Finding Your Voice As A Woman, A Discussion

I’ve talked about Women Among Women in previous posts, and here I am at it again.

This group. Ugh.

This group is A-mazing.

Our March meeting was on the topic of Woman’s Voice.  It may have been my favorite discussion to date, and our conversations continued past the night of the event and into the group’s Facebook page. There were various subtopics we discussed under “Voice” that had me pondering for days following. Specifically, the fact that finding your voice does not always involve a transformation or life-altering experience. (So unlike books such as Eat, Play, Love want us to believe.) Instead, some of the epiphanies my peers experienced came over a coffee break with a friend or on a random Thursday afternoon surrounded by their male coworkers or while listening to music while on their daily run. You can’t predict when you’ll have that A-HA! moment, but you can embrace it when it happens.

In the hope of not losing these thoughts moving forward, I would like to share some of the broader topics I gleamed from the discussion about how a woman can find her voice and how she can use it. The following are pieces of that dialogue, in no particular order, as well as some of my own opinions on the topics. I would love to hear from you also — once you consider the journey to discovering your voice and/or the difficulties you’ve faced when using your voice, please leave a comment to further this discussion.


Sometimes, not saying anything is the best answer. You see, silence can never be misquoted.

The power in silence.

When it comes to your voice, sometimes there is power in silence. Voicing your opinion or replying to another person’s opinion may not be necessary, and the stronger response may very well simply be saying nothing at all.

If someone doesn’t like your presentation at work or your review on Facebook or your suggestion at the recent PTA meeting, think before responding. Will rising to battle better the outcome or further the greater good? Will a response cause a heated debate and ill-will between the parties involved? Does the opposing opinion affect your work, your reputation, or your life in long-term negativity? The best response from you may be nothing at all.

Instead of being the change needed for every situation, your actual purpose may be as a wheel in the clock — pushing an agenda a bit further ahead but not causing a kink. Sometimes your role is to focus on doing your job and doing it well. It is human nature to not please every other person in the world; we all have different personalities, beliefs, ideals, etc. after all. You could complete a project to perfection and someone can still find something they dislike. As one of my coworkers says, “You could be the juiciest strawberry in Michigan, and find someone who doesn’t like strawberries.” That’s life.

I try to give everyone I interact with the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he/she is having a bad day and is responding out of exhaustion or frustration. Or perhaps he/she has a strong rooted emotion against something you do and you simply do not know his/her background to understand the reaction. I prefer to think the best in others. Instead of focusing on why someone reacted in a certain way, I attempt to focus on myself and my reactions. I’m human so I sometimes fail, but the majority of the time I am able to take a step back, assess the situation, and find some insight into the other party’s response. You can only control yourself and how you react, so why put too much effort into worrying about someone else’s agenda?

To really get to know yourself, try doing a mental review of the situation in question, especially if you have been challenged or felt uncomfortable. Ask yourself, “Am I responding in accordance with my personal values? Will responding bring a better result, and ultimately happiness into my life?” Spend some time with the answer and see how it makes you feel. You might find that silence is your best friend in more circumstances than you thought before.


People have a sixth sense, and they can sniff it out if you aren’t being true to who you are. – Christa Quarles

Avoidance gets you nowhere.

I think a big culprit of a woman finding her voice is when she discovers a passion. It is much easier to speak out or up about subjects that you have investment in and knowledge about.

I like to call myself an “extroverted introvert” because I find a lot of enjoyment in being surrounded by people while remaining in my own corner of comfort to observe. Having that space also allows me to meditate with my thoughts during discussions and learn more about how I tick. Over the years of self-discovery, I have realized that my voice is stronger where my passions flourish. It was a slow epiphany that grew as I gained experience, power, and became a leader in my specific areas of expertise. It was not until a stepped into a place of leadership that I felt forced to step forward and say, “This matters, and I’m going to do something about it.”

If you experience something that goes against your beliefs or personal values, then you have to be bold enough to recognize that avoidance of the subject gets you no where. And in turn gets the world no where also. Consider moments in history where women went against the norm of society and dove head-first into uncomfortable conversations: Queen Elizabeth I and her “video et taceo” governing approach, Lucy Stone’s influential Woman’s Journal, the USA Gymnastics national team coming together against Larry Nassar. The world has not been changed by closed mouths.

One of my peers at Women Among Women shared my thoughts on why passions push you forward to finding and using your voice:

Peer L: I think a great starting point for those looking to find their voice or to gain confidence is to get involved with something you’re passionate about, like a volunteer organization. It allows you to connect with others with similar interests and who inspire you to be an advocate for yourself and/or something that you believe in. It’s easy to have a voice about something you’re passionate about and you’ll gain the confidence to let your voice be heard in other areas of life, including the times where it may be more difficult or come with greater risks.

