Welcome to 2017! A brand new year, full of opportunities. Take a moment to reflect: Are you happy with your life right now?
I mean it. Don't just keep reading. Put down your tablet, release your mouse button, put down the page (wait, did you print out my blog post? What are you doing?). Close your eyes, and really think: Are you where you want to be?
I hope you are. But if you're not happy with your life right now, I'm going to share with you
7 ways to change your life in 2017
Before we start, let's clear a few things up:
- I'm not saying you need to implement all of these changes
- I'm not suggesting you should do them all at once
- I'm not saying it'll be easy
- I'm not saying it will work out the first time (I'm also not saying it won't!)
1. Change your career
Start by asking yourself a few questions about the job you're paid to do:
- Do I (overall) enjoy it?
- Am I in the career I envisioned being in (and if not, am I ok with that)?
- Am I learning skills that will be useful later?
- Am I earning enough?
- Am I treated with respect?
- Am I making connections that will be useful later?
- Am I in this job because it's good for me or because I just stumbled into it and haven't climbed out?
- Am I using my degree (and if not, am I ok with that)?
- Do I want to be here 5 years from now? 1 year from now?
A lot of us end up in jobs that we never intended to be in. That can be the result of serendipity (yay!) or desperation (doh!). If you're happy with your job, sweet! Now is the time for a fist pump. (Again, really do it. I'll wait.)
If, on the other hand, your answers to these questions are making you think that you need a change, pull out a piece of paper and start making a plan to change!
Note: BoldAdulting has a worksheet to help you clarify your career goals and get you moving in the right direction, coming soon! If you want to be the first to know when it's ready, shoot me an email letting me know you want it!
2. Come out to your loved ones or other important people.
I have no idea what you're thinking about coming out about, but I bet you do.
A few possibilities include:
- you're gay/bi/lesbian/another sexual orientation that may surprise them
- you're trans or otherwise are gender nonbinary
- your relationship is non-monogamous
- you're thinking about changing careers
- you're thinking about leaving your graduate program
- you're planning to move away
- you don't want kids
- you're an atheist (or you are religious)
- you're being mistreated by a partner or a colleague
- you've had experiences you haven't shared (e.g. sexual assault, drug use/abuse, infidelity)
- you have a mental or physical health issue
- you and your partner(s) are breaking up
- you are in a relationship you haven't told them about
Is 2017 the year when you tell [a subset of] your loved ones or other important people the secret you've been holding onto?
This shouldn't be a light decision, but I suspect you won't make it lightly. After all, you haven't shared yet.
A few factors to consider:
- are you financially or emotionally dependent?
- do you think they already know or suspect?
- might they have their own experiences with this or know people who do?
- how have they generally handled curveballs being thrown at them?
- what kind of reaction do you hope to get from them?
- can you handle it if they react badly?
- why do you feel you should tell them?
- are there any steps you can take to warm them up or soften the blow?
If you've decided that now's the time and you're ready, more power to you. I'm on your side, and please comment or email to share how you're thinking about this, when you plan to share, and how it ultimately went!
Remember that coming out may be scary or awkward, but let's take a moment to think about BoldAdulting's acronym B.O.L.D.:
B - Be authentic
O - Open up
L - Listen to people you trust
D - Dream big
Both B and O apply here, and so does the whole concept of adulting [see note 1]. You may feel you have no idea how to deal with this situation, but luckily lots of people have come before you, survived, learned from it, and are here to share their resources and tips!
Expect more specific BoldAdulting tips in the future about coming out, but I'll leave you with one suggestion from the sex advice columnist Dan Savage [see note 2]:
Don't expect a perfect reaction right off the bat. When you decide to come out to someone about something, it's usually because you've known this fact about yourself for a while now and have made your peace with it. You've had time to process your feelings. You've seen yourself in lots of different situations and hear your thoughts and know that you're an overall good human despite the secret you've been holding onto.
