Lifestyle Vloggers

One of my favorite things to watch online are lifestyle vloggers. But it can be hard to find a good pool of content, given I am only interested in the vegan ones. Even so, I never get tired of watching them. There is just something so immensely soothing about watching the picture perfect life of someone else. It feels inspiring and motivational, but also comforting, as if I’m spending time with a close friend.

There homes are always so bright and beautiful. There plants are all huge and healthy. White linen, candles, big open windows, picnics, fresh healthy food, and tender moments between partners. It all just makes me want to sigh and keep watching forever. To lose myself in this postcard existence of another. Until… it starts to become overwhelming.

There is a certain point I always reach, where I just start comparing my life to theirs’ and feeling bad about myself. Strangely enough, it usually isn’t because of the aesthetic differences. I’ve never cared much for having money or an extravagantly decorated home. My crumbly little cave is quite good enough for me. (Although, I do wish I had the time and energy to keep it spotless like them.) No, what really starts to make me feel down is their seemingly superior ability to maintain a productive work schedule, to work for themselves, edit and upload videos, and make progress towards their career goals.

One of the most frustrating parts for me is the confusion. Why can’t I do that too? It’s not like I am unable to keep routines or stick to a schedule. My routines and schedules just happen to not be very useful or productive in the long run. All of my hobbies and habits are small and focused on the moment. It is unimaginable for me to set big, long-term goals for myself that I can work towards incrementally in those same hours I allot to more frivolous pursuits consistently.

It’s partly about not knowing where to even begin setting up something like that, but it’s also my fear of commitment to any one interest. If I do something that can be completed in an hour or two, I have a reasonable expectation that I’ll be able to maintain interest. However, if I begin a project that will take a month, or a year, I am second guessing myself the whole time. Is this really worthwhile to me? Will I be able to make it to the end result? What if I lose my drive and I’ve ended up wasting a huge chunk of my life on something that was never even finished? With me, losing that initial motivation and interest just seems inevitable. It feels pointless to even begin.

The more I learn about myself and my mental health, the more I think this has less to do with personal failures and more to do with ADHD. Still, that doesn’t make me feel much better or less frustrated. Am I really just incapable of completing big projects and reaching more lofty goals? It sure feels like that’s the case. Maybe if I keep trying and allow myself to fail, I’ll learn more about myself and be able to find a way that works for me eventually.

Until then, I’m just going to keep gaining that feeling of fulfillment and contentment vicariously through watching others live their best lives. Sometimes it feels like that’s all I’ll ever be able to do. But either way, I’m grateful for their content and the warm, fuzzy, inspired feelings they give me.

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Be Your Own Inspiration

As seasonal depression has slowly but surely sucked all of the life and motivation out of me in the last few months, I’ve been finding it harder and harder to write. An overwhelming sense of shame and mediocrity grip me as I attempt to do my daily poetry. I’m so distracted by the idea that I am not good enough, that my words are ignorant and hollow, that I can’t concentrate for long enough to create anything. Then this only reaffirms my crippling self-doubt, making it harder to come back to my laptop the next day.

Yesterday after finishing a poem that I wasn’t particularly proud of, I decided to read some of the older ones I had compiled for publishing this coming year. Even though I’ve done this in the past, I was still surprised at just how wonderful I felt these older poems were. I know I was partly moved because they reminded me of the times when I had written them, but I can’t deny that they are also excellent poems in their own right. I think anyone could enjoy them just as much as I have. The more I read, the more thick the wall of tears became against my eyelids, inevitably overflowing into hot streams down my cheeks. I wrote these. I had to keep reminding myself.

Today despite still not feeling particularly creative or inspired, the sense that I’m a failure and I’ve never written anything good nor will I ever write anything good is absent. I know that inspiration will find me again. I believe in and am proud of the things I have already created. I feel at peace inside this artistic dry spell.

Looking back at my old work was exactly what I needed. I’ve done this in the past not only with my poetry, but with my art as well. One day I was nearly in tears, wondering how I had ever believed I could draw or use my drawing tablet at all. Then I decided to pull up some of my old drawings. I was so happy looking at them. These are really good! I was delighted and surprised that I was so easily able to forget my own talent.

