A Very Brief Look At Parasocial Relationships and Interactions

Recently online, especially on YouTube, there have been discussions about parasocial relationships and interactions. Our relationship and interactions with celebrities and the new age influencer celebrities is different than what it used to be even ten years ago.

The term parasocial interaction was first coined in 1956 by Donald Horton and Richard Wohl. It defines a psychological relationship between a media figure and their audience. What happens is some of the audience forms what feels like a friendship between themselves and the media figure, even though they have never met said figure. With repeated, positive experiences in viewing this figure, the audience will form this parasocial relationship.

Social media has increased the chances of this type of interaction as well as the intensity of this interaction. Online communication with influencers feels much more intimate and real than merely viewing a media figure on tv.

The term ‘influencer’ to describe these new age celebrities is also very fitting as oftentimes those in these parasocial interactions are much more susceptible to influence from the person being followed, whether it be in beliefs or in consuming goods. Because there is a feeling of closeness between the influencer and the audience, the trust that comes with this relationship sways consumers into buying specific goods.

Parasocial relationships have existed though before the internet or even mass media, as people would sometimes form believed relationships with political figures or famous people of the time.

There is a good amount of research on this topic that has looked into ways that this type of interaction works on a cognitive level and who may be susceptible to it. Those that have a dismissive attachment style or find interacting within others difficult and/or anxiety inducing, may find parasocial interaction to be fulfilling.Parasocial interaction is regarded as a normal cognition and extension of healthy social cognition.

In children, girls are more likely than boys to develop parasocial relationships with television or media figures. Boys are more likely to form a PI with a male figure while girls equally choose either male or female figures. A child’s PI and PR with a media figure can have lasting effects on their self-perception later in life as well as relationships. These relationships can also enhance a child’s learning through personalization.

There are obviously negative effects as well. In young girls, some PI and PR can result in a negative body image. These interactions can increase self-comparison and comparison with the character. While with men, those who had experienced prior PI and PR with muscular superhero characters as young boys were less likely to have negative body image than those who had no experience with PI and PR with muscular superheroes.

There is some research in a sub-field regarding parasocial breakups. This is when the fixture of the PI/PR either disappears or something happens to dissolve the relationship. While more research needs to be done, some researchers have found that individuals can experience the same turmoil and trauma, though on a smaller scale, as to a social breakup when a parasocial breakup occurs.

Parasocial interactions and relationships are more prevalent and easier to fall into these days with social media platforms like Youtube, Instagram, and Twitch. We the consumer are afforded what appears to be vulnerable moments and glimpse into the lives of internet celebrities we enjoy, thus building trust with viewers. Over time there is a sense of friendship or closeness that is built between the content creator or influencer and their audience. Audiences these days are more than a fandom, in many cases these individuals feel like they are involved in the creator’s life.

Being aware of parasocial relationships and interactions can help you identify these views in yourself and others and help mitigate any negative effects these relationships might have. These relationships can provide a wealth of good, but also a destructive hobby. I encourage you to check out the research and articles out there as there is ample reading out there on the topic.

What Happened to Andrew Sadek?

High Plains Crime is a segment on my blog where I explore true crime and mysteries that take place in the high plains of the US.

At two o’clock in the morning, in the small town of Wahpeton, North Dakota, a student from the local technical college left his dorm. Surveillance footage showed him wearing a Tampa Bay Buccaneers sweatshirt, carrying a backpack with his cell phone turned off. That young man, Andrew Sadek, walked out into the cool night that May 1st, never to be seen alive again. 

Missing student Andrew Sadek
Last known image of Andrew Sadek, credit Wahpeton Daily News

No one knew where he had gone, or who he was meeting. Maybe he fell into the river after a night of drinking? Was he overwhelmed by college and life, so he decided to start fresh somewhere else? Or worse, did he take his own life?

In 1993, Andrew Sadek was born in Valley City, North Dakota to Tammy and John Sadek. He grew up on his family’s ranch, helping out on the farm. Everyone said Andrew was a good kid, a regular old country boy. He was smart, excelled at electrical work at a young age, and was described as shy and bashful. The type of kid you’d be proud to be a parent of.

At the time of his disappearance, Andrew was attending the North Dakota State College of Science studying to be an electrician. Just like any college student, he drank and occasionally partook in pot. Occasionally he would go home to help with the cattle and spend time with his family.

Andrew Sadek
Andrew Sadek, Credit Wahpeton Daily News

There were no outward signs of trouble in his life. According to his mom he had great grades, he attended all his classes. He was reliable, he rarely missed class and always messaged his friends back. He was preparing for graduation in a few weeks and had a new girlfriend. This wasn’t like him. 

The day following Andrew’s last sighting on surveillance footage, his friends became increasingly worried with each missed class and missed message. They decided to talk to the college to let them know something was wrong with Andrew. They wanted to get his parent’s numbers to see if they had heard from them. This kicked off the search for Andrew. 

Law enforcement began a preliminary search for Andrew, looking in the Red River and around campus. His parents drove to the college and met with law enforcement. There they were met with shocking and confusing news, Andrew was facing felony charges for selling marijuana on campus. Andrew was a confidential informant who was missing.

Campus police believed he ran, absconding his duties as a CI because he hadn’t been able to fulfill the buys he was required to complete by May 1st. Law enforcement didn’t take the search seriously early on, failing to look for leads or evidence. They assumed he was a drug dealer on the run. Nine days after Andrew went missing, law enforcement put a warrant out for his arrest.

Everyone in his life was confused. What happened? Where were these charges coming from? He was labeled a drug dealer, but his friends were adamant that that was not the case. He was just like many other college students trying to make a buck here and there off his pot stash. Andrew was not some big time dealer.

With the release of these new details, the public’s perception of Andrew Sadek went from missing college student to drug dealer on the run. No one wanted to help look for someone who is on the run from the law. Quickly, public interest waned and shifted.

