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L O V E yaself
Images shot by Abbey Armstrong Photography  Edited by Brooke Richardson Photography

Images shot by Abbey Armstrong Photography

Edited by Brooke Richardson Photography

The only cure I have ever known for fear and doubt and loneliness is an immense love of self.
— Alison Malee

I think I’m awesome.

Please don’t be put off by that. I want Y O U to feel the same about yourself.

And you can!

Do I think I’m awesome 100% of the time? Don’t get it twisted: I have my moments of discouragement/frustration/etc, but overall - I always LOVE myself, which is especially important during those moments of discouragement and frustration. I think I’m a rad chick.

You owe yourself the love you so freely give to other people.
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I had to work hard to get to that point. That unconditional self love.

BUT YOU CAN TOO!

You too can create an abiding self love, independent of your moods/feelings/triggers/experiences/environments.

It requires practice and awareness. It requires facing your shadows. Feeling - not repressing - your emotions. Reserving judgment and extending grace. Being honest and not feeding yourself stories just to make yourself feel better (this only feeds the ego and creates a faux, insecure self love). It also requires a touch of tough love, and calling yourself out when necessary, to live into your potential/cease the false narrative/incorporate the discipline.

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Comparison is an act of violence against the self.

It’s not easy at first, but once you get a taste of true self love - YOU SEE IT’S WORTH IT. You realize how powerful, necessary, liberating, and impactful it is.

Self love is imperative. Not like, “Gee, it’d be ideal if you loved yourself, but it’s whatevs.”

Nah. IT’S NOT WHATEVS.

It’s absolutely c r u c i a l not only to your ultimate wellbeing and happiness, but also to the wellbeing and happiness of your inner circle, of your outer circle, and of the whole entire world.

I know, I know, you’re likely thinking, “Okay, dramatic much?”

But it’s true. If you want to change the world, start with yourself. The ripple effect starts with you. Happy people radiate and perpetuate bliss and good vibes. It’s all about energy, man. It’s the currency of the universe. Your energy introduces you before you even speak. Once you get right with yourself and start riding those high vibes, you’ll be amazed how it affects the space/people around you (I discuss this in my latest episode with Izzy Ramirez). That’s not just Hippie Whitney talking. That’s science. Physics. Your thoughts/actions carry energy, and people/life around you responds according to the frequency you emit.

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Be the type of energy that no matter where you go, you always add value to the spaces and lives around you.

Don’t believe me? Think about a time you were feeling great/okay, and encountered someone in a less-than-stellar mood. Even if you manage to stay on that high vibe, you’re still affected to an extent by the negativity. And don’t even get me started with consistently toxic people.

Self love makes you happy. Happiness gives you energy, drive, stamina, compassion. (Plus, as Elle Woods rightfully noted, it fights crime and preserves marriages because “happy people just don’t shoot their husbands. They just don’t.”)

Shoutout to all the people out there trying to love themselves in a world that’s constantly telling them not to.

And ESPECIALLY if you have kids in your life, modeling self love yourself is key in developing their own. Particularly regarding body image. Society already demands they contort themselves to meet impossible and elusive ideals. Set your kids up for success and mitigate societal damage by expressing self love, especially during those impressionable younger years.

Daring to love yourself is an act of rebellion in this world. LET’S REBEL TOGETHER.

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How sad is it that society has taught us to view people’s expression of self love as arrogance. Self absorption. Narcissism. When we see someone celebrate their win, or acknowledge their skill, or comment, “Hey, I look smokin’!” we tend to dismiss them is “sooo into themselves.”

SAD.

That should be our baseline. We should allow ourselves and others the space to embrace our awesomeness. Our beauty and smarts. Our talent and skill. Sure, we don’t want to get obnoxious about it and go on and on about how ahhhmaaaze we are.

