You’re Awesome. Dont Hide That Shit

"Everything you do right now ripples outwards and affects everyone. Your posture can shine your heart or transmit anxiety. Your breath can radiate love or muddy the room in depression. You glance can awaken joy. Your words can inspire freedom. You every act can open hearts and minds." -David Daida

Who are you, truly?

That can either be a simple question, or one you can't seem to find the words to answer. Someone asked me this recently. There are a million and one things that I am. I thought of ways to answer this question, the context in which it was asked, and the words I would use to define me, instead of describe me. 

I answered in light jest saying, "I am someone who doesn't like to wear bras. Whose mind, and boobs are free." 

The fact that my triggered response involved the very recent emancipation of my breasts made me giggle. However it made me think deeper. Why did I feel that way? Up until recently, I worked in an office job from 9-5 to support myself. I was expected to dress appropriately. This was by no means your average "office culture." It was a laid-back, surf-culture office where I worked as a graphic designer. We had a ping-pong table, that I seldom utilized and no one would give me a sideways glance if I wore flip-flops to work.

However, there were many days that I wanted so badly NOT to wear a bra with my work outfit. I tried a few times, but ultimately felt as though my nipples and breasts would distractions to my male coworkers or I was being viewed as "unprofessional." 

This was the reality I had created for myself. In addition to wearing a bra, make-up wasn't required but I definitely felt like I should have a full face of it. Not because my job made me feel that way, but when you go out in public, society makes you feel as if a woman isn't "together" if her make-up isn't done.

Present Day, Bra-Free

Flash forward to today. I've been working from home for almost three months now. I can't remember the last time I wore a bra, or make up and I feel I am a little bit closer to unleashing my true self. I used to feel like someone else was living my life. Talking for me, acting as me but I didn't know who she was. I knew that I didn't like her, though. The yucky things that came out of her mouth!!! UGH! Social pressure is a crazy thing. It's that much more intense when you feel like in order for your boss to like you, and for you to keep your job, that you have to act a certain way (maybe talk "shit" on people you actually loved and admired.)

Once I made the mental decision to leave my job, everything changed. I started standing up for myself. I started NOT talking shit with my boss. I started voicing things I loved and not caring if my boss called me a "hippie" or "unrealistic." Because the truth of the matter was that the influence my boss had over me was infecting my soul. Her negative words, actions and even the breath she breathed literally muddied the entire office in depression hourly. 

About a week before I put in my notice at work, one of my coworkers said to me, "I didn't know you were positive and happy. I though you were like her (referring to my clearly unhappy and unsatisfied boss.)

My. HEART. BROKE! A million pieces of my identity shatter in that very moment. She didn't think I was this radiant sunshine that I though everyone KNEW I was. My instagram was soaked in positivity and hopefulness, but my actions at work didn't reflect that. Regret flooded my heart! I'd spent all this time trying to keep my boss happy by comforting her, saying "yes, this sucks! Fuck them!" When really, I didn't think or feel that way at all. But I wanted to keep my job, I liked paying my rent and truck payment on time. It didn't occur to me that there was another route I could have taken. One that didn't involve me acting like this horrible person.

On the drive home from work that day, I couldn't stop thinking about what my coworker had said to me. Disgust filled every cell of my body. I was not that sad depressed person who talked shit on others. The fact that even ONE single person in this world thought that of me made me so ashamed of my actions. 

Looking back as I write this, I think that's where the road to being true to myself and taking control of my life began. 

I unconsciously started to aligned my actions, words and the way I live my life with who I feel I truly am right now. 

Fun benefit of living true to yourself: your life gets really fucking amazing. You attract like-minded individuals who you feel you instantly connect with on a deeper level. Conversations become interesting again, work becomes meaningful, life starts to be worth living. 

What You Put Out, You Attract More Of

An interesting example of this that I had happen to me recently: I had just finished a very rough and turbulent paddle boarding session with my friend in La Jolla when I realized that I really wanted to cook hotdogs over the fire for dinner. I stopped at Trader Joes on the way home to grab the necessary ingredients. Knowing that heading into Trader Joes in my wet wetsuit might be frowned upon, I changed into the only thing I had in my truck: my Poler napsack. Don't know what that is? It's only my most favorite thing to wear EVER! <Picture below>

My roommate said to me, "you're really going to go to the grocery store looking like that?" Him referring to my matted wave-washed hair in a messy wet bun atop my head, vans shoes, and just my napsack over my body. 

"Yes!" I replied. “I think I look cool. This napsack is fucking awesome!" Off to Trader Joes I went. I received MANY odd glances in Traders. Pretty sure most people thought I was homeless. I didn't care. I was there to get my hot dogs, some wine and enjoy a relaxing night by the fire in my backyard. 

As I was walking out of Trader Joes, a guy behind me said, "That is the coolest fucking jacket I have ever seen. What is it?" On the walk to my truck I told him it was a Poler napsack, and that he should invest in one because they're literally life changing. I also told him of my paddle board adventure to explain my no-make up, sans normal outfit appearance.