On June 27th, 2014, almost two months after he had disappeared, his body was found in the Red River during a water rescue training exercise. Reality hit his friends and family, that Andrew wasn’t coming home alive. Their world would be forever changed.

Attractions - City of Wahpeton, North Dakota
Red River at Wahpeton, Credit Wahpeton City Website

The sheriff’s office called the family a while later to tell the family that they believed it to be a suicide. Andrew had been shot in the head and had a backpack of rocks tied to his back. At that point, they were looking for the gun and waiting on the coroner’s findings. Andrew’s parents were asked if they were missing any guns, in particular a .22 caliber, the type of gun that killed Andrew. They were in fact missing a .22 caliber gun, but the family was adamant that Andrew showed no signs of suicidal tendencies and that if he took the gun, it wasn’t to kill himself.

Things didn’t seem right, his parents discovered that the clothes that he disappeared in were not the clothes he was found in nor were they even his clothes. It couldn’t be determined if he had shot himself or not and a weapon was not found. His wallet was missing. There was no note or indication from him regarding suicide or anything. His family revealed that when they brought his car home from campus, they discovered that the carpeting inside the vehicle was soaked and the spare tire well in the trunk had several inches of water in it. These questions led the family to start their own fight. They hired lawyers and contacted the media. Andrew Sadek’s family and friends believed he had been murdered.

His parents wanted the FBI involved, they wanted the whole case re-examined. Local law enforcement were not updating the family and they were avoiding questions from the public about what was actually going on. The family later found out there wasn’t sharing of information between law enforcement agencies either. The school Andrew was attending also began shutting the public and the family out.

North Dakota college student's parents suing police for his wrongful death  in marijuana case | Daily Mail Online
Still from interrogation tape, Credit Valley News Live

Eventually, the media got their hands on the interrogation tape of Andrew Sadek. In 2013, the year before his disappearance, he had sold marijuana to a confidential informant on two different occasions. Because of this, later that year law enforcement performed a consented search on his dorm room. They found a grinder with what was believed to be marijuana residue. Andrew admitted this, but was not arrested or charged at the time.

The next day though, he was brought in by a Deputy Jason Weber and informed of the felony charges he could be facing. These charges could mean up to 40 years in prison and four thousand dollars in fines. Unless, they told him, he became a confidential informant for them. He would need to make buys and uncover other drug dealers in the area. 

The public began to realize that law enforcement was hiding something. The tape shows a deputy strong-arming this quiet, soft-spoken 20 year old into becoming a CI over a small amount of marijuana. He was lied to and told he would face years in prison, thousands of dollars in fines. Andrew’s life would be over unless he did what they told him to do and he could tell absolutely no one what was going on.

Under the direction of Deputy Weber, Andrew made three buys between November 2013 and March 2014. But Deputy Weber wanted one more. He wanted to catch a big fish and he was pushing Andrew to go further and dig deeper. Andrew’s contact with Deputy Weber stopped mid-April. Then Andrew disappeared.

To this day, the public and Andrew’s friends and family still do not know what happened to him. There are theories out there though. A few still believe it was a suicide, that Andrew felt so much pressure from being an informant that he decided to take his own life rather than face the incredibly harsh consequences looming over him. Some on the internet believe he was killed by the Smiley Face Killer(s). That he was one of many young men across the country who were killed by a single person or group of people who kill and then leave their mark with spray painted smiley face graffiti. Many though believe Andrew was killed in what could probably be described as a drug deal gone bad. Maybe he had been discovered as an informant and was thus killed. Maybe he was pursuing people and drugs that were beyond his scope as a 20 year old college student. Hopefully one day there are answers.

The Sadek family still seeks justice for what happened to their son and have worked to help prevent the manipulation and corruption that Andrew endured, from happening to others. 

Sadek Family: BCA should step aside - FBI needs to take over Andrew's death  investigation
Tammy and John Sadek with their lawyer, Credit Valley News Live

In 2017, the Sadek family filed a lawsuit against Deputy Jason Weber and local law enforcement alleging fraud, negligence and deceit which led to Andrew’s death. The depositions that followed revealed corruption and mishandling of the CI program that the county was running. The family’s legal action against Jason Weber and the county Andrew disappeared in were dismissed. The Sadeks filed an appeal, but the ruling was upheld by the North Dakota Supreme Court. Jason Weber received a promotion and still works with the confidential informant program in the Wahpeton area.

Also in 2017, Andrew’s Law was passed in North Dakota. This law would put in place protections for confidential informants including informing CI’s that they have the right to speak to an attorney. This law also means that if a CI dies, the state attorney general must investigate.

For more information on this case, I encourage you to check out these resources:

Wikipedia Article

The Dakota Entrapment Tapes – Documentary

Dickinson Press Article

What Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Has Taught Me

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is known as the gentle art. It was created by the Gracie family in Brazil in the 1920’s after Carlos Gracie learned Judo from a Japanese judoka. It developed into its own martial art through the years as BJJ evolved and techniques were developed. You might recognize the name or the style if you watch MMA fighting as it is a fundamental part of MMA grappling. 

I started BJJ in 2017 after I moved away from my hometown and quit a job that wreaked havoc on my mental state. The choice to start BJJ was more centered around self-defense than learning a martial art. I was living completely on my own for the first time and wanted to feel like I could handle myself. After some googling, I decided to join the local BJJ gym. I don’t think I knew exactly what I was getting into but I’ve learned a lot in the years I’ve been practicing. The pandemic and a move across the country has definitely slowed my progress, but I still practice weekly in a padded area in my home with my husband who also does BJJ. 

