Suns Out, Tums Out

This weekend, local Columbus girl bosses Stef Streb and Julie Wojno threw a body positive pool party – Suns Out, Tums Out. This event brought together 105 women from around the city to put on their swimsuits and reclaim their bodies. And let me tell you, it was magical.

each guest received a drink coozie, and if you were 21+ up to two beers

Every summer in grade school I would throw a pool party a week or so before school started. At first bringing girls from all different friend groups together for a day in the sun and a good ole fashioned water balloon fight. Eventually, boys started coming too, despite my dad’s complaints.

This was the highlight of my summer, and when I think back on those pool parties it always makes me incredibly happy. I rocked bikinis, ran around, ate as many pieces of pizza that I wanted, and took tons of pictures. But I often wonder where that carefree version of me went. When did I go from complete comfort in my body, to dreading being in a bathing suit? When did I start comparing my body to the bodies of other women at these kinds of events?

Where did the confidence go?

Well, research conducted by a local non-profit, Ruling Our Experiences (ROX) can shed some light on that. In 5th grade, 86% of girls say that they are confident, and only around 20% say they want to change something about their bodies. Between 5th and 9th grade that dramatically changes. By the time girls start high school, only 60% say they are confident, and further, 58% now want to change something about their bodies.

Learn about Ruling Our Experiences in this short video

ROX works to intervene during that critical time so that young girls do not lose that confidence. Suns Out, Tums Out ran a raffle that benefitted ROX, and in total raised $575 dollars for their cause. And let me tell you that felt good. I want young girls to never lose that confidence, I want them to experience what I cann the “Suns Out, Tums Out feeling,” everyday.

Walking around at the event, I kept wishing that every pool party could feel like this. Hell I wished that every space could. It took me back to the pool parties I used to throw, back to when I didn’t think twice about my body. Deep down I just had this feeling of, “why did we have to grow up?” As women, we not only learn to hate our bodies, but we also learn to compare ourselves to other women. And let me tell you – this can often create this innate competitiveness of who can be the smallest and the “healthiest.” We begin to resent each other, and sometimes when we see a woman proudly posting a bikini photo on the gram, our first reaction is to accuse her of seeking attention. How sad is that? Wouldn’t it be great if our first thought was, “Good for her,” or “look at how confident she looks.”

Pure Magic

Well Suns Out, Tums Out created just that. The day I woke up for the event, I actually kept finding myself on the verge of tears. And I kept racking my brain like, what is wrong with me, did I forget to take my happy pills? Am I starting my period? What is going on? And as I approached the party in my Lyft, I started to tear up again. I was happy. I was thankful. Happy to be entering a space where I wouldn’t have to think about my body. Where I could forget sucking in my gut, and sit down and just let my rolls be rolls. Where the feeling of my thighs rubbing together made me feel cute instead of self-conscious. And thankful that an event like this even existed.

my glitter

Upon entering the pool party I was immediately taken aback by the sheer beauty of all these amazing, normal bodies just glistening in the sun… and glitter. Yes, I said it – glitter. Guests were encouraged to glitter up their bodies. Normally I would be so concerned about where I put the glitter and what I was calling attention to, but watching everyone smear their bellies with a rainbow array of glitter I did the same. I glittered my tummy, my butt, my thighs and I started to feel that child-like sense of confidence bubbling up. And just standing around a table full of women excited to get the chance to just wear glitter for fun for a day is really something to be seen. You immediately bond with girls you have never met before over this feeling of pure joy.

The fun didn’t stop there. Next up – the braid station. Yes my friends, whatever braids you could imagine – you could get. As someone who can’t braid her own hair, my dreams came true. Women of all ages waited in line to get pig tail braids, princes Leia braid buns, crown braids and more. And the ladies from PENZONE Salon, glittered up themselves, were able to make it all happen. A big shout out to them, I think they probably braided all 105 women’s hair there. The line was steady throughout the whole event.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

The only thing just as steady was the consistent stream of photos being taken. And the best part was that taking the photos had nothing to do about how anyone looked, and more so how we all felt. You definitely could feel this vibe of comfort, inspiration, and just pure respect for everyone in the space. No one was worried about what they would look like in a photo – they just wanted to be able to remember the day. And let me tell you, I didn’t want it to end.

