entrepreneurship, mental health, Uncategorized

My War With Impostor Syndrome

This past week, I was invited to speak at the New England College Heath Association conference on my Empathy-Based Health Promotion work. Conferences to me are the young professional’s gold-mine. Not only do you get a week off from work to travel to a new state or country and eat food on the company’s dime, but you also get to grow and learn from the best of the best in your field. After presenting my work and receiving my first standing ovation, a peer health promotion professional asked me:

 “Where do you get your confidence from?”

I did not have an answer for her right away and I immediately felt myself combating my gendered programming urges to negate her compliment with a humbler statement along the lines of

“I’m not that confident… I was freaking out all last night about presenting in front of all you people.”

I managed to keep my mouth shut.

 The second thoughts that came to the surface were my insecurities:

Why and what was she asking exactly?

Was she asking…

  • Why am I confident… as a black girl?
  • Why am I confident… as a millennial?
  • Why am I confident… as a female-identified person?
  • Why am I confident…in general?

At first, I said that I didn’t know. But as she began to apologize, believing that my silence was a response to offence, it became clear to me that her intentions for asking the question were unimportant but identifying the source of my confidence so that I could share it with others was important.

Here it is:

My confidence is a product of four simple beliefs:

  1.  My belief that God has a plan and a purpose for me.
  2.  My understanding that the word “No” is just the antithesis of the word “Yes”, and not the end of the world.
  3. Fear is a prison that keeps you from reaching your true potential and freedom.
  4. Seizing every opportunity within and beyond my grasp is my responsibility, no one else’s.

An example from the conference, when I was asked to apply to host a workshop at NECHA, I was terrified. To this day, I get incredible stage fright, not because I am afraid of speaking in front of people but because

 I sometimes struggle with flexing my growth mindset.

 Don’t trust anyone that says it is easy or that they have transcended the fight with Impostor Syndrome and perfectionism, 100%. Although I refuse to let it hold me back, I do sometimes fall back into good ole, safe and comfortable fixed-mindset.

  • I worry about people judging me or not taking me seriously because of my age.
  • I worry people will think my work is stupid.

Or worse…

· I worry that someone will ask me a question that I can’t answer in front of people that are smarter than me.

Here’s the take-away Tribe:

I did not let that fear stifle me or keep me from applying. I literally looked myself in the mirror and said “Kris Mereigh, you are SMART, BRAVE and STRONG. There is nothing that anyone can say that can take that from you.”

 I am glad that I did not allow fear to hold me back, because not only did my presentation rock the house, but I was fielding requests for speaking gigs at other colleges for the next two days. I never imagined that speaking gigs would be an outcome of hosting this workshop but there was a grander plan at work for my life.

 What if I had allowed fear to keep me from applying?

Fear is meant to imprison you and keep you from reaching your potential. 

Tribe, You are stronger than the world wants you to believe. Your greatest enemies are your fears and your fixed mindset. They are meant to trap you within your comfort zones and keep you from reaching higher heights. Don’t let it! 

What are you afraid of?

  • Are you afraid to propose your new idea at work, because your supervisor might think it is stupid?
  • Are you afraid to ask for a raise or to negotiate for a higher salary because you fear you might not get the job if you do or they might say No?

I assure you, hearing the word has rarely lead to death. It might hurt but you, friend, are resilient. You will survive. Don’t wait for someone else to propose your idea or to start the business your heart has been pushing you towards. Plan, strategize and then go for it. You lose more of yourself when you allow fear to hold you back.

Blogging, encouragement, mental health, millennials, wellness

Epiphanies from 5 Wifi-Free Days in Cuba

I yawned and wiped the sleep out of my eyes. Then I stretched my hand out, feeling around the left side of my body for my phone. I find it, tucked slightly beneath my left hipbone. I unplug it and pick it up.  As per usual, I opened the follower insight app first to check for the faithless unfollowers that I lost during the night. However, unlike other days, this morning I had awakened in Havana, Cuba and there was no data or wifi on hand. Instead there was a sign: “no available service”. I immediately felt a slight surge of panic, but just as quickly that feeling subsided and I breathed a deep sigh of relief.

