How To Tell If Someone Has A Truly Toxic Personality, According To Science

By | dating, family, Food for thought, friends, Motivation, narcissism, personality, relationships, self, self-development, Self-Improvement, stories, toxic people, toxic relationships, uplifting news

Your friend or someone you know has gotten fired from every job they’ve ever had. Their dates always flake on them and their friends always betray them. The common theme: it’s never their fault and if you press them on it you’re the one to blame.

According to a team of psychologists in Israel, these types of people may have a toxic personality disorder called “tendency for interpersonal victimhood” (TIV), which they describe as “an ongoing feeling that the self is a victim, which is generalized across many kinds of relationships.”

People with TIV wholly and truly believe they are never wrong and that their victimhood is a core part of their identity.

How to tell if someone ‘plays the victim?’

Not everyone who feels victimized is toxic. Bad things do happen and it’s okay to be upset about it.

Rather, TIV occurs when someone constantly feels like a victim and they bring others down with them.

Rahav Gabay and her colleagues determined that people with TIV tend to have four dimensions:

Constantly seeking recognition

Of all the allegedly horrible things that happen to someone with TIV, people never apologize to them. Worse, they don’t even acknowledge their wrongdoing.

While apologies can be hard to come by, this only becomes an issue when the person who plays the victim is in desperate search of recognition for the supposed bad things that are done to them.

A sense of moral elitism

People with TIV are never wrong. In fact, their moral compass is better than everyone else’s and they use this assumption to manipulate others into their own perspective.

This behavior may be a defense mechanism as a way to maintain a positive self-image.

Lack of empathy for others

Everything that happens to TIV people is the absolute worst and no one else’s pain or suffering matters, or so they think. This can especially be toxic in a relationship as TIV people only care about their own problems, never others’.

The route of this behavior can be that since the person believes they have suffered so much, they don’t think anyone else deserves empathy for their suffering.

This lack of empathy can also show up in a group or national level in the form of “competitive victimhood” or an “egoism of victimhood” where members of a group cannot see things from another group’s perspective.

Rumination about past victimization

Since romantic relationships never worked out in the past for TIV people, there’s no chance they’ll work in the future. This is a fallacy as the past doesn’t dictate the future, but it’s a core belief of people who always play the victim.

Always ruminating about past grievances and thinking it reflects the future is something perpetual victims tend to do.

Why TIV is toxic

People who always play the victim are extremely difficult to deal with because they’re selfish and never wrong.

They’re also obsessed with seeking revenge for those who’ve wronged them and may punish others who had nothing to do with it just because they’ve been wronged before.

Forgiving is part of growth

We all play the victim from time to time. Sometimes bad things really do happen to us and it makes us sour.

The problem is when the victimhood because constant and when the person never learns from their mistakes. It’s also problematic when they never forgive others – you don’t know what everyone is going through and nobody’s perfect.

Ultimately, the problem with playing the victim is it doesn’t allow you to learn or grow from the past. If you don’t acknowledge your faults, how can you make adjustments for the future?

If you know someone who’s always playing a victim, it might be time to reduce your relationship with them or have a frank discussion about it. Life is too short to be surrounded by toxic people.

More uplifting stories:

I Realized My Relationship With My Mother Was Actually Toxic And Learned to Parent Myself

By | Food for thought, goalcast originals, inspiring, mental health, self-development, stories

My mom prefers to act as though we have a great relationship. She pretends, she tells stories, then she covers up her lies with bigger lies. And back when I thought it was possible to move the dial on our relationship, her default move was to play the victim.

Outgrowing my childhood wounds

I shouldn’t have been surprised though, because after all, she was the self-proclaimed ‘best mom’ who did ‘everything for her kids.’

The truth, unfortunately, was far from it.

So, with her strong denial of my reality and her inability to let go of the selfishness, control and manipulative behavior that caused so much pain in the first place, healing the fallout from our relationship was a journey I walked alone.

Sometimes, the apple can fall far from its tree

Healing from my relationship with my mom meant being brutally honest about my childhood. As anyone who has a tough relationship with a parent will tell you, it’s not easy to admit. You almost feel ashamed that your story is different than the beautiful nuclear family that’s so readily advertised, so your first instinct is to hide it.

Shortly after my mom’s divorce, her best friend (and our aunt) came for a visit. She sat with me and asked how long I knew about my mom’s affair (which, to make things more complicated, was with my dad’s sister’s husband). I let her know that my mom told me about their relationship when I was about 5. She was baffled that an adult would share something so heavy with a child.

Granted her surprise, I skipped the details about how my mom not only blatantly continued her affair in front of my sibling and I, but she also used us to lie to our dad on her behalf, treat her lover like a father (while she vilified our dad), and spend the majority of our free-time with the two of them while they played house.

“Promise, to never be like your mom”

Even with the little my aunt did know, she still found it revolting enough to have me promise that I would never be like my mom.

I think about that day often. It was about 15 years ago, and I’ve come a heck of a long way. I’ve put in a lot of work to end the generational trauma of affairs, violence, chronic lying and shame induced manipulation tactics– and frankly, it’s the best gift I could have given myself.

So, no matter what your pain, how similar or how different it may be than mine, I wish the same healing for you.  

Learning to re-mother myself

With a mother that was entirely preoccupied with her affair and her societal image, and a father I watched dwindle into an alcoholic, then into a violent threat in the household, good parenting was hard to come by.  

But none of that really became apparent until I entered my first serious relationship. It was then that things started bubbling up. I was anxious. The feeling of someone walking away felt like being abandoned. My anger was always just one misunderstanding away and I had a complete inability to self-soothe. I felt like a child masquerading as an adult.

It was only when I started walking the path of self-development that I learned the vocabulary I needed to address the root causes of my issues, many stemming from my upbringing.

I learned about my attachment style and how it repeated itself in romantic relationships, I learned about co-dependency and the necessity of boundaries and I learned about how my anger was really just poorly veiled sadness.

