Work Now + Beyond

My boss’s constant gaslighting made me question my sanity

Gaslighting is commonly associated with romantic relationships. However, this form of abuse is present everywhere, especially at work. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, gaslighting involves psychological manipulation and/or emotional abuse to exert power or gain control. I did not realize gaslighting at work existed until this summer. I found myself in a very bizarre situation where I was constantly subjected to manipulation and found myself under immense stress and self-doubt.

I worked at an organization that I believed would value and empower me because that is what the organization claims to promote. Just after a few weeks though, I began doubting the quality of my work and felt terrible most of the time. Gaslighters will have you constantly question your self-worth to prevent you from succeeding.  It is up to you to set boundaries to protect your mental health and sense of self-worth. Always remember nothing is more important than your mental health.

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I remember feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work I had. I was struggling to strike a balance between work and other commitments. It is commonplace to feel like that once in a while, isn’t it? Well apparently for gaslighters there is no room for validation or empathy. I communicated my feelings to my supervisor who instantly dismissed my feelings and expressed her dissatisfaction with me. It got to a point where I doubted my own sanity. I almost accepted that I was at fault and perhaps incapable of handling tasks effectively.

However, I was fortunate enough to have supportive colleagues who stepped in to rescue me from a toxic situation. Gaslighters will negate your feelings and opinions and instead insist that their approach is always correct.

I did not let this experience define me and neither should you.

It is difficult to identify gaslighters or gaslighting but if you have ever doubted your capabilities or sanity at work then you have probably been a victim of gaslighting. Gaslighters are very smart! They tend to pass on judgments and passive-aggressive comments under the guise of well-intentioned feedback or support. 

Gaslighting is more frequent at work because it is a competitive environment and everyone just wants to excel. It is, however, also underreported because the victim usually ends up thinking it is his or her fault. Working with a gaslighting boss or colleagues can become demeaning and undermine your self-confidence. It aids negativity, which can seep into your personal life as well as push you out of your preferred career.

Every once in a while, it is alright for your boss or colleague to disagree with you. But if it occurs recurrently and you find yourself second-guessing your choices all the time, you are probably being gaslighted. Confusing you makes them feel correct. They may even drop back-handed compliments to maintain an upper hand.

I personally believe people that people gaslight at work due to a lack of self-confidence and assurance. Undermining other people’s credibility reduces their chances of getting ahead. This in turn makes the gaslighter feel in control or powerful. It has been proven by research that gaslighters tend to have low self-esteem. Their behaviors make them assume a sense of power or control.

In order to ascertain whether you are being gaslighted or not look out for recurrent behavioral patterns that are confusing you. If you constantly find yourself perplexed and doubt your abilities, you are being gaslighted – trust your instincts. Do not allow your boss or colleagues’ behavior to take over you. 

Sometimes speaking to a trusted colleague can help. I was lucky enough to have trust-worthy and supportive colleagues that I vented out to. They stepped in to make sure I was doing alright and reminded me that my work was valued.

There is little conversation about gaslighting at work but it is extremely prevalent and dangerous. It can demotivate people and push them out of their chosen careers. It is important that you figure out whether or not you are being gaslighted. Once you are sure, try to keep a record of all your interactions with the gaslighter. Take screenshots of emails and messages. That is what I did! This is especially important if you plan to report the case to your management or HR.

Always remember nothing is more important than your mental health.

In my experience, a confrontation with the gaslighter never goes well. They will not listen to you and instead throw unwarranted arguments at you. It is best to get support from a management team or HR. It was difficult for me to get any form of help because my gaslighter was at the very top. Albeit, it was a testing experience but I held my ground. I did not let this experience define me and neither should you.

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Life Stories Life

Writing about my accident is hard, but I know I need to do it

I’ve always thought that writing something worth reading should come easy – like the words would just flow out onto the page. In some ways, this is what writing has always been to me: a puzzle that when put together, simply sounds right. 

Well, nothing I’ve written about my accident sounds right. 

So, I haven’t been writing. Which is sad – because the fear of being vulnerable is now stunting the thing that brought me the most joy.

When I first tried to write about my accident, I didn’t actually write it. At the time, I was so badly injured that I could barely look at the screen before nausea kicked in. Instead, I vocalized my feelings over a voice recording – and boy, there quite a lot. The main one? Anger. 

I was really angry. 

As I sat, looking outside my window – I was angry at all the people who could move about the world freely. I was angry at all of the people who never showed up, or never told me they cared. I was angry at the people who couldn’t understand what I was going through – or proclaimed that “everything happens for a reason” – but mostly, and more potently, I was angry at myself. 

It’s now been ten months since the accident. My anger has dimmed, but I’m embarrassed to say it still resides uneasily, ready to erupt. It’s one of the many reasons why writing has been so difficult – so unenjoyable. 

In the medium most suited for vulnerability, it makes apparent the emotions that I’ve been trying to avoid. In other words, maybe words haven’t been sounding right not because they’re wrong, but simply because they aren’t the ones I want to hear. 

I want to pause for a moment on this last phrase – “want to hear”. As my anthropology professors said constantly, let’s unpack the meaning. One reason I hated talking about my accident was the signs of visible discomfort that came with it. 

People wanted to look at the grotesque x-rays, measure scars, or feel the metal under my skin, but beyond the morbid curiosity we all have towards that accident on the freeway, they didn’t want to hear anything else. 

