What Is A Yogi? (And How Do I Become One)- Part Three: Niyamas

The second limb of yoga is Niyama. Niyamas are rules of conduct as they apply to the individual. So, unlike the yamas which focus on your relationship with the people around you, the niyamas focus on your relationship with yourself.

The five niyamas are:

1. Saucha (purity)
2. Santosa (contentment)
3. Tapas (ardor/austerity)
4. Svadhyaya (study of the self)
5. Isvara Pranidhana (dedication to the Lord)

Let’s jump right in!

1. Saucha translates to purity. It is said that purity of the body, mind, and intellect is essential for our well-being. For the physical body, this means that we need to not only cleanse ourselves literally and engage in good hygiene, but we also need to remain physically active. Our asanas (yoga postures) can be a great way to keep our bodies pure. Another way is through the food we eat. We should not eat too much or too little food, and we should choose foods that are simple and nourishing that soothe our bodies. According to B.K.S. Iyengar (Light on Yoga), we eat in order to promote health, strength, energy, and life, and our food choices should reflect this. When it comes to purity of the mind and intellect, we can use the asanas, pranayama (breath work), and meditation. These can be used to cleanse our insides and can bring benevolence and banish pain, sorrow, and despair, resulting in the ability for us to see the good in others rather than their faults. When we respect our body by keeping it pure on the inside as well as the outside, it also allows us to see the good in ourselves.

2. Santosa translates to contentment. Iyengar says “a mind that is not content cannot concentrate.” (Light on Yoga) A yogi should not desire for anything and should be content with what they already have, so that they can focus on the task at hand: achieving inner peace and happiness. Just like anything else, contentment is a state of mind, so we can work towards feeling content no matter where we are in our lives and no matter how much we have. Yogis should feel the lack of nothing, because everything they already have is everything they need. I like to think of it on a moment to moment basis. Think about it. Right now, in this exact moment, do you have everything it is you need to go on living your life? Not in a few hours, not tomorrow, not next week or next year. Now. Right this moment. Do you have everything you need? You are alive. You are here. Be content. Because this moment that we are experiencing right now is all we will ever have, and you already possess everything you need.

3. Tapas translates to ardor and austerity. A burning desire and determination to achieve your goals in life no matter what. This requires self-discipline and is meant to build character and make the yogi strong and hard-working. However, we should be chasing these goals not for a selfish motive or in hopes of gaining some reward. Instead, we should hope to make the world a better place by living out our purpose for being here. There are three types of tapas: Kayika (body), Vachika (speech), and Manasika (mind). Tapas of the body include continence (brahmacharya) and non-violence (ahimsa). Tapas of the speech include using non-offensive words, being truthful (satya), and not speaking ill (gossiping) about others. Finally, tapas of the mind include remaining tranquil, not getting caught up on either joy or sorrow but balancing the two, and practicing self-control. Our goal in practicing tapas of the mind, speech, and body is to gain courage, wisdom, integrity, straightforwardness, and simplicity in our lives. It’s all about learning and practicing discipline.

4. Svadhyaya translates to study of the self. Iyengar talks about how education is the “drawing out of the best that is within a person.” (Light on Yoga) He goes on to discuss how different self-study is from other study because the teacher and the student, in this case, are one in the same. This makes it so much more complex, because as the student studies the book of her own life, she is simultaneously writing and revising it. So, there is a beginning, but there is no end. And the knowledge one gains from this study of the self is so much more important than any other type of study, because what you uncover here becomes a part of you and who you are, and can result in a change of your entire outlook on life. One realization that often comes out of this type of study is the idea that the energy that moves inside of you is the same energy that moves the entire universe, which could cause a shift in your behavior toward other people and the world. Also, study of the self can help the yogi understand how to deal with difficult life situations whenever they arise.

