Category: how to

How To Get Over Impostor Syndrome – For Real

Struggling wiath impostor syndrome? It happens to most of us! Click through for 7 confidence tips and feel better now >>

Dear Sarah,
I graduated from college three years ago and have a job in the field that I went to school for (public relations).  I’m working my way up the corporate ladder and receiving bigger and bigger accounts. 
The weird thing is, I feel like a total fraud.  Even though I went to school for this, I can’t shake the feeling that someday my bosses will wake up and yell “What are you doing here?!  Why did we give you that account?” 
My clients and supervisors are all happy with me but I constantly feel like I don’t know what I’m doing and that I’m a total fake. 
I feel like everybody else is on top of their game and that I’m just playing along. I am totally debilitated by the fear that I’m going to be “found out.” Am I being ridiculous?  How do I get over this?  Do I need to quit my job?
– Completely Fraudulent
Dear CF,
Oh, girl.  Honeybee, sweetheart.  I hear you.  Despite having a blog read by thousands of people, I frequently feel weird charging people to design social media or internet domination plans.  Why?  BECA– USE I DO NOT HAVE A MASTERS DEGREE IN THE INTERNET.  Such a thing does not exist, but that does not stop me from wanting one because then I’d feel like a real expert.

Though it probably won’t make you feel better, millions of people (incredibly accomplished, clever people) feel the same way. Look!  It’s even got a fancy name (impostor syndrome) and a wikipedia page!

How to get over impostor syndrome

Know that feeling this way doesn’t make you silly/weak/a useless pile of wet socks

It shows you’re considerate/conscientious/take your responsibilities seriously.  We all know plenty of a-holes that are over confident.  You are officially not one of those a-holes.

Take heart that most things worth doing have a high learning curve

We all mess up from time to time and just about everyone you know feels the same way when they’re starting something new.

Try to take note of when you’re feeling particularly fraudulent

and realize that it could just be impostor syndrome rearing its ugly head.  FEELING incompetent is not the same as ACTUALLY BEING incompetent. Click To Tweet  Repeat after me: “I’m good at this.  I’m good at this.  I’m good at this.”

Talk it out with (trusted!) friends and co-workers

There’s a good chance your co-workers will be able to put your fears in perspective. (“Dude!  You’re doing fine!  It took me 6 months to learn that software and you’ve only been at it for three weeks!”)

Stop downplaying your accomplishments

None of this “I was in the right place at the right time” or “I knew somebody inside the company.”  That serves no one and you’re discounting all your hard work.  How about “Thanks!” or “That’s so kind of you to say – I’ve been working really hard on it.”

When you’re feeling particularly self-doubt-y, remember all those accomplishments

What’s one missed deadline in the face of landing a $250,000 client or being valedictorian?

Know your limits

You’re probably not awesome at everything (I’m not!)  And that’s okay!  Be honest with yourself (and others) about those limits.  It’s an opportunity to openly learn from the masters.

Also: people love it when you ask them for help and advice!  There are probably people in your company who will fall all over themselves telling you how to format that website.

Attempt to get over your perfectionism

Anytime we learn new things, we’re going to make mistakes, yes?  I believe this is what they call “growth.”

Trust the people that hired you

If someone has been working in the industry for 15 years and thought you were the right candidate for the job?  They were probably right.  Trust that they knew what they were doing.

Have you ever felt like a fraud?  How did you get over it?

P.S. 13 ways to feel cuter + more confident

photo by cynthia magana // cc

How To Be An Awesome Mom + Still Have A Life

This is a guest post from my amazing friend, Andrea.  She’s a fantastic mom and still manages to have more fun and do more stuff than most single twenty-somethings I know.  What’s her secret?!

When Sarah asked me to write a guest post for her blog, I was not only honored but also sort of bemused. After all, my life feels so…mundane! I have fun, sure, but it’s of the pretty ordinary variety. But that’s what she asked me to write about…how to have fun in MY (mundane) way. Or, as she phrased it “How To Be An Awesome Mom and Still Have a Life.”

I’m a mom of a precocious, adorable, sensitive and smart-assed little boy, Alex, who is 4 going on 27. His dad and I are amicably divorced and we share 50/50 custody. I’m (hopefully) an awesome mom (Sarah seems to think so, and she knows her awesomeness when she sees it,) and I (hopefully) have a life.