It was in that moment, on an old creaky mattress on the floor in Cuba, that I realized that somewhere along this journey of Live.Laugh.Boss, I had stumbled off the wellness path and had started to embody the two things that I hate the most and advocate strongly against.

  1. I had started to give into my greatest enemy, FONLU (fear of not living up)

and

2. I had allowed marketing for my blog take over a large component of my life.

 My first blog post launched on March 16 ,2017, and I’ve tried to be faithful in posting once a week ever since. I am not always successful with my weekly posting but I try to practice what I preach by being self-compassionate when I am unable to post on time. But that morning, laying on my uncomfortable mattress in Havana, Cuba, sun-blazing brightly through the silky, bright blue curtains; I realized it was the first morning in five months that the first thing that I saw was not going to be my Instagram insights.

In trying to grow this blog, I’ve become obsessed with taking photos, writing and posting to Instagram daily. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy doing the activities and taking the photos. However, there’s a part of me, an old habit, that has snuck back in to my wellness world: the compulsory need for perfection. I was spending hours of my time, editing photos and blog-posts, re-taking photos that were good enough. Wanting to kidnap and freeze every moment in time to share with all of you, instead of just living my life and allowing the blog to be a part of it.

20170719_135039

I know that this is a part of the growing process as a new blogger, figuring out the balance between work, fun, play and life. I’m still learning how much of my life to share and what parts of my life need to remain strictly private to maintain my wellness journey.

Things I’ve learned thus far:

There are positives and negatives to entrenching myself in my blogging world. On the positive side, since I started writing Live. Laugh. Boss, I have felt more like myself than ever before. Encouraging myself to write as often as possible, working out consistently, eating healthily and finding new and exciting ways to enjoy life every single day, has been exhilarating. Writing the blog keeps me accountable to maintaining and documenting my chosen wellness lifestyle.

On the other hand, there’s the exposure. Prior to the birth of Live. Laugh. Boss, I was not a frequent user of social media. I would actively check my Facebook or Instagram once a day, more to consume media rather than to add to it. Now, I feel like I am constantly checking the insights to see how many likes I have on a post or how many new followers or unfollowers I have. The consistency of it can be exhausting. The other negative is that I find that FONLU (fear of no living up) has found a way to sneak into my amazing blogging experience, working it’s hardest to steal the joy from this experience. I’ve noticed that when I post something particularly vulnerable or a piece that was particularly fun or life-changing to write, my ego takes a hit if I feel that people do not respond to it the way that I expect. For example, if it does not get the right number of likes, comments or new follows. Then, when I’m feeling low from the “failure”, I scroll through my Instagram and see a friend posting similar content that gets 200+ likes. Damn! That FONLU can sneak in and fuck up my afternoon but I’m determined not to let it.

So back to my mattress in Cuba. Since I was unable to check my Instagram or medium followers. I made a list of vows to myself on my phone to remedy the negatives of my blogging experience.

Here are a few:

  • I vowed, that no matter what, Live. Laugh. Boss will always be written for me, to express my opinions, feelings, emotions and thoughts.
  • I will not allow it to take over my life.
  • I will check my followers only twice a day. Once in the morning and once at night, either right after my daily 4pm Instagram post or right before bed. I will continue to live in the moment and not ruin the authenticity of all those moments by trying to capture them in a photo or video but will allow some of my wellness moments to continue to be private and just for me.
  • I will not take the loss of followers personally. It is not about me or the content, it’s about them. That’s okay.
  • I will choose two wellness activities per week that will be photo fasted. I won’t even take my phone.