Sometimes the combination of mental illness, writer’s block, and exposure to so many other people’s amazing work online can leave us feeling inadequate. In these moments I try to remind myself of Lizzo’s wise words: “I am my inspiration.” We don’t need to be at the same level or have the same style of writing or drawing as other people. It can be hard to be an impartial judge of our own talent. That’s why it’s important to go back over our older work. So many times I’ve found that something I once hated or didn’t think much of has turned out to be one of my best creations when I look back. The poems I wrote as a teenager that I was embarrassed by seem simply beautiful to me now. I’ve even decided to publish them, and they’re available on Amazon if you’re interested.

I guess my point is, don’t trust your opinion of yourself or your ability when you are feeling low. The mind has a way of convincing us of things that aren’t true, especially when it comes to our perceptions of ourself. Just be patient and remind yourself through hard evidence. If your brain is telling you that you can’t write, go back and read what you’ve already written to prove it wrong. If it says you can’t draw, take the time to enjoy a personal art show of past works to silence that critical voice. Hell, sometimes this even works if I’m having a particularly bad body image day. I’ll look at somewhat recent photos I’ve taken of myself to remember that I can feel beautiful.

The only person you need to compare yourself to is your past self. Be your own inspiration. And most importantly, I want you to remember that every single thing you have created or will create is incredible and worthwhile, because it is a piece of your mind made manifest. When I look at something someone I love has drawn or written however silly it may seem to them, I love it. I love it because it came from them, and that’s all that matters. That’s what makes everything any one of us creates special and perfect. And lastly, let yourself rest sometimes. I promise your inspiration will come back soon enough.

Looking Inside

The blank page is a practice
of reaching deep within
to see what lies in the shadows
behind your heart, suspended
on the other side of silence

Some days you'll find it flooded
a pressure valve in need of release
other days a smooth wall with no seams
a concrete caste that's settled over everything
impenetrable, cold, and cruel cocoon

Some days writing is as easy
as stepping into the stream
of liquid emotion flowing freely
tracing the contours and shadows
of an aching that appears in living color

Some days it takes a chisel
to search for cracks in thick cement
an uncomfortable effort to uncover
the clumsy, crude impressions
of a crippled and cringing unconscious

Unprompted outpourings of an overflowing heart
contrasted with a stiffness that contracts the soul
unable to predict which familiar state awaits me
as I sit down dutifully to endure
whoever I am today

Amateur

I am an artist afraid to practice
because each effort must be a masterpiece
inspiration extinguished under the weight
of violent, consistent self-criticism

Repulsed by the bitter taste of trail and error
searching for a sure formula for success
unable to reconcile the necessity of
an amateur's imperfect products

I marvel at the innocence
the way a child creates with an open heart
with no concern for mastery or exceptionalism
content with whatever comes

Surprising their own curiosity
the natural progression of true talent
disguised in the simple joy of creation itself
satisfied to make anything at all

Personal Growth from a New Perspective

Self-help books, new age rituals, skill building, knowledge gathering, psychoanalysis, deep introspection. These things have stood as guiding pillars in my life. I ended up majoring in psychology, not because I had any idea of how to turn that into a career, but because it utterly fascinated me. I couldn’t get enough of the things I was learning in my classes. I never had to study. My brain naturally absorbed and integrated every scrap of knowledge I was given in those four years of riveting education.

The pursuit of knowledge never needed to have a higher purpose for me. It was an end in and of itself. I LOVE learning, especially about the mind, my own mind more specifically. I am truly blessed with this passion for academia. Learning is a hobby that can never get old. There are a limitless amount of things to study. Learning something new never fails to light me up inside and send me into that blissful flow state. The rest of the world falls away as I become engrossed in new knowledge and sharing that knowledge with anyone and everyone who will listen.

Society has a way of twisting my intentions though. I get bogged down with the motivations of humanity as a collective, or at least what the media portrays as our motivations. Everything we do as a species seems to be directed at some ultimate end goal, whether that be a physical reward like wealth or simply becoming “better” in one way or another. We lose the moment in our fixation on the ending. Sometimes I have to stop myself and ask, “Wait, why am I doing this again?” Any answer besides “I enjoy doing it” fills me with a dreaded sense of obligation, yet just doing something for pleasure can overwhelm me with existential doubt. “What’s the point then?” As if any point besides pleasure and happiness could make an activity matter more.

When I get too caught up in focusing on outcomes or “bettering myself” through my personal pursuits, I eventually get burnt out and want to give up on everything. It really wears you down mentally to spend every day trying to reach some self-growth goal, implying who and where you are right now isn’t good enough. I never seem to reach whatever goal I’m aiming at, not that I’d be any happier if I did, because what then? No, the real purpose is found in the experiences themselves, in the very act of growing.

