How to Analyze, Tear Down and Rationalize the False Narratives We Believe

A black and white photo of a woman standing near the ocean with her hair blowing in the wind

Every word and sentence that people say about themselves tells an enduring and more consistent story of how they perceive and experience life. For example, if someone refers to others as “stupid” and then utters painful stories where they expose ideas of their own worthlessness, it begins to shape a narrative of the way that person suffers.

This person may see things in a depressed light. He or she may believe that life only deals a poor hand of cards, that nothing good could be dealt and that life is meaningless. However, such statements begin to shape a pattern of one’s reality, whether the person is aware of it or not. 

A key to transformation begins with perception. Perception uses the faculties of the senses to come into awareness of something and construct a lived reality. To varying degrees, we perceive every moment to help us understand and function within the world we live in. We typically perceive things without being conscious of how sensory information is interpreted and organized through our nervous systems. Instead, we go about experiencing life, sensing and feeling our way through.

We perceive every moment to help us understand and function within the world we live in.

Perception helps form the realities we experience. One experience after another begins to build the narrative of our lives just like a story with a beginning, middle and end. Words tell a story of what one perceives. Oftentimes, people are unaware that how they speak about experiences helps organize the mental framework of their personal narrative.

If I were to tell a story about how everything went wrong, then it could be a stand-alone story of bad luck. If I told similar stories every day, then that could become an enduring tale of personal defeat and disappointment, expressed in my daily life.

How do we become conscious of the narratives that we may be writing? Long-term psychotherapeutic work suggests that when we become more conscious of false narratives, we ultimately transform them.

When we become more conscious of false narratives, ultimately we transform them. 

Here are some points to consider for self-reflection:

Reflect on what you call in. 

Perception teaches us that, while we may not be conscious of it every moment, it can help us reflect on how to attract the best possible experience and create the highest quality outcome. This may mean sensing that good things will happen as opposed to the worst.

This could mean intentionally reflecting on and drawing in positive emotions, thoughts, images and energy to help serve the day and fortify a more resilient life narrative for the long-term. This is a daily and even a moment-to-moment reflection.

Listen to the pattern.

Each person has a pattern of internal communication based on word choice and tone, which frames the narrative of one’s life. The way to identify your patterns is to listen to yourself without judgment. 

For one day, listen to the words you use to describe yourself, others and the world around you. How would you describe your language and tone? For example, perhaps you notice that your language is quite defeatist or maybe your tone represents a positive narrative of faith and perseverance.

Do this exercise over multiple days and see if there is a pattern you see emerging. Try to be open to what is and refrain from self-critique.  

Listen to yourself without judgment. 

Reframe the pattern by taking responsibility.

People can attempt to revise the pattern by taking responsibility for their portion of healing. For this exercise, focus on a particular event that recently occurred that was charged for whatever reason. 

How would you describe what happened in two sentences? Take a step back and consider that there may be multiple sides to the story. While you may feel connected to your side of the story, see if you can hold onto it less nd observe things from another perspective. The other perspective may not always feel good to think about.  

Now imagine that you are an author attempting to write the story in a balanced way to present a perspective for greater healing. Would you see the experience in the same way, an alternative way, a mishmash of both or something else?

You are the author of your narrative.

False narratives rely on experiences happening to you without you happening to them. People may perceive things happening to them without their intended participation. In many cases, but certainly not all, you may have a role to play, which could be quite empowering.  

Through the everyday choices you make, you are the author of your life. This is an invitation to step into that experience. You have the right, the ability and the wisdom to take any experience and “write it” in a way that empowers you.

You have the right, the ability and the wisdom to take any experience and “write it” in a way that empowers you.

If you did not get the job you wanted, change the narrative to not a “job lost” but “a future opportunity gained.” If a relationship ends, then rewrite the narrative from “a bitter ending” to “two consenting individuals doing their best with disattaching.” Your version will be better because it is yours, and it will be authentic to you.

