Bad Blogger (Made for More)

Hi, I’m Andrea, also known as MyPhareLady. I’m going to make a bold and shocking statement: I might just be the world’s worst blogger, by social media industry standards, anyway.

The following is a list of eight solid reasons to support this claim:

  1. Historically speaking, I haven’t done the best job of posting regularly and consistently.
  2. I don’t have a large following.
  3. Sometimes when I put my stuff out into the world via a blog post, I have absolutely no idea if anyone ever reads, or moreover can relate to what I’ve written.
  4. I don’t receive many comments on my posts.
  5. My blog isn’t driven by a specific product or service. (I’m not trying to sell anything to anyone.)
  6. I don’t put much energy into curating beautifully staged photos with perfect lighting to complement my posts.
  7. I make absolutely no money running my blog. I don’t have companies approaching me about sponsorships and endorsement deals, nor do I accept paid advertising on my site (not that anyone has ever asked me about any of these things…lol).
  8. I don’t really advertise or promote my blog, apart from sharing with family, friends, and on my personal social media feeds.

There. I said it. These are my blogging “failures.” The many reasons I suck at blogging. But I can also say that none of these things had anything to do with me wanting to start a blog in the first place.

So, the next (and most obvious) question is, if you’re not doing it to make money, why bother having a blog, right?

Well, the reason I started this blog was simple: because it originated with a tiny whisper from my heart. And although this small voice from within was barely audible, I was incapable of ignoring it. Well, I suppose I did try for a while, but it was persistent and just kept getting louder and louder, so I eventually caved to its demands.

I couldn’t make much sense of it at the time, but I knew I must honour the deep longing to share my writing with an audience, even through my uncertainty and fear. There was a reason for listening to the whispers of my heart that I couldn’t comprehend then, nor am I even sure I understand now—to not only take that leap of faith into the world of creative self-expression, but also to make myself vulnerable to a vast Interweb of strangers at the same time.

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Switching gears—and please bear with me as I promise to bring these thoughts full circle by the end of this post—I recently discovered an author, momprepreneur, and all-around magical unicorn of a woman by the name of Ms. Rachel Hollis. Seriously, this woman was not even on my radar two months ago, but a friend invited me to go see the final screening of her documentary, Made for More, in our city in August. I jumped at the chance (because, who doesn’t want a night out with a girlfriend?), and I was pleasantly surprised to learn how authentic, raw, and vulnerable she is, not to mention her determination to inspire and uplift other women is unstoppable. Needless to say I found the documentary (and Rachel) to be refreshing and inspirational in every possible way.

I’ve since started following all of her social media, devoured her book, Girl, Wash Your Face, and, in an effort to end 2018 with strength, intention, clarity, and grace, have been participating in her #last90days challenge. In the relatively short time I’ve known of Rachel Hollis, I’ve received so much inspiration from her work and the simple truths she has made it her mission to share. Among these are the importance of: being completely and unapologetically yourself; maintaining a growth mindset; going all in, as in being 100% invested in your goals (still working on this one); paying no mind to other people’s opinions; and, last but certainly not least, that all women deserve to belong and be supported by community.

Discovering Rachel Hollis has reminded me about what’s really important to me, what’s important in life, and also why I started this blog in the first place. For me, it was never about making money and having a billion subscribers. Rather, it was always supposed to be an online space dedicated to authenticity, growth, community, and connection.

Thanks in large part to Rachel’s wisdom and teachings, I’m able to see it all so much more clearly now: my passion, and ultimately my goal for this blog, is to bring women together in the spirit of community to create dialogue around topics that matter. This is a vehicle for sharing my thoughts, opinions, and experiences, and using them as a catalyst or starting point for conversations with other women. It’s a way for me to use my voice for good, to help others on a parallel or intersecting path—to build a sisterhood of like-minded souls who, just like me, are seeking a community in which love, support, and kindness reign supreme.

Even though I know all too well the metrics that define a successful blogger, and even though I admittedly fall way short of these metrics on all accounts, I cannot shake the feeling that I must continue to forge ahead. I must keep writing. I must keep sharing the pieces of myself and my life experiences I feel called to share. I must do so, not because I’m seeking fame or notoriety, but because this blog is here for a reason, and dare I say I think it’s supposed to serve a far greater purpose than anything that can be defined solely by monetization or subscriber statistics.

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And perhaps most important of all, this blog has taught me, time and time again, that when my heart speaks, what it’s telling me is not up for negotiation. I MUST listen. And if listening to my heart and following my dreams in spite of the evidence that’s stacked against me means I’m the worst blogger out there, I suppose I’m alright with that.

