Anxiety and Abuse

Not many people are aware of this, but last year I found myself in a mentally abusive relationship. Healthy Place defines mental abuse as “any act including confinement, isolation, verbal assault, humiliation, intimidation, infantilization, or any other treatment which may diminish the sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth.” This can occur in so many different ways; and my relationship wasn’t anywhere near as bad as what most have experienced, will experience, or are experiencing. I know I certainly didn’t treat the other person properly either, nor do I believe that he had realised that what he was doing was abusive, but there were things that should’ve been glaringly obvious to him to just not do. That relationship taught me so much about abuse, myself, relationships, and others.

Perhaps the most important things I learned were how anxiety disorders can make it difficult to see the signs of abuse and how they can be used by abusers. I’ve been battling in my mind as to whether I wanted to write this post for nearly a year, and now I finally feel ready.

How anxiety can blind you to abuse:

  • Most people with anxiety are already aware that they tend to imagine the worst meanings and intentions behind people’s words and actions.

This can make incredibly difficult to sort through the imagined red flags and real red flags. I was fully aware of some things that made me uncomfortable during that relationship. Sometimes though, I thought back on some things and realised that what was said or done was different than the negative thing I had heard in the first place. But there were also times I couldn’t tell if what was said or done was negative or not.

  • Anxiety can tell you that you’re overreacting.

This was a huge issue for me. Not everyone’s red flags are the same, and I thought that because something wasn’t an issue to a friend of mine, it shouldn’t be an issue to me. Obviously, that conclusion was the exact opposite from the truth.

One of the things that I thought I was overreacting about was that this person had said that he would support me in my creative endeavours and he wanted to read my work. He said this time and time again. So when he was over for the evening one day, I asked him to read a scene that I had written earlier that day and was incredible proud of but very nervous about. Without pause, he looked at me and said, “I don’t want to.” Not “In a little bit,” “Maybe later,” or any sort of explanation. And it was pretty clear to me that he meant what he said. He just didn’t want to read my work.

This tore me apart. But I convinced myself (against the advice of others) that I was making a big deal out of it, and that he didn’t mean it how it sounded. But in that moment and reflecting on those things after the relationship ended, I knew he did.

There were many other things that happened that I told myself weren’t big deals, that really are, but I’ll actually mention one of those things in the section about abusers.

  • The irrational fear of never finding anyone else who could ever be interested in you can make you feel trapped in the relationship.

He never said anything like, “Without me, you’ll be alone forever,” or anything with a connotation anywhere close to that. But I told myself that that would be the case. I was still recovering from a really bad mental breakdown that had occurred the previous fall and was still recovering from my first failed relationship that had dwindled away just a couple months prior. These two circumstances combined to make me feel as though I was a pretty worthless human being, and even after I started naming those red flags as what they were, I convinced myself that I would never find anyone else. Thankfully not too much longer, the relationship “ended” and I began the journey of regaining hope and recovery.

How abusers can use your anxiety against you:

  • Even without saying it, abusers can make you feel as though they are the only person that will ever “love” you.

This goes hand-in-hand with the last point I made. This guy never outright said this. But as time went on, I realised that I didn’t feel desirable unless he was there because he would talk about how much he liked to hold me and how pretty I was, and I noticed wasn’t really receiving any compliments on my appearance from anyone else at the time. I also realised that I would sometimes tell him stories from my past or from work in which a guy had flirted with me (or even asked me out), and he would usually suggest that the guy was intending everything to be platonic. Without actually saying it, he had insinuated that I wasn’t desirable to others.

  • They can gain your trust and then target your insecurities and triggers.

This was a really big thing for me, and is now something I am very aware of. This guy had charmed me and gained my trust very quickly, and early on, I realised that he liked to push limits on things. He even told me that he liked trying to “push people’s buttons.” We had a conversation about it, and I essentially said that there were certain things I did not want him trying to push limits on, and he agreed to that. However, we ended up having multiple conversations about those exact things and his pushing my limits.
Some of these things were my insecurities about my appearance and personality, but the thing that made me really start questioning the health of our relationship actually happened on our last date.