The person you're sharing with doesn't have this luxury and may take time to deal with the news. They may say something hurtful. Be prepared for this. You can even tell them that you understand if they are shocked/upset/speechless, and that you don't require an immediate ideal reaction. This can take some of the pressure off. Dan suggests giving your loved ones a year to deal with their feelings, after which point they need to treat you with 100% of the respect you deserve or risk losing you.
3. Change your appearance.
Wait, what? Isn't BoldAdulting all about self-acceptance including about your appearance? Yes, undoubtedly.
But that doesn't mean that you can't mindfully make decisions about how you want to look and then take steps to get there.
What I'm not in support of is letting your self-esteem and decisions be driven primarily by external factors like the cookie-cutter appearances we see in the media.
So, take a moment and think about how you look and consider:
- is there a bright hair color or a new piercing I've wanted to try?
- do I want to work out my muscles and get visibly strong arm and leg muscles?
- am I finally ready to get that tattoo I've been sketching for years?
- do I want to lose the weight I gained from overeating when I was stressed/bored/lonely/[insert your trigger here]?
- do I want to change my personal style, or maybe just buy one brand new totally different outfit?
Make sure that this change will work for you. A few questions to consider:
- will it affect your career or your job hunt?
- is it reasonable and coming from a healthy place? (an example that isn't: you want to lose 50 pounds in 2 months because you want to please your significant other)
- is it reversible (and if not, is that ok?)
- can you afford it?
If the answer is still yes, go for it! And don't let your nervousness about making the decision (and perhaps even ambivalence after) make you assume it's a mistake. That's just the feeling of stepping outside your comfort zone.
Make sure that you're doing this because you're excited to welcome this new appearance change and not because you're desperate to run from your current appearance. If you think it may be the latter, consider seeing a therapist, talking to a friend, or booking a free consultation with me to see if confidence coaching can help you feel better. Your new appearance is way more likely to enrich your life if the desire to change is coming from a healthy place.
Here, let me show you one of the appearance changes I've made in my life:
I have a lot more to say about body image, but right now I'll stick to this:
I believe my weight loss came from a healthy place. My body image was pretty high before I started losing weight and I believe it was that confidence that gave me the strength to change my body the way I wanted to. So, yes, I believe you can change your body without hating it.
And no, I don't think that changing your body will always help you love your body. But that's a story for another blog post.
And now for some inspiration:
Brandie Posey, one third of the Lady to Lady podcast on the Max Fun network, totally marches to the beat of her own drum. Not only does she defy the expectation that all comedians party, but she also rocks so many badass styles, changing her hair color/cut as often as the rest of us change which social media platform we're desperately trying to figure out.
(And side note, while we're on the subject of honesty and authenticity, the other two ladies Barbara Gray and Tess Barker are overflowing with these as well, making the Lady to Lady podcast well worth a listen. Wondering where to start? Try episode 73, where they discuss my 100 pound weight loss experience!)
And for some more inspiration, check out Kelsey Mac's transformation:
When I asked Kelsey about her motivation for shaving her hair, she told me the decision came to her when she was living in a superficial community where everyone was primped all the time and focused extensively on their image. She had shaved her head before and did it again to reconnect to herself in a city where she felt lost. So many people questioned her decision, which only boosted her confidence, since she knew she was making a statement.
Despite this confidence, Kelsey admits that she has to fight occasional insecurities caused by not having the typical long hair associated with femininity. Nevertheless, she loves it short.
(Side note: if you're looking to throw an awesome gender neutral wedding or baby shower, get in touch with Kelsey!)
Have you radically changed your appearance (or are thinking about it)? Tell (or show us) below!
4. Change your confidence
Low confidence is an epidemic. It comes in many forms:
- grad students thinking they aren't good at their research
- new parents thinking they're awful because they can't get their kids to go to sleep (or because sometimes they regret having kids, or because [insert a buttload of other potential reasons here])
- people not applying for jobs or promotions because they're afraid they're not good enough
- women wearing Spanx to hide the true shape of their bodies
- men being ashamed of their body or sexual interests
- creatives being afraid to make or share their projects, or even being unsure if they can identify as creative
So, how do you improve your confidence? Well, that's what BoldAdulting is here to help you with.
