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l i s t e n UP
Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.
— Winston Churchill

Listening is a superpower.

How many conversations have you had where the other person dominates the conversation and you leave thinking, “I know allll about their latest vacation/hobby/issue, but they know nothing about my life as of late?

Not so fulfilling.

On the flip side, have you ever had someone invest their total time and attention in you, and you walk away feeling heard and respected?

Mega fulfilling.

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Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.
— David Augsburger

To listen well, try pausing before disagreeing, or giving advice, or referencing your own experience. Sure, doing these other actions can be useful, but listening is paramount. Assess the need for the other actions. Listening is the priority, and the others should merely complement and support.

Active listening is encouraged! Some ways to actively listen:

  • Nod

  • Make eye contact

  • Lean forward

  • Supply (genuine!) verbal affirmations like “Sure”/“Thank you”/“I understand”

  • Paraphrase

The first duty of love is to listen.
— Paul Tillich
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Something I struggle with is interrupting - I’m constantly aware of and working on this with myself. My interrupting does come from a good place, however. I interrupt not because I deem what I have to say superior, but because I get so stoked on what the other is saying and it’s my way of “actively listening.” Showing I’m engaged and invested. This can easily be misperceived, though (and can be downright O B N O X I O U S and distracting) so I strive to minimize (and ultimately eliminate) my insertions. I always notice and appreciate when someone pays me the respect of attentively listening sans interruptions - my friends are brilliant at it.

If you want to be listened to, you should put in time listening.

And if you find yourself rattling on because you feel socially awkward and unsure of what to speak about - and talking about yourself is your default because you are your most familiar topic - there’s a win/win solution for that! A simple hack is to provide a bit of information about yourself (eg “I’m so pumped for skiing this year”) and then turning it to the other person(s) (eg “Do you ski or board?”). Prefacing with a fact about yourself makes it easy and effective for multiple reasons:

  • Contributes a familiar topic to work with and solves the problem of where to start

  • Makes you relatable and breaks the ice for the other person to share

  • Allows an opportunity to segue into related topics

  • Lets you off the hook from carrying the conversation, as many people like talking about themselves (for whatever reason - like you, they are most well-versed themselves/they have something to say/etc)

  • It establishes a natural flow

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Be a good listener. Your ears will never get you in trouble.
— Frank Tyger

What about those situations where people confide a heartbreak or challenge or stressor they’re facing? Don’t knock yourself out trying to come up with the perfect response/solution. Unless they expressly ask you, “What should I do?” more often than not, people simply crave a listening ear. Receiving their words with empathy and love is far more powerful than the wisest and timeliest response. Simply holding that space for them and allowing them to vent and feel their emotions can make all the difference and be more beneficial than “solving” their problem.

The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention... A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words.
— Rachel Naomi Remen

If silence unnerves you, try to learn to be comfortable with it. Don’t rush to finish the other’s faltering sentence, or fill the gaps. This isn’t about you/your comfort - it’s about them. Allowing them the space to express themselves. Or just sit in supportive silence; simply your presence may suffice.

I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.
— Larry King
When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.
— Dalai Lama

I firmly believe we all have something to learn from one another (even if it’s how to have patience!). Running your mouth about what you know is definitely not the way to go about obtaining that knowledge from others. Even (or especially!) when you think you’re an expert on a topic - you’ll likely be surprised what you gain if you’re humble enough to sit back and listen/observe another’s perception regarding it. Maybe you’ll glean a different angle you hadn’t considered. This is where an open mind is K E Y. Try listening to learn, rather than listening to confirm [your current opinion]. At the very least, hearing the other side out will only strengthen your own position.

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Removing your ego from the equation is crucial. Resist the temptation to flex and download all you know. There is ALWAYS more to learn. The minute you deem yourself a know-it-all is the precise minute you need to assess yourself, because that’s a sure sign your ego has hijacked you and stunted your growth. So tell your ego to buzz off and listen even harder.