5. Isvara Pranidhana translates as dedication to the Lord. Yoga is not a religion itself, but it is sort of a science of religion, because an individual will be better able to understand her own religion and her faith, whatever that may be, by the study of yoga and all of its limbs. Just to clarify, the “Lord” here can be whatever higher power you believe in, and if you don’t believe in any higher power, then “Lord” here will translate to “the greater good.” You don’t need to be religious or have any type of faith to practice yoga. Everyone is welcome. Basically, when someone can no longer rely solely on her own resources, she often turns to the Lord (or the universe) for help. She gives up all of her external attachments and becomes dedicated to the Lord or the higher good of humanity. This niyama is often a destination point for yogis, and their hope is to reach a state of dedication where there is no longer the concept of “I” or “mine.” When a yogi reaches this stage, she is said to have reached full growth.

Think of the niyamas as a personal reminder to treat yourself with love and respect. 1. Be pure in your body and mind. Stay active, move your body, and use your breath to cleanse away any dirty energy you have stored in your body. Eat foods that nourish you and make you feel good from the inside out. 2. Learn to be content with what you have. Stop looking for more. You already have everything you need, and the universe already has a plan to give you more as needed. Trust in that. 3. Don’t let your inner fire ever burn out. Keep that burning desire to become everything you’ve ever dreamed of becoming. Develop self-discipline and work hard to reach your goals. 4. Spend some time studying yourself and using your study to change your mindset and become the best version of you there is. And 5. When you get to the point of a certain enlightenment, you will no longer live within the confines of your ego, and you will give yourself up to a higher good. This is a destination point, but just like everything else, yoga is about the journey, not the destination. In conclusion, together the yamas and niyamas help us to become better people. They keep us in harmony with the rest of the world, and they keep us in harmony with ourselves.

Stay tuned for the next post on the third limb of yoga, asana. Also, if you have ANY questions at all, please email me at nicol.eliz.yoga@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you!

Note: my study of this limb of yoga came from Light on Yoga and The Tree of Yoga, both by B.K.S. Iyengar.

Advertisements

What Is A Yogi? (And How Do I Become One)- Part Two: Yamas

The first limb of yoga is Yamas. Yamas are universal moral commandments or ethical disciplines. B.K.S. Iyengar believed that if these yamas are not obeyed, chaos will ensue. They are also meant to transcend creed, country, age, and time. Translation: they’re for everyone.

The five yamas are:

1. Ahimsa (non-violence)
2. Satya (truth)
3. Asteya (non-stealing)
4. Brahmacharya (continence)
5. Aparigraha (non-coveting)

Let’s break these down, shall we?

1. Ahimsa (my personal favorite yama) translates to non-violence. Non-violence in actions, words, and thoughts. In other words, LOVE. A love that embraces all creation. Big or small.

Violence stems from fear, so in order to conquer violence and achieve ahimsa, one must conquer fear. To conquer fear, which of course is easier said than done, you must change your mindset. If you alter your outlook on life and realize that fear is solely a figment of your imagination, then you are on your way.

Ahimsa refers to all types of non-violence. One of which is non-violence towards living creatures. We must look upon all of creation with love, believing that every single creature on Earth has as much a right to be here as we do, while also believing that all living beings on Earth are connected in one way or another. Ahimsa is a major reason for many people to change their diet to a cruelty-free vegetarian or vegan diet. Personally, as a vegetarian, my reasoning for no longer eating meat stems from the idea that I do not want to play part in any violence towards other living creatures. I can live more at harmony with myself and who I am knowing that I am no longer contributing to something that I don’t believe in.

Ahimsa, of course, includes non-violence toward other people as well. This can be tricky for some, because when someone makes you angry, your first reaction may not be to engage in violent acts, but violent words and especially violent thoughts can be way more difficult to control. However, Iyengar lays it out in a way that makes it a little easier to imagine. Basically, opposition without love leads to violence. A yogi should oppose the evil in the wrong-doer; they should not oppose the wrong-doer himself. This way, the yogi can have love (aka non-violence) toward the wrong-doer while simultaneously opposing the evil that has been done.

