Category Archives: Self-Love

Fun Find | The Wild Unknown Tarot

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As mentioned in my previous post, I recently started playing around with tarot cards again. I came across The Wild Unknown Tarot and was immediately drawn to the artwork.

It is a self-published deck that was illustrated by the very talented Kim Krans. It’s a standard 78-card deck. It comes in a sturdy box with a black lifting ribbon. In lieu of the typical “little white book,” the deck is accompanied by a double-sided fold-out sheet. It lists the meanings of each suit (swords, cups, wands, pentacles) of the minor arcana, the major arcana, as well as each individual card with a few keywords. Sort of like a tarot cheat sheet. The guidebook comes separately. It features an introduction to the tarot, how to do simple spreads, grayscale images of the cards and goes into more depth with the artist’s interpretations and meanings.

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If you’re looking for a deck that mirrors the traditional Rider-Waite-Smith imagery, this is not it. It’s easy to see how some of the cards “nod to” some of the RWS symbolism, but overall this deck is quite unique.

Each card measures 4.75″ x 2.75″. They’re made of thick, nice quality card stock with a matte finish. They are not glossy or slippery, and feel very comfortable to handle and shuffle. There’s something very primitive and simplistic that I love about the artwork. Krans uses pen, ink and watercolors. I love it when you can literally see the artist’s “process” in the medium they use. Even the backs of the cards are beautiful and kind of hypnotic.

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The deck is full of animal and nature imagery. Each suit of court cards features a different animal “family” — instead of your standard page, knight, king and queen, Krans uses daughter, son, mother and father, respectively.

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The images are mostly black and white, with a very selective use of color. The limited colors definitely add to the mood of the cards that use them. Some of the cards are quite dark or disturbing (worms, eyeballs, a buffalo carcass), but then there are also cards that are very upbeat and ethereal (butterflies, twinkling stars, rainbows). The deck doesn’t try too hard to be a certain way.

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Some cards are much more minimalist and abstract than others (see above), which can make it harder for those just starting out with tarot to understand their meanings. But I think it can be more fun this way. It engages our intuition at a very primal level — our response to color, placement, direction of line, negative and positive space, shapes, textures, etc. Meanings may not be as blatantly obvious in representational depictions featuring people or animals, but I think once you do get an idea of what it means, it’s a very honest interpretation.

I’m a big fan of this deck, and I recommend it. I look forward to discovering new things about the imagery as I continue to work with it.

My Tarot Experience

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Long time no blog. I’ve rediscovered my interest in the tarot recently and have started putting more effort into working with and understanding the imagery. I’ve been having lots of fun with it, so I thought I’d share my personal experience.

I was first introduced to the tarot in high school, when I acquired my first deck — the Hanson-Roberts deck. It was a time when I was suddenly intrigued with the metaphysical and pagan culture. I’d skim through the cards while perusing the accompanying guidebook. To me, it became more of a game of memorization rather than developing an intuitive thought process. It was kind of overwhelming — “How am I supposed to remember all of this? 78 cards with different meanings (plus reversals!).”

I abandoned the deck for a good few years, but have since become very interested in learning to read the cards again. Jon gifted me a beautiful deck last month — Kat Black’s Golden Tarot, and I’ve been practicing again ever since, even maintaining a tarot journal that I write in almost daily. This time, less effort is spent trying to memorize the traditional meanings, and more is spent on noticing my immediate emotional responses to the images presented to me. It’s a lot of fun to discover that your first instincts often align with what the standard textbook meanings are. For the first time, my tarot cards didn’t feel like flash cards.

I’ve been looking for other decks with artwork that I feel very connected to (there are literally hundreds to choose from) and came across The Wild Unknown Tarot by Kim Krans. The artwork is just so beautiful. I think I’m going to do a separate post just to review the deck.

