Words of Encouragement

Sometimes I Do Not Believe You by Rachel Abrahams

Something happened to me recently that completely floored me. It's not often when I am left speechless but this left me stuttering and gaping my mouth like a fish out of water. 

I was networking at an event just chatting away and answering question for people. It was mostly the same questions over and over so I was getting my speech pretty down pat. A woman walked up to me, started to ask her question, stopped herself, and then said "Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry but you are just stunning. Your hair, your coloring and what an amazing smile. You just stopped me in my tracks. Sorry if that's weird I just feel like I had to tell you". 

Satellite Beach, FL

Satellite Beach, FL

Yup, I was left speechless. This perfect stranger just gave me the most amazing compliment and all I could do was stammer out a "Wow, thanks, uhhhhhhhh" and then thankfully my brain kickstarted itself back into gear and I attempted to continue to have a conversation with her. After we chatted and I answered her questions, I thanked her again and she walked away.

 I really doubt this woman remembers this moment all that clearly but here I am still thinking about it and in wonderment of how kind she was. It's also made me think more about her unsolicited compliment and how I reacted. 

 At first, I was in shock (What, me? Not the person behind me? Are you sure?) and then it turned into unease (Is she pulling my leg? What if she is making fun of me?) and then I came up with answers to explain her compliment (Maybe it’s because of the shirt color I was wearing. Maybe it was the lighting. Maybe she wasn’t wearing her glasses and I was a multihued but happy blur). Yup, I am a pro at second guessing myself.

Satellite Beach, Florida

Satellite Beach, Florida

How many of you suck at taking compliments? Your immediate reaction is to downplay what someone said or even not believe them at all. I once heard when you don't believe someone's compliment you are essentially calling them a liar and that really stuck with me. There are people in your life who tell you wonderful things about yourself and you don’t believe them. Are they liars? No? Then maybe it's time to start listening to (and believing) what they say. Don’t worry though, I say this knowing I am in the Doubting Thomas of Compliments Club.

 I also tend to behave poorly when people highly compliment my photography. I will say oh that one was popular because everyone loves the beach or people love that because it’s got bright fun colors. I know I am being a dummy because people wouldn’t say nice things if they didn’t mean it. Unfortunately, it is a terrible habit of mine to not believe the positively awesome comments given to me.

My theory is that many other folks (myself included) have a tendency to not believe they are the ultimate at something unless there’s arbitrary data to prove it. For instance, people think they aren’t truly beautiful unless they’re famous or a model. They aren’t talented artists unless they have a bajillion social media followers. They aren’t funny unless they are getting paid gigs as a comic. They aren’t skinny unless they fit into size 00.

Satellite Beach, FL

Satellite Beach, FL

So why don’t we trust other people’s eyeballs and hearts when they take the time to say wonderfully kind things about us? Why do we believe these arbitrary numbers and data as being proof of our fantasticalness? I am honestly not sure since I know I perpetuate this problem so here’s my own small answer that will help make me feel better about it, a letter to that kind woman:

Dear Wonderful Lady,

I wish my brain had worked properly that day you took the time to say the nicest thing to me. If so, I would have said a proper and genuine thank you. I also would have tried to ask you more questions about yourself and get to know you better (I can’t even recall your name. It flew out of my mind in shock and awe) rather than moving on to another subject in my discomfort of being complimented. I know I can’t change that day but I do hope you continue to say what you really feel and let the beautiful positive words flow out of you. You are being the change I wish to see in the world and I want to adopt your method as a role model for me. I also endeavor to believe the people in my life when they tell me I’m awesome, wonderful, talented, and amazing. It may take some time and effort but I will work on it. Many heartfelt and genuine thanks.

The Day The Earth Stood Still, In A Good Way by Rachel Abrahams

I celebrated a significant 20th Anniversary recently for the longest relationship I’ve ever had (outside of my marriage). I have been completely and totally in love with Tori Amos and her music for 20 years. 20 freaking years. Sometimes there is a musician or artist out there who grabs ahold of your heart and, no matter how life shifts and moves, stays with you for your lifetime. For me, it’s been Tori Amos.