Take a moment. Call in a false narrative, perceive it in the light of day as opposed to the shadow of the night. Reframe the words and tone. Write it in your own way. Sign your name under it and make it the new signature of your life: one of truth, empowerment and wisdom.

Have you ever made assumptions about other people or written a false narrative in your head? What power have you found in reframing your thoughts?

Image via Navarro Aydemir, Darling Issue No. 17

How Returning to Play Shaped My Relationship With My Father

A close up of a baseball on an empty field

My dad and I started playing catch a decade ago, and it changed our entire relationship. To be honest, I’m not sure how it all began. It just happened. Like most life-changing habits, it started as nothing special and, slowly, became something meaningful. 

A decade ago, we had a hard time sometimes even being around each other. In my early 20s, I found myself constantly bucking against his advice. Our conversations quickly turned to disagreements, then into polarizing fights and eventually to silence.

For a while, we didn’t speak. I found other father figures who fed my desire for affirmation. Meanwhile, I was ignoring my own father’s attempt to reconcile—partially because I was being selfish but also because I didn’t know how to communicate with my dad. I didn’t know how to relate to him. Instead of seeing who he was, I was too focused on who I wanted him to be. 

Instead of seeing who he was, I was too focused on who I wanted him to be. 

Unless it was raining or snowing, we’d usually meet in Kirkwood Park to play. He’d bring the gloves and baseball from his trunk while juggling his keys and wallet. We’d settle into a grassy patch, put on our gloves and start throwing the ball. Then, we’d talk. 

That’s where it started. 

There’s something about the rhythm of playing catch that allows for good conversation. For starters, your focus is on the other person. You can’t be on your phone or looking elsewhere, unless you want to get a black eye. You’ve got to wait for the other person to be ready to receive the ball, and you have to throw it so they can catch it. 

After years of struggling, it felt like we could play catch and talk for hours. Sometimes, we’d share and lend advice. Sometimes, we’d fight and have a short game. However, over time, no matter what, we just kept returning to the field. 

No matter what, we just kept returning to the field. 

On the morning of my wedding day, we played catch and I bought him a baseball as a gift. He mentioned this in the closing of his father-of-the-bride speech that night. Microphone in hand and tears in his eyes, he looked at my husband and said, ”Son, I’m tossing you the ball.” 

Commitment has been a theme for me so far this year. As I reflect on the last decade, I can see how committing to a simple game of catch led to a recommitment in our relationship. Playing catch was also the catalyst to a million other inside jokes, hugs, tears and late night phone calls. However, I can attest to the fact that a simple act in a relationship can make a huge difference 10 years down the road. 

I’m so thankful for the time I’ve shared with my dad—getting to know him and letting him get to know me. I can honestly say that I’m a better person because of how he loves. Of course, we’re still human, and we have our road bumps along the way.

In the end, I believe it’s our commitment to growing together that truly matters. In a few weeks, I’m visiting my family back home and you can bet I’m packing my baseball glove. 

Dedicated to my father, thank you for all you do. Happy Father’s Day, I love you.

Image via Today I Found Out

Fashion Through the Decades: How 1940s Fashion Inspires My Style

A woman with a structured jacket and collared shirt posing

Drawn to 1940s style, I can’t help but agree with the motto: Vintage style, but not vintage values.

Due to World War II, designers were forced to stop making new styles from 1939 to 1945. This created a strikingly different fashion aesthetic from the beginning of the decade to the end. The government set limits on how much material a woman could purchase. Thus, women needed to get creative with their wardrobe selections.

Hence, the 1940s was known for its seemingly classic style, simple designs and clean lines. Trends could be thrown out the window in favor of versatile pieces that could be worn from season to season. Perhaps this is where the idea for the capsule wardrobe originated.

The 1940s was known for its seemingly classic style, simple designs and clean lines.

