Our codependency habits can be traced back to our childhood

 Oftentimes the habits that we form (good or bad) are learned in our formative years and carried into adulthood. When you enter your early 20s these habits make themselves known to you and are mirrored in the relationships that you form with others. Habits can be formed in early childhood or as you get older. These habits determine how you treat others and reflect how you feel about yourself. 

Habits are rituals and behaviors that we knowingly and unknowingly perform that help us carry out everyday activities such as brushing our teeth, taking a bath or a shower, fixing our hair in the morning, and unwittingly following the same routines every day without much thought put in.

There are three subcategories habits fall into. The first category is the habits that we don’t pay much attention to because they are a part of our daily life, such as tying shoelaces or brushing teeth. The category is habits that we have worked hard at establishing and are beneficial to our wellbeing like exercising, following a healthy diet, or sleeping early to get your 8 hours of sleep! The third category of habits are the habits that are not good for us, these are habits such as smoking, procrastination, overspending and finally the habits you form of codependency 

Codependency is the mental, physical, emotional or spiritual reliance on a partner, friend, or family member.

The word codependency was first forged in the 1950s, by members of the Anonymous Alcoholics as a way to support the partners of individuals who were involved in substance abused. 

However today, the term covers a much broader topic.

Codependency is a learned behavior. When we observe the behaviors of our parents (good and bad) as children, we make them our own. They can stem from having a parent or guardian who had difficulty with setting boundaries, could never say ‘no’ to others, was the martyr, had poor or unhealthy communication skills. These behaviors are learned early on and brought into our close and intimate relationships. 

Adults who grow up with parents that were emotionally unavailable are more likely to become codependent adults. And as adults, they will mostly find themselves in relationships with partners that are emotionally unavailable , exhibiting the wound that stems from their childhood. At first, you may excuse this behavior from the other person, in hopes that they will change or believe that you can be the one to change them. 

Our subconscious may hope to dream that one day the other person will acknowledge the love that we give and be inspired to change. And maybe if we give them more time, they will finally return all the love that we so desire. This kind of reasoning is harmful. It is more so when the other person displays abusive behavior. Codependency does not only exist in romantic relationships but can be seen in platonic relationships and friendships. In trying navigate relationships in my, I have found that I too have some codependent habits that have been not only harmful to the relationship but harmful to my wellbeing. Before starting my journey of healing I was unaware of these habits and I would find myself repeating the same unhealthy cycles when it came to my friendships and relationships. This all came to an end once I started becoming more self aware of myself and how my own behavior contributed to having to repeat these cycles.  Being aware of my codependent habits was the start of my healing process.

If you believe you are in a relationship where you carry out habits of being codependent, the first thing in becoming independent is to take a look at yourself first and not at others. Signs that you be codependent include feeling responsible for the actions of others, doing more than you should in your relationships to keep the peace, being afraid of being alone, needing the approval of others to attain your self-worth, challenges with adapting to change or making decisions for yourself, and having your own emotions determined by the thoughts and feelings of those around you.  

But here is the good news, codependency is a behavior you can unlearn. In order to hold space for all healthy relationships in your life, you need to heal yourself first. Start with being honest with yourself and others, in your communication and in expressing your needs and desires. Practice having positive thoughts and higher expectations to counteract the negative ones. Learn to not take things personally, not everything is yours to fix or change. Take breaks! Taking breaks is important in grounding yourself and remembering who you are. And last but not least establish boundaries. Establishing boundaries is one of my favorite things to do lately, not only with others but with yourself as well. Having boundaries has taught me where my needs begin and where the other person’s needs end.

As you navigate your way in trying to break the cycle of codependency, it may seem as though you are being selfish and unfair. You’re not. Putting yourself first is not selfish but rather self-care. Unlearning unhealthy habits needs one to be patient with themselves and allow for mistakes along the way, as you won’t always get it right. If you start to experience feelings of guilt when you make the initiative to put yourself first, know that it is okay and that you are still learning.  

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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.

Get rewarded for everyday activity. $10 sign on bonus.

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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Fashion Lookbook

Here’s my big-chested secret to finding a supportive sports bra

I’ve never understood why it’s so hard to find sports bras or tops that are flattering on large chested women. From my experience, all of the cute ones either only come in smaller sizes, or are impractical. What I do find is never actually supportive, though, like a sports bra should be, and I wind up having to wear two sports bras just to feel comfortable while exercising. This is suffocating and not at all ideal, especially when sweat starts to build up in crevices that should just not be sweating. 