For example, when I began my daily practice of drawing during the pandemic, my intention was clear. I like to draw. It makes me happy. It helps me connect with my inner child and reminds me of those carefree days of doodling in my school notebooks or sketching manga with my best friend. That was it. Pure and simple. And it did bring me so much joy. Without trying to, I saw myself getting better and better. I didn’t care how my art stood up against the art of others, or what I was going to “do” with all these images. I found innocent satisfaction in the miracle of the mind and body’s ability to improve at anything that you choose to practice.

After such a long time doing this, however, I began to forget what the purpose was. Instead of wanting to draw everyday, instead of it being a time of rest and relaxation, it became a duty, just another chore, something I had to do. I started getting stressed about not somehow making money off of my work. I got jealous and disheartened rather than inspired by the work of others. I was distraught and frustrated at my lack of progress. I felt stagnant and full of self-criticism and self-doubt.

I am writing all of this down as a reminder of the remedy, if and when this cycle should unravel again. The first thing I need to allow myself to do is TAKE A BREAK. Not drawing for a few days, a few weeks, even a few months, does not mean I will never draw again. It just means I need a break to give myself the space to want to draw again. Forcing myself to do it under some assumption I have to keep practicing to get better makes no sense when the point isn’t to get better, it’s to have fun. Getting better is just part of that fun, but is meaningless on its own.

The second step after a reasonable break, is to try something new. I cannot express the joy I have rediscovered through this step. Trying something new is a great way to shake myself out of stagnation in anything, but especially art. Not only do I have to focus more, it breaks me free from my strict expectations. Whatever I create doesn’t have to be the best thing I’ve done. It doesn’t have to top yesterday. I feel mentally accepting of the fact that I won’t be incredible at what I’m doing. It’s the first time I’ve even tried! When I do something new or in a different way than usual, I escape the fear of failure, while also opening up the possibility of surprising myself with success.

I think most of us end up running our lives entirely on autopilot. Then we wonder why we are so unhappy. I’ve come to realize, without changing anything externally, I can completely shift my experience of daily life by just shifting and/or re-centering myself on my intention. Sure, I enjoy doing things that largely fall under the umbrella of “self-improvement,” but that doesn’t mean I do them because I’m not good enough, or because happiness lies at some personal perfection finish line. I like getting better, not because I’m “better” at the end, but because it’s fun to play with that edge of your own ability. It’s exciting to see what I’m able to do whether that be mentally or physically.

So, future Rachel, if you’re reading this, don’t forget! Whether in art or anything else you choose to do, happiness and purpose are not to be found in results. The joy and the meaning are inside the very moments of creation, of learning. You don’t have to know the ending. All you have to do is follow the feeling. The feeling of curiosity, of playfulness, or even the feeling of laziness when you need a rest from it all. No final product matters if you have to be consistently miserable to get there.

Motivation

Most days I feel like I’m dragging myself through life. Very rarely is there anything I feel myself wanting to do. I manage to get a lot done, but it’s more out of a sense of obligation (usually to myself/my OCD) than motivation. I’ve met so many people in life that seem to happily buzz around getting so many little projects done every day, with little to no mental effort. In fact it seems to refuel them rather than drain them. What gives? Why can’t I do that? I’m left endlessly wondering.

I have a few theories. One is that I commit myself to so many “have to’s” every day that I have hardly any energy left to feel motivated to do more. Perhaps not allowing myself any significant amount of true rest time, leaves me perpetually too burnt out to experience that sense of internal drive I so long for. But what if it’s just how my brain works? Maybe I’m just someone who is lazy and disinterested by nature. I think this last theory is really what keeps me from further investigating the first one. If I stop the momentum from years of diligent daily tasks, what if I never feel like picking them back up again? Then I’ll just end up doing nothing! That fear keeps me filling up each and every empty moment with something whether it’s ultimately in my best interest or just gives me the illusion of being productive in some way.

Part of the problem is being paralyzed with too many options. There are millions of things, big and small, that I’d like to accomplish one day. When the time comes to actually choose one to work on, I get distracted by all the others and start doubting myself. Which is most important? Which should I do first? Which matters most to me? Which would I enjoy more? Would I really enjoy any of them? What’s even the point? Then I usually default to an autopilot task just to find relief from thinking about it anymore and spiraling into an existential crisis.

