Looking Back and Moving Forward

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Sometimes you have to look back in order to move forward. I have been doing a lot of looking back in the almost three years we have been in Seattle. At first, my looking back was because I was lonely and homesick, which I still feel at times. Now, with year-end upon us, I am looking back to better understand why I am where I am and to determine what I should do next.

There is a lot about life that does not make sense. We have seen a lot of chaos, heartbreak and disaster this year, more than I recall in my lifetime: hurricanes, wildfires, wars, bombings and the threat of nuclear attack are daily topics of conversation, real occurrences in our lives or in the lives of those we hold dear.

We imagine our life will go a certain way, and it rarely, if ever, plays out the way we pictured it. Why? Because that is life. Life cannot be pinned down, and it cannot be predicted. In the end, life is a compilation of one unexpected moment after another. You can fight against it, or you can work with it. Over and over life is teaching me this.

I am a reformed people-pleaser and a reformed planner. As for the former, I still like people to like me, and I work a bit too diligently at it at times. However, I do accept that some people will like me and others will not, and there is nothing I can do to change their minds. As for the latter, I feel the pendulum has swung too far the other direction. Much to the dismay of my data-driven, super plan-y husband, I plan and prepare for almost nothing. I let the day take me where it will. I do not make New Year’s resolutions, I do not make a to-do list for the day or the week, and I do not write down personal goals or goals for my business. Now, I am the last-minute girl who is always 5-10 minutes late to her engagement, under-prepared and slightly frazzled. There must be a happy medium, don’t you think?

I was telling a trusted colleague about this swing from one end of the spectrum to the other, and she observed that I needed to give myself permission to let my hair down. A great deal has occurred in my life, in the last seven years especially, that were far beyond my control: giving birth to twins at 32 weeks, my mom’s diagnosis of a non-curable blood cancer (she has been in remission for five years), and our move to Seattle, Washington from Dallas, Texas, where I had spent 21 years building my social and professional life. So, yes, I needed to stop planning for a while, and just be in the moment.

future and pastBut I don’t like the feeling of not being prepared, so, for the first time in a long time, I am going to make a list of 2018 personal goals, as well as a list of goals for my business. I have always feared writing goals because I felt I was setting myself up for failure. On the contrary, written goals are guideposts designed to help me succeed. I may not meet them all, but at least I know the direction I am heading. One thing my younger brother said a few years ago that stays with me, “An anxious mind is an unfocused mind.” If I want less anxiety in 2018, I have to create focus for myself. While I still want to flex and bend as life throws me curve balls, I need tangible goals to keep me moving forward and to keep me grounded.

I have shared a lot of my heart with you this year: a day of heartbreak, a big change for my daughter and my insight regarding social media. You have been very kind to read these posts and to offer wisdom and encouragement. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

I will leave you with a quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald, which gives me comfort: “For what it’s worth, it’s never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you find you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start over again.”

Black and white photo of me by Christina Childress.

Social Media, For Better or For Worse?

IMG_0397Somewhere along the way, I got off track with social media. On the one hand, social media has great benefits including staying in touch across the miles, promoting your business and finding a new job. But there is a balance one should maintain, and I, during the last two years especially, was doing a terrible job of pulling back when I should.

My first social media account was on MySpace. I know I am dating myself! As everyone knows, MySpace was eclipsed by Facebook, which I joined in mid-2008, four years after it launched, hesitant to go where I thought only college students tread. Other social media formats followed, and it was not long before we were Tweeting, Pinning, Snap Chatting and Instagramming with people far and near.

I created a business page on Facebook, and I joined Twitter as a means of raising my business profile for my new career in image consulting. It worked. By late 2010, I was receiving business from Google searches. Pinterest swept me into its arms in 2011, and I built boards geared at educating clients and keeping myself on top of trends. I joined Instagram in 2013, mostly to maintain a presence to avoid looking like a dinosaur. One must keep up!IMG_9991

I spent a good amount of time building a following across these four platforms, in addition to my personal business website and my blog. The time I spent on social media was mostly reasonable, and it rarely eclipsed the day-to-day work required of a small business. By 2014, my business was on a roll. I was speaking at least once per quarter and working with a steady stream of personal clients. I give a lot of props to social media for this momentum.

