Living authentically can be one of the most freeing things you can do. Here are eight ways to cultivate authentic living.
1. If something doesn't feel good in my gut, I will not continue doing it.
I truly believe that gut instincts are almost always right. Most people have that little feeling they get in their gut when something doesn't seem right. This could be a feeling you get about a person, place, or situation. It comes down to trusting yourself. If that little voice inside your head is saying that you aren't safe, turn your butt around and walk away. Self preservation happens when you look out for yourself, and that only happens when you know your needs. If you don't seem to have this voice of reason, fear not! You can bring it out on your own by asking yourself what your boundaries are. Know yourself deeply. Know what makes you tick, what gets under your skin, and what you cannot accept. If you know what your red line looks like, it is a lot easier to tell when it has been crossed. Don't be afraid to physically walk away from a situation that makes you uncomfortable.
2. I don't owe my allegiance to any ideology, religion, or lifestyle that ceases to make me happy.
You don't have to do what you have always done because that is who you have always been. If you reflect on yourself and are unhappy, change! You don't owe it to your past self to stay the same. You don't owe it to your friends or family to stay the same. You owe it to yourself to pursue happiness.
3. I will not let the opinions of people who have no investment, impact, or history in my life to affect me.
The only people whose opinion you should listen to are those who truly have your best interest at heart. Think about it, if an internet troll calls you ugly, why should you value what they say? Do you even know them? Will their opinion change your life? No. This goes for other randos you come across in your life. People come and go, don't let one person's negative energy invade your space. If this person is not someone you would go to for advice on a personal topic, then you shouldn't take their negative comments to heart either.
4. I will take care of myself the way it makes sense to me
Some people need to talk to a friend to reduce stress, others need to take a nap. I like running, meditating, and taking long baths. Self care is very personal and everyone does it their own way. Many articles online show self care routines for “inner peace”. I'm sure they are lovely, but make sure you do what is right for you. If you despise running, that won't relax you. Maybe you like dancing, so do that instead! Think about all the things that drain you, and all the things that make you calm or happy. When practicing your personalized self care routine, remove all those things that drain your energy. For me that could be checking emails or doing the dishes. The things that fill me up are meditation, drawing in a real sketchbook, taking walks in nature, running, and dancing. I try my best to do one of these along with my meditation practice every day. Fill yourself up so you have enough to pour back into your crazy, hectic life.
5. I will never be afraid to die and be born again
As humans we go through huge transitions in life. Whether it be in your personal life or career, you are always growing and changing. Sometimes life does what life does best and surprises you, gives you opportunities for growth and change you never would have dreamed of. You find yourself waking up one day and being amazed at how far you have come. When I think of my past of all-consuming depression and anxiety and compare it to how I feel today, I am in awe. Humans are so resilient. We have the power to die (figuratively) at the hands of our circumstances and be born again as a new, stronger person. Becoming who you really are is a journey that is easier for some than others, so remember that there is no timeline but your own. It is a natural cycle, so embrace it and don't be afraid of reincarnating into a better version of yourself. It is never too late to bloom.
6. I will not be afraid to fail
All throughout school, my father always told me “only A's are acceptable, no B's.” My siblings and I were all held to a very high standard, which I am thankful for. It made us take pride in our work. Those high standards rubbed off on me, and I became sort of a perfectionist. That fear of failure is still a very real thing, but every year it loosens its grip on me. I used to be so afraid to fail that I wouldn't even try. Ironically, not trying is in itself a failure. The way I battle this internal fear is to remind myself that everyone sucks at things in the beginning, and that by being afraid to try I'm not giving myself a chance to improve. Practice is the only way to get where you want to be skill-wise. You have to be okay with sucking miserably in the beginning, then one day it will “click”.
7. I will dress for myself and no one else
This one is especially important to me as a fashion designer. Growing up, every day at school was a chance to express myself with my clothes. There has always been different fashion trends and many people like to wear only what is “in style”. Back when I was in middle school, girls loved animal print. I hated animal print and still do to this day. I could have made myself a leopard print skirt to wear and be like everyone else, but I didn't. I wore the clothes that made me feel comfortable and like myself. I still do this now. Some days I dress up, other days I dress very minimal. And that's okay. I dress for myself and no one else, you should too.
