I have struggled with feeling worthy nearly my entire life. 

I always felt like I had to earn anything that I had. That I had to do something for someone to deserve them doing something nice for me in return. This was especially true for me when it came to relationships. I only deserved love if I was skinny enough, chill enough, hot enough, or smart enough. It all came down to being enough. And I never felt like I was. Like I was worthy of things just because I am. Not because of how I look or what I do. 

This took nearly 30 years for me to overcome and, to be honest, I’m still not perfect. 

A lot of my ability to overcome this feeling of unworthiness came from the help, guidance, and support of my amazing friend Ryin and her Soul Purpose Program. A good amount of it came from me simply growing up and gaining more experience and self-love, and confidence. But mostly, it’s been because I am finally with someone who reminds me every day that I’m worthy of the love he gives me. 

I have always said that to be in a good, healthy relationship, you need to be secure in yourself first. And I still think that’s mostly true. But I also think that was the wrong way to think for most of my life. 

When you think that you’re only allowed to have a relationship when you’re the best version of yourself, who is so secure and perfect on their own, it’s once again sending that same message. You have to be enough. But you don’t. 

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I will never be 100% “cured” of my anxiety or OCD. I will probably always have a tendency to overthink things. I’ll sometimes need some extra validation, and sometimes my life will be messy. And I deserve to be loved just as much with all of that as I do without it. 

Having grown up watching Disney movies, I knew I always wanted to be treated well by the man I ended up with. But, sometimes, it was hard for me to believe that I’d find it. I struggled to think I deserved it. But now, I have found it. And it’s incredible to have someone listen to my feelings. Who buys me flowers, helps me when I need support, and tells me I’m beautiful first thing in the morning. 

Yes, I’ve been to lots of therapy. I’ve meditated, journaled, done shadow work, and “dated” myself. Of course, that helped me to get to where I am. But finding someone to validate further the feeling of worthiness that I’ve worked to cultivate has made the biggest difference. Not because I need his validation or think my worthiness is contingent upon actually being loved… because it has helped me to embrace even the messy parts of myself. The parts that I tried to hide but now, after my boyfriend moved in after basically three dates, are impossible to. The parts that I now love just as much as the “good” parts of me. 

So, yes, working on yourself first is important. But, even if you’re not where you want to be or should be in terms of being your “best self,” you are still worthy of being loved. Wholly, completely, and unconditionally. And I hope that you find that with someone and with yourself.

So Long, 2020

So about this year.

2020, am I right? 

This year was, a lot, to put it simply. I don’t know a single person who can say that this year wasn’t absolutely crazy – between COVID, the protests and riots from this summer, depressing celebrity deaths (RIP Chadwick Boseman and Alex Trebek), murder hornets, and Prince Harry leaving the royal family – among many other things – 2020 seemed to want to see exactly just how much we could take. But, this year didn’t totally suck for me. 

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Yes, I lost the job that was supposed to be my super-cool “big girl” job that I actually stayed with for more than six months. Yes, I flew across the country to spend the weekend with a guy I had met once and was convinced was the real thing just to have my heart broken and end up abandoned in a mall. I went to Florida to be with my family for two weeks (remember when we thought that was all it would take to flatten the curve?) and stayed for five months, which I wasn’t prepared for. I went six months without seeing a friend that wasn’t also a family member, and I had to cancel two trips that I was really looking forward to. I got a Travel Rewards credit card back in February which was hilariously ignored. 

Obviously, I know that in the grand scheme of things the “bad shit” that happened to me this year really wasn’t that bad compared to what a lot of other people have been through, and I’m very aware of that, but it doesn’t mean that it still wasn’t tough to get through. But, I did get through it and ended up stronger and better than ever. 

A friend of mine and I have been saying lately that if you think 2020 completely sucked, then, no offense, you kind of suck, too. I absolutely believe that this year had a meaning – what it is, I don’t know, but I think it did. It forced a lot of people to slow down and appreciate the little things in life, and remember how much they have to be grateful for. They realized what their true priorities need to be. Employers realized that maybe allowing for a better work-life balance wouldn’t be such a bad thing. People realized how important family is, and that honestly, it’s silly to be overly loyal to a company when the company isn’t very loyal to you. This year came with a lot of trials and tribulations, absolutely, but if you’ve simply been dwelling on all the bad things and haven’t learned any lessons from this year then I’m sorry to say that I don’t think your 2021 is going to be much better. 

