Finding Your Voice by Kathleen

Hello! My name is Kathleen Mackey and I’m excited to share a little bit about myself with the Empowered & Poised readers. 

I will be a senior in the fall at John Carroll University (which is still weird to process) and I’m studying Communications with a concentration in Digital Media. I’m also minoring in English with a concentration in Professional Writing. 

I have absolutely loved my time at John Carroll and I hate to think about the fact that I’m approaching the end of these four years. I could have never anticipated the amount of growth I’ve seen in myself, as well as the experiences I’ve had — both good and bad. I used to be someone that loved staying in my comfort zone and dreaded change. When I started college, I had no choice but to embrace being completely independent, and take risks. It wasn’t easy at times, but looking back as I approach my last year, I feel proud of the person I’ve grown into these past three years.

Outside of classes, I’ve devoted most of my time to being involved with our campus newspaper, The Carroll News. With my being a managing editor and editor-in-chief on staff, I have been given the role to write a weekly column in our Op/Ed section. Out of all of the responsibilities that came with these positions, this one intimidated me the most. I felt afraid to vocalize my opinions in such a public way. After writing for almost a year now, I still find myself sometimes afraid to take on a controversial topic, or to share an opinion that might not be well received. However, being given such a role has showed me that I have the chance to use that space to share a piece of writing that someone else might be able to relate to, or that might alter their perspective and consider new ideas. It’s empowered me to be proud to share my voice, and to not compare myself to others.

The Carroll News has also helped me grow into a leader, which is something I didn’t really see myself becoming when I started college. In fact, I don’t think I ever thought it was something I was fully capable of. I’ve always considered myself to be someone that works well with others, that listens and strives to meet a common ground, which made me feel like I couldn’t be an authoritative person that takes charge.  

As I became more involved with the newspaper, I saw myself becoming more and more of a leader without even really realizing it. This past semester, I was selected to be the Editor-in-Chief, which was an incredible achievement — a goal that I hoped to accomplish during my college career, but was never sure if I’d see it happen. Transitioning into the position was a bit of a whirlwind and I found myself having to make decisions that weighed heavily on my mind. The pressure I was facing made me question whether or not I was qualified enough to be in such a position, and if I had the leadership skills required to do a successful job. It forced me to realize that (as cheesy as it sounds) you can’t always rely on others to reassure you. You have to have faith and courage within yourself. It was an incredibly challenging time, but it gave me a newfound sense of empowerment in my role. 

While empowerment starts with yourself, I think it’s important to celebrate the people and things that empower you and push you to do better. Luckily, I find it everywhere around me. I’ve realized that I’m experiencing this transition into adulthood during a very interesting time, to say the least. The climate of our country these past few years has been often unsettling, but it’s pushed me to become critically aware of what’s happening around me, both locally and nationally. It’s not a time to remain silent and unaware, especially as I enter adulthood. I am constantly inspired by the people I surround myself with as well as those with large platforms that use their voice to enact positive change. It pushes me to do the same, whether it be with my columns, or just how I interact with others in my day to day life.

I would encourage anyone reading this to never feel afraid to use your voice, and don’t underestimate your own strengths. No matter what stage you’re at in life, you’re never done growing as a human, and it’s never too late to take risks and take on something you never thought you could handle. I promise you’ll be amazed by the person you become as a result. Always search for empowerment within yourself, and celebrate those around you that inspire you to do better! 

Empowered & PoisedComment
Top 5 Reasons Why Yoga is Great for Girls

I’ve had a love affair with yoga for more than 20 years. That’s a relatively short time, considering yoga has been around for more than 5,000! From taking my very first class as a young woman in my early 20s, to practicing and teaching yoga for almost 20 years, yoga has provided me with a foundation and set of tools for personal growth, evolution and expansion in profound and life changing ways.   

The yoga that I practice has evolved, just like I have, over the years, and has helped me learn how to be a better person, friend, partner, mother, and businesswoman.  It provides me a rich framework to enjoy and savor the joys in life, to embrace my mistakes and challenges with greater peace, confidence and compassion. 

I strongly believe yoga is beneficial for girls to learn and practice because what we learn on the mat translates to living a richer life off the mat, and here’s why:

1.) Coordination/Alignment: The base of the word yoga comes from the root “yuj” which means to yoke or bring into union, to connect and align. Ancient yogis understood that the practice of yoga helped our thoughts (mind) and bodies come into a state of equanimity. 

On a physical level working with yoga poses and certain breathing techniques helps the mind and body to learn how to better work together in a coordinated way. 

