Monday, October 17, 2016


Running around in a frantic frenzy as a poor attempt at preparing for my #1 choice of a Graduate School program, I texted at least ten people. When I write a letter of intent for something this important, I seek the help of at least five proofreaders. Usually a few English majors (for the grammatical proof), a few Education majors (for the content proof), and a few other friends and family who know me, my goals, my aspirations, and my passions best. My letters of recommendation had already been designated, my application form was complete, my test scores had been submitted, and all that was left was my letter of intent.

I never had a problem with writing. I write every day, and I've been known to crank out extensive essays in less than an hour. If there was ever one subject in school I was good at, it was English. If there was one assignment I always vouched for over a project or final exam, it was an essay. This letter should not have been this hard. But with everything else going on, I was really beginning to stress. I'd filled out a strong header and written To Whom It May Concern; then stared at the page for an hour.

Okay, maybe it was four hours. With a journal entry, two homework assignments, and a nap in between. At least my procrastination was paired with more productive things... Right...?

It was just one more thing that made me feel like my life was far out of my control. Sure, I have dreams and plans for my life after graduate, but that plan can only be achieved after being accepted into a certain graduate program, securing an apartment, and landing a job in another state. All of which require administrators, landlords, and bosses to all want me. Yikes.

I needed one more proofreader, so I texted a friend and fellow early childhood major. Would you proofread a letter of intent for me sometime soon? 

Sure! she responded, What's it for? 

For the Master's program application. Let's all have a mini anxiety attack together... LOL! 

Expecting to receive a haha or an I'll take a look right after I finish this lesson plan, I tossed my phone to the side and went to write another lesson plan myself. But when the phone buzzed again, I literally laughed out loud.

I'm so envious of how much you have your life together. 

How "much" I have my life together? To me, it felt like I had about 15% of it together. But to her, I had it all.

Perspective is important. And I've mentioned this before... Why else would other girls want the same parts of your body that you hate? Why else would you want the same aspects of their personality that they hate? We all see things a little differently, and we all want what we can't have. We all want that one thing that's seemingly holding us back from being just like (or preferably, a little better) than the girl sitting to our side.

My aunt called me a few weeks ago in the middle of the night. I saw a painting today, she told me, and it reminded me of you. Of your blog. It was of several large women, but they were dancing and smiling and holding hands with one another. 

I glanced down at the picture she had texted to me a few seconds prior to the phone call.

As a large woman myself, she continued, it just made me so happy. You know, acceptance of different body types and sizes is very important. But until a woman accepts herself, no real change is made in her heart. 

The more I stared at the picture, the more I realized I couldn't have said it any better.

I'm constantly crusading for beauty in our society, specifically targeting the kiddos I see losing confidence in themselves every day, and the people who question their ability to teach, lead, and raise these kiddos to the best of their ability. Statistics. Personal testimonies. Videos of photoshop programs being utilized to the fullest potential... I share it all, with the hope that my stunning readers will realize how normal imperfection actually is. How distorted our society has become. How beautiful they really are.

But until they accept their beauty themselves, no real change is made.

Have you ever met a woman completely secure in her beauty? I've seen it once, on a woman who was 85 years old. Every time she laughed, she threw back her head and let her stomach bounce. When someone was in need, her hand was the first to be extended. And when someone needed to be scolded, I have never seen anyone more gently stern in all my life. Wrinkles creased at her eyes from years of laughter. Her lips were stretched thin from smiling. Her hands were calloused from all her labor, and her heart shone from within. She embodied pure, undistorted beauty because she was completely and unapologetically herself.

My aunt was not captivated by that painting merely because she related to it. She was captivated by the painting because every woman should understand what it feels like to be like that woman. To truly love herself. To be happy with herself. To be confident in herself. The women in the painting weren't laughing and dancing because someone told them to. They were laughing and dancing because they wanted to. Because they felt compelled to. They were inspired to.

How you see yourself is important. It's even more important than how others see you. Because while other bloggers and I are trying our hardest to get society on our side, we all realize it probably won't happen. Sometimes, you're all you have. And even if everyone loved you and told you that you were smart and talented and beautiful every single day, it wouldn't have any real impact at all if you did not believe it all yourself.

Can you imagine how much greater life would be if you could look in the mirror and recognize all the ways you're great? Emily Freeman from the She Is Project said it best...

"I can't imagine anything more dangerous to the enemy of our hearts than women who know who they are."   -Emily P. Freeman

Isn't that the truth... I don't want to be the kind of woman that haters and bullies wait to attack. I want to be the kind of woman that when my feet hit the ground each morning, the devil panics and says Well crap! She's awake. 

Perspective is everything. Not just because someone else wants what you have, but because you should want what you have, too.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Bethany's Guide to Self Love

Self - love. 

What the heck is that? It sounds so...weird. Uncomfortable. Selfish. 