Yes, some bad things happened to me, but good things did, too. I got to see my baby niece’s first steps and hear some of her first words. I spent an unexpectedly large amount of time with my family. I got certified as a Barre instructor after years of saying I would, finally renewed my First Aid certification, and was able to dedicate more time to studying for (and taking) the beast that is the LSAT so I can start law school next year. I sought out specific treatment to discuss my history with disordered eating so that I don’t adopt those habits and end up as sick and miserable as I was when I was at the height of my eating disorder a few years ago. I baked, a lot. I learned to kayak with my mom, started lettering, and read a ton of books. I got my first position on a Board of Directors for a non-profit I’m extremely passionate about, took on a very fulfilling leadership position in the Junior League, and most importantly, I learned to prioritize myself! I finally had a talk with someone that I’ve felt I needed to have for years, and we were able to put the past where it belongs and start to become friends after way too much resentment and pain. I invested the amount of time, money, and energy that I’m used to investing in other people into myself and I’ve come out on the other side a completely different person. 

Oh hay.

A friend of mine developed a “Soul Purpose” program, and I decided to take part in it because when shit started to hit the fan back in April – even before the pandemic got really bad – I couldn’t help but feel like I was meant to take a step back and reevaluate what I was doing with my life, because I wasn’t on the right path at all. It took me a while to decide to participate, but I am so glad that I did. Honestly, the work I’ve done with her over the past twelve weeks has been infinitely better for me than anything I worked on with my most recent therapist, who pretty much ghosted me when I had an insurance issue and couldn’t see her as regularly. I felt strong enough to go off my anti-anxiety medication because a lot of the reasons I was anxious in the past were no longer present. I learned to trust myself, love myself, and not feel like I have to be responsible for the happiness of everyone in my life – even when it’s at my own expense. I placed boundaries that I actually enforced (finally). I learned more about myself than I thought was possible in only three months, and I’m ending this year happier than I’ve been in years. 

I know my experiences might be the exception, but I really do think that attitude can make a huge difference. Even when I lost my job because of budget issues, I knew that I was insanely lucky because I didn’t have nearly as much to worry about as others. There was the coworker who was just a couple of years from retirement, the one who found out shortly after being laid off that she was pregnant, or the one who had moved from a different state specifically for a job she lost just a couple of months later. I don’t have kids or a mortgage, and I’m insanely lucky and grateful to have a supportive family. But I also didn’t take that for granted. I took advantage of the opportunities this year gave me, and the position I was in, to make sure that I didn’t waste something that I was fortunate enough to have. And because I didn’t take my job loss personally, or spend every day finding a reason to have a pity party, I received more opportunities to grow and continue being grateful. 

I think I’ve said this before, but every morning before I get out of bed I list three things I’m grateful for and three things I’m looking forward to that day. I get that on REALLY hard days that isn’t enough – and I’ve had some of those days myself – but the important thing is to keep on going. I know this sounds kind of ~earthy~, but I do think this year has made me a bit of a hippie so I’m going with it (I even have a “hippie tray” in my room to hold all my crystals), but I also totally believe in that. You know that book “The Secret”? It’s true. Attitude can make a huge difference in your life, so make sure you have a good one. 

This doesn’t mean to belittle your own feelings when you have a valid reason to be upset because someone always has it worse, or you should be grateful for the good things and forget the bad, because that’s not realistic and it’s also not healthy to never have a negative emotion, and it isn’t fair to you to feel like you’re not allowed to have a bad day. You are! Everyone is! But, don’t let one bad day define your whole year. And by the same token, don’t let one bad year define the rest of them.


Just because I had a pretty good year, comparatively speaking, doesn’t mean I’m not ready to say goodbye to 2020. I am, trust me. I’m sad for those grieving a loved one that was lost because of COVID, or any other illness or accident. I’m sad at how divided our country has become. I’m sad for the people who’ve struggled with mental health, abusive relationships or families, or food insecurity because of places being closed. I’m sad for families that missed the holidays together, and I’m sad that my not even three-year old niece gets nervous when her mask falls off in public. I know things aren’t perfect. But, I can’t control a lot of those things. What I can control is how I react to those things. I can’t send positivity and love to people who need it when I’m still taking a job loss from April personally, or being upset about a jerk in Arizona, because I wouldn’t have anything to give them if I was so focused on the ‘bad’ things that happened. Especially because if those things hadn’t happened, SO many of the great  things that happened to me this year probably wouldn’t have either!

My friend who led the “Soul Purpose” program I did has made a positive impact on my life since we first met in Orlando when she did my waxes, but this year she went above and beyond. She helped me learn to trust myself, listen to my intuition, address areas I needed to work on to be the best version of me I can possibly be, and most importantly, she helped me find my purpose. To serve others. I’m excited to spend the next year – and beyond – figuring out exactly how I want to serve others, and then doing it! I wouldn’t have been able to do that if this year had been as perfect as I imagined it would be back in February. 