Tower Bridge - London, England

Tower Bridge - London, England

Now, I am perfectly aware some of you may have no idea who Tori Amos is or you do know and she is definitely not your cup of tea. So I ask, what is the thing that rocked your world and has stayed by your side through all of your life changes? A musician, artist, book, poet, city; anything that when you are in their presence you just feel like they complete you. Wait, that’s cheesy. They are your spirit animal (that’s better) and you remember the first time you experienced it like it was yesterday. That’s what I am talking about. Now you can relate, right?

When I think of Tori Amos, it reminds of a scene from the movie Love Actually:

Harry: What is this we're listening to?

Karen: Joni Mitchell.

Harry: I can't believe you still listen to Joni Mitchell.

Karen: I love her and true love lasts a lifetime. Joni Mitchell is the woman who taught your cold English wife how to feel.

Harry: Did she? Oh, well, that's good, I must write to her sometime and say thanks.

It’s not often in our lifetime we experience that feeling where our entire world is turned sideways in the most eye opening, positive, and uplifting way possible. Those experiences leave a permanent mark on your heart and I feel like sometimes we forget to focus on those and instead think of the negatives, the things that caused us pain.

Tower of London and Tower Bridge - London, England

Tower of London and Tower Bridge - London, England

I remember the first time I heard one of her songs. I was at a dance competition, practicing a routine in a hallway and heard her song “Silent All These Years” float through the air. I ran into the room to watch the performance and, though the dance was beautiful, I was riveted by the song. The notes, her voice, and the lyrics turned my brain and heart upside down, in a way I hadn’t experienced before. I had to know immediately who sang the song.

This was before the iPhone and internet so I grabbed a program which had the dance studio’s name, asked around for the dance teacher, and then (FINALLY) found the teacher to ask her the most important question of my life at the moment “WHO SINGS THAT SONG?”. I know she thought I was insane in the membrane, but I didn’t care. After that, it was game over for me and the true beginning of my emotional education. I was changed.

The 2nd “once in a lifetime positively changing experience” for me was when I visited London for the first time. It was entirely different from my Tori experience in the sense that London creeped into my being slowly, like a fog, over the time I spent there for school and left me a completely changed person when I went home. I look back at that time as a pivotal point in my life where I can actually see the proverbial fork in the road of my life and London redirected me for the positive.

Tower Bridge - London, England

Tower Bridge - London, England

I was in college and had the opportunity to study abroad in London and made the utmost best of it. I lived on the same street as the British Museum and obsessively spent every minute I had trying to absorb the entire city into my memory. I had lofty goals.

It was an addiction of the best variety. I couldn’t get enough of the museums, the history, the buildings, the cultures, the food, the obvious and not so obvious differences of living there vs. the U.S., and navigating my independence. I made the decision to reprioritize the bold, confident, and adventurous version of myself I had lost in the shuffle of college and the pressures of trying to decide what I wanted to be when I grow up.

It is absolutely no accident, in my mind, that I came home from London and within 6 weeks began dating my friend of nearly 6 years who is now my husband (we’ve been together for 13 years).  I also took a quick weekend trip to Ireland, which became my next study abroad location a year later. Again, no accident. My Ireland semester introduced me to my roommate Erin, who is still one of my closest friends.

Tower Bridge - London, England

Tower Bridge - London, England

Do you see what I am getting at? There are these moments in our life which alter our core being in the best way possible. They can either shake your proverbial life foundation so hard you can’t believe how different life looks now or they will grow slowly on you like mold and change your inner world into a soft mossy heaven.

These moments change you into the best version of yourself you had always hoped you could be and shouldn’t be minimized or forgotten. They should be celebrated with anniversaries of happiness and remembrance.

For my anniversary, I listened to every single album Tori Amos has created in order of release date. It was a time warp of the last 20 years of my life and eye opening to hear the music with my adult (I am an adult supposedly now, right? Society says so) ears/mind.

I was so happy I did it because it reminded me of how far I’ve come and that I have so much more to accomplish. I also wouldn’t change a damn thing.

If you love this, it would make my heart so happy if you shared it. Pass it along to anyone else you think would enjoy reading it too using the share button below.