One of the first things you’ll learn in BJJ is get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

My first class I realized very quickly I would need to drop the need for comfort. People will be sitting on your chest, twisting your joints into uncomfortable positions and your face will get squashed into some awkward places. Nothing will feel good, unless you have the upperhand and when you start out, that will be pretty rare. Rolling, which is essentially the ‘wrestling’ part of BJJ, is hard, especially when you start. You’ll be gasping for air trying to keep up, your head will be spinning trying to figure out what you are doing.

As someone who is anxious and worried on a regular basis, this was difficult. No one likes being uncomfortable, but I was the type of person who would avoid so many things because I thought it would make me a little uncomfortable. BJJ has shown me that by putting myself out there, getting in uncomfortable situations, I end up learning so much more and leveling up my discomfort tolerance.

This also means dropping the ego.

When you roll with another person, there is a good chance the person you are rolling with is going to be better than you, strong than you, or even just bigger than you. Starting out, you’re probably going to be submitted a lot. For some, this is a huge ego buster. These people will either quit shortly after or ramp up the intensity in order to compensate. Neither of these groups are doing themselves any good. 

Just like anything, you have to suck before you can get better. The quicker we all realize this fact, the easier it is to be submitted. Because then we know that while it’s fun for everything to click and to be able to submit someone else, we have to lose to learn. Without losing, without being uncomfortable we don’t learn anything. It’s so easy to let your ego get in the way of learning something new and difficult, but the quicker you knock it down, the more fun you’ll have.

Sometimes we are stronger than we realize.

Oftentimes, young women are raised to feel helpless or weak. While my parents never actively did this, I was friends with young women who were taught this and therefore picked up those thought patterns. College definitely started the process of breaking those thoughts, but BJJ really showed me I am stronger than I realized. 

BJJ’s main focus is typically physics. Using momentum and angles in order to gain control or submit your opponent. It’s the kind of martial art where smaller people can submit larger people simply through technique. Because of this, I’ve learned that not only do I have more physical strength than I realized, I can handle myself among people bigger than me. I can handle myself in a situation where I could easily panic, but instead have learned to remain calm and quickly analyze my options.

To get to that point, you need to focus on the process, not the results. 

BJJ can be a long and arduous journey. It’s not like other martial arts where you test every so many months or weeks and get awarded a new belt color. Instead, many BJJ schools award their belts as they see fit. It can take years to move from one color to the next, take a decade or more to go from white,the lowest, to black, the highest. And oftentimes, you have no idea where you are in your coach’s eyes as far as progress goes.

Learning to focus on the process of learning BJJ rather than trying to achieve a belt will enhance your experience. You’ll have taken away another aspect of ego from the sport. Frequently people will quit because they can’t measure their progress or they feel they aren’t progressing fast enough to that next belt. This type of focus can mean your progress will stagnate. By only worrying about your next achievement you miss the learning that could be done in that time.

Also, remember that showing up is half the battle of learning something new. Just being there, getting yourself out the door, on the mat or whatever it may be, is the biggest, most important step you can take.

In the end, while I am no expert at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I can say that it has taught me a lot. I encourage you to check out your nearest BJJ gym and see what it can do for you.

Quick Take: Born to Run Review

I’ve been running for about five years now. It was my first foray into fitness and exercise after being a mostly sedentary teen and college student. After my first 5k, I haven’t looked back since. 

Since integrating running into my life I have increasingly become interested in science and history of running. This is where Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World has Ever Seen by Christopher McDougall comes in. 

The book explores theories on the origins of running as well as exploring the reclusive Tarahumara tribe of Mexico. The author delves into these topics after experiencing injury after injury related to his running. Determined, he sets out on a solution to running related injuries that isn’t the typical “Just quit running”. If you remember the Vibram, minimal shoe trend, this book is sourced as one of the origins of this. 

This book takes a fascinating look at the Tarahumara tribe, following them through a series of races and an exploration of their culture and history. The book also looks at the origins of the endurance running hypothesis and how early man may have used running as a way to hunt. He also follows several ultra runners and their sometimes unconventional methods to becoming the best at their sport.

My only complaint about this book was that I went into it thinking it was going to be more of an exploration of the origins of running as an aspect of the human experience and the mechanics of running. Instead, I found it to be more about the author and his experiences with the Tarahumara as well as meeting and interacting with quirky and interesting runners. It seemed as though 75% of the book was focused on these topics instead of what I went into the book expecting. With that said, I found this novel to be a fascinating dive into the world of ultra running that, at the time it was published, was more of a secret society. 

All in all, I recommend this if you like non-fiction or running related books. It was a fun ride, but in my opinion, don’t expect too much science and background.

Why Self-Help Doesn’t Work

So many of us love self-help. We ravenously consume the latest and greatest, hoping that with every page we read, we will become a better and better person. But if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably experienced the moment when you realize, “Wait, nothing has changed despite having read all these articles and books”. Now sure, some of you out there will have taken these books and become a better person, which is great. But I can bet that there are many of you out there that have wondered this same thing. 

So what’s happening? Well a few things. Have you ever noticed the content feeling you get after deciding to chase after a goal or how good it feels to make a to-do list for the next day, the decision that tomorrow is the day that everything changes? It feels great! It feels so good to say to yourself this is it, this is the moment that I’m going to be different.

But then you wake up the next day, look at that to-do list and wonder, “What the hell was I thinking?”. Sometimes we can get started and keep the momentum going through the next day, or maybe even a few days, but for many, the momentum doesn’t carry us very far.

When we read self-help books, they elicit a similar response, we resolve to do better and are inspired to be successful. Many times though, that’s as far as it takes us. What’s happening is a brain response that creates a feeling similar to the one we get when we accomplish something. Essentially, we feel as though we’ve done something and therefore do not need to continue.

What I liken these responses to is a study done by Peter Gollwitzer and colleagues where they examined what happens when we announce our goals and the effect that has on our goal completion ability. 

This study looked at individuals pursuing higher education. The students were given a questionnaire regarding how they felt about their chosen field and their intentions in pursuing this field. There were two groups that answered this questionnaire, one whose intentions were recognized and those whose intentions were ignored. 