The more we work with our body by practicing the poses, the more we understand our postural alignment within the poses and the nuances of movement and breath as well as our thoughts and perceptions as they arise. We begin to become more coordinated managing it all as we come into greater alignment with both our inner and outer selves. 

public.jpeg

The body itself is perceived  simultaneously through both the left and right side of the brain. These parallel processes are reflected in the mind’s capacity to perceive the body as both subject and object, as both I and “it” at the same time. This access, both to direct and subjective experience and observation of the self with a perspective, provides a person with a dynamic fulcrum from which to explore the overall experience of one’s own self, both inwardly and outwardly. (Pallaro, 2007a). This is an extremely important point, as being aware of and connected to our bodies in a positive way creates confidence on the inside and out. 

2.) Confidence:

There is a difference between bravado and confidence. Confidence doesn’t mean you always appear strong and invincible. We can be confident in who we are and confident in how we feel—when we let our guard down, and not pretend we are anything other than who we are in each moment… happy… angry… sad... vulnerable… ecstatic... bored… tired… thrilled... cranky... in love.

We can think a lot about confidence. We can talk about tips to make us feel more confident. Yoga helps confidence live in both the body and the mind. We think and feel confident when we practice Yoga. Yoga creates a space and place to feel  confident, in all its permutations, to explore it curiously and EMBODY confidence.

According to Katty Kay and Clair Shipman, authors of “The Confidence Code,” confidence is not in your head. In fact, you must get out of your head to create it and use it. Confidence is linked to doing. It is not letting your doubts consume you. It is taking action. It is a willingness to get out of your comfort zone and do hard things. Having resilience and not giving up. “Confidence is the stuff that turns thoughts into action.”

Buddhist expert Sharon Salzberg described confidence as an essential, elemental energy. “I think confidence is the way we meet our circumstances, whether they are wondrous and wonderful or really hard and difficult. It’s almost like a wholeheartedness, where we’re not holding back. We’re not fragmented. We’re not divided. We’re just going towards what’s happening. There’s an energy to it. I think that’s confidence. And it’s absolutely part of human fulfillment.”

When girls practice yoga they build confidence in themselves as well as resiliency in their body and mind.

public.jpeg

3.) Choice

The ancient yogi’s knew long ago what modern science is now testing and proving, that yoga is a powerful tool to help calm the nervous system. With our fast-paced lives, work and school demands, staying stress-free can feel like a challenge. Practicing yoga helps you realize you are more than your thoughts and your emotions. Take anxiety for example. Generally anxious thoughts can be irrational. Practicing yoga with breathing and meditation helps us learn how to be in the moment and notice when an anxious thought has crept in. We have  awareness to make a choice about that thought.

Here is a simple strategy that can help disrupt an anxious thought:

  • Take 3 long breaths: Have the exhale be longer than the inhale.

  • Recognize your thought: and say to yourself, “ This is an anxious thought.”

  • Label the thought: “ This anxious thought keeps telling me that I did really bad on my test. I know this is my worry talking to me.”

  •  Challenge the thought: “ Did I do everything I could to prepare for the test?” and “Can I think of one part of it that went well?”

Just like yoga and meditation, the more you choose to practice the strategy, the easier it becomes to be aware of and label disruptive thoughts and feelings.

4.) Connection: There is a deep need in all of us to feel and know that we are accepted, connected and a part of something bigger than ourselves. Yoga helps us find connection first within ourselves through breath and movement.  Yoga also teaches how to connect to your own self-worth, to a place within us that is generous, confident, wise and loving. When we see those qualities in ourselves, we can more easily see these qualities in others. 

When we are connected to these qualities it is easier to see beyond the surface of a person and see their intrinsic worth and value. We quickly learn that we are all worthy of safety, trust, respect  and love. The more we can connect with those qualities the more those qualities begin to show up in our lives and in the world at large.  

5.) Compassion:

One of the biggest gifts practicing yoga has given me is learning and practicing compassion toward others and myself. As I unroll my yoga mat every morning, I remind myself to hold a kind and gentle space for me even if: I  do not get all the poses right, or my yoga pants are too tight because of my love/hate relationship with cheese, or my body feels tired and I feel grumpy. 

Cultivating compassion in your life can change how you speak to and treat others, as well as yourself.  Acting with compassion opens us up to life and helps us remember that we are all in this together and we all experience thoughts and feelings. We all have good and bad days, bumbling qualities, challenges, old hurts and a need to feel like we belong.

public.jpeg

When you recognize these things in yourself and others you begin to cultivate compassion and a more kind and honest mindset. Practicing living life with greater compassion and kindness also has serious benefits. According to Positive Psychology Coach, Lynda Wallace, “Research clearly demonstrates that people who treat themselves with self-compassion rather than self-criticism  take greater responsibility for their mistakes and are more motivated to try again after failure. As a result, they are less depressed and anxious, have greater confidence in their abilities, and are less upset when things don’t go well.”