In the same respect, another peer commented on how using your voice may seem like a hindrance to finding success. Especially for those who own a business and are expected to practice perfect customer service. Avoidance and remaining silent may seem like a better route in such circumstances. Unfortunately, the cliche that the customer is always right is actually wrong. The customer always should be heard and understood, but it is okay to walk away from his/her business if their opinion directly collides with your beliefs and values. There will always be different and better business opportunities, and exercising your voice will make for good practice in growing yourself into a more poised and respected leader.

This thought also encompasses the idea of speaking up in difficult situations, like when a coworker takes credit for your work. This example was discussed heavily by my female peers who have experienced working in male-dominated environments. Women tend to sit silently as credit for projects is taken by their more out-spoken male counterparts. Why is this still happening, ladies? As Christa Quarles, the CEO of OpenTable, said, “There have been stories for centuries of the self-made man, but today the self-made person is not a truth. Nobody succeeds alone. We are all part of a much greater fabric. So it is okay to look to others for help, but by the same token, don’t let anyone steal your power and make your story theirs.” Finding our voices where women have been quiet for so long seemed to be a sore spot in our discussion and a topic that needed more consideration.


If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be. – Maya Angelou

Stereotypes add up.

Speaking of more consideration on male-dominated work environments, is this not a large area of discomfort women face when it comes to our voices? The attendees of Women Among Women shared numerous stories from their own lives where it seemed “feminine stereotypes” were thrown in their faces when they attempted to make their voices heard in the work place. It seems as if stereotypes add up when it comes to speaking up.

One of the most common stereotypes women face professionally is being labeled “bossy” when in roles of leadership. Or, depending on your leadership approach, you could be described as nosy, uncaring, strict, over-enthusiastic, etc. Why are women given negative labels as leaders while their male counterparts are given respect? Though this question was asked multiple times throughout the night, no definitive answer was discovered.

I don’t have a good answer either, as I’ve never dealt with this situation. Personally, I have never been given a negative label as a leader, nor have heard coworkers speak of other females in management in such terms. I have been blessed to work under numerous women who I viewed as mentors in my industries and who I greatly respected.

The experience I do have is in using my voice in my careers. I am not comfortable publicly speaking, but I have learned to raise my opinion during professional meetings. One day I realized that being shy and retreating was the easy thing to do — and I never wanted to be the person who took the easy way out. I quickly found that I didn’t have to be the loudest or deepest voice at the table to share my opinion and have it taken seriously. And so my voice grew over the course of my managerial roles.

Perhaps it is the shifting of our culture (the time of #MeToo and other women empowering movements), but it seems as if the tides are beginning to change in the professional world. Women are taking roles in leadership more often and respect is on the rise. We are forcing ourselves to speak up, despite our nerves, and contribute to the conversation in what once was an intimidating environment. Our voices are ready and we need to continue to let them be heard. Let’s keep on pushing forward, ladies — the world is changing at our sound.


Move in silence. Only speak when it’s time to say, “Checkmate.”

Finding your voice in conflict.

I wrestled with one concept in particular following the WAW meeting: how to find your voice within a conflicting situation when there is a real and imminent danger. Another of my peers struggled with the same thought, and she reached out to the group via Facebook to continue the discussion the day after the event:

Peer A: For many, finding our voice feels natural. We grab the bull by the horns and make ourselves be heard – professionally, personally, in crowds. But there are those who it doesn’t come natural to. And some have very real consequences/backlash that can come with speaking up. Not everyone has a support system or backup plan that would allow them to leave a job, or a relationship, etc. How do we still make those women feel empowered? I don’t ever want anyone to think that just because they haven’t found a way to “find their voice” in a situation means they’re not strong.

I am one of those people who does not have a naturally loud voice. I am a strong INFJ meaning I will do everything in my power to keep the peace. Yet I am also a very passionate person who holds her values and morals to a high esteem. Sometimes I find it difficult to balance these two characteristics because I might need to ruffle a feather or two in order for my opinion to be known.

I have a personal experience where I kept my voice quiet for a long time. Very similar to what Peer A says above, I walked out of a career with no backup plan and a lot of student debt/living costs/bills. After staying silent for two long years, I finally had had enough though. I placed my keys on my former employer’s desk and walked out without looking back. As someone who rarely raises her voice, that move in itself spoke legions.

Unfortunately, I think many times finding your voice can result in sinking a ship. When you embrace your values and identify your passions, you become a force with which to be reckoned. Remaining silent does have its values in some situations, but when it comes to a situation where you NEED to use your voice, silence is a form of validation. Validation for mistreatment, poor morals, or improper behavior. It is when you begin to feel nervous about speaking up that things are starting to shift — you’re feeling nervous because you know what you have to say needs to be heard. And if you don’t choose to say the words, they will fester inside of you like a poison.

Finding your voice can be healing.

Yes, you may sink a ship — you may lose your job, you may lose a friend or a romantic partner. You could even lose a family member. However, how good of a situation are you in if you’re feeling those nerves already? You’re going against your innate core in order to appease someone else. My two-year long silence resulted in black outs while driving, visits to a neurologist, and taking a prescription to battle the inflammation in my brain causing immobilizing migraines. The stress of my silence caused me physical pain and placed me in very real and imminent danger.