So, yes, 2020 sucked but it doesn’t mean that 2021 has to as well. I hope you were able to learn something from this year, too, and if not – there’s still time! I finally worked on things from five years ago this year. It’s never too late. I’m excited to put this year to bed, and I’m ready to take on 2021 and make it the best year yet! That is, until 2022.

I hope everyone has a happy, healthy, and safe New Year’s Eve celebration, and I’m wishing everyone an amazing new year! Praying for peace, love, and light, and for everyone who struggled this year, don’t give up.

2020 is over and it can only go up from here! Right? Right.

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How do you catch all the fish in the sea? How modern dating norms have changed relationships

It’s a beautiful, sunny day, and I decide to spend the morning taking my mini-Bernedoodle, Pepito, to the local farmer’s market for a walk. As I’m stopping to grab a frozen lemonade from a vendor, I accidentally drop Pepito’s leash and he takes off. I run after him, and when I finally catch up to him, I see him lying in the grass as a tall, dark, and handsome man around my age is petting him. He and I lock eyes, he introduces himself, and we just know. 

Sounds romantic, right? Growing up on Disney movies, chick flicks, and weekly viewings of “Titanic,” – this is the type of meet-cute that I always imagined I’d have someday. In this scenario, the mystery man and I would probably be engaged within a year, married a year after that, and then live happily ever after. 

Except that scenario didn’t happen. I could blame it on the fact that I don’t actually have a dog (yet), but the reality is that- modern dating, quite simply, kind of sucks. Nowadays, dating norms have been changed and adapted so much from what many of us grew up seeing, we’re completely lost when it comes to knowing how to not only meet a decent potential partner, but how to actually date one another. 

My own parents met in 1986 when they were 19 and 22. They got engaged after three months, married just over a year later, and are coming up on 32 years together. This was the norm 30 years ago. Today, however, young men and women continue to have a love-hate (mostly hate) relationship with dating apps such as Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge and live in the land of “It’s complicated” as they struggle to find someone, date them, and navigate the new norms and habits of single people all over the country.

While “technology-assisted” dating has actually been around since 1959, when Jim Harvey and Phil Fialer used an IBM 650 to match up couples, in the past 10 or so years dating apps have become more prevalent than ever. From the use of IBM machines in the 1950s and 60s, to the launch of match.com in 1995, to the modern era of online dating that began with the first iPhone being released in 2007, online dating has taken on many forms over the years. Today, the most common form of online dating is dating apps, which require nothing more than a smart phone, some good photos, and a witty biography. 

Swiping left or right to send a message that you are or are not interested in “matching” with someone is a daily occurrence for most single people in America, with these online services and apps making it easier for men and women to find someone from the comfort of their couch. In fact, a recent study states that at least 40 million Americans have used online dating, and 39 per cent of couples meet online

Meeting your significant other on a dating app used to be something that people were hesitant to admit, but nowadays, it’s much more accepted. As Bill Terraine, founder of the dating coach company The Final Wing, says, dating apps are all about “perspective,” not just how the individual sees their use, but “what they want to get out of it.” When people set the proper expectations and see dating apps for the good that can come out of them, they’re more likely to have success. 

Unfortunately, just because you’ve matched with someone and had a good conversation with them for a few days doesn’t mean it’s going to lead to your own fairy tale ending. For example, take Amy, 24, who has enough interesting date stories to write a book. After meeting up with a date who she immediately realized had clearly used old photos on his dating profile to make him appear five years younger and at considerably lower weight  (a phenomenon commonly referred to as cat-fishing), she decided to still give him a chance. However, she says by the time they arrived at the restaurant, “I already knew it wasn’t going to work out” and the rest of the date didn’t do much to change her mind. Just a tip — being rude to the waiter at Legal Sea Foods isn’t going to impress your date. 

For individuals in the LGBTQIA+ community, it can be even more difficult for many reasons, such as that “within the LGBT community, there are stigmas that can make dating difficult,” writes Crystal Stout of Bucks County Community College’s The Centurion. Another issue that these individuals might face is meeting up with someone who is not out. Noah Berumen, a 26 year-old gay man, has experienced this firsthand. When meeting up with a friend-with-benefits he had met on Grindr (an app specifically used for men seeking men, Noah discovered that this man was not openly gay, which didn’t prove to be an issue until his roommate returned to their dorm. This surprise put his partner in a panic, causing Noah to have to hide under the bed before ultimately jumping off a second-floor balcony while the roommate was in the kitchen in order to not get caught.

While Noah’s story is one of the more light-hearted outcomes of dating someone who is not out, the reality is that for more serious relationships, this kind of relationship can lead to significant issues down the road, between them and their families, as well as “impact each individual’s sense of self-esteem and self-worth,” according to a Kristina Maruisc article written in Women’s Health. 