If I don’t go through the hassle of squeezing my chest into 2 sports bras at once, which is something that I think resembles a medieval corset, then I feel almost as if I’m being held back during my workout. It’s hard to push myself when I don’t really feel secure or comfortable. Not to be graphic, but if I’m going on a run or doing jumping jacks, the last thing I want to be thinking about is my boobs flopping around in every direction, basically an inch away from a wardrobe malfunction. Yet most of the time, that is all I can think about. Not to mention that all of that breast movement can also be downright painful during a workout. Frankly, it feels like my boobs are being torn right off my chest with every jump or swing. 

As a result, my exercise routine just doesn’t last very long because I’m so tired of having to deal with my boobs. Sometimes I even find myself holding my breasts in my hands to stop them from bouncing while I’m jogging. But I shouldn’t have to do that. Girls with larger chests should be able to find sports bras, or any other top for that matter, that are flattering, trendy, and fits their chest just as much as the next girl

But I also know that my big boobs are not going anywhere anytime soon. Neither are those narrow stereotypes of the ‘perfect’ female body that are the driving force of the fashion and athleisure industries. So, after a few years of dealing with this, I’ve come up with a few tips and tricks of my own for finding a sports bra that is comfortable, stylish, and that I trust to keep my chest in place and supported. 

Our boobs deserve the best — AKA not to be smooshed so I’ve always found it best for a sports bra to have some sort of light cupping on the inside. This ensures that our boobs have a designated place to go so as to limit movement. 

Freya Active Bra.
[Image description: Freya Active Bra.] Via
Another thing that is key when looking for a sports bra is a strong and substantial bottom band. This acts like a shelf for our boobs to sit on and helps keep them in place during a high-intensity workout. When looking for a bottom band that offers maximum support, however, it’s important to take into consideration whether or not that band will rub or cause irritation in the area. Rubbing is not good. For this reason, I usually try to go wire-free when picking out a sports bra. Adjustable straps and a flexible under-band are always my go to for comfort and ensuring minimal bounce. 

Natori Gravity Contour Sports Bra.
[Image description: Natori Gravity Contour Sports Bra.] Via
Another important aspect is the material that your sports bra is made of. Moisture-wicking or mesh materials are great for soaking up sweat and acting as a ventilator to keep you cool. 

Zella Body Fusion Sports Bra.
[Image description: Zella Body Fusion Sports Bra.] Via
It’s time we start taking a stand and taking care of our boobs, because if we don’t, we could be doing more damage than we’d like to think. 

USA Celebrities Race Policy Inequality

Here’s why it’s important for celebrities to show their support for #BlackLivesMatter

Across the U.S., and even in many other countries, protesters have taken the street this week to rally against widespread police brutality, systemic racism, and to call attention towards the insufficient charges brought against not only the killers of George Floyd but also the killers of countless other Black victims of racial injustice. In every city protesters have been met by the local police force, in addition to the national guard, all making use of blunt, violent, and instigative tactics. Social media has also been full of callings for change, spreading knowledge or resources, and pointing out the many hypocrisies within our current system. Some of it, however, is performative. This means that some people, often celebrities, may be posting just to give off the allusion that they care, when in reality it is just empty support. One example is with the Glee star Lea Michele. Earlier in the week she tweeted this:

She was immediately met with backlash from a former co-worker who proved that her intentions could not possibly be genuine when those words did not reflect her actions in reality.

It also seems that Lana Del Ray has spoken out in support of the movement just days after posting one of the most problematic statements I’ve read in awhile that promotes a white-washed version of feminism. News flash: if your feminism isn’t intersectional we don’t want it.

Other examples of performative behavior appears through donations. I have seen some celebrities proudly post their $50 dollar donations to community bail funds, which is not a lot of money at all considering their celebrity status. In fact, I have even seen my own friends, who are 20-something years old and unemployed, donate more money. This kind of demonstration of support is insulting to the #BlackLivesMatter movement because celebrities are the ones with privilege and capital in our society. Yet, in cases like this, they are refusing to use it, even though they say on social media that they are all for equality and justice. #openyourpurse.

What I find to be the most dangerous, though, is celebrities who have not spoken up at all, or even worse, spreading the wrong message. Most of these people have a gigantic following, making the impression that they leave on the people that are influenced by them noticeable. It is an unfortunate truth, but celebrities set an example for A LOT of people on these kinds of things. So, it is important for celebrities to use their privilege wisely in times like these. They also need to show their activism, and then act on it, because they are the ones with the money to financially support a movement. In addition, celebrities, especially white celebrities, should make it their mission to amplify Black voices at this time, instead of raising their own. Let Black people grieve, vent, scream, and mobilize. It is up to the celebrity to make an effort to elevate their words because celebrities have the audience and the means to do so. And, let’s not forget that while at protests that same advice applies because white celebrities have the privilege of getting out of an arrest situation without serious repercussions, for the most part.