The study found that those who had their intentions recognized regarding their field worked less than their ignored counterparts. Those that had been recognized were more likely to end their studying early and feel a sense of completion sooner than the group that had their intentions ignored. Having our goals affirmed by others makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside, leading to an internal sense of accomplishment.

I know for myself, I can create this feeling all on my own. Sitting down and reading an inspiring and interesting pop psychology or self-help book honestly makes me feel accomplished. Watching motivational Youtube videos? Yep, same thing. I feel as though I’ve done something, my brain rewards me with a rush of dopamine. All the while, I’ve accomplished nothing. 

This is why it’s easy to get in this self-help, motivational loop. We’re seeking that next hit to make us feel good, make us feel accomplished. We read another book, watch another video, make another list. All the while we’re accomplishing nothing.

What needs to be cultivated is self discipline. Self-help books can provide a framework, but they will not put the work in for you. Sometimes the books we read provide us with really great advice or anecdotal evidence we can take and apply to our own lives. More often than not, we don’t do this. Being able to put into practice all the information we’ve gleaned on how to stop procrastinating or how to save money, would lead to more success than just reading it and hoping it somehow changes your life.

Self-help books won’t help you unless you act on them. We all want a quick fix, a quick change, instant gratification. We are hardwired to find the easiest way to do something. We’re also hardwired to seek out things that make us feel good. Videos, books and articles won’t do the work for you, but they’ll make it feel like you’ve done the work. If you find yourself reading all these motivational, inspirational, how to improve your life books, but you don’t see any change, it’s time to rethink your strategy. Maybe these books actually do nothing for you and that’s fine. Maybe these books could do something for you, if only you put the work in.

Take a step back next time you put on an inspiring video or read an article on how to study better and ask yourself, “What can I take away from this?”. Then work to apply it. See how different things in your life will be once you are able to self-reflect in this way.

Thoughts to New College Students From a Returning Student

When the pandemic first hit the US, it became clear to me that I would need to leave my job due to safety concerns. After a period of time trying to wait things out, I realized this was not going to be over as simply as we initially thought. After a lot of talking, consideration and a promise for financial support from family I decided to go back to school. I had been working as an administrative assistant since I graduated college. I had an academic background in psychology but had decided after graduation that, while I loved the topic of psychology, it was not a field I wanted to pursue directly. On top of that, my degree turned out to be not as lucrative as I imagined it would be.

So I made the decision to pursue a new field and delve into the world of computer science and data science. Now it’s been around six years since I had taken a college level course. Now that I am a year in, I’ve come to realize some things that I didn’t realize my first time around.

Make Your Learning Efficient

As I mentioned above, I love psychology. I love educational and learning psychology especially. And if you know about these areas, you’ve probably come to the conclusion that there are so many opinions and theories on how we as humans learn. I myself do not have a firm opinion on this matter in regards to people as a whole, but I myself know that I learn differently than those around me. 

Generally, my advice would be to quickly learn what is most efficient for you. Now, this is not always possible and may take a lot of experimentation. My own learning style didn’t become apparent until my junior year of college. Be cognisant of how you’re studying and what the result of that studying is. Take notes if this is helpful, because the faster you figure this out, the faster you can start learning efficiently.

For myself, I know to differentiate subjects and how I will need to learn them. For subjects that require me to remember hard facts, rote memorization and space repetition are the way to go. But if I need to understand a concept such as how DNA replicates itself, or how a computer’s memory works, I instead I work on my understanding of the topic. To do this I oftentimes will create flashcards or study notes that have questions and an explanation/answer to the question. My goal then when going through these questions is to make sure that I can explain in my own words what I believe the answer is. I try to combine this method with spaced repetition as well. 

Essentially, finding something that works for you and can be done efficiently is the best route to take. I recommend the book ‘How to Become a Straight A Student’ by Cal Newport. He writes about learning and efficiency which I recommend all students read.

Manage Your Time, Seriously

I probably won’t go on about this topic as much as the last as it is somewhat self-explanatory. Managing your time is so incredibly important and can make a world of difference in your experience. As someone who is doing all online classes, even after the pandemic ends, I am in full control of my own schedule (for the most part). This means that I have to be careful to make sure that I get everything done on time and manage deadlines efficiently. 

I know though that this is not inherent or easy for most people, especially those who have just graduated from high school. You are most likely going from having your days scheduled and planned out by your school, to having so much free time you might not know how to deal with it. It would be easy to spend most of your time hanging out, exploring, partaking in the wonders of the web, and just generally not doing school work. Let’s face it, the last minute college student stereotype is sometimes more common than we’d like to admit.  

Cultivating the self discipline to start projects, readings, and assignments days to weeks before they are due is something that will make your life so much easier as a college student. It’s been so vitally important for me to maintain my schedule and stay on top of assignments. This habit has even helped me get ahead of my work for times when I had other life events happening.

Check out my planners and time blocking sheets on my Etsy shop below to help keep you organized : here

Respect All Around

This one isn’t so much as a practical tip but more something for you the student to remember. Something I realized when I started school again a year ago was how much I didn’t know what to expect my first time around. I went through every class not questioning anything and being too afraid to speak up. Please know that as a student you still deserve quality education and respectful treatment. If something isn’t clear or a link is missing, whatever it may be, please respectfully speak up to your professor. If they aren’t clear in their instructions, ask them nicely to clarify. 

This might be obvious to some, but for me coming from a situation where I was taught to go along with whatever I got, I never thought to speak up or say anything. Now I make sure to communicate my needs to my professors. 

And I want to make it clear, I am not saying you should be confrontational with your professors. Instead, just remember that at this point in your education, you have a voice and that voice is valuable. But do remember that your professors are people as well, who also deserve respect. Know that they are sometimes juggling a lot, just like you, the student. Many professors are doing research, managing a lab, teaching 2-3 courses, grading for those courses, working on projects outside of those stated, all on top of having a life outside of their career. 

