40 Days of Beauty: Maybe she’s born with it…yeah, she’s definitely born with it. 

Not the beauty you think.

In a time where we are constantly surrounded by hate and alternative facts, I took it upon myself to start a new challenge. A challenge where I tried to see myself in a lens of unconditional love. Where I tried my best to look for the beauty that surrounded our world in nature, in humanity. Because, I wanted to believe in beauty again, from the inside-out. I wanted to work on my relationship with myself, so that I could be the best person I could be. So that in turn, I could share that person with the world and hopefully make it a better place.

I was working on my soul a lot last year, trying to figure out how I could mend it, how I could heal it, how I could dig up the things I missed most about myself, how I could bring those things back to life. As I unveiled the pieces and breathed life into them, I started seeing the beauty that I carried. I started realizing that I could make a difference in my life, and also a difference in those who helped me unveil those pieces of myself in the process.

For 40 days, I challenged myself to look for the parts of me that made me a beautiful person. I challenged myself to look for beauty in nature, in art, in people. I challenged myself to see how I could share those pieces of myself with the world. For 40 days, I challenged myself to use my beauty to help others see themselves the way they were created to be seen—as lovely, beautiful, amazing human beings.

Looking for beauty.

Beauty can be found in the world around you and in your mind.

I took myself outside a lot more. I started with nature. I would lay under a tree during my lunch break and watch the leaves dance to the sound of the wind, I would confuse falling leaves for butterflies, I would let my imagination lead me. I would meditate, create stories in my head, read books, write in my journal, I would close my eyes and just listen. I would pair the beauty that I saw around me and let it inspire the beauty I had within me.

Beauty can be found in art, but art can still be painful.

I went to a ballet. I wanted to watch an artful form of timeless beauty. I had always wanted to be a ballerina growing up, and I felt the ballet was a great way to marry the childhood desire with the beauty of using music and dance to tell a story. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve watched plenty of dance shows and ballerina documentaries to know that ballet isn’t always beautiful; it’s a painful art. One filled with bruises and bloody toes hidden under the pretty smiles and tutus. But, I’ve always loved the pain behind the beauty, and how an art that strives for perfection is in fact, very poetically so, human.

Beauty can be found in those we choose to surround ourselves with.

I decided that I wanted healthier relationships in the new year. So, I went looking for my sisterhood. I reached out to a couple of girlfriends who still lived in town that I had known from past jobs or school and I just put myself out there, looking for better role models in my life. Women who were brave, creative, smart, independent, wise, healthy, fun. I wanted to start the year off right. I wanted to reconnect with these women, I wanted to surround myself with beautiful minds and lovely souls.

Beauty can be found while practicing self-love.

In my first 40 day challenge, I took some time off social media, I made it a point to live in the present more. And while I was living in the present, I made it part of the challenge to treat myself once a week by holding myself to the standards of how I wanted to be treated. So, I took myself out on dates. I carried this practice on after the 40 days had ended because I felt it was a healthy way for me to continue to practice self-love and self-worth. 

On this 40 day challenge I took myself on a date to see La La Land and afterwards got some gelato. I took myself to see a beautiful movie about never giving up on your dreams. Sure there was a love element to it, but that wasn’t the point of La La Land. Please see me during office hours to discuss. Along with the plot of the movie, the dancing and singing, the dresses and dates, the dreaming and living, I was reminded why I went to the movies—I went to find stories, to understand people better, to see beauty. I saw that movie again that same week and I’ll watch it again and again.  

Beauty comes from within.

Early on in my decision to do this 40 day challenge, I was starting to discover who I was intended to be in this world, and was reminded of the desires of my heart, and why I had let those desires go for far too long. Creativity is a big part of who I am, and my beauty comes from my words and my actions. But in order to get to that point, I needed to dig deep and find what was suppressing those beautiful things about me for so long—I had to heal in order to shine the light again.

I started to do things I had always wanted to do.

