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Tips for How to Be More Confident

Saturday, June 6, 2015
Everyone loses confidence at least one time in life. I can't count how many times I've heard concerns over public speaking or the nerves that come with meeting new people. These experiences tend to draw a lot of premeditated anxiety even if you’ve prepared, and even if you are a cool person worth sharing with others. (You are, by the way.) The "bad" or "scary" things that could go wrong give us the feelings of dread and uncertainty that seem to have us running for cover. Remember, at one point we may have even been excited about this new experience, or interested. Where did all that energy go?

A lack of self-assurance can be even more overwhelming when you have a responsibility to someone or something else. Following through seems like a nightmare - first because you may not be feeling it and second because you're obligated to others. But I can tell you that it is in this exact moment that we have the chance to grow closer to becoming our best self. Getting out of one's comfort zone is an act of power. We physically mold our new identity through action. And if done regularly we are changed. However it’s not always easy to force ourselves to alter our nature again and again in the face of panic. The solution is to have some tricks in your back pocket for building yourself up when you need to master this confidence thing.

Jump start yourself with music
Of course I'm going to suggest this one. Music has been proven to affect mood and productivity, and thus can be a great tool. Choose a song or playlist that either invites the zen or gets you hyped. My pump it up playlist is the All-American Rejects. Something about their bouncy music and pin-pointed lyrics always get me going. A solid dance jam can work wonders. On the other hand, when the anxiety is too much to handle I like to listen to Classical or Baroque music. Maybe it's lame, but the consistent, basic sounds can lull me back down to earth when needed.

Stand tall with a confidence pose
Think of a pose in which you feel important or confident. This sounds silly - and it probably is - but it’s something that makes a big difference for me. When QOK first started recording in the studio I was so nervous. The thought of my voice being permanently tracked made me feel small. But in the studio you have to be able to give it your all in order for the music to sound right. I came up with a confidence pose that required me to stand up tall and literally face the music. Standing like a superhero with my hands on my hips and proverbial cape flowing behind me worked magic. Now I've got 5 songs under my belt. Maybe something similar would work for you.

Go to your happy place
Do you have a room in your house or a special spot in your neighborhood that is comforting? The front porch is my happy place. When I'm upset or need a minute I sit out on the front steps to watch life happen. Truly it is the only place I can stop thinking. I also hang at the library. Sometimes I swing by just to walk in the doors, almost like a reset button. Where is your happy place? A coffee shop down the street? A scenic road stop in the mountains? Find a place where you can reset and regain your confidence.

Find yourself a cheerleader
I'll be the first to say that discouragement can be a lot louder than belief in yourself.  Asking for help can be a difficult thing, but I promise finding one person you can rely on is necessary. More often than not, especially these days, I have to be reminded that my contributions are needed and valued by others. The obvious way to make this happen is to ask for help. But let's be honest, that isn't always easy. Luckily, though, I'm sure there is someone out there who already thinks you are the bees knees in whatever you are doing. This is the person who comes to your poetry readings or comments on all your Facebook posts. In my case, I an so energized when my husband reminds me that I'm doing a good job with our daughter. Being a new mom is a struggle, but I've learned someone believes in you, even if you don't. Find out who that person is and remember what they would say about you. And if you can't think of anyone, know that I think you're totally popular table material.
You know, being confident isn't about being on top of things all the time. I'm in front of people all the time and it can scare the pants off of me. No really, I pretty much only wear dresses when I'm on stage for this reason. And yet, I get up and do it over and over again. Confidence is about doing what you have to do although the easier option might be to not go through with it. Eleanor Roosevelt agrees,

"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to  look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along." - Eleanor Roosevelt

So whatever you're doing today, stand up tall and get work done.

Updated 9.21.2017

Simple Themes to Lessen Instagram Drama

Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Instagram is one of the most prominent forms of social media. Everyone uses Instagram in some way. But I'm going to voice an unpopular opinion: Instagram isn't really that great. The visual-based platform can get overwhelming and annoying, especially if it's secondary to another project. Plenty of users are successful at getting reach and engagement. They hustle. For me, Instagram requires a level of obsession that I don't have. Also I'm a writer and hate taking pictures of myself sooo... If you're like me and you aren't willing to put the energy into making Instagram your main focus (or even one of them) but know you should at least try, this post is for you.