I’m not seeking to develop “psychic” abilities or become a fortune teller. For a lot of people, tarot is a very spiritual experience (maybe even religious or magical), but for me, it’s more of a practical meditative guide. I think it’s a really fun and interesting way to tap into your creative insight and view certain situations from different perspectives, and maybe even find out more about yourself. I love looking at the artwork and comparing different artists’ interpretations, and learning more about the symbolism and history of such an intricate system.

Do you have any experience working with tarot cards? Have you ever had a reading done? What was it like?

My Acne Story

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Acne is a sensitive subject for me. It has been a significant source of my insecurity for a very long time. Even now that I am older and my acne is [usually] under control, I still become very self-conscious about my “bad skin days.” For the past couple of years or so, I have been able to find great comfort in hearing about other people’s experiences and struggles with dealing with acne. I thought I’d share my acne story too. 🙂

Yay, Puberty…
I started getting my first pimples in the fifth grade. It didn’t even start to bother me until some of my classmates asked me about it — “What’s that on your forehead?” Ah, the catalyst for years of self-consciousness. My skin started becoming oily, and I developed blackheads on my nose. I started washing my face every day, but when that didn’t seem to be enough, I turned to makeup. I used my mother’s foundation almost every morning to conceal every blemish as best I could.

Middle School & High School
The severity of my acne peaked through middle school and high school. I would describe it as moderate acne. It seemed like when one pimple healed, a few more popped up the next day. And I was a such a “picker.” I remember crying about it sometimes. Before bed, I’d go into the bathroom to brush my teeth, but I wouldn’t turn on the lights because I couldn’t stand seeing my own reflection in the mirror. My doctor prescribed a topical antibiotic. I didn’t notice much of a difference in my skin (except increased irritation) so I was finally referred to my first dermatologist. I was on an oral antibiotic for a little while, but a prescription topical retinoid seemed to provide the most improvement, at least for a few years.

College
Once my skin seemed to be under control for the most part, I eventually stopped the prescription retinoid and just used over-the-counter products for a while. At this point, I was better about cleansing and treating my skin consistently. I was on the ProActiv system for a year or two, but found drugstore brands to be just as good and cost-effective. When I was diagnosed with depression a couple of years into college, all of the emotional stress began manifesting itself physically, and my acne seemed to come back in full force again (which didn’t make dealing with depression any easier of course…). Eventually, I was back at the dermatologist’s office, this time for a combination of topical antibiotics and benzoyl peroxide. My skin got a little bit worse before I started noticing an improvement again.

Post-College & Present
I sort of came across the most effective remedy [for me] by accident when I was prescribed birth control pills for the first time. The unexpected side effect of clear skin seemed to indicate that most of my acne was actually hormonal. For the first time since I hit puberty, my skin was actually pimple-free.

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Of course, this is not to say that what has worked for me will work for everybody. There is no one-size-fits-all remedy for acne-sufferers. Many people have even been able to find great improvements with a more natural, drug-free approach. It took me many years to figure out how to control my acne. I’ve stuck with a consistent skin care regimen, making sure to cleanse and moisturize daily, as well as apply adequate sun protection. Over time, you start to learn what your skin needs to look and feel its best. I only wish that during that period of trial-and-error, I was better equipped to deal with the emotional issues that came with having acne.

My skin is far from perfect, and I still get breakouts (especially during that time of the month), but instead of longing for “perfection,” I’ve learned to make more of an effort to just take better care of my body and become more comfortable in my own bare skin. My skin is much healthier now than it was years ago, but I’m still working on building my self-esteem back up.

I’ve had people make rude and judgmental comments about my pimples before, and that always fueled the fire of insecurity in me. I’ve never had anyone sit down and tell me that my acne didn’t make me hideous or unattractive. I think having acne held me back from being more comfortable in social situations. If I was having a conversation with someone, I’d always assume that they were looking at my zits, and not at me.