People wanted the beginning of a tragedy but the ending of a fairytale. Many wanted me to say that I was thankful for the trials and tribulations. Others wanted to know how I had grown from the experience. It was either that, or they didn’t want to hear anything at all. 

However, while I wasn’t at the beginning of the narrative, I certainly wasn’t at the happy ending. My current existence rested somewhere in the middle. Many things still felt off and I was learning to adjust to my new circumstances. 

Whenever I’d discuss the reality of my situation, I’d always hear in return, “well, it could’ve been a lot worse”. 

It wasn’t as though I didn’t realize this or that I wasn’t thankful to be alive. I was incredibly grateful to be alive. Along with anger, it was one of the stronger emotions that existed within me. 

However, hearing this constantly made me feel something else: shame and embarrassment. 

I was ashamed because I felt like I was over-complaining and that my story wasn’t worth listening to. I developed the belief that while I was objectively going through something difficult – in the eyes of others, it would never be difficult enough.

Thus, whenever I put pen to paper, I always had this nagging fear that maybe others would perceive me as overly emotional and dramatic. However, over time, I’ve realized that letting others define my experience not only prevented the (admittedly difficult) journey of acknowledging my emotions, but also the personal responsibility of validating these feelings for myself. 

During the initial months following my accident, I wallowed in the pool of self-pity. The only way I unearthed myself from this was to share my experience – and listen to the experience of others. I quickly realized that while the details may be different, the essence of a life-changing experience is oftentimes similar. We all feel a cacophony of emotions – some that embarrass us, others that shock even ourselves. 

I’m writing now for a plethora of reasons. Personally, I’m still trying to learn how to forgive myself, how to acknowledge my feelings, and how to move forward. However, I also want to write for the people who have found themselves in the middle of misfortune: the moments that sometimes feel overwhelming, never-ending, and lonely. 

Now, I’ll be honest. My gut instinct is to lace all of my writing on this topic with a warm, comforting thread of humor. This past year, humor has been my safety net – the quickest route to avoiding societal discomfort and awkward pauses. As I write, even now, I have to restrain myself from diminishing or hyperbolizing. Although I love poeticizing, I ultimately know that this type of writing doesn’t currently serve my goal to be authentic

My only hope is that by maintaining my authenticity, I can create a space for those who are also stuck in the beginnings and middles of their story – because I know that’s what the past version of myself needed the most. 

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How I fell victim to compassion fatigue

When the Oregon wildfires first started, I remember seeing the infamous photos of red skies and darkened horizons – the photos looked like they were dipped in red ink or covered with a red filter. I remember first seeing the photo on Reddit, featuring a UPS truck and an almost blood-red background. For me, the worst part wasn’t the feeling of horror at yet another climate disaster, or the anger at humanity’s activities that allow such disasters to occur, or even sympathy for fellow human beings in Oregon (where the first photo was taken), but it was just…apathy. Empty, hollow, apathy. A stray thought crossed my mind, who cares?, before I stopped and realised, maybe I should care. I hated myself for not having any particular emotion towards such horrific events, and that self-hate drove me towards being more compassionate and more empathetic. Honestly, though? I later realised that these feelings of emptiness, of apathy, at seeing so many disasters and horrors at once is normal – there’s even a term for it. It’s known as ‘compassion fatigue’.

Compassion fatigue can also be defined as secondary trauma or vicarious trauma, according to Psychology Today, and was often seen in professions that involved prolonged exposure to other people’s trauma (like healthcare, for example). However, in today’s world, with constant access to many of the world’s atrocities and injustices on multiple devices, it is possible to notice and be aware of injustices that take place in remote corners of the world, yet be helpless to stop them. As Dr. Amit Sood points out in his book, The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living, “We are inundated with graphic images of the unimaginable suffering of millions. We can fathom the suffering of a few, but a million becomes a statistic that numbs us.” It’s this numbing, this apathy, that has been termed as compassion fatigue, and it’s a concern that is quickly growing in the general public. 

Symptoms of compassion fatigue can include physical and mental fatigue, poor self-care, difficulty concentrating, feelings of guilt, of shame, of hopelessness, and denial of the fatigue you feel. Denial is one of the more concerning symptoms.  It prevents you from assessing how stressed they are, and from seeking help. 

Compassion fatigue is dangerous because it tends to eat away at your conscience, and can trigger a toxic cycle of guilt and shame.  You end up feeling guilty for not having the energy to care and force yourself to stay more active,. This can then make you feel more fatigued at the end of it. 

However, like any other stress-related condition, compassion fatigue can impact the quality of your life. However,  it can be treated, and the first step is to be aware of how you’re feeling. Driving yourself to the point of burning out to take care of others is dangerous. It results in you not being able to do your best for the ones you care about. If you feel like you’ve had some moments when you just wanted the world to stop for a few moments (like me), or wanted to close your eyes and ignore what’s happening around you (me again), it’s time to take a step back and take a closer look at the path you’re on.

If you feel symptoms of compassion fatigue, try and reach out to a loved one. Talk about how you feel and why you feel this way, but the important thing is to set boundaries. If you’re overburdened, take a break and don’t read the news for a few days. Most disasters and injustices are out of your control. Your mind needs a rest. It can be hard to step away from what’s happening, but it’s necessary to be kind to yourself. If you want to continue browsing social media, focus on feel-good, wholesome pages, and stay away from news-related platforms. 

