Vulnerability and Faking It

47114660-ab43-0133-a059-0e7c926a42afMy online therapist and I have been talking about vulnerability. Ughhhhhhhh DO WE HAAAAAVE TO?

He sent me a TED Talk to check out. It’s a talk I’d seen before, but hadn’t given a ton of thought to. Brené, the speaker, suggests that selective numbing just ain’t a thing; you have to feel everything to feel anything. Oof! 

It’s hard for me to allow myself to be open to my vulnerability because I struggle with Impostor Syndrome. I feel like a fake, so I must project absolute confidence–or at least active competence–at all times to not be called out for being a lying cheat.

Of course, I don’t actually succeed at that. Instead of projecting confidence, I fairly often project indifference or calm acceptance. I kept repeating “I’m happy to do it” with a smile on my face, regardless of how I felt. I’ve written before about how I felt like admitting I wasn’t busy every moment of my career felt like an admission of complete failure: if I wasn’t always slammed with work, then I wasn’t valuable enough to justify keeping on the payroll, according to my douchebag brain.

I know that I need to experience my moments of vulnerability and feel them–no shame, just acceptance that I’m not Super Woman and I’ve got plenty still to learn.

So he sent me this one. The speaker describes how she told an advisor that she felt like a fake who didn’t belong in academia. Her advisor told her to go ahead and fake it. So she did, and continued to do through school, though working as a professor. One day, a student came up to her and told her they felt like a fake who didn’t belong in academia. It was her moment to realize that faking it kinda worked!

I decided to give the “I got this” posture a try. I did my Kimmy Schmidt power poses before a meeting, sat through it like a ballerina wearing a medal and just spoke with authority. And I found that I was treated like an active, bright and engaged person. Imagine that.

I’m struggling with deciding if there’s tension between these two concepts. How do I best project confidence while still allowing myself to feel and share my vulnerability? Are confidence and vulnerability necessarily mutually exclusive? Can I fake it and still be vulnerable? My counselor answered with this video. I do agree that failing to set boundaries is setting yourself up for bitterness, and it’s not truly being kind. But I’m not sure how to get myself to feel absolute confidence about setting boundaries. I know that the results will definitely prop up my backbone, but until I get there? Whoosh. I gotta fake it.

Another topic that Brené and my counselor have touched on: what have you got to lose, kid? I already feel exhausted, overwhelmed, anxious and sad, worrying about what everybody thinks of me and how I’m perceived. So what have I got to lose by actually doing something that I worry will cause them to see me badly? All that can happen is I’ll feel exhausted, overwhelmed, anxious or sad, right? What if setting a boundary actually frees up that emotion and lets me have a real experience?

“What’s the greater risk? Letting go of what people think, or letting go of how I feel, what I believe, and who I am?” – Brené Brown

I’ve got miles to go. I’m not there yet, and I may never get there. But I’m trying. I want to come up with some specific goals and benchmarks for myself so I can feel more confident pointing to my therapy experience and saying “this helped me,” but I definitely feel like just getting the permission to stand up for myself is a game-changer.

Give ‘er the ol’ stick ‘n poke : tattooing myself

IMG_1297

Still red in this photo

I gave myself a tattoo.

Stick ‘n pokes (aka prison tattoos) have a bad rep. Most people are used to associating home tattoos with safety pins and broken open ink pens. They’re thought of as insanitary and generally, pretty awful-looking.

My boyfriend has been watching a lot of Ink Master and is pretty fascinated with the concept of tattooing. He joked often about getting a tattoo gun or trying a stick ‘n poke, but I always shut him down.

But as all bad ideas do, the thought really stuck around with me. My douchebag brain asked, ‘What if this is my art?’ My vanity replied, ‘Of course it will be! We will make it so!’

So I did my research. In the end, I ordered some black tattoo ink and pre-sterilized bugpin 3RL tattoo needles (that is, in layman’s, three very small, very tight needle heads that form one complete tattoo needle). I grabbed some citrus fruit and started practicing!

Pro tip: while this is a very essential step that you should not skip, it actually bears no resemblance at all to human flesh and why do they say it is a good starting place? Why?