8. I will frequently check in with myself and ask, “What do I really want out of life?”
We all know the answer to that question can change drastically as the years go on. As we grow and mature, we realize that we have an infinite number of paths we can choose from. Life never turns out like you pictured when you are younger, it is too complicated to contain in a single daydream. It is easy to go through life drifting along and becoming a victim of your circumstances. This promise is reminding yourself that it is okay to want more. There is nothing wrong with saying you are unhappy with the direction your life is going, and changing course. In order to get where you want to be, you have to know what you want in the first place. One thing I like to do if I feel I am losing direction is perform a 5-10 meditation practice. During this meditation I clear my mind of any distractions and imagine myself at my absolute happiest. I try to vividly picture every detail: where I am living, what I do for a living, who I am around, and what type of person I am at that moment. By envisioning every detail, it is easier to then form a real plan to get yourself there. After you meditate, make sure to write down what you pictured and make a plan to accomplish your dreams.
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If you are passionate about politics and climate change issues like I am, you were just as disappointed as I was when you heard that Trump decided to withdraw from the Paris Accord. It is so stubborn and pathetic of him it is almost funny. I would laugh, except these issues are real. Even if climate “change” by itself is unbelievable (despite all the scientific evidence), what about good old pollution? I truly believe that the next global crisis will be a water shortage if we don't get our act together. There are oil spills everywhere, plastic floating in our oceans, and complete ecosystems being destroyed. Let's face it, most of us wouldn't know how to survive without running water from a sink or a grocery store with fruits and vegetables. Climate change is a huge problem because as the population grows, we need to make sure our resources will be enough for everyone. We need a sustainable lifestyle if the human population is going to survive much longer. We need to save Mother Earth, with or without Trump.
That being said, it can feel overwhelming to try to change something so much bigger than ourselves. Trust me, I feel defeated by it often, and it would be so easy to just give up and feel like my actions won't make a difference, but I know that is not true. If every single person made a small change in their lifestyles, the whole world could change. The power is in the individual, and also in the group. We have to be leaders in our communities and be an example to our kids. If the lifestyle spreads, we can help reverse climate change and save our precious planet. Here are some of the things I do as one, teeny person to make a difference.
1. Recycle! (seriously, just do it)
This one might seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many people don't recycle. I went through recycling boot camp (so to speak) when I lived in Japan for four years, they have SEVEN categories for their trash! In the U.S all we have is one trash bin, and one recycling bin, easy. There is so much you can recycle, not just the typical milk jugs and pop bottles. Paper, cardboard, plastic of all kinds and metal can all be tossed in the bin. It is worth it to have a small recycling container in popular areas of the house like the kitchen and bedroom so you remember to use it. Personally I also keep one in my sewing studio, so I can recycle the packaging from sewing supplies I buy like machine parts or sewing needles. They come in a package of plastic and cardboard, I just separate those two parts and I'm all set to recycle! Make sure to look up online what recycling trucks accept in your city because each city is different.
2. Use old-school dishes and silverware
Look, I know washing dishes sucks, but so does a future drowning in plastic. Think of it this way: Every single piece of plastic and styrofoam that has ever been produced (and not recycled) is still in existence! And we just keep making more! If you can't afford a set of dishes, go to Salvation Army or even the Dollar Store and get yourself a few metal spoons and forks, and some ceramic dishes. They will last you longer and won't be causing pollution. If you are having a big event like a barbecue and you must use paper and plastic items, just make sure your guests are on board with recycling it. Have them dump extra food in one bin and toss the paper and plastic into the recycle bin. Styrofoam isn't recycled like everything else and needs to be dropped off at a special center near you.