It’s important to take a step back and take care of yourself, but that doesn’t have to mean you isolate yourself either. Community care can be tied in with self-care – after all, people are inherently social creatures. In the long run, it’ll keep you compassionate, empathetic, and sane. 

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College 101 Dedicated Feature Life

This is why you should study abroad – I went to Madrid

I’ve always been a little hesitant and unsure of myself. When I started telling people that I planned on studying abroad for the Fall 2019 semester in Madrid, I could tell that they were worried. I mean, how was I going to survive alone? I wasn’t fluent in Spanish, I didn’t know anyone else that was in my program, and I don’t exactly have a plethora of common sense – I’m more book-smart. I think that part of it was that they didn’t want me to get my hopes up. Studying abroad could be a really great experience or a really terrible one, and there wasn’t room for anything in between. 

But, I was determined to prove them wrong. I always have been. Ever since I was little I’ve always felt that people saw my capabilities as one-sided. I could do this but never that. To me, it seemed like an expectation thing. No one expected me to be so independent and sturdy, especially when I appeared in front of them as fragile or sensitive.

The truth is that I had never been given the chance to prove myself in this capacity. The second that I took too long or wasn’t doing something precisely the way that someone else would, they took over. And, as a result, I became apprehensive, kind of shy, and extremely nervous. 

However, it turns out that I was right. I had been largely independent all along, and studying abroad was a great idea. I slowly realized that I could do anything I set my mind to, even this, all the while holding on tightly to my emotional tendencies. I learned a lot about myself while basking in the Mediterranean sun. 

During my time in Madrid, I met people and made connections in ways that are indescribable. I don’t know if it is because I finally found myself in a situation in which I was free from implicit restraints and boundaries or if I became a product of my surroundings. But, I am sure of at least one thing, that being that I was entering a moment in which I was young enough to still have the ignorant belief that nothing mattered, but also wise enough to know that everything mattered much more than it had ever before. There were so many things, and so many people, clawing at me and insisting for my attention, and I finally let go.

For the first time I acknowledged the positivism of this sweet, even blissful, point in my life—one that I may never get again. So, I gave in to the extremities. In doing so, the whole world opened up. I found security in empathy, I learned about ambition, self-awareness, and I felt genuine longing for the first time. I spent days dancing in streets that were once touched by Goya, Ernest Hemingway, and Velasquez. I read poems by Pablo Neruda on the metro and I ate TONS of churros con chocolate.

What I found to be the most pivotal about my experience in Madrid, though, would be living in a home-stay. This is where I spent the most time, had the most laughs, and learned the most about myself. The day after landing in Madrid I met my host family and moved into their home. While they didn’t speak any English at all, and whatever Spanish I did know I forgot the second I opened my mouth, we managed to work through it. 

I knew I wanted to build a relationship with them, but before I could do that, I had to conquer my own confidence battle. I had to remind myself that yes, they were strangers with whom I would be living with for months, but I was also a stranger to them. Frankly, we were all in the same boat. Eventually, I got used to their habits, learned their family traditions, and studied their culture until I felt like I belonged there. They made me feel like I was as much a Madrileño as they are.

At dinner, my host parents would always ask about my day, my classes, and if I was up to anything fun. On the weekends, they would recommend countless restaurants or art museums to my friends and I, and then ask me if I liked it the next day. They even comforted me when I felt overwhelmed or insecure. What I appreciated the most, however, is that they actually listened to my stories, which I am sure that I told in broken Spanish, and always seemed interested.

We really grew to love and care for one another. In those four short months I am sure that they watched me grow exponentially. I truly became myself and started to feel comfortable in my own skin. Plus, I came out being able to speak and communicate in Spanish light-years beyond my ability from when I first arrived in Madrid. 

My memories from this time in my life are whole, and they always will be whole. I’m finally able to show off my independence and I’m never turning back. This just goes to show that a little bit of introspection and determination could go a long way. Of course, I was scared to be alone and so far away but I knew that it was what I needed.  Once I convinced myself to just rip off the band-aid my possibilities for personal growth became endless.

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Love + Sex Love Life Stories

Have you ever felt unrequited love?

Usually when I think of unrequited love, I think of something great. Some sort of grand story full of catharsis. Unrequited is generally special.

A type of love that demands to be talked about for an eternity. Something electric, with compulsive wavelengths. Something like the movies that comes with its own playlist attached to it.

Something with late and long nights spent together in a damp minivan twinkling and spitting out dreams on a whim. Something with vicious fights fueled by our own desire. Something that makes my soul open up just as swiftly as it gets torn apart. And, somehow I wind up bursting at the seams yet feel completely unsatisfied. I always want more. 

Why do we long for the type of love that hurts so much it imprints our hearts? It is difficult to locate the line that separates struggle and triumph, as nearly every love story in popular media blurs the two. But unrequited love is so unbelievably magnificent and sad at the same time that it becomes all encompassing.

Unrequited love is an entire body, overwhelming, feeling. I have broken hearts before and I have had my heart broken, so I can tell you that the feeling never fades, one way or the other. It feels as if you are running fast, and for a long time, yet making no distance at all.

One time I waited two months for a guy to message me back before I realized that he just wasn’t going to. Ever. Again. And that entire time I couldn’t help but wonder why I cared so much. What we had wasn’t at all special, but I still was left longing for a distraction from the heartbreak. I was showered by his passivity instead of his kisses and I wanted him to know how much his absence hurt me, but he was so equally careless and carefree that none of it mattered.

