Hi, friends! And happy 2018! Things have been a little quieter here on the blog lately. (At least in terms of new content for the year…I’m still catching up on holiday posts haha!) By now I’m sure you’ve figured out that it is so hard for me to stay on a consistent blogging schedule when I feel so far behind on all the things I want to share with you! Such is life, I suppose. I hope you all don’t mind that sometimes things get posted out of order or go up a little later than planned. This isn’t my full-time gig, so I have to just try my hardest with the time I’m given each week. At any rate, if you are afraid you might miss something I post, be sure to subscribe (over on the right-side) and an email will be sent out each time I publish something new! I just posted a camping recap from this past fall that you don’t want to miss!
Ok, let’s get right into today’s post. It’s a long one (sorry!), but it’s on a more personal note. So I hope you’ll take the time to read it and offer any suggestions or insights you have!
Times of quiet here on the blog tend to correspond to times in my life when I just need a break (or have so much on my plate that I don’t have an extra moment to spare).
I’ve been taking January (and the holiday season, in particular) a little slower this year to refocus on what matters most to me….and figuring out what those things are. There have been many a morning where I just sit quietly at a coffee shop early in the morning before anyone else gets there to reflect on the past year and to dream about the new one. This past semester was the most trying one I’ve ever experienced in my entire life (…and I’ve had some pretty bad ones). And while I’m immensely proud of what I accomplished, I wouldn’t go through that again for anything. It was just too hard and so emotionally (and physically) draining. With all this in mind, I wanted to treat the holiday break as a recharging and resetting opportunity for my health and well-being. So that’s exactly what I did (and am still doing to a certain degree even now).
P.S. – In case you were wondering, I’ve actually written an entire post about the struggles I dealt with during my qualifying exams. But I haven’t had enough courage to post and make it public yet. (Apparently I’m still dealing with them in my own way…) In time, I hope, I will have the courage to share more about it with you. In fact, sharing today’s post actually took an incredible amount of courage for me. So be gentle, please. 🙂
To be honest with you, one of the biggest stressors in my life (beyond those associated with my career, i.e. the qualifying exam this past year) has been the complete disaster that is my apartment. It’s Clutter Central. No exaggeration. It’s really bad. (I’ve still got “crap bins” from the nearly-constant moves I took as an undergraduate…and I’ve been in Boulder over 2 years now!) While this may not sound like a huge deal in comparison with some of the things I have had to handle this past year, it has weighed on me heavily every night for as far back as I can remember (think many many yearsssssss). I truly have just not had the time to devote to it. No time, guys. None! So coming back to Boulder the second week of January, I set out to change that, and I’ve been in a super de-cluttering mode ever since.
So what does de-cluttering have to do with taking things slow? And why am I talking about it on the blog today as a part of my annual New Year, New Me post?
Well, de-cluttering my home has given me so much more than simply a cleaner apartment (still not clean by the way, but getting there!). It’s taught me the significance of de-cluttering everything in your life…of removing the excess to make room for the necessary. It’s a concept I’ve been right on the cusp of since my first 10×10 Challenge less than a year ago and am just diving into more fully now.
Clutter not only makes me feel heavy and awful when I come home each night, it’s kept me from having healthy, prospering friendships. When you don’t feel comfortable inviting people over to your apartment because it’s such a disaster and simultaneously believe it’s rude to invite yourself over to other peoples’ places, you end up not spending much time with friends except on rare occasions when you go out to dinner or are invited over to their place. Throw in the fact that you spend all your weekends and spare time constantly cleaning and re-organizing your apartment so that you can have people over, and there isn’t much time left to spend with friends anyways. No place to hang out and no time to do it. It may sound a little dramatic, but at the end of the day that’s what it has come to for me. My friendships have been suffering because of all my clutter. Isn’t that a terrible thing to realize?!
And while clutter seems to be the logical choice as the cause to all my problems,
I have a feeling I whole-heartedly believe it is merely the symptom to something much deeper going on. So what could that something be?
I don’t think I’ve ever admitted it to anyone (even myself), but I have been hiding behind shopping and clothes for awhile now. After a particularly long and bad relationship/break-up starting around 2011, I began to use shopping as a means of therapy to numb myself from the emotional pain I was going through. You know that feeling I’m talking about, right? The mental high you get after buying something new for yourself? We all do it at one point in our life or another. We treat ourselves to something new as a reward for a success. But soon, this method of dealing with my pain became something more. It somehow started to transform into a belief that if I just had this top or this outfit, then I would feel complete and whole again. I know it sounds crazy (it definitely does to me, even now!), but that’s essentially what I began to do without even realizing it. Fast forward 7 years later and I’m dealing with the repercussions now.
Not only do I have an apartment full of more clothes than any one person needs in a lifetime, but I’m discovering that these clothes have in fact been weighing me down and keeping me from being the person I want and yearn to be! It’s crazy to think I have been using them as a crutch for so many years that I’ve forgotten why I started in the first place.
Here’s my reality now. I’m in a loving relationship where I am valued above anything else and never judged for being who I am. I have an amazing family who is so caring and supportive of everything I do. And I’ve got a once-in-a-lifetime position as a PhD student working with one of the most brilliant minds in field today and am working with freakin’ NASA on my research (my dream job)!! So why am I still insistent on buying things to make myself feel better and filling my apartment with excess that weighs me down?! I have more than enough in my life to make me feel whole and complete, right?