Among them, however are some celebrities who are doing it right. They have taken their actions way beyond social media and are showing their support for the #BlackLivesMatter movement through large donations and in person activism. I will say that this is by no means a celebration of these celebrities or celebrity culture, but rather a recognition of what should and could be done if done right. To be fair, I am also wondering where all those celebrities are who made the entire world cringe when they sang Imagine in March thinking it would cure coronavirus.

Halsey helped treat people at protests who have been injured after being shot at with rubber bullets.

Cole Sprouse was arrested while protesting in Santa Monica. He also bailed out a lot of protesters who were arrested with him.

Ariana Grande has been active in the spread of resources, donated to bail funds, and attended protests in Los Angeles.

Nick Cannon has been protesting in Minneapolis all week wearing a sweatshirt that reads, “Please. I can’t breathe.”

Timothée Chalamet attended protests in Los Angeles, signed positions, and donated to various organizations.

J. Cole has been attending #BlackLivesMatter protests since 2014.

Aminé, an American rapper, is protesting and has been actively pointing out injustices.

Jaylen Brown, a professional basketball player for the Boston Celtics, drove 15 hours to protest in his hometown of Atlanta.

Pedro Pascal has repeatedly been attending protests and demonstrating widespread support.

Jane Fonda has been fighting for this cause since the 1960s and is widely known as an ally to the Black Panthers.

John Cusack is known for his progressive ideals and has been attending protests in Chicago.

Kendrick Sampson is on instagram showing wounds after being shot at with rubber bullets.

Tinashe has also been vocal through activism and by attending protests.

Justin Timberlake donated to the Minnesota Freedom Fund

Chrissy Teigen and John Legend made a $200,00 donation spread across 3 organizations. 

John Boyega is showing support all the way from the U.K. 

Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds donated $200,000 to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund

Colin Kaepernick, NFL player and leader in a protest movement against police brutality and racism by kneeling during the national anthem at games, established a legal defense initiative for protesters. He will be providing free legal compensation for Minneapolis “Freedom Fighters.”

These are only a handful of the celebrities that have spoken out and make a commitment to justice. They are not special, or needing of praise. In fact, their actions should be the standard. It is a shame, but not surprising, that other celebrities aren’t not taking advantage of their privilege is beneficial and productive ways. It is all of our duty to take care and to take a stand against the hate that is seemingly all around us. Check out our action guide if you want to know how you can demand justice for George Floyd by taking an active part in eradicating racial injustice. Read it, follow it, share it, and encourage your friends/family to do the same.  

Mind Advice

This is how I overcame my test-taking anxiety

Just like many high school juniors across the United States, I was anxious about how well I would perform on the Preliminary Standardized Test, aka the PSAT. While these scores are not used for university admissions, the PSAT is used to identify National Merit Scholars. Being the overachiever that I was (and still am), I wanted to do really well on that exam.

The night before, however, I couldn’t sleep because I was so nervous. During the PSAT itself, I couldn’t stop shaking because I was so stressed and overwhelmed. Over a month later, I received my PSAT results and they weren’t good.

I bombed the test.

I had debilitating test-taking anxiety from seventh grade until my sophomore year. I was convinced that I was going to fail every exam. And, in some cases, despite being prepared for and having studied hard for tests, I still failed. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, test-taxing anxiety is a “form of performance anxiety,” and can be triggered by fear of failure, lack of preparation, and/or poor test history. 

While I still do have test-taking anxiety, it is not as bad as it was just a few years ago. Here are four things that I did which helped me get over my severe anxiety relating to exams, and hopefully they will help you too.

1.  Recognize that your self-worth isn’t tied to test results

[Image description: A toddler leaning over to cry on a bed] via GIPHY
It took me a long time to accept this, but test-taking is just not my strength. While it is always good to improve skills, holding myself to score high on tests is not healthy for me mentally. Someone’s self-worth, including my own, is not tied to test scores.

technically am talented in areas that should make me a good test-taker – I’m a strong writer, have developed analytical skills, and study for hours – but I don’t perform well on exams. I use those skills to do research for and successfully execute class projects.

In my opinion, although many people may disagree with me, tests measure how good people are at taking tests. That’s it. There must be a reason why top institutions like the University of Chicago do not require students to submit standardized tests anymore.