Not even for a second. 

I felt unrequited love again while in a long-distance relationship. This kind of unrequited was different. It wasn’t one-sided. Instead, we felt tremendously for each other. It’s just that our bodies weren’t able to be physically together for some time. We were only long distance for the few months that I would be studying abroad, but it felt like an eternity. I remember being there and using all of my senses to try to gauge what his touch felt like.

Somedays I would wake up and watch the sun from my window, silently knowing that that same sun wouldn’t bounce to him for another six hours, and I would recall how that same sun looked dancing across his back at dawn. I’d lay in bed at night and want to tell him about my day, but I knew that I couldn’t. I was constantly reminded that he no longer took up the space in between my arms when we slept. But I was, and still am, fascinated by the immediate consumption of these moments. I am so grateful to have given him my heart. He still has it. 

The extent of passion is practically boundless. We should feel like we can fly on a whim, or scream and dance, when we are in love. Unrequited love just forces you to confront that intensity, those struggles and triumphs, head on. Some of it is beautiful; some not so much. I like to remind myself that love doesn’t need a reason, love just is. 

Unrequited love is messy, but worth it. It is a collection of fleeting moments. It teaches us that all love should be leaking, dripping, through every difficulty yet also a thread that is continuously weaving through and connecting our bodies and our souls. The whole point of longing is to continue, because there will always be potential to love someone rather than to have loved someone. They can’t be the one that got away if they weren’t the one in the first place.


Brandt Jean and the messy politics of forgiveness

As the verdict for Amber Guyger’s sentence came in, sentencing her to ten years in prison for killing Botham Jean, the conversation quickly turned to the embrace of Amber Guyger by Brandt Jean in the midst of the celebration of the guilty verdict. From that moment on, sides were taken from cries of “what would possess him to do such a thing” swinging all the way to “I understand.” It’s been almost impossible to meet in the middle, it seems. 

Lost in this discourse is one very important person whose life will be forever altered by this event- and that’s Brandt Jean. Most of us cannot imagine the type of grief and heartbreak one feels when a family member is murdered in his own home. His older brother has become another sad reminder that racist violence at the hands of the state still continues to plague the everyday lives of black people in this country. And much like many families whose loved ones death become symbols in the movement, he and his family also become symbols of the pain, suffering, and hope left behind by such actions. 

The public extension of an olive branch that Brandt Jean gave to Amber Guyger when he took the stand is something that I, personally would not have done.  The optics of not only hugging the person that murdered your brother but professing that you love her and forgive her are beyond the scope of infuriating. Especially when such an action is easily weaponized by white people. But to suggest as many have done, that this was an action done for the performance of whiteness is not believable to me. Brandt Jean and his family are practicing Christians and the Christian idea of forgiveness is not about the white gaze. Or any gaze at all, for that matter.  It’s about a type of liberation from the things that actively harm a person. 

Another thing to take into account is the familiar statements on social media demanding no forgiveness from one’s family if said person ever came to harm. In retrospect that makes perfect sense. Nevertheless, the person in question will still be dead. The family is the one that will be left behind to continue living. Whatever ethics, code, or moral stance they may need to adopt in order to face the next day for the rest of their lives, they should be able to do that.  Free from judgment and disapproval.

The other approach to this type of violence is anger, which black people in this country are more than entitled to. Who can forget the full-throated and definitive “Hell No” of Esaw Garner when she was asked if she accepts the remorse of the police officer who ended her husband’s life? Her anger was palpable and eviscerating. It was what she needed to be and feel at that moment. Her anger was necessary in order to cope with the death of her husband.

The point in all of this is that there is no one way to manage such a tragedy.  From anger to forgiveness to any and every decision in between. Black people must be given the space to come to terms with a horrifying chapter in their lives. Their individual complexity and challenges must be taken into account, and their humanity never is forgotten. Black anger should be respected and revered because so often we aren’t given the space to be that.  But so should the decision to forgive. The path to life after a calamity is complex and confusing. We’d all be better off as bystanders remembering that.

Work Career Now + Beyond

Women don’t need to keep jumping through hoops to prove their worth

My first real-life work experiences have been at all female companies. My first internship in Washington, DC was with a non-profit called Running Start: a small, all-female nonprofit working to empower women to run for office in the United States. Running for office is no longer one of my goals. But there was something about watching these women inspire women that made me understand something fundamental about male leaders, and the work culture in DC.

While interning with Running Start, I worked on some research that would be going into a sponsorship proposal. Running Start sponsors women from all over the country to come to Washington, DC and intern on the hill. It is expensive to live in DC, so these proposals help Running Start fundraise. When writing these proposals, we have to back up what Running Start does with studies of female leadership.

Doing that research wasn’t anything special then, but some of the facts and concepts have been impossible to get out of my head. What I learned was this: the reason women don’t pursue leadership positions as often is not that they aren’t qualified, but because they seek more qualifications before pursuing them. Women see power coming from knowledge.

The reason men pursue these power positions is that they think power comes from confidence. And they are right: power does come from confidence. Women end up earning way more qualifications than they ever needed, all to get the same positions as the men, not because they need to, but because they think they need to.