Thanks to this post on Career Girl Daily, I was moved to think on how I could make Instagram simpler since I kind of hate it so much. CGD had some great tips on how to clean up your profile to gain more followers and promote your brand by choosing a single theme for your photos. Having a theme will help guide the photos you take, giving your profile a potentially cohesive look, and a theme will attract the right audience. Choosing a theme that fits right off can be difficult. These suggestions should help you streamline Instagram without taking up all of your time because they are simple and involve things you're probably already looking out for.

Note: If you don't care what your Instagram looks like/don't have a reason to make it look pretty/don't care what anyone thinks - First of all, I applaud you. Second, keep it up.

Choose a topic (or two) from your daily life
My personal account has been through so many changes (and subsequent purges). Thankfully I've finally settled on a theme of the topics that influence this blog: being a mom, being in a band, and being Mormon. These are easy for me because they are what I am already doing which works out because I'm not forcing myself to create experiences that aren't real. Having only a couple things to post about limits unwanted photos when you look back and makes life a whole lot easier.

Consider what you spend your time doing, what interests you, or what you value. It could be anything: food, politics, education, fashion, reading, movies, family, animals, nature... Then think of different ways to show that in your photos. Food is an easy example. You could take photos of food you make, restaurants you try, special occasions you're celebrating, people you're sharing meals with, cookbooks you're interested in, and on and on. Don't limit yourself but just remember to keep it simple.

Memorialize what inspires you

In a project I worked on for a local painting company took pictures of the area the company worked in and captioned the photos with paint colors. Because the company only worked in a specific area, clients had a source of inspiration from their own backyard. The same goes for photographing your own inspiration. Post photos of things in the world that catch your eye. Nature, people, and quotes from books are a great place to start. You could also take it to the next level by adding a relevant quote. Double inspiration!!

Capture your "Currently..."
I really enjoy "Currently..." blog posts. In fact, this blog almost became only a series of posts about what I was currently doing or feeling. These posts are fascinating because they actually require more thought than we assume. There is purpose in watching a certain movie or wearing certain shoes or finding ourselves in a certain place. Can you imagine putting that into a photo? I don't know if I should swoon or drool from satisfaction... Be careful not to think this is just any random snapshot. Otherwise your photos will become messy and incoherent pretty fast. To counter this make sure your posts are singular and possess real meaning.

Share your work or hobby
My brother is a photographer and videographer. His Instagram consists of his photos captioned with what equipment and settings he used to get that exact composition. Bloggers do this as well, sharing the photos from their posts or behind the scenes of what they're working on. Artists, writers, and even teachers do the same. If there is something about what you do that can be photographed, get out there and do it! Whether it's a morning coffee with coworkers before a big pitch or a cute dog you met while on your evening jog, use your Instagram for you. 

I hope these ideas get the juices flowing and help you dream up a way to represent yourself well. Instagram is about sharing a story, YOUR story, your photos. Good luck and don't try too hard!

Updated 8.8.2017

Tips for Keeping Yourself Inspired and Creative

Tuesday, April 7, 2015
Being creative is part of our very being, it's necessary for life. David O. McKay once described our innate creativity like this: "Sculptors of life are we, with our uncarved souls before us. Everyone of us is carving a soul." What an attitude to have, right? When we are in creation mode we can reach our potential as human beings. *mind blown* Actively and consistently tapping into our ability to create can give us special experiences. Being creative is a huge part of how we progress, and other times how we cope. Using our creativity is also a great way for us to make connections and share ourselves with others.

We don't think of our own creativity this way very often. The assumption, first, is that there are "creative types" or only certain ways that we can be creative (i.e. in visual art). Thankfully, the reality is we are all creators. I remember reading something once that baking a cake is an act of creation - making something from seemingly nothing. So if you've baked a cake or written in a journal or loved a pet or upcycled your jeans, then you are creative. That's beautiful.