Creativity Takes Courage by Rachel Abrahams

NYC - Central Park Bethesda Terrace

NYC - Central Park Bethesda Terrace

I recently dyed my hair purple. Bright Grimace/Barney purple (you remember them, right? Am I dating myself? Did either of those characters give you nightmares too? Or was it just me?). Now, before you go imagining my head looking like a grape, it’s not ALL purple. I mixed it in with my usual copper red and it’s just enough where people look again and ask “Do you have purple in your hair?” and I answer very proudly “Yup”. I know purple hair isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (my husband isn’t really a fan but he also said it’s my hair) but you know what lesson I have learned recently in life? I don’t have to shape myself to other expectations – just what I love. What makes me happy? Having purple hair makes me happy and that’s all that matters.

It takes courage to step outside the normal boxes. It takes having a DGAFlip attitude on the surface and then making sure your insides are along for the ride even when you may be having some doubts about it (fake it til you make it, right?).  That’s true courage, in my opinion. Therefore, I can call myself Captain Courageous for rocking out the purple hair and not caring (I was tempted to rhyme there but I can only nerd out so much before you all kick me to the curb).

San Diego, California

San Diego, California

You know what else takes courage? Creativity. And honestly you can’t be a truly creative individual until you believe in yourself. If you worry too much about failing, about what others think, and about standing out from the crowd - all of these worries will lead to failure. Or not even trying at all.

I hear people tell me all the time they aren’t creative. When people say that to me, I can guess they are either in 1 of 2 groups.

Group 1: They don’t realize something they do often is actually very creative


Group 2: They have lost the courage to try

Do you think you aren’t a creative person? Which camp do you fall into?

Maybe you are someone who doesn’t realize you do something creative all the time and are overlooking it. Just because you aren’t putting a paint brush, glue gun, or musical instrument in your hand doesn’t mean you aren’t creative. Do you cook? Garden? Do interior design? Journal? Love fashion? Makeup? Hair? Tattoos? Reading? Karaoke? Pairing your rainbow colored kicks collection with your outfits? All of these (and so many more) are ways you are being creative and don’t even realize. Knock it off. Give yourself a hand. You are not giving yourself enough credit.

NYC - View From Empire State Building

NYC - View From Empire State Building

So, what about if you are in Group 2, where you’ve just lost the courage to try and be creative? Remember how I dyed my hair purple? If I let fear dictate my choices, I’d still be walking around with normal hair (but wishing deep down inside I had purple hair). If you want to be more creative, you just gotta suck it up and DO IT. Harsh words, I know, but don’t let fear of failing or sucking at it prevent you from trying. You know how creative people become more creative? They fail. Yup, they try something and fail and then take those lessons learned and try again – and again – and again – and then hit their stride. In these days of social media, you don’t know this anymore because people only share the awesome stuff.

One of my biggest regrets as a photographer is I spent the first 4 years of running my photography business being afraid. I was afraid to break the “rules”. What rules? Oh, the ones I kept hearing photographers spout on different message boards or comments on Flickr saying things like “too much Photoshop”, “looks fake”, “good photographs need minimal editing”, etc. What if they said that about me and my photographs? So, I tried (and failed) to follow those rules. It’s not the first time I’ve been a failure at following rules. Guess what? Remember that DGAFlip attitude? Now, I make my own rules. More color? YES. Brighter? YES. Blow out the sky? SURE, WHY NOT. If it makes my heart happy – that’s the only rule to follow.

Paris, France - Notre Dame Cathedral

Paris, France - Notre Dame Cathedral

I also was afraid of trying something different and then finding I hated it but realized quickly that’s the only way to grow. I edit photos all the time and then go back weeks/months later and decide I don’t like it and I will just start over. It happens. What do I learn? How NOT to do it. What else? I am refining my own taste.

What does this soapbox rant mean? I swear I have a point. Don’t let your fear of sucking at something prevent you from trying it. Don’t let that be your excuse of why you aren’t a creative person. Cuz if you tell me that, I will call you on your bullhockey and say “WHOMP! Try again. Give me a legitimate reason for not doing it”. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just needs to be attempted. Progress NOT perfection.

What’s the only rule? HAVE SOME FREAKIN’ FUN, people. That’s it. Enjoy it. Laugh when your dessert you attempted to create falls apart from the oven (and then smile in delight when it still tastes amazing despite looking like a literal hot mess). Add alcohol into the equation and make it a friends night together trying something different. If it’s not fun it’s not worth doing.

It takes courage to be creative. You have it in you but it just might take thinking outside whatever self-limiting box you’ve imposed on yourself. So how are you going to do it? You don’t have to dye your hair purple like me (although I would welcome you into the Purple Durple Hair Club with the most open arms ever) but there’s something fun and different you’ve been interested to try. Now is the time. Do it.