I guess what I am trying to convey is that respect should be valued on both sides, remember you have a say in parts of your education. Reach out, question things, and start a conversation.

Overall, your educational career through college will be an evolving experience. For some, it can be easy to let the ‘learning’ part of your college experience just sort of happen. But instead, try and take stock, learn about yourself. Depending on your future goals, be it graduate school or a career, figuring out these things about yourself will be so important in your success. Take control of this process, don’t let this be something that happens to you and instead use it to your advantage.

Simple Ways to Get Fit and Healthy

Oftentimes, when we want to start exercising or eating differently, we make all these plans, sometimes buying all these new gadgets or foods, or getting a gym membership. The first day might go great, rough albeit, but good. The second day is more of a struggle, and eventually three, four, five days down the road, we give up. For some it can take a bit longer to hit this wall, for others, starting is the biggest hurdle. It’s not as if we don’t want these things, but then why is it so hard to follow through with fitness and health goals? As someone who struggled with following up on my workout and nutrition dreams, these are a few things I did in order to finally start accomplishing what I had set out to.

Don’t Go All Out

So many times we set goals with the intention of going full force into whatever we need to do. Go to the gym 6 times a week, eat only fruits and vegetables, walk 10,000 steps a day, run every single day, and drink a gallon of water a day. But then, inevitably, we falter or we just can’t keep up with all the things we wanted to accomplish. So we give up. Then some time later, we try it all over again, only to repeat the cycle. As someone who has had these same experiences, I don’t recommend jumping onto every aspect of your goal right off the bat. Instead start with the idea of just forming a habit, or incorporating something small and simple into your routine. If you have a goal of working out everyday for an hour, but you struggle to keep this goal, try something small and manageable. Say, “I will go for a 10 minute walk around my neighborhood” or “I will do a 10 minute workout video everyday”. Pair it with another task that you normally do. This is called habit stacking. After dinner, I will go for a walk, or after I brush my teeth, I will do 10 minutes of yoga. This is more likely to help build a habit that you can then build and grow into something more, like walking 30 minutes a day or cooking healthy dinners 6 days of the week.

Set Yourself Up For Success

I remember reading about this tip in Atomic Habits by James Clear. It has become one of my favorite suggestions from his book. Remove things and situations that will take you away from your goals. By taking away the option to eat unhealthy food, you increase your chances of eating the healthy food you have in your house. Sleeping in your workout clothes makes it more likely that you will get up and work out in the morning. Prepping your gym bag before you workout, prepping your food ahead of time, these are all great ways to improve your chances of following through with your goals. 

Find Activity Anywhere

Every little bit counts and can boost your overall health. Parking a little further away than you would normally, so that you can walk. Obviously do this within safety and reason. Finding stairs to take instead of the elevator. Using commercials or breaks to stretch. By reframing those little moments, this can not only help you add a bit more healthy movement into your day, it can also help you flex your willpower muscle. When you exercise willpower in this way but shifting your habits and thoughts, it helps to gradually shift your habits and thoughts in other parts of your life.  You will start seeing new opportunities for health and wellness start popping up the longer you practice self-discipline.

Do not restrict yourself

In regards to things like food and lazing around when we start our health journeys, we will sometimes heavily restrict these things. Many times, this can lead to destructive behaviors and creating negative feelings of self worth. Instead, start practicing moderation. Instead of saying, absolutely no potato chips, start practicing putting only a handful of chips on a plate with other healthy foods. Instead of banning take out from your house, make it a special meal once or twice a week. This sort of thing takes practice, patience and self-reflection. This is where awareness of oneself and your thoughts will be very important. Learning to be kind to yourself and allowing room for mistakes and growth are very important when we pursue goals, especially one like health and fitness. Oftentimes we have histories of falling off the wagon and punishing ourselves mentally. I myself found that by slowly incorporating foods that I knew were nutritious into my daily diet, I would have a better foundation going forward for a healthy diet. I would place on my daily to do list “Eat 1 serving of fruit”. It might seem silly, but in the long run, it has helped me to not only eat more fruit, but to also enjoy it more.

Beware of Social Media

While social media can provide great inspiration and sometimes provides a community that you find support in, it can also end up as a black hole that we can lose ourselves in. Remember that fitness influencers and creators are paid to be fit and look a certain way. While some have good intentions, others do not. While some have legitimate credentials in order to give advice, many others do not have the correct credentials to be giving advice. Be picky with who you follow and be mindful so that you don’t lose yourself in a social media whole. We can quickly get down on ourselves when seeing the most perfect version of someone who is at a different point in their journey to us. 

Change is Hard

Remember that lifestyle changes can be hard, and that’s okay! Even if we make small changes like I recommended at the beginning, it can still be hard. If you want to run a 5k, there will be some initial discomfort when you start running, especially if you weren’t a runner before. If you want to start building muscle, but haven’t lifted weights before, you will experience muscle soreness for a while. Trying to eat healthy after eating junk food for a period of time? You’ll probably experience cravings and grumpiness. And that’s all okay. That’s why I recommend starting small, it’ll be less of a shock to your system and you’ll be more likely to succeed as you start to build on your new habits.

Health is a long term goal, not something that can be achieved overnight. It is not something you do accomplish and never have to think about again. This is a marathon and not a sprint. Learning to love cooking and moving are big parts of the journey. These tips are just meant to help make your journey a bit easier. 

Check out my Etsy Shop for a workout planner and a running planner to help with your health journey!

What is Impostor Syndrome?