2. Chat with friends or colleagues who may be experiencing similar things

[Image description: Two women look at each other and chat] via GIPHY
When I was experiencing severe test-taking anxiety, I was afraid to talk to anybody about it. I was worried that my friends would judge me and the impact my anxiety had on my test-taking ability.

Turns out, I was not alone. If you have test-taking anxiety, I assure you that there’s someone you know who’s experiencing the same thing.

I found it helpful to find ways to think of strategies to conquer exam-related anxiety with a friend – or a classmate that I barely know (both work!).

3. Request extended time on tests

[Image description: A small kitten who is stuck in a tree asking for help] via GIPHY
Anxiety can make it difficult for even the smartest people to perform well on tests. That’s why accommodations at most schools and for many standardized tests exist.

I benefit greatly from extra time on tests, as I’m able to use breathing techniques and take a break when I feel overwhelmed by exams. I’m then able to refocus and resume taking the test. Although I do not end up needing extra time on tests, it is mentally comforting to know that I’m able to take a pause and still have enough time to finish my test if I need it.

Depending on your school, it may take a while to receive accommodations. This is why I recommend applying for accommodations as early in the semester as possible, or even over the summer.

4. Practice taking exams in a comfortable setting in advance

[Image description: A group of students working in a library] via GIPHY
Before I take a high-stakes standardized test, I try to take many practice tests in places that make me feel comfortable. This includes in my favorite coffee shop, on my bed, or in a library.

When I then take the actual test, I find myself to be in a more relaxed mindset. I’m still slightly anxious when I take tests – which is normal – but my anxiety revolving around test-taking is no longer debilitating.

When I was able to incorporate these four stress-relieving methods, I started to perform better on exams. Hopefully, some of these strategies will help you defeat, or at least minimize, your test-taking anxiety too!

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.

Work Career Now + Beyond

This is why failing at a new job isn’t the end of the world

I started working at a new job. It is perfect for me: remote, so it works with my school and extracurricular schedule, and focuses on writing, which I hope to make a career in. I felt valid in all of the work that I’d done previously, and was excited for the opportunity to impress my new peers. But what I am quickly realizing is that my inexperience truly does hold me back, and I started failing at my new job.

It all started when I missed a two hour orientation meeting. Because of that, I didn’t know any of my assignments, and was several hours behind my peers. I knew this is a mistake that was going to be difficult to come back from. When you fall behind, there is a snow ball effect of work piling up, but also relying on the work before it. This is especially true when its your first day. For example, my assignment for the week was to complete an article, but I didn’t know how to write a pitch, format an image, or use the website for draft writing. So one task is really four.

With all of this work on my plate, and even more on it’s way, I struggled to find a way to still be ‘good’ at my job. And I have no idea if I accomplished that, or if I will ever accomplish that. There is a lot of uncertainty when you’re young and learning, especially when you’re new. At jobs, you get more work, not validation. When you turn something in, you don’t get an A, and you don’t get told good job. My editors tell me how to improve, and I am expected to do so. 

I don’t mean that to sound harsh. Its a reality I am dealing with, too. There is a feeling of never being good enough, never doing anything right, and never knowing whats going on that is fundamental to learning. I am not experienced, so I should not expect myself to be perfect, or even to do things right. This is a learning experience, and I should treat it as such. 

Something I am learning, and consistently reflecting upon in this job, is that education is so different from reality and that your reality is always changing. My reality, for my whole life, has been the classroom.

The degree of difficulty changes, and there are major shifts as you age up and learn more, but a classroom is a classroom. At the end of the day, I know to turn my homework in and work on getting an A. I am good at that, and I know the routine. But now I am not in a classroom, I am in the work force, and I am still learning. But learning through experience is so different than learning through a textbook. And it is so important to acknowledge that shift.

So with all of this work, and a small existential crisis on my hands, I had no choice but to ask for help. I emailed my supervisor, and did my best to get caught up quickly with the information she gave me. But because I have only ever been a student, I had to learn another lesson: supervisors are not here to chastise me. The process is slow. I’ve been making mistakes along the way. And I’m still incredibly and perpetually stressed about getting everything done. But that does not mean that my supervisors are not supportive, and have been extremely patient with me. 

The take away from all of this is I guess three-fold. First off, moving from the classroom to an internship is hard, and more people should admit that. Secondly, that making mistakes along the way (as long as you learn from them) is okay. And lastly: find a company with supervisors that will support you. Because at the end of the day, I wouldn’t have written this article without their support.