As people, society and culture evolve, so does yoga.  Less than 100 years ago women were not permitted to learn, practice or teach yoga.  Today, hundreds of thousands do. One thing I’ve seen repeatedly is how yoga transforms.  Just like a chrysalis transforming into a beautiful winged butterfly, yoga transforms people from the inside out. Women and girls need more ways to learn to tap into their own inner empowerment, they need positive role models and  support. They need a community that supports them on their journey of becoming the person they are striving to be. The more each of us work to become empowered, compassionate, and living life in alignment with our purpose, the more we can help others do the very same thing. Yoga provides a platform for this and so much more. 


About the Author: Chris Keller is a facilitator of adult and youth empowerment programs and deep-listening circles . She is an advocate and ally for the LGBTQ+ community. She is a teacher in the feminine path of awakening. Chris embodies and teaches the Divine Feminine Principle through her Woman-Becoming- 9-Months to Sacred Self-Discovery program and healing circles. A certified experienced yoga teacher at the E-CYT 500 level, she has taught and practiced yoga & meditation for 20 years. To learn more about Chris Keller and her work go to www.circleofrenewal.com

Empowered & PoisedComment
The Importance of Empowering Yourself by Brenna

Being empowered equates to being oneself, which will develop, change and evolve with you. Empowerment and being poised is individualized. To date, my definition is to be genuine, determined, caring and independent. It started young for me and was ingrained in my upbringing. That’s not to say that I didn’t learn societal expectations, which challenge my definition of an empowered woman - I had to challenge others’ definition of me and then tolerate the displeasure and varying differences. 

My advice as a middle aged feminist therapist raising daughters... 

1. Boundaries for yourself and others - these will change and require you to reassess and 

think what best applies to you and your current life. Often, boundaries are different versions of saying “no” and identifying our limits within our relationships with ourselves and others. 

2. Asserting your needs in a healthy and fair manner - I reflect on my early adulthood. 

Getting married and not changing my surname was one. I knew from the age of 14 onward that I would not change my name. I remember supportive people, yet I also remember the “why would you do that to your children” responses. I clearly remember self doubt creeping in and thinking, “it would be easier to do what is expected - to be traditional.” Then, I reflected. In the short run, it would be easy. I would avoid conflict with others, yet not myself. I remembered my reasoning and the benefit to my long-term self. 

3. Asking for help early on and that is okay to not know the answer or even the 

questions - I remember going to high school in a new town with new students and without my family. It was exciting and scary due to the unknown. I remember walking into my science class and my teacher had a sign that said: “There are no stupid questions.” She reminded us of this frequently, with compassion and understanding. 30 years later, and I’m still passing it on. 

4. Learn various communication skills and practice being heard and listening to others

This is a continuing goal with many personal experiences occurring in the decades of life, some memorable, yet many small and long forgotten. This is an every day practice of trying to stop whatever I am doing in order to look someone in the eye and focus on their words then share mine. 

5. Be aware of your thoughts and their impact on you, especially the inner dialogue that 

is automatic, repetitive and sneaky - These patterns are prevalent in small daily actions as well as traumatic events in our lives. We take responsibility when it’s not ours to control, to feel more in power, yet it often contributes to our distress (for example, “It’s all my fault” and “if only I didn’t...then it would never have happened”). The powerful thoughts of self blame and shame scar us deeply, yet it is important to remember that, just because we think them, does not mean the beliefs are true and accurate. 

6. Find and practice small daily things that make you pause and reflect, breath and 

enjoy that moment. It is important to ask yourself questions - What do I want? What am I responsible for? How is this impacting my life? Am I paying attention to my physical, emotional, social and mental health. If not, what do I need to change? Be sure to empower yourself.

Being empowered is a process that becomes more comfortable as you practice, but it’s not always easy. Through my actions, I hope to encourage my daughters, friends and clients to become empowered, and support each other.


Empowered & PoisedComment
Conquering College by Sophia

Everyone goes through tough times during their life. Maybe it’s a difficult class that is getting you down, a boy who is playing with your heartstrings, or losing a loved one unexpectedly. It’s inevitable as human beings that we will endure harsh circumstances, but it’s how one deals with the situation that makes them who they are. One can either dwell on the bad or focus on the good, leading them to be empowered and poised. 

This past year, I went to college for the first time. I absolutely love my college and would not trade my first-year experience for the world. That being said, there were quite a few times where I felt totally beaten down. Being far away from home while taking classes harder than I have ever taken before was an adjustment, to say the least. Some days I cried, some days I slept, and some days I just downright pushed everyone away. But one day, it hit me. I could either choose to be miserable about everything going wrong in my life or find a way to look at the situation as one that I could have positive feelings about. Given the fact that my favorite quote is “yolo” (cheesy I know), I chose the latter of the two paths because life is too short to be anything but happy!

