How Loving My “Little” Helps Me Build Confidence

This was where I started.
This was where I started.

Since I was eight or so years old I’ve made many attempts at utilizing various forms of traditional “western” therapy to no avail. In the past couple of years, I’ve begun to work with more mystical therapists like healers, hypnotherapists and intuits. It just so happens this is the right direction for me. As someone who over analyzes nearly every event and moment of her life at a constant, incessant rate, I’m not the type to benefit from “talking it out.” All my brain does all night long is talk it out. I need people who can help me calm down, meditate, and find proper and more intuitive coping mechanisms.

I went to see therapists originally as a child because of my father’s imprisonment for child abuse. Surprise surprise, I’m a comedian with daddy issues! These issues often come into play for me, but so do a whole bunch of other life issues. When I get upset, I don’t always know what to do, as I wasn’t raised with super effective coping mechanisms or a lot of proper communication. I find myself particularly lacking when I feel fear. Fear has always been pretty big for me. I’m afraid to put my head under water, afraid of heights and steep drop-offs when hiking, which really sucks because I LOVE hiking, afraid of driving on the highway, which super sucks because I live in LA, basically, you name it, I can come up with a reason to be afraid of it. I used to get really mad at my fear. I would yell at myself, “toughen up, power through it, quit being a baby!” This was not helpful.

What I got to see once I pushed through.
What I got to see once I pushed through.

I started speaking with a hypnotherapist who took me on a journey into a beautiful meadowy field that I created in my own mind. I met a little version of myself there and I started to have a conversation with her. We called her, ever creatively, “Little Lisa.” Little Lisa is the version of me before the shit hit the fan in my life. We all have this small person, even those of us without heavy traumas. There’s at least one point in each of our lives where life started to get real, where our childlike wonder and amusement took a more serious turn. This happens to a lot of people in middle school because we turn into “adults” and horrendous things start happening to our bodies, in addition to being asked by those older than us to start taking more responsibility. However, those of us with childhood traumas have younger littles. And some of us have a lot of littles. My major little is me at around four or five years old. This is how old I was when I first started feeling depressed. It was when I started getting made fun of a lot. It was when, for whatever reason, I realized life wasn’t JUST about having fun and being a goofball.

One of the way easier parts of the trail, but not at its toughest because I couldn't manage taking a pic while also trying not to fall to my death.
One of the way easier parts of the trail, but not at its toughest because I couldn’t manage taking a pic while also trying not to fall to my death.

My hypnotherapist asked me what my little said I should do when I feel badly. Little Lisa said, “Just dance, ya goof!!!” and then began to dance around like a crazy, goofy Muppet. Because this left me with such a great feeling, I began to go to this little girl whenever I felt distressed. I would ask her to help me, especially when I felt scared. But it wasn’t really effective in my day-to-day life.

Then I spoke with my intuit. We weren’t even talking directly about my fear when she too brought up the concept of Little Lisa. Her suggestion to me was to go back to that little girl. I said, “I do, but when I ask her what to do, she doesn’t really know.” She replied that it wasn’t really fair for me to be asking my little for guidance. She was probably more afraid than I was. Why would you ask a scared child for advice? That child needs to be loved.

Then she told me what I really should be doing when I go back to this little girl. I needed to hold that little girl, cradle her in my arms, stroke her hair and her cheek and tell her that everything is okay, that nothing is her fault, and that she’s a good person who deserves good things and that above all, she’s safe. Soothe her, tell her that she is loved, over and over again.

So I did just that. I lay in bed that night, closing my eyes, imagining my little five year-old self, and cradled her lovingly until adult me actually fell asleep. It worked!

The End.
The End.

This didn’t exactly change my life overnight, but by being kinder to my inner littles, I’ve actually become kinder to the adult version of myself that exists in the now, and thus have been able to accomplish more. Like when I was alone on a very difficult hike in Hawaii. I was faced with a steep drop off and the trail was getting progressively narrower. I wanted to push on because it was so beautiful, but I felt I couldn’t, I was so overcome with fear, I froze. Before, I would have told myself to “Shut up. Just get through it. Quit being stupid! Quit being weak!” But with my new-found wisdom I took a seat on the ground, breathed deeply and said something more along the lines of, “You’re doing great. You’re being very brave, and you’ve gotten through so much. This is very scary, so you should be very proud of yourself once you’ve done it.” With patience and kindness, I got through it. There were tears and some shaking, of course, but it was amazingly beautiful on the other side of that fear, and I was so glad pushing through paid off.

I’ve used this tactic in my day-to-day life since then. When I’m afraid of a situation, when I get jealous, when I stress out because something didn’t go the way I wanted or needed it to, or when I suffer a tragedy, or even just a minor set back, I find a little. I go back to whichever one feels triggered. Sometimes it’s that 4-5 year-old. Sometimes it’s me from only a few years ago when I was sexually assaulted and felt defenseless. Sometimes it’s me from just a couple of years ago when I was physically assaulted and felt helpless and voiceless. Sometimes it’s me as a teenager, sometimes a pre-teen, and sometimes even a baby. Whoever it is, when I let her know she’s loved, and that yes, sometimes life isn’t fair, but she deserves better and is safe, it makes the me of now feel loved, and safe, and as though life might just be okay.

So find your little, or littles, give them big hugs and kisses, and tell them that though life is full of challenges, they are loved.

A Workaholic’s Guide to Not Hide and Have a Happy Holiday

The holidays can be triggering for many reasons. It’s tempting to fall back into work mode, and hide there. But don’t give up!

It’s hard for me to stop working.

I’m a passionate person, and highly driven. When things go well, I’m on top of the world. When projects go badly, I triple my efforts in trying to fix them. 2016 has been a garbage year, for a lot of people. I am no exception. There’s too much to do, too much to fix, and not enough time.

Now, the holidays are here. The candles are lit, Christmas cards are arriving, lights go up on surrounding houses, carols drift by with each passing car…and I’m working. I’m typing furiously, checking boxes off of my to-do list, and fighting a heavy cold. Now is not the time for rest. My hustle is unstoppable.

Everyone around me is hunkering down in cozy sweaters and sipping egg nog with loved ones. Why are all my friends so relaxed? It’s both mystifying and enviable. I’d love to lounge around and feel merry. But the very thought of doing nothing makes me feel anxious. Why?

I guess I’m just not ready for the year to end. With so many projects up in the air, and a mountain of unfinished messes on my desk, I simply can’t stop working. My goals are huge, and I’m never going to reach them if I stop working.

It’s been this way for nearly every holiday that I can remember.

I’m scared that if I stop working, success will pass me by. I’m worried that if I don’t have achievements to show my friends and family, then I won’t be making them proud. And if I’m not making my family proud, they aren’t going to love me.

In typing this, I realize just how f*cked up that sounds.

My name is Rachel, and I’m a workaholic.

…At least, that’s what my family, friends and therapist tell me.

But how reliable can their opinions be, really? For the sake of this article, I’ve decided to turn to the real expert in my life: Google.

Searching: “Signs You Might Be A Workaholic.”


  1. “You may be a workaholic if… you devalue self-care and personal priorities in favor of professional goals.”
  2. “The thought of not working is more stressful than actually working.”
  3. “You don’t take real vacations. You sneak in work wherever you can.”
  4. “You rarely tell your bosses ‘no,’ but your friends and family rarely hear ‘yes.’”

Uh….sure, I display all of these qualities, but I think there’s a difference between ‘workaholism’ and a successful mindset. I thought passion and persistence were good things. I work hard, so I can play hard…someday.

After all, this isn’t an addiction. It’s dedication and drive!

I want everyone to see me as ambitious, busy, and on the way to something great, because that’s who I want to be. I’m terrified of sitting still, because I’m not a lazy person. I’ve got important things to do.