So I’m here to tell you now that acne doesn’t make you ugly, or unclean, or stupid, or unworthy. It may take some time to find what works best for you, but in the mean time, understand that your acne doesn’t define you or lower your value as a person. I know that sometimes it can feel like people are looking at you with a magnifying glass when you’ve got angry blemishes on your face, but nobody’s going to bed at night wondering why you had those big zits on your chin.

How have you dealt with the physical and emotional issues of acne? I’d love to know your story too. 🙂

Mindful Monday | Forgiveness

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For some reason, I often thought that “forgiveness” was very black-and-white… that to truly forgive someone entailed wanting to be around that person and feeling good about spending time with them… but if you didn’t want to be around that person, then your forgiveness wasn’t genuine. I’ve applied this idea to both friendships and romantic relationships.

I wish I knew years ago that forgiving someone didn’t necessarily mean wanting to keep that person in your life. We’re often told that “moving on” means forgiving and forgetting past pains, but one can do without the other. You can make peace with things that have happened, but by no means does that mean you’re obligated to forget. You can make peace with people who’ve hurt you in one way or another, but forcing yourself to keep those people in your life to sort of “prove” the authenticity of your forgiveness isn’t something you have to endure. You can give yourself permission to move on, not just from memories, but from people too. There are people I no longer wish to associate with, or devote my time to, but I carry no anger with that, at least not anymore. I used to think, “But I’ve forgiven them… I’m not allowed to walk away from them.”

But you really do have permission! It’s one thing to forgive those who’ve wronged you, but it’s another to white-knuckle your way through a weak, toxic or hollow friendship or relationship just to save face. If that bond isn’t mutual, or feels forced, or doesn’t make you feel absolutely elated and hungry for more communication and intimacy, then you’re just hurting yourself and each other, and wasting each other’s time.

What does forgiveness mean to you? Do you have a hard time forgiving others? Do you think it’s possible to “forgive someone and still not want to spend time with them?”

Mindful Monday | On Saying No

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I try hard to be a people-pleaser most of the time, and in doing so, I automatically think that I should always say ‘yes.’ I don’t want to seem rude, disrespectful, lazy, disagreeable, etc., etc., etc.; it goes back to caring so much about what others think, and not wanting to be on bad terms with anyone. When saying ‘no’ I usually feel guilty, and an urgent need to apologize. But I’m learning to understand that being able to say ‘no’ without thinking I’m doing something wrong is an essential self-care skill.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to help someone by completing a task or doing them a favor every now and then, but when you’re constantly putting the needs and wants of others before your own, it can feel incredibly draining. You can start to feel bitter and resentful, and being in that mindset can limit your helpfulness anyway. I want to become more honest and up-front with myself about these things. Someone asking something of you doesn’t magically turn into an obligation to say ‘yes.’

Sometimes I will feel the need to have a thorough explanation at hand, but I find that it’s not usually the case. If you’re set on ‘no,’ most people will just take it at that, so don’t be afraid to be concise and deliberate. “No, I can’t today.” It may take some getting used to. Practicing saying it out loud can help lessen your perceived abrasiveness of the phrase.

If leaving them with a hard ‘no’ just stings too much, then offering an alternative solution to their dilemma can be a gentler approach — you’re still being helpful. Decline, but steer them in another possible direction. “I can’t make it to the concert. But maybe So-And-So would like to go? She really likes punk rock.”

Your time is as valuable as theirs. It can help to simply state that you have other priorities. “I can’t do that right now. I have other things I still need to take care of.”

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Do you ever have a hard time saying ‘no?’ What’s most difficult about it for you? How are you learning to say ‘no’ without creating internal negativity?

Mindful Monday | On Mattering

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I usually think of myself as the type of person that seems to blend into the background. Throughout my life, I’ve had people point out to me how quiet I am (although ironically, such remarks come from people who seem to talk more than they should!).

During my therapy session today, a subject which I don’t think about much came up — whether or not I thought I mattered. I realized that I don’t really consider myself an important person. I often believe that other people — their lives, their triumphs, their tribulations, their feelings — are all more important than any and all of my own. It’s such a self-destructive way of thinking, and it felt painful and embarrassing to admit out loud.