Finding places to meet someone might seem like an impossible feat, but it is possible. However, that’s only half the battle. Once you’ve met someone whom you hit it off with, you’re faced with a whole other list of obstacles that you have to overcome if you want the relationship to go anywhere. 

First of all, if you do go out on a date (one that was most likely initiated via text instead of phone call) many people, like Noah, agree that sex on the first date is not only acceptable, but “almost expected” — regardless of sexual preference or circumstance.  While there is nothing wrong with someone expressing their sexual liberty, this can lead to early confusion and set the stage for a “friends-with-benefits” situation that often leads to one- or both- parties being hurt by the lack of clear definition in their relationship. Or, because it’s now less taboo to do so, a man or woman might take their date’s decision to wait a few more dates before being intimate as a sign of not being interested, when in reality it’s just a personal choice. For individuals who are looking for a serious relationship, the hookup culture that has been widely adopted by many of their peers can sometimes hinder their ability to find someone in it for more than just one night. 

Furthermore, one of the most common dating norms that single people face today is the concept of being “ghosted,” by the other, when they seemingly drop off the face of the earth into a dark abyss with the inability to text back or accept your Facebook friend request. This typically happens after just a few days of texting, or if you met in person, after a couple of dates, and involves one person suddenly deciding that instead of being an adult and expressing their reasons for being uninterested in pursuing the relationship further, they just disappear. 

Andrea Amour of UpDate Coaching says that when ghosting occurs via dating app, it is largely “behavior based, [because] you have to engage.” While it isn’t an excuse to ghost, if you’re unable to keep the conversation going or ask your match about themselves, they’ll likely lose interest and decide to keep on swiping.

And the list goes on. From having the “what are we?” talk, to when to meet the parents, to whether or not you should move in together, at each crossroads there’s another set of ever-changing norms and rules that an individual has to navigate in order to stay on the right course. It can be stressful, anxiety-inducing, and maybe even make you start to seriously consider adopting a cat lady lifestyle at by the time you reach your late 20s. 

There is no doubt that not only have dating norms changed over the years, but that general attitudes towards marriage and the usual timelines have seriously adapted, too. For example, in 1986, the same year my parents met, the General Social Survey created a report detailing that 41.3 per cent of Americans ages 18-34 were single. That number dropped to 33.1 per cent in 2004. Today, over half (51.2 per cent) of Americans within that same age range are single

There are several things that could be causing this increase — and not just the ever-growing number of available dating apps and websites. For instance, some cite reasons such as “the rise of divorce, birth control, [and] the decline of tradition.” The economy has changed. In 1980, 12.1 million people were enrolled in public and private colleges — in 2016, that number rose to 19.84 million. Similarly, more women are choosing to postpone the wedding bells and babies, instead focusing on their careers for longer than was traditional in years past. 

It’s easy to blame the consistent rise of feminism for the increasing number of “single and ready to minglennials,” but there’s more to the story. “I think it’s one piece of the puzzle,” says Natalia Gonzalez, 26. “If you respect yourself or have strong opinions, some men tend to give up easily and just blame it on the fact that women are just feminists, or whatever excuse they find to not realize that it’s not always about feminism, but it can also be about self respect.” Just because a woman respects herself and her choices doesn’t mean that she rejects all traditional dating norms.

Madeleine Fugère, a psychology professor at Eastern Connecticut State University, says that waiting to get married is a modern dating norm itself, as now “you can decide” when to get married, versus in the past when people, especially women, were expected to be married by a certain age. “You don’t really have to get married anymore,” Fugère states, explaining two possible mindsets being that, “we now know that if you get married young you have a higher risk of divorce” or that, because of the economy, “younger people might be putting off marriage until they’re more financially stable.”

There’s also what psychologist Barry Schwartz calls the “Paradox of Choice,” a concept that is backed up by author and CEO Jenna Birch, who states that “‘People have access to more options than ever, so much so that a single option feels disposable.’” Bill Terriane echoes this view, saying that the sudden availability of too many options will often lead someone to make any option. Having too many options can cause people to feel that in order to alleviate the anxiety and fear they have about making a choice, they’ll make the wrong one. While that’s usually how I feel when an ice cream shop has too many flavors, it can also apply to meeting a potential life partner.

While all of this information can make you want to leave your fate to the results of a BuzzFeed quiz, it shouldn’t deter anyone from trying to find “the one.” Maybe it’ll happen on Bumble, in a bar, or while walking around a farmer’s market with your imaginary dog, but the important thing to remember is to be true to yourself and set clear expectations for what you want and when you want it — and don’t settle for anything else. 

