Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Self-confidence — it was in you all along, Dove commercial shows

Hi. I'm Monica. And I have low self-confidence.

Okay, phew. That just felt like I was introducing myself at an AA meeting or something.

I know I'm not alone in feeling like this. In fact, if there were support groups (probably wouldn't be a bad idea, by the way) for people who feel self conscious, I feel like the line would be out the door.

Sometimes, when I look in the mirror, (and I have seen this happen with other people as well), I automatically flinch. Why is it that many people seem to be afraid of their own reflection?

When watching "The Today Show" in the office this morning, I heard the hosts talking about a "self-confidence patch." 

Similar to a Nicotine patch, the personal care brand Dove claimed that this patch erased the addiction of self-hate while wearing it.

Wow! I almost jumped out of my seat in the middle of the newsroom.

If something so simple could cure me of my self-consciousness, then sign me up — pronto! 

But…there's a catch.

Okay, let me start from the beginning.

Dove told women that they were going to be part of a study to test a "revolutionary new beauty product," and, for two weeks, they documented how it made them feel.

According to "The Today Show," here are some of the women's reactions after wearing the patch 12 hours a day during the test:

"I've been more comfortable in clothes I didn't wear before, more comfortable doing my hair differently, showing off my face more," said one of the participants, Tahnee.

"I've been more social with the patch on," said Tracey.

"I'd love people to have the kind of change that I've had," said Brihtney.

At the end of the study, the subjects found out what was in the patch. And the answer — nothing! 

"Psychologist Ann Kearney-Cooke reveals to the women that there was never actually anything in the patch, and that the confidence they got from feeling beautiful was within them, the whole time," write Melissa Dahl of "The Today Show."

So does this mean that we all have the ability to feel confidence already within ourselves? This study shows that — yes.

These women just believed they were going to be more self-confident, and so they were.

 But not all of us have a placebo, tricking us into feeling great about ourselves. I'd be okay with being on a placebo for the rest of my life and never knowing it's not real if it meant feeling better about myself.

 So, what's the answer then?

 Trick your own mind into feeling good about yourself. Fake it until you make it.

Walk with your head held high, even if you don't feel like it. Stop talking negatively about yourself to others. And, even more importantly, stop talking negatively about yourself to yourself.

 Act like you're confident to the rest of the world, even if you don't feel it inside. And, in time, you will start to feel it. Because, I am telling you, you have no reason not to feel confident.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

New law could be 'landmark step forward' for mental illness
Psychiatrists and counselors are known as "specialists." With many insurances, going to see a psychiatrist means more out-of-pocket costs than going to see your family doctor.

For those diagnosed with a mental illness, they can't just go to the doctors once a year for a check-up. Instead, they may have to see a counselor once or twice a month with sessions costing at least $50, on top of seeing a psychiatrist for refills to their prescriptions. And this can cost a lot of money.

I don't think this is fair.  I believe that many people who need help are holding back because of the cost, not knowing where to go and because of the stigma still held against those with mental illness.

Despite studies showing that mental illness is an imbalance in the brain, some people still don't understand this and don't consider it as a disease, like it is. Seeking help is NOT a weakness. It is an illness that cannot be overcome on your own, just as much as cancer will not just disappear without treatment.

Others see those with mental illness as a danger to society — stereotyping them as the extreme. When things happen like the man who killed three people in Fort Hood on Wednesday, this only increases this stereotype. While these are the stories broadcasted across the media, these instances are very rare. In reality, most people suffering from mental illness are not violent at all. Depression and anxiety are very common, and people diagnosed with these disorders just need help.

I'm hoping that a new law will make mental health care more accessible and will also help erase the stereotype.

Senator Debbie Stabenow's "Excellence in Mental Health Act" was passed by the Senate late Monday night and was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Tuesday. CBS reports that the legislation is expected to expand access to community mental health services and strengthen the quality of care provided for those living with mental illness.

The legislation will provide federal funding for pilot programs in eight states that will be selected to help improve mental health centers.

Stabenow, a professional trained social worker, said, "This new law is a landmark step forward in the effort to expand community mental health services for people living with mental illness and reduce the stigma around mental illness."

Monday, March 10, 2014

Comedian Kevin Breel teaches students not to be ashamed of mental illness

"Real depression isn't being sad when something in your life goes wrong. Real depression is being sad when everything in your life is going right. That's what I suffer from. And to be totally honest, that's hard for me to stand up here and say. It seems to be hard for everyone to talk about. So much so that no one's talking about it."

This is how 20-year-old Kevin Breel describes mental illness.

In school, Breel was the popular class clown, aspiring to be a comedian, and basketball team captain who attended every party. He was probably the last person classmates would think was suffering from a mental illness.

But mental illness is not like a tumor or neon lights pointing from every direction at your head. It's something you can't tell someone is suffering from just from looking at him or her. And, for Breel, he suffered in silence for a long time — putting on a different face for his family and friends so they
wouldn't know what was going on.

As a teenager, Breel almost took his own life. Thank God he didn't. Now, what he hid from for most of his life, has gained him national attention. Now, after coming forward and admitting his disease, Breel has helped inspire thousands of people during his tours around the nation.