That day, we had actually had a conversation about my PTSD from car accidents and how, sometimes when he was driving, I felt like my PTSD was being triggered because of his driving. He changed how he was driving for most of that evening. However, after turning onto a street on the way to my apartment, he decided that he would continue speeding up and swerving slightly until I reacted. I thought that he was just being weird and speeding up quickly and that he would stop once he reached the speed limit. But he kept going and going.

I was on the verge of a panic attack when I finally half-yelled “What are you doing??”

His only response: “Seeing how long it would take you to say something.”

Even after that, a large part of me wanted to stay with him, and I tried to make it work. But that brings me to another point.

  • You might be the one always contacting them.

I didn’t realise this was a case until I saw a Tumblr post about a similar situation. I continually found myself clearing my schedule for him whenever he wanted to spend time with me, but he wouldn’t do the same for me. But the last few weeks of our relationship, he barely spoke to me. That last date seemed wonderful (aside from the attempt to trigger my PTSD), and he actually asked to meet up over the weekend so that we could define our relationship. I was torn between entering an “official” relationship with him, and ending it. He said he would make sure he was free at whatever time would work best for me, said goodbye, and left. But when I sent him the times I had available, he told me that none of those times would work. So I asked when he would be free and (as always) I would clear my schedule for him. But he never let me know. In fact, he slowly stopped talking to me in general over the next two weeks.

Then I was scrolling through Tumblr one day and saw a post about a woman whose boyfriend wasn’t really talking to her much and who never messaged her first. The woman had been advised to not call or message the guy for three days to see if he would respond. She asked what to do if he didn’t, if she was could contact him then. The girl she was talking to said no, that the guy was getting off on the woman’s need for him, and that if the he didn’t try to communicate, he didn’t really want her, let alone realise that he was losing her.

I took that piece of advice, and I didn’t message the guy I was dating for three days. Then three days turned into three weeks, three months. Now I haven’t spoken to him since April 23, 2016.

That relationship screwed me up, and I’m sad that I experienced it. But I’m so glad at the same time because I learned so much from it.


I really hope that none of you ever experience such a relationship, let alone one worse.

But there is always hope.
If you ever find yourself in an abusive relationship, know that it isn’t your fault and that you can get out, even if you need help doing so.

Here are some resources for abuse victims or friends of abuse victims who want to help:
The National Domestic Violence Hotline
Help Guide
5 Ways to Escape an Abusive Relationship
Help a Friend
5 Signs of Emotional Abuse

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Pursue

Technically I’ve already written about yearly goals. But this isn’t just about the resolutions and goals I have for this year. It’s about the resolutions and goals I have for my entire life and what I’m doing now to work towards them. It’s about pursuing my dreams and thriving in every moment along the way, hence my word for the year: Pursue.

I tend to over-plan and set too high of expectations for myself, especially in my creative efforts. Considering how I’ve done the last several years in achieving the goals I’ve set, I don’t have a chance of coming close this year.

But I’m doing things differently.

Not only am I setting goals, but I’m also planning everything out in detail—scheduling my writing, editing, posting, and sharing; creating rewards for my accomplishments and punishments for my failures; and finding people to hold me accountable, inspire me, tell me off, and rant with.

If you aren’t already aware, I have five major writing goals for the year:

  1. Post at least one blog a week.
  2. Finish the rough draft of my first novel by the end of June.
  3. Write, edit, and post at least one video a week.
  4. Write at least one poem a week.
  5. Write at least four short stories this year.

I know there will be times I exceed these goals, and I also know there will be times that I fail gloriously. But the point is to keep creating, no matter my mood or lack of belief in myself because these are my dreams. And I will not let myself give up the things I love because of my own self-doubt.