…That said, I should be working on my dreams, not Googling made-up diseases.

So screw you, Google. I’m fine.

  1. “You never call yourself a workaholic.”


Mental illness is no stranger to me. I’m not exactly hiding that I’ve struggled with depression, OCD and CPTSD for most of my life. I don’t need – or want – to add one more label to my long list of problems.

That said, the problem is already there. Becoming aware of it and adding a handy label doesn’t add fuel to the fire. Noticing a rainstorm is the first step to finding an umbrella.

So, I’m coming up with a plan. Perhaps there’s a way to trick my workaholic brain into seeing the impending holiday as an opportunity, instead of a drag on my momentum. I’m making this list of tips for myself to follow as the holidays unfold. I invite you all to join me!

A Workaholic’s Guide to a Happy Holiday

Week 1. Pre-Game!

In the week leading up to your holiday plans, you can maximize your productivity in a final year-end push. Tying up loose ends in this way can help to diminish your guilt and stress while you’re away.

A: Schedule your final week of work with the most intense tasks, first.

Then in the last few days of this workweek, give yourself more time in the evenings to relax. This will help you practice ‘putting it down’ and focusing on what’s important.

B: Give yourself a year-end review.

Go over your calendars, notes and milestones from the year and make a list of your biggest accomplishments. You’ll be surprised by how much you’ve done in the last 365 days.

C: Don’t plan what’s next.

Take your list of accomplishments with you for the holidays, and skim over it once a day if that makes you feel better. The holidays are a time to celebrate what’s important, and you are worth celebrating. You’ve worked hard to get here, so stop and appreciate it for a week or two. Every business needs to take a little time out for inventory, and you are no different. Celebrate what you’ve got!

Week 2. Merry Christmas!

Whatever holiday you’re celebrating, this time of year is about family and friends. If you’ve cut them out of your life, now is the time to reconnect. If being around family overwhelms you, remember to squeeze in some ‘you’ time. The holidays can be triggering for many reasons. It’s tempting to fall back into work mode, and hide there. But don’t give up! The following steps will help you make the most of this time away from work.

A: Get lost in activities.

Play scrabble, go skiing, build a snowman. Engage in a long conversation with your grandma, and ask her what life was like for her at your age. Whatever your family and friends like to do for the holidays, jump in. Putting work down is surprisingly productive for your general sense of well-being, health, and clarity of mind. Life is happening in front of you. Don’t miss it.

B: Give yourself five minutes (every other day) to scan your emails.

Don’t analyze or reply to any of them, just skim through subject lines. It’ll give your peace of mind in knowing that nothing’s caught on fire while you’re away, and lower your anxiety. That said…make sure to set a timer, so you don’t get sucked in.

C: Put down your Smartphone.

Everyone around you is taking pictures, and they’ll be there when the holidays are over. Social media can be a one-way ticket to comparison, competition, emotional triggers and conflict. Do your professional spirit a favor and unplug for the holidays. You’ll come back to your work refreshed and ready to rock, without any extra baggage.

Week 3. Have a Happy New Year.

A: Remember that list of last year’s accomplishments?

Keep it. When you’re on the plane back from your holiday travels, pull out that list and think about how far you’ve come. Add “enjoyed the holidays” to the end of that list, and decide to do even better next year. Now that the holidays are over, you can jump into goal-setting and evaluating your priorities for the new year. Enjoy the brainstorm, but don’t burn out.

B: Set aside time to examine what you missed (and didn’t miss) over the holidays, organizing emails by priority and responding in little chunks.

Pace yourself and ease back into your routine. Don’t work late. Instead, use your evenings to relax (like you did before the holidays). Implementing a healthy balance will make you even more productive in the long run.

C: Take time to review what just happened.

We can only understand the object of our addiction once it is taken away. So how were the holidays for you, really? Do your shame-based feelings suggest that a deeper healing needs to take place? Call your friends and family to check in, now that the holidays are over. Ask them what they think. Remember where your support system is, and use it. There are many ways to achieve a healthy balance in life, so figure out what’s best for you. Perhaps you can commit to reading relevant books (like Daring Greatly) and implement their teachings. Maybe therapy is a good option.

The new year is a great time to commit to your success – and a healthy mindset is key to success in all areas.

I’ll be working to follow my own advice this holiday season, and I hope you’ll join me in the journey. Are there any tips that work (or don’t) for you? Share with us in the comments below!

Ashley Graham Is First Plus-Size Model to Cover British “Vogue”

Model Ashley Graham is busting boundaries left and right.

ashley-grahamEarlier this year, she covered Maxim and the coveted Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Now, she’s landed the cover of the fashion bible of the U.K., the British version of Vogue. Shot by famed photographer Patrick Demarchelier, Graham’s cover will be for the January 2017 issue.

Graham is a plus-size model, so her covering these storied publications shows that the fashion industry is coming around to including a wider variety of body types. Let’s hope American Vogue sees this, and follows suit.

Graham’s cover for British Vogue arrives on newsstands today.

I’m Embracing Vanity. Here’s Why You Should, Too.

I believe we should redefine the word ‘vanity’ for ourselves.

Confession time.

I’ve been guilty of hating on other people’s Instagram selfies. I’ve unfollowed other women in the past, because their photos made me feel insecure about myself. Sometimes, I look in the mirror and wish that I could wear a filter in real life. How dare I feel beautiful? Self-acceptance feels unreachable…forbidden, even.

But on other days, when I’m feeling lucky, I look in the mirror and think: “Damn, I look good today.” But before long, shame drags me down. The cycle of self-loathing begins all over again.

Why did so much of my confidence come to hinge on passing feelings, or validation from others online? Since when did comparison start ruling my life? And why can’t I just freakin’ love myself consistently?

It’s because of a little word called ‘vanity.’ 

The dictionary defines Vanity as “excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance or achievements.”

I realize I’m being vain. Then the shame kicks in.

I grew up in an environment where self-love was a sin. Taking any pleasure in my appearance was wrong. I was instructed that Vanity was a woman’s downfall. The guilt still creeps in when I least expect it, sucking me dry of self-esteem. And the hatred I’ve developed towards my appearance comes out as insecurity, jealousy, and social anxiety.

Vanity. I’d be committing a sin for liking myself at all, so I just choose not to. It’s a virtue to be humble, right? Maybe someone, somewhere will notice how pious I am in my self-deprecation. They’ll say I’m pretty, but I won’t believe it. Somehow, that will make me worthy of their love.

After all, poor little Cinderella didn’t get to be a princess until a handsome prince fell in love with her. In a chick-flick, the geeky girl doesn’t get to know she’s hot until someone takes her glasses off.

“Hot Girl Who Doesn’t Know She’s Pretty” is one of the most popular female archetypes in TV and film. On the other hand, confident women who flaunt their beauty are almost always painted as “the bitch.”

Somewhere, right now, in a high school bathroom: a group of girls are standing around the mirror, competing for lowest self-esteem:

“I’m so fat.”

“No, you’re not! You’re so skinny. I’m the one with a tummy.”

“Well, at least you have boobs. I’m so flat.”

“But all the guys like you. None of them notice me.”

…Chances are, the youngest girl might not have thought to hate herself until this very moment. If all of her older, prettier, more popular friends hate their bodies, then who does she think she is?

Vanity. We have all been conditioned to fear it, in some way or another. I realize now that this kind of shaming was designed to keep women from realizing their worth. I’ve come to believe that someone, somewhere invented “vanity” to keep his wife at home.

Shame is a cage we build to keep the heart in check. If I feel inferior to my partner, he’ll always have the upper hand. Even if he’s abusive. Even if I’m unhappy.

This might be why so many beautiful, intelligent women find themselves in unhealthy, codependent relationships. Our self-worth relies on the validation of others.