And I’m pretty sure that it’s all because I’m learning (and maybe even starting to believe) that I am made for more.

With all my love,
MyPhareLady
xo

WAIT! Don’t go yet…just one more really IMPORTANT thing:
I want to know what big dreams and goals are you working on, and more importantly, what are you doing to get through the challenges and push past the setbacks you encounter along the way? Are you working toward something that feels so completely out of reach, or even impossible, that you often think about giving up, but choose to keep going anyway?
I’d really love to hear from you. Let’s get this conversation started…drop me a line in the comments below!

Calling All Love Warriors

Is the true mark of a good book one that’s been referred by numerous friends, approved by critics, and reached the top of the bestseller list? If you ask me, the best indication of a book’s merit is its ability to strike a chord and hit me where I’m going to feel it—right in my humanity.

And that’s pretty much exactly what Glennon Doyle Melton’s, Love Warrior, did. It hit me square in the face and simultaneously yanked at my heartstrings, while calling into question all of the darkness and light of being a woman and what it really means to be human.

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I hadn’t even heard of the author until about a month and a half ago, when a Facebook friend began posting about reading Love Warrior. She apologized to her family and friends to let them know she would be holed up in her bedroom for as long as it took to get through all of the pages of this particular story, which I distinctly recall her referring to as intense.

At the time I wasn’t sure why, but I was compelled to get my hands on a copy of this memoir by an author about whom the only thing I knew was that she went by three names. Having just finished Love Warrior and being left emotionally depleted and somehow hopeful and also changed and as though I want to read it all over again in order to soak up more of its goodness, I am again compelled to let the world know this book is an absolute must read.

I couldn’t have predicted the way in which Love Warrior would affect me, finding its way into the deepest, darkest crevices of my heart. It’s not just because I feel a strange sense of sisterhood toward the author, who obviously understands the cause and effect of being a highly sensitive person in an often intensely insensitive world. It’s not just because she has an uncanny ability to turn a phrase so simply and beautifully that it is, at once, both breathtaking and heartbreaking. (She’s exactly the type of powerful female author I aspire to become.) It’s not just because her life story is both riveting and compelling. It’s not the profound choice that she’s made over and over again to carve her path guided by trust and faith. And it’s also not just because her experiences, and her choices in reaction to them, resonated for me so deeply that I can’t even explain it, and have been left with no other choice but to feel it in the depths of my soul. It’s not just any one of these things in isolation. It’s actually all of them, and so much more.

This story reminded me of being at an interesting and critical point in my own life; standing at a crossroads where unexpected pieces of my past are converging to form the present. Similarly, Melton poignantly reflects on her experience of being a wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, and writer while overcoming the odds stacked against her. And to top it all off, she does all of this with an unparalleled sense of grace, the likes of which are rarely seen in our time.

The totality of Melton’s story of unlearning everything she once thought she knew and unbecoming everything she thought she was, is eerily familiar to me. This must be why her words have landed so close to my own heart, shattering it into tiny pieces and leaving me to pick up the debris.

While the circumstances of her life path are quite different from mine, there are a number of common threads too similar to be ignored. Warp threads are spun by two women trying to make sense of their lives and figure out their place in the world. The weft threads are the sheer determination that, no matter what happens along the way, these two women will always choose the path of honesty and remaining true to themselves. The interweaving of warp and weft has created the fabric of our lives, both Melton’s and mine.

On a side note, every time my kids and husband came home over the past few days to find me sobbing as I made my way through the final five chapters, they would always ask, “You’re reading that book again, aren’t you?” And on these occasions, they would ask me with great concern what the book was about and why it was so upsetting to me. Each and every time I failed to find adequate words to express the intense feelings it was eliciting from within me. But what I can say is this: Love Warrior landed in my lap at just the right time, allowing me to open my heart and shed a few layers of its skin as I was immersed  in a story that took me on a roller coaster ride of emotions ranging from disbelief, loss, and grief to acceptance, faith, grace, and love, and everything in between.

It doesn’t quite do justice to Glennon Doyle Melton’s gift as a writer to say I enjoyed Love Warrior, and it simply wasn’t possible for me to ignore the urge to write this post. Because doing so is the most honest choice and the next right thing I can do to honour where I am at right now. (And also because this is important work and everyone needs to read it.)

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Love Warrior has reminded me of our shared humanity and the need to keep coming back to love in these tumultuous times. It dug up and forced me to feel some deep emotional baggage that I’ve been carrying (even though I didn’t really want to). And, yes, I’m just going to go ahead and say it—it’s changed the way I choose to look at the world.

