A Letter to a Random Girl on Instagram

Dear Stranger,

I saw what you said.

“u know when all ur friends have there bellys out and your the chunky one in the middle, literally me :(“

If you don’t remember when or where you said this, I’ll help remind you. A few days ago, you posted a comment on a photo that a well-known company shared. The company shared a picture of 15 girls wearing their latest workout clothing line. These girls were ending a weekend of a lifetime, making sure to thank this company for believing in their community and for sponsoring this incredible weekend. These 15 girls were my friends and myself. The chunky one in the middle was literally ME.

I’m not going to sit here and pretend that reading your comment didn’t hurt. I’m not going to act like I didn’t read it over and over again, crying harder each time. I’m not going to lie to you and say that I easily brushed it off. What I will do, though, is use your unnecessarily upsetting comment to shed light on a situation much larger than mine.

I’m hoping that by sharing the comment mentioned earlier, you were trying show that you can relate to the “chunky girl in the middle”, rather than sharing it because you were trying to hurt her (A.K.A. me). Regardless of your intentions, your comment DID hurt me. But fortunately, I’m not the same girl I was years ago. I’m a healthy and strong human and I have an endless supply of love and support coming from the empowering community of women that I’m surrounded by. I was able to walk away from your comment (although it did take some time) feeling stronger and more empowered than ever before. I wish I could say the same thing about every other girl who has been affected by comments like yours.

The crazy thing about the internet is that EVERYONE has access to EVERYTHING. People who you have never met before can see pictures of you and vice versa. What these people choose to do when they see pictures of you is up to them, which is pretty scary when you think about it.

Because everything and everyone is on the internet these days, you don’t know 99% of the people in the pictures you see on a daily basis. You don’t know their names, you don’t know their story, you don’t know their struggles. Whether this person is “insta famous” or a random girl who was standing next to a distant high school friend in a picture, it’s safe to assume that you’ve only seen a tiny glimpse of their lives – and that glimpse is only what they want you to see. You don’t genuinely know these people.

You had no idea who I was, yet you chose to post a comment about my body anyway. What if I was someone who struggled with depression? Or someone who suffered from an eating disorder? Or maybe someone who struggled to appreciate the person I’ve become? A comment from a random girl on the internet could have broken my already broken spirits even more. Thankfully, I’m none of these people. But I can’t say the same about other girls out there who may be struggling to love themselves. There are girls out there who DO suffer from depression, eating disorders and a lack of self-appreciation. You may not realize it when you post things like that, but what you say can and does affect these girls, regardless of whether or not you know who they are.

So next time you think you need to share a comment that may not be kind or empowering, do us all a favor. Keep it to yourself.

Naturally,

Ari.

 

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Toxic Friends: It’s Okay to Let Go

Recently, I’ve reconnected with my childhood best friend and we’ve been spending more quality time together than we have in quite some time. We both lead such busy lives that it’s hard to keep up with each other so during our time together, we spend a lot of time catching up and reflecting. Yesterday, we got on the subject of toxic friends. It all started with a simple question – “How are you and X?”. There was a moment of awkward silence before I gathered my thoughts and said “I haven’t talked to X in months… she’s not really a part of my life anymore”. Understandably, my friend was surprised and confused by my response, and so we got to talking about toxic friends.

We all have a toxic friend or two at some point in our lives, whether we know it or not. The worst part about having toxic friends is that it can be so difficult to pinpoint if someone is or isn’t a toxic friend, especially when you’re blinded by the really, really good moments. There are so many different kinds of toxic friends: friends who expect you to drop everything you’re doing to help them, but are never around when you need it; friends who are constantly complaining about themselves, other people and even you; friends that you always have to reach out to for plans; friends that always have to have higher highs or lower lows than you; friends who can’t let you be in the spotlight for even a moment; and friends who can only hang out with you when you’re both inebriated are just a few examples.