Well, it sort of is. But as far as I'm concerned? The rest of the world can deal with it. Women struggle with self love every day. Wives caring for their husbands. Mommas raising a houseful of children. Often while working full time, still cleaning her own house, and doing the entire family's laundry (because even though women "are not to be confined to housework!", there's still inevitably housework to be done). Teenage girls are even being raised to put everything else before themselves. Their grades. Their extra curriculars. Their resumes, GPA's, college applications... Not to mention friends (it's important to be social!), and their family (because they wouldn't even be here without them). Right? 

We've been brainwashed. Everything else is more important. Everyone else is more important. And there's something to be said for selfless, unconditional love. But then we wonder why every girl's first love ends up being some insignificant bad boy when it should have been herself. 

Self love is just what it sounds like. Love (defined as an intense feeling of deep affection) for yourself. For who? Let's say that scary word again. For yourself. 

Because you deserve it. When was the last time you allowed yourself to receive a compliment? When was the last time you recognized your own strengths? Answer me honestly. When was the last time you felt worthy of love, attention, and affection? 

Some of you will answer a week. Maybe a month. Some will even gather the courage to say a year or longer. But if you answered anywhere on the timeline prior to yesterday or earlier today, it's been too long. 

The journey to self love is not a simple one. Nor is it an easy one. And some would say you never permanently reach it. But it's definitely an enjoyable journey. You not only end up feeling stronger in yourself and more confident in your beauty, but every aspect of your life seems to shift. Life may not get any easier. But it certainly becomes more satisfying. 

Begin the day listing 5 things you love about yourself. 
You might write them down if necessary, but I just try to find them first thing when I get up and look in the mirror. The key, however, is listing these things before I put my makeup on or straighten my hair. Don't list 5 things you love about your vanity routine. List 5 things you love about yourself. For an extra challenge, find five things you love about your body, and five things about your soul. 

Thank your body. 
Be kind to it. Instead of saying you hate your stomach rolls, be thankful you have enough food to be able to feed yourself. Instead of hating your jiggly thighs, be thankful you're still able to walk. Instead of calling yourself fat, be thankful that there's more of you to love. You should be honored that God chose you to take up space in this world. Being healthy is one thing, but don't channel all your creative energy into making yourself smaller. 

Use people-first language. 
This is slang we hear a lot in education, specifically in the special education community. Instead of saying “that autistic child,” we say “the child with autism.” It allows us to reference the child (heart, mind, body, soul…) before we reference the disability (autism), so that the disability is not defining the child. Likewise, if you struggle with a mental illness or self-deprecation, you should refer to yourself as a person before you refer to the illness or negative standard you have set for yourself. You are not an anorexic. You are a warrior who is fighting anorexia. You are not ugly. You are a woman who struggles with positive self image. Never forget to put yourself (your true, strong, beautiful self) before the battles you’re fighting. 

Keep a journal.
I know, I know. My creative, artistic, self-reflective readers just clapped their hands and did a happy dance, and my analytical, scientific, non-expressive readers let out an agonizing moan. But trust me. It doesn’t have to be a long, reflective novel each night before you go to bed. Just a few sentences about what happened that day, how you’re feeling (relaxed, stressed, anxious, exhausted, weak, etc.), and some ways you can channel that energy into self love. Positivity is a powerful thing, and I have found that I am able to generate more of it when I have first expunged all the negativity consuming my mind. 

Treat yourself each day. 
Some mornings, I have to be awake at 5:30 am for work, and my venti iced coffee from Starbucks ensures that I will embark on those early mornings as a positive, tolerant, and fully caffeinated individual. The weekends might be a glass of wine, and I have my cappuccino chocolate chip gelato reserved for that monthly emotional roller coaster when every other female craves generic chocolate ice cream. With chocolate syrup. On top of a fudge brownie. And does it have to be food? Of course not. Some nights I’ll read a book under a blanket, take a long walk with my earbuds in, do a craft, or take a drive with the windows down and music blaring. It’s easy to find a way to treat yourself. You just have to make time to do something you like. Which, I realize, is often the hardest part. 

Use your days off to decompress.
I like to call it #SelfCareSaturday. If you’ve got too much planned on a Saturday, make it #SelfCareSunday. Use the day to sleep in a little, spend time with friends/family, and maybe even get a jump start on the upcoming week to ease a little stress. I find that prepping meals on Sunday evening to cook throughout the week greatly relieves some anxiety when I have to cram dinner down my throat on my way to work, bible study, or whatever else I have going on that evening. 

Place reminders everywhere. 
I keep bible verses depicting God’s love and precious, feminine design wedged in the frame of my bathroom mirror. My scale holds a neon index card reminding me that the scale can only tell me the numerical representation of my gravitational pull, rather than my worth, intelligence, talent, or beauty. On particularly rough weeks, I have my phone give me reminders of positive quotes to keep me going through the day. 