In general, women think that in order to be in charge, they’re not allowed to have flaws. You’re not allowed to say “I don’t know.” So in order to prepare for leadership, they prepare to answer every question, accurately and fully. Women have a higher standard for ‘qualified’ than men do. They prepare all the knowledge they need in order to be successful when men take half of that information and run full speed into leadership positions. And women are still preparing.

Some of my peers at University feel this way. There are women on my campus majoring in international service and Arabic and wanting to go into the peace corps and going to grad school all because they want to run for office, or be a leader in their field.  Meanwhile the President of the United States has legal disputes and can barely spell his own name. Women are striving for perfection. Men don’t have to.

As a younger member of staff, especially a younger woman on staff, there is something intimidating about going into my supervisor’s office. After all, they are a supervisor. But when it is a woman, I have only experienced not only extreme care and empathy, but also intelligence, backed up with experience, and an ability to figure out what needs to be done. Without that empathy, all the workplace has is competition. When you make a mistake, there is no support to learn from it. When you succeed, there is no reward.

But my women supervisors have always been extremely careful to help me follow in their footsteps. To me, companies that function with empathy work more successfully as a team. When we support and uplift our coworkers, ultimately the company, and you, benefit from that work. And when we make mistakes, we need support, not negativity. My female supervisors have always supported my work, and supported me. I think that my work has improved because of it.

Male supervisors have a perception of confidence, knowledge, and facts. But in the current political era, it is time to double check that. Are they knowledgeable and factual, or just confident?

I do not mean any of this to offend anyone; these are simply examples of modern sociological phenomenons. But they are changing. As women become more empowered, they become not only more knowledgeable and factual but also more confident. Female leaders are incredibly intelligent. We all know that. But they also had the confidence to push past the facade of male superiority. And doing that takes more than the confidence men have, backed up by generations of favoritism.

As I have watched the incredibly qualified women in charge of me work, I know that they too are working hard to help women rise in the corporate ladder. That they are increasing not only female representation but intersectional female representation. And while men are working smarter not harder, women are working smarter and harder.

I have had the privilege to have only female bosses. This has definitely effected my paradigm. I am encouraged, empowered, and uplifted, all to succeed in a world where men are more likely to. I know what kind of boss I want to be when I am in charge: empathetic, but still confident, knowledgeable, and factual.

TV Shows LGBTQIA+ BRB Gone Viral Pop Culture

Watching “Queer Eye” reminds me that maybe, just maybe, there’s hope for men today

Sometimes I worry that the world has taken all the love out of me.

That every drop has been drained in attempts at self-preservation against various onslaughts of bad news. That I am a ball of anxiety and despair with no room for warm feelings.

And then, every now and again, a ray of sunshine, be it an expression of art or a loving word, will come along to remind me that I have a beating heart. Netflix’s Queer Eye is one such piece of light.

Via [Image description: Five beautiful men, the Fab 5, strike a pose as the lighting around them changes color]
Via [Image description: Five beautiful men, the Fab 5, strike a pose as the lighting around them changes color].
Maybe this sounds a bit extra, but one of the best parts of this show is that it encourages an honest expression of feelings, and I am feeling a bit extra at the moment. A reboot of the early-2000s makeover show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Queer Eye is explicitly a “make better” show. The Fab 5, five experts in the fields of culture, grooming, food, fashion, and design, respectively, who also happen to be gay men, are not here to hate on where any of their nominees is at.

Instead, they swoop into the lives of the people chosen to be on the show, called heroes, recognizing that they already have the potential to be their best selves.

The Fab 5 simply serve as an instructive catalyst to help these heroes access their potential (though I do not for a second want to downplay the work these men are putting in, they are all very good at their jobs). Seeing people be motivated to strive for what they want and to come into themselves is enriching, and I know I need any kind of positive influence nowadays.

There’s a lot to be said about this show, be it on gender, sexuality, race, or faith. It’s full like that. What I have been coming back to the most, and what I want to focus on, for the time being, is masculinity.

We’re all familiar with the patriarchy, yes? The system that degrades femininity and gives masculine men undue authority, preference, and privilege, above others?

The system that is entrenched in pretty much all of our societies? That one? Cool.

A unhealthy consequence of the patriarchy is toxic masculinity, which, among other horrid side implications, is a type of masculinity that restricts the emotional expression and range of men (or anyone who takes on these traditionally masculine traits, which are not strictly limited to gender) in favor of being the prototypical “alpha male.” It is called “toxic” because it is not healthy. Of course, individuals may have a preference towards if and how they show their emotions, but bottling it up can lead to undue aggression, transference, and so many more negative results.

I hope I don’t sound like too much of a sadist when I say that one of my favorite parts of Queer Eye is getting to see men, particularly straight cis men, cry.

None of the Fab 5 are entirely shy with their emotions. They also come at their heroes from a real place of love, empathy, and encouragement. Maybe it’s these elements that allow the heroes to come into a space of vulnerability. It’s not as though it’s a foolproof formula. Not every hero breaks into tears in any given episode, but more often than not, someone is crying, and that is huge.

A part of the ethos of the show is that there are a lot of different ways to be.

There are a lot of different ways to be queer. There are a lot of ways to be a man. There is space to be an emotional man or at least a man who shows emotion and cares for his feelings. This simple principle, that if you have feelings, it’s alright to share them with people who care about you, if a central part of the show and central to how it counteracts toxic masculinity.

Will one show fix all men? Probably not.