Work Career Advice Now + Beyond

The 5-step guide to starting your own business – even if you’re broke

Like many other women I know, I’ve had a great idea for starting my own business. I’ve seen an opportunity and believed I had the skills and the passion to turn it into a reality.

Yet every time I started to move forward with my idea, I got stuck. I realized that I didn’t know where to begin, and I got overwhelmed by indecision, worry, and questions:

What kind of business structure is right for me? What kind of funding do I need? Who can I ask for help? Am I making a terrible mistake?

This uncertainty drove me to research and learn what steps are needed to start my own business. By mapping out a plan and taking small but concrete actions, you can also make significant progress on launching your small business.

1. Do your homework and workshop your idea.

be a man homework GIF
[Li Shang from the animated film Mulan pushes his staff out. Caption: Let’s get down to business.]
Take the time to research your business idea thoroughly before going any further. When you’re excited about your idea, it’s tempting to rush through this phase. But it’s a crucial step to reduce your risks and confirm your venture’s viability.

Ask yourself these and other questions to better understand your potential customers and competitors:

  • How does my product or service solve a problem or fill an unmet need?
  • Will my business operate in a specific geographic area?
  •  Do I need a brick-and-mortar space? Will the business exist only online?
  • Who are my customers? What are their priorities and concerns?
  • What other businesses are already doing something similar? How will my business stand out among competitors?
  • Will people be interested in what my business offers? What will they be willing to pay for it?

2. Work out your business structure.

big brother pop GIF by Big Brother After Dark
[Image description: a woman sits on a couch and says “ooh, we got options”.]
When forming your business, you can structure it in many ways. Review common types of business structures – such as sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies (LLCs) and corporations – to find the best fit. Your decision affects important factors like your taxes, your personal liability and your funding options.

Once you choose a business structure, you can file the paperwork necessary to start operating. Depending on where you live and what type of business you’re running, you may need to register your business with the state, obtain a tax ID number or file for specific licenses or permits.

Search online for your state’s requirements.

3. Develop your business plan.

curvy do it GIF
[Image description: a woman poses in yoga gear stating “there’s nothing you can’t do.”]
Now it’s time to put all of your research into a cohesive business plan. You can take many different approaches to this plan, and tons of helpful, free templates are available online – from the detailed traditional business plan to the simplified one-page plan.

The most important part of writing your business plan is that you clarify your vision and goals and that you outline strategies to execute them. Your business will likely evolve over time, but you can continuously update your plan to reflect any changes and refocus on your new direction.

4. Find the funding you need.

confused math GIF by CBC
[ Image description: A man counts on his fingers as mathematical equations pass by.]
When you’re establishing your business, you may be able to get started by using personal savings or investment from family and friends. But what do you do when you’re ready to expand? How do you obtain more capital without taking on unnecessary risk?

Once you reach the point where funding is holding back your business’s ability to grow, a small business loan is a good option. Obtaining a loan from a large bank or credit union might be a challenge, but other lending services cater specifically to small businesses. Compare small-business loan offerings from different companies, weighing factors like interest rates, approval time and minimum and maximum loan amounts. Find a lending solution that best suits your short- and long-term needs.

5. Find support and hold on to it.

women support GIF by buzzfeedladylike
[Image description: a woman stares at her phone worriedly and then her group of friends pop up around her to help her.]
Just because you’re starting your own business doesn’t mean you have to do everything alone. Recognize where you need extra help, and seek out people and resources to support you.

For example, if you struggle with organization and deadlines, test out project management software or time tracking tools. Or if you routinely avoid certain important tasks, see if you can outsource them. Hiring a part-time bookkeeper or assistant could improve your productivity and save you money in the long run.

Now that you’re open for business, don’t forget to throw one hell of a launch party!

Editor's Picks Community LGBTQIA+ Gender & Identity Life

At 25, I’m just starting to learn what being queer means to me

This past June was San Francisco Pride. It was my first time attending pride as someone a part of the community and not solely as an ally. Even with all the acceptance and inclusivity being thrown my way, it still felt like I should’ve been standing on the sidelines as a cheerleader instead of in the game as a queer participant.

This past year has been a difficult, slightly unexpected and extremely refreshing year for me regarding my sexuality. I think I’ve always prided myself on how much I know myself and how in-tune I am with how I feel and why I feel that way. But this time around, I had to put my ego aside and get to know another part of myself and allow myself to simply….not know.