The sign of intelligence is that you are constantly wondering. Idiots are always dead sure about every damn thing they are doing in their life.
— Jaggi Vasudev
Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.
— Jimi Hendrix

And in those heated moments where you’re battling with another and spinning your wheels in conflicted frustration, the best way to defuse the situation is to take a deep breath, step back, and…L I S T E N. Truly listen. Not only will this likely disarm your “contender,” but this simple action shows you value and respect them enough to consider their view. That right there has far-reaching effects. It shifts your approach from a place of one-sided triumph and win-lose to a place of resolution and win-win. It’s a clear reflection of your respect for them and conveys your willingness to remedy the situation and meet them halfway. It can make ALL the difference.

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Listening is a very deep practice... You have to empty yourself. You have to leave space in order to listen...especially to people we think are our enemies - the ones we believe are making our situation worse.

When you have shown your capacity for listening and understanding, the other person will begin to listen to you, and you have a chance to tell him or her of your pain, and it’s your turn to be heard. This is the practice of peace.
— Thich Nhat Hanh

This is especially important when you’re feeling triggered. How many times have you been blinded by emotions/anger, then realize you misheard/misperceived the other? I know I have. Much can be lost in communication - for a number of reasons. Consider you might’ve misunderstood/assumed/pre-concluded. Hear the other out (this is where gentle paraphrasing is especially helpful!) to ensure you’re catching what they’re throwing.

And sometimes the other person won’t pay you the same respect of listening to you. It is what it is. It’s annoying as hell, sure, but you can only control yourself. Rest assured you did what you could to resolve the matter. When that happens, my tried-and-true remedy involves time and distance (and my Scream Spotify playlist I created to express the fire I feel; Body Combat also helps! ;) ).

Happy listening.

xx,

-w-



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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 A R E to be Y O U
Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress, simultaneously.
— Sophia Bush

Let me start off by saying this is not directed at any particular person (man, what an opener, right?).

I really want to express gratitude for all of the good vibes thrown my way lately, specifically about my physique. People have been so kind and complimentary (vocab check: in addition to “free” it also means “expressing a compliment; praising or approving - fun fact for the day!).

People have noted I look thinner, and have commented on how svelte I look and how hard I’ve worked to get there.

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The truth is…I haven’t. Worked hard at it, that is.

Let me explain. I actually liked the way I looked before my [slight] weight loss (it’s not like I’ve dropped 20 lbs, but even minor weight fluctuations on my petite frame are noticeable - for “good” and “bad”). It was a long road to escape body dysmorphia and the sick societal “six pack or bust” ideal. I learned to truly celebrate my curves and embrace my body type. I understood strength and fitness trumped physical form. What I could do and how I felt doing it were far more important than what I looked like [doing it].

Don’t waste so much time thinking about how much you weigh. There is no more mind-numbing, boring, idiotic, self-destructive diversion from the fun of living.
— Meryl Streep

Obsessing over what I looked like was consuming a ridiculous amount of mental and emotional bandwidth. ENOUGH. Honestly, I just maxed out (physically, mentally, emotionally). So I dug deep and got to a fantastically solid place. I lived intuitively, I ate intuitively. Life was good.

And then randomly my appetite started ghosting. I don’t know about you, but my appetite naturally ebbs and flows - independent of my physical activity. Sometimes I’m barely hungry, other times I’m a food fiend.

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This time, however, my appetite stayed extremely low, oftentimes non-existent. It’d reappear every once in awhile, but for the most part - gone-zo. We’re talking 6+ months. For an intuitive eater honoring their appetite, I was knocked for a loop. I only ate when hungry, so when you’re never friggin’ hungry, you can see how this starts to mess with you. When you get to the end of the day and you’ve only had a piece of fruit or two and a salad, you feel you should eat. Your body needs a certain amount of calories to thrive, and it’s not like I’m couched up all day doing nothing (even then, you still need a minimum amount of calories to, you know…EXIST).