There’s a distinction between self love and insecurity. When you’re solid in yourself and truly love yourself, you’re secure - and have the mental and emotional bandwidth to love and care about others. When you’re insecure, you tend to overcompensate. You feel compelled to seek validation externally. When you love yourself, you internally validate yourself.

So DECIDE RIGHT NOW to win yourself over. Commit to falling in love with yourself and watch your life absolutely TRANSFORM.

xx,

-w-

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L I T T L E white T E E
Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

I like the sort of nothingness of the jeans and the t-shirt.
— Marc Jacobs

There’s just something about a basic white tee that is so classic. So fresh and so versatile. So timeless.

It can be easily dressed up or down.

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Make it simple but significant.
— Don Draper

Throw on some sandals or flats or sneaks, and you have a clean, chic look. Slip into stilettos or platforms, and you have a look worthy of a night out. From statement shoes to statement accessories, you can really pump up the look or keep it low key.

The basic white tee is like a blank canvas open to whatever vibe you’re feeling.

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With good basics you’ll have endless options.

As you can see here, I played around with belts, shoes, and a hat. Simple changes can yield powerful results.

xx,

-w-

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D E C I S I O N S decisions
Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

I am not a product of my environment. I am a product of my decisions.
— Stephen Covey

Growing up, whenever I had a tough decision to make, I’d phone a friend: aka my sister, the bossiest person I knew. Sometimes the decision was as major as “Should I take this opportunity?” or as minor as “Should I buy these shoes?”

Be decisive. Right or wrong, make a decision. The road is paved with flat squirrels who couldn’t make a decision.
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I always felt overwhelmed by possibilities and potential avenues to pursue. I guess it’s the analyst in me. ;)

Lately, I’ve really committed to being more decisive. I believe decisiveness is a muscle and can be developed. Right or wrong, I try to decide as quickly, firmly, and resolutely as possible. I commit to my decision and stand by it. Not to say that I’m always locked into that particular decision. You can often reassess later and adjust accordingly, if need be. But I try to avoid vacillating as much as possible. I make a decision, and I stand by it.

The risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision.

It’s a balance, that’s for sure. You want to gather sufficient relevant information, without drowning in it (which can be easy to do!). Sometimes, ya gotta just call it quits on the intel gathering and go with what you have. Halt the overthinking and just D E C I D E.

They say since our decisiveness is a finite resource, routine is key to reducing the amount of decisions we have to make daily. This is why ya boy Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, wears the same thing every day. I respect his level of devotion to decisiveness preservation…I’m a little too attached to personal expression through style so…I’mma stick with my varied wardrobe!

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I’m currently reading a fantastic book called Essentialism by Greg McKeown (highly recommend!). In the book, McKeown references a decision-making principle presented by TED speaker Derek Sivers in his talk “No More Yes. It’s Either HELL YEAH! Or No.” It’s a simple technique for becoming more selective in making our choices.

The key is to put the decision to an extreme test: if we feel totally convinced to do something, we say yes. Anything less gets a hard pass. In other words, if the answer isn’t a definite yes, it should be a no.

Consider applying this to shopping for clothes. What if we just used the broad criterion, “There’s a chance I will wear this someday.” HELLO cluttered closet. If we ask, “Do I absolutely LOVE this?” then we can save ourselves money and closet space by reserving room for something we truly dig. We can subject all of our decisions to this test - big or small, significant or trivial - in every area of our lives.

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Imagine it is a 90 Percent Rule, which is something you can apply to almost every decision or dilemma. As you assess an option, think about the single most important criterion for that decision. Then, simply rate the option between 0 and 100. If you score it any lower than 90 percent, boom - automatically change the rating to 0 and toss that bad boy.

This way, you avoid getting tangled up in indecision, or WORSE - getting stuck with suboptimal options. Like McKeown asserts, think about how you’d feel if you scored 65 on a test. Why would you deliberately choose to feel that way about an important decision in your life?