Instead of trying to change the things that I couldn’t, I decided to look at my first semester as I challenge. I changed my attitude into one where I was determined to put in the hard work necessary to be successful. I constantly set goals for myself and pushed myself to be the best that I could be. Eventually, the dedication paid off, and I achieved the grades that I had been hoping for. 

Now, to be honest, spending hours and hours at the library is bound to drive a girl crazy, and surely isn’t the best remedy to homesickness. Despite the challenges college has to offer, I think that for me, the worst part about being away from home was the fact that when I was feeling down, my mom was not there to hug me! At this point, I felt like I was losing who I was because school was engulfing all of my time and energy. I felt as if I never had time to do what I wanted to do. However, I knew that one of the most important parts of being empowered and poised is staying true to yourself. It is by doing this in which I became a stronger, more well-rounded woman.

Yes, education is a very important part of being at university, but it is also a pivotal time in one’s life to figure out who they are and understand what they do and do not like. Instead of focusing solely on school, I chose to dedicate time to finding out what made me, me. This was my best decision so far. 

I have come to the conclusion that all things health-related make me happy. I love to try new home-cooked healthy meals, go on morning runs, and participate in yoga (though I am probably the least flexible person to walk this earth). I have learned that I am passionate about taking efforts and encouraging others to save the environment, probably because I have a deep love for sunsets and the ocean. Anything involving kids or helping others is right up my alley and makes my heart the warmest. Lastly, I have discovered that it is extremely important for me to have a purpose and impact the world in small ways.

After taking these interests into consideration, I was able to find people with similar interests, join clubs that involved what I enjoyed, and live a more meaningful life! By making a list of the experiences that made me feel most alive, I was able to figure out who I was again, and that I did not need anyone else to make me feel that way. With everything that had been dragging me down, all it took was coming to the realization that I was a unique human being with interests unlike anyone else. And nothing, not even a stupid chemistry class, could take that away from me. With this new-found love for myself in my heart, I now feel as if I can conquer the world, and that it’s possible for any woman to do the same.


Empowered & PoisedComment
Learning to Adapt and Listen to Yourself By Lauren

I started attending Ohio University as a freshman in August of 2016. I went in to my undergraduate studies with the plan of majoring in psychology and one day working with clients to help them overcome their struggles with addiction, depression and anxiety.

From the moment I was accepted to the university, I began planning my future. I wanted to hold myself to a higher standard and push the limits of what I knew I was capable of. This mindset was challenged once I completed my first introduction to psychology course.

There was so much material to know and understand that it became slightly overwhelming as the semester dragged on. I ended the class with a B. I understand that a B is and was a fine grade, but back then I was so eager to push myself that I wouldn’t settle for anything less than the best.

I began questioning my passion for pursuing a degree in psychology and ultimately pushed myself away from what I thought was going to be my future. Looking back, I understand that maybe I did hold myself to too high of standards. As a first-generation college student, I placed an enormous amount of pressure on myself. In hindsight, I see that I was holding myself to unattainable standards, but I am grateful because it pushed me to consider other career options.

After exploring and reading about majors I settled on one that was going to be a stretch. Ohio University is well known for many of their programs, but one that outshines all others is the journalism department.

I never really understood what it meant to study journalism. I didn’t want to write for a newspaper, magazine, or report on air for a news channel. None of those aspects of journalism stood out to me as something I could have the confidence and interest in doing, but one thing I did know was that I loved to write and express myself and my opinions.

I noticed that there were two options for prospective journalism students. You have the option of choosing the news and information track or the strategic communication track. Strategic communication delves into the studies of advertising and public relations theory and applies those theories to the real-world of media. Whenever I thought of PR I pictured Samantha from Sex and the City. I remember thinking ‘I can do that!’ because to me, Samantha was someone who loved herself and wasn’t afraid to make herself big in a world where women make themselves so unnecessarily small.

I wanted to learn more. I became obsessed with the idea of being a publicist and living a glamorous life in a beautiful city just like Samantha.

To be considered for the journalism program I needed to fill out the standard application; provide a resume, writing samples, letters of recommendation, and a transcript; and had to meet the minimum grade point average.

At that point in my life, I had very little content that I could present to the admissions directors. I made it my goal to become more involved. I became more involved in class so that I could better develop my relationships with teachers. I took writing classes so that I could learn how to shape my writing and experiment with a variety of styles. I researched various ways to make yourself stand out in any application process.

After about a year of working on my application materials, I finally felt confident enough to submit my application.