Many of us, whether we realize it or not, have been influenced by 1940s fashion. It can definitely be regarded as the start of our modern-day interest in stylish minimalism. Pieces that once gained popularity in the mid-20th century currently sit in our closets, no time travel required.

Here are some of my favorite style inspiration ideas from the 1940s:

Hair Scarfs

Seen perhaps most recognizably on Rosie the Riveter, hair scarfs were a practical way for a woman of the 1940s to keep her hair out of the way during WWII. Women of the time rolled up their sleeves and went to work outside the home for the first time. They took on essential roles in factories left behind by men who had to enlist in the military.

Patterned scarfs are a go-to accessory in my own wardrobe. I first picked up a few while thrift shopping for a feminine, yet vintage flair item. An easy, go-to scarf style can be as simple as a top-knot with a scarf wrapped around the head. It’s a perfect hack for when I run out of dry shampoo.

Pencil Skirts

In the 1940s, designers raised hemlines for the sake of fabric shortages. Also, pencil skirts that were trimmed close to the body came into fashion. Women’s fashion maintained a feminine shape, while still allowing for pieces that were practical enough for everyday wear.

Women’s fashion maintained a feminine shape, while still allowing for pieces that were practical enough for everyday wear.

In 2021, we don’t wear pencil skirts on a daily basis. However, they are still the perfect piece for a professional look with a blouse tucked in to further show off one’s shape for a “femme-fatale” look.

The Classic Dress

Perfect for the summer months, a common look that women in the 1940s wore was the iconic, yet simple, floral dress. During a period when clothes were transitioning to more practical designs, women still wanted to get dolled-up on occasion, especially toward the end of the decade as feminine styles reigned supreme once again.

An easy find today, a light and airy classic knee-length dress is still a staple in my wardrobe. A faultless and versatile fashion staple to throw on, one can dress the look up for a glamorous night out on the town or down for a casual day out at the park.

A simple dress with a good structure is the first article of clothing that drew me to 1940s fashion. It inspired me to become more in tune with my femininity and strength like the women in that time did so eloquently.

What fashion trends do you appreciate from the 1940s? What time period influences your style the most?

Image via Chris and Sarah Rhoads of We Are the Rhoads, Darling Issue No. 7

How to Deal With ‘Playground Bullies’ Who Are All Grown Up

Three posh women crossing a New York Street as they look over their shoulders and back at the camera

I remember the shock when I heard my son had been shoved against the concrete wall in the school hallway. I can feel the tension in my chest now as I picture him in that hall. A teacher nearby swooped in and grabbed the bully. My son, shaken and injured, seemed to be able to work through it well, in part, because the boy got caught. 

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the reality with kids, and definitely not with adults. In the hallways and on the metaphorical playground of adulthood, bullies far too often go unnamed and unchecked. Adult bullies don’t play by the rules, and there is no teacher to yank them to the principal’s office.

Adult bullies don’t play by the rules, and there is no teacher to yank them to the principal’s office.

When we were children, we may have been told that bullies would grow out of their bullying ways, but that expectation can be misleading. Adults can be bullies too. But just like in childhood, the more they are named and exposed, the less power they have.

Bullies don’t grow up necessarily. They can simply just change form. Things are often more obvious on the playground when you are a child. However, as adults, things are often much more confusing, and the bullying is much more complex. It is not always obvious, at least at first, who the bullies are.

A person you thought was a friend or at least hoped would be, may turn on you. Sometimes, bullies are even nice to everyone except you. Bullying can be done in a nice tone and by “nice people.” Nothing is as pronounced in adulthood as it was when we are kids so we have to know what to look for.

Bullying can be done in a nice tone and by “nice people.”

As a therapist, I often tell my clients to trust your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, then it isn’t. Trust yourself, and don’t get hung up on labels. People will debate whether or not something is truly bullying, but that matters infinitely less than you recognizing that something feels wrong and acting accordingly. 

