apps on my phone, without really thinking about it.

Facebook: I’ve already read all these updates, nothing new.
Twitter: RT Aaron Paul’s emoji-filled tweets about Breaking Bad.
Tumblr: Reblog pictures of a forest.
Instagram: Like my friends’ pictures of them at parties (and feel bad about being alone, looking at these pictures while sitting on the toilet).
Snapchat: Selfie — “Sittin’ on a toilet doe lol.”
Lather, rinse, repeat.

I suddenly snapped out of it after realizing how zombielike I’ve become. More and more, I feel isolated even in a room of friends, while they scroll through their newsfeeds while we watch movies together. I can’t say I’m not guilty of doing the same, but I think it’s important that we realize this habit of staying disconnected from the people right in front of us. It’s easier to feel lonely when your closest companion is your smartphone and everyone else you’re checking on online seems to be having the time of their lives.

Instead of keeping myself distracted with my phone tonight, I’ve turned it off and thrown it under my bed. I’m only somewhat worried that I’m actually part of a horror movie and the audience is screaming at me for not having the foresight to leave my phone on in case I need to call someone to save me from a murderer (I just got back from watching Sinister with my friends tonight so I’m still in the paranoid state of mind). I’m going to sit with the loneliness, because the only way to be comfortable with being alone is to be comfortable with only the company of myself. And if you’re at a place in your life where you can’t bear to be alone either, I think you should try it out too–you might just learn that you’re actually a really cool person to be alone with, and that you don’t always need others to make you happy.

–Chloe

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

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

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

Making the Choice to Date Yourself

After six years of serial monogamy and seriously fucking up my heart, I decided that I needed to take the time to date myself before I could date anyone else. I’ve always been most comfortable with a boyfriend, who serves as a best friend, cuddle buddy, someone to listen to me talk 24/7, and most importantly, a validation of my worth (note: in response to a reader’s comment, I mean that I used to think that having a boyfriend was a validation of my worth). As long as I had a boyfriend, that meant that someone found me desirable and interesting. After lots of journaling, soul-searching, and heart-to-heart conversations with my close friends and family, I’ve made the most wonderful discovery: I don’t need a boyfriend to validate me! And here’s the best part: neither do you. The truth is, you don’t need anyone but yourself to be happy. And if you’ve gone through as much relationshit as I have, you owe it to yourself to date yourself, too.

I got the idea about dating yourself from one of my role models, Rashida Jones as Ann Perkins (from the TV show Parks and Recreation). Ann, despite being the “beautiful tropical fish” that she is, dates a slew of losers and is in a relationship more often than not. Eventually, she realizes that she needs to take time to date herself instead of losing herself in a relationship (basically changing her personality to match those of her different boyfriends). Although Ann is still making arguably rash life decisions, this idea was really useful to me.

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If you do decide to date yourself, you should make some promises to yourself. Later on, if you feel that you’re slipping into a relationship just because it’s what you’re used to, you can refer to this list to remind yourself why it’s important to honor this commitment first.

  1. Focus on your own happiness. When you’re in a regular relationship, you’re expected to put your partner’s needs or wants ahead of your own (at least some of the time). When you date yourself, you put your needs and wants first, always. If you plan on getting married and/or having kids later, this may be the only chance you’ll get to really focus on what you want and learn about who you are as an individual. Take advantage of that freedom and do what’s right for you. Do what makes you truly happy. And if you don’t know what makes you happiest yet, try a bunch of different things out until you figure out what does. Only then can you love yourself enough to have a good relationship with mutual respect and love with a partner, in the future.

  2. Remember that you don’t need attention (romantically or otherwise) from anyone to be happy. Your worth isn’t based on whether or not you have a beau to show off to all your friends. It’s defined by the choices you make and the way you see yourself as an individual. Make the choice to make yourself happy instead of relying on someone else (who may or may not be as awesome as you are) to give you a sense of validation.

  3. Be faithful to yourself. Just as you would in a normal 2-person relationship, be true to the commitment you’re making to yourself. This means that you can’t get into a relationship with another person, because at this point, you might end up backsliding and being a version of yourself you don’t like. For example, you might be a needy, codependent or jealous partner. If you stay faithful to your choice to date yourself, you can concentrate on going through your personal journey of learning to love who you are.

  4. Don’t forget — you’re awesome.  It’s easy to feel crappy about yourself when you don’t have a significant other to constantly tell you you’re pretty/smart/cool, and a lack of self-confidence can cause you to search for a partner to give you that ego boost. But remember, you don’t need anyone but yourself. You chose to date yourself, and why would you date someone who isn’t awesome? Should you ever forget this, keep a list of things you love about yourself to remind you exactly how awesome you are.

I’ll admit that choosing to date yourself is difficult. It’s a big commitment. Often I feel tempted to give in and look for potential partners. After all, I usually assess the people I meet to see if I’d like to date them or not. But it’s important to look past our habits of getting into relationships because we’ll never learn to be comfortable alone if we don’t force ourselves to go through the discomfort of being alone. And it isn’t until you’re alone, with nobody but yourself to think about, that you really learn who you are. So if you’re willing to sacrifice the comfort of having someone to cuddle or take cutesy couple pictures with, for the priceless gift of truly loving yourself, you might want to try dating yourself. Chloe and I started dating this summer (I’ve learned that she’s pretty amazing) and I think she may be “the one.”

-Chloe