I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I’m constantly asking myself “Does this make me happy?”. As cliche as it sounds, life is far too short to do things that don’t bring you happiness. Hate your job? Leave it. Hate your major? Switch it. Don’t like going to the bar? Stop going. The same should apply to the people you spend your time with. If your friend brings negativity into your life more often than she brings you joy, that’s a sign that they’re toxic and it’s probably time to cut ties.

Once, someone told me that you become the people you spend your time with. I have no idea who told me this, but I could not thank them enough. I don’t want to become someone who makes my friends feel ashamed of who they are, who always has to be better than someone else, who has to be drunk to have a good time, or someone who brings negativity and takes happiness from someone else. I don’t want to become a toxic friend just because I’m too afraid to get rid of my own.

I know. It’s so hard to leave a friend behind when you’ve spent so many days, weeks, months and years together. It’s hard to say goodbye to someone who you’ve shared birthdays with, grieved over broken hearts with and celebrated successes with. But take this as your sign. It may be hard, but it’s okay.

You don’t have to cause some huge ordeal or confrontation to get rid of your toxic friends. It can be as simple as spending more time with people who you’re proud to be friends with, and less time with your toxic friend. More often than not, if they’re a toxic friend, they probably won’t even notice that you’ve stopped putting in the effort anyway. That’s how it worked in my situation.

Once the friendship fizzled out, I noticed that I was still feeling negative every time X would post something on social media. So I took it upon myself to unfollow her on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. I stopped responding to the insincere, obligatory “I miss you” texts. I didn’t cause a dramatic scene. I just silently let things naturally fall apart. It was tough to hit the unfollow button and to delete texts but I’m so much happier without someone dragging me down with them.

By cutting ties with a toxic friend, you’re not losing the good memories. You’ll always have those. By cutting ties, you’re losing the hurt feelings and negative energy. You’ll become more proud of the person you’re becoming and the people you surround yourself with.

It’s not going to be easy. But it will be okay.

Naturally,

Ari.

21 Things

Happy Monday AND happy first day of August!

One thing that always makes Monday better is the motivational Monday e-mail I get each week from Elisabeth Tavierne, an influential friend in my life and the founder of my favorite organization, CHAARG. This weeks topic was focused on a reflection of the last year of her life – August is her birth month and last year she came up with a list of 25 things to do at 25. This year, she reflected on these 25 things.

This really resonated with me as I have a “milestone” birthday coming up this month. In two weeks, I’ll be 21. The age that everyone looks forward to – the age where you can finally do anything, where you’ve hit the ultimate freedom. It’s exciting but nerve wracking at the same time. I feel like at 21, you’re expected to have adulthood figured out. When I was younger, I always thought everyone who was in their 20s had their life figured out and had accomplished so much. Now that I’m actually (barely) in my 20s, I know that that’s a HUGE misconception. While I have a “plan”, I definitely don’t have life figured out (and I don’t know if I ever will). I’m still learning new things about myself and the world around me each day.

In the last year, I’ve done so much more than I could have ever imagined – I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone in so many incredible ways! I’ve had two amazing internships, I’ve created a blog, I’m signed up for my FIRST 10k [it’s happening THIS Saturday!], I’m applying for graduate programs and so much more. 20 has been so great to me.

Being inspired by Elisabeth’s email, I’m going to commit to making 21 even better.