Impostor syndrome is the feeling that something you have earned or achieved is more a fluke, by chance or pure luck rather than skill and hard work. You’ve likely experienced this feeling before. For many it will happen in a new job, entering college or within personal relationships. I know I’ve experienced the feeling of starting a new job and wondering why in the world they hired me, that they would soon find out I was not competent for this job.  Many others will experience this in a new relationship, where they fear their new partner will discover who they “really are”, or when a young student starts college and doesn’t feel like they are up to par with their classmates.

Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Dr. Suzanne A. Imes first introduced the concept in 1978 as the impostor phenomenon. They examined very high achieving women and their perceptions of their abilities and experiences. These women experienced internal feelings of inability and fraud within the positions they held, even though there was plenty of external evidence to show their achievements and worthiness in those positions. The researchers believed this may have occurred due a variety of different factors including gender stereotypes, culture, and the style to which they attribute causes of events and behaviors.

There’s been a lot of research on impostor syndrome since, which has gone on to investigate additional aspects of the phenomenon. Now it is called the impostor phenomenon because recent research examines this event as an experience or reaction to stimuli and is not considered to be a mental disorder. It is also not recognized by the DSM.

Part of experiencing this phenomenon is the impostor cycle. The first part of this cycle is receiving an achievement-related task. This task will soon follow with feelings of anxiety and inadequacy. These feelings will then produce one of two reactions: over-preparation or procrastination.

With procrastination, those experiencing these sensations will put the task off, leading to a last-minute effort to complete the task. While completion of this task will lead to a sense of relief, the nature of its completion will lead the experiencer to ignore positive feedback. Any achievements will be seen as luck or chance and will then be discounted.

When the experiencer over prepares, the individual will attribute their success to their hard work, which is seen as being outside of their personal ability. Instead of viewing their work as an achievement, they will view it as a lack of natural ability. All of this together will create a cycle where every time this occurs, it reinforces the idea that the individual is a fraud.

Impostor phenomenon is shown to equally experienced by men and women, though this is sometimes debated. It is sometimes argued that women experience impostor phenomenon more frequently than men. Men generally experience impostor phenomenon concerning success and the fear of not being good enough, while women experience it with relation to performance ability.

It has also been examined how race and gender play a role together in the experience of the impostor phenomenon. Some studies have shown that women of color tend to experience the impostor phenomenon due to a combination of racism and sexism. Men of color can also experience impostor syndrome, but being a woman of color can mean the individual is more susceptible because of these factors. 

Many of us will experience impostor syndrome at some point in our lives, whether it be in a new relationship, job, or education. There are a few ways to prevent or alleviate these feelings in order to help you realize your potential. The best way is to seek out professional counseling. Many times, this phenomenon is accompanied by feelings of anxiety, depression, and lowered self-esteem. If you are experiencing these feelings, as well as the feeling that you are a fraud in whatever you are pursuing, seeking out help can be one of the best ways to help with these thoughts and feelings.

Another way to reduce feelings of being an impostor is to improve feelings to intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is when you are motivated by a personal or internal reason. Instead of trying to achieve something for your parents, or to make someone happy, finding reasons you should do something for you can help switch the negative self-talk and turn around self-doubt. Examples may be wanting a career that helps others, or receiving a degree for yourself.

Mentors are also suggested as being helpful. Having someone who has gone through what you are looking to pursue means you will have someone to express any feelings of inadequacy. This person will have most likely experienced these feelings as well and will be able to empathize and provide advice and feedback regarding these feelings.

As stated previously, many of us will most likely experience this phenomenon at some point in our lives. But knowing what the impostor phenomenon is and how it works can help you begin to recognize it in yourself and take action when it becomes too great. Remember that if you are experiencing distress or feelings of depression and anxiety, please seek professional help. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.

What Can We Learn From Catherine the Great?

In the last few years, Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, has become a popular historical figure with the 2019 miniseries Catherine the Great as well as the 2020 Hulu series The Great. I recently watched The Great, which is a satirical retelling of the rise of Catherine the Great. Soon after I started, I had to google her, as you do. I found that the story told by the show was vastly different than the actual story of the rise of Catherine the Great. This made me wonder, who was Catherine, and what was her story?

Empress Catherine II was born Princess Sophia of Anhalt-Zerbst in 1729 in the Kingdom of Prussia. While she did have the title of princess, her family was not very wealthy. Because of this, her mother groomed her from a very young age to marry into a powerful family. And boy did she. At the age of 10, Catherine was introduced to Peter III, who was in line to become Emperor of Russia. Upon meeting, Catherine states in her memoirs that she disdained Peter for his raucous habits. This did not stop them from marrying, though Catherine’s mother almost ruined the betrothment. At 16, Catherine married Peter, who was 17, in 1745. The two had a tumultuous marriage, wherein both took multiple lovers. Catherine would bare four children, two boys, and two girls. Her daughter Anna would die very young and her other daughter Elizabeth was not acknowledged by Catherine. In her memoirs, Catherine would make statements regarding the fathers of the children, alluding to Peter not being the father of any of her children.

It would not be until 1762 that Catherine would throw a bloodless coup against her husband, taking the throne as Empress of Russia. Shortly after this, Peter died mysteriously under unknown circumstances, though there are of course rumors. She reigned from 1762 to 1796 where she died from what is presumed to be natural causes though some think she may have been assassinated. Catherine’s rule is considered to be a golden age in Russian history and still has a lasting effect on Russian society to this day.
For each notable person, I believe there are lessons to be learned from them. What are the lessons we can learn from Catherine the Great?

-Ambition and Self-Discipline

While Catherine was a princess, her family did not have much in the ways of financial means. This meant that Catherine’s mother, Johanna Elisabeth of Holstein-Gottorp, raised and groomed her daughter to have a high level of ambition. Accounts say that Catherine’s mother was cold and abusive as well as obsessed with gaining fame and fortune from her daughter.

From a young age, Catherine was set to betroth Peter III of Russia, in line to the throne. While Catherine despised Peter from the moment she met him, she worked diligently to become the person she would later evolve into. She studied Russian daily, including waking in the middle of the night to review her Russian lessons. On top of learning Russian, she worked hard to integrate herself into the court and to adopt Russian culture.