The third type of non-violence may be both the most important and the most difficult. This is non-violence toward yourself. Trust me, I know how easy it is to speak badly of yourself. I know that it’s even easier to think negatively about yourself or your body. And unfortunately, I know that it’s sometimes even easy to be violent toward yourself in a more active way. This is where the practice comes in. For me, being non-violent toward other living creatures and other people comes pretty naturally. But being non-violent toward myself? That’s a different story. It will forever be a work in progress for me. A practice. The first step toward ahimsa in this case, is awareness. If you choose to practice non-violence toward yourself, if you are aware that this is something you are working on, you can begin to catch yourself. The next time you say something negative about your body, you will notice it. Don’t dwell on it; don’t get angry with yourself for saying these things. Just notice it. Notice how it makes you feel. Remember that this is not how you deserve to be treated. And let it go. Do better next time. The next time you have a negative thought about yourself, stop. Notice it. Apologize to yourself, and forgive yourself. Finally, if you catch yourself being negative in a more active manner by intentionally or unintentionally treating your body in a harmful way (this can come from overeating, harmful drugs, alcohol in large amounts, excessive exercise, other types of self-harm), take notice. And work harder to minimize these actions in your life. But most importantly, FORGIVE YOURSELF. (And please, if your self-harm becomes serious and hazardous to your health and well-being, seek help. You aren’t alone. And there is no shame in reaching out to someone who can guide you in the right direction toward recovery and peace.) Opposition without love leads to violence. You may not agree with what you are doing to yourself, but you MUST always love yourself. Oppose the evil in the wrong-doer, not the wrong-doer himself. In short, be kind to yourself. And when you’re not (because you’re human, and it happens), forgive yourself.

2. Satya translates to truth and is considered the highest rule of conduct. The meaning is pretty simple: be truthful. Be truthful in thought, word, and deed. Untruthful thought leads to untruthful speech, so basically practice thinking about what you say before you say it. Iyengar states that there are many sins of speech, including: abuse and obscenity, dealing in falsehoods, telling tales, and ridiculing what others find sacred. Your life should be based upon truth. Iyengar presents the equation: REALITY = LOVE + TRUTH. This is super powerful if you really think about it. Live your life in a truthful way and with lots of love. This is reality in its purest form. Isn’t that the kind of reality you would like to live in?

3. Asteya translates to non-stealing. This yama is broken down into misappropriation, breach of trust, mismanagement, and misuse. Non-stealing does not only mean not taking something that doesn’t belong to you without the owner’s permission; it also means not using something for a different purpose than intended or for a longer period of time than intended. Iyengar explains in Light on Yoga (link at the bottom of this post): “The desire to possess and enjoy what another has, drives a person to do evil deeds. From this desire spring the urge to steal and the urge to covet.” Iyengar believes that a yogi should reduce his physical needs to the bare minimum, because if he has too many things that he doesn’t actually need, in a way he is a thief. A yogi should also not crave material things, because this makes him weak and can leave him unfocused.

4. Brahmacharya translates to continence. However, Iyengar clarifies that, in modern times, this does not mean a yogi must be celibate. Instead, this means a yogi must practice control of physical sensations, mental fluctuations, and intellectual contemplation. Translation: use your energy wisely. Use your energy to move you further along your path as a yogi. Don’t waste your energy on negative thoughts or materialistic desires; instead, focus your energy on kindness and on practicing to obtain that inner happiness and peace that yoga is helping us achieve.

5. Aparigraha translates to non-coveting. Yogis should live a simple life. Basically, do not hoard. Train your mind to not feel like you are lacking anything. Minimalism is a great practice for yogis, because Iyengar states that everything you really need will come by itself at the right time. So, yogis should be satisfied with whatever they have and whatever comes their way, because that’s the way it’s meant to be. Being satisfied with what you have, rather than chasing down more and more of what you think you need, will lead to peace.

The yamas are considered to be the roots of the tree of yoga, because all other limbs stem from these principles. In order to obey these commandments, it might just take some simple changes to your thinking. But these changes can really affect the peace you feel in your own life. So, why not? Give it a try. Practice these yamas in your life in these next coming weeks. Work on minimizing your violent thoughts toward others and yourself, tell the truth, don’t steal anything including other’s (and your own) time, focus your energy in a positive direction, and practice being satisfied with what you have. Simple, right? See, you’re already on your way to becoming a beautiful, little yogi.