Going into my junior year I was pressed for time to apply. I decided to apply for fall semester and risk it all. Sure, I didn’t feel completely confident in my portfolio compared to others with years of experience. I was, however, confident in my own work because I knew that it was the best I was able to present to the admissions board.

I sit writing this article now as an incoming senior with a declared major in journalism strategic communication and two minors in marketing and retail merchandising and fashion product development.

Since the time of my application and acceptance, I accepted a position as a digital marketing and public relations intern at a local firm that I absolutely adore, I have developed and published my own online portfolio, and learned the tools for researching and writing content inside and outside of my interests.

Although college is considered the best four years of one’s life because of the people you meet and the experiences you live through, I think it is also because you have time to become who you want to be. You can find the drive to make yourself better and ultimately discover your passions in life.

If it wasn’t for the B I received and the scrutiny I placed on myself, I would have never considered changing my plan that I had set for myself when I was 16 years old. Looking back, I’m happy I have and always will be someone that plans for my future.

College is the time to get to know yourself. Listen to your mind and your body for ultimate guidance throughout life and always be willing to adapt to change because you never know how it will affect you.

Empowered & PoisedComment
Finding Myself in the Silence by Megan

I went to college looking for a new adventure, a new beginning to have new experiences and make new friends.  I had everything planned out, from the activities I wanted to get involved in, to the kinds of people I wanted to meet.  I had this picture in my head of how I wanted it all to go. I thought it would be easy, and that I would immediately find my best friends, and all would be well.  

Needless to say, the fantasy I pictured was not how it turned out.  Things did not go exactly as I had planned, and I often found myself feeling lonely during my first semester.  I loved school and being away from home, but I hadn't found that group of people that I really fit in with.  It was challenging trying not to be jealous or compare myself to all the people I saw who had tons of friends and had found the people they clicked with right away.  

My faith has always been an essential part of my life, and I tried to keep that in mind and trust that God had a plan, and everything would work out, but a lot of the time it didn’t make sense.  Sometimes I found myself endlessly worrying that I was doing something all wrong for people not to like me. I made it a personal problem and started to question who I was. I figured it must be something I could change that would allow me to make more friends.  

I finally got the wake-up call in my search for the friends I wanted, I was acting less and less like my true self.  I was starting to make lots of shallow friendships because I thought the more people I knew, the less lonely I would feel. The truth is that, I was only becoming lonelier.   

There is something about silence that has always appealed to me; the serenity and peace of it.  As a person of faith, I often find God in the silence. During this period of time, I spent a lot of time with God in silence praying about what to do.  Often it was difficult to settle myself and quiet my mind’s racing thoughts, but when I could it was beautiful. It was in that moment that I took a break from trying to search for the perfect friends and let myself just be by myself.  I took some time for just me and I began to realize something. 

It was God trying to tell me something: I needed to take care of myself first.  Not in a selfish way, but I had to learn who I was and how to love myself. When I stopped worrying so much about finding the right friends and planning everything out, I had a new sense of peace.  I understood the gift God was giving me. He was giving me this time to just be me and to work on that. He knew that I needed to love myself before I could give that love to others in a friendship.  I was looking at it all wrong. I thought all the pain from being alone was because there was something wrong with who I was. In reality, this time was a precious gift that allowed me to grow stronger, and recognize who I am.  

In the next few months that followed, I became the best version of myself.  I was strong and confident in who I was. I didn’t think about how many friends I had or didn’t have because I knew how to love and take care of myself.  It sounds selfish to take care of yourself first, but it’s necessary to take time to figure out who you are before you can share yourself with others.  

When I took the time to step back and accept being alone instead of trying to fight it, I realized I had never actually been alone.  God had been with me the whole way and he knew I needed that time in silence to figure out who I was. I learned to find joy and happiness within myself.  I was more in tune with the incredible things I was capable of and felt so much more connected to the world. One of the loneliest times in my life ended up teaching me just how much strength I had and allowed me to discover who I was as well as who I wanted to be.  Being alone isn’t always a bad thing. I chose to see it as a chance to work on loving and caring for myself and even though my first semester didn’t go as planned, it became one of the most important and beneficial things to happen to me.


Empowered & PoisedComment
Breaking the Code by Robbin Koenig

In 2014, I had the opportunity to enroll in a 10-week free coding class. This was the second time this class was offered, and it focused on website development, the trendy new skill at the time, and was accessible enough for anyone to learn the basics. The course targeted the underserved, women and minorities.

Back then, my computer abilities included surfing, shopping, and writing documents. I didn’t know the difference between “back-end” and “front-end,” let alone, “directories” and “trees.” To me, a “child” was a biological unit that gave me a lot of housework.

After I finished this course, my knowledge of computer science went from zero to . . . let’s not exactly say hero, but it increased my understanding about how computers work by 1000 percent. I continued learning on my own and with other students from my course. I really enjoyed exercising my brain by learning something completely new and proving Jerzy Konorski’s theory of neural plasticity.