We Need More Body Positive SPaces

Despite being exhausted from the sun, and emotionally overwhelmed, I wanted it to last forever. Towards the end of the event, you could tell that others felt the same. Looking around I noticed that people were more quiet than they were at the beginning of the day, and many were just sitting, looking around with pure contentment on their faces.

guests could take photos with a balloon wall

I know that I was feeling an appetite for this sort of space to be the norm, and I can only guess that that was running through the minds of everyone else. It was so refreshing to spend a day with women, tums out, not talking about what we like or don’t like about our bodies, and eating as much as we want because Sweet Carrot, Jeni’s, and Bakes by Lo are to die for, and not once hearing anyone say, “I feel so fat,” or “I can’t believe I just ate that.”

And none of this would have been possible with Stef and Julie, who consistently show up to help women reclaim their bodies and their confidence. Who aren’t afraid to raise their voices against diet culture. Who wear what they want, when they want because they appreciate and love their bodies. Who got in the pool when no one else was ready to make the jump yet, to show us it really was okay. If I had not met these two, I would not have come as far as I have on my own body positive journey. And if I dare say it, they’ve kindled the beginnings of a movement here in our community.

Stef (left) and Julie (right)

From starting out with small, intimate Girls Nights where twenty or so women would come together to talk about body image and struggles with diet culture, to already having a location booked for next year’s pool party at an even bigger venue – there is an appetite among women for body positive spaces, and they have taken on the responsibility to make that happen. Women want to come together both to talk about this issue, but also to have genuine conversation and connection beyond talking about the latest diets and exercise programs. And to see local businesses like Land Grant, Rhinegeist, Sweet Carrot, Bakes by Lo, Jeni’s, PENZONE, and more supporting this cause gives me hope. Hope that eventually spaces like this will be the norm for girls and women. And that culture will understand that who a woman is matters more than what she looks like.

swag bags filled with product and discounts from the event sponsors

Just that one afternoon confidence boost has carried through to the next day. Today I put on a crop top, tossed my hair back, and walk from my car into this coffee shop with my head held high. And funnily enough, the staff, who I am familiar with from coming here regularly, commented that I looked “radiant” today. In my mind I said to myself, “yes I know. It’s that Suns Out, Tums Out after-glow feeling,” and it’s priceless.


So I got a wake up call this weekend, all thanks to a quote that I saw posted on Instagram. It read, “you gotta start being sick and tired of your own shit, sis. That’s when you’ll start making the changes that need to be made in your life.” 

And it hit me. I find myself again and again in dating situations where I am not treated with respect, or ultimately am used. And while that is not entirely my fault, I also know the following about myself: 

  • I’m a giver, and I will do almost anything for people that I care about, even if I just care a little
  • I often take responsibility for things that are not my fault
  • I care what people think of me, even when that person is disrespectful to me

What’s worse, is when I express my frustration, I find myself gas-lighted… and then somehow I end up being the one to apologize, and made to feel as if I did something wrong. A.K.A I get gaslighted.

A recent example

I recently started talking to someone. At the outset, it felt so different. He said that he wanted to get to know me, and when I asked how we’d do that since he lived in another state – he said he wanted to talk to me every day. Woah, every day! In my last relationship I was criticized for wanting to talk even every other day. Imagine my surprise. Someone who is interested in my daily life. 

It was great. And I was comfortable talking to him right off the bat. I usually describe myself as shy, but this time that wasn’t the case. That made me feel excited. And I felt even more excited when he told me he was coming to Ohio and wanted to come see me. Me? You want to come see me? Hell it’s usually like pulling teeth to get a guy to make a plan. 

