Dear Emily, Don't Be Sad

Dear Emily,

Put a smile on that pretty face, no one likes a sad girl. 

Sincerely,

Your Subconscious


For the record, I pretty much hate being told to smile. Me and everyone else, I know. But still. I’ll smile if I want to f*cking smile, thanks, I don’t need you to tell me to do it.  

Now that’s out of the way, let’s just explore this idea that everyone is supposed to be happy all the damn time. ALL THE TIME. Let that sink in for a second. You are expected to be happy 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, barring any monumental tragedies like your dog dying or breaking a leg, you are expected to be happy 365 days a freakin’ year. Well, you’re expected to act, look, and at least outwardly appear to be happy. There’s a few sides to this, so let’s unpack.

  • If you’re not happy, it’s often treated as an inconvenience to others. You’re “bringing them down” or “killing the mood” if you’re not smiling ear to ear all the time.

  • People ask questions when you don’t look happy. Sometimes it’s out of genuine concern, but a lot of times it’s behind your back. They ask questions in a nosy, make themselves feel better because you’re miserable, kind of way.

  • It makes other people feel awkward, especially if they don’t have a good understanding of how to deal with their own emotions or sadness. Because how would they know how to appropriately react to your emotions if they don’t know how to handle their own?

Putting on a happy face all the time is exhausting. Like, really exhausting. And the thing about forcing a smile when you’re sad is it just seems to amplify that feeling of sadness. Fail to recognize it, and it gets louder and louder and louder… until you are crying on your way to work, your way back from work, and well into the night purely out of exhaustion from 8+ hours of forced-smiling. We’ve all been there at least once, don’t lie.

There’s a reason they always compare humans to volcanos when talking about suppressing emotions. It’s because it’s a damn good metaphor. The longer your feelings are held in, the more explosive they are when they finally erupt… Makes sense right? But what they don’t tell you, is that you’re pretty much expected (by the general public) to be a dormant volcano. No eruptions, no explosions, no flying lava. Maybe a small smoke plume every now and then so they know you’re alive, but for the most part it’s blue skies and smooth sailing around your island.

Reality is, there are days when you just need to be less than 100% without having to pretend you are 100%, you know? Sometimes you just don’t have the energy to put on the happy face.

Why is being sad such a terrible thing? It is just another emotion, no? In this Instagram world of perpetually happy perfect people, it has been made to feel wrong to be sad. Or quite frankly, wrong to be anything less than perfect 99% of the time.

“Your life is great! You’ve got an awesome job, a sweet boyfriend, a cute apartment…”

Yes, and I can still feel sad. Or lost. Or lonely. Or tired.

Do those emotions make any part of that first statement about my life false? NO. Lemme just repeat that one more time. Does feeling sad, lost, lonely, or tired invalidate the truths of the first statement? NO. They are not mutually exclusive. You could have all the money in the world, a successful relationship, meaningful career, and if you’re not right with yourself? You still won’t be happy. You could be completely miserable but from the outside looking in, appear to be living your “best life” by other people’s standards. The problem with that, is that other people’s standards are never a good measure of your own. Making it appear you are happy to the outside world isn’t going to change how you actually feel on the inside.

I think the hardest part of this spiral I’ve been going down (thanks for stickin’ with me) is the guilt that follows those feelings. Why are you lonely? You have someone. Why are you lost? You’ve got a great job. And a great apartment. Why are you sad? You’ve got a great life. People have it much worse than you. You shouldn’t feel those things because you should be happy.

Sometimes you’re just not. Sometimes I’m just not. And I’m here to tell you, that’s okay. Embrace the sadness. Ask it what it needs and why it came to you? Give it those things. Have a conversation with yourself (maybe not out loud and in public because then people will think you’re a nut case) and ask yourself what you want. What will truly make you happy? You’d be surprised how honest your subconscious will be when you ask it a question straight up. Do it in the car on your commute to your 9-5, write it down in a journal, think about it while you cook or during your workout. Sadness and loneliness and fear become a lot less scary when you sit them down, look them in the eye, and ask them what they need.