Every so often I’d eat just to eat, to keep my energy levels up. I felt fine - nothing else seemed wrong physically. I dialed back on my workouts to protect my caloric expenditure. What got me was the mental aspect. I started missing eating! Sure, you should lean more toward eating to live rather than living to eat but what’s so wrong with enjoying food for food’s sake?!! It’s one of life’s pleasures! I can’t tell you how stoked my salads make me. You can still honor your appetite while feeling gaga over grub. Eating is a necessity, so why not feel blissed while doing it?!

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Your diet, exercise routine, and stress level lay the foundation for how you feel, so fuel your body with good nutrition, break a little sweat each day, and set aside time to unwind.
Because it’s hard to feel bad about a body you’re taking great care of.

Okay, bringing it back to my post’s purpose. Amid all of the kind words and good vibes, I felt compelled to clarify my weight loss isn’t intentional. Personal evolution in all of its forms is a beautiful thing, and I don’t discredit it in any way, but…I think it’s important for us to push back against a world insisting we look a certain way. A world that praises emaciation over health. Visible muscles over a healthy metabolism. This is my reminder for us all (YES - ME INCLUDED!).

I’m not going to sacrifice my mental health to have the perfect body.
— Demi Lovato
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Simply because I’ve grappled with it myself, one of the causes for which I’m most passionate about advocating is self-acceptance, in all of its various forms. Especially in an era where social media heightens the stakes, amplifies the risks, and elevates the standards.

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

Society offers conditional acceptance based on our physical appearance. The strongest, most rebellious act you can do is DARE to be your own self. Accept and love your body. Exercise and nourish it to amplify its health and strength, not its aesthetic and sex appeal. Honor and work with its natural rhythms. Stop fighting it, just because social media demands you look a certain way. This includes de-fogging the lens through which you appraise beauty (others and your own!) and rejecting the unattainable beauty ideals. Unconditionally loving and accepting yourself in a world that’s doing its damndest to change you is the most revolutionary act of all - and one that is CRUCIAL to your health and wellbeing.

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We come in all different shapes and sizes.

You do you, boo.

xx,

-w-

I would only lose weight if it affected my health or sex life, which it doesn’t.
— Adele
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DO IT TO IT
Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Be stubborn about your goals and flexible about your methods.
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Have you ever had a task you know you need to do, but you just cannot find the motivation to do it? You have a chore to check off, or an errand to run, or a call to make, or a paper to write.

Or maybe it's not yourself you're trying to motivate - maybe you're trying to prompt someone else to do something. You're trying to encourage your kids to do their homework, or your husband to start a garden with you. 

Wanna hear a cool motivational hack I found?

To give credit where credit's due, I'll start by saying I heard about this neato trick while listening to one of my fave podcasts: The Tim Ferriss Show. Tim was interviewing Daniel Pink, a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling author about work, management, and behavioral science so...bro knows his stuff. 

Here's how it works:

Let's say you're trying to talk yourself into getting your bunz off the couch and working out. Start by asking yourself: on a scale of 1 - 10, how motivated am I right now? Let's say you rate yourself at a solid 2. So you then ask yourself: Why am I not a 0? (Maybe a different direction than you thought it was going, right?) In response, some of the following reasons may come to mind: "I know exercise is good for me"; "I want to be healthy"; "I want to lose weight"; "I want to tone up"; "I want to be healthy for my kids"; "I'm training for a race and want to be ready."

Boom. You just articulated your own, autonomous, intrinsically motivated reasons for doing it. Not someone else's reasons. YOURS. It elicits and spotlights why you recognize it's something you ought to do. It can realign you to your initial motivation for committing to the goal. 

The key here is whenever you're able to prompt yourself/others to articulate your/their reasons for doing something, you're/they're more likely to follow through. 

Powerful, right?

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In a later post, we'll discuss intrinsic (internal; originating within the person) vs. extrinsic (external) motivation. 

Peace and blessings!

xx,

-w-

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