Surviving adulthood: Shrink or Shine

Hi Guys!

I’ve seen the quote below in many different forms and permutations in the past few years and honestly if I had wanted a tattoo bad enough, this is probably the quote I would have tattooed.

Don’t shrink yourself for someone else’s comfort! It’s so simple but so profound right? Here’s the kicker though, as much as I have loved this quote, it has never stopped me from shrinking when I felt vulnerable. Since accepting this adulthood mantle, I have found that there are more situations where I feel like I need to protect myself and my default is to either shut down or divert all attention from myself. If they don’t see me, they can’t attack me right? See, I’m a logical romantic (yes that’s a thing) and I love to listen to my feelings until I have a clear and defined reason why I should not. That reason hit me tonight.

Graduation 2015: Look at this girl. Cute right? She looks full of hope and ready to take on the world with giddy naivety.

To this point, she’s done alright for herself! She’s smart, survived the education system in 2 countries, navigated multiple projects with nothing but intuition as her guide and had fun while doing it. Before she goes much further, I’ll tell her not to shrink for someone else’s comfort; she will thank me for that advice and I wouldn’t have helped her in any way :). Ah yes, because you see her reason for shrinking will not be to make others feel better about mediocrity, or because she doesn’t believe she is worth more. She will shrink in spaces because she can’t fathom a scenario where someone guiding her might not know MORE than she does.

Let me break this down; for most of my life, I have been the youngest in many of the rooms I have been in. In each of those scenarios, I simply took it as fact that others were older and inherently wiser and I had much to learn. Approaching life with this learner’s perspective, I excelled because I truly had a lot to learn from others and if I could outperform their expectations, even better! I felt no added pressure to “puff up” because I already felt like I was exceptional being the youngest one to sit in a room with these wise souls. This resulted in a very balanced view where I felt neither small nor arrogant. I challenged perspectives with ease and thrived because I saw no reason not to. While this was effective, it was incomplete and I’ll tell you why but we’re not there yet.

Why this approach doesn’t work as well in adulthood is I can no longer assume as a blanket rule that older=wiser. We all have a plethora of experiences once we cross that adult threshold that shape us in so many different ways. Wins and losses, highs and lows, delays and fast tracks are in every way chipping away and refining us into these bespoke units of human experience and there is no baseline. There is no objective way to say that a person who is appointed in any leadership position over me is perfectly equipped to respond to every question I could have about my lived experience because there is simply no rubric. Maybe there never was.

So what’s my point? Shrinking for me was never about making myself small for someone else’s comfort, their comfort is and always has been inconsequential. I don’t say this to be dismissive of feelings but rather in reference to my belief that constant comfort is not conducive to growth. Shrinking for me was instead about a change in power perception. For the first time in my life, being the youngest in the room wasn’t celebrated as a show of potential and capacity for more responsibility, it was framed as a disadvantage. I actually remember the first time someone told me not to reference that I had recently graduated lest the client loses confidence in the team. At the time, I accepted this perspective as pure fact, surely, this person who was older than me and had worked longer than me must know more about how one must conduct themselves in a professional setting right? WRONG!

It is not that their advice was ill-intentioned, it just wasn’t right for me. I have learned now to come into rooms not with the expectation that the person leading me knows more than me but instead that they know different things than me. This change in perspective has been a game changer. It leaves me open to learn from them without absorbing their bias as fact. They have a unique set of skills that they have gained through their personal experiences that I can learn from; however, and critical to my positioning, I also have a unique set of skills and life experience I bring that they can benefit from. It’s not about either one of us holding more power in a situation but instead celebrating what’s strong in both of us to build productive relationships.

Going forward this is my philosophy; shrink or shine, this is your daily choice. Winning at adulthood will be about showing up fully, ready to teach and ready to learn. One does not precede the other, the capacity for both exists and your harmonious delivery can change your world

Ebb and flow | DIY gingham tiered dress

Summer dresses and growing pains

Hi guys!

It’s been too long since I’ve been here but I’m so glad to be back. Thank you to those who reached out to me and to say they missed my writing 🙂 It really warmed my heart to know that there are people who actually care what I have to say! So I’m coming to you with part 1 of 3 summer outfits I have made in recent times; a gingham tiered dress because we’re picnic blanket chic this summer.

To make this dress, you would need to cut out a couple of rectangles

  • Chest band – long enough to comfortably wrap around your chest (right under your arms) and some seam allowance
  • Straps to hang on and off your shoulders
  • Tiers – each one ~10″ wider than the layer above it. You can do more than 10″ if you want a more pronounced gathered effect.

I decided to create a key hole closure for this dress as I have really been enjoying that look lately but you could easily switch to buttons or a zipper depending on how you feel. 

Madebyaya on YouTube has a great tutorial  on how to create a tiered dress.

Now to get real for a second on why I haven’t really been blogging, I suppose I have really just felt uninspired and creatively drained. I think I’m working my way out of those feelings now but some days are definitely harder than others. I have spoken to a few people about this and it seems oddly common. Yet another quirk of adulting that was conveniently omitted when I was sold the growing up dream. It’s a feeling of giving so much of your time and yourself to your career or responsibilities or things outside of yourself to the point where you feel you have nothing left over. Nothing for you to hold on to that’s just yours, and just about you.

Straps up

Off shoulder

Now what do you do if you find yourself in this rut?

  1. Lock your support system down: It’s very likely that someone close to you has dealt with this before and can help! I have had my family and closest friends pouring into my life in the past few weeks. Uplifting me, encouraging me and allowing me space to slow down.
  2. Reclaim your time: Maxine Waters plays no games with her time and neither should you! Your time is valuable and you deserve to use it in a way that truly benefits you. This means setting boundaries on work requests, declining social engagements if you need to recharge mentally and giving yourself more hours in the day to do the things that give you joy. For me, I have been trying to wake up earlier for a while. Still struggling with this actively but I have found that even if I give my self just an extra half hour in the morning to read my Bible and just stretch in bed before getting ready for work, I’m a lot less grouchy.
  3. Rediscover you: Find who you are without your job and social connections. What do you like and dislike irrespective of popular opinion. What makes you happy? What makes you calm? What makes you mad? Spend some quiet time with your thoughts and make the decision to know you better so you can love you better.

Making this dress was one of those moments of rediscovery for me. I was so glad to have a moment for myself to just be and create something that made me happy. 

I’d love to hear from you; what activities or things make you happy?

photos by Willyverse