We sterilized a spot in our room. We wore gloves, we prepped everything with alcohol, we covered every surface with plastic wrap and sterilized that. We kept it clean, in other words. I always knew I wanted a negative space crescent moon. I drew it on the inside of my left foot. I took a deep breath. I set to work.

And ow.

I’ve got two tattoos. A big, purple, cursive “mea culpa” on my inner arm and a red flower behind my ear. Those hurt, sure, but nothing compared to sticking myself with a needle slowly and repeatedly. There’s something about the rhythm of the tattoo gun that makes it more bearable. Yes, gun tattoos hurt, but it’s a consistent hurt. Sticking and poking is like ow. IMG_1280exhale. ow. inhale. ow. exhale. ow. ow. inhale.

And you always hit a stride where you think ‘Man, this doesn’t hurt as much anymore. I’m in the zone. Here we go.’ And that impression is false. Instead, what’s happening is that you’re just barely scratching yourself with the needle and depositing exactly zero ink. My boyfriend did the same, exact thing.

Another lesson? You have no idea what the eff is happening. Ink sets on your skin and spreads out, totally obscuring your view of what’s going on beneath. You make these solid, beautiful lines or dots and think you’re golden, but you wipe it away and realize–oh, that was just excess ink. I didn’t do shit.

When it was all said and done, my foot was a tiny bit red, but there was no hanging-around pain. That would not last. An hour or so later, the spot hurt as if I had cut it completely open. It burned. Not like an infection, but like a fresh wound. Which is all a tattoo really is. Neither of my other tattoos hurt quite like this.

The ink didn’t look very dark when I first finished, and I sighed that I’d have to go over it again in a couple weeks. That also turned out to be untrue. The ink looked darker when the redness and swelling went down.

Emboldened by my success, my boyfriend gave himself the outline of his home state, Connecticut. Actual solid lines are definitely trickier when you’re putting the ink in one dot at a time. His healing process was a bit opposite of mine: it looked very solid while swollen, but the lines look more dashy now that it’s totally healed. He’ll probably go in and touch it up.

So will I live to regret it? Nope! Doing things with sterile conditions and professional tools made my tattoo hard to hate. There are some things about the design that could be tightened up–a better scattering of the surrounding dots, maybe smooth out the shape of the crescent so it’s not mistakable for a fortune cookie–but that’s all easily done.

Knowledge and care are absolute musts. Don’t use any ol’ ink–India ink or tattoo ink ONLY. Don’t use any ol’ sharp pokey–just invest the small amount of money for a real tattoo needle so you’re not ruining your flesh. Don’t do it in any ol’ place–sterilize. Don’t share needles. Don’t share ink. Don’t share gloves. Google extensively before you try anything like this.

PopSugar Must Have : April 2016

Screen-Shot-2016-03-24-at-3.38.42-PMWait, did I forget to jabber on about the Popsugar box? I did, I did!

Cravings: Recipes for All the Food You Want to Eat by Chrissy Teigen – I’m normally not a fan of celebrity cookbooks, but the recipes in this one are fun, approachable and darn scrumptious-looking. I may regift this, but it was a nice item.

Royal Apothic Conservatories Hand Cream, Field Poppy, 3.3 Ounce – This is too floral for my taste, so I’ll be regifting it. It’s a very luxurious hand cream, though, and it comes with a squeezer to get all the goodness out of the tube!

Noon Design Shop Flour Sack Tea Towel in Lemon Print These are super cheerful and a very practical item.

Farmacy sleep tight 1.7 oz – This feels very luxurious, with clever packaging. The scent is very green and it feels nice to the touch. I’ll definitely regift this.

Canvas Home Tinware Salt and Pepper Shakers These are stoneware shakers, made to look like chipped enamel over tin.  They’re certainly pretty, if a bit rustic for most people’s taste. Still, I think my mom would really like them.

Next by Nature Dark Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans – We ate the crap outta these! The dark chocolate isn’t too dark, but instead tastes like it’s infused with the espresso. They’ve got the perfect melting point and there’s a good ratio of chocolate to bean. I love these!

$20 Gift Card to Bloom That – A nice add-in.

