I Weigh: Learning to Love Who I Am and My Own Accomplishments

@i_weigh Instagram bio

Jameela Jamil (@jameelajamilofficial) is a British actress and model. Until she started her stint on The Good Place, I had no idea who she was. Statuesque and beautiful, she embodied her character, Tahani Al-Jamil, to perfection. Hilariously playing a wealthy, vapid philanthropist that did everything in her power to appease her parents in the shadow of her do no wrong sister, Jameela seemed to know a thing or two about portraying someone in that vein.

Turns out she’s far from being that sometimes insufferable person in real life. In fact, she’s an intelligent activist that is funny and gorgeous from the inside out. A few days before the official start of spring 2018, Jameela launched a page on Instagram called @i_weigh with a post that included several statements on how she perceived herself. What she wrote highlighted the positives in her life. It didn’t talk about her body or her looks and it certainly wasn’t focusing on the negatives or the things she couldn’t change.

Through the year, @i_weigh organically blossomed and continued to strive for the embodiment of what it represented. According to Jameela, it’s a “movement for us to feel valuable and see how amazing we are beyond the flesh on our bones.” Stigmas were taking a backseat while women and men were showing support for one another.

There wasn’t enough room on my photo for everything I wanted to say.

There are probably a number of things I missed in my own I Weigh photo, but I tried not to take myself so seriously as I did my best to remind myself of my worth. I was also honest with my “faults.” At a time of year when a large number of people make resolutions that are often related to outer appearance rather than inner growth, I think that @i_weigh is doing an excellent job of shedding light on the need for more self-acceptance and improvement on both mental and physical (for health reasons) levels.

This is how I choose to start 2019. Hopefully this post will serve as my prompt over the next 12 months to love me for me and all of the things I have already accomplished or will in the future.

Happy New Year everyone!

Things I Learned From a Book About Finding Love

One of the daily practices prescribed in the book, Calling in "The One."

One of the daily practices prescribed in the book, Calling in “The One.”

My friend talked a couple of us into starting a book club with her. The book was Calling in “The One”: 7 Weeks to Attract the Love of Your Life by Katherine Woodward Thomas. Needless to say, I was skeptical. It ultimately took half a year to finish, but I did it. Six months for a seven week program, or approximately 178 days versus the 49 it should supposedly take. The point is, it was more drawn out than it should have been.

Nevertheless, we juggled our work schedules, hobbies, social lives along with the readings and exercises, and, eventually, we managed to finish our final discussion. It has been about a month since our group last met, and I’m not sure the premise of the book worked. It may have for one of my friends, just not for me. Not yet, anyway. Granted, it doesn’t guarantee love is going to magically appear in your life within the time allotted on the cover.

Rather, as I worked my way through the pages from cover to cover, I understood that it’s not about doing things to make you seem more attractive on the surface. Instead, it’s a matter of getting to know who you are as a person, aiming to better yourself, and knowing that what you put out there is what you hope to receive in return because that’s what you deserve, for better or worse.

Honestly, I never imagined I’d read a book like this. I didn’t think it would come down to that. Then again, I never used to think I’d try speed dating or online dating, so never say never! However, despite my reservations, I found the author’s writings to be quite interesting and insightful, even when I felt like the examples didn’t quite apply to me. So, if you’re interested in giving Calling in “The One” a go, I’d recommend it.

If you’d prefer not to, but you’re wondering what kinds of nuggets are tucked away in the tome, I thought it would be good for me to list out the most important things I learned (or, at least, was reminded of) and to share them with you.

We are connected to everyone and everything.

We are connected to everyone and everything.

1. We might all live in our own little bubbles at times, but it’s important to remember that you are connected to everyone and everything. Think of the butterfly effect.

2. It’s necessary to make room for people in your life. If you cannot literally set aside space or time for them, you’re probably not mentally ready for a relationship.

3. Know what makes you happy and understand that you are allowed to be a bit selfish. Ask for what you want and need. Be okay with what people are willing and able to give to you.

4. Be the person you want to attract in your life. For example, you can’t expect to snag someone who’s ambitious if you’re perpetually lazy.

5. Have an idea of what you want in life. Vision boards can help you better visualize your goals and possibly guide you towards them.

6. Understand that you’re a work in progress and so is everyone else in this world. People are not perfect, but it’s important to be the best we’re capable of being at any given moment.

7. Believe that sometimes a loss is actually a gain. Often times, things happen for a reason, even if the reason isn’t clear at first.