Here’s where I started to misstep. Out of my excitement, I made a dinner reservation for the night he was coming because it was Pride weekend in Columbus, and I knew it would be hard to find a place to eat. I cleaned my apartment, and I got all done up. And then I sat. Hours passed, the reservation passed. And then I found out he was finally in Columbus by seeing from his social media that he was at a party. I was upset, and this first time he was apologetic. I let it go because he had been at a friend’s birthday party, and I was just some new girl. 

Red Flags

Did it register as a red flag for me? No not at all. Instead I blamed myself for having high expectations. 

He’d be in Cleveland for a month, and though not for a good reason, serendipitously I would be in Cleveland the next couple of weekends to take care of my mom. We hung out that first weekend. I got ready to go out, and was dressed and ready to go by 10 PM. It was 12:30 AM before I heard from him. But nonetheless, I ubered downtown and we had a fun night. But,, here’s a list of things that I’ve apologized for since: 

  • Being upset he wasn’t replying to me the following weekend, and didn’t make an effort to make plans even though he said he wanted to see me
  • Driving to his neighborhood because we were going to meet up, but then sitting there for hours and finally hearing from him that he forgot
  • Picking him up at 4 AM to go get his car, being promised breakfast / hanging out that day, and then being upset because that didn’t happen and I was ignored 
  • Being sarcastic, him not understanding my sarcasm and thus accusing me of it not being sarcasm

Self Reflection

Why was I apologizing for my feelings in reaction to his mess-ups? Should I be apologizing for asking to have my time respected and for there to be open and clear communication? Why am I feeling bad about myself right now after he posted that when he sees one “flaw,” he backs away from a person. Am I really flawed for wanting those things? 

I had a total flashback to my past relationships at that moment. I was letting myself get walked all over, and I was seeing that as a reflection of me and not as a reflection of that person. 

My number one issue is the gaslighting. So let me tell you a bit more about what gaslighting is, and how you can deal with it. 

Gaslighting 101

Gaslighting occurs when a person engages in certain behaviors or says certain things that make you question your reality – ultimately allowing them to maintain control. Here are a couple of examples: 

  • Denying that they’ve said something or done something even though you have tangible proof otherwise
  • Their actions don’t match their words
  • They tell you or others that you’re crazy 
  • They project. For example they’re a cheater, but they constantly accuse you of cheating
  • They tell blatant lies, so that your constantly forced to question whether something is true or not
  • They tell you that everyone else is a liar, and that they’re the only one with correct information
  • Even though they constantly tell you that you don’t add value, they randomly throw in a compliment. And what they normally compliment you on is something that serves them. 
  • They will advantageously forget any of their past negative behavior
  • They will disengage from listening to you and claim that they don’t understand what you are trying to say 

These are just a few examples. Some common things that gaslighters will say to you are: 

  • “You’re just over-sensitive”
  • “You always jump to the wrong conclusion”
  • “Stop taking everything I say so seriously”
  • “You’re reading too much into this”
  • “Why would you think that? What does that say about you?”
  • “You are just paranoid”


So how do you know if you’re being gaslighted? Besides some of these behaviors and phrases, a big part of it is how that person makes you feel as a consequence. Consider the following: 

  • Do you often ask yourself if you’re being too sensitive?
  • Do you make a lot of excuses for that person’s behavior?
  • Are you always apologizing?
  • Are you often made to feel like you’re crazy in the relationship?
  • Do you always wonder if you are good enough for them?

For me. This comes up as me always apologizing. Always. And then making excuses for that person. It was never their fault, somehow it was always mine. 

how to deal with it

Personally, I will say that if you feel like something isn’t right. It probably isn’t. In a past relationship I continually made excuses for why I wasn’t allowed to see my significant other consecutive days in a week, or for them being extremely late, or blowing me off. In that relationship, it turned out that I was being cheated on. Now it isn’t always that severe of a reality, but at the end of the day, being gaslighted is extremely bad for your mental health. Here’s what you can do. 

