The Trick to Being Nice to Yourself

Like many of my selfie-induced, social media conscious, pressurized world-changers in the millennial generation— I am riddled with insecurity. We can point fingers at a variety of reasons, but blame never solves a problem.

I have tried working out, reading books on the subject, devotions that affirm my unique belovedness as a child of God, and other strategies to boost my self-esteem. Those are all good things, but my mischievous gremlin of insecurity still manages to find its way through the holes.

It is much easier for me to be nice to others, to see their unique qualities and affirm their gifts. But I can never do that for myself. So the best remedy I have found is to distance myself from myself. “Be nice to Kellie” I say. And a weird wormhole opens.

It seems weird, but this practice of treating yourself like a friend gives you enough distance to see yourself from outside your insecure head. Amy Poehler describes a similar concept in her book Yes Please.
“Sticking up for ourselves in the same way we would one of our friends is a hard but satisfying thing to do.” – Amy Poehler

If someone listed all the things I did in 2014 it would sound like a very adventurous and courageous person. I know because people have told me so. Watch:

I survived Chicago’s Polar Vortex, backpacked in Florida, graduated college, went to Disneyworld, spent a summer in New Mexico, visited four national parks, did three weeks of academic research in Sweden, got engaged in Norway, moved to Seattle, got three jobs, quit two, and read 30 books.

Even saying it to myself is hard to believe. Who is that person? In my mind, she is unafraid of challenges, an adventurous soul, thoughtful and ambitious. But if someone asked me to describe myself I would not use any of those words.

Brennan Manning wrote that “genuine self acceptance is not derived from the power of positive thinking, mind games, or pop psychology. It is an act of faith in the God of grace.”

Thankfully it is easier for me to believe in God’s grace than it is to believe in my worth. So I start with grace and work backwards. In the same way, it is easier for me to affirm others and have confidence in God’s love for them. So I pretend I’m a friend and again work backwards.

This post won’t be as long as I would like and I have already scolded myself for not doing it earlier. But if a friend of mine was attempting a 30 day writing challenge and posted something late, I would still tell her she was amazing for sticking with it and that she is a success no matter what.

So next time you are being overly critical of yourself, look to God or a friend first and remember that same love applies to you as well.

Do you have trouble being nice to yourself?
How do you deal with it?

Remember Your Value Today

Often I cry the hardest when someone says something nice about me. I think it is because those nice things are harder to believe than whatever pain I’ve been wading through. It is a sad truth, that our own value can be so unbelievable.

I realize that I’m probably not the only one who feels this way. We all need people in our lives who tell us that we are loved and appreciated. Just in case you haven’t gotten that recently, I would like to say some nice things to you, my friend.

You are incredibly special.

Kindness flows in your heart, your words, even the way you walk towards me. Your ability to feel the pain of others, sitting in the silence and sharing their burden with open ears, is a gift to everyone who meets you.

You see the best in people and the world, hoping beyond reason. I need that so much. Keep hoping, for all of us.

There is a spirit inside you that radiates to everyone else, inspiring adventure and excitement. You remind me of what it means to be truly alive, to grab life by the horns. I remember the thrill of living when I am with you.

I only hear from you every so often, but when I do it brings an ease of joy and comfort. Your ability to be present with those around you is like a warm cup of tea, soothing everyday worries to make room for deep breathes and gentle laughter.

The world is different from your eyes, and it takes a depth of courage for you to share that with others. When you do, you remind us all to think in bold new ways. Though your message isn’t always received immediately, once it reaches open ears it finds kindred spirits and ignites sparks of thought that can change the world.

Your knowledge baffles me at times. I want to sit and listen to you speak about all the wonderful things you have read and learned. Because when you speak I can see your passion, it widens your pupils and heightens your voice, infecting the air and everyone around with purpose.

When you meet people you have a wonderful ability to connect to them regardless of their backgrounds. You pursue people and remind them that they have something worth sharing. By asking genuine questions you help us to remember our value.

I could fill a reservoir with the droplets of wisdom you give me. You don’t keep this knowledge to yourself, even though you earned it through pain, loss, and heartache. Instead you offer it to others without being proud, allowing us to gather seeds we don’t even know we need.

Creativity has found a welcome soul in you. By bravely inviting it to lead the way and submitting yourself to it, you forge a road towards inspiration that we can all follow.

There is an incredible openness to vulnerability in you. Dashing aside fear, you demonstrate the power of honesty to tell a story that ripples across our shared humanity. Your willingness to share your life and experiences with others gives us freedom and confidence to do the same.

It is possible patience didn’t come naturally to you, but I can’t tell. Because you have a splendid ability to wait, to listen, to understand. This gives others the space to be imperfect and broken long enough to realize it for themselves, all the while in the safe company of a forgiving heart.