Stay tuned for the next post on the second limb of yoga, the Niyamas. Also, if you have ANY questions at all, please email me at nicol.eliz.yoga@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you!

Note: my study of this limb of yoga came from Light on Yoga and The Tree of Yoga, both by B.K.S. Iyengar.

What Is A Yogi? (And How Do I Become One)- Part One: What Is Yoga?

What do you picture when you hear the word yogi? Do you picture a “hot” girl decked out in Lululemon, carrying a Starbucks latte and a yoga mat under her arm? Do you picture a girl in a bikini doing handstands on the beach? Do you picture an Indian man in a pose that you could never imagine being able to do? When you hear the word yogi, do you picture yourself?

I wanted to spend a little time talking about what I believe a yogi is, and I want to give you some insight on how to become one. Because most likely, yoga is not what you think it is. Did you know that the yoga you think of, the physical yoga practice, is only one of the eight limbs of yoga? Yes, EIGHT. Yoga is so much more than what meets the westernized eye. So, I’m going to dedicate the next ten blog posts to breaking down the practice of yoga, its eight limbs, and how you (yes, YOU) can become a yogi.

A yogi is defined as someone who follows the path of yoga. So, let’s start at the beginning: What is yoga? The literal meaning of yoga is to bind, to join or to attach. It also means union, and it is most commonly understood as the union of the body with the mind and the mind with the soul. I think it could also apply to several other unions. The union of breath and movement. The union of people in their communities. The union of a person with their environment and their surroundings. Basically, yoga has the power and the means to bring people together and most importantly, to bring you closer to yourself.

How many of you think yoga is just stretching? Or for those of you who have actually practiced yoga, how many of you think it’s a great workout? How many of you think it’s a weird cult-like, hippie religion? Okay, so yoga may include stretching and can be a great workout, but no, it is not a religion. It is a practice. It’s a lifestyle. And it is so much more than stretching and strengthening and burning calories (and if you don’t believe you burn many calories practicing yoga, you haven’t tried Sun Salutations. Hint: more about these later).

Yoga is an ancient tradition dating back 5,000 to 10,000 years ago, developed in Northern India to gain mastery over the mind, the senses and the emotions resulting in spiritual growth. The first time a yoga master brought the practice of yoga to America was thought to be in the late 1800s to the early 1900s. Hatha Yoga, which is a yoga style that is physically based and designed to rejuvenate the body and prolong life, is the style of yoga that is typically practiced in America and was originally developed as a way to prepare one for meditation. Over the past few decades, Hatha Yoga has really begun to gain popularity in America and has kind of taken over as the norm when it comes to yoga style. Unfortunately, most studios here focus solely on the physical practice of yoga, with the occasional breath work and meditation, leaving a lot of us misinformed about what the practice of yoga is truly all about. Of course, there are many yogis in America who understand the full practice of yoga and do everything they can to pass this onto their students. However, the general view of yoga in this country has been limited to the physical practice, especially for those who have never tried it. This is an idea that I hope will shift in time, and I am passionate about shining light on the true practice of yoga and sharing it with as many people as possible.

Although the physical practice of yoga is wonderful and is a powerful source of self-transformation on its own, I think the other aspects of this beautiful practice are just as life-changing, and absolutely worth learning more about and incorporating into our lives. Besides, it’s never (EVER) a bad thing to learn more about the unfamiliar. Being a student is a big part of being a yogi, and that means forever looking for new opportunities to learn and study and grow.

My next few blog posts are going to be dedicated to diving deeper into each of the eight limbs of yoga. These eight limbs are basically guidelines (designed by Patanjali – one of the original and most honored yoga sages, creator of The Yoga Sutras) on how to live a meaningful life and are the basis of a yoga practice.

