If Spring is Not Your Season, This Playlist is for You!

HHT Playlist.jpg

It's May and things are feeling relatively Spring-tastic around here, so I'm back with the second installment in the series of EmPOWerment Playlists. Designed to help you kick butt throughout the year! 

As a therapist, I've noticed that each season can bring its own set of bleh-inducing moments. The colloquial idea of, "The winter blahs," comes to mind. (On a related note, click here for a link to my upbeat, booty shaking winter playlist.) Spring brings along images of flowers blooming, birds chirping, and people frolicking. While it can be a glorious time for some, for others it can be a season of heightened anxiety, pressures to create change, pollen-induced brain fog, and overwhelming moments of AHHH!!!! (Think: upcoming graduations, half the year is over, what am I doing with my life?) 

If Spring is not your favorite time of year (or this particular spring is sucking), this playlist is for you. 

Let's do this!

An Interview with Jessica Luther, freelance writer, author, and social justice spotlighter

Photo taken by Janelle Renee Matous

Photo taken by Janelle Renee Matous

This month, I was fortunate enough to interview Jessica Luther, freelance writer and social justice spotlighter. She is doing truly powerful, transformative work around sports and violence, a topic that many sports professionals and fans would like to ignore but shouldn't. Luckily, Jessica won't let us. 

Tell me about yourself and what you do: 

I am a freelance writer and journalist who most often covers the intersection of sport and violence. I have a book coming out in September titled, Unsportsmanlike Conduct: College Football and the Politics of Rape. I'm perhaps most known for co-reporting with Dan Solomon about Baylor almost a year ago and breaking that story wide open. 

I am also a mother to a nearly eight year old. I've been with my partner for over seventeen years and married to him for thirteen. I bench press, I make good biscuits, and I read a lot of romance novels. 

What motivates you to do what you do?

It feels cliche to say it but a sense of justice (or, maybe, the feeling of constant injustice) motivates me. I want the world to be a better place and I believe it can be. I believe each of us, in small actions in our everyday lives, can do that. The work I do is an extensions of this, perhaps on a larger scale. I demand care and empathy and precision in my work so I expect it of my peers, as well, which is why I find myself not just reporting but also doing media criticism. That all stems from this motivation to correct injustice as much as I can, given the limits of this world, society, and my own abilities and time. 

Tell me about a moment when you felt truly awesome:

Every single time my son, on his own without prompting, extends empathy to a friend or even just someone he has heard about, I feel like I have succeeded in life. Whenever he recognizes other people's right to bodily autonomy and expresses the importance of consent, especially in regards to other children his own age, I feel truly awesome. 

Professionally, seeing the results of our work on the Baylor story, the consequences that are still unfolding from our initial reporting, is intensely gratifying. 

How do you get through periods of self-doubt?

I have intense self-doubt that is often layered with extreme anxiety; the two feed each other. I find that the best way for e to deal with these moments is to withdraw from the work for a bit, let it simmer, and wait until I am feeling more confident. Sometimes this can take an hour, sometimes three days. And more than anything, I have to give myself permission to do this. I can't get angry that this is the best way for me to handle it or I only feed the anxiety, which then continues to fuel the self doubt. 

What do you want other women to know about self-acceptance and self-celebration?

That it's necessary and more than okay to have self-acceptance and to practice self-celebration. This doesn't make you selfish or egotistical. In a world where women so rarely are awarded those feelings and actions, providing them for yourself is critical. 

I love that Jessica points out the importance of taking time to grow in confidence. In a fast-paced, immediate-gratification society, it can be easy to forget that we need time to simmer. This is especially true in social justice work that can leave us feeling vulnerable and raw. That permission to simmer and self-compassion around the process is key. If you would like to learn more about Jessica's work, you can check out her website here. You can also pre-order her upcoming book, Unsportsmanlike Conduct: College Football and the Politics of Rape, by clicking here

 If you would like to learn how to grow in your self-acceptance, check out my offerings for individual therapy and therapy boot camp.

An Interview with Valerie Nies and Regina Soto, hilarious Help Wanted co-podcasters and bravely honest women

Everyone, meet Valerie Nies and Regina Soto, the two hilarious women behind the weekly podcast Help Wanted, where they interview experts on self-help topics. From first listen, their funny and heartfelt exploration of each subject stands out. They truly want to learn more about living differently, and they bring listeners along for the journey. 

Tell me about yourself and what you do:

Valerie - I write marketing communications during the day. My evenings are filled with creative projects: writing, performing, and watching comedy (I host a regular stand-up showcase at The Institution Theater) and producing and co-hosting Help Wanted. 

Regina - I'm an improviser and a podcaster living in Austin, Texas. I work for the wonderful state of Texas for my day job and enjoy being a part of the thriving Austin improv community at night along with recording Help Wanted. I have two of the sweetest dogs anyone could ask for and I cook a mean steak. 

What motivates you to do what you do?

V - Validation, usually in the form of laughter, from other people. 

R - I enjoy making people laugh, I have since I was a kid. Improv and podcasting allows me to do that and collaborate with some amazingly talented people at the same time. My end goal is to leave the world better than I found it. My hope with our podcast, Help Wanted, is that people will be able to relate to our honesty and ourselves and get some helpful life tips at the same time. 