It’s not our fault. After all, we’re conditioned to be this way. Our society demands that women compete with one another for attention – romantically, professionally and physically. Most of us are expected to spend considerable amounts of time on our appearance each day, changing how we look in order to fit in.

Blaming someone for their low self-esteem is like blaming the body for feeling pain. It’s not the symptom that needs attention. We have to find the source, and change it.

Here’s one way to start:

I believe we should redefine the word ‘vanity’ for ourselves.

There’s a difference between confidence and narcissism. We should stop labeling women as “attention seekers” for celebrating their beauty. We should congratulate girls who score well on tests, speak up for what they believe in, and say ‘no.’

The moment we apologize for voicing our position, we lose our freedom to have one.

There’s nothing wrong with being smart, looking good, and knowing both are true. Let’s eradicate the shame that muddies your daughter’s reflection, before it’s too late.

When a woman looks in the mirror and loves what she sees, nothing can stop her.

I try to remember this when I put on my makeup every day. My concealer wasn’t made to diminish me. My lipstick is not applied to steal attention. My eyeliner is not for anybody else. And so what if my cat-eye isn’t perfect – I’m having fun.

Now, I wear makeup because it makes me feel powerful. I post photos of myself when I’m feeling brave. My online selfie is not a cry for validation – not anymore. Photos have become my way of expressing of self-love, without needing permission. Publishing my words online is how I celebrate my voice and invite others to do the same.

It’s not self-promotion; it’s self-possession. This is me, taking ownership of myself in a way that makes me feel empowered. 

As you embrace your own confidence, it’s important to encourage it in others. I think we should stop judging other women for being hot/self-centered/sexual/oversharers, period. Everyone is entitled to free speech. And yes, this includes gratuitous selfies.

Often, individuals who seem the most self-involved are actually the most self-critical. It took me a long time to realize this. Judging other women for their “narcissism” is ultimately a reflection of my own insecurity. By the same token, encouraging others makes me feel good, too. How we treat others is a reflection of the way we see ourselves.

So here’s what I wish for you to know, if you’re still reading. You’re allowed to know you’re attractive. You’re encouraged to recognize your own brilliance. You are also allowed to acknowledge the beauty in others, with no risk of diminishing your own.

Vanity, redefined, is self-love.

It’s gratitude. It’s expression. Own it. Live it. Celebrate it. Share it.

This is not about makeup or selfies or #goals. It’s about you, beneath the filter.

If someone were to call me “vain” nowadays, I’d smile and say “thank you.” I don’t feel like I’ve committed a sin by calling what I see. The gods have not come down to smite me for admiring their creation. I haven’t hurt anyone by loving myself. In fact, I feel that embracing ‘vanity’ has made me a better person.

Lucille Ball once said, “Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.”

The future is a girl. She stands in front of the mirror and loves what she sees. She wears red lipstick if she feels like it; she wears nothing when she wants to. And she is not ashamed.

WHY Do You Weigh Yourself?

Yesterday as I was leaving my gym, I noticed a young woman 20-ish, standing naked on the scale in the locker room.  I also noticed standing near her was another naked woman who was probably her grandmother, waiting for her turn to weigh in.  This caught my attention because I thought to myself why do we weigh ourselves?

Now a lot of  you are thinking,  “Gina done lost her mind! Duh!”   But hang with me here, because you all know that I look at things from a different angle, and generate new perspectives that I share with you.     The important thing, as I am prone to do with EVERYTHING  is to ask the question WHY.    Since I was a kid, that question is so prevalent in my life that I should be known as a whyman, instead of a woman. ( Ok, you know I always sneak in a weird pun.  Let’s hope that’s the only one today.)

Today I want to  invite you to explore the WHY to this question so that you have a vehicle to become more conscious of the many things we all do unconsciously and to break away from the herd and THINK FOR YOURSELF.  This way of thinking is like a muscle, and the more you use it, the stronger it gets.

Ok, so seriously, why do we weigh ourselves? What real purpose does it serve? What does that number on the scale have to do with anything important or relevant in our lives? I’m speaking here of a healthy person, just as a disclaimer. I know that there are some perhaps medical conditions where weight is a determinant or a marker of something, or professional fighters weight themselves for fairness in  the ring,  but I’m speaking just of the average person and particularly women.  What’s the first thought that came to your mind in answer to that question?  Did your brain go all fuzzy with, “hmmm, to find out what I weigh?”  Think again…

That number on the scale has absolutely no meaning other than its purpose to frustrate and lower the self-esteem of almost every woman who steps onto one.    Once you get that number, you IMMEDIATELY (talk about instant non gratification)  feel that there’s something wrong with you. The number is wrong and you need to change it, even if it’s only a couple of pounds.   Which then leads to your endless googling and obsessing about the ultimate weight-loss products, or deciding to go on a diet.   That number leads to comparison of what other people weigh, like that woman you saw in the magazine (which one, so many!) that made you hate your thighs even more than you already do, or your facial lines, or your eyebrows,or your butt, or your…..fill in the blank.

THAT FREAKIN’ NUMBER is a trigger, a catalyst that’s damned near Pavlovian to make you feel bad about you! Pretty soon all you have to do is SEE a scale and you’re terrified.  All those bad feeling start a rush of chemicals in your body, aka hormones, that make you feel like crap about yourself and soon you’re depressed.    In fact, most women will tell you that just the sight of a scale provokes anxiety.   I saw a statistic that said most women weight themselves an average of twice a week, or 104 times a year!   Think about the repetition of an act that makes you feel bad about yourself that many times in a year and the effect that has on your psyche.   That irrelevant number on the scale leads to depression and the sense of inferiority for almost every woman.  Tragically, even anorexics experience exactly the same thing because the number is never small enough.

Realizing they’re not  their “ideal” weight, some women eat their feelings, so  may end up self-soothing with food, and voila, when you step on the scale, guess what??  That sneaky number is bigger.  So you’re now more depressed, and you end up on an anti-depressant, which can make you eat more, eat less, feel suicidal, lose your sex drive, and affect your hormones.  Do you see the vicious cycle that develops just from stepping onto a scale?? Do you see the path of disempowerment that can be triggered by this practice of weighing ourselves?  To some of you it may seem I’m exaggerating, but for many this is truth.

You might argue that someone who is chronically overweight and on a program to lose weight would be inspired by the number coming down, and while that is true to some degree, it is also setting them up to define their successes by THAT NUMBER, rather than celebrating their discipline, commitment and choices, and the obvious visual that they’re shrinking.

Is that number a goal, a target, a golden ticket?  Is it like winning the lottery?  And what is the RIGHT number?  There is no right number on a scale.  It’s an insidious tool to keep you in the marketplace of all the consumerism revolving around deflating and destroying women’s bodies and beauty — and ultimately our power.  The right number comes from you living a healthy, balanced life; body, mind and spirit.  Our mindset is to reward ourselves for a number goal, rather than the goal of living in integrity with our authentic selves.  I wrote a blog post a while back called “Joy, the Key To Weight Loss” (in the archives), and in it I talk about the idea that when we are content inside, we are content outside, and our weight arrives at our most healthy, natural number.

So you see the scale is actually a tool that undermines your self-esteem, your self-worth and a healthy sense of your body.  What if instead of stepping on the scale you simply paid attention to how you feel, to the way your clothes fit? What if you ate a healthy diet and allowed your body to take the shape that it naturally wants to inhabit?  What if you exercised regularly, were emotionally healthy, self-loving and had a strong and comfortable connection to your sexuality?What if you became guided by what you felt on the inside, instead of by the number reflected on the outside? A number, by the way,  chosen by an industry focused on taking your money and your self-worth.    As it’s used by most women, that scale is a weapon of self-destruction

What if you decided to never ever set foot on a scale again to find out what that number is? What if you decided right now to chuck the one you may own?