I started writing a book, a life goal of mine. A beautiful dream inscribed in my heart since I was a little girl. I had my first cello recital in years and played beauty, I let the music feel my beauty. I learned that doing what you loved, what you really loved, that was what made you beautiful. And through every adventure that I bravely tried, I felt my heart glow more and more. I felt the beauty within me start to resonate in front of me, and I started to want to share that beauty with others.

I started feeling pretty, because that’s beauty too.

While I have always struggled with some external insecurities, this challenge was all about the beauty I needed to uproot from the inside. And I surprisingly conquered some external insecurities along the way. I focused on finding the things that made me unique and different within myself, while also healing some of the wounds from my past. This in turn, brought a new lens and I saw myself in a new light.

I bought myself an expensive dress and wore it to a Christmas party. I rarely shop but thought that I deserved it and I felt really pretty in it. Following this trend, I stumbled upon a dress that finally lifted the veil of insecurities and truly made me see my beauty. It was the moment where all the hard work I had done with my soul, showed itself through a pretty La La Land-ish dress—the dress that made me feel pretty again really brought those pieces I had worked so hard on, out into the reflection of myself and the woman I was growing into.

And on the last night of the year, I got out one of the many dresses I had once bought and said “I’ll wear this one day” and I finally just put it on. I straightened my hair, put on some make-up and went out to a party downtown on New Year’s Eve. I felt beautiful, I had fun. And although that night took a turn, filled with a predictable yet unfortunate string of events, it was a pivotal point in my 40 day challenge. That night reminded me I needed to finish the last week strong. It made me thirsty for a happier, healthier life filled with more beauty.

I started accepting my past, my flaws, my beauty.

I discovered the root of the insecurities and the core memories that helped shaped my hiding. I learned that I had to stop hiding those parts of myself just because they were so brutally hurt so long ago. I had to show my beauty to the world, even if I didn’t get it back. Especially if I didn’t get it back. Because it didn’t matter if I never got it back. I discovered that the unique things that belonged to my beauty weren’t about me. My unique beauty was never about me, it was about making others feel beautiful and loved. That’s how I found I needed to use my beauty in the world.

I believe that the world needs more love, more reaching out, more being brave, more being confident in our words, our feelings, our beliefs, our values, our actions. So during those 40 days, I decided to be brave with my feelings and actions and I was confident with my words. I found that your beauty isn’t what other people want it to be, it’s what you want it to be. Your beauty comes from within, it is the gifts you have to share with the world. You get to define that beauty, no one else.

You reap what you sow, it’s time to spread the beauty.

This past Christmas, I didn’t have much money but I had a lot of people who had come into my life and helped me grow into the woman I was meant to be. As a natural giver, this was an issue. But, money can’t buy love so I thought of something even better. I had a lot of people guide me, teach me, help me heal things, so I decided to show my beauty in a way that thanked them for being an important part of my life. In the spirit of Christmas and in my attempt to continue my 40 day challenge, I hand wrote letters and mailed them out, thanking those who had helped me get myself back or helped me grow and heal this past year.

I hand wrote 20 letters, two people hand wrote me back. Dozens sent me the sweetest text messages telling me how much they needed to hear those words, how much I meant to them, how I had made them cry. Some of them even told me with their beautiful words, the beauty they saw in me and in turn they made me cry. I got pictures of people reading my letters and crying emojis with live commentary as they read them. There was a lot of beauty and a lot of love, it was worth every word.

The letter I wanted to get back, didn’t come from the person I had wanted it to come back from. The letter I envisioned getting back, came from my little sister. She hand wrote me back the most beautiful letter that reminded me why I was doing this 40 day challenge in the first place. She reminded me of how important it was to show your beauty. Because in return, I saw hers. And it was so beautiful. The words and beauty I had given to her was given in the same form, right back to me. It was a ripple in a movement I had finally gotten traction on. It was worth every pen, paper, and hand cramp from all the others I had written. Because, beauty is contagious—especially from those who truly see your heart and understand your soul.

How to find your beauty.

So how can I do something like this?