While the answer (and solution) will likely take much longer to figure out than a cup of coffee and a blog post, I do think it has a lot to do with getting comfortable in a certain way of living and not really thinking about what I’m doing on a day-to-day basis. It comes down to having awareness and taking action. And not having or doing either. Not acknowledging that I had a problem was the first mistake and then not caring enough to make a change was the second. Why change? I mean, change is uncomfortable and inconvenient and unnecessary? (or so I believed) It turns out, surviving and getting by from day-to-day (assignment-to-assignment, deadline-to-deadline) is not the same as living and thriving and really contributing to the overall value of life around me. I have the potential to be and give so much more than I have been. So much more! I have been selling myself short all these years and not treating the people I love with the time and quality of friendship they deserve.
Unfortunately, I think the issue goes much deeper than this. At the heart of it, I believe, is my self-worth. I’ve come to realize, over the past year in particular, that I have placed my self worth in things that don’t deserve them. Career success, clothing choices…appearance to the outside world. Don’t get me wrong, having a successful career and loving how you look are definitely things I still value and feel are an important part of life. But they aren’t everything. And they definitely don’t deserve my self-worth. At the end of the day, are these things (career, style, etc.) the ones that define who we are? If I were to take away your job, your trendy clothes, and any other security blankets you carry around with you, would you still feel like yourself? The answer is, you should! The answer for me was that I didn’t. I didn’t feel like I was enough, on my own. And perhaps I still don’t. Somewhere along the way, I lost confidence in who I was…in who I am.
Think about this…I’ve got just about everything I could ever hope for (the clothes, the boyfriend, the family, the career) and yet, I’ve still got this shopping habit that I can’t seem to kick. Why is that?!
A lot of it has to do with our society’s obsession with consumerism (something I’ll have to get into at a later time). But it’s also largely because I haven’t placed my self-worth in the one thing that matters. Myself.
I may not be the best student or engineer out there and I may not have the perfect style that everyone is envious of, but I do offer something unique that no one else can bring to the table–my unique perspective on the world and how I share it with others. It’s not about the tangible things we have in this lifetime that mean the most. It’s the intangible ones–the moments we spend with friends and the impressions we leave on loved ones and even strangers we meet on the bus–that mean the most. And for this reason, I’m beginning to value these attributes the most in myself, even more than the career I have or the clothing I wear. Allen often tells me it is my heart that makes me who I am. It’s my deep desire to genuinely love and care for others unconditionally that he values the most about me. And so I’m learning to redefine my self worth in something similar. My heart. My love. My value. Myself.
I don’t have any earth-shattering solutions to navigating this kind of self-worth issue. (If I did, I likely wouldn’t be in this situation to begin with!) But I do want you to know that I am figuring it out as I go and learning to be gentle with myself in the process. Not every day will be perfect, but doing something (anything) about it is better than standing still. And so I’m learning to listen to my body and my mind and to figure out how to bring a little more Kristin back into my life.
Since learning about my vulnerabilities, I’ve started making small but meaningful changes in my daily life. It started with cleaning out the clutter in my apartment and getting rid of a lot of the physical things weighing me down (soooo many clothes!). But since clearing out some of the physical stuff, I’ve noticed a clearing out of some of the emotional weight on my heart too. It’s funny, once you allow the shift of living with less to happen, it seems to make every other decision moving forward that much easier. I’ve since replaced the excess tangible stuff that put guilt and waste into my life with intangible things that add value to my life. Things like spending quality time with Allen in the evenings, scheduling phone call dates with old friends across the country (hi Cathy!), and building relationships with new friends who value your friendship right back (thanks, Christina!). These are the things that really matter to me and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to prioritize them. Because even though I may have realized their importance, I never did anything about them. And that’s really the sign of what you value in life, right…where you spend your time. You can say you “prioritize” something, but if you only give it thought without any action, is it truly a priority?
At any rate, I believe this post has come a far ways away from what I intended it to be, but that’s ok right?! Because I’m opening up and sharing something that has been on my heart recently. And I believe if we all did this more often with one another, perhaps we could help each other out and lift each other up, rather than living our life in isolation and in constant comparison with everyone else’s highlight reel on social media.
To be clear: I have not solved my bad shopping habits and I have not regained all of my self-worth. But I am taking steps to make it better. And I think that is the most important part for me right now. It’s like the 10×10 Challenge mantra… It’s not about being perfect all the time, but instead it’s about striving to learn and grown along the way. Being gentle with yourself when setbacks happen and using the momentum you gain from growth to continue your progress forward.
As a fair warning, this concept of living more with less will be one I talk more often about here on the blog moving forward. It’s quickly becoming an integral part of my lifestyle, and so why wouldn’t it be a part of the blog as well? It’s one that I didn’t arrive at on my own either. I’ve read 2 incredible books that have helped me to find this path–Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner and Soulful Simplicity by Courtney Carver. Both great reads I would highly recommend for anyone wanting to add a little more purpose and slow living into their life. I’m actually planning on going through them again to really solidify and think about how to implement a new lifestyle and perspective moving forward. So I’d love to hear your thoughts on them if you decide to give them a read!
P.S. – I’ll still be sharing fun fashion inspiration here on the blog. That won’t be going away any time soon. But I am aiming to be more intentional with the pieces I share with you on here and better about purchasing less in the long run. So that’s where I’m at on the fashion front! It still brings me a lot of joy to share my style journey with you here on the blog, so I hope you’ll still indulge me in my style posts! I’m learning more and more that fashion is less about the pieces themselves and more about how you style them. Style over things, friends. That’s the lesson I’m learning.
Until next time, let’s keep striving to make 2018 the best year yet, one gentle and meaningful lesson at a time!
What about you? Have you ever struggled with self-worth? What are you doing this year to improve yourself?
You might like…Choosing Happiness and Reflections at Twenty-Six.
Photos by Noah Berg
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