Ultimately, take care of yourself first.
I am the world’s worst at this. There are so many other things that I could be doing! So many other people are hurting, so many other children require my attention, and so many other tasks are plaguing my planner. Wouldn’t taking some time for myself be, I don’t know… Selfish? Stupid? Counterproductive? 


Take care of yourself, beautiful. You can't pour from an empty cup. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Meeting Emily

With announcements blaring and stadium lights searing through the football field, I stood square in front of a group of high school colorguard girls. I can't believe she did that to him, she's so stupid! I overheard, along with I know. She's not even that pretty. Of course, they forget I can hear them because I am an adult. So I pretended as if I heard nothing, praying that it was nothing more than a frustrated conversation regarding a girl from one of their classes that I didn't know.

She doesn't even know what's going on half the time. And did you see her hair? She really needs to figure that out. 

It was about colorguard, that much I knew for sure. But from what I knew about the previous events from that evening, I was also pretty sure I knew exactly who they were talking about. And for the record? The girl's hair was fine.

Fast forward to a few days later, when I waltzed into a kindergarten classroom for the first time this semester. New school, new cooperating teacher, new kiddos. I was a little nervous, as to be expected on the first day of anything, and the nerves escalated quickly as the children whispered to one another upon my arrival. Every teacher wants to do a good job, but more than that, they want to be liked. And if we're all being honest, that's not just a trait for teachers. It's not just a trait for women. We all desire to be liked.

I hadn't even stood up before a little girl (we'll call her Emily) in a pair of purple polka-dot leggings was already behind me. Her long chestnut hair was pulled into a high ponytail. Her bright blue eyes shone with passion. In her arms, she held a book clutched tightly against her chest. Would you look at that... I thought to myself, It's a little 5-year-old Bethany. 

"Hello!" she beamed and waved her hand ferociously. I smiled down to the sweet girl and returned her greeting. She smiled back. "I don't know you," she shrugged and cocked her head to the side, "but you look really beautiful today," she said and turned to skip away.

And people wonder why I enjoy little kids over high schoolers.

I'm here to ask an honest question. Ladies, what on earth happened to us? How did we go from being sweet, innocent, complimentary little girls to scheming, deceptive, gossipy young women?

I don't know about you, but I am absolutely exhausted. I really miss the days of sweet smiles, twirly skirts, and plastic crowns. Remember when we felt genuinely beautiful? Remember when we felt captivatingly powerful? Don't you remember what it was like to feel worthy of praise and attention?

Maybe you don't, and that's what you're here searching for today. Maybe you never knew what it felt like to shine. But if you did, chances are high you're craving it again. You're becoming "needy." You're becoming "emotional." You're becoming some unacceptable ratio of too-much and not-enough. You aren't pretty enough, skinny enough, smart enough, or talented enough, but you're too needy, too emotional, too opinionated, and too sassy. Are you opinionated? Or are you intelligent? Are you sassy? Or are you confident? Maybe it all rides a fine line.

Or maybe it depends how you look at it.

When thinking about the differences between between my gossipy high schoolers and my sweet-spirited kindergartener, I couldn't help but notice something about myself. When I think a girl is pretty, smart, talented, etc., I make a note of it in my head. Sometimes it serves as a breeding ground for jealousy, but sometimes it remains nothing more than a brief compliment. But when I think a girl has something wrong with her, I feel the need to tell someone about it. Did you see her hair today? or Omg! I can't believe she said that to you! 

What if we complimented one another every time we thought about it? Or better yet, what if we held our tongue every time we sought to insult? Or perhaps best of all... What if we replaced our insults with compliments?

My first thought is how different the world could be. Girls wouldn't just be nicer, but we could be more confident. We could recognize some of the awesome parts of ourselves, rather than all the ways we seem to miserably fail at femininity.

My second thought is how overwhelmingly confused we would be. When that little girl told me I looked beautiful, I was dumbfounded. How long had it been since I'd heard that from someone who wasn't obligated to say it? Hearing it from a total stranger is much different than hearing it from your mom or a guy who's clearly in pursuit of you. This little girl wasn't biased, and she certainly wasn't in pursuit of anything. She was just an honest, genuine, confident little girl.

I would say that her brief, spontaneous act of sweet kindness brightened by day, but that happened last Tuesday. I've thought about her every day since then. I'm sitting here blogging about her a week later. She brightened my week, she convicted my heart, and she inspired me to be a better woman.

See what I mean when I say there's so much we can learn from little kiddos? It's my job to teach her to read and write. And I will. She'll get there. But I'm willing to bet she has just as much, if not more, to teach me. I'm learning from her already. And if we could all put her on our prayer lists right now, let's pray she remains that honest, that genuine, and that confident for as long as she lives. That little polka-dot panted 5-year-old is going to turn into one powerfully beautiful young lady, provided the world she grows up in doesn't completely ruin her.

Insult less. Compliment more. Let's all be a little more like little Emily.