We only talked for 20 seconds, and then he said "I know I'll regret it if I don't do this, so would you like to have coffee with me sometime?" 

Did I just get asked out BECAUSE I looked like a complete slob-kabob?! I said yes, because I really admired his direct approach. I know how much courage it takes to hit on a total stranger!

As I drove out of the parking lot, I saw him get into his sick Tacoma with surfboards in the back. I smiled because I felt like I just made a friend who is on my level. 

Update: our date was AWESOME! He suggested the Little Lion Cafe (um, yes. Cute restaurant on Sunset Cliffs right by my house.) We had TONS to talk about, TONS in common. We vibed off the same things. I changed his life by showing him the revolution that is the Carver board, he opened my eyes to believing that I could actually live out of my truck. Super fun date, (and even a very fun second date too) all because I was true to myself. 

Would I have made this great friend in a Trader Joes parking lot if had I listened to the pressures from my roommate, or society for that matter and showered, did my make up and put on a whole outfit before I went to go grab some hot dogs? I don't know. But something like this has never happened to me before. 

Give People A Fighting Chance

Here’s the take-away: If you show the world who you are, you will be giving people a shot at getting to know the real you. If you act like someone you are not, you will rob the people around you the opportunity to get to know who you really are, and you are fucking awesome! (Don't listen to those people, or in my case a boss, who make you feel embrrassed of who you are.)

I challenge you to do one thing a day that is more aligned with your true self. It doesn’t have to be as terrifying as not wear make-up in public. It can be some small decision that only affects yourself. I don’t know who you are or what values you hold dear, heck- I’m still trying to figure out who I truly am! But I know this, I never want to wear another bra as long as I live.

What do you want more of in your life? Start with that, and add in or take out as needed. This is your one and only life, and you are in control. 

What Good Vibes Are Actually Made Of

Every second we are putting out vibrations. Whether you're aware of it or not, you are vibrating right now. What kind of "vibes" are you putting out into the world? Fun, and very true fact: the vibrations you're creating right now are either creating more of what you want in your life, or more of what you don't want in your life. 

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Were you aware of that? I sure as fuck wasn't. Luckily for me, I love to be happy! Love IT! I'll force that shit even when I'm not super excited about something. My motto: Never not stoked! The reality of that is part bullshit, and part genius! 

I unknowingly was helping myself create more of the good things I wanted in my life, just by choosing to smile, to be happy and not pay the bad shit any mind. Literally, Bad Shit... you aren't allowed to take up space in my mind. 

Because thoughts are things. They carry with them an energy. That very same energy causes us to ACT on our thoughts and in turn, our actions become our reality! 

Did you get lost in the math there? I basically just told you that your thoughts control the current snapshot of your life. Are you thinking pretty thoughts? Are you saying nice things in your head? Are good words falling out of your mouth? Maybe you're not even paying attention to the thoughts that are popping into your head.

I wasn't. I just knew that bad thoughts and things existed, but I knew that I didn't want to make room for them in my mind. In my head, the forecast is sunny and 75 every. single. day. 

But the weather wasn't always so breezy. I've felt trapped in my own life. Like my existence was out of my control. For a long time I was perpetually unhappy, and completely unaware of how misserable I was. I just though that this was life. This is how everyone feels, right?

My parents didn't give me a tool bag full of "happiness hacks." Seventeen years of formal education and there was never a class on how to lead a happy and fulfilling life. But it got me thinking: why the hell doesn't anyone teach us how to be happy? Because there is defiantly a formula to living a meaningful and fulfilling happy life!

I want to share with you the things I'm learning because I want you to smile!! I want you to be excited to wake up every morning and live your life to the fullest! After all, this is the one and only life you get. One shot at it. No do-overs. No take-backs, and there is no "next time around." This is it!

And SURPRISE! You're in it already. It's happening... right now!

So what can you do that's small and easy, but will make a HUGE impact?

As a bite-sized exercise I want you to sit, alone... in silence. Within the first millisecond you're mind will start thinking a million thoughts. When they come, welcome them as if they were a new person visiting your house for the first time. “Hi there, Sir. Are you a nice person, or are you an asshole?” If the latter rings true, give that thought the boot! #byefelicia you're not welcome here. Then move on.

What you just did is the very basic principal of meditating. Fun, right? Paying attention to the thoughts that come into your head and being able to decide what ones you give your precious energy to. Control is nice, and you have it all!

Try to do this more and more in your life. Say you're driving to work in the morning and someone cuts you off? You think, "thiiiiss bitch." Then stop yourself, and ask: what kind of thoughts am I having right now? Perhaps thoughts of murder that might land you in jail? Road rage is a real thing, my friend. Instead of letting a bunch of negative thoughts about the dick wad who just endangered your life take up precious real estate in your mind, try to smile at him and wish him well. 

