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Elements of Glow

By: Mollie Stark

Cultivating your inner light is essential in recognizing the light in others. Here’s something that you may not know: you are fucking amazing. AND- you are allowed to be a complete masterpiece while also a (forever) work in progress. As Lizzo sings:

Yeah, I got boy problems, that’s the human in me /

Bling bling, then I solve ’em, that’s the goddess in me

✧ Mindset switch

How you think about situations, people, yourself, etc. is so, so, so important. Mindset & thought patterns directly influence your emotions, your behaviors, and your physical reactions. The mind will therefore indirectly affect your relationships, levels of motivation, health, academics, and more. Basically, having a dysfunctional mindset won’t help you. → Important note: A “dysfunctional mindset” is one that does not work for you. Everyone is different, but any shift is good because it offers a new way to approach any given situation.

One way to beautify your mind is showing compassion towards the people you love, the people who surround you, and you (obviously.) If you are putting in effort, that is something to be proud of. Too often we dismiss the positive, and not give ourselves the recognition we deserve. Think of things as “wins.” Did you remember to eat breakfast today? Count that as a win. These little achievements do make a difference, and the more “wins” you have, the less the “losses” matter. In fact, showing compassion towards yourself even when you do the wrong thing, is the most effective way to not make the same mistakes.

You tell yourself stories. Stories aren’t linear, there are plot holes, false detailing, and they don’t always make rational sense. These stories start with “I should have…” “It’s my fault…” “I’m useless….” “I’m never going to have…” “They hate me…” etc. They are created to give yourself comfort and protection, something we all crave. Oftentimes we create a story to anticipate the future, also known as jumping to conclusions. There are the stories created to explain our past, the stories created to explain other people, and the stories created to sustain us. To beautify your mind, you’ve gotta plant flowers where the weeds once were. More encouraging thinking. More alternative paths. More grey area. More vulnerability. More forgiveness. More glow.

✧Physical wellbeing

Exercise is a key element of GLOW. Fitting a workout in five out of seven days a week (at minimum, y’all) is essential in substantiating wellness. Incorporating fitness is a quintessential way to foster self-love and confidence because it is a progress and growth based activity. The plethora of physical and mental health benefits that come along will make it totally worth the time and effort. Side effects include: overall improved stress responses, radiant skin, an uplifted mood, strengthened immune system, lessened fatigue, and better quality of sleep. Who wouldn’t want that? Finding your workout niche- whether be hip-hop, cycling, long distance running, yoga, strength training, team sports, etc- is vital in making that time meaningful. There are no gains to be had if working out is something you dread! It should feel fun, exhilarating, meaningful, progressive, and growth oriented. Not only will you improve your shape (hellooo abs!), the mental shift that working out brings is hella refreshing. Working out might feel incredibly challenging and tiring at first, but give your body time to adopt, and give your mind some encouragement. Having a bomb workout playlist, some reasonably set goals, an open space, a friend (or two), and some mint cucumber water totally helps. I find that escaping my headspace for a bit to focus on the uncomfortable physical efforts is super effective in lessening my anxieties and negative thought loops. By diverting my attention to the workout, I give my brain a break from worries and stressors. That way, I get a refreshing break that helps to uncloud my brain and makes getting through a rough day more manageable. Plus, who doesn’t want summer abs…. ?

Next: sleep- we all need more of it. Obviously there are so many incentives to stay awake- homework, that next episode, emails to answer, texts to send, and on…   

However, sleep is essential to our wellbeing. When we don’t get enough sleep, we feel more tired and unfocused, maybe even a little moody the next day. And, there are plenty of undetectable consequences of not getting good sleep- weakened immune system, memory impairment, decreased sex drive, worsened depression and anxiety, increased risk of weight gain…. I could go on. Many students don’t get enough sleep because they don’t feel they have the time- there are deadlines to be met and snapchats from cute boys that need reply Right. This. Second. Here’s the thing- Humans aren’t made to be awash in the damaging blue light of technology, especially during nighttime. We aren’t made to consistently get less than 7 hours of sleep. While everything seems urgent in our 24-hour-awake societies, we don’t have 24-hour bodies. Something’s gotta give.

✧Support system

I truly believe when people feel supported and loved, they have a noticeable glow to them, a different aura. Creating and maintaining social connections and friendships is a major key to glow. While cultivating friendships might seem like Mission Impossible for whatever reason- social anxiety, school work overload, family responsibilities, etc- it MATTERS. And if you “don’t have time”, you NEED to make time. The attitudes and culture surrounding our generation- the culture of hustle, the culture of cutting people off, the culture of only having “ride or die” friends, the culture that turns loneliness into the norm- all of this is incredibly damaging to our mental wellness. Here some of the not-so-fun facts:

      • Political opportunists, influencers, tech companies, and more are seeking to capitalize on our increasingly isolated behaviors. (think: co-living apartments, apps that try to facilitate human connection, companies using our unfulfilled need for friends as a marketing tool, increased news bubbles due to isolation among other factors, and more.)
      • Spending time with close friends produces oxytocin and endorphins, and is linked to profound mental health benefits.
      • A lack of support system has physiological consequences (such as changes in the cardiovascular, hormonal, and immune systems), as well as emotional and behavioral consequences.
      • Social pain, such as feelings of exclusion, ridicule, and loneliness, literally causes brain damage. Studies have shown those who are more isolated have a decline in cognitive functioning, and increase in depressive symptomatology, poor sleep quality, and our brains go into short-term self-preservation mode.  