But then, in my own way, I found my voice and got out of the situation. No back up. Loads of debt. There were quite a few tears… but I picked myself up and moved forward. My reputation and character carried me into a healthier and better fitting job position — acting as the wine club manager and event planner of a local winery. If you can find your voice, then you’re already strong. You have a passionate spirit that will carry you into the next adventure. Yeah, maybe you get knocked down for a second, but that just means you will bounce back with more force. Roll with the punches and be true to yourself.

Peer A: Yes, to all of these things. There’s not a word in here that doesn’t resonate or that I don’t fully support! But I still think that there are grey areas. Leaving a job with no savings if you have a family to support isn’t an option. Leaving a job if you have rent to make and have no other means of financial support isn’t an option. 

As far as why those women feel like they have no support, there’s probably a myriad of reasons. From a personal standpoint, I know that there are a lot of women whose support I know has been offered to me in the past, but honestly their lives are busy, and it’s easy to feel like an inconvenience. I know that I’ve been judged by women who say they’ll offer support no matter what. And I know that saying that you’ll offer support and actually doing it are two very different things. There’s a plethora of explanations, I’m sure. 

So, I guess what I’m referring to are the in-between hours/days/months/years. What other ways can you find your voice beyond quitting your job, leaving your relationship, cutting ties with family etc. Within extremes is always a middle – being the loudest doesn’t mean you’re being heard. Although, I suppose finding your voice and being heard are also two very different things as well.

I couldn’t agree more with Peer A that every area of life has grey areas. When you’re on the outside, it is so easy to say to someone struggling, “Just do something and make a change.” There are situations — especially when you have dependents — where speaking up is not an option, especially when the result may be termination and/or abandonment.

Though I’m no expert, if I were in a situation like Peer A mentioned (a “middle extreme” if you will) I would make my voice known to an intimate group of peers and/or friends. Simply speaking about things can cause peace — I am all for a good rant with my closest girlfriends over wine. It does the heart good. Perhaps this is not what society views as strength but “sucking it up” and continuing forward with your work/relationship might be the only option. You may not be speaking to your assaulter, but you are being heard by people who care. I have found relief in that knowledge.

Also, speaking with friends or a special network might be worthwhile, and not only for your mental health’s sake. You might make a connection with someone who understands what you’re going through and who can help you find a better solution than just “sticking it out.” I think that goes back to what was said above: silence can be a value. You have to choose your fights — not every battle is worth it.


I am not a difficult woman at all. I am simply a strong woman and know my worth. -Angelina Jolie

Remember your worth.

Angelina Jolie is my favorite actress. She’s beautiful and poised and a fantastic artist. But why I adore her has more to do with her attitude than her art; she holds herself with an enviable confidence and strength. Plus she uses her high-profile status to promote her passions and she holds true to her personal values. That is the mark of a worthy celebrity in my book.

Many voices are left unheard due to the low self-esteems of their owners. Women who have experienced loss or guilt or failure throughout their lives and who have not yet learned that those past or present lows can result in future highs. I have been there as well. I wish I had known sooner how valuable I am and respected my worth. If I had, I may not have gone through some of my rougher patches where I allowed others to use and abuse me. Remember, ladies, that you are valuable. 

If it were not for my past failings, I would not have learned my value though. Nowadays, when I fail, I look that failure squarely in the eye and ask, “What did I just learn from you?” In some circumstances I learn that the failure is a closed door to which I do not own the key. Thus I move on. Other situations need more investment and work. Putting more time into something causes maturity and grows you into a better version of yourself. I’ve learned to not let any rejection ruffle my feathers. One “no” here may simply mean taking a detour and finding another path. Persistence is the key to those doors.

I have always been fascinated with stories of famous women who initially failed. Women like J. K. Rowling — my go-to answer when someone asks me to name one person, living or deceased, I’d want to have a coffee date. Rowling’s mailbox was filled with rejection letters when she sent her original Harry Potter manuscript to publishers. It took rejection from twelve different publishers before Bloomsbury Publishing sat down to read her manuscript. Yet she persisted in sending the manuscript after each rejection letter. If she had given up, my childhood would have been very lonely.

Another woman who failed in her past was the founder and CEO of Lippe Taylor, Maureen Lippe. Lippe couldn’t pass a typing test and failed her interview of working her dream job at Vogue. She went home from the failed test and signed up for classes at a secretarial school. Six months later, she returned to Vogue able to type and take dictation, and she landed the job. After learning the art of marketing she went on to found Lippe Taylor, who has worked with well-known brands like Nestle, Gerber, and Ikea. One of my favorite quotes from Lippe is, “Failure should teach you survival skills, not resignation.” The worst thing you can do when you face failure or rejection is internalize and let your feelings impact your self-worth. Live and learn — and quit taking things personal.


A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman. But the search to find that voice can be remarkably difficult. – Melinda Gates

The difficulty in being heard.