21 Things I’m Going To Do At 21:

  1. Conquer one of my fears – whether that’s leaving home, swimming with sharks, or jumping out of a plane, I WILL conquer one of my fears (my heart dropped at the thought of each and every one of those things…)
  2. Focus on what’s REALLY important to me – I’ve noticed that I get so caught up in what other people my age are doing, that I start to question whether or not I’m doing enough or what I should be doing, rather than what I WANT to be doing. After all, this is MY life & I have nothing to prove to other people. It’s time to start doing life at my own pace.
  3. Make more time for God – I’ll admit… I’ve been slacking. I haven’t been the best about going to Church, reading the Bible or praying regularly but I do have intentions to change and devote my life to God. The first step has already been taken – joining a Bible study group!
  4. Be more invested in the lives of those I love – I know I don’t spend enough time with my family, friends or boyfriend. But it goes much further than that. I’m not always fully invested even when I’m around. I’ve allowed myself to be distracted by social media, emails, TV… This year, I plan to be more invested in the time I spend with those I love.
  5. Help more – whether it’s staying late and helping clean up after events or parties, volunteering at a homeless shelter, carrying in groceries for my parents, I want to dedicate more time to helping others.
  6. Taking care of my health – sure, I make an effort to workout and eat better, but I could do so much better. I could try even harder to create a healthier lifestyle. And unfortunately… one thing I need to do is make an annual doctor’s appointment… *sigh*.
  7. Read more – I don’t think I’ve completed a single book at 20. I’ve been so busy that I haven’t dedicated time to get lost in some really good books. My goal is to completely read 21 books (not including textbooks HA).
  8. Visit another country – I’ve never stepped foot outside of the United States (unless you count standing in the Atlantic ocean) and I’ve been dreaming of traveling to another country for as long as I can remember.
  9. Live in another city – This one might be cheating a little bit… I’m almost certain that with deciding on a graduate program will come a big move. Whether that’s to Columbus or New Orleans, we’ll just have to see!
  10. Double my savings – This one is simple. I suck at saving money. I want to make it a priority this year, and every year after,
  11. Become more mindful – There are tons of things to be more mindful about, like what I fuel my body with, how I speak to others, how I breathe, and then there are tons of things to do to become more mindful like journaling, meditating, practicing yoga or reflecting.
  12. Go more natural – As you’re learning, I’ve gotten very into essential oils. Eventually, I would love to do things like transfer all of my body, skin and hair care to a more natural routine, eat more natural foods, and share more of my raw, natural feelings.
  13. Reduce my carbon footprint – It’s no secret that we’re hurting our Earth more than we’re helping. I’d love to do my part in making the Earth a little more “green”.
  14.  “Disconnect” for at least an hour before bed – I’ve heard incredible things about staying away from electronics for at least an hour before you go to bed. It can help with sleep, mood, vision and so much more. I’m ready to wind down the right way.
  15. Adventure more – I don’t just mean traveling or doing crazy things, although those definitely count, but I mean trying new things or taking a mini road trip to a hiking trail instead of binge watching Netflix. After all, adventure is food for the soul, right?
  16. Challenge myself – Whether this is mentally, physically or emotionally, I want to challenge myself to new extents. Who knows… my 10k may turn into a 15k or even a half marathon ; )
  17. Become a morning person – this might as well count for #16 because I’m the farthest thing from being a “morning person”. I’m that girl who says “I’m waking up at 6 to do X, Y & Z.” and then I set 13 alarms and snooze every single one until it’s 10:05 and I need to be out the door by 10:30. I need to cut this habit immediately.
  18. Learn a new skill or talent – I’ve told myself tons of times that I wanted to learn how to do X. I’ve wanted to learn how play the piano, to play the ukulele, to knit, to hand letter,  and everything else you can think of. But I’ve never actually made an effort to do any of them (except for learning the chorus of Yankee Doodle on the piano…).
  19. Master my own signature dish – Learning how to cook is so important. What 40 year old wants to eat Ramen and leftover pizza every night because they never learned how to cook? Not only is learning how to cook important, but I think it’s beneficial to master a recipe that can please crowds.
  20. Update my wardrobe – Don’t get me wrong, I love my gym clothes so much that I could live in them (okay… I DO live in them). But they aren’t appropriate for all situations. For working out, for running errands, for lounging around, sure! Sometimes they’re even cute for a quick coffee date with friends. But they aren’t the best for work, for dinner dates, or for girls night out. I need to update my wardrobe to fit all occasions.
  21. Get rid of excess – This could be clutter, toxic relationships and even belongings that I don’t use. It’s never too late for a clean slate.

I can’t wait to see where I am in a year from now and look forward to reflecting on 21 next year! I know this year will be one to beat.

I hope you feel inspired to set goals for yourself and to reflect on your life – don’t wait until New Years to set goals, now is as good as ever!

Naturally

Ari.