8. Avoiding toxic ties and all around negativity is paramount in life. If we stew in all the bad, it makes it really hard to wash it out. Strive to be as positive as possible and only keep those whom you trust and who make you happy in your inner circle. Read about my quest for positivity here.

9. Take each mistake or failure as an opportunity to learn and improve yourself.

10. Life and love may not turn out to be exactly as you pictured, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Be open to possibilities.

11. Nurture any passions you have or think you might have because they build your character and make you who you are.

Simple pleasures can make a big impact.

Simple pleasures can make a big impact.

12. Live in the moment. Appreciate things as they happen because it may be your one and only chance to experience it. Show gratitude for even the smallest things because simple pleasures often make the biggest impact.

13. Know your own boundaries and don’t be afraid to draw lines if you need to. Others should have the decency to respect them. You’re allowed to say no and to speak up for yourself.

14. Your worries really can be put in a box and forgotten about until you wish to bring them out again. This one probably requires a little bit of explaining. One of the practices we were tasked with doing one week was to select a box, decorate it and then fill it with all of your worries. When you were done, you literally sealed them away. It made me realize that life can be overwhelming. We’re often trying to deal with multiple things at once. Yet, sometimes, it’s best to deal with difficult situations one at a time. It’s kind of a daunting thought, but if something isn’t solved right away, it’ll always be there later. For me, when I put my stresses on paper and then tucked them into my wisdom box, I felt so much lighter, and, truthfully, since I did that, I haven’t really dwelt as much on each and every thing that had been weighing me down.

15. There’s no point in having regrets about the past. You can’t change the past (unless you have a time machine). Just be sure to do the things you want to do now (as long as it’s feasible for you), so you don’t have any regrets in the future.

16. There are things I’d love to change about myself physically. However, it’ll either take a lot of time or it’s simply not going to happen (save for a body swap), so know that nobody has a truly perfect body (not even supermodels). You can be thankful for every inch of yourself for some reason or another. Ex. I wish my legs were longer and a lot slimmer, but, hey, I have legs and they give me the ability to walk. Win!

17. Cultivate solitude. You need to know who you are by yourself to know who you are when you’re with others. Read my post about being alone, but not lonely here.

18. Take some risks. Be a “yes” person.

Writing this post is my version of a personal risk. I probably would have been embarrassed to tell people about something like this in the past, but, nowadays, I believe that sharing is caring. I hope these words may inspire some of you or help you on your journeys in life and love. All the best!

Living a Positive Life

Folded papers with my positivity notes written on them.

Folded papers with my positivity notes written on them.

I’m not one to make resolutions when the new year rolls around. My track record when it comes to seeing them through isn’t great. So, I’m not calling this a resolution. It’s more a change of heart and mind, and this is something I opted to do in the last quarter of 2014.

Most of the previous year, I endeavoured, along with a couple of friends, to work through a book that was going to help us find love. Maybe it sounds a little silly, but it’s not like cupid had been knocking on my doorstep, so I figured I had nothing to lose. While not everything discussed in the book and during our club sessions felt entirely applicable to me, it was still an eye opening experience that helped to pave a little more of the path I should strive to follow.

All-in-all, the book wasn’t some immediate solution to solving my woes in the relationship department. However, it did give me more insight into the things that are important to me, and important to opening myself up to receiving what I need and want.

More than anything, I realized that I was beating myself up too much. I’ve always been one to compare myself to others. Yet, I understand that doing that serves no purpose. Over time I’ve begun to see that everything isn’t always what it seems. The people who have what look like picture perfect lives on the surface, may be suffering inside. Who knows, right?

The biggest takeaway for me as we reached the half way mark of the book was that I had to stop letting negativity into my life. I have always prided myself on being a very positive person. I hate to see sadness or disappointment, so I try to be a light. Sometimes it’s hard though. I’m well aware that things aren’t always sunshine and roses. Watching or reading news stories can get me down fast, thinking about where I am in my career and knowing I’m not even close to where I want to be bums me out, and other peoples’ consistently pessimistic views of the world push me to grow weary, but I finally decided that I had to counteract that.

As crazy as it may sound, I now believe that if you think and act optimistically – see the glass half full – you’ll feel a thousand times better. You can’t expect to think bad thoughts and not have them continue to affect you. Just saying you’re doing well when someone asks, even if you’re really not, works wonders. Honestly, it’s all a state of mind.

One of the best ways to do this is to remember all the things you’re grateful for. Do this every single day, not just once a year on Thanksgiving. Appreciate the little moments.