The Overall – I get the theme in these items, and the listed value ($136) is great. I still love the Popsugar Box, but I’m again taking a break from it.

Fortune Cookie Soap Box : Summer 2016

IMG_1327When I found out the theme for this month’s Fortune Cookie Soap Box was “Just Keep Swimming”, I was like OF COURSE IT IS! Finding Dory is coming out this summer, so it’s a perfect theme for summer and so on the FCS brand!

Fortune Cookie Soap Company is an adorable indie soap brand that does a quarterly box. For $19.99 every three months, they send a gaggle of sample-size products from a theme of an upcoming product launch. You also get a $10 discount code to use on their bath and body products.

Want a referral link discount? Get $5 off a $30 purchase with this link (sorry, doesn’t apply to the FCS Soap Box.)

The theme, packaging and overall – Like I said, this theme was a big YUH-DOY. So perfect for them and perfectly timed. As a fun freebie, they included a little orange marble. The paper grass was purple, which I guess is a pretty contrast to the mostly blue packaging. Overall? Loved this box! I always love the FCS box, but this one was a knockout for me! I’m already amped for their fall box!

Shark Bait Fortune Cookie Soap – This is totally adorable, and made to look like a Nemo. I catch a whiff of creamsicle, but it’s more vibrant and slightly warm. Very lovely summer soap with a lick of sticky popsicle. My fortune was “To the top of Mount Wanna-Hock-A-Loogie!”

Intervention! Whipped Cream – This smells gently like a piña colada. Rubbing it in, it gets warmer and more fruity, but it’s IMG_1328still not super strong. I really like that in a lotion!

Lil’ Blue OCD Sanitizer – This smells slightly sweet and warm, but it’s more faint that other OCD sanitizers I’ve gotten. I actually very much approve, as my past ones have been kind of distractingly strong for office use.

Fin. Noggin. Duuuuude. Pedi-Bomb – This is a treat! It’s like a sharp lime pop with something warm and creamy backing it up. My little turtle came broken, but he’s still super cute. I always find that these smell a little too strongly and sharply before use, probably because of the baking soda in the bomb.

Jellyman Shower Gel – This smelled exactly how I expected from the name, and in spite of the awful algae brown colour! I catch cherry, watermelon and guava for sure, maybe some lime and strawberry. It’s a bit sharp, but not too sweet. Until I got in the bathroom, I missed that this has a really lovely pearlescent sheen, like an oyster shell. The squishy gel didn’t give up much lather for me, but I feel like my skin is a bit softer after use!

Aqua Scum Spray Lotion – I definitely catch lychee and peach, but it’s not at all sweet. It’s very warm. It’s a bit moisturizing, but the texture is the real winner for me. A lotion that sprays on as a mist? Great! It rubs right in with almost no moisture left behind on the surface–no oiliness to speak of. I also really liked that the bottle was green, but the liquid inside makes the colour kind of a deep blue green. Not sure if that was intentional, but it’s a really cool effect.

Whale Talk Perfume Oil – This smells wonderfully fruity with a hint of jasmine and green freshness. I really like this, and that’s saying a lot, as someone who tends to not like perfumes.

IMG_1331Ooh, Barracuda Lip Gloss – This definitely smells like melon candy, very sweet and pretty aggressive. It’s a bit sweet to the taste. Overall, it’s very runny and a bit gloopy for my taste. It gives my lips only the tiniest bit of pink tint.

 

Did you get this box? Lemmie know your thoughts!

Lola Review : cotton tampons

lolaI got a free month of Lola tampons through last month’s Pop Sugar box. I figured I would give it a try because, hey, tampons ain’t cheap. (You can get your first two-box order for $9 on their site.)

The concept is they send you 100% cotton tampons in your chosen variety of light, regular and super.

I assumed that, because they’re focused on the EVILS of what may be lurking in your tampons, that they wouldn’t choose plastic applicators. I was mistaken. They promise that the plastic is BPA-free, but they don’t mention much more about it. Their box labeling includes: “Ingredients: cotton, plastic”. Uh… “plastic” is a pretty flexible term in my mind. Cardboard isn’t necessarily any better, but I just found it a strange choice. Too, for me, was the after dinner mints wrapping. Why not paper? I guess I assumed because of the focus on cotton, that this would be an eco-friendly company. I feel like it’s not. The box is a really nice paperboard (no glossy coating) which is better for recycling, but I just don’t feel good about this brand in relation to their eco-ness. Which, to be fair, they don’t tout. It was just my assumption.