Her planned marriage to Peter was almost ruined by her mother. Johanna’s behavior caused the Empress at the time, Empress Elizabeth who was Peter III’s aunt, to ban her from the court. While this could have ruined Catherine’s chances of marrying into power, Empress Elizabeth had taken a great liking to Catherine. All of Catherine’s work trying to become a true Russian had paid off and the marriage was allowed.

From a young age, Catherine was taught to be ambitious and she developed strong self-discipline when it came to her goals. Holding fast onto her goals, she worked behind the scenes for many years until she was able to become Catherine the Great. Being able to hold onto your goals and continuously work on them is a skill that anyone who wants to accomplish great things in their life will need. Keep in mind what you want and why you want it to remind yourself regularly of what you are striving for.

-Networking

Most that have heard of Catherine the great have also probably heard the rumor that was spread during her time in Russia. While there were probably many rumors, the most prevailing through history involved Catherine and her “love” of horses. Though she may not have been popular with the royal court or her husband, Catherine worked to gain a trusted network of confidants and acquaintances that would aid her in her coup against her husband. As stated in the previous lesson, Catherine worked hard to integrate herself into the Russian people.

She regularly communicated with great philosophers, artists, and political leaders. This would help her in her ascension to the throne. As empress consort, she worked hard to cultivate a network of coconspirators and supporters.

While networking isn’t everyone’s favorite thing to do, it is an invaluable skill and practice. Networking opens many opportunities and opens your net to collaborators. Take the time to do a bit of hob-knobbing and schmoozing to see what great benefits can come from it.

-Education and Reading

One of Catherine’s goals was to spread art and literature throughout Russia. While Empress, Catherine had the Hermitage built, which held upwards of 38,000 books. She was known to read three types of books, those for education, philosophy, and pleasure. She was also known to be an avid writer and patron of the arts. As a follower of Western education and philosophy, Catherine worked from the beginning of her reign as Empress Consort to Empress to educate the Russian people.

Catherine even tried to put together a public-school system. She endeavored to educate many of Russia’s children, including young girls. This resulted in a less than successful program but was a start to bringing the Russian people forward in terms of education.

Much of Catharine’s ambition for greatness was aided by her strong desire for knowledge and education. Much of her life she was an avid reader and lover of philosophy which helped shape her ideas. Everyone can benefit from the constant self-improvement that comes from reading. Even reading fiction can result in a better understanding of oneself. Learning more about yourself and the world will help in your goals of pursuing greatness.

-Pettiness

Much of Catherine’s story is told through her memoirs as she was an avid writer. Though while I was reading up on Catherine, a common sentiment was that a piece of information could not be verified due to the fact that it comes from her memoirs. Essentially, she’s not trusted as an entirely reliable narrator.

The paternity of her children is under question due to the fact she openly questioned the paternity of the kids in her memoirs, claiming some of her lovers were the fathers of her kids. Historians though call in to question her claims of paternity. Much of the information about their marriage and Peter himself also comes from her memoirs, much of which are very negative towards Peter and paint Catherine in a much better light. While this very well may be true and corroborated by other accounts, it paints Catherine as an unreliable storyteller who writes with pettiness and spite.

Whenever someone is known for pettiness or being spiteful, it can change the way we perceive what they are telling us. It’s not only a negative trait to harbor within yourself, it bleeds into people’s trust of you along with your story. This exaggeration of trivial matters can be the cause of deterioration in relationships and collaborations.

-Practice What You Preach

While Catherine was someone who worked to forward the Russian people and culture with progressive ideals of freedom and education, it wasn’t something that extended to all Russian people. Most of her policies seem to have affected the upper classes of Russia while doing very little for the serfs that were still a part of the Russian class system. A serf was someone who could by force or necessity fall into serfdom, where they worked in agriculture while being owned under their lord’s estate.
Catherine herself owned approximately 500,000 serfs, with 2.8 million serfs owned by the Russian State. Under Catherine’s rule, serfs did not benefit from many of her progressive policies, including education.

Her viewpoints on philosophy did not seem to match up with her treatment of all Russians. Instead, her viewpoints only seemed to benefit those that were like her and her court. From my readings, it did not appear that Catherine thought much of assisting the serfs in bettering their lives.

While we all may unintentionally “do as I say, not as I do”, being aware of how your actions and words match up can make you more trustworthy and genuine. It works the same way as with pettiness and spitefulness. If you do not practice what you preach, others will not trust what you do and say.

It can also keep you aware of what you are working towards and why. If you find that what you say is not matching up with your actions, a review of why you are doing these things may be in order.

No historical figure is perfect. Even the greats have their flaws and negative traits. We can all learn though, from their stories and their accomplishments.

I hope this was a fun, interesting article for you to read. Please let me know if I got a fact wrong or if you know some more historical tidbits about Catherine the Great. Also, let me know if there is anyone you would like to see a post about.

Practical Everyday Self Care

Self-care has become incredibly popular as of late. Recently though, it seems as though self-care has become more of a competition, an aesthetic goal to reach. If you watch videos of people’s self-care night routines, you might have noticed that while they are fun to watch, they seem difficult to execute in the real world. For myself, I find that many of the activities, tips, and tricks that people give for self-care, are not so relaxing or rejuvenating. I don’t particularly like taking baths or spending an hour on skincare when I’m dead tired. And I certainly don’t have the money to be spending on all the aesthetic self-care items that are out there. I found myself thinking, what are some practical habits we can incorporate into our day to have a little more self-care in our lives? These are things that don’t necessarily require money spent or a boatload of extra time in the day. Instead, these are practical little ways to be kinder to yourself on a daily basis.