I always wanted to be a mom. I knew this even as a wild-child punk rocker running drunkenly through the streets of Uptown and managing a tattoo/piercing/clubwear shop in the 90s. It would happen someday, I knew. Oddly enough, I didn’t think about the marriage/partnership part so much – that didn’t seem as important. I just knew that someday I’d be Mommy.

I married a good guy, got pregnant as planned, and promptly gave up most of what defined me. I was a Mom, first and foremost, and that was what now defined me. Alex came before my husband, my friends, my pets, the activities I’d enjoyed before being a mom. I didn’t go out as much, neglected my marriage, and became unhappy. I was a mother – I had what I’d wanted. So why did I feel something was missing? Because something was—me.

I failed at marriage but realized I had a second chance at a fabulous life. The trick, I found, is in nurturing your own self as well as the little shadow of you…be Mom, yes…but also give yourself permission to play (semi-responsibly) with the big kids, too.

You CAN balance motherhood, a career, and a fabulous social life with a bit of thought and planning…think of the three areas as the legs of a tripod or, for nerds like me, a Venn diagram. I can focus on one or two of the three, but without all aspects I am never whole. (Please note this is NOT to say that women who are not mothers are not whole – NOT AT ALL. I have tons of friends and colleagues who don’t wish to or cannot have kids and their lives are completely rich and wonderful. But for me, I need the trifecta.)

With 50/50 custody, it’s actually pretty easy. I elected for this custody agreement mainly because I don’t think it’s fair to Dads (or their children) to be solely “weekend parents.” If both parents are able and willing to raise their child(ren), then both of them should GET to. But this also left me with a best-of-both-worlds situation.

One week, I’m Mom all the time. Cuddles and forts and T-ball and swimming lessons and coloring and Play-doh and kissing scraped knees. I love it. I revel in it. I’m good at it. On the alternate weeks, I’m still a mom, of course, and I call Alex every night…but I am Andrea, NOT solely defined by being a mom.  I still play and kiss and cuddle and build forts…but with the grown-up kids in my life. My patient and accommodating friends and dating partners work around this schedule and I’m so grateful for it, and for them.

For those parents who don’t have another person to parent/share custody with, it is harder but still doable. Try this:

* Nurture yourself in addition to your little one(s)

* Find adult interests (new or pre-kid) and MAKE the time for them

* Do things for you and you alone…it sounds selfish but in fact you’ll be a more complete person and a    better parent for it.

* Remember that you’re a woman, a friend, and a rock star in addition to being a mom.

I don’t know.  I might be full of it but I think I’m a pretty good mom and I DO have a lot of fun, so I must be doing something right.  What do you think?  If you’ve got little ones, how do you make time for yourself and the things you love?

8 Unexpected Ways To Increase Your Attention Span

Want to increase your attention span? Don't we all? These focus tips will help you get more done and stay on task! >>
Welp, it’s official. I don’t have an attention span any more. It’s gone the way of Zubaz, Friendster, and the Dodo.

I don’t want to be the person who can’t sit still for more than ten minutes and won’t read things without bullet points!

I don’t want my instant reaction to a tough bit of code, an unpleasant email or some un-editable writing to be “Ugh. Has anything popped up in Google reader?  I’m going to see if anyone has responded to my latest hilarious Facebook update!”  Puke.

8 ways to increase your attention span 


Meditation has been scientifically proven to make you calmer, more focused and less likely to be depressed.  Simply set the timer on your phone for five minutes, sit with you back against the wall, close your eyes and actively empty your mind.  Ommmm-chanting and incense-burning not required!

Need a bit of help? Try the Calm app. Its free guided meditations are great for beginners!

Do a bit of physical activity

We’ve all heard it a million times – physical activity makes you happier, calmer, more focused and generally more awesome.  You don’t have to join a gym or do a Gillian Michael’s caliber workout to see the effects! A ten minute walk through the park, a few rounds of sun salutations or even just a dance break can do wonders.

Sometimes when I’m feeling listless, sleepy or unfocused, I’ll pull up the She Wolf video, put it on repeat, and dance around the kitchen for 10 minutes.  PROBLEM SOLVED.

Set a timer

Have you heard of the Pomodoro technique?  That ish will change your life.  The crux of it is this: set a timer for 25 minutes and then do one thing for those 25 minutes.