The tampons themselves are the mini, compact kind. The cotton is very dense and with a lot of ribbing on the sides to help it expand. The string is a thin wisp of knotted thread.

For me, the tampon was actually too dense. I inserted a super tampon on a very heavy flow day. When I removed it, it was apparent that the tampon acted more like a cork than an absorber. The end was slightly bloody, but when I pulled it out, GOOOSH. I dropped one in water and it expanded really slowly, but gave me the definite impression of a very solid puck of cotton. Not for me.

I just don’t like compact tampons versus “regular” ones. I prefer longer tampons. It just feels like more protection from leaks to me. I also like a sturdy string and Lola didn’t have it. And I like my paper-wrapped tampons with cardboard applicators, to hell with what’s in the tampons themselves. I agree with Lola that we do need better regulation of tampons, but just because they say their cotton is 100% cotton, that doesn’t mean that their tampons are pure and free of taint. They say “100% natural cotton” with “no chemicals, synthetics, or dyes”. But this doesn’t look like raw cotton to me. It’s been processed and surely bleached? I just feel like Lola should clarify just what “natural” means to them.

This subscription is not for me. I like the concept a great deal, but the price is out of my reach and their product just isn’t suited to my personal use. I wish they had other options, and who knows, they might add them. But for now, it’s a pass from me.

Lately, I’ve tried…

61ilu9zqz6L._SL1000_With my Thrive Market trial subscription and Amazon Prime, I’ve gotten a bit adventurous with snacks and health products. (Affiliate links):

  • Kettle Brand Potato Pepperoncini Flavour – I love Kettle chips. They’re thick and crunchy and the flavours are always pretty bold. I chose these because I LOVE their jalapeño. These don’t really deliver on the pepper taste, but they’re still really interesting. Imagine a really bold, spicy sour cream and onion. It’s neat, but definitely not for everyone.
  • Epic Bar : Bison, Bacon and Cranberry – These were game-changers for me. These have no nitrates, but they taste like pickled sausages (which I love.) The cranberry is a great note in the mix. These are the first “paleo” snack I’ve been jazzed on.
  • Tanka Buffalo Cranberry Bites – These are actually more what I expected the Epic bars to be! These are more of a dry jerky with big, plump dried cranberries in it. I actually liked these LESS, but my boyfriend liked them MORE. Go figure!
  • Ginger People Ginger Chews – These are wild! The ingredients: cane sugar, ginger, tapioca starch. They’re sticky if you chomp into them. They’ve got a STRONG ginger taste. They’re very spicy and totally delicious to me.
  • Justin’s Mini Peanut Butter Cups, Dark Chocolate – These made me feel like I’d been lied to all my life. The dark chocolate is just perfectly bitter. The more natural peanut butter is smoother and delightful.
  • Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay – Bentonite clay has gotten a lot of play on Pinterest lately. I decided to give this a try with apple cider vinegar as a face mask. I’m not super sure it was a game-changer for my complexion, but I totally buy that clay is great for your skin, so I’ll stick with it. It’s also nice to be able to mix my mask on my own.
  • Badger Balm Sore Muscle Rub – I’ve been using Icy Hot and the smell is driving my boyfriend nuts. So I decided to give this a try. The scent is ginger and cayenne, so I feel like I smell like gingerbread… which is much preferred to menthol for me. I like it, but part of the instructions is to rub this into the sore muscle. If you can’t reach a muscle to really work it in, it’s not as helpful.
  • Madhava Organic Honey Pure & Raw – My first comment on this honey was that it tastes more like sorghum, which is a 10/10 win for me.

Tried anything health kicky lately?

Online therapy is rocking my life

Photo on 1-30-13 at 3.41 PM

My Grumpy Cat face

I’ve always avoided in-person therapy.