Create a Daily Meditation Practice

So many people recommend a daily meditation habit, myself included. It’s not just because it’s trendy but because it has so many brain-boosting benefits.  Meditation is used in so many mental health settings because it can transform lives. It is essentially training your brain to become aware of the thoughts that go whizzing through your brain. Many times, in guided meditation you are told to clear your mind, but that’s not the purpose, to have an empty mind. Instead, it’s practicing the ability to recognize the thought and let it go. Instead of chasing every rabbit that runs in front of your mind’s eye, you simply acknowledge it and let it pass. You may get to a point where you can sit in the quietness of your mind.  Meditation takes practice, but once you start getting the hang of it, you will notice changes in your ability to handle your emotions and thoughts. Take five minutes to practice every day, and gradually increase if you have more time.

Journal Frequently

Journaling is a good way to get us thinking about our emotions and the state of our being. Journaling regularly can help you not only reduce stress but also help you work through any problems you might be experiencing. Throughout my life, while I have not always journaled frequently, I found it to be a very cathartic experience. To be able to write down all my thoughts and feels, was a way of helping me process through them and find solutions. Even if I did not find solutions to my problems or feelings, I was able to put them out there and recognize them in a similar way to meditation. I encourage you to do the same. Journaling through all your worry and anxiety can help you gain clarity on what may be causing it and how to deal with it. I also found it helpful to return to previous passages to gain further insight into a problem. Take a bit of time to journal a page or even just half a page. Think of something that has bothered you and put it down on paper. You might even find it a bit liberating to get it out of your mind and onto paper.

Set a Time to Stop Working

Many productivity gurus will recommend this as a way to stave off burnout. I think it’s a great way to be kind to yourself daily. Instead of pushing yourself for hours and hours, taking work home with you, set a time where you are done for the day. No more work, no more stress. Continuous work won’t produce better work. I understand if you have many things on your plate that you need to get done but please do be kind and give yourself a little freedom. Otherwise, burnout will appear on the horizon sooner than you’d like. It doesn’t have to be the same time every day either since many of us have many different obligations at different times. But when you do set a time, be firm with yourself, and stop when it’s time to stop. If you wait until you are burnt out to give yourself some breathing room, it’s too late. You will be taking time to deal with mental exhaustion and health as well as physical symptoms before you can relax. Try different times of the day. Even if it is only an hour before bed, take a bit of time to step away and take care of yourself.

Develop hobbies you thoroughly enjoy

Finding a hobby you truly enjoy is another fantastic way to care for your mind. I know for myself when I am working on a hobby project, it gives me something to look forward to at the end of the day. I love being creative and working with my hands so when I get the chance at the end of a long day, I find it to be incredibly relaxing and fulfilling. It can feel especially good when our hobby is something we are passionate about, but may not be able to pursue full time. So many are in stressful jobs that they do not want. Having something you can pursue on the side is worth exploring. Burning yourself out on a job you hate is an awful experience for anyone. Take some time and explore. Maybe when you stop working for the day at your set time, as suggested previously, you can take some time and learn to draw or knit or play guitar. Even the exploration of hobbies can be exciting and fulfilling.

Dedicate One Day a Week

I like to dedicate my Saturdays (or whichever day works best), to a day where I don’t have to do anything at all if I don’t want to. Generally, I do end up working on something, but there are some days where I just need the time to recharge. Now, it’s completely understandable if this is near impossible for you. Many of us have so much going on that we simply can’t sacrifice a whole day. I encourage you to try and pick a half-day if you can. Or if neither of those is possible, go back to my previous tip of setting aside time every night to be done. Maybe set aside a day once every two weeks. Many times, we feel lazy about those days we end up doing nothing, but they can be incredibly restorative. You can still work on things on these days, but make sure they are not work-related, or at least very lightly work-related. Do not trick yourself into thinking you want to get work done when in fact you merely feel obligated to get work done. Take this time to get some errands done or clean your house. Whatever you do, take this dedicated time to unplug your brain from work or other stresses.

Practice Being Easy On Yourself

Monitoring your self-talk is a simple, yet effective way to practice self-care all day long. The best way to start this is to start taking notes or journaling when you find yourself becoming stressed. If you set out to track this, it’ll become more cognizant for you and you’ll start noticing patterns in your thinking. Once you start noticing your thought patterns, you can start correcting them. Often, we don’t notice that we are having negative thoughts or destructive self-talk when something stressful is happening. If this is the case with you, as it was with me, take some time to think back on your day and evaluate either your overall thoughts for the day or a particularly stressful situation. Why was it stressful? Were you thinking anything in particular? Why were you thinking of those particular things? Simply taking time to reflect on your thoughts can be incredibly helpful for breaking down where your thoughts and feelings turn sour. You can incorporate charting your thoughts into your daily journaling habit as well.

Tough Love Self Care

We all put things off to some degree. Usually, because something about doing that one thing scares us. We don’t want to tackle the mounting dishes in the sink because it seems daunting. We don’t want to confront our bills because we don’t know if we have the money. While these tasks seem like insurmountable mountains, getting them done can be some of the most gratifying self-care out there in my opinion. I call it tough-love self-care because we often do not want to do these tasks and find them stressful. But in fact, it’s one of the kindest things we can do for ourselves, including our future selves. When we take care of those scary things, we are reducing the worry and stress that keeps mounting when we put them off. Instead of letting those things build bigger and bigger, tackle them head-on. This will take that stress off of you, making one aspect of your life that much easier. Think of your future self and what kind of things you can do for them. Prep all your meals for the week so that future you don’t have to stress about finding healthy lunches during the week. Organize your closet so future you does not have to stress about finding outfits for work.

I hope this list of practical self-care tips will inspire you to find simple and effective ways to be kinder to yourself. If you are experiencing burnout, anxiety, depression or anything else, please make sure to talk to a professional.

Let me know if you have any simple ways you take care of yourself and keep burnout at bay. I’d love to hear.