Why do we go through the difficult journey of searching for our voices? What is their importance? Using your voice is the surest way to build connections, find solutions, and live your truth. Your voice helps the world understand what you believe, hear what you think, and appreciate who you are in the deepest and rawest form. Thus it is important to use your sincere voice and not a pseudo rendition.

Women, like men, were not created to be quiet and sit in the background. We were designed with thoughts, values, and feelings that contribute to the greater good. Ignoring your voice leads to frustration and a fear of expression. Those who keep silent miss their goals and live in regret.

As we’ve discussed in various ways above, sometimes having a voice can cause momentary pain and hardship. The beauty in finding your voice is not in the easy moments of life though, it is in the difficult. Hard and happy are not exclusive — Life can be both.

At our WAW meeting and on the Facebook group, conversation on the difficulty of having your voice heard was discussed. Especially in those moments of conflict when voicing your opinion may have negative fallback. Peer A had a great suggestion as to how to be heard within difficult situations:

Peer A: I started thinking of ways that could still provide [those in conflicting situations] a voice: volunteering with young girls and showing them how to have a voice. One way is by walking away from conversations that make you uncomfortable – it’s not always necessary to put someone in their place. Sometimes it’s enough to just remove yourself from the situation.

This reminded me of a concept I was taught in college: “No.” is a complete sentence. It does not require justification or explanation. Saying “No” is a difficult thing to do, but necessary in a number of situations. I have been actively practicing saying “No” more in my life, and though it is only one word, I can see the difference in my voice when I firmly state it. My voice assists me in achieving my ever-changing goals and finding perspectives that belong to me and me alone. Challenges are instrumental to growth, so relish in the difficulty of discovering your voice and using it in your every day life.


Our days are happier when we give people a bit of our heart rather than a piece of our mind.

Pass your voice on to the woman behind you.

In the end, the importance of finding your voice is to pave the road for other women. There is a greater promise for the next generation when we find and share our voice in order to be heard. With all that has been said in this discussion, being true to yourself is Obstacle #1. The next obstacle is being a source of support for others who are going through similar experiences. Why do some women feel like they have no back up or support? Reach out and help one another! We have all been through hardships — we all have baggage — and we can help one another in some form. You never know the difference a kind word or a gentle nudge of encouragement may help someone lacking confidence in her own voice.

Peer L: As mentioned, knowing how and when to let our voices be heard and knowing when to stay silent are both equally important and powerful. For me, observing other women who seem to have mastered the staying silent vs. speaking up thing is inspiring and empowering in itself. Maybe it is simply being a role model for other women around us. While we must individually decide what is important to us and what we stand for, we need to help others find this out too. We need to be there for one another and sometimes that also means being the voice for one another.

I think having a voice is such a great gift to give to someone else. So once you discover yours, share it with the next lady in line. We’re all in this together, right?


With all these thoughts and opinions, I continue striving to find my individual voice. I am thankful for my little piece of the blogosphere where I can practice using my voice more readily than I do speaking — written word is more my cup’o’tea. My passions and beliefs push me into characteristically uncomfortable positions daily, but I have found success in many facets of my life by remembering my value. Sometimes I tread water during my journey, but other times the water stills and I can find refreshment in my personal experiences. There’s rejuvenation in expressing myself and using my voice when the time calls for it. I know the worth of my voice and I will grow and strengthen it until I die.

I’ll leave the discussion with this thought: seeing a woman being able to own what she’s been through, stand up, be honest, put her heart out there and be connected to people — that is amazing and empowering.

Please feel free to continue this discussion in the comment area below. I would love to hear your input and learn from your own experiences.

With you and for you, my friends,

The Ugliness of Self-Care

Today I want to talk about self-care. True self-care. Not the romanticized and trendy version the world is constantly pushing down our throats. Not the bath bombs and face masks and #treatyourself high-dollar purchases and ritual meditations the world seems so eager to focus on for peak lifestyles.

No, I’m talking about real self-care. The self-care that is often a very unbeautiful thing.

Self-care is usually the ugliest thing you have to do each day. It’s when you sweat through your clothes during an intense workout to diminish your stress levels. It’s finding a second job to have the funds for an actual savings account. It’s choosing to turn around and walk away from a toxic friendship even through the heartache. It’s sitting down to make a budget spreadsheet with a stack of long-forgotten receipts. It’s figuring out a way to love yourself despite your faults and failings and self-inflicting hurtful thoughts.

Self-care is building yourself and your life into something you do not need to escape.

Self-care is not a deliberate break from Life to do trendy yet basic things like taking a bath or reading a book or binging Netflix. Resorting to any activity due to absolute exhaustion, unwavering anxiety, or self-loathing is not self-care. Read that last sentence twice more, friends. Does this sound like you? I completely understand.

Once upon a time I believed the world’s vision of self-care as well. A few days ago I came across an old journal where I had challenged myself to allow at least 30 minutes of “self-care” each week. This meant I was allowing a half hour on a weekly basis to attempt to find some solace from my constant internal pressures. Looking back, I can see now how depressed I was when creating that journal page.