But, I didn’t just wake up with that knowledge, I found them in the pages of books that changed my life. Here are a few of the books:

-Healing the Wounds of Childhood by Don St John, Ph.D.

-Unconditional Forgiveness by Mary Hayes Grieco

-Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry & Jean Greaves

-Getting the Love you Want by Harville Hendrix

-Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting or Self-Involved Parents by Lindsay C. Gibson

Through this work, I found validation, empowerment through information and the tools I needed to parent myself.

I also combined this with journaling and affirmations, a powerful combination of tools that allowed me to rewire my psychology and take small, daily steps towards betterment.

Positive change slowly but surely happened

It was only when I was well on this journey of understanding and resolving my earliest experiences that I started to find relationships that were of a higher quality.

Since then, many mentors have appeared in my life who later shared about their similar childhoods, I’ve stumbled upon podcasts and other nuggets of information that have helped me change in massive ways, and best of all, I’ve learned to love in a way that doesn’t hurt.

I guess it’s true what they say, ‘when the student is ready, the teacher will appear,’ and I believe that you being here and reading this is a cornerstone to your healing journey.

It will not be easy, but it will most definitely be worth the inner peace that you find on the other end.

In my journey, I’ve learned to own my story and integrate it into my life’s narrative in a way that strengthens my purpose. Now, when I see dynamics similar to my own, I can’t look away. So, here I am creating. I hope this helps.

Your friend,

Ivy Gill

More inspiring stories:

How Jane Fonda Rewrote Her Life With a Third Act

By | Food for thought, inspiring, jane fonda, purpose, self, self-development

The year is 2019, and 81-year-old, two-time Oscar-winner Jane Fonda is being arrested for the fourth week in a row. Her crime? “Non-violent disobedience.”

While being arrested, Jane takes the time to thank the BAFTAs for her lifetime achievement award– she will not make it to the awards ceremony, because she is protesting climate change outside the Capitol Building.

This is the same year that 16-year-old Greta Thunberg was named Time’s Person of the Year for leading a global movement of climate strikes protesting the same issue.

But Grace and Frankie star Jane Fonda’s history as an activist stretches back four decades. She has been both loved and hated for her dedication to her principles, but remains passionate about the issues she supports today as she was when she began her journey. 

Today, we see activists marching the streets of America and the entire world on the single topic of climate change, but Fonda’s colorful journey is one to explore. 

How did she become such a fearless crusader?

Jane’s first act of activism

As the daughter of Hollywood royalty (her dad was Oscar-winner Henry Fonda of 12 Angry Men, On Golden Pond), Jane grew up in the spotlight before owning it herself.

She built a career as a starlet and sex symbol by starring in films like The Chase and Barbarella, but though she was born in the shadow of her father’s success, Jane has always been determined to blaze her own path.

Jane made her first public display of activism during the Vietnam war, using her high profile to bring attention to the causes she was passionate about– and faced major backlash for doing so. Despite this, she forged a critically-acclaimed career, winning her first Oscar and refusing to star in movies that she didn’t feel held value for the public. This decision led to her second Oscar win, for a film about a Vietnam vet’s struggles.

Jane then branched out into comedies, starring in the hit movie 9 to 5 with close friend (and future Grace and Frankie co-star Lily Tomlin) and built a work-out video empire.

Then she announced her retirement. Things seemed over for Jane– but that was far from the truth.

Second act: learning from her mistakes

Jane Fonda became known as “Hanoi Jane” for her Vietnam activism and many say this was by far the most overboard she has ever gone to raise awareness of an issue she supports. In fact, this is where she started to gain enemies toward her activism. 

In 1970, Jane was falsely arrested for drug trafficking and detained, although her bag contained only vitamins. It was a moment that would set the tone for her future protests and arrests.

Jane’s loyalty to the USA has been questioned for many years. Many see her alleged “Anti-War” protests as “Anti-American” because she seemed to blatantly speak against the U.S. Soldiers

In later years, Jane has reflected upon and apologized for posing in the iconic picture:

I will go to my grave regretting the photograph of me in an anti-aircraft gun, which looks like I was trying to shoot at American planes. It hurt so many soldiers. It galvanized such hostility. It was the most horrible thing I could possibly have done. It was just thoughtless.

Jane Fonda to Barbara Walters

Second act: Growing from mistakes

Jane Fonda
Jane Fonda (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)

The mistakes she made in her youth have led Jane to be more informed and to think more carefully and critically about the causes she supports.

Today, she is still out and about doing marches and “Fire Drills” to raise awareness of climate change, with support from other famous friends like Joaquin Phoenix and Ted Danson.

Jane has said in numerous interviews that she doesn’t care to get arrested as many times as it takes to make her point, while acknowledging that her privilege as a celebrity affords her the ability to do so. Spoken like a true activist.

Though critics of Fonda say she goes overboard with her statements and actions, those closest to her say that her activism is what keeps demons at bay and keeps her going and youthful.

It’s time for a third act

“I divided my life into three acts of 30 years each because every 30 years, I tend to change.”

Jane Fonda, HBO

Jane emerged from retirement in 2005, reinvigorated by years of experience out of the celebrity world. In addition to acclaimed performances on the stage and in film, Jane and best friend Lily co-starred in 7 seasons of Grace and Frankie. The show follows two best friends whose marriages have abruptly ended due to their husbands’ infidelity, as is all about them rediscovering their joie de vivre.

As Jane told HBO, “At the beginning of my third act, I realized — holy sh*t — I don’t know who I am. I was 60 and thought, I have maybe 30 more years. Third acts are important and can pull the rest together. So, I went about studying myself, which meant studying my parents and grandparents. Those are the people who determine who you are — who you then spend the rest of your life healing from. One of the things I hope people come away feeling is a need to examine their lives.” 

This is a profound personal development statement that rings true to most all people of any age and in any stage of life.

Through this realization, Jane has made peace with herself, ending her marriage and embracing her third act as a single woman.