I actually enjoyed this book so much I just may go read it all over again. And if you want to read something interesting and important that was created out of the only force that matters and on which we all need to focus more of our attention during this lifetime, dare I say, so should you.

So, what are you waiting for? Go get yourself a copy, fix yourself a tea or coffee, get cozy, and start reading Love Warrior today.

Perhaps you’ve already read Love Warrior? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to leave a comment below.

The Alchemy & Magic of Having My Picture Taken

Do you see yourself the way others see you?

If you asked me that very question only a few  weeks ago, I likely wouldn’t have known what to say, and my answer would have been different from today.

Allow me to explain…

When my dear friend and photographer, Linda Patterson, offered me the opportunity to participate in a photo shoot to celebrate my true essence, something very interesting happened. Despite my discomfort with being photographed, and before my inner Nelly naysayer had a chance to speak up, I agreed to do it. And with my intentions of not falling into old patterns and honouring my word of the year, TRUST, I knew I absolutely must follow through.

I’m rarely at a loss for words, particularly in my writing, but all I can say is what has happened within me since can only be described as a series of alchemical reactions  so powerful they surely must have been precipitated by magic.

You see, I’ve had it in the back of my mind for quite some time to have photos taken of myself before my 40th birthday, which is quickly approaching in September. But the problem was I never had any shortage of reasons to defer the timing. Too busy, need to lose 10 pounds first, face broke out again, and don’t like my current hairstyle were just a few of my many excuses.

What’s more, I had come to really dislike having my photo taken. I dubbed myself the Queen of Unflattering Photos for my uncanny ability to close my eyes and screw up my face at the exact moment the shutter closes. I warned Linda about all of this in advance, and I don’t think she believed me until she quickly learned she wouldn’t be able to use a flash during my session.

But with Linda’s quiet insistence and gentle encouragement, I was somehow able to get past all of the mental noise and nonsense. And as I’ve already alluded to, I’ve experienced significant changes and growth as a result. So, in the hopes of inspiring and encouraging others, I’d like to share some of the major themes and lessons that have developed for me.

My {Close-up}: A Focus on Me

Literally everything about the day of the photo shoot was about me and for me. Linda took care of all of the details, and all I needed to do was show up. She served lovely snacks and drinks. She made a playlist of all my favourite music. She arranged a professional makeup artist to style my hair and apply makeup to ensure I looked my best. This was integral to the experience, by the way, and after having the royal treatment—seeing (and feeling) the  results, and allowing the effects to ripple through and settle into my cells, I am finally starting to understand the psychology behind it. Us women, who are typically busy with life (taking care of our families and loved ones, running households, and fulfilling career goals) don’t often take the time to focus on ourselves. Putting the needs of others ahead of our own is natural and habitual, thus it is easy for us women to lose our sense of self in the wake of everything else.

But as Linda so wisely knows and demonstrates through her lovingly designed boutique photography service, women have every right to be taken care of, fussed over, and celebrated. While it may feel a little uncomfortable at first, allowing yourself to be the centre of attention and receive some well-deserved pampering is a beautiful gift every woman deserves to experience.

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Meeting Discomfort with Courage and Grace

Being in front of a camera can feel a little (ok, a lot) uncomfortable, particularly for those of us who are clearly not supermodels and have a less-than-stellar track record of unflattering photos to our credit. One might reasonably wonder where all this discomfort comes from. For me it has everything to do with being a {recovering} perfectionist, paired with the ever-present fear of not living up to my own impossible standards. Further, I am generally someone who prefers to fly under the radar, so being in front of a camera is naturally at odds with where I’m comfortable. And even further still, if it wasn’t a quantum leap for me just to have photos taken, I had to go ahead and up the stakes by doing some semi-nude shots. For me, this was as much about pushing myself outside of my comfort zone as anything, because I’ve come to understand, from direct experience on a very personal level, that when something scares the pants off of me (sorry, not sorry, for the intentionally placed pun), that is the reason I absolutely must do it!

Facing my fears to do something so extremely uncomfortable, and that I wasn’t sure I would be able to follow through with, was both liberating and empowering. It illustrated for me the sheer power of exercising mind over matter—that I can do absolutely anything I set my mind to. I’m not quite ready to leap tall buildings in a single bound and I don’t think I’m invincible (yet), but I do have a renewed sense of strength and confidence that I haven’t felt for  a very long time.