At some point, I learned about an opportunity to volunteer at a hackathon for underprivileged high school students. As a former high school teacher, I thought this might be a good experience to combine my newly acquired coding skills with my teaching abilities. Since I had received instruction in coding for free, I wanted to give back to my community.

The students were divided into groups, sitting at tables with two group leaders. All of the leaders were computer-savvy Millennials with high tech backgrounds and worked for Twitter, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and other tech companies. They could all code a thousand times better than me. The organizers and the other group leaders were all male, except for me. As the only “Mom type” in the room, I was pretty much ignored.

My group consisted of all junior/senior teenage boys and one ninth-grade girl. I think I can safely say that the lone girl and I felt intimidated by all the testosterone in the room. We instantly bonded over our mutual feelings of awkwardness through our shared fish-out-of-water situation. My co-leader worked with the boys and I worked with this girl. I learned that she was interested in Greek mythology and we talked about our favorite characters and stories. After brainstorming, I helped her to create her first website, dedicated to Athena, the Greek Goddess of wisdom and war. This was several years before the release of the movie, Wonderwoman, the ultimate girl-power film which has become a piece of contemporary pop-culture inspiring girls to empower themselves in a male-dominated world.

I subsequently continued to volunteer at STEM-related workshops for students through different organizations. At each event, I noticed an increase in female participants, or rather a return of girls becoming interested in computer science. Historically, women have always been active in the field of computer science, with the largest numbers of women majoring in computer science in 1984 at 34 percent. Some theorize that the decline of women in the field was caused by marketing home personal computers to boys and men, giving them an advantage of experience when the PC was introduced in schools.

I have no illusions that I will ever become a software engineer or be employed in high-tech. Computer science is just a hobby for me. The challenges give me a chance to flex my cognitive muscles, while improving that all-important neuroplasticity. My guilty pleasure is the self-satisfaction I get when I show a little kid how to “talk to a computer.”

Empowered & PoisedComment
The World Can Set You Free by Katie

Hi! My name is Katie. I am a junior at the University of Dayton, majoring in Marketing and International Business and I have been an intern for Empowered & Poised this summer. I have always had a passion for adventures. Ever since I was a little girl I have loved to explore and find the beauty in the world. Traveling is one of the ways I do that.

This past spring, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Salamanca, Spain. It was a life changing experience and a time that I will always wish I could go back to. The semester was filled with endless opportunities that helped me enjoy the little moments in life. The time I spent in Spain, all the new people I met, and all of the places I went were incredible. 

public.jpeg

When I was planning to study abroad, it was the first time I felt like I knew 100% that I had to do it. I felt like I was completely making the decision for myself and doing it because I wanted to. I traveled alone and I think this is important to be able to do. I always feel rejuvenated after having time alone to reflect and relax by myself. I have found that being comfortable being alone is important. Knowing how to be observant, solve problems, and survey your surroundings is very important when traveling alone.

public.jpeg

A few months later, I decided to take a solo trip for three nights. Going on a solo trip was something I said I would do before I left for Europe. I went to San Sebastian, Spain which is located in the North of Spain in Basque Country. I took a 7.5 hour bus ride and arrived in the evening. Trying to appreciate the moment I’m in is important to me so taking in the gorgeous lush valleys and mountains and noticing the people and scenery around me is something I’m always working on. There are small things that I noticed people do that made me smile: the teenage girl across from me caring for her younger sister, the woman waving goodbye to the man she was leaving behind, the farmers passing by working hard to care for their families. 

When I first arrived to my hostel, I felt funny checking in, walking around the city, and getting meals alone. As the days continued this feeling quickly wore away. I laid on the beach and read, walked for hours along the beaches and coastlines, and found beautiful monuments to check out. Throughout the trip I focused on enjoying my surroundings just like on the bus ride there. One day, I stopped at a restaurant at the top of the hill and sat at a table that overlooked the water. Most days had been slightly overcast but just as I was sitting down a storm started to come. In hopes of beating the storm I started running back to my hostel and on the way it got so windy that the flowy pants I had been wearing almost blew down. I was slightly embarrassed but also stunned that it was so windy my pants were blowing everywhere. I made eye contact with a Spanish lady that was walking past me trying to beat the storm as well. We both laughed as she saw my pants almost blow off me too. It’s moments like those that I appreciate: being able to laugh and share a moment with a friendly stranger, no matter how different our lives may be. Life can be so beautiful. By the end of the trip I was so sad to leave the quaint city that I had enjoyed so much. 

public.jpeg

My experiences have led me to who I’ve become today. I feel like I am constantly changing, and I am proud of who I’m becoming. I’ve learned to be assertive and speak up when something isn’t right. Exploring new areas makes me fall in love with earth’s beauty and appreciate all the little things life has to offer. Learning to appreciate different cultures and immersing yourself in them is so important. Living 3,822 miles from home and creating a new opportunity for myself is something I am proud of doing. Being able to learn from different adversities that I faced and making the most out of the opportunity is what I think makes me Empowered & Poised. I encourage everyone to push themselves to travel because there is so much growth and many positive benefits that come from it.