Bullying can look like repeated insults by a colleague at work or like a manager abusing power. Bullying can look like a boyfriend mocking and belittling his girlfriend. Bullying can look like harassing someone online. Bullying can come in the form of insensitive remarks. Bullying can look like refusing to open your social circle to allow someone in. Bullying can also look like mocking someone’s vulnerability. 

More than anything, bullying thrives in isolation. Because when victims are isolated, in a relationship or situation, they are much more likely to doubt themselves and to feel powerless.

Bullying thrives in isolation.

When I was in graduate school for counseling, I sat across from my favorite professor in his tiny office. He had a big beard and grey hair, and the wisdom to match. I wrung my hands and described to him in tears how one of my childhood friends (whose behavior I would now identify as bullying), whom I had not seen in years, had sent me the most hate-filled letter I had ever received.

I anxiously asked him how I should respond. He looked at me with compassion and said simply: “You don’t have to respond.” Refusing to engage with this bully was response enough.

Not all situations are so simple. Adult bullies have illegitimate power that has been stolen. Their strength is illegitimate strength. Just like a parasitic plant, they steal life. 

Adult bullies have illegitimate power that has been stolen. Their strength is illegitimate strength.

The difference in adulthood bullying is that no one else is coming. We are the teachers now—yanking the bully to the principal’s office in our own lives and in the lives of each other. As adults, we must learn to know our power and stand together. Our playground is more complex now, but the same wisdom we would tell kids holds true for us now. 

Tell someone.

If you were to do research about bullying, one of the first recommendations you’ll find is to tell someone. Since bullying can include confusing nuances, a witness to the behavior helps the person being bullied stop doubting their own experience. This also helps shine a light on what is happening.

Expose them.

Bullies can’t live in full exposure. They thrive in anonymity, secrecy and a lack of accountability. Too often, bullies are left unchecked. Learn to expose bullies. Naming them and naming the behavior is imperative.

Bullies can’t live in full exposure. They thrive in anonymity, secrecy and a lack of accountability.

Refuse them.

Refuse to engage with them or actively push back. Either way, remember a bully’s power is illegitimate, and taking that power back is an important step.

Get help; gather together.

In childhood, this may look like your friends backing you up on the playground. However, in adulthood it looks like gathering people, aka your best friend, someone in HR or your faith community. A person who is being bullied needs other people to create a swell of support to push back. Fight back in numbers. Ask for help, and offer that same help for others.

Recently, I sat with a friend as we read out loud the thinly veiled racist responses to her social media post. The comments were uninvited and slimy. I felt the tension in my chest again as we read. I sat with her as she read what another friend of ours said, with her permission, in order to push back on the commenters. My friend pushed back on them, and I did too. We actively refused them together.

Don’t be a bystander; we need each other.

If we witness bullying, it is important to refuse to tolerate it, refuse to look away and refuse to be inactive. I wonder what would happen if all the smaller occurrences of bullying that grow into larger issues were not tolerated. Bullying is a gateway for all kinds of hatred. It is our responsibility not to be complicit by looking away.

Bullying is a gateway for all kinds of hatred. It is our responsibility not to be complicit by looking away.

We are no longer children. There is no teacher coming, and things aren’t always so clear. However, bullies cannot continue when their behavior is exposed, when the truth is told and when we gather together against them.

We are the ones monitoring the hallways now.

Have you ever encountered an adult version of a bully? How have you learned to speak up for yourself and others in the face of bullying?

Image via Aki Akiwumi, Darling Issue No. 20

How to Celebrate When You Are Feeling the Birthday Blues 

A closeup photo of an ice cream cone swirl

At the beginning of the pandemic, two weeks after much of the world shut down, I celebrated my 22 birthday at home with my family. My mom cooked my favorite meal. We played a board game at the kitchen table. In the evening, we went for a walk around our neighborhood like many other families desperate for a breath of fresh air.

Throughout the day, I fought against feelings of sadness and loneliness. Even though it was my birthday.