  1. Identify that there is a problem. Trust your gut. Answer those questions above for yourself. Just by doing that, you’re taking a huge step. 
  2. Give yourself permission to feel your feelings. You cannot control what you feel, and your emotions should always be respected by another individual. Their actions have an effect that they are responsible for, even if they didn’t intend them to have that effect. 
  3. Sort out the truth. One thing that is helpful for me is to replay or even rewrite a discussion I have had with a gaslighter, and the discussion that got us there. Where do you start to abandon your own perceptions and begin to take on theirs? How did you feel during the conversation? 
  4. Take a minute to visualize the situation. How would it have gone ideally? Do you feel like it is possible with that person? If not, envision yourself without the relationship, feeling positively and having a strong support system. 
  5. Talk to your close friends. Ask them for an objective, brutally honest opinion on the gaslighter, and if being in that relationship has changed you. 
  6. Give yourself the permission to let go, or stop interacting with that person in your life. Identify all the other people that you would consider as a part of your support system. 
  7. Abandon trying to decipher who was right and who was wrong. Focus instead on how you feel. Emotional well-being is always more important. 
  8. Remind yourself that even if you are right, you can’t control anyone’s opinion of you or of the situation. The only opinion you can control is your own. Do you like the person that the gaslighter makes you become?
  9. Consider what you would tell a friend in this situation. Write it out, but address the letter to yourself, and read it back when you’re finished. 
  10. Make a list of all the totally awesome things about you. 

Their GASLIGHTING ISN’T about you

One thing that is important is that there is a distinction between a real disagreement and gaslighting. What makes gaslighting distinct is that only one of you is actually listening and considering what the other person is saying and the other is simply insisting you are wrong and calling you crazy. Conflict is important in relationships. But this sort of conflict is unhealthy. 

I’m never going to make this guy understand that he did anything wrong. But that doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with me. Remember that how someone treats you is more reflective of them, than it is of you. 

Setting Boundaries in Toxic Relationships

I’m going to get straight to the point today. Let’s talk about setting boundaries in toxic relationships.

Whether it is at work, in your dating life, or with family and friends – we’ve all had to set boundaries before. I think that this is one of the hardest things to do in any sort of a relationship, because there is no exact way to do it. And, not to mention, nine times out of ten these aren’t physical, visible boundaries. They’re abstract, and the bounds tend to change day to day – or as our moods fluctuate.

But, some are easier to set than others.  We tend to feel more obligated to maintaining certain kinds of relationships than others. It is a lot harder to deal with a toxic family member, than it is to deal with a toxic friend. We feel as greater sense of responsibility and commitment to certain roles. And family in particular, has been defined by society as something that is always going to be a constant. Whether tied by blood or family history, these relationships seem more permanent. And when you decide that you need to distance yourself from a family member, you are often met with criticism for doing so.

One thing needs to be made clear. Disrespect and harmful behavior does not discriminate based on what kind of relationship it is. You can be mistreated and abused by a family member – and in fact are more likely to be in a familial relationship than in any other kind of relationship. But we put up with the abuse because, “they’re family.”

This is incredibly unhealthy, and only serves, in some instances, to continue the cycle of abuse. As a society we have interjected a degree of power dynamics into the structure and institution of family. We weight these relationships much heavier than those between friends. This can make it all the more hard to establish boundaries when you need to.

My Experience with Boundaries

A year ago I had to establish a firm boundary with a family member. In fact, my mental health depended on it. But I will not pretend that it has been easy. I still struggle with it today. I feel a sense of obligation to this person, and because of the norms and values of our society I often feel like I am being a bad daughter, or just plainly, a bad person for establishing a boundary between myself and my father.