I guess one of the few things I do feel motivated by is coming up with plans. I LOVE to make new schedules for myself, to-do lists, goals, ideas. All of that stuff is so much fun to think about and fills me with a seemingly endless supply of energy directed toward completing all my lists. However, when I find myself facing putting my plans into action in the moment, I lose all of that drive in an instant. It’s much more fun to plan to change your life than to actually change it. The idea of becoming a master piano player is way more exciting than practicing the scales for hours on end.

So here I am again, at this familiar impasse. My internal stand-off. I want to feel more motivated, but I’m not motivated enough to uncover and take the necessary steps to get there. Pretty ironic, isn’t it? Let me know if you have this same struggle or if you’re someone more like the people I mentioned earlier who don’t seem to have an issue getting into new projects with passion and enthusiasm. If you happen to have any tips or tricks from either perspective, I’d love to know!

The Artist

I'd love to know how others write
do they have a plan before
they put pen to paper or
place their fingers on the keys
do they know where they're going
as they embark upon this daily journey

For me writing is a chance encounter
with my secretive inner self
I never know what she has to say
until I sit down to listen
the conversation begins in silence
shyly unraveling in slow motion

Revelations of private wisdom
glimmering behind the veil
of the person I pretend to be
that funny feeling of never knowing
what's inside my own mind until
I give it space to surface

The stifling self-criticism that bars the door
to my still, secluded, subconscious sanctuary
tells me a masterpiece must have a plan
fills me with fear of wasting time translating
an underwhelming message
that doesn't matter

But conversations do not have blueprints
you can't predict which will change you
or save you suddenly from yourself
it's always worth it to take the risk
even if it's just for the pleasure
of having someone to talk to

So I faithfully open the door each morning
hoping that the artist within arrives
to tell me something beautiful 
even though some days she stands me up
she is a busy woman after all
with lots of better things to do

Alternate Ambitions

The internet is great at giving us a false perception of the way other people live and conduct themselves from day to day. Despite this flawless image YouTubers and other influencers give off, one thing still seems real to me: their ability to focus their talents and efforts and present them in a consistent format to their followers. They find their content niche and stick to it diligently until they manage to build up a following.

This is an impressive feat in my opinion. My creative interests are so scattered and fluctuating. It’s pretty apparent if you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time. I can never seem to pick a theme or pursuit and stick to it. I have far too many things I’d like to work on. I realize that I can’t do them all. If I want to monetize these creative outlets for myself or create cohesive finished products for a personal brand, I have to focus my energy on one thing at a time. Focusing on one thing, feels like abandoning all of my other interests though. I tend to lose momentum and start feeling stuffy and stagnant when I work in one arena for any amount of time.

I should consider myself lucky. Maybe these influencers really only have a small set of interests or talents, and that’s what makes it easy for them to narrow down their creative range to catch a consistent audience. I’m truly blessed to have so many passions and creative gifts that I could turn into a personal or career path. My biggest obstacle is wrangling my attention and fixing it on a single endeavor to complete a bigger, well thought-out project. Maybe on some level I’m just afraid that if I devote too much time and energy to one creative medium and don’t receive a return on that investment, I’ll feel like a fool or a failure.

Just for context, here is a list of all of the things I’ve been swirling around in my head that I’d like to work on:

  • Podcasting (no idea what of the thousand topics I’d be able to settle on)
  • YouTube (same issue)
  • Online/Livestream Yoga
  • Private Yoga lessons
  • Vegan mentorship
  • Art (selling prints, commissions)
  • Writing (Poetry, short-stories, fiction, non-fiction)
  • Positive Affirmation Coloring Book (publishing and marketing it)

Obviously I can’t expect myself to actualize all of these possibilities. The vague idea of each and every one of them fills me with excitement, inspiration, and motivation. When I get down to the details and the physical steps I’d need to take to turn these ideas into something concrete, I become paralyzed with fear and uncertainty. I may have a lot of creative energy and valuable talents, but I have no idea how to market them or myself in any meaningful way. The idea of creating a mediocre finished product leaves me feeling awful. There is also a fear that by turning any one of these ideas into a business would rob me of the joy I have just doing them for fun.

If I had any money at all, I would likely go out and find myself a manager or someone to help me stay on track and advertise one of these skills. However, anxiety over money is the only reason I’ve been so eager to find a way to profit off of these ideas in the first place. For now, I’m planning on finishing the steps of publishing my positive affirmation coloring book. I’ve already got 30 drawings to compile for it and a good idea of who I would be able to market it to in my community as well as online. I’m just stuck in the limbo of trying to navigate self publishing and perfecting the tiny details about compiling them into a presentable book.

