Starbucks, Springtime, and Real Happiness

This has been an amazing week for the following reasons:

  1. I attended a roundtable lunch with the VP of Global Coffee Category Brand Management for Starbucks, Kim Spalding, and got to learn all about Starbucks’ marketing strategy. My favorite coffee brand + brand management + lunch = perfection. It was also amazing to get to speak with someone who is an accomplished career woman and has a family. It inspires me and shows that you can do both. (If you want to know how much I love Starbucks, see here.)
  2. I won $120 worth of Calvin Klein fragrance from a Macy’s info session on campus. I love free things. And now I’m in love with their new fragrance, Endless Euphoria (I talk about it here.)
  3. Being Freshly Pressed by WordPress drew an insane amount of traffic here. I’ve been inundated with views and comments from you lovely readers. And some of you stuck around and decided to follow me on WordPress. I appreciate each and every one of you, and I feel the love!
  4. Springtime is finally here in Philadelphia (sort of). It’s been on and off but at least today I’m seeing sunshine, and two days ago I could go out without a jacket, although yesterday it rained again. Boo. But at least some days are warm. Springtime always puts me in a better mood!

In addition to these, I realized something this week.

I’m really, really happy.

This academic year started out a little rocky for me. For those of you that recently started following me, fall semester was hard. I had to face some long-standing issues with anxiety, and that caused me to do a lot of self-reflection about who I was, who I wanted to be, and how I was seeing myself. I wouldn’t have said before the fall that I was an unhappy person. In fact, I’ve always been known to be pretty upbeat and optimistic.

But after six months of what I would call personal growth, I think I’m happier than I ever have been. I’ve already spoken about about how having learned to manage my anxiety has helped me find happiness. But I realized yesterday, as I walked down the street and saw myself in the reflection of a store window, that I’ve also learned to love myself more than I ever had before.

The issue of appearance and weight has always been a difficult one (it was the subject of my first ever post). I’ve always been happy with myself on the whole, but at the same time, I’ve always subconsciously felt like I was a work in progress. I always felt like “getting fit” and losing weight was a prerequisite with being completely happy with myself. I think I believed that it was wrong to be happy with the way I was because I was “unhealthy.”

Well, that is BS.

I am not obese or in any medical danger. Would I be healthier if I went to the gym every day? Yes. Do I plan to do that? Eventually. But that does not mean I can’t be happy with myself right now. My appearance has not changed substantially this past year, but what’s inside has. I just feel better about being me and about the way I look. People come in all shapes and sizes and my shape is not “bad” or “wrong” but different. Not everyone is made for low-rise jeans and bikinis, and that is okay. Not only am I okay with this, I feel great about the way I look now. I look good! Go me!

I am so excited for the future, and I’m not letting self-doubt stop me from going after what I want in life and being really, truly happy, because happiness isn’t measured in inches, pounds, or dress sizes.

What made you happy this week? I’d love it if you shared.

Xoxo, Taylor

 

 

 

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Do You Secretly Want to Fail?

We’re about halfway through January. How are those New Years’ resolutions coming? For those of you who are rocking it, congrats. For those of you that are struggling (and for those of you who are rocking it, too!), your number one obstacle in succeeding might not be your lack of work ethic or external factors, but your own secret desire to fail.

Yes, maybe you don’t actually want to lose those ten pounds. Maybe you don’t want to start eating healthy. Maybe you don’t actually want to learn that new sport.

Why would I say that, you ask?

It’s this funny little thing called self-handicapping. Self-handicapping is a psychological phenomena by which we purposely don’t try our best so that when we fail, we can say that it wasn’t because we just weren’t capable of succeeding. It’s just because we didn’t put in the work. We do this because we want to protect our self-image. If you worked as hard as you absolutely could at a goal, and still couldn’t meet it, that would be awkward, right?

“So Bob, why didn’t you do well in that half-marathon you trained for?”
“Well, Sally, turns out I’m just not a runner. Trained my absolute hardest, but turns out I’m incapable of doing any better.”