But the fact of the matter is, I have been vastly more mentally stable and happy since I have created that line. I continually have the conversation with my therapist where I debate tearing that wall down, and using the concept of wise-mind, come to the conclusion that that would be extremely unhealthy for me. I have to work everyday to love myself despite that decision.

Now, this does not mean that I do not love my father. It means that because I love him, I too often allow his mistreatment and poor behavior to affect me at a really deep, and harmful level. And for a long time I justified that for him. I allowed the relationship to continue because I thought that I had to. But after I tried to confront the behavior to no avail or understanding, I eventually reached a limit that I did not know that I had.

I had gotten to a point in my mental health journey where I was a lot stronger than I had been in over a decade – and I saw that if I put my emotion mind aside, and considered some of what my rational mind was telling me – I needed to set a boundary. Here are some things to consider if you think that you may need to do something similar.

How are the person’s behaviors affecting you?

A landmark study found that there is a very real link between toxic relationships, stress, and your health. In fact, those in unhealthy relationships were at greater risk of developing heart problems, including dying from strokes or heart attacks, than those who weren’t in negative relationships. Our brains have a gene expression called conserved transcriptional response to adversity (CTRA), that is associated with inflammation and low immunity. Originally a part of our flight-or-fight response, CTRA provides short-term benefits such as increased healing, physical recovery and the increased likelihood of survival. But, long-term activation of CTRA can cause chronic inflammation, which increases our risk for a multitude of health problems.

Outside of the biological effects of toxic relationships, how else are they affecting you? Do they constantly make you feel bad about yourself? Do you feel like there is an unequal amount of give and take? Are you constantly drained from interacting with this person? Do you feel emotionally or physically unsafe?

If so, there are a couple of options: (1) feel hopeless and drained constantly,  (2) accept the relationship for what it is, (3) create boundaries, or (4) end the relationship.


Shoes of two people with a line separating them.

Step One

I suggest that you sit down and define for yourself what you want your relationship NOT to be. This will help you to identify what behaviors are of issue for you, as well as how the toxic person is making you feel. By knowing what you will not tolerate, you are priming your brain to recognize and avoid those behaviors and situations in the future.

Step Two

Envision what the ideal relationship with this person would be. When I say ideal, I mean imagine what it would be like if it was perfect and healthy. Then take that image and identify the stuck points – the things that the individual does not seem to be able or want to change. This really helped me to see that it was rational to set a boundary with my dad. I had tried many times to express what I needed from him and what made me upset, but he refused to take responsibility, made abusive comments, and continually lied to and gas-lighted me. Unfortunately, I knew that he didn’t have the desire to stop those things. But that made setting the boundary justifiable. I was able to define what a healthy, respectful relationship should look like, and I knew that this relationship wasn’t that.

Step Three

Decide the bounds. This is where there is a plethora of options, that truly depends on the individual situation. For me, I had to completely cut off communication. I had to engage the “block” function. Every interaction disappointed and drained me. And my mental health took a severe blow when it came to anything that had to do with him.

But this can look like many different things. Maybe you just can’t hang out with this person alone, or you need to decrease the frequency. Maybe you need to make it clear that you cannot constantly be available over phone or text. This could also take the form of setting ground rules about topics that you are not willing to discuss. At a recent event I attended, a woman spoke about how she had to tell her family that her body and weight were not to be topics of discussion, and nor did she want to talk about other people’s bodies. Instead she challenged them to have different conversations.

Step Four

Decide if you need to communicate to the other person what the boundary is. In some situations, cutting off communication is the boundary that needs to be formed. If that is the case, you may not want to communicate what the boundary is going to be. I knew that my dad would not understand, respect, or agree with the boundary I was setting, and I knew that that conversation would not be a healthy one.

But if you are in a situation that you need to make the boundary verbally clear – stay clear, calm and consistent. Don’t feel the need to over-explain yourself, don’t place blame, and don’t become defensive. Be a broken record, and stick up for yourself. If you know that you can’t easily do that in person, send a text or a letter. You are in charge here.