I’m single, which makes me very happy.

Jane Fonda, Vanity Fair

She has also gone deep into contributing to the following charities: 

  • Alzheimer’s Association
  • Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes
  • Elton John AIDS Foundation
  • Heifer International
  • Los Angeles LGBT Center
  • Oceana
  • Peace Over Violence
  • V-Day

What we can learn from Jane

While not everyone agrees with Jane’s personal beliefs or motivations, we can all learn from her approach– fearlessly embracing her opinions and living in accordance with them, whatever the cost.

One of the rights we all hold dear is the right to speak our opinion, and to be heard. This is not a right to be heard if and only if you support one cause or the other, but a right that we all possess. We can see that Jane Fonda simply followed what her heart believed, and that can be interpreted many ways. 

Jane’s story teaches us that our story doesn’t end when we are struggling or when we reach a certain age. Through each act of her life, she experienced highs and lows, made mistakes and learned from them.

In your second and third acts, you, too, can grow and adapt while still being true to the beliefs and convictions that make up the core of who you are.

I love mistakes because it’s the only way you learn. You don’t learn from successes; you don’t learn from awards; you don’t learn from celebrity; you only learn from wounds and scars and mistakes and failures. And that’s the truth.

Jane Fonda, Flaunt Magazine

The 6 Stages of Change To Create the Life You Want

By | challenging, Food for thought, how-to guide, self, self-development

Resilience is forged in the fire of determination. It’s the courage to take action when facing fear and resistance. Although sometimes we’d like it to be easy, all meaningful change ignites fear and resistance to some degree. Self-actualization — the manifestation of our full potential — is a long, painful process for this very reason.

A potential pitfall I’ve noticed with spiritual practice, is that it can become excessively inward focused.

Picture the monk in a cave in the Himalayas, with no external distractions and days filled with hours and hours of meditation

Meditation increases self-awareness and awareness is a catalyst to meaningful change. But unless you pair awareness with action, you’ll freeze at this step.

Changing your behavior is a courageous leap, particularly when you realize that your life are out of alignment. Building an authentic life is an immense challenge; and it’s the path few take.

But it’s essential for living a fulfilling life.

Are you ready to change?

Face your fear to create the life you want

Meaningful change is intimidating. What happens when we realize jobs, relationships, or life situations aren’t what we want in our heart of hearts?

Such realizations can trigger all kinds of fear-based responses in the ego. We fear rejection, loss, or failure.

But it’s crucial to mix spiritual intelligence with getting stuff done, right? We aren’t here to play small, but to live fully and authentically. This takes an immense amount of courage and effort. And in my experience, it requires a smart, structured approach.

This is where behavioral psychology comes in. I find immense value in Prochaska and DiClemente’s model of behavioural change, The Stages of Change Model (also known as the Transtheoretical Model). The model was developed in the 1970s by examining people who successfully quit smoking.

Typically, change is seen as all-or-nothing

The Stages of Change model provides a different approach. Progress in this framework is cyclical. Moving up and down stages is common. By understanding this model, you’re more likely to stick to new habits, and avoid self-sabotage or perfectionism.

Prochaska and DiClemente formed this based on healthy habits, but it’s just as applicable to our dreams and deepest desires, including self-actualization. I recommend using this model as a journaling tool (or discussing it with a coach) for various areas of change.

Let’s look at each stage in detail:

1. Precontemplation

Precontemplation is the point before you even entertain change as a possibility.

There’s zero awareness around the need to change; perhaps due to denial or ignorance.

At this stage, you have no thought of changing, even if others see the need for change.

Without awareness, you may underestimate how problematic a certain behavior (or lack of behavior) is, while emphasizing the drawbacks of making change. Applied to self-actualization, pre-contemplation is intertwined with shadow work.

Ignoring or denying the shadow self, anger, or jealousy makes contemplation impossible.

2. Contemplation

Contemplation is the moment of awareness; the lifting of the veil.

The contemplation stage is introspective. Meditation and mindfulness expedite the shift from precontemplation to contemplation.

This stage is balanced: you equally assess the pros and cons of making change.

When contemplating behavioural change at this stage, you may feel hesitation and doubt. A common example is setting boundaries; a fundamental practice in living authentically.

Communication is key, yet the build-up to such conversations can take a while. There can be lots of contemplation before finding the courage to set boundaries — particularly with those you love.

3. Preparation

The preparation stage is the beginning of exploration.

Using boundary-setting as an example, you may reflect on what your needs are, what needs have to be communicated, and what you’ll say to communicate them. You may buy books on communication rely on your support system for guidance.

We’ll refer to this as the information-gathering stage, or the “Google it” stage.

By this stage, there’s a clear determination to take action in the near future.

A common example with physical health would be researching gym plans, looking up exercise routines, or prepping the cupboards to start eating healthier.

Man cleaning face

4. Action

This is the “Just Do It” moment of change.

It’s crucal that your actions are congruent with your values and authentic desires. I say this because, many times in my life, I’ve pursued goals or taken action due to ego-driven desires.

A common misperception is to view this as the final stage of change.

Believing the moment of action is “final” leads to setbacks and complacency. Your action has to be repeated.

5. Maintenance

Sticking to the new action and developing consistency is the true test.

Remember: the Stage of Change is a spiral model. What this means is, you’re expected to oscillate between stages, rather than consistently progress.

Keep in mind there’s a significant difference between a lapse and total relapse.

And, remember: in all big changes, there will be lapses. Lapses are guaranteed! You may reach the action stage, face setbacks, and return to contemplation. Be kind when this happens.

Most people slip up at this point because they see progress as linear, and change as a success or failure.

Rather than seeing setbacks as failure, it’s much easier to recognize the setback as a lapse, and take action to correct the behavior as soon as you can.

If you find yourself spiralling to an earlier stage, it’s a good time to reassess your goals.

Were they aligned with your deepest wants and needs, or from a place of ego? What can you do better? Do you need more tools or support systems in place? Reflect without judgement.