When you feel your opinion is irrelephant: Political Bias on college campuses

It wasn’t until my sociology class during my freshman year at Northeastern University that I first had to make a decision: Do I lie to blend in? Or do I tell the truth – and risk being attacked?

We had a speaker come in and talk to us about the media, and he asked which of us watched MSNBC, CNN, and Fox. In my class of more than 70 students, I was the only person to raise my hand for Fox. In retrospect, I doubt that I was really the only Republican in the room. But I can pinpoint that moment as the first time that I decided that in any class with some sort of political undertones, I would stand up for myself and my opinions, regardless of whether or not I was the only one in the room with that thought.

Fortunately, I’ve been lucky enough to have understanding and open-minded classmates and professors, but some have not been as lucky. Especially in today’s political climate, students and professors alike are experiencing political bias on campuses in a completely different way than I did when beginning college in 2010. 

According to a recent study by the National Association of Scholars, almost 40% of the best liberal arts colleges in the country do not have a single Republican faculty member. For students arriving at colleges from all over the country, they are bound to have different opinions from their professors, especially given this extreme lack of political diversity. When they walk into a classroom, what can they expect to happen when they express a belief or opinion that opposes that of the person meant to be teaching them?

William Mayer, a Northeastern University political science professor, and adviser to the Harvard Republican Club, says that while he has never experienced any instances of political bias against him personally, he is aware that it is a problem and has heard stories from conservative students, mainly undergraduates, who felt that their opinions were being either silenced or held against them. On one occasion, a student had to seek advice when she realized that, following an assignment in which she expressed her conservative beliefs, her grades were suddenly decreasing for no other obvious reason than an ideological bias. 

Recently, the student president of the Tulane University chapter of Young Americans for Liberty found the door to his dorm room set on fire, in an incident that the group is claiming was politically motivated. Ben Shapiro, a conservative commentator and author, described his experience visiting the campus of California State University at Los Angeles back in February 2016. Despite being told by the university president that the visit was canceled in response to the anticipated protests, he disputed this decision and went anyway. Shapiro arrived on campus to several security guards and police officers, helicopters, and “rioters…assaulting students who wanted to enter,”  he wrote in a column for the New York Post. 

This is far from the first time that a college has disinvited a speaker to their campus – in fact, there are several other examples and though this issue occurs on both sides, based on the Disinvitation Database provided by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), more than 62 percent of the cases are prompted by opposition to the left of the speaker in question, with only 28 percent of the cases being caused by the right attempting to have a speaker disinvited. These cases include prominent figures such as Carly Fiorina, Laura Bush, and John McCain being disinvited from campus engagements. 

FIRE’s Adam Goldstein says that this kind of censorship “doesn’t work,” and that it comes down to the personal more than anything else. When evaluating each of the submissions with allegations of First Amendment violations, which are received through their website, ultimately, they have to ask themselves, “Is there some way we can help?” Regardless of personal beliefs, they must respect the fact that the United States offers every individual the right to his or her own opinion, and the ability to express that opinion either on their campus or otherwise. Moreover, when handling situations where a student is frustrated because of a professor’s bias, they must remind them that there is something they can do about it. 

President Donald Trump also reinforced this protection of the First Amendment, recently signing an executive order ensuring that college campuses cannot silence opposing views — which he acknowledges is in response to too many universities becoming too far left and creating a hostile environment for students and professors who might think differently.

While it isn’t a secret that colleges tend to lean left, and have for some time, there are are several theories as to why this sudden increase in political bias and attacks on the First Amendment are now occurring more often than we’re used to. Shapiro offers some explanations of his own in his article above. He details theories ranging from economic issues to race and technology, before explaining the theory that the problem is simply that humans are reverting to traditional “human nature,” and forgetting the “foundations” we were built on. 

The Boston Globe’s Jeff Jacoby, a conservative columnist, says one issue he has noticed is that oftentimes- the media are unable to acknowledge that they have a bias, so in the media, “‘left’ is seen as ‘center,’” which makes the “right” seem significantly more extreme than it actually is. Perhaps this is what is happening on campuses, too. As he explains, there is “less diversity of opinion than ever,” especially on college campuses, making it difficult for anyone with a different point of view to find a place to fit in and feel comfortable speaking out. If people aren’t recognizing the state of their environment, it would make sense that, for some, any threat to confirmation bias is perceived as a strong one. 

I chose to attend Northeastern knowing that I would be heading into a blue state, so, I know I can’t really complain when the inevitable moment of reveal happens in any class where politics come up and I find myself standing either alone or close to it. I could have gone to school in North Carolina or Florida (both swing states and where I’ve spent most of my life), but I wanted to be challenged academically, professionally, and personally. And though I’ve learned to just roll my eyes during my father and brother’s weekly check-ins to make sure I haven’t turned into a liberal yet (they’re joking), I will always say how grateful I am to live in a country where I’m allowed to form my own beliefs, and express them how and when I see fit. 

