Tuesday, October 27, 2015


Courage has increasingly become part of public conversation and not always in a positive manner. As corporations and media outlets publicly award individuals for overcoming emotional hardship, we have far too easily taken on the role of comparing and judging levels of courage. Instead of acknowledging that bravery exists in many forms for different reasons, we have become unreliable experts in determining who should or shouldn't be considered brave.

Far too often people base bravery on lifestyles and actions that they couldn't or wouldn't imagine for themselves. While it's easy to see why people use this measurement, it is limited. What we cannot imagine or would not wish for ourselves is not the full extent of what it takes to be brave. Being brave is more than participating in an extreme lifestyle or living with an unforeseen circumstance; being brave is making a conscious and continuous decision to be and do better than who we are, right now. Being brave is getting up every single day and doing the hard work to become more honest versions of ourselves.

Bravery cannot be measured and should not be judged. It is an individual experience dependent on your personal history and your emotional growth. The bravest action you have ever taken may not be realized or even known by others. Someone may think it is brave to bungie jump, get a tattoo, or go skydiving, but not consider all that it took for you to open up to love again. Admiration may be given to someone for standing up to a bully, but no one is there to cheer you on when you make an appointment with a mental health professional or schedule your first chemotherapy treatment. Others may be praised for traveling abroad solo, yet few know what you endured to stay positive during a prolonged hospital stay, testify against your rapist in court, or get out of bed the day after burying your loved one. What others fail to see or consider does not make you any less brave.

What makes you brave is not always recognizable, not even to yourself. You exercise bravery when you push past what's easy and choose what's best. Even if no one ever presents you with a trophy or gives you a platform upon which to tell your story, sometimes the bravest action you can take is to wake up and try again. After heartache, disappointment, shame, failure, mistakes, and fear, if you are genuinely still trying, then you can walk with your head high and know that you are brave.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

More Strength

We've all seen the afterschool specials, read the articles, and heard the interviews. Someone experiences a traumatic event, tries to ignore it, makes bad decisions, tells a trusted friend, finally acknowledges the impact of the trauma, tells the world, and then the music starts, the clouds part, the sun shines, and life is great again. This storyline has inspired us and started necessary conversation, but it's also incomplete. What happens following that breakthrough day? What happens with life after?

Years ago I consumed as many of those types of stories as I could. I needed proof that life could be beautiful after trauma. Those stories got me to my liberating, I'm-telling-everybody moment, yet there was a gaping hole. No one talked about life after—after the big reveal, after the inspirational song ended, after members of their support system went back to being occupied with their own lives, after they could name the trauma and those who caused it without crumbling, after those who said they would always be there started to look for an out clause or expiration date, and after they got tired of having to be so damn strong all of the time.

Healing is a lifelong process and I had to learn that the length of that process wasn't my fault. It wasn't because I wasn't praying hard enough or trying hard enough. It wasn't because I didn't have enough faith. It wasn't because I hadn't forgiven. It wasn't because I hadn't talked about it enough. It wasn't because I wasn't enough.

I had strength, but as life happened, I needed more. I needed more strength when I got close to new people. I needed more strength as conversations turned to why I wasn't spending the holidays with my family. I needed more strength when my nieces and nephew turned five, the age my traumatic journey started. I needed more strength when I started counseling. I needed more strength when people I loved judged me for taking care of myself. I needed more strength each time I got a new doctor and had to divulge that I'd been raped. I needed more strength when those who abused me sent Facebook friend requests. I needed more strength when my dad, one of my biggest supporters, died. I needed more strength simply because life required me to be stronger.

You have worked to reach where you are today, but life is going to demand that you become even stronger. That isn't a reflection of a deficiency in your efforts, your toughness, nor who you are. As you grow older, life simply requires more. Continue fighting for peace of mind. Continue making healthy choices. Continue walking in and building your strength. As life requires more, you will not only become stronger, you'll become more—more self-aware, more grateful, more fulfilled, more peaceful, more loving, more honest, and more unapologetic about living out your purpose.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


Social media has infiltrated every aspect of our lives. Corporations, nonprofit organizations, universities, and small businesses have added social media into their branding strategies and tactics. We can't go on vacation, eat a meal, or take a walk without posting a photo or checking in. Children who don't even have social media accounts tell their parents to post pictures and then ask how many likes they have. It has changed the way we do business and the way we live.

Social media has its place. It allows us to connect and share our lives with those who don't live physically close to us. However, it has also reinforced a dangerous need for external approval. Every outfit, haircut, makeup application, and pair of shoes is posted and likes from others validate our choices and worse, they validate us. We interpret likes on social media as proof of acceptance. As if that's not bad enough, this need for proof from others is insatiable. No matter how many likes and positive comments we receive today, we are right back there tomorrow, posting a new picture, waiting to see who and how many affirmations we will receive to prove to us what should be an internal realization—that our lives matter and have value.

When you give people the power to determine how you should feel about yourself, you develop an unhealthy attachment to fluid, unstable, and subjective sources. You become dependent on the opinions of others to prove what should come from within—that you are beautiful, that you matter, and that your life has value.

Compliments are wonderful. They can provide you with an added lift and remind you of who you are. However, others should not determine how you feel about yourself. External sources can provide further confirmation, but should not serve as proof of who you are. All of the proof you need is in your existence. Your beauty, worth, and value exist simply because you do. No amount of likes or positive comments should carry more weight than the way you treat and how you feel about yourself.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


Movement is a common, constant part of life. Babies move from crawling to walking—although some try running before walking. Children move from elementary to middle to high school. Adults hopefully move from blaming others for their actions to taking responsibility for them. How we move depends on our state of mind. When we're panicked our movements are rushed and frantic. We miss red flags, ignore reason, and attach ourselves to those who encourage our compulsions. When we're intentional our movements are controlled. We are more aware of our direction, we plan instead of react, and we attach ourselves to those who encourage progression. How we move is most often related to one emotion—fear.

I know about moving. As an adult I have moved seven times to five states. Why I moved was directly related to whether I was escaping or advancing. How I moved, the way I did it, was just as important.

Since moving to Santa Barbara, the question I'm asked most often is some variation of what brought me here. When I answer, it is clear that every aspect of this move was intentional. I wasn't in a situation that demanded change. I wasn't escaping. I wasn't fearful. The absence of desperation, panic, and fear allowed me to open my mind and patiently seek out an opportunity that was tailor-made for me, at the perfect time.

No matter what phase of life you're in, movement will remain a part of it and how you move is a reflection of your emotional state. When fear leads, your mind is clouded and confined. When fear leads, your decisions are reactionary. When fear leads, you live to avoid your worst imaginations. When fear leads, you don't. It's time to stop giving fear all of the power. Relax your mind from confinement. Make choices that lead you in an intentional, progressive direction. Attach yourself to those who encourage your growth instead of your deviations. If you want to move through life with certainty and purpose, you can't do it while holding hands with worry and fear.