To remain vigilant, self-monitoring is needed. Applied to a diet, this could be counting calories or checking weight loss. Spiritual growth isn’t as easy to define; but it could involve commitment to a meditation practice, journaling to see progress, or remaining self-aware to ego-triggers and behavioral patterns.

6. Termination

At this stage your new behavior is ingrained and habitual. However, it’s important to note this stage is often not included in health promotion programs because it’s incredibly rare.

It’s likely most of us will be at a stage of consistent maintenance

This is apt for the process of self-actualization. Ego-driven desires and impulses may remain, to some degree, throughout our lives. We just become much better at handling them and choosing to live from a place of heart instead.

I almost decided not to include this stage purely because the ego can play tricks and decide you’ve reached termination stage as a way to breed carelessness. But with this new perspective on change, I hope you’re able to progress and avoid excessive self-criticism on the path to creating the life you want.

It isn’t easy. But it’s worth it.

Demi Lovato Has Moved Beyond Body Positivity– and You Should Too

By | demi lovato, empowering, Food for thought, Inspiring Celebrities, profile, self, self-development

It’s been a little over a year since Demi Lovato’s apparent overdose. She’s been through a lot this whole time, but now she’s back feeling stronger than ever.

During her first interview with Teen Vogue since her relapse, Demi opened up about inner strength, body acceptance, and new projects for her fans yet to come.

More cautious about her decisions and equipped with a lot more patience this time around, Demi now takes a different approach regarding her self-image and actions.

I think it’s been a very introspective year for me. I’ve learned a lot, been through a lot.

Demi’s fight against body image

This is not the first time Demi publicly speaks about body image. Over the course of her career she’s been struggling a lot with meeting beauty standards.

We’re dealing with an industry of beauty and perfection, where appearance seems to count more than talent itself. The media is presenting us some impossible goals to reach in order to feel good about our bodies.

Every time we open a fashion magazine or our social media accounts, we see the same things – more diets, new aesthetic surgeries, trends that are hard to keep up with, and women who would sacrifice anything to get one step closer to perfection.

By being part of this industry since childhood, Demi felt she had no choice but to follow all the ridiculous rules to meet the beauty standards set by society. But when she finally got the body and looks she “needed,” instead of feeling more confident, she was feeling rather distressed and frustrated.

Over the past five years I’ve learned life is not worth living unless you’re living for yourself. If you’re trying to be someone you’re not, or you’re trying to please other people, it’s not going to work out in the long run.

So she began taking small steps in focusing on her own needs first and accepting her true self.

Positivity vs. acceptance

Demi Lovato Body Positivity
(Photo by Joseph Okpako/WireImage)

Demi’s self-image has changed a lot over this past year. Where she once struggled with an eating disorder and took dieting and exercise to an unhealthy extreme, today she is capable of accepting her body as it naturally is.

We hear the term body positivity all the time. To be honest, I don’t always feel positive about my body. Sometimes I do not like what I see. I don’t sit there and dwell on it. I also don’t lie to myself.

Her statement makes the difference between body positivity and body acceptance quite clear. We can all sit in front of a mirror and tell ourselves how beautiful we are, but it won’t have any positive effect if we don’t truly believe what we say.

We all have our bad days. Today your skin might glow, but the next day it might look awful – and that’s perfectly normal. You’re only confident about your self-image once you accept that and move on without changing anything.

Demi allows herself a cheat day every now and then, doesn’t force herself anymore to hit the gym like a maniac, and says she’s feeling better than ever. She still has a trainer and a nutritionist, of course, but she’s doing things at a pace that makes her feel comfortable.

She doesn’t hide her flaws

While many other stars are still trying to impress strangers on social media with unrealistic photos, Demi has embraced the fact that she is only human and accept that having flaws is part of that. She recently posted a photo of herself in a bikini, explaining that she had retouched photos of herself in the past to make herself look smoother and thinner.

Even though Demi was scared about the mean comments she would get, she still followed her heart and posted the photo.

Aside from the fact that there will always be trolls and haters online, the singer encouraged fans to remember that words can still hurt.

What people don’t realize is I’m an extremely sensitive person. When someone says something mean about me or makes a meme making fun of me, I have a good sense of humor. But when it’s a very serious subject it can be hurtful.

How self-acceptance empowers us

By being true to herself, Demi says that accepting her body also helped her determine exactly what she wants from life. She realizes that past events might have overshadowed her career as a musician, but she’s working hard to get people to remember that she’s a singer and an actress, first and foremost.

Demi is happy to announce a new album that will tell her story exactly as it is, and the charts are waiting for her. Her fans continue to support her and she couldn’t be more grateful about it.

What I see in the mirror [is] someone that’s overcome a lot. I’ve been through a lot and I genuinely see a fighter. I don’t see a championship winner, but I see a fighter and someone who is going to continue to fight no matter what is thrown their way.

The singer teaches us a lot about dealing with our self-image in a healthy way. Allow yourself to take a break and see yourself for who you really are. Learn to love that– not an ideal that you’ve created inside your mind. Confidence lies in the acceptance of your true self.

More inspiring musicians:

What Emma Watson Really Means When She Says She’s “Self-Partnered”

By | actors, Emma Watson, Food for thought, introspective, self, self-development

Emma Watson announced in a British Vogue interview that she has changed her relationship status from “single” to “self-partnered,” and everyone’s busy talking about it.

Compared by many to Gwyneth Paltrow’s reframing of her divorce as “conscious uncoupling,” Watson is known for her willingness to engage more deeply than most celebs with the social issues and activism she encounters, particularly around gender.

As strange as it may sound, self-partnering is simply about trying to focus on being happy and complete as an individual— ultimately investing time in getting to know oneself without bowing to pressures to seek fulfillment in a partner. It doesn’t mean you’re not open to it. It just means you’re with yourself first.

Emma Watson is all grown up now

What is “self-partnered”?