Part of me wants to recoil with unease at saying “I’m an important person.” It’s strange how patterns of negative thinking can make positive thoughts seem sort of uncomfortable sometimes. I feel pangs of guilt when I mention an accomplishment or otherwise toot my own horns. I grew up believing that drawing attention was mostly a bad thing. “Modesty” and “humility” are virtuous characteristics, but those of us that constantly struggle with that inner voice of self-criticism or self-loathing need a good dose of healthy pride on a regular basis.

When I catch myself feeling guilty about being proud of myself for something, I think, “No. I beat myself up over most things almost all the time. I deserve to feel good about this. I matter, this matters, and it’s awesome.” I’ve had different therapists tell me to do the same self-esteem exercise: “Look in the mirror and tell yourself how [insert positive human trait here] you are.” It can feel incredibly silly and self-indulgent, but I think it helps stir the pot for more positive self-talk when done consistently. Understanding that you are a person of extreme value is a big step in overcoming self-criticism and self-hatred.

Do you ever feel like you don’t matter? How do you overcome those feelings?

Mindful Monday | Eating Mindfully

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My relationship with food has changed quite a bit over the last year or two. Growing up, there were always healthy food options available (during the summer, many of our fresh fruits and vegetables actually came right from my grandfather’s garden), but I was not much of a healthy eater. My diet was quite high in fat, salt, and carbs. It was all about rice and meat. But now that I’m getting older, and well-beyond my adolescent years, I’ve started to notice how my diet affects not only my body, but my mind as well; I want to make more positive lifestyle changes. I don’t avoid fried chicken like the plague or anything, but I am just trying to become better about taking care of my body.

I’m not claiming to be a nutritionist, or dietary/culinary expert by any means, but I thought I’d talk a little bit about how I’m trying to be more of a “mindful eater.” I want to become more mindful of what I eat and how I eat it. I think that being more conscious of what we put in our bodies and how our bodies react to it is a very powerful tool for self-love and self-care. I’m not touting this as a quick-fix diet fad, but as a long-term healthy lifestyle change. The goal is not to “get skinny” or necessarily lose weight (because let’s face it, we need to stop equating “good health” with “thin-ness” — healthy people come in all shapes and sizes), but to feel better from the inside out.

These tips are what have helped me along the way:

mealtime_selfcareNo more standing up, ironing your shirt and talking on the phone while you scarf down a sandwich. Take the opportunity to really enjoy your meals. Notice flavors, aromas, textures. Take your time. Consider your meal time a time when you are doing something very good for your body; it’s a time of nourishment and healing.

fooddiaryI’m not talking about counting calories. For a few months, I kept a little food diary on my phone to note what foods I ate each day and how I felt after eating them. Did I feel sluggish? Bloated? Energetic? Jittery? Content? Relaxed? Depressed? Sleepy? Did I have stomach pains? Indigestion? Insomnia? Sudden bouts of acne? Notice what foods make you feel your best, and think about incorporating more of such foods into your meals regularly.

yourmealsPreparing and cooking your own food gives you the most control over what goes into your body. Try to do this as often as you can. You can learn to make healthier choices (and become a better cook while you’re at it!) Take this time to experiment with different ingredients, techniques and new flavors and spices.

dontdepriveOnce you are consistently eating healthier and healthier, it may seem like the right thing to do to eventually avoid all “bad” foods forever. But I don’t want that to ever be the case. For me, it is not just about eating healthier food, it’s also about having a healthier relationship with food too — being able to enjoy and appreciate healthier foods but still be able to enjoy not-so-healthy food without being overcome with guilt. I never want to consider junk food an “enemy” and I never want to consider healthy food a “restraint.” If I find myself craving a piece of cheesecake, some bacon strips, a beer, or french fries, I’m going to enjoy some!

What do you do to try to be more mindful of the foods you eat? What foods make you feel your best?