That seems like an awkward conversation for most of us. No one wants to admit that they’re inherently not good at something.

Self-handicapping comes out of fear. In high school, I was a master self-handicapper. My sport in high school was debate (yes, it’s a sport), and I loved it more than anything. But looking back, I wasn’t confident that I was that great. So I didn’t put in the work. I didn’t spend the twenty or thirty hours required to write a good case, and I didn’t spend hours and hours perfecting my speaking. I put in enough to do pretty well but I didn’t put in my 100%. Now I can see that I only did that so that when I didn’t achieve my goals or didn’t get first place, I had an out. I could say, “Well, you know, I could do that too if I put in fifty hours of work.”

I probably could have. But unfortunately life does not operate on the maxims of coulda, shoulda, woulda. Life only counts action.

So when you’re looking at your New Years’ resolutions, whether they’re going well or not, be sure to catch yourself when you’re self-handicapping. When you don’t want to run that extra mile or put in the extra hour of studying, ask yourself why. Is it because you’re scared to go out on a limb and give it everything you’ve got?

Sure, it’s completely possible that you end up like hypothetical Bob and you don’t make your goal. But that shouldn’t keep you from trying. While it seems awkward to be Bob, I think if I were Sally I wouldn’t think a thing of it. I wouldn’t go, “Wow, Bob. What a loser. Sucks that you tried your best and still failed.” I think most of us would be like, “Props to you, Bob. Way to try your hardest.”

Even if you don’t attain your goal or keep your New Year’s resolution 100%, there’s value in the effort you put forth. I think Gandhi puts it beautifully. “Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment, full effort is full victory.”

The Thigh Gap

If this title doesn’t make any sense to you, congratulations. Seriously. You haven’t been exposed to what I think is one of the most upsetting trends in body image today: the thigh gap. The thigh gap, you guessed it, is the space between a girl’s thighs when she stands normally. Young girls are now holding this up as a standard of beauty, something to be achieved.

Here’s the problem: besides being another marker of a dangerous shift toward hyper-thinness, the thigh gap is something some women are not meant to achieve. Ever.

This post by Jen Rinker goes into more detail, but basically, women’s bodies are designed different ways. Some women are designed in such a way that they carry more weight in their hips, which means no matter how much weight they lose, they probably won’t ever achieve the “thigh gap.” Other women just have narrow hips, and so being thin won’t even create enough space for there to be a thigh gap. Which means that young girls who are trying to gain a thigh gap might be working toward an unattainable standard of beauty.

The issue of the thigh gap speaks to the bigger issue of beauty standards that are absolute, not relative to body type. Being 120 lbs, for example, is something that some women might naturally achieve. It might just be how they’re built. For others, it might be unhealthy to be that small or even impossible to achieve given the body type of the woman. Beauty standards that suggest that women are “one size, fits all” need to be ignored.

I am a curvy woman. I will never be 100 pounds. I will never be a size zero. I’ll never, ever have a thigh gap. But that says nothing about what kind of shape I’m in or how I look when I stand in the mirror. I don’t mean to beat the “positive self-image” horse to death, but bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Assigning a number or a measurement (like the thigh gap) to beauty is illogical, and if I were to try to paint myself by the numbers, I’d always fall short.

Do you remember junior high PE? I do because I hated it, but that’s another story. Assigning these numbers to beauty is like telling everyone in the junior high PE program that they have to run a mile in 6 minutes. Could athletes do it? Maybe. Is that the mark of a good athlete? It certainly would indicate that someone were a good athlete if they could do it. But if they couldn’t? Perhaps some are better long-distance runners. Perhaps some (like me!) have short legs and will never be able to run that fast. Perhaps some students’ fastest mile time will only ever be 10 minutes. But does that mean these students are out of shape? Absolutely not. In the same way, the thigh gap is nowhere near an accurate measurement of health or of beauty.