When the timer dings, you get a five-minute break to do whatever you want, then you set the timer again and keep going.  And no multitasking!  Here’s another variation on this technique that uses boredom as a motivator.

Do five more

Your attention span is like a muscle – the more you exercise it, the better it gets.  So if you hit a wall force yourself to do “five more.”  Read for five more minutes, do five more problems, write five more sentences.  You might catch a second wind and if you don’t?  At least, you’ve been slightly more productive and you’ve stretched your attention span muscle.

Limit your screen time

No surprise here, right? Close your laptop and physically put it away after 8 pm. Read a book, watch a movie in a theater, work on a home project. If you’re at a loss for screen-free ways to spend your evenings, here are 23 ways to unplug.

Have a snack

Kids aren’t the only ones who get cranky and shifty when their blood sugar is low.  I rarely produce anything worth reading after 3 pm but if I eat some nuts or fruit, I can usually string sentences together till at least 6:00!

Think of happy stuff

If you can’t concentrate because half of your brain is obsessing over your botched work presentation or that thing your frenemy said, take a break and think of good stuff.

Look at the sky for two minutes. Check out Pumpkin The Racoon’s Instagram feed.  Send a sweet email to a friend.  Write down all the different ways you can deal with that thing that’s bugging you and then imagine you’re pushing that problem out the door and turning your key in the lock.

Cheater methods

These won’t actually cure your jacked up attention span – but they will put a cute Hello Kitty bandaid on it.


It’s a Chrome app, designed especially to block you from attention-span draining sites! It even allows you to set time limits for specific sites, so you can give yourself access to Facebook … but only for 15 minutes a day.

Wifi-free coffee shops

I’m fairly sure these still exist, somewhere in rural America. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish when you don’t have the option to access the internet! If you live in Minneapolis, the Melo Glaze bakery serves coffee, amazing pastries, and doesn’t have wifi.

Stick with good ol’ fashioned, non-wifi internet at home

I know a self-employed couple whose lives slowly devolved into working on their laptops from bed, 18 hours a day. So they reverted to a one-internet-cable household and now if they want to work together, they make an active choice to find a wifi coffee shop, set a time frame, and get to work.
If they want to use the internet at home, they can use it one-at-a-time, sitting at a desk. How novel!


Seriously. I know that coffee makes some people jittery and insane, but for me it’s Liquid Ambition.

How’s your attention span? Any tricks to share?

P.S. The Art of Doing

Photo by Han Chau on Unsplash

How To Start A Community Garden

It’s almost gardening season!  This is a fantastic guest post from one of my favorite bloggers, Enna of Kosher Porkchops fame.  Pop over and say hi!This is the story of how I started a community garden in my area.

I think in order to understand my motivations, how this garden came to be, and why I have made the decisions I did, you have to believe in fate. This community garden is my fate. The next thing you need to understand is what being poor means. This post (and the comments)describes what being poor in America really feels like – shame.The purpose of my community garden  is to feed the poor of DuPage County, Illinois through the People’s Resource Center.

And here is how I did what I did.

Say it out loud.
I say a lot of useless things out loud “Oh that looks pretty” “What is that smell” “I suck at math” – it’s like if it pops in my head it comes right out my mouth. This time, however, my friend Jeff was listening, and realized that we did have land available that we could create a garden on. Tell someone what you want to do. More often than not, whomever you tell will tell others, and someone will be able to help you.

Get connected to a church or neighborhood association.
Do you want free land to create a community garden on? Churches and civic associations usually know where some is, or have some that you can “borrow.”

Be prepared to do everything yourself.
I am not saying that no one will help you, they will. But plan on no one helping you, this will help you stay organized and on top of things.

Learn how to ask for help.
There is a difference between putting a blast out on Facebook asking for volunteers, and sending an email or phone call listing a person’s strengths and why you think they would be perfect to help with just this one teeny tiny little thing. The most powerful words you will ever say is “[Name], I really need your help. I cannot do this without you.” People want to feel important, and as soon as you fluff their ego, they are more than willing to help.

Also, put up information in public spaces, coffee houses and at Whole Foods.  Email botany professors and ask for help. It is insanely easy to get people to help you, you just need to ask.

Call a state college.
University of Illinois has a program where they will send some grad students out to look at your land and tell you what you can grow, where, and how. FOR FREE. Call and ask your nearest state college if they have something similar.