Empowered & PoisedComment
Overcoming the High School Blues By Robyn

If happiness has a measurement, then how does someone know if they’re happy? I remember being a junior in high school, hating everything and everybody that I came across. Girls I used to be best friends with in sixth grade until my junior year of high school totally flipped on me. I could never understand why they lied to my high school sweetheart and told him I was unfaithful. I could never understand why they thought it was funny when everyone was whispering in the halls that I had a black eye, due to the lies they spread about someone they called their “best friend.” I was clearly in a dark place mentally because I felt like everyone I knew had turned against me.

The following year I was in a different place in my life. I had “glowed up” and no one could make me feel like I had the year before. The “mean girls” still made comments when I walked past them, but after a while, the comments began to fade, and I began making new friends who encouraged me to be myself in different ways. After this experience, I spent hours conducting research and studying which paid off, as I was accepted into my first choice college, Ohio University.

Now let’s fast forward to 2019, as I have almost completed undergrad and I couldn't be prouder of the growth I have seen within myself. My two best friends moved away from high school before junior year, so they did not exactly understand the struggle I had to go through in my senior year. My best friends, “the twins,” had a slumber party and asked me to come. They disclosed that the “mean girls” would be there. But I didn’t see it as an issue, as it had been years since these events had occurred.

Preparing for the party made me feel anxious because I haven’t seen some of these girls since graduation and never planned to see them again. While driving to the party, I received a video from Snapchat from one of the “mean girls” asking when I would arrive at the party. They couldn’t wait to see me. I was so baffled, and thought this must’ve been a joke! When I pulled up to the party, I was even more surprised.

The girls who had done me wrong had seemed to forget and they acted as if we were best friends. It was the most uncomfortable thing I’ve experienced thus far, but in a good way. Although I was no longer friends with these ladies, they congratulated me and told me they were proud of me, which made me happy. It showed me in a way we all had grown, and I had to let go of the past. It felt so refreshing to be able to relax and have a good time with old friends.

While in high school, like many others, I suffered from depression and anxiety,  and I use to feel so alone due to my struggles. When I got to college, I met a woman who was from the same city from me and we had a very similar past. Instantly we clicked, and became inseparable, people swore we knew each other since childhood. She was able to help me deal with my depression and would help me get out of the house to get me in a better mood. This was one of the ways I was successful in college and I have always been grateful for our friendship I do not know where I would be now had we never met.

Jazmyne and I created an organization called Ebony Minds, which educated the community about the issues that black women faced in the past and continue to face in the present. I never recognized my love for politics until Jazmyne and I began to look into new things, and we found something we both love. Together we spread knowledge and served the community in numerous ways. While doing all of this, we were able to join a sorority together and become a part of a sisterhood with many other women who were like us in different ways. They all taught me things about myself and about others. While with this group of women, my relationship with God grew and my life began to change in many aspects. The sisterhood I found in college even before joining a sorority was so impactful it changed not only my views but also my life.  

Empowered & PoisedComment
Don't Mourn Your Pants by Gretta

For years, I was in a strenuous relationship with my favorite pants. We were always on the verge of “almost-too-tight.” I endured the discomfort of wearing them, sucking in my stomach and ignoring the pressing of the waistband into my back, because they were just so cute and they went with everything. It was hard to find a pair of pants that stylistically flexible, despite their inflexibility on my skin.

A month ago, while wrapping up my first year of college, I finally dumped those pants in my dorm’s donation bin. As they tumbled down the shoot, they confirmed the uncomfortable reality I had been trying to ignore for months: my pants no longer fit. I had put on the freshman fifteen, and I had the stretch marks and cellulite to prove it. 

This weight gain is typical for young adults, especially in college. There’s a reason the term was coined, after all. But I don’t often hear about the psychological effects of it, especially for people, like me, who have a history of eating disorders. 

Instead of focusing on losing weight to feel better about ourselves, I want to change the narrative of weight gain to accept the changes and celebrate our bodies no matter what, and I want to help those with a history of EDs learn to protect themselves from relapse.

In high school, I injured my spine and had to wear a back brace, which severely limited my ability to be physically active. During this time, only a year after my first battle with an ED, I gained ten pounds. This may not sound like much, but for me, each pound was a noticeable, painful reminder of my lack of “control” over my own body. 