Mindful Monday | Fitting In

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The sense of belonging is an important basic human need. I’ve often thought that the issue of “not fitting in” was a concern reserved mostly for children and young adults. Yet sometimes, I find myself worrying about it, far beyond those high school years.

I worry about fitting in with friends, co-workers, acquaintances, even family (both my own and my in-laws). Even when surrounded by friends and loved ones, it can be very easy for me to feel like the odd one, and a little bit out of place. I remember those first feelings of “not fitting in” when I began recognizing the cultural divide between my “American side” and my “Filipino side;” it was hard to fit in with other Filipinos because I only spoke English, and sometimes it was hard to fit in with other Americans because I don’t look like most Americans. It was uncomfortable straddling that fence. At times, I felt like I didn’t really belong anywhere. I didn’t “fit in.”

It’s only recently that I’ve started to feel okay with myself. I’m still coming to terms with my differences and shortcomings, but I’m trying not to let my flaws or unique qualities become barriers that prevent me from establishing a sense of belonging with the people in my life that matter. I know it can be hard to feel like you’re part of the group, when you sense that might be the most insecure, strange, or flawed person in the room. I think my husband, Jon, has been helping me a lot with overcoming that. I love that I can totally be myself with him, and I want more people like that in my life. I think that if you ever feel pressured to change or to become something or someone else for the sake of feeling like you really “belong” with those around you, then it might be time to find other people to associate with.

Mindful Monday | “Real Women”

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“Real women have curves” has been such a popular body-positive mantra for a long time now. I’m all for fighting body-shaming and fat-shaming, and helping women feel beautiful in their own skin, but my problem with that saying is that while it specifically empowers women of bigger sizes and shapes, it alienates all other women on the opposite end of the size spectrum. It’s as if to say that all women who don’t have curves aren’t “real women” at all, simply because of the way their bodies look. Not very “body-positive,” is it?

I’ve never been big, or curvy, or voluptuous. And I probably never, ever will be. There are times where I thought my femininity was somehow diminished by my size… that I looked too “boyish,” or bony, or skinny. Men want “real women” with curves, right? I’ve received my fair share of “body-policing” from people with boundary issues, thinking they have the right and obligation to comment on the way my body looks. “You should eat more.” “You don’t have a butt.” “You have no boobs.” “You’d be perfect if you gained just a little more weight.”

Instead of pinning certain body types as “good” and others as “bad,” I think it would be better to encourage people to be accepting of all shapes and sizes and seeing all women as real people.

Have you ever struggled with fat-shaming or skinny-shaming? What do you do to make yourself feel good about your body the way it is?

Mindful Monday | Beautiful Things

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A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of finally watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (which I do highly recommend). The above quote is a line from the movie that really resonated with me. To give you a bit more context: In the movie, (don’t worry, no spoilers) Sean Penn’s character, Sean O’Connell, is attempting to photograph a rarely-seen snow leopard… “They call the snow leopard the ‘ghost cat.’ Never lets itself be seen. Beautiful things don’t ask for attention.”

My initial thought of that line was that humility and modesty are beautiful characteristics, and that there’s something inherently intriguing about a little bit of mystery.

My other thought was that there’s great beauty to be found in hidden or overlooked places, whether it’s within the depths of the remote wilderness, or behind the plain, dusty cover of an enthralling storybook.

I think our idea of beauty has become extremely carefully commercialized. We often think of beauty as being very scarce, or even unattainable… that it’s something we all want, but only a few ever truly have or are. We also think of beauty as being very apparent… bright, shiny, expensive, colorful, dazzling, loud. But broadening our perception of what is beautiful can help open us up to finding the unappreciated, un-talked-about, un-photographed, un-hyped beauty all around us, whether it’s in things we see on a daily basis, places we visit, or the people we meet. Not all of those things demand our attention, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t beauty among them.

What do you think about how we see beauty today? What are some beautiful things you notice around you that others don’t?