First of all, it helps to realize you're not alone. That's why the O in BOLD stands for "open up." When we talk to people about our concerns, we realize that we're not the only ones who don't feel good enough.
It's also important to focus on all the ways in which we do excel. Ok, let's try that for a second: Close your eyes and think about your strong suits and your accomplishments. Or keep them open, pull out a piece of paper, and start a list. I'll wait here.
So, got your list? I'm not surprised if it's pretty sparse. Some of the most brilliant, caring, talented people I know seem completely unable to name their good qualities.
People with low confidence (which is most of us) can have a hard time looking past our insecurities to remember that, yeah, we actually are great at a lot of things. And we have accomplished a helluva lot. For example, did you forget to include one of the following:
- I'm great at helping people feel cared for
- I got chosen for an academic or creative program or internship that a lot of people applied for
- I have an artistic talent
- There's a trait or ability that many people have complimented me on
- At some point in my life I practiced extensively to acquire a skill that impresses others
Now, even if none of them apply to you, it's not evidence that you do, in fact, suck. My point is that you probably have plenty of reason to be confident. It's just hard to see those reasons when your mind is clouded by your low confidence.
It's also easy to get in the habit of saying "yeah, but" to your strengths. Do any of these sound familiar:
- Yeah, people tell me I look good, but if they saw me naked they wouldn't think that
- Yeah, I'm good at spider juggling, but anyone could do that if they tried hard enough
- Yeah, I've written a lot of stories/poems, but they haven't been published so it doesn't mean anything
- Yeah, I'm pretty good at painting, but I haven't painted in a few years so I'm not really an artist
- Yeah, my PI [see note 3] was happy with me after my first paper was published, but now he hasn't said anything positive since then so I'm probably not doing enough
- Yeah, I have a few good friends who seem to care a lot about me, but I'm pretty sure I come across as weird to everyone else
It's way to easy to dismiss your strong suits. How to retrain your brain? I like to flip A but B statements into B but A statements. For example, that last one sounds a lot more positive if you say "I'm pretty sure I come across as weird to most people, but I have a few good friends who seem to care a lot about me." And that's even without questioning the assumption about how most people are perceiving you!
One important element in confidence is having tools and resources at your disposal. That's why BoldAdulting is here to give you insider tips! For example, you'll be more confident if you have in your back pocket:
- networking tips for introverts
- apps to help you live the life you want
- stories about confidence from accomplished people to show you that low confidence isn't an indication that you suck
- strategies for applying for jobs
- plans for how to have tough conversations with loved ones (or with your boss)
If you think the free BoldAdulting resources aren't quite enough, and maybe you could benefit from some one-on-one help with your confidence, consider booking a free consultation call.
And remember to be B.O.L.D.:
B - Be authentic
O - Open up
L - Listen to people you trust
D - Dream big
5. Change your social life.
What aren't you happy with about your social life? Is it that:
you don't have enough time to spend with your friends?
- you spend too much time/energy/emotions on social media (or, conversely, you wish you were better at that social media that so many people seem to enjoy)?
- you wish you had a partner(s)?
- you don't like the people you're friends with (or do but want to meet new people too)?
- you aren't happy witthe relationship you're in?
- you aren't being your true self with your work buddies?
- your pets are wonderful companions but they have bad behaviors that interfere with your happiness or with your other relationships?
- you aren't treated well by your family?
- you wish you could talk more openly with your friends?
- the apps you're using to find your true love aren't working so far
- you feel you don't connect often enough with the people from your past
So, how are you going to fix it? Consider:
- friends you can turn to
- apps/websites you can use to connect with people
- conversations you can have
- books you can read
- how you'll spend your time (examples include: dedicate an hour each week to calling a family member, disable your social media, use your social media to reach out to an old friend every week)
- how you can restructure your week to facilitate the changes you want to make
6. Change to a mindful approach.
We have a lot to think about on the day-to-day. So we often go with the flow; we let our environment determine our decisions. For example:
are you eating just because food was offered to you?