These are the vows that I make to myself and to you all, Tribe. I pray that as you all venture through your own life journeys that you will take moments to assess yourself and your actions and not be afraid to make changes that are right for you and your sanity. Remember, just because you have a set-back moment or you find yourself giving into FONLU, you are not a failure, it happens to the best of us.

It is how you move forward that counts.

20170726_164346

 

mental health, millennials, wellness, work-life balance

Wellness Isn’t One-Dimensional: If I See One More Yoga Pose Photo or Gimic- I WILL SCREAM

As you all know, I am the director of wellness services at a prestigious college in the Northeast. Contrary to popular belief, one does not become a wellness director, by getting a degree in eating kale, and/or reaching the heights of nirvana. Wellness programming has a basis in public health theory and is and should be based in evidence, not the most current fad.

In my department, we pride ourselves in being holistic; integrating both eastern and western wellness practices into our health services. We have acupuncture services, nutrition services, yoga, and we provide health education to young people. My health promotion team teaches wellness and prevention lessons on sex, relationships, alcohol, drugs, mindfulness, dating violence, stress reduction and much more. We conduct institutional research that informs policy and decision-making for the college. However, anytime someone asks me what I do and I tell them I am a professional wellness person, they automatically assume that I’m a yoga doing, smoothie drinking, pizza- hating chick; which is the farthest from the truth.

When did the concept of wellness become so pidgin-holed, so commercial, so acculturated and main stream?

Every time I try to make a poster or design marketing material for a new campaign, I type in #wellness and scroll through the first 100 photos on Instagram and Google photos to see the newest images. The images are always the same!!!

White chicks doing yoga, Bros lifting weight,  Goji berry yogurts, protein shakes, salads galore, supplement ads and before and after weight loss pictures. Predictable!

wellness

NEWSFLASH PEOPLE: FITNESS AND NUTRITION ARE NOT WELLNESS!

Fitness and nutrition are components of wellness, they do not define the wellness field.  

Guess what else? Wellness is inherently intersectional because every individual defines wellness for themselves and chooses the practices that best fits their lifestyles, cultures and beliefs. Some of the oldest facets of wellness practice, such as meditation, yoga, etc. are integral to cultures that are a part of the global majority. So why is it that when I type yoga into google images: the first 50-60 images are of white women?

yoga.PNGThe definition of wellness in the Caribbean is going to be different than the definition used in the United States, India or China. The snack that uplifts a person’s spirit in the Caribbean may not be a salad, but instead be a plantain. Does that make it less healthy? My wellness activity may not be yoga but instead walking or wading in the river. Is walking by the river any less of a wellness activity than yoga?

And what about the effects on the global majority due to the commercialization of wellness foods and activities like avocado and yoga? Now, because avocado has been deemed a healthy fat by the media, cultures that used avocado in their diets for centuries, can barely afford them now? I digress.

The Merriam Webster definition of Wellness is: the state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal.

My own favorite definition of Wellness is by John Valenty (CEO of wellness.com) “Wellness is the result of personal initiative, seeking a more optimal, holistic and balanced state of health and well-being across multiple dimensions.”

The definition is pretty broad if you ask me. Wellness should be a state of being that we are all actively working towards every day, physically, mentally, socially and spiritually. When I say physically, physical wellness does not have to have anything to do with sculpted abs and legs. Instead it means:

  • Do I feel good in my body every day?
  • Am I getting enough sleep?
  •  Am I taking the necessary preventative measures to insure that my body is operating at optimal performance?
  •  Am I using condoms with new partners to protect my body against STI’s?

Reaching Optimal Mental and Spiritual Wellness should also be personal goals that we are consistently working toward. Mental Wellness is defined by­ the­ World Health Organization, as:

“a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”

  • Do you have a personal philosophy? Are you living it on a daily basis?
  • Is my mental space a healthy one, that allows me 100% learning aptitude and memory retention?
  • Do I wake up proud of who I am and what I’ve accomplished or will accomplish?
  • Do you take time for yourself and do things that make you happy?
  • How do you handle stress?