Because I do share personally, I can tell you that I have truly lived this way. I’ve never personally owned a scale, nor will I.  Like any woman, my weight has fluctuated throughout my life, and I’ve had a  child, so weight gain was part of that experience obviously.   I know personally that when I’ve been unhappy or in self-betrayal, my weight has increased or decreased from what was MY HEALTHY.  My feelings and how my clothes fit were my clues that I needed to make changes in my life.  I wasn’t striving to arrive at a number on a scale, but to arrive at a place of equanimity and joy within me.  And only I know where that place lives inside me.  That place determines my weight, but the number has been unknown to me for years.

Yes, of course I’ve weighed myself at times, but it’s how I know NOT TO.  I’ve been just as affected by seeing a number not aligned with the “ideal.”  I live in the same world with all my sisters and I’m not immune to the subliminal and overt mental manipulations all around me.  I CHOOSE to unplug from them and listen to the voice within me.  She is my compass, my wise woman, and the keeper of my health; body, mind and soul.    In my opinion, our mental health, aka our belief system, is more of a determinant in our self-esteem and physical health  than almost anything else we do.   When you pay attention from the inside, life changes radically.

So I ask you again: why do you weigh yourself?

I’m now asking  you personally as you read this to stop and to answer what may seem like the most mundane and simple question, but to answer it for YOU personally. Answer it with the ideas in mind which I’ve shared with you in this post.  This will give you a window into your own feelings which may be unconscious about your body and your relationship to it.   And I truly hope it inspires you to become a WHYman about EVERYTHING.  (sorry, there it is again.)

If you enjoyed this post, please share it with someone you care about,  Especially the women in your lives.   And that goes for you guys reading this, too.  I hope that for the guys who read my posts, that doors and windows open in your mind to generate a better understanding of some of the challenges women face in the struggle to feel good about themselves.

And ladies, if you’d like some help in learning how to chuck the scale and to love yourself from the inside out, my NATURAL BEAUTY AND TRANSFORMATIONAL LIFE COACHING is an aspect of what I do that I LOVE and am passionate about.  Explore the page to learn more and to watch my video.

And remember to share this post with those you feel would appreciate the message.  And I invite you to weigh in here with me (got one last one in!) and leave a comment below.  I’d love to know your thoughts and have you share your feelings.  I’m deeply passionate about helping you shine your light and your beauty as fully and brightly as you can.

With wild, fierce love and gratitude,

Gina Cloud

Know Your Body Intimately

GinaCology Principle No. 2 is that women (and men, too really!) should be intimate with their bodies, both from a health perspective and a sexual one.

Your health is YOUR responsibility and without an intimate relationship with your body, all aspects of your life become problematic; mentally, emotionally, spiritually and definitely physically.  Becoming aware of how aware or not aware you are of your own body is critical.

I made a video on this topic and share a lot on my philosophy about this, as well as give tips on how to approach and accomplish living connected to your body this way.  It’s part one, covering the health aspect. I’ll be sharing the second video on the sexuality aspect soon.

If you’re new to my work, please VISIT MY WEBSITE and join my mailing list to stay up to date with what I’m up to.  And please spend time on my blog, as I have many great topics I’ve written on that will really enrich your life!

And ladies, when you join my mailing list, you’ll receive a free body inventory assessment of 60+ questions to help you get more attuned with your body around this topic.

Much love,

Gina Cloud

Vegan: An Expert Guide to Plant-Based Dating

If you’ve avoided dating a vegan because you’re worried that they are high maintenance, fear no more.

Are you afraid of vegans? Suspicious? In other words, do you see them as somehow different than you in a way that makes you nervous about vegan dating altogether? Well, you’re right that a vegan is in some ways different than you, a non-vegan.

Before fear overcomes you, let me reassure you that vegans, in many ways, are just like you. In all likelihood you love animals, so do vegans. You also probably love food, so do vegans.

The main difference between you and the vegan you might date is that they have decided to make a conscious effort not to hurt animals, or perhaps boost their health (a whole foods, plant-based diet has been proven to be ideal for good health), or help the planet (animal agriculture has a disastrous impact on the environment) by cutting animal products out of their diet and lifestyle.

That’s not so bad, is it?

Ask out that vegan

A vegan has the strong potential to offer some very attractive qualities. The fact that they are vegan means that they walk the walk (and don’t just talk the talk).

If they are an ethical vegan (vegan in the interest in reducing animals’ suffering), then you know that they are not only standing up for what they believe in, but that they are opposed to cruelty.

Probably the most attractive trait of a vegan is that they are living the love that is in their heart by acting on their love for animals, love for themselves, and love for the planet. And relationships are all about love, right?

Plan a great vegan date

Loving Couple Having Breakfast.

So what happens when you’re going out on a date with a vegan and you start shaking in your leather boots because you’re nervous about being criticized, saying something wrong, or how you will break it to your parents that your someday fiancé won’t eat their Thanksgiving meal?

First, don’t be nervous. They’ve already said they will go out with you, so they have indicated that they accept how you eat. Give them a chance to say yes to you before you convince yourself they will reject you. You can worry about Thanksgiving later.

You’ll want to pick a place to meet that works for both you and your date. Your vegan isn’t only a vegan, they are a whole person with a spectrum of interests. Maybe they also enjoy botanical gardens, or seeing bands perform, or that French film that’s playing in the cute movie house downtown.

When it comes to restaurants, or cafés, or other food-oriented outings, a vegan will generally appreciate your thoughtfulness if you suggest a plant-based establishment. However, there are also frequently vegan options at non-vegan restaurants. There’s a good chance you’ll still be able to go to your favorite place, even if it isn’t vegan.

This could also be a fantastic opportunity for you to try a new cuisine. Your date will likely be in the know about the best vegan restaurants, and you could follow their guidance to delicious gourmet plant-based food unlike any you’ve tasted before.

Although your vegan date may seem a bit alien to you for their lifestyle choices, remember that they’re a human, like you. Vegans aren’t only interested in vegan things. We have all different topics we can talk about.

You should feel free to speak to your vegan about topics that interest you, but you’ll want to avoid interrogating them about their veganism, just as you wouldn’t want to be challenged about your own eating habits by a new potential love.

Also, you may want to avoid sensitive subject matter such as: 1) Your love of hunting, 2) Your last fishing trip, and 3) Your passion for eating bacon.

Get to know your vegan

Couple With Healthy Food

Though incessant prodding about one’s veganism is not fun on a date, as a vegan I can tell you that I always welcome the gentle asking of questions. It’s perfectly OK to be curious. Go ahead and ask your date how they came to be vegan, what they eat for breakfast, and what they wear on their feet. They will probably welcome your interest in their life.

On one of my first dates with my now-partner, Dietrich, he gently asked me why I didn’t drink milk, or eat other dairy products. I took no offense, and happily filled him in on why I had decided not to consume them, without pressuring him to change.

However, I should warn you, he has been happily vegan since that very day.

Ready for your first date with a vegan? Read on to tell if it’s going well.

How One Guy Reminded Us What Sexy After 50 Really Means

Over 50 and freaking hot is not as rare as it seems.

Chuando Tan, an allegedly 51-year-old Singaporean photographer, is currently melting the Instagrams with his series of white-hot selfies. Tan boasts over 400,000 followers that enjoy feasting upon images of the former fashion model looking sexy after 50 in tuxedos as well as the occasional shirtless self-portrait.

He got us thinking about how appealing and rewarding the company of 40 and 50-somethings can really be. Of course, we all know the temptations of 21-year-old Tinder tots with their soft cheeks and baby faces, but let’s be real. There is a lot to be said for a lover who’s been around the block – and back.

So, if you think that youth equals hot, let us present the argument as to why seasoned is even sexier.