Perhaps you also experienced a subdued birthday celebration this year and find yourself relating to that strange melancholy emotion that accompanies a quiet birthday. Although a low-key celebration is a small sacrifice to make in the midst of a pandemic, the “birthday blues” deserves our attention nevertheless. The urge to seek out life and joy in the midst of hard times is a part of what makes us human.

The urge to seek out life and joy in the midst of hard times is a part of what makes us human.

There are also many other circumstances that can impact how we feel about our birthdays. Perhaps by the stage of life you are in, you assumed that a relationship, a stable career or a family would be within your reach. Maybe your birthday falls near a big holiday, like Christmas, and it causes you to feel overlooked each year. Perhaps, you are feeling lonely or like you do not have a community to celebrate your birthday with.

In the midst of an uncertain, life-altering year, the quietness and simplicity of my birthday seemed to teach me more about the years behind and the years ahead than a big birthday bash surrounded by friends and loud music ever could. 

Here are a few of the things I discovered about the feelings of “the birthday blues:”

Lean into loved ones.

Oftentimes, my instincts tell me to isolate whenever I feel hurt or frustrated. Opening up to a close friend or family member might be the last thing you want to do when feeling down on your birthday. However, just as we came into this world through and beside other people, we also walk through our lives in community. 

The pandemic has certainly allowed me to hone in on my tribe—the people I love and experience life with on a daily basis. This year, I discovered the sweetness in celebrating my birthday with only the people closest to me. I learned to focus on quality over quantity—large groups, extravagant celebrations and shiny Instagram posts.

I learned to focus on quality over quantity—large groups, extravagant celebration and shiny Instagram posts.

Whether an hour-long Facetime call with friends far away or an intimate dinner with a few family members, one remedy to the birthday blues might be enhancing the time and space we spend with loved ones on our birthdays.

Reflect on the past year.   

Our birthdays often come and go without us giving much thought to how this year fits in with the rest of our lives. Devote some time on or around your birthday to acknowledge the highs, the lows and everything in between from the past year. Write about it in a journal, discuss it with a friend or think it over on a long walk.

Some prompts to consider are: What were some of my favorite moments from the past year? What were some of the hardest moments? What, if anything, would I like to change about this year? What are my dreams for this upcoming year?

Thoughtfully consider any texts, letters or kind words. For many of us, receiving an onslaught of “Happy birthday!” texts can feel like the mark of birthday success. In the age of social media likes and comments, it can be tempting to measure our worth based on the number of birthday texts or social media comments we receive.

It can be tempting to measure our worth based on the number of birthday texts or social media comments we receive.

One way to push back on this is to spend time reflecting on and responding to birthday texts, notes and social media shout-outs. If you tend to skim the card from your great aunt who you only see once every five years, then this year take some time to appreciate it. You might be surprised at how meaningful you find her words to be when you take the time to really consider them. 

Be kind to yourself.

Here is the bottom line: your life is worth celebrating. No missed milestone in life or forgotten birthday wish should tell you otherwise.

The birthday blues might be here today, but it lacks the power to define the other 364 days in the year. Another year is ahead of you—a year to fall and get up again, a year to laugh and cry, a year to discover more and more about this messy thing we call life.

This day is just the beginning.

Have you ever experienced the birthday blues? How can we choose joy and gratitude on our birthdays?

Image via Dana Hursey, Darling Issue No. 15

Darling Letters: The Freedom Found in Embracing the Grey

A gray image of an ocean shore

We are bringing “Darling Letters” from your inbox to the blog! We love the art of letter writing and believe it helps build authentic community. Our editors and contributors have thoughtfully written encouraging letters to cut through the busyness and speak straight to your heart.

Four summers ago, a friend and I sat on a dock, staring at the stars and pondering life. We talked about the differences in how we thinkhow she thinks in the grey whereas I think in black and white. Since then, my way of thinking has been turned on its head, and I now see the beauty of life in the grey.

