Will you teach me a lesson?

Do you agree that in life it is all about moving forward? Taking the next step and climbing a bit higher every day? But what does it mean to be successful in life? Perhaps it is simply about being the best version of you.

How do you keep on moving forward? I believe it is by learning new things. I remember being in primary school and teachers wisely told me that life was like a school. You were never going to stop learning and I thought ‘yeah I will’. I didn’t want to spend my life learning new things all the time. When I was done with school, I was going to be done with learning. And even though I was a good student, I didn’t like school at all.

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Now I believe the complete opposite. I actually think that the most important lessons in life are not taught in school. They are the bad boyfriends, mean friends, friendly neighbors and trusting bosses. The lessons are all the experiences you face every day again and again. The good ones and the bad ones. The plain days are just giving you a break to catch your breath. So try to enjoy those too.

I actually think that the best relationships with partners, friends and family are with the ones who can teach you to be better. I’m not talking about the people who literately need to tell you ‘be better’  and ‘grow up’, even though sometimes we need that too. But I am referring to the people who can show you or make you want to be better. And the last but definitely not least person who needs to teach you every day is you.

Some tips on how you can teach yourself? Well by being able to honestly look at yourself in the mirror every day. Be smarter than you were planning to. Travel the world, read books, watch videos, listen to stories and take all the pieces that can help you to improve yourself and become the best version of you.

If a look at myself from for example four years ago, then I’m happy I’m not her anymore. Of course I’m still her, but a newer version. I’ve fallen, made mistakes, felt broken a few times and then I got up, my scars healed and I climbed higher. And guess what? It all helped to made me so much happier. So I’m even happy I had to fall a few times to learn the lessons I needed. Who knows where we’ll be in another four years?

Don’t be so emotional

Sometimes I feel like a sponge and no not the ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ kind, but the emotional absorbing kind. I mean that it feels as if you’re absorbing everything around you. All the good, all the bad. The happiness makes you feel lighter and the sadness brings you down. The energy of people passing by, touching your energy and changing it.

Remember when Simba’s father Mufasa was killed by his uncle Scar? Or perhaps you saw a cute video of a puppy and it touched your heart. It could also be that you passed an elderly couple holding hands. Did it make you tear up too? Or am I the weird one and way too emotional?

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Because that is what happens to me. I don’t think I’ve been any other way. Even though I try not to show my emotions, especially not during movies, I feel it all. When I was four and we went to see the Lion King, seeing Mufasa die broke my heart. At that moment I wasn’t good at hiding my emotions. So apparently I got up in the middle of the theater and cried quite loud that I didn’t like what just happend. Don’t worry, now I’ll just say it in my head. I won’t disturb your movie time.

But the same goes for seeing a friend happy or upset. When my best friends cry, you can bet on it that I’ll cry too. On the other hand their happiness will work contagious too. Now I understand what is happening, but when I was fourteen I didn’t have a clue. I remember visiting a friend who was quite sad and I would come home feeling down not knowing why.

So what can you do? Well in case you recognize yourself in my story, because perhaps you’re just thinking that I should be stronger. But the thing is I learned that knowing when to let your feelings out is being strong. You don’t need to be sobbing all day long, although if you do the contrary and smile all day, nobody will complain.

Getting back to my point of what you can do. First of all accept whatever you’re feeling. Whether it happens all the time or just occasionally. Accept that you’re happy, sad, angry, anxious or ecstatic. Ask yourself why you’re feeling that way and in case it’s a negative emotion, then let it go. Focussing on it will make it worse. Surround yourself in the mean time with positive people and choose to absorb only the happiness.

It’s important that you don’t let other people tell you that you’re too emotional. That it’s not ok to cry once in a while or that it’s weird if you’re smiling all the time. Your emotions can be your strength too. Probably you’re very empathetic and you can feel it when others need your support. There’s no such thing as being too emotional. It’s just about knowing how to use those emotions and when to let them out. So cry if you want to and sing a happy tune when you feel like it. Because there’s only one person who can feel what you feel, and that’s you.

Retail therapy: myth or miracle?

Have you ever tried it? We’ve all heard the tales of retail therapy, but does it really work? And if it does for how long? It is supposed to bring you up when you’re feeling down. The wonder being in that buying a new dress will make you happy. So does it?

The wonderland of shopping was introduced to me at a very young age. Being a toddler in a stroller I would just fall asleep, but that soon changed. Because soon I would ask my mom if we could go to the city center and buy pretty things, that was with a huge smile on my face. We never bought expensive things, but even something small could make me happy.

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As I turned older and got to adolescence the shopping sprees became a frequent activity, My “necessity” to shop grew bigger. It was shop till you drop all the way. And it wasn’t because I was in an actual need of clothes or shoes or bags for that matter. I just “needed” it for when I was down. But the funny thing is with shopping when you’re down, it is like any typical “drug” or “medicine” it only treats the symptoms, not the source.