1. Yamas (universal moral commandments)
2. Niyamas (rules of conduct)
3. Asana (posture/physical practice)
4. Pranayama (breath)
5. Pratyahara (control of the senses)
6. Dharana (concentration/stillness of the mind)
7. Dhyana (meditation)
8. Samadhi (state of super consciousness)

You will learn what each of these limbs entail, how they all connect and support each other, and how to incorporate them into your daily life. These eight limbs are a practice, something you have to keep working on and coming back to over and over again. A practice that you dedicate your life to, in order to become the best possible version of yourself. A practice that is by no means easy, but always worth it. This practice is yoga.

B.K.S Iyengar nailed it when he said:

“As a well cut diamond has many facets, each reflecting a different color of light, so
does the word yoga, each facet reflecting a different shade of meaning and revealing
different aspects of the entire range of human endeavor to win inner peace and
happiness.” (Light on Yoga)

Yoga can give you these things, inner peace and happiness. But it’s a never-ending practice. And there are many ways to get there. Many different aspects to consider. And yoga for one person may look completely different for the next person. So, it requires an open mind, an open heart, creativity, and a willingness to practice self-love. Because yoga and self-love and creativity are all one in the same. And anyone, even you, can become a yogi. So, the next time you hear the word yogi, I want you to picture yourself.

This Is Love

As a young girl, she gave boys too much of her. More than they asked for. More than they deserved. It’s not even that she was trying to be the girl they wanted her to be and she was giving them what she thought they wanted. She was just herself. Completely and vulnerably herself. And she gave them every bit of that.

She wanted them to see that she was different. She wasn’t like all the other girls. She was as deep as an ocean. She was passionate. An old soul. Fun, yet soulful. Silly, yet intellectual. Beautiful. It would work for awhile. They would have great conversations. Have some laughs. But the thing is, the boys always ended up picking other girls over her. Girls that were just like the rest of them.

She gave these boys all of her, and they turned away and went, instead, for girls with less soul. These boys never asked for her, but she gave them everything anyway. And silly girl, she thought it was love. And this “love” always left her feeling that maybe she’s not as special as she thought. Maybe she wasn’t enough. Maybe she should be different. That is until she met the only boy who’s ever come to her and asked her gently, and sweetly, to give her whole self to him. He wanted to see more. He wanted all of her. And he wanted to treasure it. He wanted to keep it.

She’s been told she was beautiful her entire life. But he was the first one to make her believe it. He was the first to make her feel it. He made her feel special for being who she was when no one was looking. The parts of herself she was most self-conscious about? Those were the parts he loved the most. And the parts of herself that she was most proud of? He loved those, too. And encouraged every dream that she had. She wasn’t looking for his love. Wasn’t expecting it. But there he was, standing in front of her, offering his heart. No matter the questions she had and the doubt she felt, he knew that he needed her. And that she needed him. He knew that they were supposed to be together. He just knew, with a certainty that took her breath away.

It wasn’t complicated; he was playing no games. He promised to be patient and to never give up. Because he saw something that she just couldn’t yet see. But eventually she realized, that this… this friendship, this closeness, this comfortability, these deep conversations, these confessions of dreams, this laughter… This was love. He wanted her. The vulnerable, fun, emotional, soulful, silly, intellectual, passionate, beautiful her. He wanted her heart. He wanted her soul, and he was sweet enough to ask for it. And, thankfully, she was smart enough to give it to him. To give him everything. All of herself. Because now, they share a life. A heart. A soul. Because now, she knows that she is enough. Just as she is. This…. This is love.

Feeling Uninspired? Run For Your Life

Are you waiting for the right moment? The right moment to chase your dream? To follow your passion? Are you waiting for the right moment for your life to begin? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be feeling stuck. In a rut. Uninspired? Tired? Do you feel like your life is suffocating you?

I am someone who really does believe in magic. I believe in fate. I believe that everything happens for a reason and that everything will work out as it should. But I used to be someone who would sit around waiting for everything to work itself out. I was stuck, suffocating, running on a hamster wheel. Going nowhere. Waiting, waiting, waiting. Until I got sick of it. I jumped off that hamster wheel and starting running. I felt my feet hit the pavement, and I realized that I was starting to make progress. Yes, I was working hard, but I was moving forward. Once I found the courage to jump from the comfort of the wheel, I found that my life began. I started to actually get somewhere. I was meeting goals. I wasn’t wasting my energy; I was using it to make my life better. Instead of running on a wheel, fixed in place, experiencing the same things over and over and complaining that nothing good was happening for me, I started coming upon new things. Experiencing new places. Running upon new doors and walking through them.