The first reason they’re sexy after 50? Practice makes perfect.

First, let’s do some basic math. Older guys make great lovers simply because they’ve been around for at least 20 years longer than pretty young things (or, as I call them, PYTs). They’ve benefitted from the communication and instruction of wives, girlfriends, and lovers and therefore have learned how to please a woman.

You can expect that an older guy will know how to find your clitoris, your G spot, and that he will have spent his fair share of time bringing a woman to climax. He’s met all sorts of vaginas and knows that they’re all different and that, when it comes to sex, there’s no such thing as one size fits all.

They know that time, childbirth, and environment changes a woman’s body. They have seen their fair share of cellulite and stretch marks and are more likely to view curves as adventures, while younger men are more likely to seek the Hollywood ideal of attractiveness.

Younger guys are just getting to know how their own equipment works and have only recently been introduced to the female anatomy in a real world setting. For the most part, their dating pool has been limited to gals their own age and probably have not been afforded the company of an experienced lover. Unless they have a Mrs. Robinson in their lives, most PYTs haven’t met someone who can share with them what works in the sack and what doesn’t.

Patience makes perfect.

hot older man on a yacht
Photo Credit: Gianluca Vacchi 

Let’s think outside the bedroom for a second. Older guys have had to compromise and negotiate through all sorts of circumstances with all sorts of people, even coworkers and family members. These experience make for a more compassionate, attentive and patient lover in all areas of life — including sex.

Younger guys are often in it for their own pleasure and have yet to realize how rewarding and sexy putting someone else’s needs first can be. We’re not calling them selfish; they just have yet to learn that a woman’s orgasm is as much about mental stimulation as it is physical. And that trust can be sexy.

Because of their experience, DILFs are patient with our bodies. They realize that the more giving they are in bed the hotter the experience. They know what turns themselves on and in many cases, that’s seeing you get off.

Perseverance makes perfect.

Silver foxes have experienced so much more in life than their younger counterparts. They’ve already dealt with many of life’s difficulties and obstacles, and understand that slow and steady wins the race.

Anything they’ve felt the need to prove to others or to themselves has already been accomplished, leaving them more time to think about pleasing their lovers. This equals confidence and we can all agree that confidence is sexy.

Young men are often still seeking stable ground, affirmation, and are just beginning to build their confidence. And the cockier they seem, the more likely that they’re incredibly insecure — baggage we don’t want dragged into the bedroom.

How can you find your fox?

After feasting our eyes on Tan for longer than we’d like to admit, we decided to dig a little and see who else we could unearth. Turns out there are plenty of silver and not so silver foxes out there on the interwebs. Mark Ruffalo, Jason Statham and Jamie Foxx are just a few of the celebrities with an Instagram presence who came screaming into this world 50 years ago, and they just keep hollering.

All of these guys are DNA proof that being sexy after 50 is possible, but this club isn’t just for the famous. Keep your eyes peeled and your mind open and you just might find one near you.

Interested in reading about the relationship between age and dating? Check out what millennials think about dating older, why women love to date in a different age bracket, and what mature men are really looking for beyond just looks.

I’m Done Trying to Shrink Myself to Please You

Losing yourself in a relationship can happen both literally and figuratively. If you’ve felt this way, the following stream-of-consciousness work may resonate with you.

My entire life I’ve always felt bigger than most, especially since I’m a 5’10” female.

Growing up I was always jealous of my friends with petite bodies and natural thigh gaps. I selfishly always wondered why I couldn’t have been blessed in that way.

I’ve always tried to shrink down, to change myself, to appear smaller and hide in the back of photos to try to cover myself. I always tried to be less than I was because I always feared being too much.

One night, I was talking to my male friend at a bar in our hometown. He’s noticeably shorter than I am and I tried to slouch, to bend down, to be ashamed that I am taller, and bigger, than he is. It made me feel extremely uncomfortable.

This is not a new insecurity — it’s a feeling I’ve felt so many times but it’s a feeling that doesn’t get easier.

As I started trying to squeeze and slide through people at the bar on my way back to my friends, I realized that I had to stop feeling this way as others were bumping into me without any disregard or apology. I realized then that just like them I’m allowed to take up space. I realized that I might be tall, but that doesn’t make me any less of a woman, or person for that matter. It doesn’t matter that my thighs touch or that my stomach is a little round. None of that matters because I’m enough the way I am. I only feel lesser when I start comparing myself to other people.

Comparison is the killer — the reason I feel less and my insecurities arise.

I always tried to shrink down not only to please myself, but other people.

I tried to make other people more comfortable than myself, and I knew that had to change. Something had to give.

I realized I’m allowed to take up space, just like you are. I’m allowed to be exactly who I am with or without other people’s approval because as long as I’m enough for me that’s got to be enough. I’ve always given to others, even when I didn’t have much to give. I’ve always talked my friends up while looking down on myself. I’ve always been my own worst enemy. That night in the bar when I was getting elbowed trying to gently squeeze past people who didn’t even care to acknowledge that they were bumping into me. I finally realized I don’t deserve to treat myself that way anymore. I deserve to love myself, be proud of myself and take care of myself.

Trying to hide who I am to make other people feel more comfortable makes no sense.

I’ve done things like change my personality, pretend I don’t feel passionate about certain topics, try to quiet who I really am because I don’t want to appear too much. But through that it made me realize that I am exactly who I am and I can’t change that, nor do I want to.

I’m not going to be for everyone, it’s not possible — just like everyone isn’t for me.

There will be people who don’t like me, people who will think I’m too much or too little, people who will judge me before they know me, and that’s okay. I’m no longer worried about being enough for everyone else, as long as I’m enough for myself.

I don’t need to attract everyone; I just need to attract the right people who love me for me.

Never again will I try to shrink down parts of me to please someone else because I’m done being afraid to take up space. I’m allowed to take up space. I’m allowed to express myself. I’m no longer afraid to be “too much” or “too little” for anyone, as long as I’m enough for myself.

If you resonated with this story of losing yourself in a relationship, listen to this incredible spoken word poem on the same theme by writer Lily Myers:

There are many ways you can be losing yourself in a relationship. Check out this article about the intersection of weight loss and love for another perspective.

How Accessing Your Inner Child Could Help You Learn To Love Again

The secret to healing a broken heart may just be a matter of looking back to our younger selves.

A while back, I got smacked with a broken heart.

I don’t need to tell you what it’s like: the grief, the fury, the obsessive obsessing. You catch yourself staring into space like a shell-shocked bush baby. Bursting into sobs when a waiter asks what you want for lunch. Knowing beyond doubt that you’re a flabby warthog who will never again find love. Wondering if warthogs are allowed to join enclosed religious orders.

In the middle of all that, I got a rare chance to meet up with my three oldest and best friends. (Full disclosure: margaritas and Quelf  were involved.) As the evening went on, full of laughter and warmth and good conversation, I was flooded by a wave of nostalgia. I missed those long afternoons of our childhood when the four of us were invincible  Kate, Sara, Alyssa, and me. We were smart and fun and confident. Back when guys and breakups weren’t even on our radar.

Why can’t we feel like that now? I wondered.

Somewhere around the age of nine, girls get life down to a fine art.

We know exactly who we are. We’re writing poetry, building the ultimate cat gymnasium, proving Fermat’s Last Theorem, having burping contests with our friends and really trying to win. Because that’s our jam. We’re passionate about the environment or filmmaking or mapping the human genome.

Then, boom — the hormones hit and we forget it all.

As psychologist and writer Mary Pipher puts it, “Adolescence is when girls experience social pressure to put aside their authentic selves and to display only a small portion of their gifts.”