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Coming Face-to-Face with the Real Me

About one week before my photo session, Linda asked me some very specific questions about the personal qualities I wanted to connect with and the types of images I wanted to achieve from the shoot. It took me some time and serious thought to come up with the words to adequately convey how I wanted the images to feel, but I eventually settled on feminine, soft, and womanly. I chose these words or feelings knowing they were important aspects of me that I don’t necessarily show on a regular basis.

In photography, a multiple exposure is the superimposition of two or more exposures to create a single image. This concepts reminds me how we, as humans, have many different facets that comprise our personalities, working together to create the composite image of who we are. This process has allowed me to rediscover aspects of myself that I’d all but forgotten were there: my softness, femininity, and vulnerability, contrasted by my courage and fierce determination. And while I don’t necessarily show the world these traits all of the time, they are and always will be part of me. Allowing Linda to capture my true essence—and sharing these images with others—has reminded me how important it is to allow myself to be seen, and to step out of my own shadow and into my light.

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Learning to Accept Praise and Compliments

Over time, I’ve noticed how I deflect when someone pays me a compliment. If someone tells me I look nice, it would be typical for me to say, “Oh, ya, I actually spent some time getting ready today,” or “Really? I am so tired and the bags under my eyes are huge!” It’s quite an intricate dance to avoid actually allowing myself to accept kind words and feel good for a moment. But from this awareness I’ve been working on simply receiving a compliment—accepting it into my heart, letting it settle into my being, feeling OK about myself, and then moving on. When a person says something flattering about me, I am working on simply saying, “thank you”. And this is a big part of why I felt it was necessary to share these images and my story with others—not because I am trying to bolster my ego with further praise, but because it’s a helpful exercise for me in learning to accept a genuine compliment. And I can tell you the absolute best thing I’ve heard from sharing these photos was my friend telling me they portray exactly how she sees me all the time. Wow!

Loving Myself, Exactly As I Am

It’s appalling how easy it is to get tangled up in the trap of self-hatred, constantly picking myself apart based on my perceived flaws and imperfections. My own feelings of inadequacy are only perpetuated when I measure myself against the impossible and unrealistic standards that are perpetuated by our media-driven, beauty-and body-obsessed society.

This theme or lesson is the hardest one for me. I get a lump in my throat just thinking about it, and it’s probably why I bawled my eyes out when Linda led me around the corner on the day of my viewing to be met with 20 beautiful images of myself looking back at me. Needless to say it was completely overwhelming, and my instinctual response was a giant stream of tears. I cried to see my true essence reflected back at me in pictures, and for the pieces of myself I felt I had lost that were found once again.

As I’ve said, one of my greatest challenges is resisting the terrible habit of picking myself apart. It’s something I’ve been working on for the past couple of years, and it will most likely be something I need to continue working on for the rest of my life. Because self-condemnation is a slippery slope to self-loathing, and I’m learning it’s much better for my self-worth to take a kinder, gentler approach. This means remembering to view myself with kindness, compassion, and always through the lens of love—both in pictures and in life.

I’ve also come to understand the beauty of many photographic images comes from contrast. That contrast is often represented between the interplay of shadow and light. The greatest photos are great because they convey a depth of feeling that goes beyond  form. It’s a beautiful thing when a photo tells a person’s story or provides a glimpse into who they are on the inside, and that is precisely what Linda has done for me. She facilitated a way for me to see and appreciate my beauty—not in spite of my physical flaws and imperfections, but because of them. I am grateful to have these images as a reminder of some of the best parts of me, as I continue working to love every part of myself exactly as I am right now.

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A Few Final Thoughts

I feel incredibly honoured and blessed to have been invited to participate in this photo shoot with Linda. The process I have undergone since March 17, 2016 has been nothing short of amazing. In this very short time, I have experienced a series of changes—so powerful and necessary—I’m not even sure how to explain it.

What I can tell you is this: somehow through these beautiful images Linda held up a mirror that allowed me to see my true essence. A genuine smile has returned to my face. I have renewed sense of confidence. I am beginning to feel more comfortable in my own skin. And I’ve had the chance to see myself the way others do.

If anyone can explain to me how this incredible journey of self-discovery could have transpired if not for the effects of alchemy and magic, I’d certainly love to hear about it.

*Linda Patterson of Vision Icon Photographic is a talented and passionate photographer  specializing in portraiture for women. She also happens to be the picture of warmth, kindness, compassion, and grace as a human being. If you’re a woman living in the Edmonton area, I would highly recommend scheduling an appointment with her. You certainly won’t regret it.