While I was sitting around waiting for my life to happen, it turns out that my life was sitting around waiting for ME to MAKE shit happen. No, it’s not easy. Yes, it’s a lot of work, and you will be forced to leave your comfort zone. But running on pavement, moving toward a destination, moving toward my DREAM is so, so much better than giving energy to the wrong areas of my life, running in place, going nowhere.

I know jumping off the wheel can be scary. What if you fall? Scrape your knees? Twist your ankle? That’s okay. You’ll be able to work through it. And once you get your pace down and use your breath to guide you and keep pushing you forward, nothing can stop you. You will feel like you are invincible. You will start to see inspiration all around you, and the ideas will start pouring in. You will be alive. And you will know, finally, that you are where you are supposed to be. You will no longer have any excuses. You will be making things happen for yourself. If you put in the work, you will be rewarded. Trust me. Lace up those running shoes, and get out there and hit the pavement. Chase down those dreams. You are the only one who can win this race that is your life. You are your only champion.

Through the Eyes of My Cat

Through the eyes of my cat, I am a provider. Provider of food. Provider of comfort. Provider of shelter.

Through the eyes of my cat, I am a lover. Lover of snuggles. Lover of playtime. Lover of blanket forts.

dsc_0747

Through the eyes of my cat, I am beautiful. Strong. Funny. Compassionate. I have a soothing voice and a kind face.

dsc_0899

Through the eyes of my cat, I can be stern. Sometimes disapproving. Sometimes bossy. Sometimes sad.

dsc_0122

Through the eyes of my cat, I am a protector. I am a friend. I am a companion.

Through the eyes of my cat, I am perfect. I am worthy. I am love.

dsc_0823

Through the eyes of my cat, I can do no wrong. I am a place of comfort. A warm body. A soft kiss. I am gentle. Thoughtful. Caring. Loving. I am home. I am mama.

dsc_0936

When I think of myself through the eyes of my cat, I am everything I could ever wish to be. My cat sees so much beauty in me, so much goodness, that I must accept it to be true. Therefore, I declare that I am all of these things. These beautiful things. When I think of myself through the eyes of my cat, I am enough. I am worthy enough to go out into the world and shine. To spread my love and my warmth and my kindness to those around me. Maybe we should all try to give ourselves to the world in the same way we give ourselves to our cats. Maybe we should open our hearts wide to the world, allowing all of the goodness inside of us to spill out into the streets, washing away all the pain, and the fear, and the self-doubt. Maybe we can learn the act of self-love from our feline friends. And maybe then the world will see us the same way we are seen through the eyes of our cats, simultaneously feeling the joy of being a cat and the joy of being loved by a cat. Because maybe the simple act of loving and being loved is enough to melt away all the cold hatred in this world. Maybe love, from a cat or otherwise, is the answer.

Maybe, just maybe… L O V E is all we need.

DSC_0044.jpg

(**Photos of Milo & Clarkson by Me)

xoxo nicol.eliz

4 Things I’ve Learned From My Boyfriend

The beginning of a new year is always such a magical time for me. New beginnings. A clean slate. Endless possibilities. The world is a canvas just begging for me to splatter it with the paint of my soul. This year especially, I feel very deeply that this new year symbolizes a true change for me. Something new and exciting is coming, I can feel it. And in the wake of this big change, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting. Checking in with myself. My desires. My dreams. This year will be a year of passion and inspiration and creativity and making my dreams come true.

One of my biggest inspirations in this area is my most favorite person in the entire world. My best friend. My partner. My love. My heart. I am so grateful for the love that we have and so grateful for the life and the laughs and the special moments that we share. I recognize what we have as a rare and special thing, and I feel truly lucky to get to spend so many of my breaths here on earth with him. He is my strongest supporter. My biggest inspiration. My number one fan.