Tell me about a moment when you felt truly awesome:

V - I felt truly awesome when I first published a piece in McSweeney's -- a humor website I've loved since college but didn't have the guts to submit anything until over a decade later. That lasted about a day. In the 6th grade I took first place in the school-wide geography bee, which surprised even me. The prize was a book on natural disasters from National Geographic, which is super funny to me. "Congratulations on knowing about European mountain ranges! Now read this book about wind speed destruction during tornadoes!" I think this might in part explain why I enjoy success for about a second before I'm overcome with dread and anxiety.  

R - I was a radio DJ many years ago. I had an idea for a half hour talk show. I wanted to talk about self-improvement topics and how to live a better life. I decided to pitch it to the President of the radio station, I so I asked him for an hour of his time, drafted up a plan to pitch to him and summoned every bit of confidence that I could find to tell him my dream. He said, "Yes, do it!" I walked out of there amazed that I had the guts to do it and that I was heard and that I got what I wanted. I felt truly awesome. 

How do you get through periods of self-doubt?

V - This is a fascinating question. I experience a lot of self-doubt with writing. The path out of it for me usually involves reveling in it first. I feel doubtful, I procrastinate and distract myself with things of varying degrees of self-destruction. I'll wast time comparing myself to others on social media, binge-watching critically acclaimed comedy, shopping, Tinder, involving myself with someone else's problems, lately I've been into small-batch artisanal ice cream. Eventually something shakes me out of it; I think I get tired of listening to myself and isolating, and I start desiring connection with other people who are doing what I do.

R - Self-doubt is tough. It'll stop you from even trying anything new, because you can talk yourself out of it so easily. I still allow myself to have thoughts of self-doubt, but I push forward and past them. When I was younger, I read a book called, Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway. It changed my life. It's okay to have doubt and fear, but you have to do things anyway. Oftentimes you have to do them while you're feeling scared. I realized that the more I did things I did think that I could do, the more confidence I gained. Even if I didn't succeed, I learned something either about myself or how to do it the next time I tried.

What do you want other women to know about self-acceptance and self-celebration?

V - Self-acceptance and celebration feel unnatural and challenging to cultivate. I'm super fortunate in that I'm surrounded by an army to remind me to do this: my therapist, friends, strong women mentors, massage therapist and self-help resources... So I think what I want other women to know is that it's our role to help other people remember to accept and celebrate themselves, because no one is going to remember to tell herself that on her own, all the time. Also, Louise Hay has a bunch of books and audio on affirmations, which sound cheesy, but I think help. 

R - I want women to know that not accepting yourself as you are is really an attack on your spirit. It makes life harder and sadder and takes joy away from the moments that could be wonderful. Life is hard enough. We don't need to add no accepting ourselves into the mix. Once you accept and celebrate who you are and what you bring to the table, life becomes easier because it's one less thing to obsess about and worry about and be sad about. We're not perfect. Our bodies aren't perfect, but who cares? We need to cherish ourselves and be grateful for what we have and not focus on what we don't have. The older I get, the more I realize how much time I've wasted putting myself down or comparing myself to others. I want to be comfortable with myself because it makes life so much more fun.

See what I mean about honesty and hilarity? I love that Valerie and Regina speak to the struggles with self-doubt. Those feelings and real, and you can also work through them. We can forget that sometimes. It takes effort, but it is possible! I also appreciate the tips of surrounding yourself with supportive people and cherishing ourselves for who we are. So great! If you want to learn more about their work, you can check out Help Wanted here

If you want to learn new ways to accept yourself, check out my offering for therapy boot camp. In five sessions, you will walk away with a new sense of self-acceptance and new ways to fight your self-doubt.

- HHT

An Interview with Jennifer Aldoretta, CEO of Groove and all around Bad Ass

Everyone, meet Jennifer Aldoretta. She is a fucking powerhouse who is empowering women around their reproductive health. Holy shit! That is a cause that I can get behind. I am so very glad that Jennifer exists and that she has chosen to do this work.

Tell me about yourself and what you do:

Put simply: I’m a women’s health nerd. In 2013, after more than a decade of being on the pill and struggling with painful periods, I started my company, Groove, because I wanted to help educate others about reproductive and menstrual health. That education takes many forms, including our period tracking app, online courses, Humans with Periods project, and humanitarian initiatives. I’m passionate about helping people feel empowered by their bodies and breaking down destructive period taboos that affect people across the globe. I spend an embarrassing amount of time reading medical journals, I love riding my bicycle, and I enjoy lounging around the house with my pup, Bailey.

What motivates you to do what you do?

My mom has been sick on and off for most of my life, and, when I was in high school, one of my sisters was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease that she still battles today. On top of that, I’ve struggled for most of my life with excruciatingly painful periods. So at a very young age, I became aware of how fragile and precious life is, and how quickly health problems can overrun your life. As I’ve gotten older, those experiences have helped me realize that I’m not willing to wait around hoping that someone else will make the changes that I want to see in the world — if everyone waited for someone else to take that leap, nothing would ever change. Steve Jobs once said in an interview, “Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it.” It’s true. I have something unique and wonderful to offer the world, and so does everyone else.