The majority of people I know who are watching the show are women of various sexualities and queer men, and I would love to see more straight cis men watching and learning. But the show does remind me, at least, that men have feelings and that some of them may even really want to express them. The show gets into the fears, anxieties, and hopes of these men. It is predicated on them.

Showing that there are men who are doing their best gives me a little hope that maybe, maybe, there is hope for men. Maybe some men can grow, mature, and show a modicum of vulnerability. I think it would do us all some good.

Until I see men making those changes, though, you can find me watching Queer Eye with a box of tissues.

Via [Image description: Five men, the Fab 5, and one woman, group hug].
Via [Image description: Five men, the Fab 5, and one woman, group hug].
Life Hacks Health Care TV Shows Movies Science Wellness Now + Beyond

Don’t worry – binge-watching Netflix shows is actually good for you

So, you like watching movies, and spending hours with your eyes glued to hours of Parks and Recreation. What if I told you that all of your late night, ice-cream and chill, on the couch, binge-watching sessions could be beneficial?

Yup, that’s right. According to neuroscience and psychology, watching hours of T.V. and movies can be good for you.

If you’re reading this and wondering how in the world could procrastinating and escaping to a far-away dimensional paradise could be great, then hear me out.
Girl from T.V. Show Shameless asking everyone if they would like to watch some television Via Giphy

I, like you, good folks, love to stream long-winded amounts of television, which, at this point, I’m not at all abashed, to admit, and you should not either. There are reasons why binge-watching also referred to as “modern escapism without any restraint” is very good in the long-term run. But, let’s talk about it on a scientific and psychological level.

1. Watching for long hours can act as a stress-reliever

Debi Mazar Television GIF by YoungerTV
Image Description: Woman looks into the camera whilst talking, the caption says “I’m into binge-watching” Via

Destressing has been reported by subjects in recent studies to be the number one cause for binge-watching television, according to Dr. John Mayer, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist.

Binge-watching has the unique capability to become a constant de-stressor in the midst of a world filled with work and responsibilities, with the notion of escapism.

A 2014 study demonstrated that individuals use television as a means to unwind or get away from the struggles and problems faced in life. There were; however, elements of cognitive dissonance which were inhibited by the individuals watching television. As, although, binge-watching made them more stress-free and relaxed, there were sentiments of guilt associated with the action itself.

2. Escaping reality can induce feelings of positivity
Image Description: A woman sits down on the couch while eating popcorn and is watching television via

In a research paper by Bernd Henning and Peter Vorderer, Kubrey states that watching television is an activity likely to be chosen by people wishing to escape from negative feelings and from the demands of reality. Elevation of feelings of positivity is sufficiently on the surface, with binge-watching. The research conducted included German students being observed concerning around the amount of television they were viewing of the need for cognition. It was discovered, that the longer viewers’ need for cognition is, the less pleasant the students’ felt, when they had nothing to do, but think.

From the study: “In its core, escapism means that most people have, due to unsatisfying life circumstances, again and again, cause to ‘leave’ the reality in which they live in a cognitive and emotional way.”

In another study, by Harris interactive, Netflix discovered in December of 2014, 61 percent of 1,500 television watchers claimed to binge-watch Netflix regularly. Three-quarters of the people reported having described feelings of positivity about their current actions.

3. Binge-watching can be a pleasurable activity
Image Description: A couple is sitting in their pajamas and is excited to be watching more television shows and movies via

As a task is about to be finished, our brains release a chemical known as dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter which serves to be the pleasure center for the brain. So naturally, our brains would want to watch an ample amount more episodes after finishing the seventh Game of Thrones season, am I right? If we watch television at night, bright lights emitting from the screen of the television, increase our serotonin level. Serotonin regulates the anxiety, happiness, and mood in our brain, by the way.

Thus, the binge-watching sessions ensue, you shouldn’t feel bad about them. Just be smart about when to stop and continue.

Cultural Anthropologist Grant McCracken went into the houses of a surplus of respondents to discover that 76 percent reported that bingeing was a welcome gateway into their hectic lives. Eight out of ten believed that binge-watching a T.V. show was better than watching singular episodes.

4. We feel empathy for the characters on the screen

empathy GIF
Image description: A woman hugs a child with the caption “Let me hug you” via

With the “Golden Age of Television” on the rise and exposure to more intelligent content, binge-watching can surely become an addiction on accounts involving emotions.

Let’s talk more neuroscience, here.

Cognitive empathy observes how people can adopt the psychological characteristic traits of others’ with the inclusion of fictional characters. This phenomenon in psychology could potentially explain how we become engrossed in stories which appear to be similar, yet so different from our own on television. This could be due to our ability to recognize the feelings in others and see ourselves in characters on television using projection 

I finally have a reason to explain to anyone who dares to interrupt me while watching A Series of Unfortunate Events. And if anyone scratches their head in pure, utter confusion, I’ll tell them it’s because of science and refer them to this article. Problem solved.

All in all, it is seen binge-watching actually has benefits primarily from a scientific standpoint. So now, kick back, relax and go finish that season you’ve been putting off because you were too stressed.

Humor Life

5 signs that you need to get off social media, put on pants, and start talking to real people

The new buzz is that social media is bad for us. It makes us more depressed, more lonely, and less likely to have real friends. A former  Facebook executive in user growth, Chamath Palihapitiya, eventually left Facebook because he was deeply concerned with how it was ruining our fabric of important social interaction.

And where were the articles reporting his decision to leave shared widely? Social media.