So what happend after shopping? Well for a short moment you have lovely new items hanging in your closet. After a while when you look at that brown purse you bought, you only remember the reason why you bought it. I was down because I failed an exam and those shoes, because I had a fight with a friend. In the end it made me more sad than it would make me happy. That wasn’t the deal of retail therapy, right? Well maybe it is, since its not really therapy.

Whatever you choose to bring you up when you’re down, if you’re not focused on the source of the unhappiness it’ll never work. If you have a drink to cheer you up and you have a few too many, you wake up with a hangover and you’re still unhappy. And if you eat cake, cookies and ice cream to fill a hole, you will gain weight but still have that hole inside you.

It comes down to this. If you do anything for the wrong reasons it won’t work. And why? Well first of all you’re not working on the real issue and second you’re doing it out of a negative emotion. If you let negative emotions lead you, it will only bring you more negativity. If you eat a piece of cake, because you’re happy and you enjoy it, then you can relive that moment and enjoy it again and again.

So do I still like to go shopping? For sure! But now for the right reasons. Now when I’m sad I’ll work on why I’m feeling that way and I no longer try to mask it with spending money. But when I’m happy and I have some free time I love to splurge a bit. Obviously my mom is still my partner in crime. The last time we went we even had some cake too. And I can tell you it was lovely, because it still makes me smile today.

Are you feeling lost?

What to do when you’re feeling out of place? When you don’t know what to do next? Well probably the best thing to do is stand still. Just stop for a moment and think. And what should you do then?

We’ve all been there at some point. Everything is going as planned, but yet something is off. You don’t know what is missing, but something definitely is. My grandfather used to tell me that when you’re for example in a forest and you’re lost, stop running. Don’t run around in circles like a fool. Just wait a minute and look around.

Where are you exactly? Do you recognize something? Then choose a path, one path, and keep going straight forward. At some point you will get out of the dense forest. Well, my grandfather was counting on a Dutch, not so big forest, but still, keep on going long enough and it will work anywhere.

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I remember when I was about twelve years old I went with my mom for a weekend to the Dutch coast. One morning I decided I would go for a run through the sandy dunes. I guess that was my first attempt at running. Smart as I was, I started running without checking where I was going and where I came from. So soon after I left, I realized I had know clue where I was. I was completely lost in the middle of the dunes. At that time almost nobody had a cellphone, so calling my mom wasn’t an option.

Then I remembered what my grandfather said and I stopped running. After looking around I suddenly saw the church tower, which was somewhat close to our hotel. I ran in the direction of the church and found the hotel soon after, which I wouldn’t have found if I didn’t stop running first.

Another thing that might work is to take some distance. This could be a literal distance or just mentally take distance from a situation. When you feel lost and you stay focused on the fact that you’re lost, you’re not going to find your way. Why? You’re focused on the problem, on the consequence of something that is missing. So better to focus on what you do have, who you are and then on what you need. Taking a few days off your life and taking a trip can help too, because a different environment can give you a new perspective.

Just imagine you can stand at a high point and look at your feelings of unease from up high. You’ll probably realize that the problem isn’t as big from up there. It seems smaller because it’s not suffocating you when you step away. When you’re able to see the bigger picture you can find out what you need. You can solve the maze in your head. If you can look at a city from a higher point you can see all its beauty and its flaws. And it works exactly the same for any issue you might face. When you understand what it is you need you can make a map on how to find it. Like you can make a map of the city.

So remember how lost you might feel the first thing to do is…nothing. Just stop and breath. Look at where you are and what you have. Write it all down if that works for you. And ask for help if you need it. Focus on everything that makes you happy, so you can find what doesn’t. Then the last thing to do is getting out of your own created maze. And your gps on your phone isn’t going to help you here, but your intuition will.

Celebrate your differences

Ever wanted to change those weird little things about yourself? Well don’t wish to change those anymore. We often forget that what makes us unique are exactly those corky characteristics. So instead celebrate your differences. Be happy that there’s only one you.

I’m not only talking about that you have a beauty mark somewhere on your face. Or a hair color some will envy and others admire. I’m also talking about who you are on the inside. Of course we all want to change for the better, but don’t let someone tell you you’re not good enough just the way you are. The details of who you are, make you you.

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Some might find my love for dogs strange. Or think it’s odd that I often laugh the hardest at my own jokes. And I’ve been told they’re not so funny. Of course I totally disagree with that. And perhaps someone might find it peculiar some of my dreams actually come true. Another might laugh too knowing that open water can scare me even though I love to swim. Do I care? Not really no. Because I wouldn’t change those characteristics about me for a thing.