- are you still on Facebook because the app is set up to scroll endlessly?
- are you in your job because you needed an income, answered a job posting, and then just never considered leaving?
- are you doing your major because you decided one day that was what you were going to study and then never reassessed after you learned more about the subject and what the degree will give you?
- are you in grad school because it just felt like the next thing to do after you finished undergrad?
- did you eat all those cookies just because that was the amount that was in the bag?
- did you say yes to marrying your partner when she proposed because you've been living together and it just seemed like the next thing to do?
If you're not careful, it's easy to get swayed by external forces or to carry forward on a path just because it's the one we're already on.
Consider a more mindful approach to your decisions. I'm not suggesting you reconsider all of your life decisions right this moment. But why not check in with your needs, desires, and goals every once in a while and make sure that your daily/weekly/yearly decisions are in line with those?
Let's take a mindful approach (and remember to start slow):
- decide if you are hungry and/or want to have a treat before accepting
- choose how much time you'll spend on social media, and then use timers to limit yourself
- think about what you want to be doing long-term with your career, and compare the path you need to get there with the path you're currently on
- figure out whether you really love the major you've chosen and whether it'll be helpful for your long-term learning/career goals
- consider whether finishing your graduate program is right for you given your specific goals and interests
- think about how many cookies it makes sense to you to eat, put those on your plate, and put the rest away
- make your decision about whether to move your relationship to "more serious" territory based on how you feel about your partner, your goals, your long-term plans, and any concerns you may have.
Now that we're talking about mindfulness, let's get meta here for a minute:
7. Change your belief that you need to change
Why are you reading this blog post? Is it because:
there's genuinely something about your life that you want to change?
- it's a brand new year and therefore you're pretty sure you're obligated to make some changes?
- you're a friend of mine and just stopping by to show some support? (thanks! <3)
- you're considering your options so you can then make some decisions?
Really think through why you feel you need to change something. If you're happy with how your life is going recently, there's no reason to make changes just because someone asked you what your resolutions are.
If you've already implemented a bunch of changes recently (or are trying to), think carefully before adding more goals to the mix.
If you've been struggling recently with everything life's thrown at you, it's ok to say "no thank you" to rocking the boat further. Even if your Facebook feed is full of others who seem to be making resolutions all over the place. (Remember, the people talking about resolutions are the ones making them.
People who aren't making radical changes to their life aren't writing status messages announcing that. But hey, if you want to announce to all your Facebook friends that you're not making resolutions this year and why, please do, and send me a screenshot! And if this blog post was part of your decision to post about this, consider including a link with your announcement.
But sometimes you really do want something to change, and if so, this can be a great time to get started.
Ok, now you know what you can change. How to proceed?
Choose carefully which part of your life you're going to change (if any). And how.
After all, if what you're craving is some companionship, you might be happier getting a cat than moving to a bigger city.
If you're not happy with your appearance, it might be more reasonable to get a small piercing you've always wanted than to decide to get an impromptu sleeve tattoo.
If what you want is more honesty in your life, maybe you're better off telling your loving partner about a fetish you've never shared than telling your conservative parents who are paying for college that you're in a poly relationship with people of varying genders. Or maybe you want to go all in; it's up to you!
So, my dear Boldies, is there anything you want to change? Do you have any idea how to get started? Comment below or shoot me an email!
1. I define adulting as doing grown up things (e.g. paying bills, looking for jobs, having mature conversations) without ever really feeling like you're an adult who knows what they're doing.
2. I know that not everyone is a fan of Dan Savage. I agree with some of the criticisms and disagree with other ones. But he has some great advice, including this one about coming out.
3. PI is what many academic fields call the boss of a research lab. It stands for principle investigator and is generally a tenure-track professor. Side note: Not everyone in grad school ends up a PI and that's 100% okay. (In fact, only a minority do.)