3. Get creative with your old clothes, or give them a new life.
This is a big one for me! The fast-fashion industry is destroying our planet. The majority of landfills are filled with clothes! As someone who sews, all I can do is cringe, shake my head sadly, and imagine all the fashion I could have made with that fabric. There is a whole bunch of ways to re-use your clothes that don't require much knowledge in sewing. The first is by cutting them up into squares and using them for dusting and dish rags. You can cut a T-shirt into strips and tie them together to make a mop head. Or, use an old T-shirt to dry your hair. When I was traveling I only brought one big towel for my body and would use my shirt to dry my hair. It's super absorbent and doesn't make your hair frizzy like a towel. T-shirts are also great for small pillow cases, just flip it inside out and hand-sew the arm and neck holes shut. If you are more craftsy, think about using your old clothes to make fabric yarn and crochet a chunky rug for yourself. For tough fabric like jeans, cut them up into small squares you can use to patch bags and other pants. Be creative, there is always something you can do with old clothes around the house. If you don't have the time, make sure to donate them to Salvation Army so someone else can make use of your unwanted items.
4. Be green while storing your leftovers
There are plenty of food items that come in nice packaging great for reusing. Why buy a whole new piece of plastic when you are already bringing your food home in good containers? My favorite has to be yogurt containers, they are durable and a good size for salads. If you can't collect enough containers and need more, try buying glass or metal containers instead. Those will last you longer than plastic.
5. Walk or bike as many places possible.
Walking/biking instead of driving reduces the amount of emissions your are letting out into the atmosphere. I understand this can be difficult with people who have families or live in a state like Michigan where things are far apart. Sometimes it is as simple as walking from one store to the next instead of moving your when shopping in a strip mall. Or, walking to the end of your driveway to get your mail instead of driving your car like some people do. If biking is a viable commuting option for you, go for it. Its good exercise too.
6. Be mindful of how long the water is running.
Leaving the water running when they are brushing their teeth is an awful habit, and it wastes so much water. We see the water flowing freely out of our tap and always forget that it comes from somewhere. I live in Michigan and am blessed to have the Great Lakes supplying water, but many states are experiencing water shortages. If the water doesn't need to be running, turn it off. When I am doing the dishes for example, I usually fill a small tub with hot soapy water and scrub the dishes all at the same time, then rinse them off at the same time. This is saves more water than by washing and rinsing each dish individually.
7. Conserve energy
Our high-tech 21st century lifestyle requires lots of electricity. In order for us to have power, natural gas or coal is burned to make steam, which drive turbines, resulting in electricity. There are other ways besides coal and natural gas to make electricity, but we are still heavily reliant on fossil fuels. Obviously, this is not a sustainable source of energy, so we need to be aware of how much we are using, until we can make the shift to sustainable sources. Make sure to turn the lights off whenever you exit a room. Another tip is to unplug big appliances that don't need to be on, because those actually leach energy out even when they are not in use!
8. Use soap bars instead of body washes
This one is kind of random, but there is a logic to it. Body washes come in plastic bottles, which will fill our landfills or have to be recycled. On top of that, most of what is in the bottle is water anyway, and we are just paying for the fancy packaging. There are some pretty luxurious soap bars that come in minimal packaging that do the trick. My favorites are charcoal, African black, and shea butter soaps.
9. Join the clean plate club
Did your mom ever tell you at dinner that you had to “join the clean plate club?” Maybe it was something only my family said, but it is relevant to our topic. Every time we throw away food, we are essentially throwing away energy. That food took water to grow, fuel to export, it sat in a grocery store being powered by electricity, and you most likely drove a car to purchase it. Food is also fuel for our bodies. Throwing it away is a massive waste. What I usually do is take smaller portions so I know I can finish what is on my plate. You can always get a little more if you are still hungry. When you are at a restaurant, take the leftovers home and eat them for lunch the next day instead of letting the waitress toss it. If you have leftovers, get creative with them and cook something new if you are bored of the dish. Food being thrown away also bothers me personally because my family in Syria experiences food shortages as a result of the war, so I am very conscious of how blessed I am to have food readily available.
10. Grow your own food, or shop local
This one I am still working on. I generally lived in apartments but this year is the first I have my own backyard! Growing a vegetable garden is something I have always wanted to do. Not only will the vegetables be fresh, they will also be organic, have no pesticides, and won't have to travel long distances by truck to get to the supermarket for you to buy. Overall, having your own garden would mean those vegetables required less energy to produce than their supermarket counterparts. If you don't have your own yard, some neighborhoods have a shared community garden. You can also do the next best thing and shop at farmers markets, such as Eastern Market in Detroit. There you can find organic delicious produce and help support local farmers at the same time.
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