We are all unique and different. We all have our own opinions, our likes and dislikes, our views on politics, our way of prayer. We also all have a story, a struggle, an insecurity. Sometimes we agree and sometimes we don’t, but at the end of the day, we are all trying to find a lovely life worth living. And the best way to start figuring out what makes us beautiful is by simple taking the time to ask ourselves:

What do I love?

What brings me to life?

What makes me happy?

What’s that one thing I used to do but for some reason I don’t anymore?

And what is that reason?

How can I overcome it so I can continue to find my beauty and share it with others? 

Do what you love. Be your true self.

The easiest way to find your beauty is to just be yourself. I can attest to this personally. One night in my 40 days of beauty, I was invited to a onesie pub crawl downtown with some friends. If you know me, any opportunity I have to be fun and weird in public, I’m down. You don’t even need to sign me up, I’ll be there. In high school I had dressed up as a senior citizen on senior spirit day. That was a blast. I walked around in character and even passed as a substitute teacher for a brief moment. I’m pretty good at impressions…and making people laugh.

But it had been a while since I had capitalized on an opportunity to really be myself. I forget that I feel most beautiful when I don’t care what people think. When I’m living in the moment, not looking for anything, sharing things about myself that make me unique—being witty and nerdy at the same time.

While at the pub crawl, wearing a unicorn onesie, I decided to be myself. I gave out free hugs, complimented strangers, encouraged people that were alone to join in and dance with us, I appeared on a lot of people’s Snapchat stories, I danced randomly and purposefully. I embraced my inner weird. I like being weird. I felt confident. I remembered how much I liked being myself and I tapped into my inner beauty. I was happy. It also helps to have a great group of friends with you, who feed off your vibe and like to have a good time. 

There’s a quote by Drew Barrymore that I love:

I think happiness is what makes you pretty. Period. Happy people are beautiful. They become like a mirror and they reflect that happiness.”

I think the best way to find your beauty is to just be happy. I know that’s easier said than done, but it shouldn’t have to be. We should be able to just be loved and accepted by who we are. And we should find our beauty within and just let it radiate. We should find it and share it with the world, immediately. Not tomorrow or 40 days from now, but right now.

Lovelee Lesson:

Beauty is choosing to be who you are. No matter who denies you, who doesn’t like your dress, who doesn’t buy you a drink—beauty is accepting yourself. Beauty is knowing that at the end of the day, you are the most beautiful thing in your life and you have to show the world who you are. The world needs more beauty, and my dear you are one of the most beautiful, loveliest people out there in the world. Remind yourself that. Challenge yourself to discover your beauty within, and don’t hide it anymore.

Sometimes, your inner beauty won’t be enough for some people. You will try and show beautiful parts of your soul with someone but it won’t be enough. This will hurt you for a brief moment, because all the beauty you gave was from within. But let me promise you something, that even I struggle with: You. Are. Enough. I’ll let that sink in for a second. Your beauty is still needed, it is so important. You have to keep digging, you have to keep shining your light and your truth.

Because someone out there needs it—heck, look around you, the world needs it. Your beauty is bigger than you, it’s bigger than that one person who didn’t realize the gem you actually are. It’s bigger than what you realize now. You are the only you that exists. Your beauty is one of a kind. You need to share that beauty with everyone you meet. It’s going to take you places beyond your dreams and also make the world a better place. Maybe your beauty is truth, maybe it’s standing up for something you believe in, maybe it’s writing a book or teaching. Regardless, the beauty that I’m talking about isn’t something you can see on the front page of a magazine. It’s only something that you can radiate to others from within.

So challenge yourself:

What lovely things live within me that make me beautiful?

How can I start tapping into those beautiful things?

How can I use that beauty to make the world a more beautiful place?

My dear, go find your beauty. 

40 Days Without Social Media: Can there be breaks in the chaos sometimes? Yes, you just have to choose to take a break.


I will start with an AA meeting intro for this one but change the meeting to SMAA (Social Media Addicts Anonymous, pronounced Smaaa-ah, like Smaug but without the -ug).