I’m also working towards doing yoga and other forms of exercise more regularly, eating healthier, saving up money (which is difficult when I might not have a job after next week), and taking time to relax. Doing all of this and trying to achieve my creative goals may be awful on occasion, and I’ll definitely want to give up sometimes. But I won’t. I won’t be happy if I do. Goodness, I’ve already fallen a bit behind. Even so, I will not stop trying to accomplish these dreams. I will work to catch up when possible, and I will continue turning to people who can keep me accountable.

I did the cliche thing and started most of my goals at the start of the year, even though doing so is rather arbitrary, because it feels easier and somehow more inspiring. Also, it’s just loads easier to track my progress when I start a goal at the beginning of a year instead of the middle of a random month.

Anyways. Whatever goals you set for yourself at the beginning of 2017, I truly hope that you are able to meet them. In this third week of the year, when motivation and inspiration start to fade and you start thinking about giving up on those goals, know that they and your dreams are attainable. Don’t give up on yourself. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your goals or terrified of what others’ opinion may be, think of how you’ll feel if you give up and then think of how you’ll feel if you push through and achieve those dreams. Because very few things feel as good as meeting goals that you once felt were impossible. And, love, you can do it.

What are some of your goals for the year? Let me know in the comments!

Something I Miss

Black and green olives; Hershey’s Kisses in cross-stitched reindeer mouths; Christmas stories read in a deep, low voice; children reaching for presents, eager to give and receive; sleeping in the car, waking up just enough to wrap my arms around my father’s neck as he carried me inside; and unwrapping one present, just before climbing into bed.

Christmas Eves at my grandparent’s house were simultaneously a rather stressful event and one of the most calming and relaxing evenings of the year. This year the memories seem to be stronger. I’m overwhelmed by the memories of rural Arkansas, of family, of Christmas decorations, of playing Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, and of Christmas dinners with those powdery cookies filled with pecans, but mostly by the memories of hugs and smiles, of laughter and stories, and of songs played on the organ.

We had the last of these Christmas Eves several years ago. Since then all our lives have changed more than we could’ve imagined. Grandpatta passed away; Shawn and Christopher had another baby; Kelly finished school, got married, and moved to Mexico/Germany; Dad got a new job, and Mum travels with him; and I’ve finished school, moved to Missouri, and visited Europe a few times. Then Grandmomma started to lose her memory because of a medication she had been on.

I’ve never missed our silly traditions that came from being in a far-too-crowded home on the day before my favourite holiday so much. But this year and last year, I’ve not had anyone to do most of my traditions with, and it breaks my heart. I always knew my family would be spread across the world, but I had never thought about how that would affect the holidays, most specifically Christmas. This year has been a little easier to handle, but it’s also been the most difficult to plan and hasn’t felt like Christmas at all really. I found out on Christmas Eve that I’d be able to see my parents the next day and that we’d be going to visit Grandmomma, which helped it feel slightly more like the special day it is.

But nothing feels right without my sisters, who are currently in Florida and Germany. It’s been two years since I’ve spent a holiday with them (and since Kelly and Angél got married). And that was a dream. All our silly traditions with movies, food, and stories flood my memories. They bring tears of love—a love that could never be replaced or even matched.

I miss our Christmas traditions. But far more than that, I miss my sisters, and I dream of the time we will see each other again.

What’s something/someone you miss? What are some of your favourite Christmas traditions? Let me know in the comments below!

Coping with Anxiety

Goodness knows I let my anxiety overwhelm me on a regular basis. But even with moving into a house, still job searching, meeting so many people, and having so many things to accomplish, I have officially gone a month without a panic attack. That doesn’t mean I haven’t felt super anxious at all in the last month, but it’s still a huge improvement.

Over the last year I’ve been trying to recover from the worst general and social anxiety breakdown I’ve ever had. The panic attack that made me realise just how much I’d lost control was full of sobbing, hyperventilating, and feeling like I was going to die and lasted over an hour and a half. Thankfully I had a network of family and friends that dropped everything to come to my aid (in person and from a distance) over the days, weeks, and months that followed. I never imagined that my anxiety could get so bad, but that’s the thing—mental illnesses and their effects can be incredibly unpredictable. However, with practice and more help than you’ll probably want to ask for, they can be managed.