Yet, after our move to Seattle in January 2015, I became depressed and I collapsed into social media as an escape. The mere idea of starting over in a new city drained me of all energy, and I spent more and more time immersed in a world of highlight reels.

My husband tried to talk to me about my social media use on a few occasions, and each time I became defensive. I was homesick, and I missed my friends. Seeing them on social media was my way of being with them. On a deeper level, I was angry at my husband for this big change, and retreating into social media was one way I could punish him. What I realize now is I was punishing myself by missing out on life with my family. I was often choosing social media over them. The happy moments occurring right under my nose were going unnoticed and unappreciated.

IMG_0127Social media, at first an innocent escape, became a robber in my life. It robbed me of time, motivation, confidence and joy. When I finally decided to pull my head out of my rear and examine my social media use, I realized my husband was right and I was wrong. He was not asking me to give up social media. He understands the benefit of it for my business. He was simply asking for more of me at the appropriate times.

The solution that worked for my husband and me is we drew up a schedule of when neither of us would be on social media at all. With a few slips here and there, we have stuck to it. The things I need to do for my brand marketing are easily condensed, and I am feeling much more engaged with my husband and my kids. Further, I am reading more, working out again, and doing other things that bring me happiness and fulfillment, like writing.

If you are struggling to pull back from your phone, here are a few tips:

  • Set a time schedule of when you will or won’t be on social media.
  • Keep a log of when you are on social media, and write down the reasons you are using it. Escaping occasionally into social media is fine. Escaping for several hours per day when there is important work to do is not okay.
  • Ask your partner how he/she feels about your social media use, and adjust where needed. It might enhance (or save) your relationship.
  • Remember your social media feed is not real life. If you feel you are missing out, you are. Look up from your phone and observe the world around you. Don’t miss it!

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Street Style with Peony & Moss

IMG_1842Last week I had the pleasure of spending time with Eva Spitzer, founder and designer of Peony and Moss, which offers a wide variety of artistic sock designs for women. Her best selling items are the thigh high socks. Where have these been all my life? I have the coldest feet and hands regardless of the season. No doubt I will become one of Eva’s best clients in due time.

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Eva’s style is natural, feminine and practical. As a busy small business owner, she does not fuss over her appearance, yet she wants to look thoughtful and pulled together. She is an admitted lover of vintage and resale, which constituted much of what she wore the day I took her photos. A girl after my own heart! I love how she juxtaposed a feminine floral shell and cardigan with an androgynous bronze snake print driving loafer, a nod to her willingness to dress and think outside of the box.

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For more on that, I love the look she sported the first time I met her in late February at a MeetUp she started: I am in love with her bright purple high/low pleated skirt, and her hair neatly pulled into a bun. Yet look how how she threw a polar opposite jacket on top of it as if to say, “Don’t even try to figure me out!” Or perhaps she is very cold-natured like me, and this is her warmest jacket. Either way, it’s fun and unexpected as style should be. Well done, Eva!

More Seattle street style coming soon. Have a fabulous, fashionable week!—Bethany

Seattle Street Style – Inaugural Edition

Last fall while pondering ways to get involved in the scene here in Seattle and spread the word about my image consulting business, I got the bright idea I would take street style photos. Never mind that I do not know how to take professional photos, let alone have the guts to ask perfect strangers if I may take their photo.  Oh, dear. What’s a girl to do?IMG_0635IMG_0624

Last week I attended a MeetUp of lovely small business owners who were, thankfully, happy to allow me to turn my lens in their direction. I am pleased with how my first street style photos turned out. I still have much to learn, but my professional photographer friends keep telling me to just get out there and practice. That’s what I did.

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Most people imagine that Seattle style is casual, if not sloppy, and not at all stylish. I beg to differ! I see a lot of creative, fashionable people here. Regardless of where you live, dress well for your life! A good image positively impacts your interactions and your outlook.