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I get that sometimes you gotta pick the lesser of two evils, or the least bad of two bad options. Sometimes you don’t have the luxury of just abstaining. And sometimes it can be terrifying to think of passing up an option on the mere hope something ideal will come along later. Risky business, I know.

The bottom line to remember here is: when our selection criteria are too broad, we will likely commit to too many options. Furthermore, assigning simple numerical values to our options forces us to make decisions consciously, logically, and rationally, rather than impulsively or emotionally. It takes discipline, but usually has a high reward.

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So fight that feeling of FOMO (fear of missing out) when deciding what opportunities to chase. Let’s say you receive an unexpected job offer, or an easy project outside the realm of your normal range, or a vacation opportunity in a less-than-ideal location. What should you do?

As McKeown advises, if we just say yes because it is an easy reward, we chance having to say no later to a more meaningful one.

McKeown suggests a simple, systematic process to help you decide:

  1. Write down the opportunity

  2. Write down a list of three “minimum criteria” the options must pass to be considered

  3. Write down a list of three ideal or “extreme criteria” the options must pass to be considered

If the opportunity doesn’t pass the first set of criteria, it’s obvi a no go. If it also doesn’t pass two of your three extreme criteria, it’s a no.

Building off of the clothing analogy, let’s say you’re purging your closet. You ask yourself: “If I didn’t already own this, how much would I spend to buy it?” Likewise, in your life, the powerful question when asking yourself what activities to eliminate is: “If I didn’t have this opportunity, what would I be willing to do to acquire it?” This can be applied to your personal life, your professional life, your kids’ lives (when determining just how many extracurriculars you’re going to shuttle them to and from).

Upon sufficiently exploring your options, the question isn’t “What should I say yes to?” Instead, ask, “What will I say no to?” This question will uncover your true priorities.

And when you don’t know what you want, flip a coin! When that coin is in the air, you’ll suddenly know for what you’re truly wishing.

xx,

-w-

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I am M E and Y O U are Y O U
Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

I’m not beautiful like you. I’m beautiful like me.

Heads up: This is a deeply personal post. Like...I'm about to get reallllyyy real witchu. And you know what? I'm not nervous, or scared, or self conscious. If people read this and think of me differently, I'm okay with that. I'm solid no matter how people perceive me. Vulnerability no longer intimidates me like it used to. Part of that is because I have the best, most supportive people in my life (including you!). But also - I've made peace with what I'm about to share with you! True, lasting peace. I feel solid and great and compelled to share my story to hopefully help others achieve that peace too.

Two things prevent us from happiness: living in the past and observing others.

That doesn't mean I'm going to bare all - a girl's gotta have some secrets! I personally feel there's a time and a place to share your story/stories. Ideally, you'd have a purpose (seeking comfort in a confidant, inspiring others, relating to others, etc), so hopefully you find value in this tell all I'm about to throw down.

Okay, okay, enough prefacing...

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Like most people - especially girls - I have insecurities. Earth shattering, I know (stop eye rolling and stay with me, this isn't my big reveal!).  It's part of the human experience. I accept that and just love myself through them anyway, refusing to let them hold me back. I vanquish them by fully embracing them.

A rose can never be a sunflower, and a sunflower can never be a rose. All flowers are beautiful in their own way, and that’s like women too.
— Miranda Kerr

But it wasn't always like that. One insecurity in particular was my feeling of inferiority regarding my sister. If you know my sister, Brooke, you obvi know how stunningly beautiful she is, and fun and talented and and and and... She is a total dime piece. 

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It's a wonder we're so close, because we're polar opposites. She quickly decides, I slowly analyze. She hates working out, I'm gaga about fitness. She's the comfort queen, I suffer for fashion. And on and on. We're three years apart, so back when we were growing up, after elementary we never attended the same school, which allowed us to form our own identities - and those identities were pretty different. 

I think a lot of people compare their insides to other people’s outsides.
— Emma Stone

Then came college, when we officially became peers. We started hanging out with each other, running around with the same people...and dating within the same circles. If you have a sister/close friend, you know this can get messy. Luckily there were only one or two guys we mutually liked (draaaaama drama drama). 