Step Five

Surround yourself with people that make you feel good. People that support you and respect you. Keep close the people that make you feel safe, and that help you to grow. In the past year, I learned that even family can be toxic, and even family can make their love for you conditional. But I also learned that I could find family in other people. By surrounding myself with positive and healthy relationships, I have been able to maintain my mental health and overall grow as a person.

You Are Worthy

Now I want to be clear, this isn’t an expansive step-by-step process – and I’m not a licensed, health-care professional. This is just a brief overview of how I set boundaries. Be aware that there may be situations where the individual doesn’t respect those boundaries, and at that time you may need to consider other options. If you, or a loved one, is in any sort of abusive relationship and need help, reach out to a local women’s organization or utilize the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (1-800-787-3224).

If you take anything away from this, remember that anyone can be a toxic person: a parent, a sibling, a boss, coworker, or friend. Know that you have choices, and that there are people who will support you – whether that support comes from close friends or community organizations. You are worthy of healthy, respectful, positive relationships.

Grief is a Sticky Feeling

I’ve been thinking a lot about grief the past two weeks. Grief is a sticky feeling. You can try and try to shake it off, but it usually is still stuck in some crevice in your skin, or under your fingernails. In some place that is hard to reach – making it all the more frustrating. To me grief isn’t one feeling. Grief is many competing feelings that send a person into a whirlwind of cognitive dissonance.

I’ve always been a highly empathic person. I’m what a therapist would describe as an, “emotional sponge.” I can easily sense the feelings of those around me. But I take it one step further – absorbing them to such a degree that I feel them as my own. Sometimes I feel so connected to an individual’s emotive state that I am psychologically affected by it. It’s like yawning. I can’t help but feel the emotion that I am confronted with in another person.

Last week, two humans that are close to me experienced loss in various forms. One experienced the death of a loved one, the other lost all of their belongings and their pet cat in a house fire. I struggled a lot with finding the appropriate way to support them. Like I said, grief is complicated and nuanced in a way that is both easy and difficult to empathize with. We can metaphorically put ourselves in their “shoes,” but we also can’t claim to know exactly what they are feeling. There are many things that can elicit grief, and no one person grieves the same.

Grief for Grief

Any sort of loss can cause one to enter what we call grief. This can include divorce, the end of a relationship, declining health, a loved one’s illness, or the loss of belongings or safety. Loss is personal to the individual, and there is no comparing apples to oranges. I have heard the opinion that grief is only something that you experience after someone you love dies. But, the same neuro-chemical pathways are activated across a multitude of situations. Though, bereavement of a loved one usually elicits the most severe grief response.

That brings me to my friend’s loss of her mother to cancer. Even just that sentence sends a blow to the gut that can leave you with the need to gasp for a little more air. To grab onto yourself or something around you to steady yourself. Hours before she told myself and our friends, she had posted an image of herself as a child with her mother to Instagram. It’s eerie, and gut-wrenching to say but when I saw that picture I felt a profound sense of loss.

I had this flashing montage of my life with my own mother pass before my eyes, and could feel what it felt like to have my small little hand within hers. I had a sudden fear of not feeling that hand anymore. And I had a deep urge to run somewhere, and not stop running because of this burning rage within my chest.

What do you say when someone tells you that they’ve lost someone so monumental in their life? Another human whose life led up to the creation of their own. A life that you love and are grateful for.

We all have this pre-written script of what you “should” say. And we say it, we say it because we know no words can suffice – but we cannot bear saying nothing. Similarly, living practically paycheck to paycheck there was no money I could offer to my friend who lost his belongings, but I offered the clothes off my back and blankets and essentials from my own things to him. I didn’t know what else to do, what else to say. I was so grateful that he and his partner were unharmed, but I couldn’t imagine the feeling of losing all the artifacts of one’s life. The things that we use to make meaning and keep record of our memories. Or the faithful companion that offered us unconditional love when everything in life is terribly conditional.