These everyday forms of wellness are not sexy. A picture of me sleeping soundly, probably won’t get many likes. Sleeping is a mundane, everyday activity. But, I would love to wake up one morning, and realize that the definition of wellness has shifted. I would type wellness into google images and get pictures of diverse groups of people or individuals doing everyday wellness things: walking, playing with a baby, resting, playing board or video games, having a dance party in their dorm rooms, throwing water balloons or eating ice-cream cones.

video games

All of these activities are wellness because they allow our brains to rest and to smile. No two bodies need the same type of wellness in their lives, but everyone does need a few things: a little exercise, food in proportion, time to breathe and relax, healthy sleep, companionship and time to have fun.

Research shows that engaging in leisure activities, on a consistent basis, is beneficial to your health by reducing Cortisol in the Body

For all of us non-science folk out there. It’s super simple.

You know back in the stone ages when the huntress was out hunting and then the lion appeared on the scene to hunt her instead? THE ULTIMATE STRESS!

Luckily for us- our bodies are designed intelligently for fight or flight, releasing cortisol so that we run, instead of sticking around to be the lion’s supper. The cortisol hormone is released into the body to help us get the hell out of there fast! After we’ve escaped quickly to safety and the stress threat has subsided, the cortisol levels are supposed to return to normal.

It is imperative to engage in wellness activities that fulfill both the body’s need to relax and to reduce the build up of every day stress.

When the cortisol is released due to everyday stress, and we don’t “run it off” it leads to weight gain, acne and reduces the bodies ability to fight off infection.

The Moral of the story is: The wellness field is ginormous and is not limited to any one component but instead, encompasses the whole body: mind, body and soul.  It is diverse. It is global and it is respectful of people, culture and beliefs.

Stop limiting wellness to your crunchy, fitness and body shaming definitions. Expand it to include activities that make you happy and optimizes your definition of a happy, healthy lifestyle. All things in moderation of course. Eating a perfectly baked chocolate chip cookie might make you happy, but ten might be pushing it out of the wellness zone into an unhealthy one.

Tribe, GO out, LIVE your life, ENJOY good food! Be Happy in ways that make sense to you.

mental health, work-life balance

Connecting with Your Truest Self through Your Work- 5 Useful Work-Life Balance Tips from an Interview with Actress Tess Porter

Tess Porter, a spunky LA-based actress, is a novice to the acting world but is already killing the game. In just one year, she has been featured in several short films such as “Escape” an American Film Institute short film, and “Under the Pieces” which is screening this year at the Cannes Film Festival. For more information about Tess Porter, see bio below.

I had the pleasure of chatting with Porter about her experiences thus far as an actress: the good, the bad and the ugly.  When I first shared my intention to interview the budding actress, people were confused about how a career in the performing arts would be able to provide lessons for them as developers, medical residents or a broker on Wall-Street. As I predicted however, many of the themes we’ve discussed thus far in posts like Herd Mentality (impostor syndrome, stress, and  development of a self-care routine) were no strange concepts to Porter, and emerged organically in our conversation.

Here are 5 Quick Tips from Tess Porter To Maintaining Work-Life Balance and Connecting With Your Truest self at Your Job:

  1. Define Why You Do What You Do:

In my conversation with Porter, she described to me the windy road that lead her to the film industry. She did not always wish to be an actress. She went to school for psychology and then moved to Florida and got a job in retail. She talked about some of the emotional baggage that she moved to LA with and the struggles that she faced auditioning for roles. She navigated depression and loneliness but kept those feelings to herself. “Hiding my depression and replacing it with Happy Tess became my own personal character everyday.” She characterized herself as a perfectionist and credits perfectionism as one of the main limitations that kept her from being the best actress that she could be. She was having a hard time connecting with the characters that she was playing, because she would overcompensate each role for it to be perfect. It wasn’t until she leveraged advice from one of her acting coaches, that she was able to finally let go of acting the put-together, perfect actress. He reminded her that being an actress is not her whole identity but a component of who she currently is and who she will become. He encouraged her to connect with herself, her pasts, her struggles, her strengths and to channel all of it into the reason why she is pursuing an acting career. Porter emerged from that lesson with a renewed sense of self and intention for acting; “to tell different truths are real world stories.” She states: “it’s important to have a sense of who you are first and foremost. If you don’t know who you are, look for it.” Now before most auditions and during her quiet times she works not to perfect her character but to bring herself fully into the moment. She chants the following:

“I am Tess Porter, Daughter of Deborah Royce and Pliny Porter. They raised me to believe in myself and to be strong. My purpose is to bring the stories of people and communities to life through the performing arts. “

2. “Take Space and Make Space” for Yourself, Learn to Take Necessary Pivots

Porter also describes the mental and physical stress that coincides with being in audition mode and the Hollywood lifestyle. She describes one of her typical days as attending one or two acting classes and then shuttling around the city to different casting calls, having to “be on 24/7”.  On a really busy day, she might be attending four commercial casting calls. Her perfectionism would cause her to become “obsessed” pushing her to take more classes and to cram as many auditions as she could into one day. She stated that she pushed herself so hard in auditions that she ended up spraining her ankle and ending up in a boot. Even when her doctor told her to take it easy and to rest for 6-8 weeks, she felt like she was letting herself and her career down. Reflecting on her feelings during that experience she said: “I don’t have time for that, if I’m not hustling then I’m not making money”. 

Porter realized that by exerting herself to “push through her injury” was setting her back, rather than pushing her further. It was taking a toll on her. She had to recognize that she was spiraling. She had to make space for herself to slow-down and make a short-term career pivots to re-discover a physical and mental well space within herself. Instead of her usual auditioning, she tried something new: voice acting and found that she liked it.

RECOGNIZE WHEN YOU’RE SPIRALING AND MAKE THE SPACE FOR YOURSELF TO RECENTER!

3. Integrate Wellness into Your Work Day

Porter’s experience forced her to re-evaluate the way that she self-cares and how the lack of an established wellness routine had negatively impacted her health and career. Now, she now has a rigid, more balanced, wellness practice that is integrated into her work days.

Her General Schedule is as follows:

  • Morning Meditation or Morning Mindful Walk
  • Class / audition
  • Sit down Lunch*
  • Class/ Audition
  • Work with acting Coach/ mentor
  • Yoga/ work out
  • Dinner/ social life

4. Don’t Over-analyze Everything

When you over-analyze everything you miss out on the authenticity of a moment, an experience or a character. Life is like auditioning for a casting call: “Make a choice about your character and roll with it. Be firm about your choice. If it isn’t what the director is looking for, it doesn’t matter… you’ve already done your part.”

overanalyze.PNG5. Utilize Your Mentors

Porter described the importance of having mentors to keep her grounded and to provide encouragement. A good mentor will be honest about their shortcomings and insecurities and they’re methods to overcome them. Reflecting on her own mentors, she states: “They reminded me that I will not always succeed and that’s okay!” If you work intimately with mentors, they can also serve as accountability partners. If they are good mentors they will be able to know when you are over-exerting yourself or when you might not be giving your all and they will remind you to re-center. Porter says that she’s been told : “You’re doing too much. Go to the movies by yourself or with friends. Take a break. ”

I asked Porter what was the best professional advice she ever received that she would like to share with other young professionals. She said:

“It’s important to persevere and go for what you want. It’s equally as important to take care of yourself. Find times to laugh, be with yourself and self-care in whatever that means to you. Read, draw a bubble bath, scream once in a while and most of all have a sense of who you are. When you go looking for jobs, have confidence. Remember that the producers, casting call people or the employers always want you to be the THE ONE when you walk in.”