You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and you’re still going to find someone who hates peaches.
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However, I soon started to feel swept into her shadow, which soon became a prison for me. I felt like she was prettier, smarter, funnier, better...and I felt like a L O S E R in comparison. Slowly I started to retreat into myself, and acted like I felt. My vibe started getting lower and lower and would just radiate that low energy. I hated going out with her, because I would feel like the DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend - go watch the movie - it's cheesy but I love it!).

Comparison is a slippery slope to envy.

I'd brace myself for the inevitable, "Your sister is so beautiful/cool/fun" comments, each one like daggers to the heart (I know i know - dramatic much?). Honestly though, I physically felt each casual comment like that. I can't tell you how many times I left outings early, feeling so dejected and insecure. I realize that merely reading about my experience may not impart the same severe despondency I felt but y'all - it was absolutely GNARLY. Let's just say it was a pretty sick workout journaling all my feelings! (And before I go further, I want to note: I LOVE MY SISTER. Anytime I would vent to her, she was incredibly loving and supportive.)

You’re never going to be ‘her’ or look like ‘her.’ GOOD. We would miss out on you!

It went on like this for years. I was a slave to my insecurity. Anytime someone would hit that nerve, I would immediately react, usually emotionally and harshly. Brooke is pretty vocal and outspoken. I can be too, but my natural instinct is to balance dynamics, so when I'm with her I'm usually quieter and more reserved. This further fueled the fire, leading me to feel even more like a supporting actress to her leading lady. I remember getting so upset when people would constantly refer to The Paper Doll Boutique (the store we used to own and run together) as Brooke's business. Sure, I understood that much of what drove that assumption was Brooke's physical and vocal presence. She was manning the store during the day, welcoming customers and handling much of the admin issues. I was only there in the evenings, after finishing up at my full-time job during the day. Plus, you definitely know when Brooke is in the room! She's fantastic at meeting and relating to people. 

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One of the final straws was when I was talking to a colleague friend of mine (at my full-time job) about wanting to ask our store's landlord for something. This friend advised having Brooke ask the landlord instead, because Brooke has the looks and charm to make it happen. As you can imagine, this made me feel less than stellar. After the colleague sensed she'd hit a nerve and tried doing damage control, I confided I understood she meant no harm, but it was a sensitive topic for me. Still attempting to mitigate the damage, she added, "I know it has to be hard growing up under her shadow and never feeling like you're enough. One day that won't matter that you're not as charming or pretty." (Again - she honestly meant no harm.)

It finally clicked for me: it wasn't about me at all. I knew my friend had a parallel experience with her older sister. She was viewing my situation through a lens tainted by her own insecurities. She was seeing herself in me. Anything she was telling me, she was essentially telling herself. IT WASN'T ABOUT ME AT ALL. I'd already known on an intellectual level that people's interactions with and perceptions of you are colored by their own issues and self doubts. Somehow - that kick in the gut really solidified that truth for me. 

Your perception of me is a reflection of you; my reaction to you is an awareness of me.

I decided to work on reclaiming my confidence and power I'd given away all those years. The truth is, I let myself feel inferior. Trust me, I'm not criticizing myself - I acknowledge this with a full amount of love and compassion toward myself. But the bottom line remains: I have power over my thoughts and emotions. I have SO MUCH to offer, and I was wasting it by losing myself in comparison. I was determined to reignite my spark.

The truth is, comparing ourselves to others doesn’t just steal our joy, it robs those around us of the rare gift of someone who has learned to offer their uniqueness to the world.
Stay in your lane. Comparison kills creativity and joy.
— Brene Brown

Okay, I'm about to get all Tony Robbins/Oprah/lovey dovey on you. You still with me? Each one of us has a sparkle to share with the world. I 100% believe that and am desperate for everyone to know that too. And I mean, REALLY know that - to your core. 