A joy jar that holds all of my wonderful memories until I shake them out come New Year's Eve 2015 and read them one by one...I think I need a bigger one!

A joy jar that holds all of my wonderful memories until I shake them out come New Year’s Eve 2015 and read them one by one…I think I need a bigger one!

That’s why I’ve started contributing to my joy jar. Every single time something that is nice, happy, funny, exciting or any other number of positively skewed adjectives happens, I’m going to write about it on a piece of paper, fold it up and place it into some sort of container. When New Year’s Eve 2015 finally arrives, I’m dumping each piece of paper out, and I’m going to go through them one by one to remind myself of just how fabulous my life has been and is. Big or small, I want my memories to be good ones.

Here are some rules that I think are essential to live by:

Be part of the solution. Pursue your interests, you never know where they may lead. Be a good friend. Listen to people, sometimes it’s all they require of you. Be your own person; avoid comparisons to others. Love fully and truthfully. Be giving and forgiving. Don’t hold things in, it never ends well. Be in the moment. Accept compliments. Be kind because kindness spreads. Smile.

Being Alone Does Not Mean Being Lonely

A reflective selfie taken on a trip to Toronto.

A reflective selfie taken on a trip to Toronto.

I’m very aware that my writings have become very food-centric these past several months. Chalk it up to having a goal to try as many top 100 Edmonton restaurants as possible and sticking to it, which I’ll have you know is actually a difficult thing for me. To my friends, it may look like I tend to have my ducks in a row, but, more often than not, I find myself procrastinating. The fact that I started on a journey, so to speak, and have managed to continue with it this long is a feat. I talk as if I’ve never accomplished anything in my life, but that is not true. I saw through finishing my undergrad and masters programs, things I can be proud of, but I’m sorry to say that I’ll probably never have a musical career because I gave up playing the guitar after two years of lessons.

That intro is a convoluted way of saying that I’m amazed I’ve run a marathon with this whole blogging thing thus far, and while I love eating and writing about my food adventures, that is not the only topic I want to discuss on my site. The name of my blog was a thoughtful combination of the things I really enjoy in life, and my articles or stories have evolved to incorporate happenings or interests that have come up along the way. I want to get back to making this a more well-rounded conversation, one that isn’t entirely focused on dining and/or an Edmonton-only audience.

Therefore, my chat with a co-worker/friend after work this past Tuesday gave me an idea for something that I feel is important to talk about.

The discussion came about because she was wondering why I was still at the office past 5pm. I told her it was because I was going to the Bahamas concert later that evening at the church across the street, and I was going to kill some time on the computer until the show. Of course, concerts being typically social things, she asked who I was going with. My reply was that I was going by myself. While friends, including her, were originally interested in joining me, none of them came through with purchasing their tickets, and it left me attending solo. I could easily have lied and said someone was meeting me there, so I wouldn’t sound like a “loser,” but I went with the truth because there’s no shame in doing anything by yourself. Her response was that “I was so cool” to do that, which I take as a great compliment because, I guess, it means I’m a secure enough person to not need anyone else. It also made me question why she thought it was such a unique thing. I used to regularly sit in fancy restaurants eating meals alone. The dishes were delicious. Not having anyone to go with wouldn’t stop me. I’ve gone to plays or to see films as a single. I’ve traveled without others and discovered what was unknown to me in cities by using my own direction-challenged mind. The thing is, I hadn’t done that in quite a while. This week’s concert was the first time in months, maybe even a year, that I’d find myself alone.

Sitting by myself inside McDougall United Church, waiting for Bahamas to start their show.

Sitting by myself inside McDougall United Church, waiting for Bahamas to start their show.

I’ve spent more time out and about this year than I can remember, and usually with other people. Don’t get me wrong, I like being a social butterfly, appreciating the time I get to spend with all of my friends (goodness knows that life is fleeting and things change so quickly, so take whatever you can with those that matter – I’ll miss you my latest food buddy!). There are plenty of benefits to spending time with them and my family. One situation is trying a new restaurant as there is only so much you can eat on your own, but with multiple people you can usually taste a little bit of everything. However, when I think on it, I do feel that I have missed ‘me.’ I’ve become so accustomed to having a companion for everything that I’ve forgotten how great it can be to do things on your own. Whether it’s getting dinner at an eatery, seeing a live show, watching a movie at the theatre or attending a conference, there is a kind of power to doing something by yourself without the need to present an image of who you believe you should be to those who think they know you. This not only applies to in-person situations, but the virtual world of social media as well. I don’t require that each acquaintance know my every move and can judge me for it. You shouldn’t crave that either.