I thought for a moment about what I would grab from my apartment if I found myself in the situation of a house-fire. What I would try to save. Just the thought of having to prioritize the things that bring me joy or that mean something was difficult. It felt like either way I would lose some part of myself that I would never get back.

And though now in reflection I am thinking about what these kinds of losses would mean to me, what I am really affected by is a feeling of paralysis. Of not knowing how I can ease the pain of people that I care about. This feeling of helplessness is only exacerbated by my natural tendency to be a more “emotional” person. And all of this only serves to make me wonder if it is appropriate for me to feel this sad at all? But nevertheless, I know that I need to be supportive in any way that I can.

Emotional Acceptance

That is why some part of me is always nervous when it comes to funerals. Not out of fear or discomfort, but out of that absorption of the emotions of those around me. It can be overwhelming, and even if I did not know the deceased very well – I have a hard time containing my emotions. I cry. And sometimes I feel inappropriate doing so, as if I don’t have a right to. So I try to swallow the emotion that bubbles up the back of my throat, and instead just let my body shake ever so slightly.

And it’s not in that moment that I am thinking, what if it were my own mother. It is instead feeling that place of home that I feel when I am with my friend. We all find that piece of a person that is just what home means to us, and we place a stake there. We invest in that part of a person, and we love them for it and everything else.  That feeling of connection that is so powerful that in that moment, I feel her feelings for her because I wish that I could alleviate the pain if even just a little. Even though I know that there isn’t many a tangible thing that I can do to help.

And so I’ve realized that in those moments, the best thing that I can do is remind the person that the stake I placed to claim them as my person has never left. That I will protect and care for all my pieces of home, as they are pieces of myself.

That may sound terribly abstract, but what I’m saying is just be. Be and feel. Follow your loved one’s lead, and continue to be exactly who you are – because that is what they need. And remember that you don’t need to ask for permission to feel any sort of way. Feelings are natural, and for the most part out of our control. And through allowing yourself to feel what you need to, when you need to, you are displaying a healthy form of processing. And just by doing that, you are being strong for the ones that you love.

What I learned in my own mental health journey is that you can’t selectively numb emotions. Emotions will come and go like waves in the ocean (cheesy? yes), and if you try to avoid one you end up avoiding more than that. You need to experience the less positive emotions to truly appreciate the feelings of happiness and joy.

Sanibel Island Florida beach at dusk

Don’t be judgemental of your feelings. Our emotions provide us with signals. They give us the heads up that something is important and that we need to pay attention to it. Be an observer of your emotions. Notice them, sit with them, and then let them leave when they’re ready.

Finally, speak to yourself as you would speak to a loved one or friend who is struggling. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling sad or anxious. Be kind to yourself – processing emotion is just another part of having a full and healthy life.

My Complicated Relationship with Dating Apps

Let me tell you about my complicated relationship with dating apps. I debated titling this post, “My Love-Hate Relationship with Dating Apps,” but when it comes down to it, it’s more like a meh-hate relationship. We all know the ambivalent “meh” feeling where you could take it or leave it.

I say, leave it.

The ruse of infinite options

Often dating apps are advertised as opening the door to a tremendous amount of options that you wouldn’t have had access to otherwise. While this can be true – there are over 7 billion people in the world but only an estimated 50 million of those people use Tinder, and only 40 million Americans report using dating sites. That’s only 27% of young adults in America.

That means that on average only 0.5% of an individual state’s population is on a dating app or website. Let me tell you, that is extremely evident in a small city in Columbus, Ohio. I have seen the same 20 or so guys across three different dating apps, and have matched with the same people that my friends have also matched with. That is definitely not infinite.

But because the way that these apps are set up lead us to believe that there are endless matches to swipe through, it actually sets us up for hardship. An extensive body of research on the psychology of decision-making shows that when we have too many options available to us, we are less satisfied with any one choice. The perceived abundance leads us to worry that we have chosen wrong, and you will continually second-guess if you have chosen wrong. As a result, you pass on many great date opportunities because you believe there to be endless options.