These are some of my favourite ways to help take control of my anxiety and depression, and I hope that they can help you too.

  • Surround yourself with things that make you happy.
room
This is part of my new room. I’m surrounded by my books, by some of my most prized possessions, and my my favourite colours.

For me this ranges from bright colours being scattered about my room and belongings and buckets worth of tea to books and Disney music. Whatever they are, find the things that make you most happy and make them obvious throughout your daily life. If it’s specific colours, find or make decorations for your room/house/apartment in those colours. If it’s a particular food or beverage, treat yourself. If it’s a show or movie, get posters or fan art to hang up in your room. If it’s music, sing it, dance to it, blare it through your speakers as you drive.

If you openly celebrate the things that make you happy, you’ll tend to feel happier.

  • Do breathing exercises.

There are so many types of breathing exercises and meditation that can help you relax and clear your mind. Many of the ones I know I originally learned because of my heart and lung problems. One of my favourites is breathing in deeply through your nose for five seconds, holding it for six seconds, and exhaling through your nose for eight seconds. Another is tucking your thumb inside your fist, putting it up to your mouth and breathing as if you were blowing up a balloon. You may feel a little ridiculous, but it helps so much.

  • Get plenty of sleep.

This might be really difficult and sometimes requires sleep aids, but getting enough sleep can make the world of a difference in how you respond mentally. When I don’t get enough sleep, I am far more anxious and terrified, and it’s easier for me to feel the overwhelming, numbing sadness. This happened just a couple days ago and when combined with a few other circumstances it caused me to start slipping mentally. I felt awful. It was one of those days where I wished I could slip into non-existence for a while and be consumed by nothingness as well as where I was so scared that I didn’t want to and nearly couldn’t do anything. Part of the reason I felt so bad was because I had gotten less sleep the previous night, and if I had, it would have been able to break out of those negative thoughts.

  • Talk to your friends/family.
message
An silly message with my best friend that made me feel loads better on a day I was struggling.

This may seem like common sense, but for me, it is actually one of the most difficult things to do. My anxiety tends to make me believe that no one would ever want to talk to me or hear from me, that I’m a burden, that I am an annoyance. But lately I’ve made a point of talking to specific people every day. I want people to know that they are cared for, even if I do get annoying. But also, if I talk to them on a regular basis, it’s far more difficult for me to believe that they don’t want to talk to me. I know on occasion they may not want to, but that is rare, and it’s okay. Talking to my friends and family, spreading love, and being open with them has changed my life.

 

  • Go to a counsellor/therapist/psychiatrist/psychologist.

I haven’t been able to do this in a while because of not having a car among other reasons, but whenever I go to my counsellor, even if I’m feeling wonderful that day, I leave feeling ten times better, unburdened, and hopeful. I know this isn’t always the case and I am incredibly blessed to have the counsellor I have, but it can be such a huge help to have someone separate from your everyday life to talk to and to occasionally give you advice (and medication when needed and appropriate).

  • Read inspirational quotes.
mug
A photo from a few days after I bought the mug.

I always feel a little silly and embarrassed when doing this, but it is one of the things that has kept me going throughout the last year. I even make frequent use of a mug that says “Think happy, be happy” on it that I got during my last stay in France. I had been having a difficult time, and it reminded me of a video by Carrie Hope Fletcher about positive thinking. Although I don’t believe that you can truly choose to be happy and then feel that way, I do believe in the power of positive thinking, even if it is fallible. Finding inspirational quotes and writing or printing them out and posting them where you can see them throughout the day can be incredibly encouraging and help you remember how special, important, capable, and loved you are.

  • Find a hobby.
draw
A quick sketch I did about a month ago.

This can seem incredibly overwhelming to some, and that’s okay. But finding something you do on a regular basis for your own enjoyment is such a huge relief and help for controlling anxiety. I tend to go a little overboard and have far too many hobbies, but I am also rather fickle and whatever hobby I do bases entirely on my mood. I could crochet, write, knit, paint, draw, colour, study languages, or make videos. But whatever hobby I choose is an outlet for me to work creatively and freely to escape or express my anxiety and depression, whether other people can tell or not.