I, Monica, took a break from social media. It has been 40 days since my last login on Facebook, my last heart-double-tap on Instagram, my last live concert stream on Snapchat. And man, does it feel really good.

The confession you read is true. I literally said, “No more. I need a break, this is too much.” Am I really enjoying this experience or am I just so consumed with posting about it, documenting the moment, and checking to see who likes it?

“Enough,” I said. “I’m done.”

Let me explain…

A lot happened during those 40 days. As the world seemed to be going through a paradigm shift, I too started feeling the pivotal point in which I wanted to take the direction of my life. Let’s begin shall we?

Well, I was overboard on the concerts.

What? No I wasn’t.

  • I had just gotten back from a trip to NOLA with my friends to see Beyoncé, #PraiseQueenB
  • I then locked myself in a 3-day pass to ACL. (Literally, like a noob, I wanted to show my friend how small my wrist was, so I pulled it all the way tight…JOKE WAS ON ME, well my left wrist, but still.)
  • And if that doesn’t make you tired, I had lined up the following week with more concerts.

I was rounding out the week at a Yellowcard concert to satisfy my inner-middle-school-Mon and I was STOKED. So stoked to get everything on Snapchat, that by the third song, the tall (also stoked) homeboy in front of me jumped at the same time, and my phone went flying….to the ground. I thought whatevzNo. It was not a whatevz. My screen was SHATTERED (sorry dad, if you’re reading this…let me save us an argument, you were right…I needed a screen protector and yes I have one now. Yes, it’s literally on my phone. Don’t worry.)

Now, I’m not talking crack in the pavement shattered, I’m talking mosaic shattered. With the right image as my background, it could’ve been a website header on a church website. The tiny little gravel pieces on the ground were not merciful. So, it finally hit me (yes, it took that moment to realize it, and no I’m not stubborn. What? Who told you that?)

Anyways, it finally hit me. I’m not really living in the present nor do I ever feel at ease. I am just constantly moving and my mind is working so fast. I’m emotionally exahusted, but I’m choosing to ignore it. I’m constantly checking social media to see what happened in the last five seconds, and I’ve grown obsessed with sharing everything with the world. Am I, the person broadcasting, even enjoying this? Long story short, and at a hefty price…I got it fixed before a work trip that Monday.

While on said work trip…

I saw a friend from middle school (see the middle school throwback theme here? Me neither.) I have such fond memories growing up with him, they are stories I still tell. I owe a lot of my love for the arts to him, he opened my eyes to that world and I’ve kept it with me ever since. Anyways, after eight years, we caught up like we had just seen each other. But, towards the end, I felt this need to take a picture and post it. The need to document that this event actually happened. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted a picture because I missed him, and we realized this was the first time we were drinking together, but why did I feel the blood thirsty need to post it?

Maybe it’s the fear of my loss of memory, but the habit of documentation started to haunt me like the old mosaic screen on my phone. I had lost a good ten minutes of his presence because I was too busy trying to post our picture before I got back to my hotel. I felt disgusted. I realized that I hadn’t seen this person in EIGHT years, and here I was on my phone. WHY? Why are we so obsessed with showing people what we are doing with our lives?

Last but not least…

There might have also been a boy involved. Isn’t there’s always a boy involved?

PLOT TWIST.

With some reflection and great conversations with some of my amazing friends, who shared some insight on how they don’t really use social media and live closer to those around them–I had this crazy thought: How about, I take a break from all this constant chaos, and just live? So, when I got back from my work trip, I decided to cut off: Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. This might shock you, but I legit deleted the apps from my phone.

Exceptions:

  • I allowed myself Twitter, because this election. I mean come on, how else was I supposed to be notified of the rapture? And afterwards, how else was I going to be reminded to love each other during tough times? Also, I live tweet my favorite show #JaneTheVirgin, as it is a life goal to get the actors to like and retweet me. I don’t like to brag, but I’m currently #winning at Twitter. And I’m happy to report, my life goal is complete. 
  • I allowed myself Pinterest, because Pinterest is my imagination palace/the deep ocean into my soul/my happy place. It is where the pillars of my personality via Inside Out are housed and stored. There is no Monica without Pinterest (true story).

