Welcome to Lovely*Brave!

Hi all you Lovely*Brave women! My name is Elizabeth and I'll be guiding you through this e-course over the next four weeks! As we'll be (virtually) spending quite a bit of time together, I thought I'd tell you a bit about myself. I grew up in Anchorage, Alaska and I'm convinced it was one of the best things that could've happened to me. It instilled within me an abnormal sense of adventure, intensified by parents who never told me, "you could never do that." I went to college and graduated with a degree in Art, with a focus in printmaking. I started blogging during my junior year of college and have been blogging ever since. After graduation, I moved home for a year and then embarked on a cross country RV trip from Alaska to the coast of Georgia, and all the way back to Washington state. I currently live in Tacoma, WA with my husband, Daniel in a tiny house! Okay, that was pretty brief, but I think I hit a few of the major points! On to the e-course...

I believe that there are three areas of our lives, especially as women, that can contribute to living a whole life. These three areas are Adventure, Beauty, and Love. Those three things pretty much encompass everything we seek in life.

Adventure consists of chasing after your goals, whether they're career goals, physical goals, emotional goals, etc. Chasing after your goals involves tapping into your passions and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. I believe we'll never reach our full potential as human beings as long as we live ensnared by fear. We must confront our fears in order to grow, and as uncomfortable it may be at first, once we step into growth, we incorporate new skills and enjoyments into our lives which we wouldn't have had we stayed in our cozy, safe comfort zones.

Beauty is about embracing ourselves wholly, not just our exterior appearance. Beauty is about the person you choose to be, and this beauty expresses itself in many ways. Obviously appearance is one way that beauty can be expressed, but it can also be expressed in kindness, service, confidence, etc. I believe that beauty is an essential part of life. Beauty comforts (why do we bring flowers to those in the hospital or to those grieving?), beauty inspires (think about all those gorgeous inspiration pictures in your pinterest boards or on your walls), beauty invites others in, and beauty is everywhere in nature including in us! And I believe beauty is most found in our vulnerability, when we let down our guard and allow others to experience our true selves.

Love isn't just about men or finding a husband/wife/companion, certainly not! It is so much more. Love is the will to extend one's self to nurture your own or another human being's growth towards becoming their full, whole self. Sounds a lot different from what we see on TV and in movies, where love is purely selfish and focused on immediate pleasure, eh? We must actively revamp our views of what love entails in order to grow ourselves, and in order to be able to enter into relationship with other people in a healthy and nurturing way.

In this E-Course we will spend one month on a journey towards expanding ourselves towards the women we want to be. It will be extremely introspective and meditative, as well as have activities relating to each of the 3 growth areas where you'll put the things we're moving through into practice in a practical way. It may be hard at times to deal with the things you'll need to confront to experience growth. They're called "growing pains" for a reason, it's not easy! You'll be taking risks, confronting past pain, and moving towards healing. It'll take courage and a commitment to see the process through.

A lot of people dedicate their lives to avoiding any sort of inconvenience, hurt, pain or confrontation. Unfortunately, this results in their being unable to grow whatsoever. They build a wall of protection around themselves, effectively protecting themselves from the pain and confrontations that the world might seek to inflict upon them (intentionally or not), but at the same time, no one can grow when they are trapped inside a wall they've built themselves. Growth can only happen through making mistakes and learning from them, interacting with other people, doing things outside of our comfort zones and taking risks, all of which can certainly be painful at times.

What most people don't realize, however, is that the pain of growth, is never as bad as the isolation and stagnation of being inside that wall. We see the world outside as what is trying to hurt us, not the wall we've built ourselves, but unfortunately the wall will not only keep bad things from getting in, but also nourishing experiences-- ultimately starving you out and keeping you weak. And when you're weak, you feel even less capable of ever confronting anything outside of the wall you've built. It's a self perpetuating cycle, but it's not impossible to break free, and we're here to take steps towards that this month!

Wooden Heart

I want to give this an introduction but I don't really know what to say about it. I just feel like it should be included in the Love section. Clear away distractions and just listen. I included the lyrics so you can read what he says, but I'd recommend listening it once without the lyrics to just absorb it, and then go back and listen again reading along with the lyrics.

We’re all born to broken people on their most honest day of living
and since that first breath... We’ll need grace that we’ve never given
I've been haunted by standard red devils and white ghosts
and it's not only when these eyes are closed
these lies are ropes that I tie down in my stomach,
but they hold this ship together tossed like leaves in this weather
and my dreams are sails that I point towards my true north,
stretched thin over my rib bones, and pray that it gets better
but it won’t won’t, at least I don’t believe it will...
so I've built a wooden heart inside this iron ship,
to sail these blood red seas and find your coasts.
don’t let these waves wash away your hopes
this war-ship is sinking, and I still believe in anchors
pulling fist fulls of rotten wood from my heart, I still believe in saviors
but I know that we are all made out of shipwrecks, every single board
washed and bound like crooked teeth on these rocky shores
so come on and let’s wash each other with tears of joy and tears of grief
and fold our lives like crashing waves and run up on this beach
come on and sew us together, tattered rags stained forever
we only have what we remember