So what can you do? Love everything about yourself. Love the fact that you’re the odd on out. And also don’t worry if someone criticizes you for always being late. That’s just you, well except for work. Always be on time for work. Apart from that thank someone for pointing it out and tell them you’re just a relaxed person and not bound by time. Perhaps a bit cheesy, but who cares.

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It also works the other way around. Would you like to be around people who are all exactly the same? That they all want the same thing, drink the same, eat the same, laugh the same way? It’s one type fits all? I don’t think so. So instead of getting annoyed when someones talks a lot. Participate in the conversation or just leave them be and go your way.

And how do I celebrate my differences? By simply enjoying myself and not worrying if someone else doesn’t like it. If we focus on ourselves a bit more instead of others we would be a lot happier. So if you’re hair doesn’t do want you want, like always, don’t mind it. Your hair just always looks a bit wild, that’s you.

Social Media: Friend or Foe?

Apparently many of us feel insecure because of social media. We compare ourselves to the strangers we see on Instagram, Youtube or Facebook. But why do those pictures make us feel insecure? Why not motivated and inspired instead?

We all have our insecurities and that’s probably quite normal. That we compare ourselves with others is probably in our nature too. However it shouldn’t be something that makes us insecure. And we should actually just stop doing it all together. Unless that difference you see, inspires you to make a positive change too.

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Now you see many women and men all over social media promoting a healthy lifestyle and being fit. Wether you’re into working out or not, why feel bad if someone else does it? It might be because then you need to be honest with yourself. Secretly you want to get fit too and those pictures remind you that you’re not. Why not simply think that you’re not there “yet”. You can set your goals and work on them too. It does mean you need to face your fears and be truthful to yourself.

What I see when I look at pictures of fit people? I feel inspired and think that if they can do it, then so can I. Working out and eating healthy is something you control and you definitely can achieve. It’s just an example, but my point is that it’s a waste of time and energy to look at it negatively.

I’ve also heard people complain seeing others traveling all over the world and thinking their life is so boring in comparison. Well what are you going to do about it? It’s the same problem as with the fit people but coated differently. Don’t hate something because of envy. Don’t judge because secretly you wish you could be like that too. Make the pictures you see your source of inspiration.

Whatever you want to achieve the first step is to accept where you’re at. Accept that you’re not there yet, but you can get there. After that you set your goal and you make a plan how to achieve it. You want to travel? Start saving and get a piggy bank. Every penny counts. How do those world travelers on Instagram do it? Perhaps they can help. You want to get fit? Get inspiration from people who walked the same path. Ask advice, they’ve been there too.

Anything that you encounter on social media can be used two ways. You either hate on people, envy them and hope they fail or you can admire them, ask advice and get inspired. It’s your choice. Just think which path will bring you more joy, happiness and positivity. I know which one I’m walking on. And remember that the only one stopping you from reaching your goals is you.

You’ve got mail

Remember the time when we sent actual handwritten mail? I miss those times. Don’t you? Seeing the envelope and guessing who’s handwriting it is? Or even better writing a letter to someone you miss and knowing it makes them happy. Wouldn’t it be fun to start doing this again?

During the holidays many people still send “real” cards, but that’s about it. Depending on the country and culture you might receive some birthday cards as well. Yet those are often not handwritten either, but made online and then sent by regular mail. I like those cards and it’s so easy to do. No need for an envelope, stamp and going to the mailbox. Still it doesn’t compare to an original and authentic written card.

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When I was living in Canada the internet wasn’t that fast. Also Facebook didn’t really “exist” in the Netherlands yet, although we did have a Dutch version. Of course I had the option of sending emails and I did, but I also had a stack of stationery. I’ve written many long letters to my friends and family. And the best part? When they would send me a letter back. My grandparents used to sent me some Dutch candy once in a while too. That was a real sweet message, although I don’t think you would like this Dutch licorice.

Living in Spain I didn’t sent letters anymore or received them. Cards I religiously sent and received as well. After a while I did switch to use the online card-system. And why? Well my mail got “lost” too many times. It was also a lot faster using a Dutch company to mail post to my Dutch loved ones. On top of that the choice of cards was limited in Spain, so maybe it’s also a cultural thing? Since in the Netherlands you can find them at any street corner and in Canada there were aisles of Hallmark cards.

But whatever excuse I can think of, sending cards through an online company is simply a lot easier. We’re always in a hurry and don’t have time or take the time to sit down and write. That’s probably the real issue here. We want everything quick and ready to go. Even though the quality of slow and steady might be a lot better. I might not be completely objective though, since I like to write and not everyone does. But I do think everyone loves it when someone sends them a personalized card or letter.

So maybe that will be my New Years resolution. I want to start sending more handwritten cards and letters. Not because there is a special reason, but for the sake of bringing (hopefully) a smile to someone’s face. That moment of joy when you realize that someone took the effort to dedicate a message to you. Because sometimes it’s better to send a positive message and not expect an immediate answer, like we’re so used to nowadays.