Because more often than not, you’ll know the answer as soon as you ask.

Dear Emily, Making Friends Is Hard

Dear Emily, 

Everyone else has tons of friends and you don’t… there must be something wrong with you.

Sincerely,

Your Subconscious


I’ve always been the type of person that has one or two good friends in every group of people. It’s not that I’m not friends with everyone, but I usually end up with a handful of close friends and a lot of acquaintances. This became especially apparent to me in high school, and even more so in college when the “sorority” iteration of friendship takes over. The idea that you should have dozens of “best friends” who you spend every waking second with, talking about everything from boys to class to the newest trends, and saying things like “sisters for life” was a new concept to me. I began to question myself because I didn’t fit into that mold. Sure, I could go out to parties or have fun at football games with big groups of these girls, but actual deep friendships? No way, not my speed.

I began to feel like something was wrong with me. Why didn’t I have hoards of friends to go out with on my birthday, or any given Friday night? I wasn’t being tagged in dozens of pictures every weekend and felt like maybe I wasn’t connecting with the right people. Eventually I found ~my girls~ and select group of close friends that I love to this day, but I never had that feeling of being a part of the “in crowd” while I was in college.

Fast forward a few years, having moved back to California and away from my closest college friends, and I’ve found myself feeling a similar feeling. What they don’t tell you when you graduate from college is that making friends, like real friends, is maybe the most awkward thing EVER. I mean, it sucks. You don’t realize how long it really takes you to get to know someone until you aren’t living with them or spending all day in classes together. Nobody tells you that you’re going to feel like an awkward middle schooler again at 25- trying to navigate a completely new set of social rules, new schedule, and changing body. Honestly, I could have used a little warning!

Finding new friends is hard in a big city when you’ve got a full time job. Catching someone up on your life until this point can take a long time- and being vulnerable is hard with someone you don’t know very well. Sure, we’ve all got that work friend who we can complain to over happy hour that the office has suddenly stopped stocking our favorite snack, or bond with over our mutual dislike of another coworker. But real friends? They are few and far between. To top it off, if you do manage find someone you vibe with, you’ve got to juggle work schedules, traffic patterns (here’s lookin’ at you, Los Angeles), and other relationships to try and find the time and energy to create a new friendship from scratch. It’s exhausting!

Now I’m not discouraging you from trying. I’m just saying that I’ll be the first one to admit that I’ve been discouraged more than a few times about my lack of new friends since college. I want to recognize that in this age of social media and over-connected-ness we are living in, it’s actually hard to find a deep connection. It seems a bit backwards, but ultimately, it’s made me value my lasting friendships more than ever. I recently took a trip to Portland with one of my best friends (which you saw if you follow me on the ‘gram) and it was a great reminder of just how easy friendship can be. No forced, awkward coffee dates, no second-guessing your choice of words, or wondering if they actually want to be friends too. Just a comfortable understanding and ease of connection that is what, I think, friendship should be all about.

Dear Emily, I've Got Anxiety

Dear Emily,

I’ve got mad anxiety. How can I fix it?

Sincerely,

Your Subconscious


As the world keeps turning faster, it seems that nearly everyone I know is experiencing some level of anxiety regularly in their life. For me, it usually manifests around planning. Do I have a plan for the “future”? Is it a good plan? What if something goes wrong? What if something changes and I have to throw my whole plan out the window? What if I don’t have a plan at all?

Regardless of how you experience it in your own life, taming your anxiety and facing your fears can be intimidating, frustrating, and debilitating if you aren’t equipped with the tools to do so.

First, what is anxiety? In it’s simplest form, it is fear. Worrying about the future? Fear. Worrying about the ways in which the future could go wrong? Fear. Of course, we can’t predict the future- so how can you prepare for what you do not know? Irrational fear. How can you possibly face the unknown without proper preparation or warning? Are you feeling anxious yet just reading these questions?? I am! This thought pattern creates a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts- you expect life to go wrong, it does, and you’re angry/disappointed/upset about it. This negative experience confirms the belief you had that you needed to worry about the future, and it perpetuates the anxiety.