When I speak to anyone who I genuinely accept as an expert or someone “important”, my eyes water. If I start talking about anything I’ve got any emotion tied up in whatsoever, you bet your ass I’m gonna cry. And not adorable little sniffles of sadness. No no. It’s full-on ugly bawling, with snot and sobs and stuff. I become incapable of speech, incapable of thought. I am just cry.

What I’m saying is, I’m not so good at talking about my feelings.

I’ve always wished there was another way, a way more suited to my way of communicating. So when I learned about online, text-only therapy, I was intrigued.

I went with BetterHelp.com, which was offering a free introductory week. It charges $45/week (billed monthly) but you can cancel anytime. When you sign up, they ask you some questions about your situation, your needs and your preferences. Everything can be as anonymous as you want, though they do obviously have your credit card on file and they ask for an emergency contact. It doesn’t bill itself as a replacement for in-person therapy and it’s definitely not right for every situation, but I think it’s a great lean-to in the therapy world.

The “sessions” are conducted through a basic long-form message thread. You and your counselor have access to it 24/7. You also apparently get one free 15-minute phone call per month, with the option to buy more, but I’m not super interested. I get an email notification when he’s sent a message, so I can log in to check and either respond immediately or think on it and come back later. It’s a nice, delineated back and forth, which is ideal for me.

I was matched with a counselor who specializes in working with young adults with anxiety (check) and careers issues (uh-huh), among other issues. Cool! So far, he’s been asking for clarification and fine-tuning our focus, which is good. He’s also been bringing quotes and videos that he wants me to think about and see whether I relate (so far, uh-yup).

I haven’t had any major breakthroughs or anything, but it’s already promising enough that I’m prematurely calling “worth it!” I don’t see this as a permanent part of my life–and TBH, I can’t prioritize that cost in my budget long term–but I’ll definitely be sticking with it for a while.

Walmart Beauty Box : Spring 2016

IMG_1235Here’s another Walmart Beauty Box! They’re “free” ($5 shipping per quarter) and they now let you choose from one of two beauty profiles. They automatically chose “trendsetter” for me, since I was at the time under 30. The millennials, they love trends!

I’ve gone on and on about why I love this box, but it really is just the right price point, shipped just often enough for me to never be disappointed. I always seem to get one item that makes the subscription feel like a good value for me. This month was no exception!

Colgate Optic White Toothpaste – I’m pretty sure this is a sample size tube, but it’s still very large. I’ve gotten this from Influenster and purchased it on my own. It promises whiter teeth in three days. While I can’t speak to that claim, it’s definitely whitening.

Biore Baking Soda Pore Cleanser – This is a clear, nice-smelling cleanser. I used it on my nose and chin and it had the most neutral results of any cleanser I’ve ever used: nothing bad to report, nothing terribly great. I could feel some random rough chunks in this, and I couldn’t’ decide if it was supposed to be the baking soda or some plastic microbeads (boo! hiss!)

Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer – This is a fake tanner. I never try these, but figured I’d give it a go. I’m very fair, and this was splotchy on me. It’s a nice “natural” fake tan on me, but using this daily would be a big no.

Neutrogena Moisture Smooth Color Stick – OMG THIS SMELLS LIKE NOSTALGIA. It smells like a Bonne Bell Lip Smacker. The shade is somewhere between pink, puce and brown. It’s a nice natural shade on me. This is full-size and a $7.50 value!

Curel Itch Defense Body Wash – I haven’t tried this, but I’m surprised this wasn’t part of the winter box. It says it’s for dry skin, and that’s when my skin is at its dryest.

John Frieda Brilliant Brunette Visibly Brighter – I’m not so sure about this product. It claims it will lighten your hair! It says it will do so without going brassy, but I am skeptical. I might try this. It doesn’t smell at all like a chemical lightener and it has some natural extracts that should be nourishing.

CeraVe Healing Ointment – “Protects and soothes cracked and chafed skin with a non-greasy feel”. Will I be trying this to protect against chub rub? You betcha.

Vera Wang Embrace This is the blue scent, which is Periwinkle and Iris. I hate perfume samples, but this was a nice scent.

 

Others – A foil packet of Burt’s Bees BB Cream, a shade sticker try-on card from Loreal True Match and some coupons.