A second assumption is that these "types" are just on All. The. Time. In a way that is true, which I'll get to in a minute, but the reality that we should come to learn is that inspiration comes and goes. Most often this is without our influence. Thus the challenge becomes how to keep and use inspiration when it does arrive. Such skill is a lot of what my life as a "multi-passionate creative" (don't you just love that phrase??!) is like. My band, QOK Music, wrote its first song almost 10 years ago. And I've been writing for this blog for over two years. There's also been some less-than-profitable freelancing in my past and the occasional DIY or crafty project. All of that has come with tons of trial and error, and deadlines, which makes me feel a bit practiced at harnessing creative energy. The answer is, essentially, as Marvel hero Dr. Bruce Banner put it, to be always angry inspired. The following is what my experience has taught me about keeping my creative receptors ready and raring to go.

Accept that creative energy can be fleeting

The first step is recognizing that while creativity is part of our DNA, we aren't always in control of it. If you're having a day absent of innovation and lacking drive, take a deep breath and say these words out loud: "I am destined to create. Today may not be that day, but that doesn't change who I am and what I am capable of." Heck, tell yourself this everyday. Because it's true. You'll hear that "creative types" have very high highs and polar lows which comes from the ebb and flow of energy that comes with inspiration. Once accepted, you can plan and use your creativity to your advantage.

If you're having a perfectly expressive day, give yourself a Self High-Five and run with it! Use it all up because once the mojo is gone you don't know when it's coming back. Just sayin'.
    Make time for some right-brain thinking

    In a manner of speaking, creativity can be channeled - to the right, willing vessel. One must be open, ready, and waiting for the strike. Making time to be creative is an important outlet. Or I guess in this case, in-let through which inspiration can enter and settle. Choose a specific time (and place) to return to your work.  Write for twenty minutes in bed after the kids are asleep? Great. Planning out your new business every Thursday over dinner? Awesome. Organizing your home one hour each day? Go get 'em! One of my favorite goal setting apps might help you get started. But honestly, just set a timer or alarm and stick to it. Little by little you'll have your masterpiece finished and ready for show!

    Jot it down, sketch it out, outline it, picture it

    Imagine this: You're out to dinner with your best friend. During your conversation you think of a great line for a song. You say to yourself, "Wow, I'll have to write that down when I get home." The night goes on and now you're getting into bed. You reach for a pen and paper to write down that great idea only to realize... You've forgot the line! Heart-breaking.

    GUYS. That was me!!

    I can't tell you how many great songs have gone unwritten by my hand because I was lazy or unprepared. I've since trained myself to put my thoughts in a place I won't forget or lose them. Generally that is my phone. For song lyrics I have a running list of random phrases in Evernote. It is available for both Android and iPhone, and you can get it on your computer or access it online. Plus the program has no storage limit. AMAZING! I also use Google Sheets for a list of my blog post ideas. In one column I have the general concept, the next is a quick summary of my thoughts or points I want to make, and finally a column to put the date it was published so I don't keep posting the same thing.

    Digital isn't the only way to do it, though. A journal or sketchbook that you carry around is perfect. Trust me. This is a huge creativity-saver. When the time comes to work you'll thank yourself for having a place to start.
        Look for inspiration in a work, person, idea you already know and love

        A few years ago, my brother read the book Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon (non affiliate). My brother raved about this one particular concept, saying it put his creative process into perspective. You could say a third assumption about creativity is that we have to make a whole new thing out of thin air in order to be creative. False. According to Pablo Picasso (most likely), and championed by Kleon, "...great artists steal." Yeah! It's, like, understood and accepted that art is a process of pulling pieces from others and then creating from that.

        What this means for us is on those truly, devastatingly missing our creative spirit days we still have something to work with. We can look to those who inspire us to motivate us to make because they made too. What this means for you is to sit back and let someone else do the work haha. Visit a museum to look at memorable paintings, see a play for the hundredth time, reread your favorite book, watch a TED talk given by a person you admire. Like a car with a dead battery, jump start your engine with a surge from a familiar source. Then when you're ready go off to do your thaang.
            WOO! Now I'm totally pumped! And were it not for a little girl that would be waking up from a nap any minute I'd be moving on to another post. How are you feeling? I hope you're feeling inspired to create. Go meet your destiny!!! Good luck!