But what if we flipped that on its head and expected life to go (dare I say it?) right?

Seriously, take a minute and let your perspective shift and really envision what that would be like. What if instead of dwelling on the negative possibilities we focused on the positives? For every answer to the infamous, “what if….?”, that is negative, there is also a positive.

Change, “What if the date goes terribly?” to, “What if the date is amazing?” and the energy surrounding the statement changes completely. Go from, “Wow, work is going to be stressful today.” to, “What can I do to create moments of positivity throughout my 8 hours in the office?” and you immediately start looking for the good, rather than the bad. I’m definitely not saying that you won’t ever go on bad dates or have stressful days at the office, but your attitude surrounding those experiences will shift, creating a new experience in and of itself.

Think of your brain like any other muscle in your body; it requires training and exercise to stay healthy. However, it can be difficult to know where to start. Just like there are fitness training programs to help you exercise your physical body, you have to seek out the tools to exercise your mental and emotional “muscles” as well. Seeking out those tools and people (i.e. a therapist or some kind of professional that specializes in helping people work through their emotional patterns) is the key to overcoming anxiety. While I’m offering a few solutions here that you can implement at home, it is in no way replacing the help of a mental health professional.

A few things that I have found to help me when I’m feeling anxious…

  • Turn off the phone. Seriously- between the people who may be calling/texting and the temptation of comparing yourself to the seemingly-perfect people in your Instagram feed- your phone can amplify your anxiety. I’m not saying you should go a-wall for several weeks without telling anyone, but turn it off for an hour or two and focus on yourself.

  • A self-care routine! I know you’ve heard this before, but it really works. REALLY. Put on some relaxing music, light a candle, moisturize the crap outta your body, cuddle up in your favorite sweatshirt with the stains on the front that you can’t wear in public, and take a few deep breaths. Taking a pause and finding your center is so important in taming anxious feelings, because when you’re grounded, you can approach problems with rationality rather than a fear-driven emotion. Something to note- self care looks different for everyone. So if your self care routine looks completely different than mine, that is totally normal and okay. Also, my self care routine doesn’t always look the same. Some days it means going to the gym, some days it is going on a hike, some days it is cuddling up in bed with a face mask on. Do what feels good to you.

  • 3 letters: EFT. It stands for Emotional Freedom Technique. Curious? I thought you might be. It is also referred to as tapping or psychological acupressure. Of all the anti-anxiety techniques out there, this is perhaps one of the most effective I have ever witnessed. It is physically and emotionally grounding, and is a scientifically backed method that can actually help you overcome anxiety in the long term. Simply put, you repeat a series of mantras that allow you to confront and accept your anxiety as you tap along specific meridians on your face and body. You can do it anywhere, anytime. Learn more about this method here- because let’s be honest, I’m not doing it any justice trying to explain it in a few sentences.

  • 3 more letters: CBD! This stuff can be a huge aid when it comes to anxiety. In its different forms, CBD can be used to ease physical discomfort, help you find a state of mental calm, and can be a great tool to keep in your self care toolbox, so to speak. One of my favorite forms is this Josie Maran Cosmetics CBD + Argan Oil for your skin! It can be used to calm headaches, menstrual cramps, muscle soreness, and any kind of skin irritation! Straight magic.

While what works for me may not work for you, I think the most important takeaway here is this. Never feel like you are alone. To varying degrees, everyone experiences imperfections and has anxiety or fear about some aspect of their life. They’re lying if they say they don’t. Sharing your experience and solutions with other people will only strengthen your understanding of yourself, and may help someone else find their own solutions.

Don’t forget that you often don’t know someone else’s full story. Be compassionate and help each other. We ALL need a little more of that in our lives.