Suppressing someone’s opinions because they don’t align with your own is not only hypocritical, it’s damaging. Growth occurs when we expose ourselves to different ideas and hear the other side of the story, and respecting a person’s right to an opposing opinion doesn’t mean you have to agree with it. 

The First Amendment is in place for a reason, and colleges have a responsibility to protect that for all students, professors, and staff. 

No More Damsel in Distress: Representation in Films as told by a Former Disney Cast Member

“You can’t marry a man you just met,” Queen Elsa says to her sister, Anna, in the hit Disney film “Frozen.” This was the first time in forever that a Disney character has not only acknowledged, but called out, the often criticized trend of Disney princesses getting married to their Prince Charming after nothing but a few brief interactions. 

This short line from a film that ended up becoming one of Disney’s most popular is just one in a new wave of thinking in Disney films. From Merida in “Brave,” Tiana in “The Princess and the Frog,” Elsa, and Moana, young girls and boys are seeing a break from the tales of damsels in distress, instead watching stories of young princesses taking control of their lives and not waiting for anyone else to save them. But, just because now we’re seeing better representation in Disney films, does this mean we have to abandon the classic Disney films that might not send the same message? 

As a self-proclaimed Disney fanatic and a former cast member (Disney’s term for employees), the films and characters will always have a special place in my heart. Ever since I first saw “Beauty and the Beast” when I was just a few years old, Belle has been my favorite Disney princess. One of the main reasons was because with brown hair and brown eyes, she looked the most like me.

Except for when I went blonde…

If you were to ask most young girls which princess is their favorite, they will likely choose the one that they resemble the most, and thanks to new movies and TV shows produced by Walt Disney Studios and the Disney Channel, there are more races and ethnicities than ever being represented. 

But still, many parents of today are hesitant to let their young daughters watch the classic tales of “Cinderella” and “The Little Mermaid” because of the messages that these movies can send to their young, impressionable children. Actresses such as Kristen Bell and Keira Knightly have both gone public with their decisions to not let their daughters watch many of the Disney movies that I grew up with. 

Many of these films recently criticized by parents, however, have much deeper messages than to be beautiful and wait for a prince, and can be a great excuse to have an important discussion with your daughter about what it means to be a princess. While I loved Belle because she looked like me, I also admired her voracious reading as well as her loyalty, bravery, and kindness. When my 2 year-old niece (whose favorite princess changes every day) says “please” and “thank you,” because “that’s what princesses do,” I remind her that princes must be polite, too. 

“The only way to get what you want in this world is through hard work.”

Princess Tiana, “The Princess and the Frog”

Though many of the movies produced during Disney’s Golden Age (from 1937-1967) offer what are now seen as antiquated values, it is important to remember that many of these stories were adapted from classic fairy tales written by The Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, and that these messages were much more accepted at that time. That, of course, doesn’t make it right, but you can’t change the past — you learn from it. 

While it might not be the best message for a 3 year-old to see princesses like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty being kissed without their consent, it is also an opportunity for parents to teach how to protect themselves from strangers. Sheltering children will not help them as much as exposing them to real world situations and having conversations about them will, and Disney films can be an excellent tool to initiate many of these important discussions.

The Disney Renaissance (1989-1999) films introduced more progressive female characters, like Mulan and Megara from “Hercules,” though some of the tales are still seen as problematic for some. Yet, these films include several important values and messages for young girls besides forcing femininity and submission to men. For example, though Jasmine is beautiful and kind, she also fights back against the patriarchal society and her forced marriage. The princesses of this era begin to convey the idea that being feminine does not mean that you have to give up your strength.

It is a legitimate concern that Disney princess stereotypes are teaching girls to be “passive and caring more about personal appearance,” as journalist Christian Gollayan writes, and with parents wanting to raise their daughters with more modern values, some Disney movies might not be what they’re looking for. It’s understandable to want to raise your daughter to be strong on her own, and that isn’t a belief I’m going to fault. 

As a former cast member, my opinion is probably a bit biased, but that’s because I’ve seen first-hand the joy of a girl meeting her favorite princess. I’ve seen them completely done up in hair, makeup, and sparkly dresses after visiting the Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boutique. And when I do, I think maybe she, like me, doesn’t admire that princess because of her looks and her ability to be rescued by a big, strong, man, but because of her character, heart, and knowledge. 