In an interview on "The Today Show," Breel said, "Life is about duality. ... There’s happiness; there’s sadness; there’s light; there’s dark; there’s hope; there’s hurt. And I think that, for me, nothing in my whole life has ever helped me understand more about myself, more about others, more about life than dealing with depression.”

Don't be ashamed to admit that you are suffering from mental illness. Like Breel said — the reason his speeches have become so popular isn't because it's uncommon. It's because it is so common for people to feel this way.

I believe Breel was diagnosed with a mental illness for a purpose. No, not to take his own life. I think he has this disease so that he could give hope to others and to show people they are not alone. If you are diagnosed with a mental illness, I believe this is your purpose too. Don't give up on life.

Breel said in his speech, "The world I believe in is where where embracing your light doesn't mean ignoring your dark. The world I believe in is one where we are measured by our ability to overcome adversities not avoid them. The world I believe in is one where I can look someone in the eye and say, "I'm going through hell," and they can look back at me and go, "Me too," and that's okay. Because depression is okay."

Friday, February 28, 2014

Mental Health First Aid Training is just as important as CPR

I attended an amazing Mental Health First Aid Training course, taught by Amy Stern, supervisor of Community Education and Professional Development, last week.

And I learned so much about mental health, like the fact that severe depression, dementia and schizophrenia have been rated even more debilitating of diseases than having cancer or being a paraplegic. Amy said this is because, if we see someone in a wheelchair, we'll open the door for him or her, help carry groceries, etc. If we see someone in a parking lot, wearing ragged clothes and talking to him or herself, likely we'll run away as quickly as we can. 

I think Mental Health First Aid Training is very important because it teaches people that mental disorders ARE chemical imbalances in the brain and  how to react when you find out someone suffers from a disorder or is considering suicide. 

And Amy described the chemical imbalance in such an understandable way.

She used an analogy comparing the brain to a cell phone. She said, if a friend sent her a text message, asking her to meet for dinner that night, and she never received the text message on her phone, she wouldn't show up to where she was supposed to meet.

Like this, in the brain, two neurons "communicate" to one another. One neuron emits neurotransmitters, like endorphins, which tells the brain to be happy. For people suffering from depression or anxiety, the other neuron doesn't receive the "message." Instead, the neurotransmitters remain trapped in the synapse, or the space between the two neurons. 

Since the transmitting neuron thinks it sent out too many neurotransmitters, since they are floating in between the neurons, it takes back the neurotransmitters, also called "reuptake." Now the other neuron doesn't even have a chance to receive the "happy feelings."

This proves that people with mental illnesses aren't choosing to feel this way. They can't just "snap out of it." And I think this is an important fact that everyone should know — which I think could eliminate the stigma society still seems to hold. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Beauty writer: When someone criticizes you, say, 'Thank you!'

I think most women in the world have gotten criticized one time or another for the way they look, the clothes they wear or their make-up.

 For instance, I remember one time I wore bright blue eye shadow and a guy said to me, sarcastically, "Nice eyeshadow. Did a ballpoint pen explode on your eyelids?"

I am ashamed to say it was years until I wore blue eyeshadow again.

I am the kind of person who, if I received 100 compliments and one person made fun of me, I would focus on the negative comment.

Five years ago, someone told me I had a weird looking nose. Why is it that this comment sticks in my head even more than people who may have called me "beautiful" since then?

In these moments, I wish I was more like Alle Connell, writer and YouTuber for the beauty site xoVain.

Alle has a unique style — wearing hot pink lipstick and bright outfits. And she definitely works it.

Still, she gets her fair share of criticism from close-minded skeptics. But when "make-up bullies" criticize her, she doesn't wash off her lipstick or hide in a corner.

Instead, in response, she's nice.

When someone sarcastically says, "Nice lipstick," to her, she responds, with a big smile on her face — "Thank you!"

What a great idea! I wish I would have done this!

"Nine times out of 10, this will shut them up completely because the insult did not have the intended effect of making you feel small," Alle said. "Bullies and jerks run on making people feel powerless. If you flip the tables on them and show them that their attacks have only made you stronger, they're not going to know what to do."

Being different is not something to be ashamed of. It's not something to be self-conscious about. Instead, it's something to be proud of. So, when someone tries to make you feel bad about yourself for this fact, don't let this diminish your self esteem. Instead, like Alle (who I think is such an inspiration), take it as a compliment.

Monday, February 10, 2014

What a brave woman! Lindsay Bottos takes a stand against cyber bullying

The Internet has become a prime place for bullies.

Bullies are pathetic enough in person. But online, it's even worse, because the ability to hide behind a screen name and not have to identify themselves makes bullies even more cruel.

 Being a journalist, I have come face-to-face, or more like "screen-to-screen," with these internet bullies who comment on stories, telling fellow reporters or myself that we deserve to be fired or making fun of the people we report about.

 One woman decided to take a stand against those who make fun of her online. And she has gained national attention for it.