I am the barely living son of a woman and man who barely made it
but we’re making it taped together on borrowed crutches and new starts
we all have the same holes in our hearts...
everything falls apart at the exact same time
that it all comes together perfectly for the next step
but my fear is this prison... that I keep locked below the main deck
I keep a key under my pillow, it’s quiet and it’s hidden
and my hopes are weapons that I’m still learning how to use right
but they’re heavy and I’m awkward...always running out of fight
so I’ve carved a wooden heart, put it in this sinking ship
hoping it would help me float for just a few more weeks
because I am made out of shipwrecks, every twisted beam
lost and found like you and me scattered out on the sea
so come on let’s wash each other with tears of joy and tears of grief
and fold our lives like crashing waves and run up on this beach
come on and sew us together, just some tattered rags stained forever
we only have what we remember

My throat it still tastes like house fire and salt water
I wear this tide like loose skin, rock me to sea
if we hold on tight we’ll hold each other together
and not just be some fools rushing to die in our sleep
all these machines will rust I promise, but we'll still be electric
shocking each other back to life
Your hand in mine, my fingers in your veins connected
our bones grown together inside
our hands entwined, your fingers in my veins braided
our spines grown stronger in time
because are church is made out of shipwrecks
from every hull these rocks have claimed
but we pick ourselves up, and try and grow better through the change
so come on yall and let’s wash each other with tears of joy and tears of grief
and fold our lives like crashing waves and run up on this beach
come on and sew us together, were just tattered rags stained forever
we only have what we remember

Go out and live!

I want to thank you guys for dedicating a month of your lives to this e-course, and I sincerely hope that you've grown throughout the experience. You'll have continued access to the e-course, so if you want to come back and review any of the sessions, you can definitely do so! Continue writing in your Lovely*Brave journal and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and into your growth zone. Life is all about growth. Go out there and make the most of your precious life. You only get one life, so don't waste time wishing you could be someone else, or wishing you could make one of your dreams come true. Be yourself and make it happen! Keep your mission statement, goal lists, and truth list close at hand and visible, and feel free to add to or edit those any time! I hope this course has in some way helped to inspire and empower you to truly

If you feel like leaving a review or testimonial, I'd love to know your thoughts! As this is my first e-course of this type (sort of self-help/personal growth), I'd love to know if you guys had any suggestions/praise/thoughts you'd want to share to help improve the course for future Lovely*Brave ladies.

Gala Darling on Radical Self Love

Ways to Love Well

Truly Listen- Truly listening takes a lot more work than we are typically used to. We often do as little true listening as possible, only trying to catch the important bits, or sit there, not listening, but formulating our own response. When communicating with a loved one, don't just sit there waiting until it's time for you to talk, truly focus and pay attention to what the other person is saying.

Spend Quality Time- Put away the computer, turn off your smart phone, and just focus on spending time with each other. I saw a travel ad in the airline magazine on a flight recently with a photo of two people on a beach at sunset and it said, "sometimes you need to disconnect in order to re-connect," and I agree whole heartedly. Set aside time to really spend time focused on the other person, truly listening, and also truly sharing. Talk about your hopes, dreams, fears. And also, just have fun! Love doesn't have to be all work and no play. Sometimes quality time isn't serious, but just goofing off and enjoying the company of the other person.

Be Independent- A good relationship will only exist between two people who are strong and independent. While dependence might seem romantic, it actually infantilizes people rather than promoting growth. The more you're dependent on someone else, the less of yourself you have to offer, and the more your relationship becomes parasitic. You aren't nurturing your own or the other person's spiritual growth when there's dependency involved. Be in your growth zone! Take leaps into the unknown! It will grow you as a person, and your relationship will become richer and richer as you grow!

Commit Yourself Wholly- Ultimately, to love well, you have put all your chips in. You have to stop holding out on the other person waiting to see if maybe something better will come along, or waiting to see if "things work" out or not. I can't remember what movie this is from, but in a proposal scene the guy makes a terrible proposal and says, "Sometimes you just have to shit or get off the pot, you know?" and even though that's an awful way to propose to someone, I agree with him. True love means saying, I'm here, I'm in it with you for the long haul. Committing to someone is a big deal and shouldn't be taken lightly, but I believe that real love can only flourish in an environment where neither person is looking around for better options, and is fully present in nourishing the relationship.

Criticize Lovingly- Be thoughtful and reflective when criticizing, don't just speak in anger or say the first thing that comes to mind. Because I'm better at writing I usually try to write out my thoughts or criticisms before I bring them up. Writing it out can give you time to process what you're really thinking and feeling, and can help you to figure out exactly how to say what you mean. A lot of conflicts arise from miscommunication, so avoiding that, especially when you're offering a criticism, is very important.