It was at this time in my life when I exhausted myself on a daily basis. I attempted to keep up with fake friends and worked towards society’s ideal body-type and over-scheduled my free time with community involvement in order to have a better outward appearance. I would do anything to stop myself from realizing how relentless my own thoughts were that told me I wasn’t good enough, or worthy enough, or beautiful enough. Thus the self-care I deemed appropriate were those made trendy by social media and celebrities — usually being some sort of beautifying regimen.

Basically, these were acts we women are expected to be good at. I ended up spending more time trying to get the best camera angle of my yoga mat or choosing the perfect filter of my candle-lit salt bath than I did actually performing the “self-care.”

It goes to figure that so many “self-care” products cost a small fortune. The world in which self-care is a trend is a cruel, ironic one. Since when did getting out of bed call for your friends applauding you on Facebook? When did turning your phone off deserve a trophy? When did staying active or washing your face or burning a candle require bragging rights? Only in an extremely unhappy and numb world…

Self-care is often ugly.

Self-care usually takes doing the things you least want to do. It is letting yourself be unexceptional. It is choosing to be normal. Self-care is not caring about what the world thinks of you but rather what YOU think of you. It is looking at your failures and disappointments, and readjusting your Life to point in any direction other than your self-perceived expectations. It is being yourself and loving who you are.

If you find yourself continuously seeking to indulge in the world’s “self-care” then you are disconnected from real self-care. You’ve numbed yourself by avoiding the sharp edges of Life. When you never allow yourself to feel the chaos of a messy house, the disappoint in a failed project, the pain of a rejected relationship, grief, sorrow, or any other real feelings, then you’ve been robbed of becoming the best version of yourself possible.

Life has ugly, rude, and aggressive edges. This is a fact. And hiding from that truth is not self-care.

Rather facing that darkness is caring about yourself. By allowing chaos and disappointment and pain into your life, you’re actively learning how to overcome that darkness. You’re rolling with the punches to ultimately have the light to shine through in forms of authenticity, happiness, and love.

In other words, you must rage through the battle to win the war.

So, post that trendy picture on Instagram of your bubble bath. And if you need encouragement from your online friends for continuing to get up in the morning, that’s okay. But start to realize how these tactics are not self-care. Instead, coming to terms with who you are, why you are the way you are, and what it’ll take for you to love that quirky person in the mirror is what self-care is all about.

Ugly edges and all.

Be good to yourselves, my friends,

A Letter to My Former Selves

Dear Former Selves,

Today, I turn 25. And although I have made several jokes about keeping my birthday hush-hush, have complained about my back hurting, and even threatened that a quarter-life crisis was about to ensue, I am actually very happy with my age and the woman I am becoming. Thinking back, though, over the past ten years I cannot honestly say this feeling is something I anticipated.

You’re 15 today. You’re 15 and you’re a freshman in high school. You have no idea what you’re doing with your life: you’re playing sports that you don’t care about, you’re allowing that girl who had once been your friend to hurt your feelings on a daily basis, you’re excelling in school with no effort. You’re simply placing one foot in front of the other waiting for the freedom a driver’s license promises and what the next four years of school might bring.

I’m here to tell you that your high school years are not the best times of your life. The sports don’t establish your future reputation, that bully will have no precedence in your life once you graduate, and the friendships you have during those short four years aren’t of any substance. Actually, you only associate with two or three people from high school on a somewhat-regular basis in the future… Your friends during your high school year do not become lifetime friends.

So, in short, high school does not matter.

And when I say high school doesn’t matter, I also mean that the opinions of those in high school do not matter. That guy with the pretty blue eyes who you’re crushing over will never ask you out. In reality, no one will ever ask you out. You’re not flirty. You’re not easy. And you’re not the “ideal look.” I know that may not make you popular now, but that’s a good thing.  Popularity is overrated, and those who were popular in high school tend to fade once those years are over. You’re saving your shine for a much more important time in your life… so don’t fuss.

The only thing that matters is your grades. Keep them up. If you have to compete with Hasse, do so. Compete and win. You’re a smart cookie and that’s what is going to get you to where you need to be after high school is over. So, for now, make memories: go to school dances, goof off in homeroom, try every single sport and club available. Make memories and have fun doing so! You’ll only be in high school once, and even though they are not the best years of your life, you can’t go back and make them up. So make the most of them!

You are worthy of happiness and excitement.

You’re 19 today. You’re 19 and you’re still a freshman, but in college now. You’re presently experiencing a high with the new-found freedom of living on your own, an hour away from home and everyone you once knew. You’ve been granted a Presidential Scholarship, you’re one of the elite Honors students on campus, and you’re quickly making lots of new Facebook friends. You also are in love with the best boy you’ve ever met. But let me forewarn you, you’re about to go through a rocky semester: your roommate and you are not going to be BFFs, your grades are going to slip, and you’re going to go weeks on end without seeing your family and boyfriend.