Watson recently told British Vogue that as her 30th birthday approaches, she’s finally happy with being single.

“It took me a long time, but I’m very happy. I call it being self-partnered,” she said.

Let’s face it, the reality is, 2019 though it may be, the pressures facing single women on the precipice of 30 (or older) are still quite real.

Personally, I found myself dealing with the breakup of a longterm relationship at the age of 29, and all I saw was my same-age ex-boyfriend getting hit on by women both “age-appropriate” and far younger. At the time, I was suffering a lack of confidence—out of character—which allowed mainstream notions of “aging women” and where we should be in life (with a man and kids—before it’s too “late”) enter my sphere.

Close to a decade later, I now feel these prescribed pressures far less, having seen their true potential to block happiness—whether they’ve been fulfilled or not. 

It’s about having choices

Watson’s role in the upcoming remake of Little Women is seemingly an extension of the way she approaches real-life feminism. To that end, she says that she’s dedicated to learning about and expanding on what being a feminist truly means.

Although the story’s eldest March sister, Meg (who Watson plays) isn’t traditionally understood as a feminist—especially compared to the rebellious, free-spirited Jo– Watson wants the world to understand, once and for all, that for her, feminism is about the right to choose, regardless of what it is that one chooses.

“Her choice is that she wants to be a full-time mother and wife,” says Watson. “To Jo, being married is really some sort of prison sentence. But Meg says, ‘You know, I love him and I’m really happy and this is what I want.”

Just because my dreams are different from yours, it doesn’t mean they’re unimportant.

The importance of intersectionality in all things

Emma Watson

While Emma Watson has indeed been stealing headlines with her coining of the term “self-partnered,” it’s important to point out that while the new label works to reframe singledom, it also happens to derail more complex, less snappy conversations Watson has had about her experiences learning intersectionality (aka intersectional feminism).

What is intersectionality, you may ask?

Why, the inherently interconnected nature of social categories like race, class, and gender, of course, and how they overlap to create systems of discrimination or disadvantage.

As Lola Okolosie writes for The Guardian, Watson has done the work necessary to understand criticism she’s received in the past.

“When I heard myself being called a ‘white feminist’ I didn’t understand (I suppose I proved their case in point). What was the need to define me — or anyone else for that matter — as a feminist by race? What did this mean? Was I being called racist? Was the feminist movement more fractured than I had understood? I began… panicking,” said Watson.

“It would have been more useful to spend the time asking myself questions like: What are the ways I have benefited from being white? In what ways do I support and uphold a system that is structurally racist? How do my race, class and gender affect my [feminist] perspective?”

She went on to thank other feminists for calling her out. 

Should we all be self-partnered?

If the collective “we” should find ourselves willing to draw valuable lessons from the work and life (thus far) of Emma Watson, let it be the following: the importance of remaining open— always open— to new ways of framing experiences, new definitions of well-worn terms, and even altogether new ways of understanding the ways of the world at large. You do that, and you’ll be your own best partner.

More inspiring celebrities:

How I Learned To Cope With Eco-Anxiety and Climate Despair

By | empowering, Food for thought, personal essay, self, self-development

I was in attendance at a press conference recently when I first heard the term “eco-anxiety.”

The physician on stage told the stories of the Inuit communities she’s worked with, who have been witnessing, and living with, the effects of global warming and climate change for years.

I remember feeling a sense of relief — there were people out there suffering from the same worry about climate change as I was.

It is a very real thing

Turns out there are many ways to describe this condition, be it “eco-anxiety,” “climate anxiety,” or “climate despair. Whatever you want to call it, there is no denying that it is real.

No, there is no official clinical definition for it yet, but it is not surprising that the phenomenon is on the rise considering the collective, growing awareness of the environmental crisis we are facing.

Personally, my mind started imagining climate change’s worst scenarios nearly a decade ago. I remember watching Superstorm Sandy wreak havoc on New York City in 2012 like it was yesterday. 

I sat there in shock and disbelief, staring at the images of the storm’s aftermath on my television.

It hit too close to home (literally and figuratively)

At least 53 people were killed in NYC alone, as a result of the storm. Major hospitals were evacuated and shut down, hundreds of thousands of homes and vehicles were destroyed, and economic losses were registered in the billions.

A profound sense of fear and despair washed over me. Something told me that the world would be seeing a lot more of these kinds of intense storms in the future — and I was right.

At first, I was angry

I felt guilty and I felt scared. My anxiety was soaring high. 

I was angry because in my mind, too many people were actively denying that climate change was real and it felt as though no one was taking the threat seriously. I felt guilty because I was part of the problem and I felt scared of the unknown.

All these questions were coming up: Is climate change even real? If it is, how is it going to affect my future and that of my loved-ones? Is climate change a good reason not to have children? I had none of the answers to any of these questions and I felt totally hopeless.

Luckily, my late mother raised me to be a warrior

Life has taught me the importance of confronting uncomfortable issues head on, instead of ignoring them in hopes that they will go away––because they never do.

Pretending climate change is not a real threat is not an option for me. If you too have been feeling anxious about climate change, you’re not alone. There are ways to cope and to channel your worry into action.

Here are some ways to cope with eco-anxiety:

1. Acknowledge, accept, and talk about your feelings

Ignoring negative emotions is easy. Unfortunately for most of us, it has become second nature, to our detriment.

Feeling scared? Angry? Worried? Sit with it. Avoiding uncomfortable emotions only make things worse in the long-run. Instead of suppressing your fear, worry and/or anger, allow yourself to feel it. It’s normal to feel these emotions, it comes with being human.

Get curious about how you’re feeling: explore your emotions, write them out, and be open to what they’re trying to teach you. Talk about how you’re feeling with people you trust. Sharing is a good way to release tension.

2. Mourn the loss

Much like “eco-anxiety” is real, so is “ecological grief”, and with grief comes mourning. Take all the time you need to process any and all feelings of loss you may be experiencing. Whether you’ve been directly impacted and lost your home or pet, or find yourself grieving the future you envisioned for your children, grief is no joke and it needs to be embraced (rather than suppressed) so that you can move forward.