Social media may be the root of our social ills, including our ability to interact in person. But, with that said, let’s not lose all hope. If we lost all abilities to be human, then plenty of coffee shops and places for social outings would have closed down by now. That does not dismiss the fact that we use different types of platforms as an unprecedented way for us to organize the types of relationships in our lives.

I am not here to tell you whether or not social media is great, a necessary evil, or something to avoid altogether. That is a personal choice in which you weigh your pros and cons. What I am here to tell you is if you are not taking quality time to have real human interactions, even if it is with just a few awesome people, you miss out on something essential: a support system. If your debates and educated discussions are not happening at public forums or in the comfort of your own home, you have missed amazing opportunities for experiential learning. Here are signs you should look for:

1.  You only speak on social media apps to your friends living far away, rather than picking up the phone and calling

call me hay gurl hay GIF by Hazelnut Blvd
[Image Description: A gif of a sock puppet talking into a human hand that is making the signal of a phone.] via Giphy
Sometimes, a lot more can be said over the phone than typing into a message box. While many of us are not living in the same cities all of the time, or may now operate on our friends being far away, hearing their voice is wonderful. For me as an expat, my Sunday morning chats with my best friend on the U.S. west coast are like going out for brunch. While I cannot wait to see her in a few months, hearing her voice even if we are thousands of miles away makes me realize our true friendship.

2. You base your opinions on “something you read on Facebook” – or the comments

enjoy lies GIF by Much
[Image Description: A gif of a Sikh man talking into a camera and satirically overlooking details of a story as well as its truth.] via Giphy
Fake news is not suddenly a thing because it was there all along. It did not happen only when Mr. Trump was (gulp) elected as president. It developed over time when humans in social media world began confusing memes with real news. Reality check: memes are never news. They never were. I have sat through conversations where I listened to someone express an opinion. When I asked what shaped that opinion, the only response was: see this Facebook group. All I could say to myself was – no. Just. Stop.

3. You are checking social media while you are at a social gathering

addicted fun GIF
[Image Description: A gif of a hand scrolling through a phone which only repeats the phrase: “This is so much fun”.] via Giphy
We may all have been guilty of this at one point. I decided that the best way to avoid this was to put my phone in my purse and to leave my purse at another end of a room where it may be difficult for me to get to. Sometimes, if I am meeting with just one person for dinner, I keep my phone in my car. There is no point of even going to any social outing if your phone is in front of you. If it is, you may have missed the opportunity for a new best friend, a game-changing professional contact, or the love of your life.

4. You know little about the people behind the photos and updates that you peruse in your newsfeeds

facebook GIF
[Image Description: A gif of a man’s face with pages of a book opening and showing emotions ranging from happy to very sad.] via Giphy

You only have 150 real friends. All of those 150 friends may not even qualify to be in your closest circle, nor even in your sympathy circle. Everyone else is pretty much an acquaintance or contact you keep on hand. While that sounds bleak, I will not tell you to go purge your Facebook friend list (unless it really helps you). I will tell you to spend less time wondering about them, and more time being with at least five percent of your “real friends.”

5. You know deep down that you feel jealous of everyone’s images of only fun, happiness, and unicorns

facebook GIF
[Image Description: A gif of a cartoon where man who shares serious status has only one like and girl who just shares that she went shopping has so many likes.] via Giphy

Jealousy is hard to admit. Some may express it (not so) jokingly as “I am so jelly of your great travel photos!” or “I am living vicariously through you.” As many of us have heard many times, behind those photos are real lives. Nobody wants to put their problems on display. This does not mean you come up with strange scenarios of everything bad that can happen to a person to make yourself feel better. It is a sign to nod, smile, and have your own photos of fun, happiness, and unicorns with people.

Sometimes, a social media cleanse is just as good. I personally try to take one for a few months per year. I never regret it. Otherwise, if that is not possible, you have some conscious decisions to make about your time.

Love + Sex Love Life Stories Wellness

My ex just thought I was being dramatic about my abusive dad

I always think twice – no, make that five times – before talking to a guy I’m dating about the trauma that I’ve experienced in my family. Over the years, I’ve found that men who don’t understand the lasting effects of verbal abuse, financial control, and toxic masculinity within a household just don’t “get” why I have such a strained relationship with my parents and other relatives.

I grew up with a father who has anger issues, is controlling, and on occasion, gets violent. He makes racist, xenophobic, and Islamophobic remarks, all of which simultaneously boil my blood and make me sick to my stomach.

Many relatives defend him to me and paint me as the problem. They say I have an attitude, or that I need to get over whatever issues I have with him.

In short, it takes a lot of energy for me to rehash my life experiences with someone I’m seeing so they can understand the context of my relationship with my family.

And it doesn’t always go well.

Men I’ve dated in the past usually had little, if anything, to say in response to my home life. I’ve seen confusion and repulsion on their faces when I unapologetically announce that no one from my side of the family will be invited to my graduation ceremony or hypothetical wedding.

Many relatives defend him to me and paint me as the problem.

One boyfriend was shocked when I told him I avoid talking to my parents on the phone while at college, as it usually devolves into an argument or general chaos. A casual hookup said stupidly obvious things, such as: “But she’s your mother,” when I briefly described my at-times rocky relationship with my mom.

I ended up shutting up and never sharing anything remotely personal with him again.