Now, I’m not saying that I think you need to lock yourselves indoors and become hermits. Alone time can always be in the presence of other people. What I’m talking about is the intention of experiencing something without the company of close friends or family. It’s a deliberate attempt to step out of your boundaries, be independent, confident in being on your own, allowing yourself an opportunity to have a deeper understanding of who you really are, and possibly creating new connections. I know some people might be self-conscious in front of strangers, but that’s what they are, strangers. They don’t know you, so it shouldn’t matter if they think it’s weird that you’re on your own participating in things usually relegated to pairs or groups.

Heading to the Toronto City Hall during a visit in 2012. Doing one of the things I love the most - photography!

Heading to the Toronto City Hall during a visit in 2012. Doing one of the things I love the most – photography!

Expectation is that you can’t be alone forever, and showing up without a plus one is sort of sad. I fall victim to that mentality at times. I know it becomes comfortable having a friend with you by your side because society puts so much emphasis on getting out there, being social and having a relationship (if you don’t have a date or some sort of online existence nowadays, you suddenly become an outcast), but I believe that taking the time to discover who you are devoid of the influence of others is crucial in building our character and finding out what we truly like or don’t like. I wasn’t born thinking this way though. As someone who grew up being pretty introverted, it was always a challenge for me to allow myself to be free and willing to do what society dictated. I wasn’t a talkative child. I wasn’t outgoing. I was quiet and shy. Yet, I have moved past that. I’m no longer the wallflower that prefers to stand back, but I have also come to terms with the need and want to do things alone when I know I must. More people have to understand the importance of that to one’s psyche. Whether you’re single, dating or married, I think it’s pertinent to do this throughout your life.

Movies always show people going off on some retreat to “find themselves” as if a weekend away is going to lead to some epiphanies. It goes without saying, real life doesn’t always work that quickly. It requires a constant willingness to evolve and an understanding that answers don’t always come so easily. Yet, if you spend the time to get to know you for you, what you may need might not be or seem so out of reach.

A beautiful shot of the entrance to Somerset House in London. Taken on a solo excursion to see the Valentino exhibit in 2013. I needed a break from my family who had accompanied me on the vacation.

A beautiful shot of the entrance to Somerset House in London. Taken on a solo excursion to see the Valentino exhibit in 2013. I needed a break from my family who had accompanied me on the vacation.

This week’s realization was like a collision of Tuesday’s conversation and the book a couple of friends and I are working through. We started a book club to help each other through our ‘aloneness’ stemming from singledom in what feels like a sea of couples of late. Calling in ‘The One’ was the chosen tome. Still tackling the included exercises, we have just completed Week 5 out of 7, which ends on the idea of cultivating solitude, so should you be uncomfortable going out in public to do things often meant for two or more, work on carving out 5 to 15 minutes or an hour during your week to do nothing at home.

Shut everything down, sit in stillness and listen to what your mind and body say. Most of us have been programmed to think TV, video games and music help us to fill time and drown out boredom, but all of that is really white noise. It is good to veg out with a favourite show once in a while; however, it often becomes our go to. Instead, take your inner monologue to heart and build a clearer picture of what will create a more fulfilled life. Try to use your alone time to be productive and nurture the ideas that you think may become your passions. It can be a fun process that may include learning how to cook wonderful meals, writing an actual letter to a good friend, painting a watercolour, working on a DIY project, focusing on a healthier lifestyle, among many things. One of those growing passions may push you to venture outside on your own, so you can further explore those personal ambitions.

Communal events, when experienced as a singular individual, serve as reminders that there are so many more things and people out there in the world that we have yet to discover and that are simply a step away from the circles that we have already established. You might be surprised to see that you can go to an event without a companion and have just as much fun because there’s nothing wrong with being alone. In fact, it’s pretty darn cool.

Spreading Positivity & Inspiring Others

Brighten someone's day and then pay it forward!

Brighten someone’s day and then pay it forward!

I’ve got an experiment in the works!

Starting in December I’ll be handing out positivity cards to friends and strangers. My hope is that they will share with me how they felt about receiving the note. Once they have, I ask that they pass their card onto another deserving soul.

For more information about this idea and to leave me a message, click here to head to the “Brighter Days Ahead” page.

And, if you’re not in the Edmonton area, but are in the mood to lift someone else’s spirits, just write a note and pass it forward. Then come back and tell me about the recipient’s reaction and how you felt about spreading some joy.

Peace & love!

Crystal