Don’t compare your real life to someone else’s controlled online content.

It's alarmingly easy to become consumed by comparison, especially with the social media highlight reels we're ambushed with on the daily. I'm constantly having to bitch slap self doubts that try to slither in my thoughts: "Oh, she's so creative. How did she execute that? She's so much more skilled than I am.." "She's a friggin' business prodigy, and she's only 22? Wish I would've been that astute at that age." "She's a millionaire before age 30? Dayumm, how would that be?" 



Just because they reached certain milestones before you did doesn’t mean you won’t get there, too. There are enough houses, marriages, dogs, money, cars, jobs, and vacations to go around.

The more watchful and protective I've become over my thoughts, the more agile and adept I am at keeping them happy and pure and free of dem low vibez. I've conditioned myself to be GENUINELY happy for others' success and blessings, without feeling like it diminishes my own. "That guy has a thriving business and blissful relationship? THAT'S AWESOME!" "That girl has legs for days and a contagious personality? What a babe!" Their success is not my failure! I've learned to view the world through an abundance mindset (more on this in a later post). There isn't a finite amount of money/success/blessings to go around. Yo - we can A L L be happy and successful and beautiful! There's plenty for all of us. What a concept! 

Comparison isn’t just the thief of joy, it’s the thief of EVERYTHING. Keep your eyes on your purposeful path. Celebrate others. Celebrate progress, not perfection. Cultivate gratitude over comparison. Gratitude turns what we have into more than enough.

So let's celebrate our differences. Celebrate ourselves. Celebrate EACH OTHER. We can all rock at the same time!

xx,

-w-

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I A M pretty
Beauty starts in your head, not your mirror.
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Do you remember when you were five and you didn't give a flying f*** what you looked like in a swimmy? You were just jazzed to be soaking up those rays. You didn't care about appearing a certain way or emitting a certain vibe. You were just YOU. 

So what the hell happened?

Somehow from childhood to adulthood, we start caring. We start caring a LOT. 

If you're lucky, you learn to stop the madness (or at least mitigate it). You learn to reclaim your power. Your self-love. Your confidence. You learn to shift the focus from the superficial to the real. The fleeting (looks) to the forever (soul). As cheesy as it sounds, you concentrate on the interior rather than the exterior. You're more concerned with how you FEEL, and the energy emitted by you/others. That's what really counts, right?!!

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How many rad, fun opportunities have you tainted for yourself by stressing over what you look like? Or worse - how many cool opportunities have you bypassed altogether, because of feeling too fat/ugly/whatever other self-loathing adjective you can think of. I know I have. And it's total bullshit. E N O U G H. 

And I said to my body, softly, “I want to be your friend.” It took a long breath and replied, “I have been waiting my whole life for this.”
— Nayyirah Waheed

I'll be honest, it took me what felt like an eternity to get to the point of full self acceptance. It was a long, gnarly road. I used to hold impossibly high standards for myself, and constantly fought my body at every turn. That shiz is exhausting. I'm sure many of you can relate (which makes me sad!). The shocking reward of finally accepting myself??? I actually look and feel better than ever before! It's like my body breathed a giant sigh of relief and said, "Okay cool - finally, let's play on the same team." It's been awhile now that I feel good in my skin, so I KNOW lasting results are possible!

I found I was more confident when I stopped being someone else’s definition of beautiful and started being my own.
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So what shifted it for me? 