“Frozen” and “Moana,” both films featuring strong female characters on a journey to save their families and community, are excellent films that are helping to change the narrative of what it means to be a princess, but appreciating them doesn’t mean we have to forget the classic films many of us know and love. Instead of banning these older films, using them to open up discussions with daughters can expose her to several other important themes that will help her grow into a strong woman. 

Besides, many of the Disney princesses and heroines, like Megara (who faces her troubled past to help Hercules defeat Hades) have proven that even if you are a damsel, and you are in distress, you can (and will) handle it. 

2018 – Love, Patience, Pain

This time last year, I was an anxious mess constantly wondering what I was going to do with my life and what I wanted to be when I grew up. I knew my job wasn’t fulfilling me, but I’d spent so long working to get to where I was with the company I wanted to work for so badly, I was scared to admit it. I didn’t think I was good enough to do anything about it, either.

I was constantly sick. I was stuck in a relationship that left me crying more often than not, one that made me always question my worth and made me make up some pretty creative excuses for why I was being treated the way I was. I wasn’t myself and I wasn’t as happy as I could be, and the worst part was that I thought that was what I deserved.

Finally, I’d had enough. I ripped off the Band-Aid, made the changes I needed to, and started fresh.

Now, I know I’m on the right path. I’m in a city that has the culture and excitement I crave. I’m in a graduate program that reminds me every day of how smart and capable I am and helps me to gain the skills I need to succeed in the (very) ambitious goals I have set for myself. I’m even considering law school! In the new year I’ll start a job that allows me to help people who need it, not just want it.

I’m being treated with respect, kindness, and consideration. My anxiety levels have dropped, and I have much better coping mechanisms for when it acts up than I did before. My health has gotten better, and I feel more like myself again. I got to spend over 4 months at home with the best family ever, and I’ve gotten better at practicing self care to help me when I’m homesick or overwhelmed. I realized that even though I finally know how it feels to be treated well by someone, the most important relationship I’ll ever have is the one I have with myself and I need to be nicer to myself first.

I had a lot of friendships run their course this year, and that’s okay. I have set boundaries, and my space for negativity has gotten very small. I don’t let people drain me and I especially don’t let people treat me like I don’t matter. I learned to put myself first, and I have slowly accepted that I do deserve happiness and the best opportunities the world can offer me. I refuse to force anyone to be in my life if they don’t want to, or make me feel like I’m an option to them. I deserve better than that.

I didn’t achieve all of the goals and things I had planned to do this year, but I’m okay with that. I achieved the most important goal I had – valuing myself. The rest will follow.

2018 has been a huge year of transition for me. I ended friendships I thought I wanted to last forever and I walked away from people and things that were no longer bringing me positivity. I found that the thing bringing me the most sense of purpose was Junior League, so I decided that I needed to find a graduate program that aligned with the things I was doing there, and I did. I made new friends, I strengthened relationships, and I pushed myself outside my comfort zone. I tried new things, and I even saw baby sea turtles hatch! It’s had its ups and downs but I know that in the new year, it will just keep getting better. For the first time in a long time, I’m excited about the year ahead and have more hope and faith than I’ve had in awhile.

2019, let’s go.

Invisible Scars: Would You Have Believed Me?

“Get the f-ck over it. I’m done with you being so crazy.” 

That is one of many texts (888 PDF pages worth of them, to be exact) between me and my “best friend,” the first person I ever loved.  I wish I could say that was the first and last time he spoke to me that way, but it wasn’t.

It’s easy to tell yourself that you would never allow yourself to be abused, but it’s harder to follow through when you don’t know what to look for. When I thought of abusive relationships, I pictured the scenes I watched in movies like “Enough,” where the spouse was clearly awful and the abuse was physical — that was all I really knew until I experienced otherwise. I used to tell myself, “I’ll never let myself get into an abusive relationship. And if I do, I won’t stay. I’d never let someone hit me.”

According to statistics from the National Domestic Violence Hotline, nearly one in four women and one in seven men in the United States have been a victim of physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Of the victims who suffer injuries, only one in five will get medical attention and only half of them will report the violence to the police. 

The reasons for not reporting vary for each individual. They may be ashamed, or scared that their abuser will retaliate. Maybe they have children. But oftentimes, it isn’t reported simply because the victims don’t think they’ll be believed, and that nothing will be done. These are victims who have bruises and scars, physical evidence of their abuse that the world can see. But what about the scars we can’t see? 

A 2015 survey taken by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence says that 48.4 percent of women and 48.8 percent of men have experienced some form of psychological abuse. Like victims of physical abuse, psychological abuse can continue to affect someone long after the abusive relationship has ended. Emotional abuse isn’t obvious enough for the world to see, and it often can’t be understood unless you are the one enduring the abuse, making it even harder to be believed. 