Lindsay Bottos, 21, receives cruel anonymous comments on her Tumblr account on a daily basis about her looks, artwork and personal life. So she decided to post a series of images on her blog of these comments on her self-portraits, which has already been blogged more than 100,000 times.

Lindsay, a senior at the Maryland Institute College of Art, explained why she decided to start the project, "I get tons of anonymous messages like this every day and while this isn’t unique to women, the content of the messages and the frequency in which I get them are definitely related to my gender. I almost exclusively get them after I post selfies. The authority people feel they have to share their opinion on my appearance is something myself and many other girls online deal with daily."

Looking at her blog, I see a beautiful and talented woman. But it seems like people are judging her because she does not feel the need to conform to social norms. Which I say — good for her!

In order to focus on a woman's natural beauty, she has chosen not to wear make-up or remove body hair.

Lindsay used to suffer from body dysmorphic disorder, a mental illness characterized by having an excessive concern with body image and preoccupation with a perceived defect of physical appearance. Which I feel like, with the constant obsession in the media of how women look, this is very common.

And so Bottos decided to embrace her natural beauty, without all the products advertised only to women to modify the way they look. Her decision showed even more how society is brainwashed because she was completely chastised for her decision. One of the comments she received was, "Oh wow you dont shave your so revolutionary and unique grow the (expletive) up."

This broke my heart to hear that someone was treated that way. If it were me, I would probably go hide and think they were right about me. But not Lindsay! She stood up herself. And I think she is so brave for that!

If you are a victim of cyber bullying, know that you don't deserve it. There are some people in this world who find a sick joy by causing other people pain. That does not mean anything they say about you is true in the least.

For Lindsay, she received so much praise for her project. Much more positive feedback than the criticism she received. And I'm hoping the kind words are what she focuses on when she looks at herself in the mirror and not the cruel words.

Lindsay has taught me that we need to not be afraid to stick up for ourselves. I feel like the more people who stand up against bullies, the more likely cyber bullying will stop.

 Also, these anonymous bullies could be breaking state or even federal bullying laws for what they are saying about Lindsay. What I would like to say to these bullies is, even if you don't have a heart or care how your words affect others, maybe the fact that you could be prosecuted will stop you from spreading these vicious words across the Internet.

Monday, February 3, 2014

How to let yourself be happy and stop expecting the worst

Sometimes worrying about something too much is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

For instance, last night I was worried about not getting enough sleep. The thought, "You have to get up at 6 a.m! You have to get up at 6 a.m!" went over and over through my head like a skipping CD.

Because I was constantly worrying so much about not getting enough sleep, guess what happened — I didn't get enough sleep.

 I kept staring at the numbers slowing changing on my alarm clock, wide awake, and soon the time was 3 a.m. and I still couldn't sleep.

 Probably one of my worst qualities is that I, admittedly, am horrible at living in the moment. If I lived in the moment last night, I would have been able to sleep.

Instead, all I could think about was the future — how I would feel in the morning.

 Have you ever felt this way in life?

This happens to me all the time. I notice, when everything is going right in my life and I am extremely happy, all it takes for my mood to come crashing down is to think, "How long will this happiness last? How long will it be until something bad happens?"

 Instead of enjoying the happiness for what it is, I worry so much about how long it will last. And, in turn, the happiness lasts a lot shorter than it would have if I just stopped worrying about it.

Looking this up online, I found that this feeling is not uncommon. Human Resources professional Farah Bernier wrote, "I find that we are the biggest factor in limiting our own happiness because for some reason, we don’t think we’re actually deserving of it, that we haven’t earned it or that if we’re happy and enjoying something, someone else must be at a deficit of happiness and that’s our fault. Cut it out!!! Seriously, there is enough happiness in the world for those who will choose to embrace it."

I know just letting ourselves be happy is a lot easier said than done.

Todd Patkin of Hitched Mag wrote, "The things you think about and center your attention on shape the way you experience life. In other words, if your focus is on all of the horrible, negative, crippling things that might happen to you in the future, you’ll be calling more of them into your life. ... Your fears will hold you back, and your low self-esteem will prevent you from developing yourself and taking risks."

"I know from experience that if you train yourself to look for the positive, you’ll attract more positive things into your life. You’ll be happier, friendlier, kinder, and more optimistic."

Patkin said one way to do this is to be thankful for the things you have in your life...and, if things go wrong, to try and find the silver lining.

He also said that you need to remind yourself that you're not "omniscient." Trying to predict the future is just a waste of time.

"Realizing that you can’t predict how something will ultimately impact your life—that all you can do is make the best decision possible with the information you have now—really takes the pressure off," said Patkin.

I know my life would be so much better if I wasn't so worried about the ending — whether it's the ending of happiness, a relationship, etc. — and, instead, appreciate it in the moment.

Life has its good moments and its bad. Instead of thinking to myself, "This good moment will end soon," and wait for the bad to happen, I should do the opposite. When something bad happens, that's when I should think, "This will end soon. Soon I will be happy again." I need to start expecting the good to happen so that can be my self-fulfilling prophecy.

This is the only life we've got. And I no longer want to spend it worrying about the future or expecting the worst.