3. Empower yourself by turning negative feelings into positive action

Once you’ve acknowledged and accepted your feelings and the anxiety they’ve stirred up, you can start channelling them into action. The first step here is to identify what you can do and to zero in on your interests. Yes, the fight against climate change is unprecedented, but I’m a firm believer that there is hope in action — no matter how small. 

For instance, if you love to travel, you might want to consider taking fewer planes to get around. If you love the ocean, you could volunteer to remove trash from your area’s beaches and waterways. If you’re into investing, make sure you’re putting money into companies that divest from fossil fuels.

No matter how big or small, these actions add up.

At the end of the day, I’m not encouraging you to simply get rid of the anxiety. Instead, I challenge you to make it easier to deal with by using it as motivation for change. We’re all in this together.

Healing From Trauma Can Be Fun — Here’s How I Did It

By | empowering, Food for thought, personal essay, self, self-development, Self-Improvement

“We will look deep into your pain and conquer your demons.”

“It may be challenging but it will be so worth it.”

“It’s time to be brave enough to work through your trauma.”

“Don’t worry, you can do it, and I will be there to support you when it gets difficult.”

These are all real statements that I was confronted with while looking for a coach to help me overcome the trauma of a past abusive relationship.

All of the quotes seemed harmless…

All I heard was that in order to heal, I was going to have to accept that it would be difficult, challenging, and painful. And that was the last thing I wanted. 

At the time I was in a new healthy relationship but all of the PTSD from my ex was coming right back up and wreaking havoc on my life. I honestly feared I was going to lose my boyfriend because of my own toxicity.

Despite that fear, I sure as hell didn’t feel brave enough to open up all my wounds and experience all my pain all over again. I was already doing that on a daily basis.

The rhetoric I was hearing was only reinforcing my fear

Unfortunately, I was stuck in that fear and pain for a really long time. I remember thinking:

Why do I have to keep going through more and more painful things just to have the life and love that I desire?

It made me angry. And lonely — really really lonely. It honestly made me feel that I wasn’t good enough to heal. That I couldn’t conquer my pain. That my reality would just be wrapped in my past trauma forever.

It made me feel like I had lost my whole life to my abusive ex — not just the years I had given him while we were married. 

The wrong message with the right intention

Now, I know that those coaches, healers, and positive beings of light had no intention of their words having this effect. They were genuinely just trying to be supportive. And I am sure that many people don’t hear what I heard within them.

However, I also know that there are people out there that definitely, whether consciously or not, hear that discouragement in those attempts to be caring and motivating. They, too, are allowing that discouragement to keep them stuck in their pain.

Eventually, I started reading books and healed myself enough to not be afraid of diving into my pain, so I hired a coach. And then another coach. And another. But a whole new problem was coming up.

I was not getting the level of healing I needed

Yes, I learned a lot of tools but my daily anxiety was still affecting not only me, but those around me. I yearned to be free of all the fear and guilt and yet I couldn’t seem to find a program that worked for me. It was making me doubt myself all over again. 

Then one day, I was playing Dungeons & Dragons with my kids and I had an idea.

What if healing wasn’t something that we had to think of as healing? What if I could actually shed the belief that healing could only be achieved through a ton of work, effort, and struggle?

What if healing could be fun? What if it could be a game? 

That realization changed my life

Photo Credit: Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

I have always been a lover of all things fantasy and nerdy. I eat fiction books for breakfast and have watched all the anime. I cosplay and play both video and tabletop games. I even write my own fiction work. But before that time, I had not thought about the possibility that the content I adore being used as a tool, not just to bypass my pain, but to consciously overcome it. 

It is my deep held belief that as humans we have forgotten the power of our imagination to shape our reality.

Yes, with the growth of different manifestation strategies and methods that have come to the surface over the last few decades we are rediscovering that power. But, what if we used our imagination to experience the things that we are too afraid to truly dive into in our physical life?

I gave my journey a storyline

I created a character of me, a world she lived in, and a monster that I was going to overcome — the embodiment my fear of being unlovable.

When I learned a new skill, had a new realization, or addressed a new wound  I would level up my character and give her gear and storyline. I narrated her world like it was a novel. Each challenge or panic attack I faced was a quest I made her go on. I would see her overcoming things as I did. 

And it worked. Not only did I find that my healing was becoming a reality that was deeply and profoundly changing the way I interacted with the world, but I was no longer daunted or overwhelmed by the idea of my own growth. I was having fun. 

Fun is the key

Photo Credit: Mike Fox on Unsplash

It made my world feel free again. After you have gone through a traumatic experience — whether it be abuse or a bad injury or just simply getting fired from a job — the last thing you want to do is to have your journey to heal that trauma be traumatic too. 

Don’t get me wrong: I am not saying that the methods and philosophies of the coaches that were trying to help me didn’t work for other people or weren’t effective. I am sure that they were. But they were giving my brain ammunition to keep me stuck and therefore nothing was clicking.

That is why the power of fun is so important. As humans we learn through stories and we deeply want to imagine and create. Give yourself the freedom to let what you imagine take you to levels you never dreamed. 

Through imagination we reconnect to our soul. To the childlike wonder we once had for the world. To the freedom that is within us. 

Since discovering the power of fun, I am no longer am burdened with the pain and the guilt of the past. My relationship is stronger than ever and I haven’t had a panic attack in years.

The best part is: my character is still growing and learning and taking on bigger and bigger quests. And I am still enjoying the journey more than I ever thought possible. 

So, stop buying into the belief that growth must be challenging but instead ask yourself, how can you make it fun. How can you make it an adventure worth having?

My Breakthrough Moment: Writing a Letter to My Younger Self

By | Food for thought, how-to guide, personal essay, self, self-development, Self-Improvement

If you’ve ever sat down to write a letter when you’re mad or upset, you know the experience can be cathartic. It’s the same when you address the letter to yourself — your younger self.