I was 22 when we met. He was 33. I was young, naive, inexperienced, and absolutely thrilled to finally get attention from a guy. After struggling with my weight since day one of puberty and having little to no confidence, I was convinced that no boy would ever like me. But then he came up to me at work one day and proved me wrong. Here was a guy, an older guy, telling me how much he liked me, how beautiful I was, and asking me out. He had a reputation. I’d been warned the first day of work that I was his type, but still, I fell, and I kept falling for more than three years.

He made it clear that I was not the only girl in his life, but he made sure that he was the only man in mine. When I wasn’t being love-bombed, I was being gaslighted so badly that I was convinced I was lucky to have him because “nobody else would want to deal with me.” Or I was being given the silent treatment for so long that all I could think about was making him talk to me again. If I made plans with a male friend, he’d get so jealous I’d feel guilty for days. But when I tried to explain to people why I was an anxious mess and constantly apologizing, they didn’t believe me. He was good at what he did. To everyone else I looked like the crazy one — I mean, he didn’t hit me, I didn’t have proof, why would they believe me? 

It’s hard to speak up for yourself when your self-worth and self-respect have been slowly stripped away from you, or when you try to tell mutual friends the way he makes you feel about yourself and they respond with, “You knew what he was like when you met, you asked for it.” It’s even harder to have your feelings validated when the response you usually receive is, “Does he hit you?” Well, no, he didn’t, I’d never even been afraid that he would. This was what I’d remind myself of when I’d cry myself to sleep at night. He doesn’t hit me, it isn’t that bad.

When I hear stories of brave women (and men) who are able to speak up about their abuse but are met with skepticism, I’m taken back to the moments when I tried to tell coworkers what was happening and why I frequently broke down at work, but they brushed it away. I watched strong women speak out against Larry Nassar (the former U.S.A. Gymnastics national team doctor accused of sexually assaulting over 250 girls) and tell the stories of the first time they tried to report him but nobody investigated. I remembered the first time I admitted to myself that what I was going through was abuse, I took a test that scored almost 100 percent that yes, I was being emotionally abused, and when I reached out to a friend mid-anxiety attack she told me to get over it. It wasn’t like he hit me. 

On March 12, 2019, thanks to my family, real friends, and therapists, I’ll be one year of No Contact. On September 30, 2018, I met someone, and when I gathered the courage, I told him. I braced myself for the reaction of- “But did he hit you?” Instead, I heard him say, “You know that’s abuse, right?” He believed me. 

Cruelty-Free Consumer

Do you know how the ingredients in your shampoo were tested? Do you know the production stages for your favorite foundation? Probably not, but here’s why you should.

Despite the fact that the U.S. FDA does not require it by law, several cosmetics companies continue to use animal testing for their production. These experiments lead to horrible treatment, and ultimately death, of innocent animals. Though there are several alternatives to using live animals to test these products, popular companies and brands continue this practice despite the fact that outside of the United States, animal testing has been banned.

Admittedly, I didn’t know much about this until recently, when I was advised to follow a vegan diet for a month to help me through an illness and restart my digestive system. My choice to follow this diet was more for health than for ethical reasons, but while scouring Pinterest for vegan recipes that non-vegans might enjoy, I began seeing more and more articles about companies that are not considered “cruelty-free” due to their business practices. I began to educate myself, and even though my doctor ended up forbidding me from continuing a long-term vegan lifestyle, I knew that having this new knowledge, I could not continue to buy brands that don’t share my same values.

While I was sad to give up my favorite foundation and blush, both made by Nars, when they decided to enter the market in China (where animal testing is required by law), I knew that my strong beliefs against animal testing for cosmetics was much more important. I can (and did) find another product to give me that same rosy glow I loved, but I couldn’t justify trading an animal’s well-being for my appearance.

Disagreeing with animal testing goes beyond ethical concerns and love of animals, it also relates to environmental protection, as it can generate chemicals and hazardous waste that are released into the environment. Moreover, most companies that are considered cruelty-free also contain more natural ingredients, such as Method cleaning products or Ilia Beauty, which both use pure ingredients in their production. It isn’t just about protecting animals, it’s also about protecting the environment.  

Thanks to popular blogs and websites such as Leaping Bunny, Cruelty-Free Kitty, and more, it is incredibly easy to be a cruelty-free consumer – and their guides and lists can help you do so.

It isn’t up to me to decide what your definition of cruelty-free is – if you choose to start small and purchase brands that still sell in countries where animal testing is required, or their parent companies are not cruelty-free, that’s okay. Once I changed my shopping behavior, it made me feel better about myself and my decision to do something that helps both animals and the environment. And the best part? That rosy glow looks even better when you know where the ingredients came from.