By: Abbey Lyn Clark, Regular Contributor
When I was a little girl, my mother took my sister and me to the beach for swimming lessons. To warm up, the instructor made us bob up and down in the water. My fear of crabs, jellyfish, and other sea creatures aside, I will never forget the sting of the crisp morning air, colder than the chilling, stinging salt water. I hated bobbing exercises, but in retrospect, plunging my whole 8-year-old body into the salt water was the only way anyone would be warm enough to begin and finish the lesson without blue lips.
Practicing what you preach is a lot like learning how to swim. Staying calm, cool, and collected, being kind and compassionate, finding inspiration and motivation in trying times is all easier said then done. Furthermore it takes more effort and energy than you may realize. Being positive is a cultivated habit. I am a yoga instructor, I AM THAT GIRL local chapter leader, and proponent of healthy living; I’d consider myself a very upbeat person. I haven’t gotten to this point without practice and lessons. Despite my smile and positive outlook, I am not perfect. I forgot to mention that I’m also a daughter, sister, friend, and above all, a human being. I’ve had my fair share of broken hearts and have broken a few myself. In the past, I’ve fallen for the wrong guys and have felt betrayed, disrespected, and used by close friends. I once had a very unhealthy relationship with food and a distorted self-concept. I’ve gotten stressed during the school year to the point of caffeine panic attacks and sometimes, I give my girlfriends advice that I don’t necessarily feel the need to follow myself. I am my own worst enemy.
I hope you’re reading this with your neurons firing at rapid speed, and you’re thinking: “Oh. My. God. This is me, this is my life, and I do it all the time: I don’t listen to myself.” If you are thinking this, or even saying it out loud, then I’ve done half of what I’ve intended to do. Half of this chronic problem of not practicing what you preach is a reluctance to admit that you are not superwoman. If you have the courage to admit that you’re not perfect, and never will be, then you’re half way there. Everyone has a voice in his or her head…hear it? That is the best version of yourself talking to you. It’s telling you to forget the past, forget about who you used to be, and focus on the positive because there’s so much to be thankful for and look forward to.
The last piece of the puzzle is more of a process than an answer. Walking the talk is harder than it looks, but it starts with accepting yourself: your whole self, even the dark cobwebbed corners that you would never want anyone to see. Everything is connected: your self-concept, how you treat others, and how others treat you. The process is different for everyone. For some people, it takes traveling the world or taking a road trip to learn something new. For some, it is indulging in the simplest pleasures and taking time to relax in the shade on a hot summer day with a favorite book. For me, it seems to be exercising and eating healthy. When I feel good, I treat others well. When I’m feeling hot and confident, I believe that I’m hot and confident and chase after what I want. When I respect myself, others respect me back. When I’m around people I love, I light up. When I’m happy, I spread my happiness so others can feel it. When I’m in a sticky situation, I’m feeling uncomfortable, or I just don’t know what to do, I try to quiet my mind and listen to that voice in my head. It’s probably telling me to do the right thing and practice what I preach.
Once you find what gives you this drive and self-confidence, setting up a wall in your home or office with your favorite quotes, mantras, and pictures may help you hold on to this positive energy. De-clutter your life and make room for the things that matter. Thinking about what inspires you helps motivate you to be a better person. This isn’t to say that a silly quote wall will protect you from having bad days, but it just may help you handle your bad days more gracefully. Like I said, we are humans and we are not immune to stress. However, there are healthy ways to deal with our stress. We are all capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for. Our shortcomings are learning experiences and blunders are stepping-stones to something better on the horizon.
Fact: everything happens for a reason. Maybe there’s a reason you’re reading this right now. My ambition runs a bit high sometimes, but I strongly believe that you have to reach for the stars and listen to yourself to make something great happen in your life. Just like my first mind-numbing plunge into the Long Island Sound at 7 a.m., you have to submerge yourself fully into this challenge. You’re not perfect, but you have the potential to be great and make others see that you’re great. Consider every reminder to practice what you preach a warm up. It’s the only way to get through this crazy life and learn how to swim.
About Abbey: Abbey Clark is a rising senior majoring in English and Human Development at Boston College. Along with being the I AM THAT GIRL local chapter leader at BC, she is also a yoga instructor and the co-president of her all female a cappella group: The BC Sharps. She loves spending time with her friends & family, baking, and traveling. She is an advocate of healthy living, real beauty, and is so proud to be part of such a beautiful organization that is changing the world for women and girls!