  • Write.

Writing out whatever is overwhelming you and then destroying it or finding a way to make it positive is one of the practises I do quite frequently. It can help you vent fear, sadness, anger, disappointment, and everything else in a healthy way while also helping you to either rid yourself of the thoughts or situation or find a way to turn the thoughts or situation to your advantage.

  • For every negative thought or impulse, list five positive things about yourself and/or the situation you’re in.

This self-explanatory one is big for me. I constantly have incredibly overwhelming fears and negative thoughts and occasionally negative impulses. When I list five positive things, I can usually see the unreality of the negative thoughts and fears immediately and cause them to dissipate, even if they don’t go away entirely. But even if the positive things don’t have that effect, you are still finding things to love about yourself, and if you focus on those, then you can not only change your world, but the worlds of those around you.

What are some ways that you manage your anxiety, depression, and other disorders? Let me know in the comments! ❤︎

Seizing Opportunities

I’m not really the most qualified to write about this. I’ve not actually had many opportunities worth mention come my way, let alone seized them. But that’s part of what this is about. The opportunities I have had have been beyond incredible, and I couldn’t imagine my life without them. But I passed others by and dreamed of others without them appearing.

I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to travel to Europe on three separate occasions, each for a month or longer; to freelance edit through a small publishing company; to become friends with some amazing people; and to write on a daily basis and have people actually interested in my work, even if it’s only a handful of people.

Some of these opportunities were handed to me; others I worked my butt off for and still am. But here’s the thing a lot of people don’t tend to think of about opportunities: most are not handed to you; most of them you have to make.

I’ve never been very good at taking initiative. I enjoy being given assignments and then working until they’re finished. But the things you really want in life rarely come in such a fashion. My study abroad trip was an opportunity that was presented to me, but I had to work like crazy trying to raise the money to go and studying French with vigour, and it was the same for my internship a couple years later. I’m awful at fundraising, but I worked as hard as I could until I got to where I needed to be. And after I arrived in France, I did everything I could to ensure I was giving 100% to getting the best grades possible and do the best work I could with the best attitude. Some days seemed easy, others seemed like death, and others could almost be ignored. But I never stopped working with everything I had while I was studying or interning.

When I started freelancing, I rarely got any work, and most of it ended up being pro bono. Eventually I started getting asked if I could edit things for particular prices, and who was I to turn them do? I started to build up my resume bit-by-bit, and I will continue doing so my entire life. But if I hadn’t started editing for free and trying to get my name out there among friends and such, I never would have gotten the recurring position I have at the publishing company. I’ve only had three projects with them so far, but each project has taken well over 35 hours of work and taught me more than I could have ever expected about the editing world, the different writing manuals, and my own ambitions in editing. I’ve learned that I definitely prefer editing fiction works, even though most of my paid editing work has been nonfiction; I learned that I prefer APA to MLA or Chicago, despite the fact that I know MLA the best; and I learned that I will never know everything about editing, no matter how much I study and work.

Many times over the years, I’ve let my anxiety stop me from meeting people and becoming friends with them. Thankfully, I’ve not let each opportunity to make a new friend pass by because my life would be quite drab without those humans whom I’m lucky enough to call my friends. It can be odd to think of friendship as something that you have to work at, but it can be really difficult sometimes, whether it’s because of drastic differences in current moods and opinions or busyness and full schedules making it near impossible to talk to/see your friends. For me though, I have to work a little harder. I tend to feel on a regular basis as though even my closest of friends hate me, even though I know it’s far from true. The negative thoughts and overwhelming fears that are constantly flooding my mind tell me that I’m an awful, worthless, despicable, clingy human being. And they also tell me that if I think that of myself, then others must think far worse. Feeling like that can make it nearly impossible to talk to friends, let alone strangers and acquaintances, and I constantly have to remind myself that those things aren’t true. It’s difficult to think positively about such things, and it’s even more difficult to act upon the positive thoughts by messaging people and showing them that I care about them, no matter how I feel that day.