An ex-boyfriend complained about me riding his ass to pick up after himself and take the trash out, but I grew up in a home where my dad refused to lift a finger to help my mom with house chores, and I will not watch a boyfriend assume the same laziness. I tried to explain all this to him but he only grew more defensive.

I want to be clear: I don’t need my boyfriend’s pity. I need empathy. I need a partner who is willing to accept that all families are different and that many are far from perfect. But perhaps most importantly, for the sake of my sanity, I need a partner who will take my issues with my family seriously, and not make inadvertently dismissive comments like, “Have you ever tried working things out with them?”

I’ve done endless amounts of emotional labor just so men could get a glimpse into my destructive family and hopefully see my side of things. That’s an exhausting amount of work to put into a relationship just so the other person can admit, “Yeah, your family is fucked.”

I still have to mentally work through my troubles with them on an almost daily basis.

While I’ve met men who probably have good intentions when they express concern or amazement at my general view of the family unit, I haven’t met a lot who are capable of listening and detaching themselves from their own experiences with family structures.

A healthy relationship acts as a judgment-free support system for both parties. But my experience has been that guys who’ve never dealt with a problematic family the way I have can’t support me the way I need.

I’ve always felt judged.

I’ve always felt like I have to hide parts of my identity, my history, and my worldview because guys can’t understand that I’m shaped by a hectic, stressful household. I need to talk about my struggles with my parents, and particularly my father, but I need to discuss them with someone who can relate, or at least give me affirming feedback.

I want to be clear: I don’t need my boyfriend’s pity. I need empathy.

At the end of the day, I have a delicate and often draining, relationship with some of my family members. No matter how far I move, how many work projects I bury myself in, or how many friends I have, I still have to mentally work through my troubles with them on an almost daily basis.

And while I understand that it is not reasonable for my boyfriend or husband to be my therapist, I do need genuine support and validation from my partner, no matter how hurtful or childish my arguments with my parents may seem.

That’s not too much to ask.

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Books Pop Culture

6 books that prove that reading can literally change your life

Ah, summer…the perfect time for kicking back and grabbing a good book. There’s no other feeling like losing yourself in an inspirational book. I’m obsessed with books that deal with self-development, spirituality, and finding the purpose of life.

This is a short list of books that are actually pretty damn good.

1. You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero


If you’re ready to meet your new best friend, grab a copy of Jen Sincero’s #1 NYTimes Bestseller now! She is hilarious and her writing style makes reading effortless. No matter who you are, she will make you feel empowered and ready to tackle anything that comes your way.

One of my favorite quotes from this book is:

“Imagine what our world would be like if everyone loved themselves so much that they weren’t threatened by other people’s opinions or skin colors or sexual preferences or talents or education or possessions or lack of possessions or religious beliefs or customs or their general tendency to just be whoever the hell they are.”

2. Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton

This book should be mandatory reading for all men and women. You completely lose yourself as you put yourself in Glennon’s shoes. She shares the most intimate details of her life in hopes of showing us that we are not alone in our struggles. Reminding us that, “sometimes people who need help look a lot like people who don’t need help.”

Love Warrior touches upon themes of bravery, trust, infidelity, parenting, self-esteem, hitting rock bottom, love, resilience, and empowerment.

3. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

Mark Manson is a genius. If you feel like you don’t have time to read this book, then A) you’re missing out BIG TIME and B) you can read his awesome blog posts which have won over the hearts of millions around the world. No matter what stage of life you’re in, you’re bound to gain insight and wisdom from Mark. Also, the last few chapters will give you goosebumps and realize how so many times, we are too afraid to truly live.

Mark says, “You and everyone you know are going to be dead soon. And in the short amount of time between here and there, you have a limited amount of fucks to give. Very few, in fact. And if you go around giving a fuck about everything and everyone without conscious thought or choice—well, then you’re going to get fucked.”

4. Rising Strong by Brene Brown

I can’t describe how much I love all of Brene Brown’s work. This woman is a bad ass researcher and storyteller who has inspired millions around the world, especially with her TED talk on the power of vulnerability. In this #1 NYTimes bestseller, Brene walks us through her sixteen years of research on topics like shame, empathy, courage, and worthiness. She makes it so easy to understand and you’re bound to have little aha-moments on every page you read.

We are always hearing of success stories in the media. But rarely do we get to hear about the difficulties and pain involved in the process of going from zero to a hundred. Perfectly describing her work, Brene says, “If we are brave enough, often enough, we will fall. This is a book about what it takes to get back up.”

5. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

This book is a must read! We go on a journey with Santiago, who is on the quest to find a hidden treasure that he sees in a recurring dream. Santiago’s journey is a representation of finding one’s destiny and of becoming one with your true self. This book encourages you to work on your “personal legend”- things you are passionate about and that is very important when you are on a quest to finding yourself.

The core message of The Alchemist is reinforced by this quote that an old man said to Santiago on their encounter: “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

6. A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle

Eckhart Tolle is such an angel, I swear! He’s a spiritual teacher who does not identify with any religion in particular. He was on the brink of suicide when he came up with this realization: “I am not my thoughts. I am the awareness behind my thoughts.”

This isn’t just another one of the thousands of books which claim to help you awaken to your life’s purpose. This book is mind blowing and speaks the truth. Oprah even added it to her Book Club in 2008-because it’s that good. He teaches us about our ego in a very easy to understand way and his writing helps transform and illuminate lives around the world.