Furthermore, these young girls who are playing into trends like the thigh gap are often at the age where looking attractive to guys becomes important. But what guy (who wasn’t a complete chauvinist) ever comments on a woman’s “thigh gap?” Yeah, I’ve never heard of one.

photo

via Pinterest

So at the end of the day, the thigh gap, like many other beauty “ideals,” is something to be concerned about and wary of. Having a gap between your thighs when you stand says nothing about your health, your beauty, or your weight. Achieving a beauty standard is less important than looking like the best “you” possible. As for me, I’ll be getting back to the gym this semester. But the only measurement of my success will be the gap between my fitness level now and where I hope to be.

Life’s Too Short to be Miss Photogenic

When I was compiling photos of myself for Fashion Tips from Tiny Taylor, I saw hundreds of pictures of me smiling wide, a total ham for the camera. Sometimes, I was in my Sunday best, but most times, I was a mess. My hair was all over, I had something on my face, and I was probably wearing clothes that didn’t match. I didn’t care. I was happy and I thought I was awesome and I loved getting my picture taken.

Today, I’m not that way at all. My sister always makes fun of me for the rigorous battery of rhetorical questions directed at my potential Facebook profile pictures. “Does this make me look weird? Is my makeup okay? I’m making a weird face here, right? Oh my gosh, this so gives me a muffin top. Does the lighting make me look washed out?” Sound familiar to anyone else?

It seems like we get to an age where photos stop being about capturing candid moments of life and start becoming all about capturing our best selves. We become self-conscious, and especially for women, photos become some sort of horrible freeze-frame mirror where we can spend hours picking out our flaws.

When I think back to some of my favorite and most photo-worthy adventures in life, I realize they are also the times I was probably far from “photogenic.” My best friend and I went to Costa Rica in high school, and the humidity about killed us. We were sticky, gross, and had the craziest hair. We took photos anyway, and when I got back, I remember looking over the photos and being upset about it. Ugh. Why couldn’t I have looked cuter? I thought. I WAS IN COSTA RICA. I got to zipline and hike through crazy rainforests and do a million other things. And I’d rather not have the photos to remember it than remember it with a messy me in the middle of it all? Really?

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One of my pics from Costa Rica. I don’t know what was happening here. But it’s a memory.

Let’s be honest, life happens. We might be making a weird face in our 21st birthday photo. We might not be having a good hair day during the New Years Party photos. But should that stop us from taking photos of the moments that make our life vibrant and memorable and sharing them? No. It should not.

Borrowing a line from Teresa Porter’s awesome article “So You’re Feeling Too Fat to be Photographed…“, NO ONE IS LOOKING AT HOW FAT YOU LOOK. Or how bad your skin is. Or if your hair is out of place. Your best friends are looking at that photo of New Years and remembering how much fun you were when you had too much champagne and started singing to the waiter. Your mom is looking at your family photos and questioning why she let your dad wear a Hawaiian shirt. You should be looking at your photos and remembering the moments they capture, not how you looked.

Hand-choosing only the photos that you look the best in or refusing to take photos at all isn’t improving your self-image. It’s simply allowing yourself to be absent from history. When your future spouse, your future kids, your friends look back on the time they’ve known you, you’ll be strangely absent from all of those photos of smiling faces and priceless memories.

Life is happening… it is happening right now and the only moment we are guaranteed is the one we are living. I shudder at the thought of leaving behind no pictures of my life with ME in it. – Teresa Porter

This is one of my now favorite photos of my senior prom:

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My boyfriend’s least favorite food in the whole world is lasagna. So to be silly and play a prank, I told him I’d personally made him dinner…frozen lasagna. And this is his reaction, and me cracking myself up.

It was a funny moment, but I’d say I look far from what I’d consider my best. If I’d chosen to delete this photo because my face was a little shiny or I had a weird expression, I’d have missed recording this candid moment.

And so the point stands: life is too short for you to be absent from all records of it! Whether you’re 5 or 50 pounds heavier than you’d like to be, or your face is a mess, there’s no time like the present, and no better way to be part of it than to spend your time living instead of primping.