Almost everyone has the opportunity to write nowadays and even the opportunity to have a public audience of some sort. But writing is one of the things I am most passionate about, and it’s also one of the things I have to work the most at. Sometimes writing can seem easy, and it tends to get easier the more I do it. But it is also one of the most difficult things to do, especially when trying to write things that appeal to your audience, that you enjoy writing, that are well thought through, and that are entertaining to read. And all of those things changes so much from post to post and project to project.

I—we—need to stop letting opportunities pass us by. We need to stop waiting for opportunities to present themselves and get up and create our own opportunities. Because the ones we make for ourselves tend to be the most satisfying. I know I’m going to keep creating more opportunities to grow creatively and to encourage others in their lives, their creativity, and their imaginations. What opportunities are you going to create for yourself?

My Top Three Pet Peeves

This certainly isn’t a topic I’d usually write about, by why not give it a go?

Let’s start with the lowest first, shall we?

  1. People clipping their nails in public.

I’ve never understood how people can do this. I understand wanting to even them out and trim them, but why not wait until you’re home? Okay, I know this one is a little ridiculous, but I hate the sound of it. I don’t know why, but I do. The sharp clicking and snapping that occurs as the metal pinches through the keratin makes me gag. I don’t even like hearing the sound when I’m clipping my own nails, and I can handle it far better than when I can hear others doing so. I definitely know how it feels to break a nail and to want to fix it, but you can use a file for that and shorten the others when you return to you abode. Am I right?

  1. Not following the enter and exit signs for stores and the like.

Seriously? They are clearly labeled. Very clearly labeled. Unless it’s the Walmart Neighborhood Market across the street from where I’ve been staying…then one door is marked “Entrance” with the small red “Do Not Enter” sign below it, and the other is marked “Exit” with the small green “Enter” sign underneath it. When it’s raining or you’re in a giant hurry, it can be really tempting to go in through the exit if it’s closest, but taking one or two seconds longer to enter won’t make that much of a difference. Plus, it makes it difficult for those who are (italics) following directions to get through the doors. Yet again, this is fairly silly, but there are stickers and signs everywhere.

  1. “Learn English!”

This is by far my biggest pet peeve, especially when these words are uttered by travellers. I’ve met countless Americans who only speak English that think anyone and everyone in the world should as well. When I hear people say, “This is America! Speak English!” it breaks my heart. Many of the people who are recipients of such verbal abuse do speak English, sometimes as their first language, but they are communicating with others who may not or prefer not to speak English. But also, if just going on holiday or on a brief business trip, one might not want to or be able to fully learn a new language.

When I was returning from my first stay in France, Karissa and I were in the waiting area near our gate at the Montreal airport, and we heard a group of people talking. They were clearly American and were speaking loudly about the announcements coming over the PA system.

First man: “What is that? Is that two languages?”
Woman: “I think it’s Spanish.”
First man: “No, I think it’s Italian.”
Second man: “Why on Earth would they do that?”
First man: “Don’t they realize we’re in the US of A??”
Woman: “Apparently not.”
Second man: nearly yelling “Why won’t everyone just speak English?!”

Clearly, they didn’t know we were in Canada. And even though they’d been on our flight from France, they couldn’t recognise the French language in the least bit. They continued complaining until we were boarding our flight to Chicago.

If these people had put any thought into what they were claiming (even if we hadn’t been in Canada at the time), they would have noticed their blatant hypocrisy. They were complaining about people not learning English while traveling and the like, when they had just spent time in France without learning French. This isn’t something that many Americans think about, specifically those who make these remarks, but it’s true. They wish to force foreigners to speak English, but they are not usually willing to learn the languages that are spoken in the countries to which they are traveling.

I’m on the opposite end of that spectrum, as I’ve gone a little overboard with the amount of languages I study. I’m currently studying French, Spanish, and Italian, and although I can’t speak Spanish or Italian at all, I’m certainly willing to try. I just wish others were as well.