I now see the beauty of life in the grey.

This past year held more paradoxes than I could have imagined. A year of deep sadness and grief, laughter and fun, anger and examination, adventure and renewal, shame and fear, curiosity and growth. I felt more confused than ever before. Yet, somehow I came to a place of grounded confidence that I didn’t know was possible.

Areas of grey can be intimidating because there is no control there. We have to actually see people as dynamic human beings rather than separating them into neat, little categories. Some people might describe this as holding a tension of opposites. I experienced it as a freedom washing over me like a wavesometimes so powerful I couldn’t stand and sometimes so calm that all I could do was sit and breathe everything in. 

Releasing the tension of paradox and embracing the grey leads to both radical acceptance and gratitude. There is beauty in recognizing how unique experiences and even opposites can coexist.

Releasing the tension of paradox and embracing the grey leads to both radical acceptance and gratitude.

With resolve,
Emma Dixon, the Darling family

Do you tend to see life and people in black and white? What is the value in learning to hold space for paradox?

Image via Raisa Zwart Photography

Letters to My Younger Self: The 25-Year-Old Who’s Setting Sail for the First Time

Three paddles leaned against an old wooden cabinet

“Letters to My Younger Self” is a series focused on wisdom and self-awareness. Just as you write letters to a friend to encourage and uplift them, here is the advice we would go back and tell our younger selves.

Dear 25-year-old me,

Your world is about to turn upside down in the best way possible. Don’t worry. You won’t be alone. Take a deep breath, and read on. 

You’re moving to New York City this week! Newly single, newly sober and with no clue how you’ll land on your own two feet. But you booked that one-way ticket. I’m so proud of you! You’ll never be the same. 

But you booked that one way ticket. I’m so proud of you!

This leap of faith will be a touchstone for you in the years to come, reminding you of the great reward that follows great risk. I know it feels irresponsible, almost selfish, to make this move. However, you’ll learn to see this as an investment—both in yourself and the countless others you’ll meet along the adventure. 

You’re starting to wonder if everything your sister told you about God is true. You’re clutching tightly to the handwritten map of the five boroughs. You’re about to fall in love with the world all over again. 

NYC will romance you. Her architecture, modern and old world, will excite you. Her city-dwellers, children and grownups, will teach you. Her parks, lively and quiet, will inspire you. 

Right now, all you see is the unknown. You’re trying to navigate the uncharted waters of your future, ping-ponging between every emotion. I know you’re afraid that you’ll lose your kindness in the hustle and bustle of city life. With intentionality, you’ll grow rich in compassion, learning to love others as you are loved in community. 

Right now, all you see is the unknown. You’re trying to navigate the uncharted waters of your future.

I know you’re afraid that your creativity will dwindle without drinking and partying. With trust, you’ll become a stronger artist, liberated from the heaviness of addiction. 

I know you’re afraid that you’ll miss your “person” by being single in your mid-20s. With faith, you’ll lean into the freedom of flying solo and find your groove. And you will marry a wonderful man who waited for you, too. 

Yes, it will be challenging, too, as evolving can and should be. Your expectations will be interrupted by the colorful, messy reality of life, again and again. Every belief you swear by will be tested until what is gold remains.

Friendships will change. People will surprise you in the best ways and in the worst ways, too. However, with each relationship, each success, each failure and each risk, you will grow stronger. Trust me, I’m living proof.

Your expectations will be interrupted by the colorful, messy reality of life, again and again.

Here I am, writing this letter on the other side of an adventure you’ll take later on: Marriage. Another exciting, challenging, rewarding voyage into the unknown. Except this time, we’re not alone. Everything you’re doing and feeling now will lead you here. 

A little note on writing letters: your words are powerful. To your great surprise and merriment, you’ll end up in places with people you never thought you’d meet. Write them letters just for joy; expect nothing in return.

But remember: You are not beneath them, nor are you above them. Don’t write, or do anything for that matter, to be seen. Get in the habit of being kind for kindness’ sake. 