College is not all its cracked up to be. There are basically two routes: party hard and crash harder or work hard and work harder. I am proud of you that you take the latter route. Your freshman year, in a lack of words, is going to be hell. I remember how many nights you’re going to spend crying. Tears due to loneliness and homesickness and failure.

Stop fretting! Yeah, it’s tough being treated like an outcast by the group of girls you had set out to make your best friends. Yeah, it’s tough actually having to put in the effort to get good grades. But guess what? Life is tough, and you learned that lesson a lot quicker than most of your peers. You’re going to make it through this “year from hell”.

In actuality, I only have a few regrets from this college year. One is that I ever let one person, especially a roommate who I hardly knew, dictate my entire freshman year. A second is that I didn’t push myself harder in classes to truly show what I was capable of to my professors and peers. A third is that, instead of going out and attempting to meet different friends, I allowed my failure at befriending a certain group of girls to throw me into such a depressed individual. Perhaps this doesn’t make sense now, but when the chances arrive, I wish you would simply NOT. Not let your roommate dictate the year, not take the easiest routes in your studies, and not put all your effort into meaningless relationships. I’d also add that you should just start off at WMU and not transfer next year, but we both know that can’t happen now so…

You are worthy of true friendship and high self confidence.

You’re 22 today. Somehow, someway, you’re in your final year of college. You didn’t think this year would ever come! You’re working two part-time jobs, paying a lot of tuition to work at an unpaid internship, and attempting to finish your schooling within four years. Thankfully, the stress is manageable because you’re newly engaged and ecstatic about spending the rest of life with this wonderful guy in your life… oh how soon things will change.

I wish I could send you some words of advice to help ease the impending heartbreak you’re about to endure. Not only will you be losing the carefully planned future you’ve drawn up in your mind, but you’ll also be losing one of your only friends. You’re going to want to quit. You’re going to want to give up. But I’m here to show you that you can’t… that you won’t.

I don’t have any advice on how to make the loss of X any easier. And in all honesty, I don’t want it to be easier. I know that might sound cruel, and in a few months you’re going to be cursing me, but hear me out: X leaving you is the best thing to ever happen to you. I know, I know, I sound crazy. Yet, I will stand here until my dying day saying the same thing. Without that awful heartbreak you would never have realized what a broken person you were inside. You were so dependent on X that you were only a shell of the person you should have been. You were shy and you were reticent. You bottled up your emotions until you were a sobbing, shivering wreck of a girl. You closed yourself to new relations and friends, you focused solely on a future X and you designed and never opened yourself to other possibilities in life.

You were weak.

When X leaves you, you are going to feel like the light has been snuffed out of your soul. It’s going to hurt more than words can express, and I am so sorry. But you are a phoenix, my dear! Out of the ashes, a new life is going to appear and you are going to be startling. Just you wait, your strength and fire are something to challenge every fiber of the world around you in the future.

You are worthy of someone worthy of you.

You’re 24 today. You look in the mirror and am surprised at the girl in front of you. The tear stains of the past have been washed away, the heartache of lost friendship and love has been mended into a lasting smile, and the weariness of the future doesn’t cause you to slouch anymore.

The biggest change, though, cannot be seen on the outside. No, the biggest change is inside your heart. Two months ago you made a courageous step, and I am so, so proud of you! Two months ago you visited a new church — a church where people your own age congregate and worship together. That visit turned into weekly attendance and now you are hosting a Bible Study group at your home. For someone who only months ago questioned if God truly cared about her because of all the supposed pain He had put her through… this. Is. Huge.

Looking back, all those trials you went through only support how much God cares about you. Every single bump in the road made you a stronger, smarter, and savvier woman, something not to be taken lightly in today’s world. His Hands are on every moment and there is peace in that recognition. You’re going to need that knowledge for the year ahead…

I once thought the year following X’s departure was the hardest year we’d ever have to experience. I actually wish that were true, my dear. No, this next year is going to be much tougher. Loss of a romance is the sort of heartbreak that is fixable after time and healing. Loss of a loved one — true loss — is not able to be mended. The pain of death may decrease with time, but that hurt is never truly gone. You’re about to experience this firsthand on several occasions over the next year. And you are going to scream from the pain your heart feels on more than one occasion.

Luckily, you have reopened your heart to the best medicine Life has to offer: God. And, for some reason still unknown to me, He has granted you with people — your parents, M, Wilbur, Panda, House — to give you the strength you need to move forward even in your pain. Do not take these people for granted, Ash. They are the greatest blessings in your Life. Focus on keeping momentum and pushing past all thoughts of what you could have said or done. The past is the past and can’t be changed; those you lose over the next year knew how important they were to you and that’s a joy in itself. Use their losses to spur your heart into action and continue their legacies. Do the best you can, they would be proud of you for that.

You are worthy of God’s grace and peace in Life.

I’m 25 today. I have a lot still to learn, but I also have much experience under my belt. As I enter the next quarter century of my life, there is a lot I plan to do: pursue a rewarding career, set my roots and grow a family, increase my community impact, read more and complain less, be more active, and be more thankful. As I have become prone to saying here on Peonies ‘n Mint: I really have lost some and gained more.