What are your top pet peeves?

Someone Once Told Me

I don’t have the best memory for facts, what people say, or even what I’m doing at any given moment. My memory is truly awful. I have a calendar on my phone, a bullet journal in my bag (or in my hand), to-do lists on Habitica and in notes taking up all of my phone’s memory, and screenshots of things I want to remember on my cell and my computer. But there are some things I won’t ever forget, like my friend Amelia’s laugh, the fear caused by a car accident, the feeling of a salty wind blowing across my face, or how I got so excited to make Doctor Who snowflakes and eat peppermint ice cream with Karissa that my heart problems started acting up.

There are certain things that just become a part of you, whether you want them to or not. Sometimes those are emotions, events, the feeling of something against your skin, or words someone said to you. I’ve received so many amazing compliments over the years; half of them seem pretty cliché when typed out, but they were entirely sincere and followed by very detailed and encouraging explanations. One of the best compliments I’ve ever received wasn’t really one of the best because of what was said, but because of the circumstances it was said in and how it was said.

Earlier this year, I went on holiday to London with my best friend and her brother, staying in a rather nice part of the city. Our last night there, I walked to the Italian Garden in Kensington Gardens to spend some time alone, read, and bid the beautiful park and neighbourhood goodbye. It was wonderful. The sky was cloudy; but along the horizon, the white fluffs parted, and a glorious sunset was starting to shine over the lands. Just as the sun started to paint the skies with orange, red, and purple hues, I started my way back to the hotel, my nose buried in On the Other Side as I walked down the pavement. When I made it back to our street, I glanced up to ensure I wouldn’t collide with any unsuspecting travelers as they came out of the inn and hotel doors scattered along the road. When I looked, I saw a couple and their dog about 150 yards away, gracefully walking in the direction from which I was coming.

They were decked out in gorgeous clothes and were obviously on their way to some sort of fancy event. The woman was one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen. Her mixed skin was glowing, her black hair was luxuriously bouncing in tight curls, and her lace, seafoam green dress was swirling with the wind. I read a couple sentences more, but as we approached each other, I turned and said, “I’m sorry; I love your dress!” I wasn’t even really expecting a thank you in return, but she definitely responded.

“Thank you! I’m so glad you said that; I was wanting to tell you that you’re gorgeous! I love your style! Keep wearing it. I love your clothes. You’re gorgeous!”

I couldn’t help but beam. My back straightened out, and my mouth opened in a smile that hurt my face because of its size. The confidence that had left me early that morning rushed back tenfold.

When I first got dressed, I was so excited to wear the outfit I had chosen for our final full day in England. I put on my black DeLorean tee, a brown plaid, wool skirt, my Minnie and Mickey Mouse shoes, and bright red lipstick. I knew it was a slightly odd outfit, but I really enjoy expressing my moods, interests, and personality through my clothing. However, after breakfast, I lost a lot of my excitement for the day and my anxiety started to take over. I still had a wonderful day and was in a fairly nice mood, but my self-esteem plummeted. I spent a large portion of the day worrying what others thought of my appearance, even though that is something I usually don’t care about, and I felt as if everyone was staring at me the entire day, making me incredibly uncomfortable and self-conscious.

But this astonishingly attractive and seemingly successful woman had apparently been wanting to compliment me, a rather eclectic, plain girl who had spent the majority of two days hiding in the pages of a book because she didn’t want to look into the faces surrounding her—well, and because the book was just so wonderful she never wanted to put it down. This compliment not only made me feel better about my appearance, but about my interests, my passions, and my eccentric personality. I don’t really know why, but it did. And I won’t forget it anytime soon. Because it took place in the city I long to live in, it was from a woman I could never compare to, and it was at a time that I had started to question everything about myself as a person. It reminded me that being me is a wonderful thing, and I should never sacrifice myself to meet the social standards and ideals.

What is a compliment that left a lasting impression on you? Tell me about it in the comments below!