When I find myself struggling with these practical steps, I can’t help but feel pulled to abandon the idea all together and chase a different goal. Logically, I know I’ll eventually face the same problems with anything I try to produce. At the end of the day, I think lacking self-confidence is what’s holding me back. As I continue to try to move forward towards securing a self-determined future for myself, I’m going to try to imagine what I would do if I were confident. A confident person doesn’t get bogged down with the little details and agonize over making everything utterly perfect. I have great ideas. I’m extremely intelligent and talented. And I am going to make something incredible to contribute to the world. That’s the kind of energy that’s going to carry me forward into the next phase of my life.

Inspiration or Intimidation

Looking to others
can be a source of strength
to see success in someone you admire
can light a fire deep inside

Learning to savor
the achievements of others
as if they were your own
is a skill that cannot be understated

Compersion means celebrating
the joy of those around you
and what could be more beautiful
than that selfless sensation?

But comparison is the thief of joy
self confidence seeps away 
in the face of constant observation
of those you believe to be better

The fluttering chest and flushed face
I used to feel from absorbing the images
of those perfect women I adored
left me broken and starving

What used to inspire
became a reminder
that I could never be enough
no matter what

To protect myself
I turned away from the world
deleted all the sources of self doubt
but there is always someone to envy

Someday I hope to learn
how to bloom into my own best self
without feeling burdened
by who I'm not

Something Worth Giving

Every being on this earth is truly unique. No two people think, feel, or experience the world the same. Therefore it stands to reason that each person in the world also has something unique to offer, whether that be in the smaller scale of people in their lives, or society at large. Each form of giving is equally valuable and fulfilling. I think it comes naturally for us to want to give back to our family, friends, and community. There is an inherent satisfaction in being helpful to other beings. Giving of ourselves is not the hard part. The hard part is knowing what our own special offering is.

Creativity and inspiration come from the deeply held belief that we have something worthwhile to offer to the universe. Artists can often feel compelled beyond all reason to express this powerful urge from within. Even in my darkest hours, a part of my intensified creative energy in this state is a deep longing to reach out and share my personal suffering with others. The idea that my suffering could be a comfort to someone else or an acknowledgment that they are not alone, that someone else understands, is a beautiful driving force.

I think one of the many reasons I’ve been feeling so stuck and unmotivated is that deep down, I really don’t believe that I have anything worthwhile to give. This feeling hanging in the background of all I do makes me want to be as small as possible. I shrink away from the world, trying to get out of everyone’s way. The bitter taste of conceit turns my stomach when I contemplate creative efforts. Who am I to create? Who am I to take up space? Lately everything I do, everything I am, feels like an affront to the world rather than a gift. I am filled with shame by the perceived presumption that what I say, do, feel, or create should or even could matter to anyone else.

Somehow I’ve always been able to hold two contradictory believes in my heart simultaneously: Everyone matters. I do not matter. Everyone has a unique and valuable gift to offer. I have nothing to offer. Everyone deserves to be loved. I do not deserve love. Even though logically I realize both of these statements cannot be true, that doesn’t seem to affect my conviction toward either one.

Perhaps I still just haven’t determined what my unique gift is. Despite all of my varied talents and skills, there are always a lot of people that out perform me in any arena. Once again, I would never proclaim that you have to be “the best” at something in order for your work to be worthwhile, somehow I hold myself to a very different and unrealistic standard. Maybe it would behoove me to get some outside perspectives on this matter. I wonder what those closest to me would say is my special gift. What is my unique value in this world? What I am able to offer in a way that no one else can?

Then again, despite the value you perceive personally, there is beauty in the idea of giving regardless of the “worth” of whatever that may be. Sometimes it is even more moving when someone with little or nothing of value shares the small amount they do have. Part of me believes that it is only our role to give, not to determine the value of that gift. After all we can never truly tell how something may affect or benefit another person. It’s the thought that counts, right?

I may never be able to determine for what reason I matter in this world. But I have faith that there is a reason for all of this despite my limited ability to understand. Maybe it’s not my place to know but to learn how to continue being without that knowing. Maybe it’s my place to give what I have and not worry about whether or not anyone else “wants” it. It’s the intention that matters. It’s the energy behind our actions that determine their worth, not the physical manifestation of those actions. No matter what I have, I can choose to give it with love, and that’s more than enough. And if others happen to think it’s not enough, that is their obstacle to overcome, not mine.