Less than a year ago I met my now partner, who is fully immersed in the queer community and so openly proud and comfortable with who they are as a non-binary queer individual (fuck yeah 100%). As we got to know each other better, we decided to share our coming out stories. It was my turn and I didn’t have one. I was physically shaking, I felt ashamed, embarrassed and thought they would think I was a fraud. Am I a fraud? I thought. I was so terrified to admit to them, let alone myself that I was not comfortable or sure of who I was, which was a feeling I hadn’t felt in a long time.

I didn’t and still don’t fully feel a part of either the hetero or queer community. It’s that feeling like you don’t have a spot on the team, because before you get a spot you first have to choose which team.

When I’m around the queer community, there’s this feeling like I have to be fully queer, that I have to prove my “gayness” when I myself don’t even know what that looks like yet. Then there is this fear of if I express my attraction towards men that I no longer belong to this community because “I’m just going through a phase”.

But even through all the dark tunnels I go down, I come out of it every time reminding myself that this isn’t what the LGBTQ+ community is about, right? It’s about accepting the in-betweens, the unknowns and the exploration, whatever that may look like and down whichever road it may take you. It’s about remaining non-discriminative, even within your own community and allowing people to be who they are, no questions asked (unless they’re being assholes and rude, bye).

Going through the exploration of my own queer identity has created a whole other shelf of empathy for the LGBTQ+ community. It has also made me recognize my privilege that exists within my experience. I have both parents, my sister, my closest friends, my colleagues all telling me they love me no matter whom I love. I live in one of the most progressive regions of the country, and I have a partner that wants nothing more than for me to feel included. I am cis-gendered and can pass as a hetero femme.

So maybe this is not where I take center stage, where I do not stand in the spotlight, but learning that I can still be a part of the team as a whole. That I can still admit I feel lost and out of place.

I still don’t feel like I have my coming out story, and it’s a strange and unnerving experience when you feel like others are writing it for you. The best thing y’all can do, both people of the LGBTQ+ community and those outside of it, is to not assume or tell people who they are, who and what they must like. ASK. Create space for others to write their own story and allow them to read it aloud when and if they’re ready. Listen, be supportive and open to all the times they may change their mind. Believe them if they tell you they’re not sure, if they say they’re still figuring it out. Believe them if they say they like both men and women, believe bisexuality, show them that however they feel, is valid.

I am still learning myself, so say it with me: “My sexuality is real and valid wherever I fall on the spectrum.”

I thought that I had to be fully gay or fully straight. I thought I had to prove myself one way or the other. But learning that human sexuality can be SO fluid and that we must practice patience for ourselves and learn to love our process.

That is where we can truly understand ourselves.

So here I am, 25 years old, a baby queer, still learning my first steps, growing with each day, hearing my own voice, and being okay with admitting that I don’t know.

World News The Internet Music The World BRB Gone Viral Pop Culture

Here’s how BTS made history at the United Nations General Assembly – and encourage you to #SpeakYourself

I’m sure that by now, the K-Pop band BTS needs no elaborate introduction. Even if you haven’t heard their music or seen their faces, you’ve heard the name. And whether or not you’re an ARMY or you understand why they’re so popular, you have to admit how that shows the strength of their global impact.

The band of seven young men from South Korea, who quite literally started from the bottom, are now in the midst of their world tour after having released their latest album “Love Yourself 結 ‘Answer'” to conclude their Love Yourself era. They have now made history as the first K-Pop group to attend and give a speech at the 73rd UN General Assembly as part of the #Youth2030 campaign. 

[Image Description: BTS posing for a group photoshoot wearing black formal suits and ties. Top row: V, Jin, Jimin Bottom Row: RM, Suga, J-Hope, Jungkook Source: AllKPop]
[Image Description: BTS posing for a group photoshoot wearing black formal suits and ties. Top row: V, Jin, Jimin. Bottom Row: RM, Suga, J-Hope, Jungkook – Source: AllKPop]
BTS have previously partnered with UNICEF to launch their Love Myself campaign last year, which aimed to end violence and to protect children and the youth from its disastrous effects. For people who still question their relevance, you might want to rethink your battle strategies the next time you have shit to say.

Yesterday, the seven men took center stage yet again, albeit it was a stage of a different kind. Their leader, 24 year old Kim Namjoon (also known as RM) delivered a six minute speech in fluent English to the numerous world leaders, ambassadors and royalty present at the event.

Namjoon talked about how, being an ordinary boy growing up in the city of Ilsan, he had extraordinary dreams of saving the world.

However, those dreams began to dull due to the fear of what others thought of him. Fear that was caused by people, including themselves at times, doubting their chances of success.