Thank you, friends, for joining me in my Life travels so far… cheers to the next year and, God willing, many more!

Personality Shift

I was talking with friends and a statement was made that one’s personality tends to change every six months. I’m not sure where the studies can be found that show this to be true, but I was curious if certain differences in learned traits and habits might ultimately shift someone’s personality. And so I did some investigating of my own accord to find out.

For me, I look at my old self — not even two years ago — and can see quite a difference in my behavior and ideals. I’m more outgoing, more independent, stronger, and more confident in myself. Where I once questioned what I wanted to do with my life, I now know at least a direction and that is to create a better community around me. I want fulfillment in life by helping others. I know my place on earth is to show others God’s grace and to be an instrument for Him. I find myself striving to be a better person every day by practicing patience, caring, and becoming a listener to those around me.

In October 2014 I wrote a post entitled Quick Personality Identifier. Here I wrote about my results from an online Myers-Briggs Test. (If you don’t know what this test is, I recommend checking it out now! Take a free assessment and really get a fuller understanding of what is going on in your head…)

At that time I was an INFJ personality type. INFJs tend to see helping others as their purpose in life, but while people with this personality type can be found engaging rescue efforts and doing charity work, their real passion is to get to the heart of the issue so that people need not be rescued at all. INFJs are not idle dreamers, but people capable of taking concrete steps to realize their goals and make a lasting positive impact.

Today, I retook the test. Interestingly enough, I am no longer an INFJ — and I chose three different tests to get accurate results. Instead, I have shifted into an ENFJ. Not a huge change once you get down to the nitty-gritty of the personality types, but a change nonetheless. My shift from I (Introvert) to E (Extrovert) justifies the differences I’ve noted in my personality. Rather than being more preoccupied with my own thoughts and feelings, I’m now primarily concerned with my physical and social environment. This is something I am quite proud of and view this shift as a widening of my world.

Reading through my personality profile, I feel like I understand myself so much better! My strengths, my weaknesses, my interactions with those around me… everything is touched upon in this profile and it’s almost like looking into my own mind.

As I said in my Quick Personality Identifier post, the test is based on four preferences for personality types:

  • Where, primarily, do you prefer to direct your energy? E or I (Extroversion or Introversion)
  • How do you prefer to process information? S or N (Sensing or Intuition)
  • How do you prefer to make decisions? T or F (Thinking or Feeling)
  • How do you prefer to organize your life? J or P (Judgment or Perception)

Joining the ranks of Oprah, Jennifer Lawrence, and Daenerys Targaryen (my girl!), being an ENFJ means I am a natural-born leader, full of passion, and quite charismatic. With a confidence that begets influence, ENFJs take a great deal of pride and joy in guiding others to work together to improve themselves and their community.

Everything you do right now ripples outward and affects everyone. Your posture can shine your heart or transmit anxiety. Your breath can radiate love or muddy the room in depression. Your glance can awaken joy. Your words can inspire freedom. Your every act can open hearts and minds. – David Deida

ENFJs make up only about 2% of the population, and they are always the people reaching out to inspire those around them to achieve and to do good in the world. ENFJs radiate authenticity, concern and altruism. They are unafraid to stand up and speak when they feel something needs to be said. ENFJs fine it natural and easy to communicate with others and they often can reach every mind, be it through logic or raw emotion.

The interest ENFJs have in others is genuine, almost to a fault — when they believe in someone they can become too involved in the other person’s problems and place too much trust in them. Most of the time, this trust is a lucky thing because it tends to inspire the other person to become better themselves. On the opposite, sometimes an ENFJs optimism can push others further than they’re willing to go and ultimately push them out of the ENFJ’s life.

Another snare ENFJs are vulnerable to is the capacity for reflecting on and analyzing their own feelings but sometimes getting caught up in another person’s plight and then seeing that problem in themselves. The ENFJ then attempts to fix something in him/herself that isn’t wrong. When this happens, the ENFJ’s ability to see past the dilemma and offer advice is limited and therefore they are of no help at all. Self-reflection and meditation are important practices for ENFJs during these moments so they can distinguish between what they truly feel and what is a separate issue needing a new perspective.

Overall, an ENFJs strengths are being tolerant of others’ opinions, reliable, charismatic, altruistic, and admired for their strong personalities and positive visions. Their weaknesses are being overly idealistic to the point of naivete, acting too selflessly, reacting too sensitively, and defining their self-esteem on whether they are able to live up to to ideals and goals. Failure in any respect causes their self-confidence to plummet. This also means that they can struggle with tough decision, usually becoming paralytic at imagining all the consequences of their actions.

When it comes to romantic relationships, ENFJs feel most comfortable when they are in a relationship. They take dating seriously, selecting partners with an eye towards the long haul rather than the more casual approach. There’s really no greater joy for ENFJs than to help along the goals of someone they care about, and a committed relationship is the perfect opportunity to do just that!