Don’t let the past control your present. If you hold onto things that upset you — even something you’ve done to yourself — it can create a cloud of negativity that follows you around for years.

Instead, face the past head-on with a letter to your younger self, just like mine below.

A Letter to My Younger Self

Dear Kayla,

You’re a full-fledged adult now, can you believe it? At 15, you wanted the years to fly by. Now, I just wish they would slow down. 

It’s not all bad. Being an adult, and all of the freedom that comes with it, is even better than you imagined. The ability to make a pizza at 3 a.m. without mom asking what you’re doing. Heading off on road trips with your husband. Setting your own schedule to do what you want, when you want. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

There are some things I wish you would have done differently, though. If only you had known then what you know now. That’s why I’m writing to you!

You don’t know it yet, but after you graduated and moved out of mom and dad’s, you struggled to find my place in the world. You bounced from dead-end job to dead-end job. You felt unsatisfied with life. Then, when you started blogging, you finally felt a sense of satisfaction — accomplishment. It took a long time to get there, though.

Be serious about school. It may not seem like a big deal now, but it will later. Listen to your teachers, strive for good grades, study for the SATs and get into a good college. It will make things easier, I promise. Education is how you challenge your thinking and become a better person.

It was in college that you learned more about meat production. It’s where you decided to give up eating meat. It’s been a great decision, and you feel healthier every day for having done so.

I don’t hold my past decisions against myself — don’t worry, you can keep the bacon for now — but I wish there were some other things I had known. Maybe if you would have changed majors, you would have been a little happier? (We both know you love writing poetry, but were too afraid to do anything about it!)

Now, you have a career you love and write poetry as much as you like – just not professionally. Who knows, maybe you’ll get there!

Though you probably should have done some things differently (i.e. branched out more and joined a few clubs and organizations), you’re right where you need to be now.

Don’t give up, even when you feel like you should. Life gets a whole lot better.

How to write your own letter

If you want to write a letter, you may not know where to start. To get a sense of what you want to get out of the letter, start with a simple goal. Maybe you want use the letter as a topic for a college essay. If this is the case, jot down some key areas you wish to address in your letter to get an idea of what points to talk about.

You may not even know what you want from the letter, and that’s okay, too. Just write!

I wanted to confront my mistakes, so I wrote about what bothered me, what I wish I had done, and where I ended up in life.

Doing this felt sort of like a diary, but because I directed the letter towards a more naïve, younger version of myself, it was easier than I thought.

After writing my letter, I felt a sense of clarity like never before. Almost like my life flashed before my eyes, though less dramatic. 

The process meant I had to be honest with myself. What’s the point of writing a letter made for someone else to read? Dig out the heavy stuff.

Who can you get personal with, if not yourself?

If you plan to write your own letter, it’s crucial to detect self-deception — when you lie to yourself.

It can be easy to believe your own lies

We all want to paint ourselves and our past actions in the best light, even when it’s far from the truth. However, real growth comes from brutal honesty. Here’s how writing your letter will open things up for you:

A confrontation

In writing a letter to my younger self, I can confront my decisions and gain peace. It’s over — done with. I can’t change it. All I can do is hope to get closure.

The same goes for my decision to stop eating meat. When I first discovered how manufacturers made meat products, I felt guilty for my participation. I believed, because of my purchase habits, I was responsible for the horrible conditions. I lacked compassion for my own choices, whether right or wrong.

At 15, I know I wasn’t thinking about where my food came from and how it was made. I was thinking about boys and college and getting my driver’s license.

In college, I was afraid to pursue a career that I’d really like because I didn’t know how successful I would be. Even if I worked hard, how good could it really get? I decided to major in English instead, which proved to be just fine, but I beat myself up a lot after college for chickening out.

Feeling bad for myself did nothing constructive.

In the end, I was able to write for a living, which is just what I wanted. Though it’s not poetry, I can still pick up a pad and pen whenever I please. Even though it wasn’t in the cards, maybe it will be someday.

The idea is to confront your emotions in a raw and honest way.

If you have any trouble, start with a sentence a day and work your way up to a letter.

How was your day today? How will you make tomorrow better?

Eventually, the thoughts will just flow, and you’ll have written a page in no time.

A sense of peace

If you’re exceptionally hard on yourself, you’re not alone. I’ve gone through the negative cycle of berating myself for past mistakes, even though the outcome can’t be changed. However, self-criticism can take a toll — on both our minds and bodies.

Our brains are trained to distinguish the good from the bad. When we sway from our goals or expectations, we assign a negative value to the experience. 

Writing a letter to my past-self allowed me to access the more compassionate side of my brain — to analyze the situation in a new light.

We’re human, and we all make mistakes, no matter how evolved we are. The trick is to learn from mistakes in order to not make them again. So far, I think I’m doing alright in that department. 

You’ve written the letter — now what?

Once I wrote my letter, I signed it, sealed it in an envelope and — stuck it in a drawer. Sorry if that’s anti-climactic, but it’s the truth.

It’s not about who reads the letter or where it ends up. It’s about the writing process. Typically, dwelling on the past is a vicious cycle, but writing is a healing process that has real benefit. 

When you talk to someone, as in traditional therapy, you get the opportunity to vent your feelings and frustrations. When you write a letter to your younger self, you try to understand and learn from past decisions and emotions.

Don’t just relive past events

Focus on the emotions you felt and consider how you changed for the better as a result. This exercise can be especially beneficial for those who are introverted, like me, and prefer to keep to themselves.

Writing a letter to your younger self isn’t hard. Just pick up a pen and get going. Consider life events that have shaped who you are and how you think. When finished, seal the letter away to reflect on later. Likewise, you can toss it in the trash and consider it the end to a healing experience.

What will you write next?