I’ve seen this manifest in many ways. I will swipe away with my index finger – to the left, to the left (thank you, Beyonce), only to notice that the app I’m on will start to show me people I’ve already said no to, or even people that I’ve unmatched because they were rude or inappropriate. They’ll even try to fool you by using a different picture from someone’s profile. And then once the app get tired of doing that, I will be told that there aren’t any more options in my location. Talk about discouraging.

Filling my shopping cart

What really disturbs me about dating apps, is that subconsciously I find myself treating the process like shopping. I’m looking for certain things, and like most people, am attracted to certain qualities or physical attributes. Now, shame on me for this but I tend to always swipe left if I see a gun, a fish, the picture is blurry, or if there is only group pictures and I can’t identify who the person even is. It’s like my own version of filtering through shoes to find the women’s, size nine velvet booties.

And just like shopping, I’ll just use the app because I’m bored. I’ll have some show like 48 Hours on in the background, and I’ll swipe through faces just for entertainment. Or like this past weekend, I’ll re-download the app just so my girlfriends can swipe for me and we can have a good laugh.

Now even worse, I’ll accumulate matches but then never message them. Get tired of the app, and delete it. And I know I’m not the only one because I have dozens of matches that also have never said a word to me (Back to the perceived abundance of options).

Haven’t you people seen Catfish?

This brings me to another phenomenon I’ve seen far too many times. I will have matched with an individual, and then either have a funny feeling because of their photos, or because of something that they will say, and I decide to upload their pictures into a Google Image search.

Then boom, I find out that they’re using someone else’s photos. Like come on dude, do you really think I was going to agree to let you take me on a cruise in the first ten minutes of conversation. Immediate red flag – I’m Google Image searching you so I don’t get kidnapped. Thank u, next.

As a woman, dating apps can be scary. You really don’t know who is behind the phone – and most of the time, when you practice caution, the other party acts completely offended. What’s even scarier, is that over 51% of online daters are already in a relationship. For instance, 30% of Tinder users are married. I’ve found myself in that situation as well, and as someone who has been cheated on — that did not go over well with me.

Treat a girl to dinner first.

Now you’ve matched, the person checks out on your Google search, and they seem alright. But then two different things can potentially happen. One is that they expect you to be available right away, and that you will make your schedule completely flexible to meet with them.

I’m sorry honey, but I have a pre-existing life that includes work, wellness, community involvement, friends and family. Don’t get mad at me because I can’t meet you within the first days or weeks of matching you. I’ve literally had someone un-match and unfriend me because of this. But mind you, as a busy person who doesn’t check their phone much, I would get messages like “wanna meet up for drinks,” followed up thirty minutes later by a “guess not.” And after explaining that I’m busy and have existing obligations they would get angry with me.

The second route, is that immediately they want to go from talking, to inviting you to their home or asking to come to yours – presumably (or because it is explicitly stated) to hook up. Now from time to time, sure. But I got tired of the sheer amount of people who didn’t want to go on a nice, “old-fashioned” date for dinner or drinks just to talk and get a sense for each other’s vibe.

In the universe I trust.

Now I’ve ragged on dating apps for a minute. But I will say that I know many people who have met, and are in successful relationships – even engaged – with someone they met through a dating site. Statistics show that 20% of people in relationships currently in the U.S., met online. I applaud that, and respect anyone’s decision to play the dating game field, but personally I’m on a break for the foreseeable future.

Statistically, your best chances of finding love are through a friend. In fact, 63% of married couples met this way. And despite the current going-out culture we millennials live in, only 9% of women and 2% of men meet their significant others in bars.

So instead, I pledge to continue on my path of self-improvement. In this process I meet people that I truly value, and strengthen the friendships that I already have. And by investing in myself and those relationships, I think karma and the universe will find a way to reward me when its ready.

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