I am awed by how natural your generosity is. You give without being asked, offering care to those of us starving for attention. You plan and prepare, then sometimes you just show up in the moment, but it bestows love to every person lucky enough to encounter you.

Let’s also be real here: you are not perfect. But by living into your imperfections you demonstrate humility and strength. It is a comfort to all of us who are also broken, and when we agree to stop reaching for perfection we get to focus instead on being good.You are more than good enough.

You are thoughtful in ways that very few people appreciate, sending gifts with unique meaning and words of careful compassion. It is a silent, but powerful gift that lasts much longer than you know. You surrender these thoughts unselfishly, possibly never hearing the thanks. So I want to say thank you.

Thank you for being you, specifically gifted and unique and delightful in your own way. Believe these words and live into them, not because it is who you hope to be but because it is who you already are. God created you that way, and I am so grateful for that.

“Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for our selves, but our competence comes from God.” 2 Corinthians 3:4-5

Each one of these paragraphs was written with a specific human in mind, but as I re-read them I thought of several others who shared these wonderful gifts and qualities in their own unique ways. I hope you can find a sense of yourself in at least one of them. If not, please tell me—I would be happy to think of some nice things to say just for you.

Days of Rest: A Window Into Post-Grad Life

For 16 years my life has been structured around a school calendar. Now I am free floating, unrestrained and undefined.

I moved to a new city (free rent thanks to my gracious brother and sister-in-law), don’t have a job (by choice), and have no clue where I will be three months from now (I have ideas, just no evidence to justify decisions yet). The typical question I’ve gotten for months now is “What’s next?”

If I’m not hangry or tired I will reply with a polite explanation of the many random tasks on my plate right now (part time publicity work for an author, studying for the GRE, reading copiously, planning a trip to Sweden in September, questioning my life plans). But if I am in a rush or don’t feel like blubbering to a stranger I often reply “I’m not doing too much, just trying to relax while I can.”

Although this definitely doesn’t incorporate everything, it is a simplified truth that I return to. Rest is NOT something I was taught how to do in my lifetime of schooling. So now I’m trying to embrace the somewhat lazy-river of post-grad life, even when I’m splashing around in a panic thinking I’m drowning in that river. To be clear, I’m not drowning. I just don’t know how to relax well or what it means to not be a student anymore.

When I first started this blog a couple years ago, I spent a long time thinking about what its focus would be. Thanks to my indecisive nature I decided on a more general vision: the elements of life that define us, and what it means to step outside of those boundaries. It developed from a soap box I’ve carried for a long time–the injustice we all experience when we are put into boxes that don’t accurately define who we are.

For 13 years I defined myself as a dancer, and when that definition was no longer an option I floated in an ocean of identity that ebbed and flowed in stormy seas until I finally found a shore to land on. I then found myself outraged at how our culture had defined other things like men, women, love, Christians, and success. I am still working on redefining those things for myself outside the boundaries of cultural norms.

Now that I have graduated from college–the culmination of 16 years defined as a student within the boundaries of public and private educational systems, school calendars, and grade point averages–I must again redefine a significant part of my life.

It was Socrates, one of the first educators, who said that “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” My opinions on the educational system are better left for a separate post, but for now I will say that I am incredibly grateful for the teachers who kindled the love of learning in me. However, despite their hard work, I don’t doubt I was simultaneously filling my vessel of self-worth with my status as a student.

I will always be a student, but the last two months have reminded me what it means to learn outside of classrooms and libraries. Learning is one of our greatest privileges; it is a freedom that can only be lost through individual apathy. As Frederick Douglass, Helen Keller, and countless others have shown us–learning is something we must chase after, redefine in whatever way works for our situation, and embrace whole-heartedly in order to truly succeed.

As I float through this uncharted territory I must constantly remind myself that my identity is NOT as a student chasing the grade, but instead as a student chasing the world where grades don’t matter and learning is the fire that sustains my life. This is the time to throw out the vessel altogether, if only to prevent myself from filling it up with a worthless job of climbing ladders. Vessels fill up eventually and reach a point of satisfaction, but a fire must be kindled and fed daily so that we are always learning. The point of life is not to reach a filling point, but to sustain the deeper fire which fuels a life beyond the boundaries of ordinary living.

I am now a student without a syllabus in a classroom without constraints. Although it can be scary at times, I’m trying to focus on the horizon, lighting my fire to get me through the darker nights. God’s mercies are new every morning, and hope arrives when I remember I’ve hopped the fence into a brand new world to explore. At that point I kick back and embrace wherever the river takes me.

Overlooking Albuquerque from the top of the Sandias Mountains

Overlooking Albuquerque from the top of the Sandias Mountains


What did you learn when you stopped having to go to school?

How has your identity as a learner been formed?