Here’s what I realized: to heal my heart and spirit, I would need to remind myself who that amazing kid was before she lost track of her true self. I’d need to get back in touch with her tastes and ambitions and passions, and start building them back into my life.

young women playing with hair

When it comes to healing a broken heart, it’s all about letting her lead the way. And it starts with three essential steps:

1. Talk to her again.

Start a journal and free-write about the things you loved as a kid. What did you crave? What did you love to do? Let your memories pour out without editing anything. Try to recall sensory details: who were you with? Where? What was the weather like? Include the smell of the grass, the sound of the ocean, the taste of your favorite candy.

Try writing in character as your nine-year-old self. (Or whatever age feels right to you.) How would you describe yourself? What’s going on in your life? Are you in your bedroom? At camp? Somewhere else? Who’s around? If you had complete freedom at this moment, what would you be doing?

If words aren’t working, try creating a collage or scrapbook. Images may jog your memory more effectively than words. Any old artwork or photos you’ve saved can be gold.

Chat with friends and siblings who remember the old days. Conversations with the people who’ve known you longest can sometimes bring back long-forgotten details.

2. Make a to-do list of childhood activities and goals.

When you think back to the childhood experiences that you remember, notice how they make you feel. Pay attention to the ones that still give you that flicker of excitement (or glee, or longing, or even envy). Those are the ones that are part of your core being. Write them down.

Some will be easy and cheap to do. (Examples from my list: “Buy tiara to wear grocery shopping”, “Plan water balloon fight w/Sara, Kate & Alyssa.”) Others may take a little more time, effort, or money. (“Sign up for riding lessons,” “write a novel,”  “join the Sherlock Holmes Society of London.”)

Did you always want to learn welding? Find yourself a class. Did you want to be a poet, an architect, a wildlife rehabilitator? Start taking those dreams seriously. Track down groups and communities that will support you.

3. Go outside and play.

Here’s the one absolutely essential rule: You have to actually do the things on your list. That’s where real healing starts.

Does playing like a kid seem embarrassing? Are you worried that some concerned bystander is going to sneak up on you with a straitjacket? I get it, I really do.

Don’t worry. Just take a deep breath and keep gluing chocolate chips onto your friend’s face in a decorative pattern.

As all artists know, play is not just for children. It’s powerful. It creates, reveals, and renews, and it’s the best way to reconnect with your authentic self.

Here are some examples from my notebook.

Autumn Girl Playing In City

“I Wanted To Be a Trapeze Artist.”

There are clubs, schools, and camps all over the country that offer trapeze classes for beginners. Google “Cirque du Soleil classes” and you’ll find a bunch of intriguing possibilities. Many of these programs will also give you a taste of tightrope walking, juggling, and other circus-y thrills. And you don’t have to be an athlete to try them.

“I Loved Bouncing On the Bed.”

Wheee! If you have a fragile bed frame and/or low ceilings, you may want to try a trampoline instead. Or check online to find a local gymnastics class. If the sensation of flight is what you crave, then mere bouncing may not be enough. You may need to get out there and start hang-gliding, parasailing, or skydiving.

“I Was In the Best Secret Club Ever.”

Adults can have secret clubs, too. All you need to start one is a friend (who can keep a secret). From there, things can get as elaborate as you want. Make sure you have a secret hideout. Yes, you could just meet up in the living room, but it’s much better to pick a place like the roof, the attic, or the space under the stairs. Bring in some blankets and apples.

Underneath all the pain and heartbreak, that confident nine-year-old kid is still there inside you.

Take her seriously. When it comes to healing a broken heart, it starts by celebrating the talented, complex, amazing person you really are at every age.

For more reading on finding yourself, read this powerful essay on how we can make ourselves small in the pursuit of love — and how we can fix it. 

Can You Really Have Sex with a Ghost? This Woman Said She Did

What’s the difference between having a fantasy and sleeping with a ghost?

When there’s something strange in the neighborhood, who you gonna call?

Whether it’s the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man walking through Manhattan or Whoopi Goldberg warning, “you’re in danger, girl,” ghosts litter our fictional world. Especially during the holidays, the Ghosts of Christmas Past haunt the office halls of the most heinous of misers.

The reality, however, can be a little more somber.

Sometimes grief makes you see things.

My grandparents met when she was 15 years old and he was 17. On a cold day in 1987, her car slipped on a piece of black ice from an early snow, she went into oncoming traffic and ran into someone else. At just 50 years old, she was gone.

My grandfather was understandably devastated. Over the years he dated a few women, but never remarried. She was the love of his life and no one quite measured up. When I was home after college one year we were talking about her and he told me that the night she died, he had a horrible time trying to get to sleep. He was distraught, likely in shock and sleeping alone for the first time in almost 35 years.

He told me when he finally fell asleep that she came to him to say good-bye. When he woke, he said that he could still feel her lips on his. Was it a dream? Was it real? Was it grief and exhaustion?

What are the chances ghosts are real?

Happy loving couple

One English “spiritual guidance counselor” not only swears that they are real, but that some sexy ghosts are able to manifest their energy into treating her to a good time. After all, who said the afterlife can’t be sexy?

This is her story, via Newsweek:

Talk about otherworldly sex! Amethyst Realm, a 27-year-old “spiritual guidance counselor” in England, says sex with ghosts is much better than sex with men—and she should know because she’s made love …

Continue reading “Can You Really Have Sex with a Ghost? This Woman Said She Did”

How Burlesque Let Me Claim My Body Image

Here’s how I became more comfortable with my clothes off.

I got made fun of for my body as a teen, just like everyone else. I was tall and gangly. Super awkward and never comfortable in my own skin. I was ashamed of my small breasts, of my crooked legs. Even at home, I hated looking in the mirror. I just felt so ugly, so unappealing to the eye.

While in college, I began working in the New York City comedy scene. I was super self-conscious in that community, and I never felt comfortable. It seemed like everyone was more successful and confident than I was. But one day, while working as a production assistant on a show in Brooklyn, I saw my very first burlesque act. Immediately, I was hooked.

The dancer was incredible. Her act was unlike anything I would have imagined burlesque to be. It was performance art, stripping down to nothing and writing on her body in lipstick. It was empowering to watch. I approached her after the show, as I quickly became mesmerized by her craft. I asked her about her start in burlesque, how to take classes and get involved in the scene. I told her I wanted to become more comfortable in my body.

However, she told me that to do burlesque, you need to be comfortable in your body already.

The act of asking her these questions and the idea that I could do this made me think that maybe I am becoming more comfortable with my body already. Maybe I just wanted to be confident in general. She told me they were both important.

I took her card. Immediately I went home and looked up the class schedule for the New York School of Burlesque. In that one night, I completely forgot about my dreams in the comedy world and instead focused my attention on taking my clothes off.

Burlesque dancer

My first course was pretty much the basics of burlesque. Fan dancing, stocking peels, bump and grind, all of the essentials. At the end of it, I had put together my first act, a piece to a Gilda Radner song. My burlesque sister, who began classes at the same time as me, helped me choreograph it. My training in comedy came in handy, as it ended up being a highly comedic dance involving finger puppets.

Around the same time I was taking classes, I became involved with a “Rocky Horror Picture Show” shadowcast. I was cast as Janet, a character who spends a good two-thirds of the show in her underwear. Playing her week after week eventually got me completely desensitized to the idea of stripping in front of people, and at one point I realized I’m actually more comfortable onstage the less clothing I was wearing.

I had my first burlesque student showcase a few months after that. I did the Gilda number, and it was a big hit. My first time taking my top off onstage was a thrill I’ll never forget. My fellow performers and audience members were incredibly supportive, and the praise and applause I received was unlike any other response that I had ever gotten in my years of doing theatre and comedy. I fell in love.

I found that I could be funny and sexy at the same time.

