advice

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.

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. 

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The View From Above | NYC Photography by Rachel Abrahams

How often do you find yourself participating in this age old conversation filler:

Person 1: Oh my, is it May already? Wow - where has this year gone?

Person 2: I know, right? It seems like it was just January and now the year is already almost half over.

Person 1: Blah, blah blah, busy, so busy, everything in life is busy. . . .

Person 2: Blah, blah, blergh, I too am busy, I think I am even more busy than you, blergh busy. Next think you know it will be next year!

See what I am getting at? I admit, every time this conversation (and the topic of weather - but that's for another day) comes up I want to hide inside my invisible turtle shell so no one can see me, the introvert in me crying and having a tantrum over this inanely boring small talk. Honestly - why do we do this?

I know most people do it because it helps fill the air and avoid being uncomfortable. The problem though is many people actually feel like this all the time in their life because they are spending 90% of their time surviving to the next moment and 10% (MAYBE - but it's generous) of their time actually planning / growing / improving life.

What happened? I call it getting lost in the weeds. It's when the details have overwhelmed you and taken control and minutes become days, which become months and yes, the next thing you know a year has passed and you cannot figure out where it went.

Ya, no thanks.

It's good to set time aside and take assessment of things. You have to get above it and look at the big picture - you know, that thing you are calling your life - and see where it's going and if that's what you want. When you put yourself in charge and get above the crazy minutiae you get a much better overall view of things. Imagine yourself in New York City, walking along the street, and the types of people and moments you experience. What if you spent your entire life always on the ground level of NYC - never once going to any of the higher floors to have a look-see-around.

Then you get a chance to fly in a helicopter above New York City for the first time and you see how MANY buildings there really are, that it's surrounded by water, and the beautiful horizon that can be hidden by the huge buildings seems to be never ending........there's so much new and amazing things to see up there! A whole new perspective.

This past Sunday was the 16 year anniversary of when the sunshine of my world, superhero, defender of fun, and extrovertedly amazing friend Sara died in a terrible car accident. She was 19 years old and I was 2 weeks away from graduating high school when it happened. Until that point, life seemed never ending and we had all the time in the world to do everything we had ever wanted and planned --- and then it all ended. My world exploded into a million reflective glass pieces and now the task was gluing all those pieces back together, one by one. It took about ten years for me to feel nearly "human" again (closure never truly happens, by the way, there's always shredded pieces and chunks missing from you after things like this). Ten years of surviving.....moments becoming weeks, leading to months.....and then years.

Every time I experience a huge life event, I always remember Sara isn't ever going to have this chance. As a result, I fight to capture and remember every nuance for myself - and for her. I am very precious with my plans. I sit down, I assess, and I redirect my course if I have to. I am always working hard to improve and my goals all focus towards 80% personal growth and 20% life maintenance.

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE spontaneity and unexpected awesomeness (that was Sara's forte). I also know what it's like to disappear into the vortex of "busy" and "surviving" and find you've lost yourself in the process.

So, next time someone wants to chat inanely about the fact time seems to be flying by......don't let yourself get sucked in! Is it really flying by? Then do something! Catch onto it - focus - and make sure you aren't missing out on maximizing what you've been given and even work to improve it.

Some people don't get that chance.