My Journey From Panic to Public Speaking

By | empowering, Food for thought, how-to guide, personal essay, self, self-development, Self-Improvement, success stories

When my anxiety was at its peak, I had multiple panic attacks every day. My body was always on high alert, fight-or-flight always active, heart-rate always elevated. My “worst case scenario” mind was overactive and incessant, fuelling a constant sense of foreboding.

When even the smallest interactions and everyday challenges trigger extreme anxiety, you can begin to lose hope.

Indeed, I did — I felt I couldn’t cope with life’s challenges. How will I ever thrive and be free to live the life I want, if I’m forever crippled by fear?

Fear was my default state

So imagine my response to genuinely nerve-inducing situations. Catalyzed by the addition of normal nerves, these situations felt unbearable. My anxiety was often triggered by anticipation alone.

Panic attacks became so frequent I lost count — but one moment has stayed with me.

“I can’t cope”

Public speaking is challenging at the best of times, but during this period of my life, it was the cause of despair. Even the vague possibility of public speaking caused vivid mental images of nightmare scenarios. Choking, losing track, stumbling over words: “I can’t cope…”

It’s a normal day. I’m at university. The workshop is relaxed; I’m not. There’s a group of around 12. These are my peers; many are friends. With a couple of sentences, we’re asked to share our ideas for an upcoming project. Just a few words. Just speaking. In public…

As soon as I hear the sentence “let’s go around the circle,” I begin to lose control

The usual symptoms are there — the lump in the throat, hyperventilation, racing heart, a sense of utter terror. But I remember this panic attack because it was different.

It was the first time I left the situation. It was the first time I walked away. I didn’t attend further lectures that day.

Instead, I walked home, closed the curtains, got into bed, and shut myself away from the world, as “I can’t cope, I can’t cope, I can’t cope…” played on loop in my mind.

Taking the stage and finding the flow

Fast forward a few years: it’s not quite a normal day. I’m in the exquisite and enchanted Castello di Titignano for SAND Italy 2019. The room is relaxed. Weirdly, I’m relaxed too. This is weird because I’m about to step to the podium and present at a conference for the first time.

The crowd of faces aren’t just peers, but respected artists, philosophers, scientists, writers, and spiritual teachers. A subtle hum of imposter syndrome resides, somewhere, in the recesses of mind. But I don’t pay attention.

As soon as I hear a volunteer utter the sentence “where’s the next speaker?” I feel calm. I take to the stage. I clear my throat. I speak. I don’t choke. I find flow. I enjoy myself. Me. Speaking publicly. Enjoying the experience. Thriving… 

How did I make this journey from panic to public speaking?

Naturally the journey has been long and full of challenges. I can’t summarize the entire journey in one article, but I wish to share four key pointers that have helped the most. I believe they will assist your journey, too.

1. I used the power of vulnerability

Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.

Brené Brown

When I reflect on those days of panic, I’m struck by how much energy was used trying to “hold myself together.”

I was terrified of being seen. I was so terrified of my anxiety being detected that I became a master of disguise. Many close friends and family had no idea what I was going through at the time.

The more anxious I felt, the more I tried to hide. I was attempting to veil my vulnerability. This was intensified with public speaking. The moment my hands started to shake or my voice trembled, I’d do all I could to pretend I was fine, okay, calm.

Slowly, I found the courage to remove the facade

The process of vocalizing brings anxiety from the shadow into the light. It reduces energy wasted with futile attempts at concealment. To my surprise I felt instant relief when I labelled my anxiety. Later, I realized this was the first step in the process of acceptance.

2. I took a mindful approach

Panic disorder is the fear of anxiety itself. It’s anxiety about anxiety! Nerve-inducing moments were so difficult precisely because they triggered this chain reaction.

Mindfulness is the practice of non-judgement. Through meditation, I learned to accept thoughts, feelings, and sensations. I paused the chain reaction.

Then, using mindfulness, I started to deconstruct “panic” into its individual parts.

I broke panic down into the stories I was telling myself.

I noticed I was oxygenizing panic by telling myself I was weak or foolish or incapable. In the light of awareness I was able to challenge these thoughts. Further still, I noticed resistance to the physiological “cues” of panic. I sat with them in meditation.

Like apparitions, they lost their believability over time. Thoughts are just thoughts. Feelings are just feelings. Sensations are just sensations.

Through awareness and non-judgement, my reaction to anxiety decreased. I was no longer afraid of anxiety. I welcomed it.

3. I built a connection with the crowd

You feel nervous. You’re counting down the seconds until it’s your turn in the spotlight. You take the stage. You look out to a sea of faces. The rich tapestry of unique individuals is now dehumanized and threatening. You feel disconnected and separated: it’s you versus the crowd. 

My toughest moments with anxiety were fused with a sense of isolation. Perceiving yourself in opposition to the crowd only increases anxiety. It’s impossible to feel supported and loved. It’s impossible to sense the crowd wanting the best for you.

Breathe individuality into the crowd.

Don’t look out at a sea of faces. See an opportunity to talk one-on-one with a room of beautifully unique beings. Make eye contact with individuals, and every time you do, have the intent to connect, human to human. Transform “you versus them” to “us.”

4. Step aside and surrender

Separation, fear of being judged, fear of failure, catastrophizing… these are ego traits.

We often associate ego with narcissism and pride, but our egos are equally active in moments of self-doubt or insecurity. From this perspective, fear of making a fool of yourself is a form of narcissism; it’s just motivated from the other end of the ego spectrum.

The good news is — you are not your ego.

Once you feel comfortable on stage, the next challenge is to embrace it, to enjoy it.

The best way to do this is to surrender completely. Move out of your way and let your authenticity speaks for itself. Surrender fears, doubts, concerns.

This takes great courage. It’s the ultimate act of vulnerability.

Never forget…

If you’re suffering from anxiety, I want you to remember hope is not lost. Take small steps. Aspire. Create a vision to move towards and know one day, you’ll look back at the path you’ve walked and you’ll be amazed.

All the habits, mechanisms, and tools you apply in your return to baseline don’t lose their power — they place you on a path of life-long growth.