Being Intuitive (N) helps ENFJs keep up with the rapidly shifting moods common early in a relationship, but they still rely on conversations to help keep conflict. It is not uncommon to have an ENFJ ask their partner how things are going and if there is anything else they can do to make their partner happy. The risk to this is being overbearing or needy — sometimes the only thing wrong is being asked what’s wrong too often.

ENFJs don’t need much to be happy. Just knowing their partner is happy is enough, especially if it is expressed in visible affection or verbal affirmation. Making their partner’s dreams come true is often the chiefest concern in a relationship, but this can sometimes cause an ENFJ to neglect their own needs. It’s important, then, to remember to express those needs on occasion.

ENFJs invest their emotions wholly in their relationships, and are sometimes so eager to please that it undermines the relationship — leading to resentment and even failure of the relationship. When this happens, ENFJs experience strong senses of guilt and betrayal. If potential partners appreciate the ENFJ, though, then they will make an effort to look after the needs of their ENFJ partner even when he/she is not concerned for their own well-being. In the end, ENFJ personality types believe that the only true happiness is mutual happiness, and that is the stuff successful relationships are made of.

When it comes to friendships, ENFJs are anything but passice. With some people may accept the circumstantial highs and lows of friendships, ENFJs will put active effort into maintaining connections while viewing them as substantial and important. An ENFJ will never allow a friendship to slip away due to laziness or inattention.

People with the ENFJ personality type take genuine pleasure in getting to know other people. All perspectives, no matter how vastly different than their own, are intriguing to ENFJs. They connect best with individuals who share their principles and ideals, but have no trouble talking with people of all modes of thought. ENFJs truly open up with their closest friends, though they keep their many other connections in a realm of lighthearted but genuine support and encouragement.

Other truly value their ENFJ friends, appreciating the warmth, kindness, and sincere optimism they bring to their friendships. ENFJs strive to be the best friends possible, and this is apparent when they work to find out more than just the superficial interests of their friends, but also their strengths, passions, hopes, and dreams. Nothing makes ENFJs happier than to see the people they care about do well, and they are more than happy to take their own time and energy to help make it happen.

Unfortunately, some people simply do not have the energy to keep up with an ENFJs desire to lend a helping hand. And when their efforts aren’t reciprocated, ENFJs can become offended. This typically happens with those people more interested in living “in the moment” rather than the future, as well with those who are content with who they are and are uninterested in the sort of self-improvement and goal-setting that ENFJs hold so dear.

When circumstances like these arise, ENFJ personalities can be critical. While always tactful, an ENFJ’s advice to push forward may further annoy their friend. Instead of taking such approaches with friends like this, it is better for an ENFJ to relax into an uncharacteristic “live and let live” attitude.

Usually, though, ENFJs find that their excitement and optimism produces many satisfying relationships with people who appreciate and share their vision and authenticity. The joy ENFJs take in moving things forward means that there is always a sense of purpose behind their friendships, creating bonds that are not easily shaken.

Now when it comes to finding a career, ENFJs cast their eyes towards anything that lets them do what they love most: helping other people! Altruistic careers give ENFJ personality types a chance to help others learn, grow, and become more independent. This attitude, alongside their social skills, emotional intelligence, and tendency to be “that person who knows everybody”, can be adapted to quite a range of careers. Anything that helps a community or organization to operate more smoothly such as HR administrators, event coordinators, politicians, social workers, or teaching and counseling would be good avenues for ENFJs.

I find this career advice interesting — and exciting! In 2014, when I was an INFJ, my career profile went like this: INFJs struggle to begin a career early on in life because they see ten wildly different paths moving forward, each with its own intrinsic rewards, alluring but also heartbreaking because each means abandoning so much else.

It’s more than accurate that I was lost when I thought of a career only two years ago. I had so many interests that I couldn’t focus on the future and where I would be. I hated being asked in interviews, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” because I honestly had no idea! Now, though, I can honestly say I see myself in a position that is not on the corporate career path and focused on status or material gain. Instead, I want to be working to better my community, most likely in a nonprofit sector setting for a cause I am passionate about.

All in all, I am proud to say I am an ENFJ. Though it seems like I need to make a conscious effort to develop my weaker traits and continue to add to my skill set, the idealism and vision ENFJs exhibit allows them to overcome Life’s challenging obstacles. Whether I am attempting to find (or keep) a romantic partner, stay calm under pressure, or make a difficult decision, an ENFJ’s goal is always to brighten the lives of those around them.

Ultimately though, ENFJs are genuine, caring people who talk the talk and walk the walk, and nothing makes them happier than leading the charge, uniting and motivating their team with infectious enthusiasm. There really isn’t another way I’d prefer to conduct myself in this Life…

*Sources: This information comes from 16Personalities.com in reference to the Myers-Briggs Personality Test.

If you would like to take your own personality test, I recommend doing so on 16Personalities website. Click here to try it yourself! When you’re done, please come back and let me know what personality type you are and how strongly you agree with your outcome!