A related little note: you are worth investing in. Stop picking up furniture off the street. Stop cutting corners and putting yourself last. I wish we would stop doing that even now. Let people invest in you, too. You are not trash.

You are a daughter. That will take some time to sink in, but let it. Let love sink in. 

Get in the habit of being kind for kindness’ sake. 

From where I’m standing, I can see now that there was no other way forward than to let faith set your course. So lift up your sails and let faith launch you into the great unknown.

Cheering you on,
Your Biggest Fan 

P.S. Keep writing.

How do you feel when you were beginning a new journey or embarking on a new path when you were younger? What advice would you give to your younger self?

Image via Sheri Giblin, Darling Issue No. 13

Here I Go Again: How To Stop Self-Sabotaging

A woman looking down as she walks with her hands in her pockets

We all have an image of what our ideal life looks like: successful, purpose-driven, balanced, content. So what’s preventing us from fulfilling that vision?

Well, if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer most likely will be: ourselves. We know what’s good for us and what we need to do to reach our goals, but oftentimes, self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors prevent us from stepping out toward that vision.   

Self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors prevent us from stepping out toward that vision.   

Some forms of self-sabotage are obvious, such as declining opportunities outside of one’s comfort zone or shortchanging relationships. Meanwhile, others are more subtle, such as procrastinating on projects or making little excuses for our shortcomings. 

For me, self-sabotage has recently manifested itself as fear of the future. After experiencing constant change and loss during the pandemic, I’ve been feeling as though I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. This in turn has prevented me from appreciating all the beautiful blessings and happiness of the present moment and from fulfilling the vision I had for this season. 

According to my friend Britt Van Asbach, a mental health worker based in Wisconsin, the good thing about being able to recognize self-sabotaging in our lives is that it enables us to work to overcome it. No matter what self-sabotaging behavior we’re dealing with, acknowledging the incongruence between our goals and actions is the first step toward breaking the pattern.  

The good thing about being able to recognize self-sabotaging in our lives is that it enables us to work to overcome it.

Once we do acknowledge the issue, there are a few steps that we can take to transform our habits: 

1. Define the root cause.

Perhaps we’re afraid of the expectations other people have of us or we do not dare to dream for fear of being disappointed.  Whatever we might be experiencing, unless we understand what’s driving our self-sabotaging behavior, we’ll never be able to cultivate alternative habits or thought patterns to fill that void. 

Unless we understand what’s driving our self-sabotaging behavior, we’ll never be able to cultivate alternative habits or thought patterns to fill that void. 

2. Get support.

It is also important to not isolate. Find friends and mentors to talk with about your weaknesses, strengths and goals. This will provide you with both accountability and support. 

3. Engage in wellness activities.

It can also be helpful to do activities that switch your thoughts from self-sabotaging behaviors to positive things. This could be as simple as spending time in nature, cuddling a pet, seeing friends or volunteering. 

Last but not least, we must remember who we are. “We must know that even if we fail, our failures don’t define us,” Van Asbach writes. “We can fail at our goals over and over again; what’s important is that we pick ourselves back up and continue striving.”

Do you have any self-sabotaging habits? What emotions compel you toward that habit? How can you confront those feelings head on?

Image via Jack Belli, Darling Issue No. 17

Darling Letters: On Embracing the Art of the Pivot

A woman wearing sunglasses looking over her shoulder

We are bringing “Darling Letters” from your inbox to the blog! We love the art of letter writing and believe it helps build authentic community. Our editors and contributors have thoughtfully written encouraging letters to cut through the busyness and speak straight to your heart.

If you asked me in February 2020 where I’d be during the spring of my junior year of college, the response would have been easy: London. Since freshman year, studying abroad had always been in my plans. Weekend trips to Paris, studying in cozy British cafés and seeing the world in a whole new lightthis was the dream. 