P.S. If you are looking for something super simple and low barrier to entry for being creative, try coloring in those new coloring books for adults (no, not THAT kind of adult. As in – coloring books with designs that are less Care Bear and Disney and more patterns and shapes). Here are some examples on Amazon

P.P.S. Did you notice the theme of the photos?


Enjoying Your Own Company | Beach Photography by Rachel Abrahams

Raise your hand if the idea of going to a restaurant or movie alone sounds like your personal nightmare. 

Until recently, I had no idea just how many people felt this way and won't do things alone and it truly surprised me. Is this because they worry if they were at a restaurant alone, others would look at them and judge?

I call this mentality the "High School Cafeteria" thinking. Remember in high school how you were so convinced, while walking into the cafeteria, all eyes were on you? I know, in the movies that's exactly what happens but in reality, everyone is so busy worrying about themselves, they really don't notice you. Ok, that sounds harsh but it's not meant to be. People generally are not paying attention because they are also worried about everyone's eyes being on them and trying to act like they don't care. See the irony? 

Maybe it's because I am an only child but I have absolutely no issues going to the movies alone, eating by myself in a restaurant, or even going shopping. I tell people this and I usually get a very surprised look and they say "You went alone? Why?" Well, why not? I wanted to see a certain movie or eat at a certain place and just because I couldn't find a partner in crime, I was not going to let that stop me from enjoying myself.

Honestly, sometimes I really have a lot of fun just doing things alone. I highly recommend more people try it. 

Now, I know some people reading this are still thinking "No way, that sounds really lonely" and my response to that is - are you not good company? If you think spending an hour, by yourself, with your own thoughts is lonely it's time to reshape your thinking. Let me list some of the benefits of doing things on your own.

1. It strengthens your independence. When you remove the need to always have someone by your side, you grow in your confidence and independence. You learn to trust your decisions because you stop relying on others' opinions and just do it. Whatever you want - you just go with it. No more looking around to confirm your decision based on others' opinions. It's just you, so trust your gut.

2. You find out how awesome you are. Maybe it's just me, but I have this crazy need to make everyone like me. It took a long time for me to realize I judged myself based on how I felt others saw me. Once I decided to hang out with myself - with no one to try to please or make my friend - I stopped behaving like the dancing monkey and really thought about what made ME happy. It was an incredibly eye opening experience that made me a better person. 

3. How do you like your eggs? Remember that scene in Runaway Bride where he points out all of her favorite ways to eat eggs were always a mirrored reflection of how her fiance's liked their eggs? When you try new things on your own, you learn very quickly (without the influence of people around you) what you truly enjoy and what you'd prefer to avoid when you are spending your precious minutes alone. For example, when my husband is out of town I love to eat at my favorite, mainly vegetarian, restaurant. I love the food and I know he would not enjoy it so I go on my own. It's my favorite retreat.

4. Silence becomes truly golden. How often do you find difficulty falling asleep at night because the thoughts buzzing around your brain are distracting you, the silence is deafening, and it's all keeping you awake? That's probably because this is the first time all day (week? month?) you've been alone with your thoughts and now the tidal wave is hitting you in the silence. The more time you spend letting your brain process your thoughts, to do's, and dreams without a million distractions, the more likely at the end of the day your brain will stop trying to make you pay attention to it and actually let you recover. Why? Because you already took the time earlier in the day to listen to yourself.

5. Did you know you are important? Many of us put ourselves last (color me guilty). When you make the conscious decision to spend time alone and enjoy your own company you are also deciding to put yourself first.......and there is nothing wrong with that. I once heard the phrase "whenever you say yes to something, you are also saying no to something else". When you always say yes to others, you are always saying no to yourself. There has to be a compromise because you are also important. 

I don't say this so everyone will go rushing out to be alone and never invite a friend along again - that's not a good idea either. It's just nice spending time doing what you want, without having to answer to others, and being your own LIFE BOSS. Appoint yourself CEO of your time. If you don't, you will get lost in the wants and desires of everyone else without getting to figure out how much you adore bad-ass action flicks, spicy tuna rolls with extra wasabi, and long walks on the beach (for real, not in irony to be made fun of on a dating site).

And that would just be such a shame.