Tell me about a moment when you felt truly awesome:

The moment that comes to mind is probably the first time one of Groove’s app users emailed us and told us that she was pregnant. She and her partner had been trying for quite some time with no success, and then this app that I helped create gave her the education she needed to finally conceive. She was so grateful, and it was the best feeling in the world. That was probably the moment that I felt truly confident in my decision to dedicate my life to helping people understand and feel empowered by their bodies.

How do you get through periods of self-doubt?

When I start to doubt myself, either in my work or in my life, I try to take a step back and think about what my goals are. I try to remember that my life and my goals are so much bigger than a few moments, days, or even weeks of doubt. Recently, I’ve adopted the mantra “Focus less on what you fear and more on what you want.” I repeat it to myself whenever I’m feeling down about something, and it works. It helps me reframe my thinking and focus more on my goals than on my negative feelings in that moment. 

What do you want other women to know about self-acceptance and self-celebration?

Self-acceptance isn’t always something that comes easily — especially in a society that tells you it’s conceited to celebrate yourself. It requires a lot of diligent, consistent work. Everyone has moments of self-doubt, but it’s what you do in those moments and how you treat yourself in those moments that make all the difference in the world. The great thing about self-acceptance is that it has a snowball effect. Even something as simple as repeating a mantra can change the way you feel about yourself.

I am struck by the fact that Jennifer took something painful in her life and turned it into her life’s work. That requires some serious self-empowerment, which we assume is an inborn trait that either you have or don’t. Not true! Jennifer’s interview reminds us that empowerment and self-acceptance are skills that we can practice. The more we use them, the better we are at them! If you want to learn more about Jennifer’s work at Groove, check it out here. You can also meet her and the other women who have been interviewed for Humans with Periods, like yours truly, at a happy hour this Sunday. Click here for details!

If you want to work on flexing your empowerment muscles, check out my individual therapy or therapy boot camp offerings!  

An Interview with Julie Gillis, producer, speaker, and all around bad ass

Last week, I was lucky enough to have lunch with Julie Gillis, teller of stories, social justice warrior, and critic of the patriarchy. During lunch, she shared her thoughts on self-acceptance, social constructs that keep us from appreciating ourselves, and the importance of telling your story. Spending an hour with her made me feel so energized and intellectually engaged. She is so fucking cool! I really love that I get to share her ideas below. 

Tell me about yourself and what you do:

I’m a producer, speaker, and facilitator focused on stories, social justice, and building community. I produce transformational storytelling events merging art and social change. I also consult on projects for both stage and screen, supporting groups seeking to forge the most impactful narrative in their work. I speak, write, and support those who need to reclaim the narrative in their lives. In addition, I'm an activist focused on gender, sexual, and racial justice. I've been a producer of BedPost Confessions, a storytelling series about sexuality and gender, and produced Ladies Are Funny Festival for 6 years.

What motivates you to do what you do?

That's a good question! I just feel the call to do it and so I do. I've always been a helper type, even since childhood and I've always been drawn to the theater and performance. It made sense that over time those two drives would join up. I believe people need each other to get through life, that life itself is messy and it's only by sharing our stories that we find clarity through it all. The more I've seen amazing results from people sharing their stories, the more I want to do the work. It also brings me a lot of different groups - activists, artists, local political groups, educators and more. I love getting to work with so many different people who themselves are trying to make the world a better place. 

Tell me about a moment when you felt truly awesome:

There have been moments after BedPosts where someone will tell me how the show has really helped them personally and that means so much to me. I have a belief that we impact people all the time and often we don't hear about the "how." It's very special to me to get to hear from someone who has had a moment of that impact, to know that the work I am doing is important in some way to someone. I also will admit to feeling awesome on the rare days I get to sleep in especially if it coincides with a thunderstorm. I love thunder. 

How do you get through periods of self-doubt?

With bourbon? No, seriously, I tell myself this, "Just last week you felt great, and I can remember when you felt bad say...three weeks ago. Things will get better." Self doubt is always there, for me at least, and I figure its there for a lot of us. It's important to have a group of friends to talk to, learn from,and be able to admit that doubt. And to track the ups and downs so you have real proof that you come through it. 

What do you want other women to know about self-acceptance and self-celebration?  

That it's okay to fail at it so long as you try to accept and celebrate the fact that you fail at accepting and celebrating. I know that's ridiculous, but sometimes the meta is what you need.  As a generalization, women aren't taught to celebrate themselves, their power, their craft. It's good to practice it in little ways, and accept that in many ways culture is pushing against us. So keep at it, keep little reminders of your accomplishments and know that acceptance takes time and practice. At least for me it does.

Julie is so right about celebrating failure as an important part of life. Women especially aren't taught to accept and celebrate setbacks, which is to our detriment. Failure is inevitable. Let's remember those growth moments as well as our accomplishments. They make up our story! If you would like to learn more about Julie's work, you can check it out here!

If you want to learn more about how to celebrate all of yourself including your failures, you can check out my individual therapy services here!