“No one called my name, and neither did I.

My heart stopped and my eyes closed shut.

So, like this, I, we all lost our names

We became like ghosts…”

He then talked about how all of the members, individually and collectively, have battled numerous hurdles in order to get to where they are now. He also insisted that they will continue to do so, only this time, with help of ever-growing faith and love for themselves and that their fans (the ARMY) give them. 

There is no doubt that ARMY have been inspired by the boys to love themselves and use that to overcome their hardships and conquer their own peaks. Namjoon acknowledged that and concluded his speech by encouraging us to “Speak Yourself”. He urges young people to find and own our names and voices, to embrace our passions and faults alike, and to be love ourselves in all our imperfectly perfect glory and tell our stories.

You can view the speech here:

A few hours later, #SpeakYourself is now one of the top trends on social media, with ARMYs from all over the world sharing their hearts, fears, flaws and dreams to the world with pride.

[Description: Kim Namjoon (RM) saying “No matter who you are, where you’re from, your skin colour, your gender identity, just speak yourself.” at the UN Assembly with Jung Hoseok (J-Hope) and Jin standing behind him. – Source: Giphy]
Aside from their success story, BTS have won over millions of hearts because despite their celebrity status as idols, they never hid or suppressed their humanity. They never fail to remind us that they, too, are just as human as the rest of us. They have individual and collective flaws, they make mistakes, stumble from time to time, and have dealt with mental health issues (a subject still considered taboo in South Korea). They can be unabashedly goofy and silly and do not lead perfect lives.

They’ve all come from different cities, financial and educational backgrounds. Instead, of shunning their differences, they’ve treated them as bits of the uniqueness that collectively created the magic that is BTS.

Most importantly, they acknowledge that the process of loving themselves was just as tedious and taxing for them as it is for everyone of us. It won’t always be easy and mistakes (both big and small) will be inevitable, but that’s okay. The key is to accept that, learn from that, and continue.

Knowing all that and knowing their influence, they use it to encourage us to take that rocky road to personal well being in a dog-eat-dog world. It’s as if to say “We know what you feel because we’ve felt it too, but this is what helped us to be happy and can help you. It may be hard, but it will be worth it in the end. We believe in you.”

BTS have proven time and time again how they are not just your everyday run-of-the-mill boyband, but an actual force to be reckoned with. They’ve shown that pop culture, depending on how it’s used, has the power to affect even international politics. That just through spreading self-love and positivity, once we own our voices and ‘our names’, we will have the power to change the world.

So…what is your name?

[Image Description: BTS are sitting in a bed of pink, red and yellow flowers. They're all wearing pastel coloured shirts, and there are clouds behind them that are coloured purple and orange. From left to right: J-Hope, V, RM, Jungkook, Jimin, Jin, Suga - Source: Ticketmaster]
[Image Description: BTS are sitting in a bed of pink, red and yellow flowers. They’re all wearing pastel coloured shirts, and there are clouds behind them that are coloured purple and orange. From left to right: J-Hope, V, RM, Jungkook, Jimin, Jin, Suga – Source: Ticketmaster]

Love + Sex Love Life Stories Advice

4 lessons that surprised me after 4 years of marriage

If you aren’t learning anything new, you are probably dead (or close to it). Every new experience or change in circumstance should teach you something. Something that will better your life, help you grow, help you become the best you can be!

There hasn’t been as significant a change in my life since I got married. Frankly, before then I was pretty much cruising along the same well-trodden path utterly secure in my bubble. Life took a 180-degree turn for me after I signed my marital contract and boy what a journey has it been!

I have learned a lot in the last four years; being able to cook and clean somewhere on the list. But amongst these essential life skills, I have learned how to sustain a life-long relationship; one that is ever changing.

1. Respect works both ways.

In a stereotypical Pakistani marriage, the husband commands all the respect. Don’t shout at your spouse, don’t argue back, done look at him with anger, refer to him with respect and never disagree.

Well, guess what, the same rules apply to women too. Don’t shout at your wife, don’t look at her with anger, always refer to her with respect. You can disagree with her but only within the confines of civility. Because you married a person, you did not inherit a slave.

If you think you deserve respect just because you wear the pants then think again. To make a marriage work, respect is the ultimate bottom line. Because if you can’t respect a person, there is no point in spending the rest of your life with them.

2. Your problems are like your dirty laundry: not for the world to see.

This is a continuation of the above. Respect yourselves enough to keep your problems to yourselves. If I tell my mother about a fight with my husband, she will listen and advise me to be better. But the matter won’t close there. While I may move on and forgive my husband (which I inevitably will), my mother will always remember what happened and may form an opinion of him that I would not want her to have.