PopSugar Must Have : March 2016

IMG_1221Ahhhh, the PSMH. My fave.

The Must Have box is $39.95 monthly is about five lifestyle, fashion and home items with a combined value over $100. Often, there are items that are PopSugar-exclusives. They’ve just added the Must Have Mini, which includes two full-size products for just $18.95. A promo email promised that the value would always be over $30, so that’s nice.

The Must Have box is one I pick up and drop randomly based on my budget and teaser items. This month, I snatched the box because the teaser item was an exclusive Nanette Lepore watch. I figured if I didn’t love it, someone in my life definitely would. I was not wrong.

The Overall – PSMH is my forever-love. Even when something isn’t quite right for me, I always know someone who will love it.

Nanette Lepore Rose Gold Watch ($55 value) – The dial is large and beautiful. It has a “vegan leather” beige strap. My boyfriend pulled it out of the box and immediately threw it on. While I would probably switch the strap out for him, it really did look very nice on him. This particular design is a PopSugar exclusive. It came in a mesh drawstring bag, which wasn’t super to me. I wish it came in a nicer container, like a box. But that’s picky, I guess.

Pixi by Petra Book of Beauty Minimal Makeup Palette ($24 value) – Pixi is a nice brand. This was two highlighters, two blush/bronzers and four eyeshadows (split in two pans). The shades aren’t right for me, so I’ll be gifting this to my mom. But it’s a very nice set and the pans are all generously sized.

Go-Vino Go Anywhere Carafe and Glass Set ($14.95 value) – The plastic on this feels rather flimsy to me, but it’s nice for a guest bedroom nightstand.

Hello Extra Whitening Toothpaste ($4.49 value) – This is “naturally friendly” toothpaste without being chalk. I’m excited to see how whitening this is without peroxide.

Goodie Girl Cookies Toffee Chaos ($5 value) – These are gluten-free, made with rice flour. They’re very crispy. We all decided that the texture isn’t great, but the toffee flavour is nice and I could see these being great with coffee.

Miss Ivy Pearl Tassel Necklace ($38 value) – This is one of those things I can’t decide if I love or hate. I like the LOOK of tassel jewelry, but the practice of wearing it is a different thing. Some of the tassels need trimmed or hit with a little clear nail polish to keep ’em in place, but it’s a very different piece from anything I’d ever choose. The colourway is great for spring.

Free MyLola Tampon Box ($10 value) – This is a 100% cotton tampon subscription service. I’ll give this a whirl.

Thrive Market Review

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 11.34.39 AMThrive Market is a “socially-conscious” online store for natural and organic snacks and products, which it claims to offer at 25-50% below retail price. When you sign up, you get a 30-day free trial plus 15% off your first order. After 30 days, your membership begins: it costs $59.95 per year. This fee offers a free membership to a low-income family AND they promise that if you don’t save your membership value in the year, they’ll add a credit for the next year. I find the model really interesting.

I got a special offer to try the service out. I placed the order and received it the very next day. Okay, colour me impressed. I check the prices on a couple items and can confirm that they are on par or below Amazon’s Prime Pantry, which is good enough for me. I feel like the products they offer line up pretty nicely with their mission. They have everything from snacks and pantry staples to hair care products and beyond.

The Overall ? I’ll be ordering again! I’m not sure if I can commit the membership fee right now, but I feel like the value is definitely there. Like all shopping sites, it’s just important to know what the going cost is for a product.

Justin’s Almond Butter : The promotional offer was a free jar of this. I’ve never had alternate nut butters (heehee) but this is yummy. If you’ve never had almond butter, it’s fatty and almondy compared to regular peanut butter. The consistency looks rough, but feels quite smooth.

Dang Original Toasted Coconut Chips : If you like coconut, just buy these. I happen to hate coconut, but these look really great. They’re rectangular slivers of toasted coconut with a very chip-like texture.

Woodstock All-Natural Pineapple Slices : These weren’t quite what I was hoping for, but my boyfriend loves them. They’re thick rings of sliced, dried pineapple that’s been candied. They reminded me of orange slices in the worst way, but my boyfriend loves them. They’re very chewy.