Control Emotions Healthily- This is a huge part of self-discipline. Emotions are powerful things, and can be nearly impossible to control at times (oh hey, PMS). I know I'm not that great at expressing my emotions logically or healthily at times, and it almost always causes pain or conflict in my relationships. That's where the self-discipline comes in. You wouldn't expect a wild horse to do what you want it to do, whenever you want, unless you've trained that horse and honed it's strength through discipline. I'm often caught off guard by crazy emotions, but I realize, retrospectively usually, that I don't spend a lot of time disciplining myself to control those emotions in a healthy way.

Encourage Separateness- Have your own interests and hobbies. Doing things together is great, but it's also nice to have something that is just your own. Even try to have your own space in your home (if space allows), even if it's just a desk or a corner where you have your own chair where you read or write.

Cultivate a healthy "base camp"- While it's important to be independent, it's also important to create and environment together which functions like a base camp "from which adventures can emerge and where adventurers seek nurturing," as Peck says. "If one wants to climb mountains, one must have a good base camp, a place where there are shelters and provisions, where one may receive nurture and rest before one ventures forth again to seek another summit." Our lives are adventures, and we each have a separate destiny to fulfill and create. I find that those adventures and destinies are enriched by love and commitment and partnership inherent in relationship, and that a great relationship will help each other on to those individual destinies.

Struggle Together- A huge part of love is supporting one another through struggles. This takes empathy, as you might not be experiencing the same struggle at once. For instance, my husband might be struggling with work, or have a lot of stress, but I might be feeling very good about my job and not stressed at all. Regardless of my own personal experience at the time, I should get down there on my knees with him through the struggle, supporting and encouraging. And he should do the same for me. In relationship, one person's struggle will inherently become a mutual struggle. If two horses are yoked together pulling a cart and one is stumbling, the other horse feels the struggle and instinctively pulls harder to support the load.

Self-Discipline - Any truly loving relationship is a disciplined relationship. Self-discipline stems from self love-- loving yourself enough to recognize that your time and efforts are worth something, because you are worth something. This naturally transitions into loving others. If you love yourself enough to discipline yourself to do things which you know are good for yourself, that discipline should translate over into loving others in a disciplined way.

Ways to love yourself

Be active- find something that you love doing that gets your blood pumping. It'll send endorphins through your body that'll make you feel great!

Get enough sleep

Give yourself technology-free days- sometimes we let technology take over our lives. Gotta check twitter, check facebook, write a blog post, pin pretty pictures, text friends, etc. etc. Give yourself days off and unplug from it all. It gives you time to reevaluate your priorities and focus on what you really want to be doing with your time, instead of checking facebook 10 times in a row.

Laugh at yourself

Don't pay attention to scales-I haven't owned a scale.. well ever, but I haven't had access to one since I moved out of my parents' house and I haven't missed it one bit. I know when I feel healthy and when I feel lethargic or lazy. I don't need to obsess over a number, and having a scale anywhere nearby just invites you to step onto it and start feel bad about yourself. If you absolutely need to have a scale or are working on losing weight, just don't keep it where you can see it. Put it away until you do your weekly weigh in or however you do it for yourself personally.

Do that thing you've been avoiding- whether it's an awkward conversation, getting your oil changed, replying to emails, returning a phone call, whatever, just get it over with. It's more frustrating to have it hanging over your head than to just get it done with! Once you do it, you'll feel great to have it out of the way!

Wear bright colors- bring a little sunshine into the world!

Ask for help- I have a problem with asking people for help. I'm often too proud to ask for help, or just want to figure it out on my own. But there are people out there who know more than me about certain things, and I should tap that well of knowledge to my own benefit. Plus, other people often have a different perspective on things than you and can offer a solution or idea that you may have never come up with on your own!

Find role models who inspire you

Embrace who you are- There's no one else like you! Why try to be a bad copy of someone else, when you can be the best you that there ever was?

Tell people you love them- You don't have to do it in a traditional way, but let the people in your life who you love know that you love them!

Be friendly- I'm not a natural smiler... My face kind of just rests at a sort of countenance which ranges from disinterested to slightly unhappy. But I find that when I smile at people, whether it be passers by when I'm walking, or the checker at the grocery store, the smile seems to make them feel happier, and in turn, I feel happier... and so I smile more. Nice cycle eh?

Go through your things and get rid of stuff you don't need- I'm terrible at this. I always think, "well what if I want that thing in 6 months and have gotten rid of it!?" Guess what, self, it's not a big deal! I actually can't remember a time when that's happened.

Have compassion- Someone is tailgating you in traffic? Maybe they're late for a super important job interview, maybe they need to catch the ferry, maybe they just aren't paying attention. One of my friends always likes to tell herself that maybe the person is in labor and trying to get to the hospital, haha! Have compassion on others, you never know what battle they're fighting on that day.

Dance in your underwear- I love to do this. Usually it happens spontaneously, and not necessarily in my underwear, but it's so much fun! Turn on some music that makes your booty shake uncontrollably and get down with your bad self! Plus, it'll make you feel secretly sexy, which is such a powerful feeling! Whenever I dance like that it's like I feel like I could seduce anyone on the planet with my moves!

For more amazing ways to love yourself, check out Gala Darling's huge list!