Secondly, other people, no matter how close they may be to you, may treat your issues like gossip. You may be angry at your spouse for not buying you an expensive pair of shoes, but you won’t be mad forever. And you will not like it when your friends start referring to him as a cheapskate.

The point is, there should be no room for a third person in your marriage, especially not as a confidante because that will only harbor resentment in the long run.

3. Life is not a corporation, it’s a partnership.

One person cannot make all the decisions. Especially not when the outcome of the said decision effects the two of you. This is not a corporation where the board hires a CEO to direct its employees. This is life, and real life requires a strong partnership because life sucks at times. You both need to be in it together.

It’s not fair that one person gets to call all the shots. Its definitely not fair if the other has to deal with the burden of a bad or ill thought out decision. Maybe your spouse has an insight you didn’t consider before; maybe they may have an alternate solution. You should respect them enough to consider their input or at least their stake in the dilemma.

4. It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong: Your spouse needs to know you have their back.

Life sucks. It isn’t easy nor is it supposed to be. You will come across situations that will force you out of your comfort zones. Things will get hard, maybe even unbearable, but what helps you get through is knowing that you are not alone in this. Imagine being targeted by the whole world and not one person is in your corner. Imagine the one person who you have dedicated spending your life with turns their back on you.

You need to know that, no matter what, your spouse has your back. You may be right, you may be wrong, but you need that security. And vice versa. Your spouse needs to be confident in the fact that you will be there for him no matter what. Because life can get long and hard, and what is the point of being married if you are not there for each other?

Love Wellness

The ‘strong black woman’ stereotype affected my eating disorder recovery

Trigger warning: graphic discussions of an eating disorder

Growing up, I was known as the bubbly girl in class, with love for everything and everyone. Unfortunately, when I turned 15, I developed what would be the beginning of an eating disorder that would steal the color from my life for a long time. It has been a difficult journey, and it’s been made even harder by the stereotypes that stood in the way of me getting help.

My first experience in therapy ended in tears, but not the cathartic ones I was expecting. Instead of being listened to, I found myself being stereotyped as a ‘troubled black youth’. I was told that my eating disorder existed because I came from a dysfunctional family, because I was jealous of white girls in my class, and because I had absent parents. None of the above explanations were relevant to me: I was struggling with deep body image issues after a comment from a peer. However, I didn’t get a chance to tell my therapist that.

[bctt tweet=”Instead of being listened to, I found myself being stereotyped as a ‘troubled black youth’.” username=”wearethetempest”]

That same therapist told me my family was a wreck, and that the solution for my problem – she refused to call it an eating disorder – was to start eating properly. She said that black girls were growing to be strong women, that I needed to be strong. She said that black women deal with problems bigger than eating disorders. She made me feel ashamed to be asking for help that I desperately needed.

The next therapist I saw immediately told me she had never treated a black girl with an eating disorder. She added that, usually, she treated black girls for having a bad attitude, or being uncooperative in class. I was shocked. I finally understood why many of my friends with eating disorders didn’t get help: the help that was available didn’t want to help us. The help that we could get – if we were lucky enough to get it – wasn’t made for us. It didn’t see us as we were: young girls looking for help. Instead, it saw us as attention-seekers and trouble-makers.

In the early stages of my treatment, my doctors and therapists all bought into the stereotypes associated with young black women. In one instance, instead of listening to me talk about how I was feeling about my food intake that week, my therapist asked me if my father was imprisoned or absent. There was little focus on getting to know things about me that they obviously didn’t know; instead, they focused on their assumptions about me. It took a long time for me to finally find a therapist who wanted to help me instead of stereotype me.

The ‘strong black woman’ stereotype directly harms black women, especially when we’re vulnerable and when we need help. Many health professionals believe that black women don’t need help because black women are often the sources of help in their friendship groups and communities. However, pillars of strength rarely receive support. Instead of seeing us as rock-solid pillars, we need society to start to see us as people. Real people, with real problems specific to the individual, in need of support.

It took far too long for me to get the help that I needed because of the stereotypes and myths surrounding race and mental health. We need to arrive at a place where anyone can access help without being made to feel weak. More importantly, we need to keep looking for help. If you’re in a position where you feel like you need help with an eating disorder, keep looking. Your recovery is possible.

Note: This post discusses one woman’s experiences with her eating disorder. If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, please consult the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) website for help.