When you use your energy to get angry and frustrated your only putting out negative vibrations. In turn, you will attract more negative energy into your life. But if you smile and wave at him, you will be vibrating at a high energy and will attract other smiling and waving people into your life. 

Such a simple concept, yet I didn't learn it until I was 29. So until next time, happy thinking, Friends. 

 

 

How to Design Killer Instagram Story Highlight Icons

Adding story highlight icons to your instagram profile can really set you apart from the rest. If someone has made the decision to actually visit your profile (probably because of an engaging story, or beautiful insta post) you’re main goal is to get them to click on that little blue follow button. Instagram story icons are a beautiful way to extend your brand story, and tell people a little more about yourself. 

After a few attempts to get the right size and placement here's my process for the most successful way to design story highlight icons.

Step 1

First, ask yourself: what do I do? What's my brand all about? I tend to story a lot of sunsets, myself skateboarding, camping or paddle boarding. Currently you can fit 4 story highlight categories in view onto your profile. These "above the fold" highlights are the first ones people will see. 

Second, ask yourself what are my followers following me for? What do I provide to them? Are they following you because your posts are inspirational or make them laugh? Do you do a lot of recipes, how-to's or DIY's? More importantly, ask yourself what kind of followers do I want to find, catch and retain? Play into those motivations and design your story highlight icons around your ideal follower’s needs and wants. 

These are all key ideas to keep in mind when categorizing your story content. Currently, I want like-minded individuals to follow me for me, since I'm not a business and I'm not selling anything to anyone. Here are the current categories I'm going with for this time in my insta-career. 

1. Good Vibes - this is pretty open. These could be things I find funny like my friend wiping out while we’re skateboarding, or something silly someone said around the camp fire. 

2. Skating - Since I story so much about this, and this is the activity I do most, I felt like it needed it's own category. 

3. Sunsets - I'm in love with watching the sunset and sunrise. It's something I do for self-care, and it's my time to reflect on the day or my life in general. Plus, sunsets are my most liked posts, and most watched story. 

4. Single Fin - this is kind of a play on words/metaphor for me going at life solo. Sam single-finning her way through life. 

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Step 2

Now that you've decided what categories are best for you, and will provide the most value to your followers it's time to design your icons. 

This is where your branding comes into play. If you're like, "dude... I'm just me. I'm not a brand." You trippin'. You are your brand. The clothes you wear, the music you listen to, and the way you talk are all the things that make you unique. That's your brand. I could go deep into this subject, but since this post is about creating/designing story highlight icons, I'll stick to the surface. 

My branding is very illustrative since I'm a designer/illustrator. It's also very beachy, and adventure driven. It was a no-brainer that my icons would be hand-rendered and have a lot to do with surf culture. 

Think about what’s unique about you and your brand, and use those concepts and ideas to propel your designs forward.  

I already had some icons drawn out from a previous instagram post where I drew "a few of my favorite things." I took these and revamped them a little bit since they're line drawings and small stokes don't translate well in teeny tiny icon from. 

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In the example you can see that I simplified the skateboard since it was far too detailed. I also made the new icons just a fill as opposed to the old icons which had a fill and a darker stroke. 

Step 3

It's time to display your unique brand-focused icons to your followers in the best light possible. Be sure to pick colors that translate well as tiny images. I've made my sun icon yellow as a bad example. Bright yellow is a horrible color since the white of the screen is too bright and theres not enough contrast to make the icon stand out. 

Phone screen size for the most recent iphone is 1080x1920 pixels. Your photoshop art board should also be at 72dpi since this graphic will live in Screen Land only. (Printed assets are designed at 300dpi.)

I've made a template that you can download to make your design process easier. The red circle is your "live area." Only things inside that circle will display on the story highlight thumbnail on your profile. 

Save out for web (keyboard shortcut: CMD + ALT + SHIFT + S) and airdrop to your phone. 

Step 4

Uploading your story highlight icons is a tricky thing since you have to add your icon jpgs to your current story to get them to be the featured image of your story category. They will also stay live for 24 hours. It's kind of annoying to your followers when you're just uploading random graphics. 

Pro-tip: I would suggest creating a fake instagram account to "test" your icons. You'll most likely like the design, color and placement of your icons until you set them as your featured story image. To avoid multiple random story entries, just do the trial process on your fake insta. 

After you finalize your icons, plan a story around each icon so it doesn't look like you're just uploading random pictures without explaining them. Don't be afraid to call attention to your new story icon or story highlight category. Saying something like "Check out my skating adventure in La Jolla today" with your new skateboarding icon will make it a lot easier for your followers to digest as opposed to randomly uploading a bunch of unexplained graphics. 

And there you have it! Hopefully after reading this post you’re able to concept and create amazing Instagram story highlight icons that not only tell your followers more about you, but help organize your story content and make it easier for your perfect follower to find whatever it is he/she came to your profile to find in the first place. 

Are you currently using story highlight icons? Is there anything else you’d like me to go into further detail about this post? Be sure to comment below and let me know what you’re thinking.