After that show I began touring all around New York. I did shows at some of the most well-known burlesque theatres. At the same time, I was doing Rocky more and more, spending most of my weekends wearing little to no clothing. I was so fulfilled.

Finally I could say I was proud of my body. Finally I could be proud of my height and ganglyness. People loved me for me, and that was more I could say about any other scene I’ve been a part of. I was allowed freedom in creating my acts. I found that I could be funny and sexy at the same time. And that was what I wanted to be. Personable, entertaining, and easy to look at.

Since moving to New England, I haven’t been doing burlesque as much anymore. I’ve been focusing most of my time on Rocky and writing, but I hope to take those stripper heels and finger puppets out again one day.

For the very first time, I was unashamedly me onstage, and it was a thrill that couldn’t be replaced by any other type of performing. Every performance just proves to me more and more that I am not some scrawny, awkward teenager anymore. At least not onstage.

7 Love Lessons I Learned from the Amazon Show “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

Did you fall in love with the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel too? I sure did.

After Mad Men ended, it seemed like we were left with a void of really good 1950s and ‘60s period shows.

Personally, I love the era and was excited to see The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, a show on Amazon that fit the bill. It premiered around the holidays and I never followed up with watching it. However, once it won a couple Golden Globes earlier this year, I was intrigued.

Here are seven love lessons I learned from the show. *Warning* Spoilers ahead.

1. Love yourself first.

Miriam “Midge” Maisel was a typical 1950s housewife, mid-20s, two children and a husband. She’s highly educated (Bryn Mawr) and was raised Jewish in the Upper West Side in New York City.

On the surface, her life seemed perfect. However, what struck a chord with me the most was how Midge couldn’t even get a good night’s sleep. She literally had to wait until her husband Joel fell asleep to creep into the bathroom and remove her makeup.

She then had to make sure she woke up before him to put the entire “face” back on before he woke up. It made me realize how important it is to love yourself first, that your significant other needs to see you, no makeup, bedhead and all. That is what true love is.

2. Love your career, even if it scares you.

Night after night of watching her husband bomb in stand-up comedy at a local café, Midge supported her significant other by bringing beef brisket to get him on stage at an earlier time.

She was meticulous about taking notes on Joel’s routine and it’s clear how much she enjoyed comedy. It wasn’t until he left her that she drunkenly headed to the same café and absolutely killed it in her own improv stand-up act.

Throughout the series, viewers see her fears combined with her “You know what, I actually don’t give a damn” attitude that made her rise to the top.

I personally chose freelance writing and teaching piano as a career path and it is scary. he money’s not the best and neither are the hours. That being said, it is a career I truly adore. I can’t imagine doing anything else now.

3. Love your co-workers.

When I worked full-time at a newspaper, I was overly cautious about my co-workers, particularly females—not Midge Maisel though.

When she gets a job at a department store makeup counter post-separation from her husband, she found a group of true female friends who support each other every step of the way. I learned that loving your co-workers is a great way to form a certain camaraderie. Support is so important, especially in this day and age.

Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

4. Love life.

Midge didn’t take life too seriously, and that’s what made her so likeable. No matter what life brings your way, it’s important to remember to laugh at it sometimes.

Midge ended up breaking up with her partner, moved in with her parents and figured out life on her own for the first time at 26. I’ve always imagined I love life, but after watching Mrs. Maisel it is just reiterated it even more now. Loving life is so important. After all, we only get one chance.

5. Love your parents, they only want what’s best for you.

If you think your parents are meddling, just wait until you watch Midge’s. As much as I began to remember the times growing up where my own parents seemed to be prying, I also recalled how much they love me. They sacrificed so much for my four siblings and me and I know, just like Rose and Abe, Midge’s mother and father, they only want what’s best for me.

6. Love your heritage.

Midge was raised Jewish and while she often used her background as fodder for her comedy routine, she loved the heritage that made her who she was. It took until the very end of the season for her to finally use her real name, a decision she struggled with until the very end.

I learned that no matter what others say about the way I was raised, or my Catholic background, you name it, it is important to love your background. Also, as crazy as my last name is, I embrace it because it makes me unique and reminds me of my Ukrainian roots.

7. Love your city.

Midge just adored New York City, her hometown. The show did a wonderful job showing the city circa the late ‘50s.

I live in Washington, D.C. and sometimes I forget to take advantage of the gorgeous city I reside in. I realize now how much I need to be more like Midge and truly love my city. It’s important to get out and enjoy your local bars and restaurants and community events.

Often, I feel like life in my city sometimes passes me by when the weekend comes along, as I’m often too tired or lazy to get up and do something.

Amazon’s new show about a 1950s housewife has a lot of love lessons.

The winter can be a great time for binge watching a new show. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a wonderful new addition to Amazon’s show list. Not only is it entertaining, the show has a lot of lessons on love and life.

Interested in reading about a real-life standup comedian and her take on television? Check out this piece.

Reclaiming Your Sex Life After the Big C — Cancer

Cancer may change your body and stifle your drive, but you can still have a vibrant sex-life!

When I received a diagnosis of stage III colorectal cancer (with tumors in my colon and rectum) at the age of 36, questions flooded my mind. What were my chances of survival? How long would I be on chemotherapy? When would my surgeon cut the cancer out of me? I can admit now that one of them was even, “What exactly is my ‘colon’?”

This was life and death and I was in warrior mode. I was only concerned about living. Death, to me, was not an option. At least that was the philosophy I was invested in.

In the discussions I had with my surgeon, oncologist, nurses, and the many other helpful people at the hospital where I was treated, we spoke about side-effects of chemo (hair thinning, neuropathy, sensitivity to cold), how to manage my ileostomy bag (or a “poop bag” that would hang off my abdomen for a few months), we talked about my temporary low fiber diet, and we chatted about what to do if I spiked a fever.

However, nobody brought up the topic of my sex-life, or that my desire level might diminish.

My treatments left me with zero sex-drive.

Despite my usual crushes, soon after treatments began, I discovered that I had zero sexual drive. In addition to the lessened desire for physical intimacy, once I had a bag of my own human waste hanging from my belly, I definitely didn’t want anyone I was interested in seeing me in the nude.

I already had body image issues. I had gone through most of my life as a compulsive overeater, and for all of my adulthood had been uncomfortable with the appearance of my naked self. Now I was thin, due to chemo, and single. But I had a bag of excrement hanging off of me. It felt very unsexy, and definitely something I didn’t want to reveal to a new potential love.

Besides the bag, my hormones had reacted to the chemicals that coursed through my body to kill the cancer. I had no desire for sex.

Cancer often leads to body image challenges.

Women with breast cancer often have similar experiences. Having one’s breasts removed in order to save one’s life can result in a negative self image (this is, admittedly, a simplification of a very complex experience for women), and a feeling of no longer being feminine or sexually attractive.

Some women even go without a potentially life-saving mastectomy in favor of keeping the breasts they feel are absolutely necessary in order to find love. However, many people love women who don’t have breasts, and those without them find partners who adore them. We can maintain our sexuality even with seeming insurmountable physical challenges to our sense of sexiness.

However, a diminished sexual desire during cancer may have nothing to do with our appearance, but instead be a physical symptom of the medical treatments we are experiencing to save our lives. Breast cancer treatments, for example, can actually cause vaginal pain that makes intercourse painful for many women.

Young sick woman smelling a fresh flower from her husband

A diminished drive may remain after the cancer is gone.

Once we come out the other side, and finish our cancer-related treatments and surgeries, challenges to our sex drives may continue. In some cases, the loss of sexual desire is without a concrete medical explanation, or solution.

However, there is a lot we can do to bring sexy back into our lives, and work with our partners to create a pleasurable experience for ourselves once again.

We can reclaim our sex-lives during and after cancer.