This was my first confrontation with rapid weight gain, and it’s a fairly common one. Injuries, depression, the college buffet—these are just a few of the many reasons people’s bodies change rapidly in ways often seeming out of their control. Social media and advertisements often promote a virtually impossible lifestyle that in turn causes us to feel disgusted by new love handles or looser arms.

After years of battling both ED’s and spine complications causing weight gain, I am still working to rewrite my idea of self-worth apart from my appearance. In the process, I have discovered some helpful ways to care for myself, physically and mentally, as I learn to navigate the new—but NOT any less deserving, powerful, or beautiful—me. 

Below are a list of suggestions for anyone who has gained weight—whether through an injury, the freshman fifteen, or just because—and wants to process it in a healthy way, rather than be embarrassed by weight gain, as society often implies we should be. To preface, some of these suggestions may not be right for you. This is not a prescription. Rather, it is a list of helpful actions that worked for me. If something clicks with you, try it. If not, that’s totally okay.

  • Make small changes—like drinking more water and serving one more vegetable for dinner—if it helps you, but try not to punish yourself through restrictive diets, and don’t feel as if a diet change is necessary to change your mentality on weight gain. 

  • Explore your new you. As weird as this sounds, looking at and feeling my stretch marks helped me embrace them. Ignoring them, I realized, instilled in me a type of shame, as if avoiding them was necessary so other people would, too—but why? Why should it be something I hide and refuse to accept? For me, exploring these marks normalized them.

  • Use social media to boost your mentality about weight rather than harm it. I wrote an article about this on GLO Hub, but I’ll reiterate here: craft your feed to erase body toxicity and enhance body positivity. Unfollow any accounts—like fitness inspo accounts—that leave you anxious or set unrealistic ideas of how your body should look. Instead, actively seek out accounts that promote self-love for bodies of every shape and size. 

  • If you like to post candids and selfies, then don’t stop just because you think you look different on camera than you did a year ago. Take those pictures. Take lots of pictures. Be unapologetic about it. Love yourself, and don’t stop because you’re scared more cellulite might be visible. Human bodies are art, as are photos, and combining the two can help you see yourself as art, too. 

  • Don’t give up on your passion for fashion. This was a big one for me—I had to get rid of a lot of pants, and because fashion is a huge method of self-expression for me, I felt that my shrinking closet limited who I was. However, fashion is made for everyone, regardless of what Victoria’s Secret wants you to believe. Do some research and follow some body-positive fashion accounts, and they’ll help teach how to make your closet work for you and hype yourself up exactly as you are. 

These next few suggestions are ones intended specifically for those with an ED history, although of course anyone who thinks these will help them should pursue it.

  • Pay close attention to your eating, speaking, and exercise habits, as they can be indicative of potential relapse and your mental health. This doesn’t mean to obsess or over-analyze yourself, but be conscious about how you speak about your weight and if your eating and exercise habits change. If you feel like you’re reverting back to ED habits, it may be time for you to reach out. 

  • While therapy is not accessible or financially feasible for many, if it is an option for you, I highly recommend it. Seeking out a professional can give you a support system and safe space to have conversations about weight, and they can provide next steps and assistance with whatever you need.

  • However, therapy is not the only way to seek help. You can also talk to someone you trust and feel comfortable with, especially if they already know about your ED history. Whether that be a close friend, a parent, a teacher or mentor, letting someone know about your conflict with weight gain gives you a safe outlet to work through things, allows you support, and notifies someone to watch out for you if you’re concerned about relapse.

  • Journal. Journaling is a great way to work through your thoughts, especially if you’re uncomfortable talking about your weight and body image out loud. It’s (basically) free, super therapeutic, and aesthetic af.

  • If you’re scared of relapse and feel like you have nowhere else to turn, call the National Eating Disorder Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. While NEDA’s hours are mainly during the weekdays, there are 24/7 helplines you can call, like The United Way’s number at 2-1-1, which can help with information and referrals about ED treatment. You can also text the Crisis Text Line at 741741 and they will connect you to trained volunteers to discuss confidential advice, support, and referrals. 

We live in a society that still often castigates stretch marks, cellulite, love handles, and loose skin, making it difficult for some to view weight gain as a normal process. If you’re healthy and happy at the weight you’re at, regardless of what it is, that’s awesome—keep doing what you’re doing.

For anyone who struggles, however, with their weight gain, I hope this article was helpful in giving you steps to reshape how you view your body. Because no one should get the freshman fifteen and feel like they somehow failed. No one should see their stretch marks and feel inherently lesser because of them. And no one should feel ashamed about donating a pair of pants. 

Empowered & PoisedComment