            Updated 8.19.2017

            Must-dos For A Memorable Road Trip

            Wednesday, March 11, 2015
            The road trip does not intimidate me. I have have spent tons of time in the car so I consider myself an individual who understands travel and how to make it a productive experience. However, there is one trip that now stands out as a sort of failure to me.

            A couple months ago, Spencer and I had the ridiculously cool experience of packing up everything into our '98 Camry and hitting the open road from Utah to Virginia. A young married couple and their trusty pup touring the good old USA - sounds classic, right? We should have stopped to see and do ALL the things, and I should have enough visual proof of the trip to fill at least 3 Facebook photo albums. Unfortunately, that's not what happened. We saw little, did nothing, and the only proof of crossing the Mississippi River is maybe my car's mileage. 

            Yeah... That trip is now a black mark on my road trip resume. And I think I've gained a travel complex. We missed out on a lot. If certain things were different it would have been memorable for good reasons instead of lame ones. Now you get to learn from my mistakes and make your road trips a blast from start to finish.

            Stock up on snacks before you leave
            Road trip snacks might be the main reason I love the idea of a road trip so much. There's something about bonding over munching and chatting while watching the scenery pass by. But trying to figure out food on the road can be difficult, if not scary, when you have to please more than one person and you are navigating a foreign place. To make things easier I plan a grocery store run before we get on the road for some familiar drinks and food. At best, you can keep the party going a little longer if you can't agree on a place to stop right away. At the very least, you have something to do if you get bored.

            Take all the pictures!
            cross country road trip with pets
            Not taking pictures is the number one thing I regret the most from our cross-country trip. The only pictures I have are of a barbecue restaurant we ate at in Kansas, which I can't find, and this one of Muggle sleeping on our big pile of stuff in the backseat. Boooo!

            Memorable pictures don't even have to come from stopping more than you need to. Even simple snapshots of state signs as you pass through, fun vanity license plates, jamming out to the playlists you create, and the gorgeous landscape would be enough. Phone cameras these days are freaking amazing. You could end up with some serious pics on your Instagram. It was such a waste for me to not try but now you'll know better!

            When in doubt, look it up
            In our day you can't help but rely on the internet for a lot. I buy almost everything from Amazon. I've learned that taking some time to read reviews or doing a little extra research can be a game changer when you are purchasing or planning blind. 

            On our trip I tried to get us to stop at a prairie dog zoo in Kansas. Spencer made me check the reviews and I'm glad I did because it sounded a little run down and not quite the magical moment I was hoping for. We saved ourselves some time and maybe some heartache. In another instance, we had planned to stay a night at a hotel in Indiana. According to a pet-friendly travel website this hotel allows pets with no fees. We rolled up unprepared to pay extra. They let it slide, thankfully, but now I dig a little deeper, or even pick up the phone, to find out exactly what we're in for. And don't forget to scroll down to read the reviews. You can learn so much!

            Allow yourself time to stop and do more
            I wish we had stopped more, even if only at rest stops to stretch our legs (and take pictures!). Spencer was not into hanging out at many touristy things, like presidential libraries (we passed 3!) or searching out "Triple D joints" to grub at. Also we were so set on getting to Virginia as soon as possible that we didn't sleep well when we did stop for the night. There was no rush to get anywhere, and yet we spent our breaks at quick gas fill ups and in restaurant parking lots. The weather was beautiful the entire trip but we barely got to experience it.

            Don't be afraid to add a little extra time to your plans if you can - unnecessary deadlines lead to unnecessary stress, hence the lack of sleep. If you use your time wisely, and more enjoyably, there won't be any reason to worry. If you see something worth checking out consider an unplanned stop. It could be the coolest thing you've ever seen!

            Thanks to Spencer's schedule we made it safely to Virginia in extremely good time. The car didn't die on the way, despite it's being incapable of making it out of the driveway three days before we left, so that was nice. Muggle made it in one piece too. I still have a bit of a love-hate relationship with travel right now but I am more than wary for my next trip. Good luck and may your excursions be worth remembering!

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