Everyone is a boss in their own right and has a lesson to share that will help another person. If you would like to be featured on LiveLaughBoss or know someone that would have something to share, please shoot us an email Here

tess porter 2.PNG

Tess Porter grew up in Los Angeles, Paris and New York. She credits her peripatetic youth and her bachelor’s degree in psychology to a deepening of her insight into human behaviors. Tess began her acting studies in New York at the Barrow Group, but Los Angeles soon beckoned. Tess hit the ground running when she arrived in LA last year, immersing herself in Scene study, Audition Technique, a Comedy Intensive and voice training at Scott Sedita Acting Studio. Her passion and determination drive her forward and her humor keeps her smiling.
                                                 Follow Tess Porter’s work on IMDb and Twitter for updates on her journey.
mental health, work-life balance

Herd Mentality

There was a noticeable pause, and then a deep breathe of sorts. They then moved as if a part of one syncopated herd, all at once, as if pulled by some invisible force towards the large written sign taped to the wall “100% My Story”. When the movement stopped, the gravity of the group’s response to the statement hung in the room. The room laden with the silence. 

According to the American Psychological Association, millennials experience higher levels of stress than Baby boomers and Gen X’ers but are less likely to be able to manage that stress in their daily lives. When I asked the thirty or so millennials attending my workshop on stress management in the workplace about their current stress levels, each and every one of them expressed that anxiety and stress keep them from being able to 29% of millenials.PNGlive their best, most authentic lives or to be their most mentally and physically well self at school or work.

The young people (18-25) at the workshop listed the following as their top five stressors:

  1. Impostor Syndrome 
  2. Student Loans
  3. Work/ School Competition
  4. Ambition Addiction
  5. Unspoken competition with current and past peer groups

I’m sure that all of us can relate to one or more of these top five stressors. The Five stressors that the young people listed have one thing in common: FEAR!

“Fear serves as blinders to what may be just a few steps down the road for you.”
– Soledad O’Brien

I for one have always struggled with the intrinsic fear that I would not “measure up”. I worried that I would not be as successful as my brilliant peers at my predominantly white, upper-class girls’ high school or to my world-changing MPH classmates at Johns Hopkins. For years, I swore I would never return to my high school reunions until I had established a recognizable name for myself in society. I was extremely skillful at ruminating on my stressors in private:

  • Would I ever  fit the societal bill of success?
  •  Would I ever pay off my student loans?

I never spoke about my anxieties with friends or family members because I did not want to sully the image that I had built for myself. I have always been categorized as the “strong” girl, the “sassy-great come-back” Femme , the “No Bullshit” woman.  Needless to say, all that worrying and stressing did not fit the put-together mask that I so proudly and loudly wore.  At work I feared, that if I expressed being overwhelmed, that my truth would discredit me to my superiors and with my peers. Most shamefully, I would look weak, less than able. I stressed myself so much about all of it, that I made myself sick for months.

The artist Jackson Pollock’s words ministered to me in my darkest moments. He said:

“I have no fear of making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own.”

I did just that. I broke the mask. I started to obsessively read, authors like Carol Dweck to adjust my fixed mindset  to one of growth. I started to share my stories and be honest about my shortcomings and insecurities. The most life-changing step that I took was seeking out other “successful” professionals and listening to their stories.  I met people like Jordan Axani, What’s Your Big Lie,  and Nicole Kenney, It Starts With Me and practiced empathic listening and guess what?

 

               I learned that I was not alone!

 

                                                             YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

 

yoda.jpgStress culture is a product of fear and Yoda wisely warns us that fear is the path to the darkside. We do not have to succumb to the darkside in order to be successful in today’s workforce.


The activity was a spectrum exercise. I would read a statement and the young people would move along the human spectrum based on the anonymous written answers of a peer in the room. On one wall
was 100% My Story, On the other read, 0% my story, on the floor was taped 25% and 50% My story. The statement I read was:

Within the last year, I contemplated self harm because I was overwhelmed with some aspect of my life that I felt was out of my control.