I decided to share some of my favorite things I’ve learned from him, because although he likes to tell everyone that I’m the smart one, he certainly has no shortage of wisdom. And I believe that everyone can benefit from a little more of the following:

Say F*** It
I am someone who stresses out about every little thing, and although I tend to pride myself on my ability to be empathetic, I often throw my wants and needs aside to please others. I am constantly worrying about upsetting someone or letting others down. I have an obsessive need to please everyone around me, and I usually end up suffering myself in one way or another as a result. This need of mine tends to leave me in a crippling ball of anxiety, which in turn stresses my boyfriend out because he hates to see me hurting. Recently, he was fed up with me stressing out over something that basically boiled down to this fear of disappointing someone, and he said “You need to say ‘F*** it’ more often.” We’ve since joked around about it, but in that moment, he was 100% sincere. And it really resonated with me. He’s so right. This is my life, and it’s the only one I get. Do I really want to spend the majority of it worrying about things that don’t mean anything? Worrying about disappointing people who are most likely too concerned with their own anxieties to even be affected by my decisions? No. I have more important things that I could be focusing my energy on. So, from that point on, I vowed to say “F*** it” more often. To not let the little things get to me. To be open to the possibility of disappointing other people if I am doing what genuinely feels right in my soul. I encourage you to say “F*** it” with me, and live your life for YOU.

Be Unapologetically Yourself
One thing I’ve been working on a lot these last few years is caring less about what other people think of me. I’m still not quite where I want to be, but it’s definitely becoming a lot easier to be authentic and to let my true self shine no matter where I am or who I am around. Since I started dating my boyfriend over five years ago, I’ve learned what it means to be adored, even loved, for being 100% myself. And let me tell you, I am one strange girl. But he has seen it all, and he loves me so much. I started from that space of feeling celebrated for being myself in my own home, and I’ve begun to branch out, letting other people see the real me. It’s scary, and I have a long way to go. But it’s necessary to be authentic in this world. And it feels damn good. It’s a bit easier, too, when I see my boyfriend being himself wherever we are, whoever we are with. He’s not worried about other people not liking him. He is just concerned with being himself and doing what feels good to him. Goals… am I right?

Work Hard
My boyfriend is one of the hardest workers I know. He is not someone to half-heartedly do anything. If he’s committed to something, he puts all of his heart into it. He strives for perfection, while still recognizing the fact that perfection is more of a general direction than a specific destination. He puts long hours into the things that he cares about, and he believes that hard work is the only way to succeed. Any time I am having a tantrum about not being good enough at something, he gets fired up. He believes that no one is good at anything without hard work, dedication, and practice. Maybe most importantly, he believes no one is good at anything without at first failing. He encourages me to read more, watch/listen to experts, and practice practice practice. If I want to be good at something, I need to get my hands dirty and put in some serious work. I need to fail at it and fail again. And then most importantly, get back up, dust off my hands, and try again.

Never Give Up
Before my boyfriend and I started dating, I wasn’t so sure about the idea of us. But he was certain from the very beginning. After he was extremely brave in confessing how he felt about me, he told me that he knew that I didn’t feel the same about him yet. But he promised to never give up on me, because he knew that we were supposed to be together. And sure enough, after months of patience on his part and months of me attempting to get my shit together and realize that he was right, he was there for me. He kept his promise; he never gave up. This is also true in his professional life. He was in a job that he hated, but he knew where he wanted to go. He was persistent in contacting prospective employers; reaching out to hundreds of companies until someone decided to give him a chance. And now he is a rising star in his industry. So, never give up on your dreams. You are the only one who can make them come true, and if you are persistent enough and you work hard enough, good things are bound to come your way. But you have to put in the work. And you can never EVER give up.

So, find people who inspire you and encourage you to become the person you were always meant to be. I am lucky enough to be spending my life with one of my biggest inspirations. He is living proof that it is possible to live your dreams. As long as you say “F*** it” to the haters and insignificant stress that life throws your way, be unapologetically yourself, work super hard, and never give up, then you really can’t go wrong.