Reality:

In the world of advertising and PR that I live in, along with social media being a creativity outlet for me, this wasn’t going to be forever or easy for that matter. So I counted out a couple of weeks to my next big thing and it so happened to be 40 days. Go. Figure. I can’t even make this up. A divine intervention perhaps? No doubt. Little did I know, this divine set-up was a call back to peace, but more on that later…

With that said, it’s been quite the journey.

And boy was I tempted. Mainly by Facebook…please see Exhibit A)

fb

Like, wtf? At this point I hadn’t logged in for maybe two weeks? I want to point out here that just like what we do on social media, Facebook was trying to look cool.

In light of the situation, I had a couple of questions for Facebook:

  • 730 photo tags?? Really Facebook? Did my dad suddenly upload all my vacation photos from the past 24 years of my life and tag me in all of them?
  • Why are people poking me? Is that still a thing? Or was Facebook like, that’s exactly what she’ll think, let’s put that in there. She’ll log back in for the pokes. FOR SURE.
  • 68 notifications! Okay that’s pretty tempting. But in reality, the majority of them are all comment tags from my brother on legit funny shit.
  • Friend Requests and Messages…Are these from people in remote countries asking to marry me or are they legit people I know?
  • Go. To. Facebook. Nice call to action button Facebook, I mean it’s pretty direct. But no sorry, I won’t.

The only realistic notifications I had were…

The 1 group invite, the 3 likes on a picture. That my friends, is real life, not cool Facebook life.

Drum Roll Please.

I can honestly say, that I did it. I did not login to Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat for 40 days. Was it easy? No. Was it worth it? YES.

  • I want to give a shout out to my self-control and the ability to choose to discover things about myself in the present that weren’t always perfect.
  • I also want to give a shout out to my wonderful friends who were so patient with me and actually sent me screenshots of their Snapchats and cool events on Facebook because they knew I’d appreciate the laugh and want to join them. (That’s huge guys.)
  • Last but not least, shout out to my cradle-Catholic-roots because they might have been one of the reasons I had it in me, to stick through it. #lent What? Yeah, I know.

What I realized along the way:

Growing up, I was never the girl that cared about what people thought about her. I think not caring what people think is still alive and well in me. But for some reason, through the importance of social media, I felt like I lost a part of myself by posting and checking for acceptance. How many likes did this get? Am I positively influencing someone? I hope so. No pressure on this selfie, even though I feel really beautiful today.

Because I was having a year of yes, I felt the need to document it. I was finally living and I was really excited about it. But, I was broadcasting it in the wrong outlet. What I was doing for myself shouldn’t have been put out, where the main drive was, “Hey look how cool my life is.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty cool, maybe the coolest person I know, but in no way should the intention of this very important season in my life be tied to acceptance by others.

Time is a lot slower when you’re living in the present. A week felt like a month. My personal growth propelled into something more than I thought I would get out of this. I was enjoying the moments more. I took myself out on dates (like actual dates, flowers and all.) I went to concerts and I didn’t use Snapchat (HUGE breakthrough). I started reading and writing. I had real-time conversations with the people I love, and most importantly, I started talking to God more. I got to say, the experience was pretty empowering. 

Lovelee Lesson:

Be present. If you need a break from something that is causing chaos in your life, take a break. There’s no harm in just letting go for a bit, you will start to feel more at peace with yourself along the way. Spend some time with you, get outside and read a book; enjoy the moments that happen in real time. Or, spend some quality time with someone you’ve lost touch with, call them or have a glass of wine together–don’t just like their picture or send them a Snapchat. Right now the world needs real connections, so surround yourself with the friends who lift you up and encourage you. And that my friends, will feel more fulfilling than a Facebook like. (True story.)