Now, nearly a year and a half later, I’m not in London. Instead, I’m writing this in Hermosa Beach, CA, a city I never thought I’d visit, much less live in for four months. But plans change. 

At the onset of the pandemic, we were forced to adapt. Whether it was switching to online learning, working remotely or re-learning how to share space with our families, we all had to adjust in some way. We didn’t just pivot our daily routines, we also had to make changes to major life events like weddings, graduations and even funeral ceremonies. When the pandemic hit, we didn’t have a choice in how we would respond. We had to learn to adapt.

We didn’t have a choice in how we would respond. We had to learn to adapt.

However challenging this past year has been, we learned how to pivot. 2020 taught us to mark our calendars in pencil and to hold our plans with loose hands. While postponing trips and celebrations of milestones wasn’t fun, we learned that life doesn’t always go according to planand that’s OK. This newfound perspective is invaluable.

Let’s embrace the art of the pivot and relinquish control. We can move forward from 2020 knowing that our abilities to adapt have forever been enhanced. We can move forward with courage when life doesn’t go as planned. Never again will we underestimate our ability to adjust to circumstances, no matter how daunting they may seem.

Let’s embrace the art of the pivot and relinquish control.

Olivia Novato, the Darling family

What changes did you have to make in your daily routine last year? How did you process the many changes brought on by the pandemic?

Image via Alyssa Bush

Why Self-Awareness Is Important When Traveling In Groups

A woman waving her hand as if to hail a cab

On one uncommonly sunny and warm day in Portland, my friend and I, driving back from a day on the river with freshly sun-kissed skin, were talking about some of our favorite trips we took that year, both together and with others. We realized the most enjoyable trips were the ones we experienced with friends who knew themselves well enough to voice their preferences and were able to adapt to the unexpected.

This sparked the topic of self-awareness when traveling with others and how a fun trip can take a turn for the worst when someone in the group is unaware of how their words or actions affect those they are traveling with.

A fun trip can take a turn for the worst when someone in the group is unaware of how their words or actions affect those they are traveling with.

In my experience when traveling with family and friends, whether it is a quick day trip, a week’s long road trip or flying to a different country, it is crucial to know the type of traveler you are and what type of traveler others you are traveling with are. This can determine how the trip pans out and is remembered.

I have witnessed people, including myself, attempt to warp into types of travelers they are not—whether they are intricate planners trying to be easy-going or someone who has a go with flow mindset trying to make set plans. Neither scenario ends well, and there is often a tipping point where fiery words are said, awkward silences sit for longer than anyone wants them to and passive aggressive comments are muttered under one’s breath. These situations take away from the amazement and joy of visiting beautiful places for the first time.

It took me a few years and dozens of trips to learn what type of traveler I am and the types of people I prefer to travel with. There are two characteristics that I believe create the most fun experiences when traveling with any group of people. The first is having the courage to learn about the type of traveler you are (and those you are traveling with are) and owning it. The second is having the willingness to adapt because plans rarely play out exactly as intended.

Traveling with friends who made itineraries for trips but who were also open to spontaneity, sparked excitement and anticipation. Traveling with friends who simply show up and go with the plan, yet are willing to participate in decision-making, helped the day move forward at a relaxed pace.

A large part of self-awareness when traveling is accepting who you are and who others are—both as travelers and as human beings who move through life differently. A substantial aspect of life is adapting to the unexpected and traveling is no different.

A substantial aspect of life is adapting to the unexpected and traveling is no different.

Through self-awareness and adaptability, there is little to distract from the feeling of awe when seeing the beauty of the Pacific Coast for the first time, experiencing the taste of an authentic churro in Madrid or admiring mountains that look painted on the sky in Glacier National Park. There are many experiences to have, foods to taste and cultures to learn about. Self-awareness and adaptability only enhance the wonder in traveling.

What type of friends do you prefer to travel with? What has travel taught you about yourself?

Image via Sarah Kehoe, Darling Issue No. 15