  • Exhaustion
    • Honestly, it drained me and I maxed out. I just got tired of constantly mentally beating the daylights out of myself. SO.NOT.WORTH.IT.
  • Mindfulness and positive self talk
    • First I became aware of my negative thoughts, and then punched them in the face. In other words, I halted them right there, and replaced them with compliments. A lot of it was a "fake it 'til you make it" tactic. If I hated my arms, I would tell myself how much I loved them, and emphasized how strong they are. Ironically, now my arms are one of my FAVE body parts!
  • Gratitude
    • Thanking my body for taking care of me and keeping me alive. Expressing love for it through thought, word, and action. Knowing that contrary to my prior belief, my body really was trying to look out for me and be a team player. Removing that pressure for it to fit a certain beauty ideal really did make all the difference.
  • Focusing on how I felt rather than how I looked
    • Do I feel energetic? Happy? Motivated? If yeses across the board, then I'm solid. If not, I'll focus on the area needing my attention.
  • Self care
    • Wanting to take care of my body to keep it happy and healthy and thriving, not frustrated and starving and self-destructing.
Confidence will make you happier than any diet ever will.

 

  • Intuitive eating and moving
    • By slowly re-learning to tune into my body, I can sense what it wants and deliver. Our bodies are truly miraculous and intelligent. The cleaner your palate (less clogged with packaged frankenfood), the more you can understand what your body is telling you. My body constantly amazes me with its cravings. Time and again, I'll suddenly crave something and then be able to attribute it to a certain reason. For example, I'll crave citrus and then feel the beginnings of a cold that my body was able to fight off. The last time I had blood work done and discovered the minerals/vitamins in which I was deficient, it suddenly made PERFECT sense why I crave my salad every single day: all of the ingredients in there are booming with the vitamins/minerals in which I'm deficient. My body continues to crave those nutrients because it is still healing from malabsorption issues due to prolonged antibiotic use (another story for another day!). 
    • When my body screams for rest, I acquiesce and pump the brakes. This one can be a little tricky to master, knowing when you need to move to feel better and when you really do need to recover. You definitely need one or two rest days a week. Ironically, though I love high-intensity workouts, my body does not. A moderate workout regimen actually helps me look, feel, and perform better. So experiment a little and heed what your body tells you. Remove your ego and let your body be the boss.
Self love is accepting that the body you were given is enough and taking care of your body isn’t the same thing as obsessively manipulating it.
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And the biggest secret of all that eluded me all those years?? CONFIDENCE. How you carry yourself matters FAR MORE than what you actually look like. It's mind blowing how true that is. Think about it. Think about someone you've seen at the beach/pool. They might not (gasp!) have a thigh gap, they might have cellulite, they might be rocking a "plus size" but they are FEELING THEMSELVES. And that instantly makes you feel them too (but, you know...not literally. Unless you're high fiving them for looking so fly).

If someone carries themselves proudly and confidently, that automatically ups their attractiveness. It's like friggin' magic. Try it! And if you're not feeling yourself just yet, fake it 'til you make it, baby. No really. Pretend. Trust me on this.

In a society that profits from your self doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act.

Sometimes I'll put on a piece of clothing on and think, "Not your best look." Maybe I think it makes me look bigger, or shows off some celly. So I'll make myself wear it anyway. I'm so done with letting my body image hold me back. For example, I wore some leggings to teach Pound the other night that made my thighs look less toned (hello, literal spotlight, while teaching in front of a class!). Plus, as I'm sure many of you can relate: one minute you can feel like a busted can of biscuits, and the next like a svelte supermodel. Like...sometimes even within the same hour. It's b a n a n a s how that works. 

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Awhile ago, I saw the movie I Feel Pretty with Amy Schumer. I went into it expecting cheesiness and forced humor. I was happily so wrong. It was fun, it was funny, it was touching. Highly recommend. 

There is more to say on this topic, but rather than going on for dayzzz about it, I'll split it up into two posts. Thanks for staying with me this far! In the next one, I'll highlight a FANTASTIC article my friend shared with me. You should consider checking out the post if you: 1. have social media. 2. are a parent. 3. are human. We'll discuss how beauty ideals have changed in this brave new world we're living in, which includes social media. Gone are the awkward teenagers, replaced by adolescents who know their angles, know their makeup, and know their sex appeal. I really think you'll be glad you read it. 

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xx,

-w-

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