In general, investing in the people around you is an important way to invest in yourself. People who build each other up and work towards shared goals, truly glow. It does not take too much effort to wave hello or give a compliment, yet it can make a significant difference in how you are viewed by others. You never know when having a network of low-stakes casual friends can come in handy, such as when you are trying to start something that requires participants or if you need to get connected with opportunities. Beginning with casual shared experiences or opinions is the easiest way to connect with someone and facilitate future interactions. Pay attention to the people who put effort and care into your wellbeing, because those are the people who deserve to have a place in your life and vice versa.  

I hear a lot of teens who say that they can *actually* start making friends once they get into their top choice college, after APs are done, once the sports season closes, etc. But the honest truth is, life should not be about waiting for the next opportunity to come along, or postponing things until the “right” time. What makes life worthwhile is making your current situation fun and memorable, and not treating any period as a “transition stage”. There’s nothing worse than going through life on your own, or looking back and realizing the many many human connections you missed out on because you had been so focused on the next thing. While it is important to work towards your future goals, don’t neglect the present because you are here, now.

Side notes:

* Loneliness is defined as the subjective feeling that you lack meaningful relationships or a solid support system

* Physiological effects are those that result from some imbalance to the overall human system, or some specific part of it.

✧Letting go

Letting go is one of the hardest things to do. It’s really really difficult, so I don’t want to write this without acknowledging how nearly impossible it is in some situations. Therefore I highly encourage anyone who has gone through trauma to reach out to a therapist or counselor. Now that I’ve said that, there are some things that don’t deserve to take up space in our lives, such as the past. In case you weren’t aware, scientists (still!!! ughh) haven’t figured out a way for us to time travel and erase all those classic embarrassing middle school years. I mean, we all have so many problems as it is, why let the past be one of them? Yes, letting go is a process, that takes time. But is is so absolutely necessary to save our sanity! Our future is made up of present moments, not past ones, so there is literally no point in ruminating or feeling bad about the times you’ve fucked up. Moving on (which requires self forgiveness, by the way) is to release the shame and keep the lesson. There’s no use in holding the past against you- that’s basically succumbing to the belief that people have the inability to change.

The main thing is letting go of perfection. Because it’s a myth, according to Hannah Montana in her hit song Nobody’s Perfect. Joking, kinda. The thing about perfection, is it is not the same thing as striving for excellence. Perfectionism is not striving for achievement. It’s not growth. Instead, it is the belief that if we do things perfectly and look perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of negative emotions that come from failure- shame, embarrassment, disapproval, mediocrity. I, as someone who struggles with perfectionistic tendencies, see perfectionism as a shield. I used to view perfectionism as the key to success, afterall, that’s sort of what our culture points to: If you work hard, do everything right, there’s no chance in hell that you’ll fail. My opinion was that “I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it.” Internalized capitalistic values, much? Sadly, that’s how many students feel, and it hinders us from going out and actually doing meaningful things. FUN FACT: Perfectionism is correlated with depression, anxiety, addiction, and an overall bummer life- how fabulous!!!!! So what is needed to let go of perfect expectations of ourselves? Not much, just remembering our worthiness, which is the core belief that we are enough. Think of it this way- in a lot of life situations, there is not time to perfect everything. Deadlines and responsibilities must be met, so sometimes that means sacrificing our perfect expectations so we can get it done quicker and probably messier (which is better than having a nervous breakdown because your French project doesn’t look aesthetically pleasing… oh sorry, was that too specific??). “Good enough” has such a negative connotation, but a lot of times it’s just what we need to remedy the chaos. We all should be working on letting go of who we think we need to be, and just be who we actually are.

Letting go feels so good. It’s surrender to the sheer dazzle of life- taking it all in. It’s the feeling of being underwater and coming up for air. It feels like circumstances and your purpose have synergized. Or waking up from a nap, remembering that perfection was a dream, but here we are, here in a much better place. Try it.

✧Knowing yourself

Knowing who you are is more important than anything else. It is a different kind of confidence that radiates light and comfort among those around you. The ability to be so completely yourself will make you golden, as everyone else will feel safe to be themselves near you. Knowing yourself isn’t like some rom-com movie about a girl who goes on a trip to the mountains to “find her life’s purpose.” It’s more practical than that, thank god. It’s being honest with yourself about your bad habits, taking ownership of mistakes, diverting from a negative space to a positive one, and meeting your needs. You do not need to continuously justify your emotions, thoughts, actions- just be kind to yourself. When you know that you are capable of so much- things change. You glow.

I was talking with my friend Martina, and we both agreed that having respect and love for the self is needed prior to having strong relationships. Knowing yourself is being confident in what you are or are not ready for. It’s being honest with the bad vibes you get from a person. It’s having the self respect to not allow your significant other rush you into something new. Ideally, people should meet you at your level, and not have you drop down to theirs. Ideally, you should not have to put up a false front in order to get someone to notice you. I really, really, believe the secret to being loved is to have loved yourself first- all of it. I mean, if you aren’t enough for yourself, how is it possible to be enough for someone else? And I believe you should never, ever shrink yourself for someone else’s comfort. Repeatedly making yourself seem small, it’s harmful. You could become insignificant, nearly invisible- not knowing that you have the right to take up space, to exist here. It’s imperative to create the life for ourselves that we want to live. Please do not settle for “okay” “nice” “familiar” “fine enough”. Instead keep looking to find what brings you joy, what resonates with your soul. This goes for people, hobbies, goals, art, interests, dreams. Everything. The amazing is that you have the power to curate your life in a way that inspires you. Take pride in restoring yourself, becoming and unbecoming, persisting. Look at you, all glowy with that self love ! Proud of ya!

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