Though treatments, surgeries, and poop bags can pose challenges to our sexuality, they are not insurmountable. With a little creativity, persistence, and patience, we can have sex lives while we fight for our lives.

Whether we’ve lost our breasts or are flaunting an ileostomy bag, the dramatic physical changes we go through to rid ourselves of cancer can make us feel like we’re not our sexy selves. That just means we may need to go deep inside, and also use some handy tools.

If you feel unsexy due to an outward physical change, try looking at yourself in a mirror and focusing what you love about your body–making a mental list. What about your beautiful skin, your glowing eyes, your gentle touch? These are all very sexy. There’s no need to stay locked into conventional ideas of what makes a body desirable. Your body has been revised, so why not update your ideas about it?

Whatever you are feeling, you can have a romantic life.

Lingerie is fun, flirty, sexy, and lets us reveal what we want to reveal when we want to reveal it. Some talented and thoughtful designers have created lingerie for women with bodies altered by cancer.

Jasmine Stacey has made gorgeous, sexy underthings in beautiful fabrics that are specific designed for people with ostomies (like my ileostomy). Royce Lingerie makes bras with women who have had mastectomies in mind (with pockets for prostheses). However, many women are opting to go flat these days, and if that group includes you, you may want to experiment with fun flimsy lace camisoles that don’t require a breast or something shaped like one.

When chemo has you feeling like you just need to lay in bed and get some rest, but you want to spend time with your partner, you can explore a romantic mental space together. Why not go on an imagined date? Try cuddling and talking your way through what you would do together if you felt up to it. Where would you go? What foreign country? Which great national park would you hike in together? What do you see?

Painful vaginal sex due to breast cancer treatments may mean that it’s the last thing you want to engage in. However, there are a lot of ways to be physically intimate that don’t involve vaginal intercourse. Oral sex and stimulation using our hands are easy tools to use when other forms of intercourse are not in play. If you do want to try vaginal sex, then there are many lubricants on the market that may make it easier.

Whatever your situation is, be sure to communicate your experience with your partner. Though your symptoms may be obvious to you, they may not be to the person who you are involved with. Gently letting them know your sensitivities and needs will help them to treat you in a caring way.

Sick wife hugging husband after successful therapy against brain cancer

Even without a medical explanation for your lack of interest in sex, there is something you can do.

One thing I learned from my cancer is that even long after the treatments are behind you, even once you are used to the scars, cancer can cause a diminished sex drive, which was my experience. I went to a specialist and found no good medical explanation or cure. It was up to me to find a way to cope with it.

The greatest gift I received during this process was advice to simply jump into romance and follow the feelings that come up. It worked, and when my body is just not making the sexual connection for me, I make it in my mind, and the physical usually followed.

If I put on some beautiful lingerie, look at my handsome boyfriend, think about his wonderful qualities, and dive in, soon those old feelings start to bubble to the surface.

As it turns out, despite those scars on my abdomen: the big vertical line where my surgeon cut out my cancer and the shorter kiss of red where my bag hung off of me, my partner loves my belly. The part of me I could barely bear to look at following my cancer is one that he loves.

Let others love you.

When we decide for others that we aren’t sexy, we don’t give them the opportunity to show us how much they are attracted to us. Whether we have lost our breasts or have a body covered in scars, others can still desire us.

If we “no” ourselves before giving others the opportunity to say, “yes” we may reject love before it finds us. If we have faith that we are sexual human beings deserving of pleasure, with or without cancer, then we open ourselves up to love, romance, and a healthy sexy life.

For more about dating while living with cancer, read this story by the same author.

I Stopped Changing Myself For Men And Here’s How You Can Do The Same

You are enough without changing yourself or who you are for anyone.

I’ve always been the girl who needs to be liked and accepted, not just by men, but by everyone. I know it’s not possible but I still try because being accepted by other people feels good. It makes us feel good even when we don’t feel good about ourselves or like ourselves, which was what I used to obsess over.

I was always so focused on if other people, especially men, liked me. Instead of putting effort into myself and making sure I liked who I was I became so focused on if other people liked me.

I dated a guy who I’m not sure I even liked because I never evaluated him. It might sound ridiculous, but I was so focused on if he liked me that I forgot to question if I even liked him. For months, I’d scratch my head and wonder if I was good enough for him, if I’d be able to make him really mine, if I could get him to stick around for longer than a few months. I tried to be who I thought he would like instead of just being myself.

I knew it was time to change my mindset when I realized that I was compromising my own happiness and self to try to be what someone else wanted, or at least what I thought someone wanted.

Something that really stuck that helped me adjust my mindset is a conversation I had with my life coach. She asked me if I changed who I was on first dates, if I acted different, less like myself, and I said yes, to a certain extent. I told her I am usually nervous, a little more quiet, a little more reserved. She followed that up with a very insightful comment: “you don’t act different around your friends when you hang out with them, right? You just know they like you so you can be yourself. That’s how you have to go into dating.”

She’s right – that’s why I pay her to give me advice. I realized I had to start going into dating with the mindset that they’re going to like me and if they don’t then it doesn’t matter. At least if I’m going into dates as myself and not pretending to be someone I’m not they’ll get to know the real me. Some people might not like it but some will love it, either way I am who I am and I’ve learned to love myself just for that.

Knowing who you are is half the battle in loving yourself and knowing you deserve love.

I always used to try to mold myself into a cookie cutter shape of what someone else likes or wants. The truth is I’m not everyone’s cup of tea and that’s fine. Some people hate tea, some people prefer coffee, some people prefer neither and that is what makes us all unique. That is why there are so many different types of people.

You don’t have to like everyone and everyone doesn’t have to like you! I finally decided it’s time to stop forming to please other people and just be myself.

I decided it no longer matters if he isn’t interested in me because there will always be someone else who is. I learned it’s better to not force relationships or conversations that aren’t happening. Those kinds of interactions will never leave you satisfied, because they’re not honest.

It’s not worth trying to fit into someone else’s story. It’s time to write your own! The right person will accept you for who you are, not who you try to be.

young attractive couple

Being yourself is one of the most liberating experiences you can have.

Once I stopped changing myself to please others that aren’t interested, it made a world of difference. I gave myself permission to be who I am without reservation and that is a freeing feeling. It’s allowed me to meet someone for a drink and not go in with any expectations.

I can be more open and I can look in the mirror and accept that I am enough just the way I am whether someone else thinks so or not.

Allowing yourself the freedom to just accept where you are in your life, without hoping that every person you come across is going to want you is an invigorating feeling.

It’s important to realize, at the end of the day, you have to be enough for yourself. You’re worth being loved, especially by yourself.

Allow yourself to express yourself the way you want. Stand up for what you care about. Wear as much or as little makeup as you want. Don’t change yourself for anyone, instead be proud of who you are!

Ever since I started being completely myself I’ve found a new sense of freedom I didn’t realize was possible. I started going out with more guys from dating apps because I didn’t have that fear holding me back that they wouldn’t like me. I also didn’t feel that pressure I used to put on myself of being skinny or pretty enough for them. I am who I am and they either like me or not. But that’s still not as important as if I like them or not.

Putting yourself and your comfort first in these situations isn’t selfish, it’s necessary. Absolutely necessary.

Just last weekend it gave me the confidence to go up to a man in a bar (something I never do). I didn’t worry about what he would say or if he would be interested or not, I just went up to him and started talking. (I was also wearing the ugliest handmade Christmas sweater the world has ever seen.) The best part about it? He loved that I was confident to walk up and talk to him in that ugly sweater. He liked it so much he asked me on a date and it was great!

The right person will like you and love you for your unique characteristics, how you look, what you say and everything in between. If he doesn’t completely accept you then he’s not the one, but know there is someone out there who will. The right person will love you for who you are, not who you try to be.

For more ways to please women, check out Why I Am Loving The First Date.