Get over your fear of rejection.
Always remember – the worst thing anyone can say to you is no, so you might as well ask.

Decide whether or not you want to become a non-profit.
My garden is connected to a church, and therefore I get covered under their non-profit status (and insurance!) If this becomes your full time “job” you might want to become a non-profit for tax purposes. If you are connected to a church, this may not be an issue for you.

Anyone and everyone who volunteers on your garden needs to have signed a waiver otherwise they can sue you if they get hurt. Not only can they sue you, they can sue the civic organization/church that helped you create your garden. People are greedy, but you don’t have to be stupid. Google Liability Waivers and use one. Check with a pro-bono lawyer to make sure you are covered. Seriously.

Also, make sure that you are not violating any laws or do not need a permit to do this.

Find an organization that will take the fresh produce.
This sounds like it would be easy, but sometimes this is the hardest part. Make sure they understand who you are, that you represent a community garden, and that the produce is fresh. Food banks are wary of accepting fresh produce because it isn’t really fresh.

Compost compost compost.
The soil is the most important part of the garden. My garden is made up of the following: The base layer is wood chips (donated by the city), the next layer is composted dirt. And that’s it. You can grow on cinderblocks with this method. This step should really be step one because this is the first step you are going to have to take. Talk to local restaurants about donating their non-protein based waste. (You can find out what you can and cannot compost here.)

Water hook-up.
If there is not one on your site, check with the city to see if they will hook up the water for free. Again, it never hurts to ask.

Make up business cards and a website.
People will take you much more seriously and be more inclined to help you if you look like you know what you are doing. You know the saying “Fake it til you make it?” That is pretty much my motto.

Do not grow corn.
I know, I know. Everyone wants to grow corn. Just don’t do it. Trust me.

Know thyself.
Be ready to take a step back when needed, and to relax. And I fully recommend taking two weeks off where you don’t look at, think about, or talk about your community garden. Trust me, it will save your sanity.

If you have any further questions, you can contact me at anne.egeland (at) gmail (dot)com!

Do you guys like gardening?  Have you ever taken part in a community garden?  When I was a kidlet, my mom let me have a corner of the garden to myself and I was constantly trying to grow watermelons and other impractical things!

How To Stop Comparing Yourself To Others (Finally)

Want to stop comparing yourself to others? Avoid the comparison trap once and for all? It's possible, but it starts with YOU. Click through to learn how.

Is it possible to really, actually stop comparing yourself to others? Especially if you’re follow them on social media and their seemingly perfect life streams through your phone 24/7?

Yes! It’s possible! But – like many good things – it takes some work. Today, Fajr is giving us great advice on how to avoid the comparison trap.


How To Stop Psyching Yourself Out (because that ish is exhausting)

Are you always psyching yourself out? Dealing with anxiety and insecurities and self-defeating B.S.? It happens to the best of us. Here's how to stop >>
Dear Sarah,
I’m a senior in college and an English major. Over the next two weeks I have over 85 pages worth of papers to write. How do I work hard and stay optimistic without totally psyching myself out?
Oh, friend. I have been there so hard. There was a three-month period in 2007 in which I attended graduate school full time, held two part time jobs, attempted to go vegan and lived with three other people in a two bedroom cottage.
What? Yes. How ridiculous am I? And when it came time to write my papers, my coping technique involved staring the computer into submission, crying and then eating several candy bars.

However! That awful three-month foray into insanity taught me a bit about how to chill out in the face of pressure and not completely psych myself out.

How to stop psyching yourself out

Try your hardest. No, really. Your actual hardest.

I don’t know about you, but often times I confuse “not being totally lazy” with “trying hard.” If I look back on high school, I realize that what I thought was “trying hard” was actually about 50% of what I was capable of. College required about 70% of my best effort and graduate school called for about 90% (with the occasional bit of 95% in that damn grammar class!)

And I think we all know what trying our hardest feels like, in anything that we’re attempting:

* doing all of the readings (before class!), attending the study session and meeting with your prof if you have questions

* networking with people in the field you want to get into, learning the applicable software, attending workshops and volunteering for big, hard projects that nobody wants to do

* asking your friends if they know anybody they can set you up with, giving internet dating a try, talking to cute strangers and going out with the perfectly nice guy you’re not sure about.

When you know you've tried your actual hardest, whether you succeed (almost) becomes secondary. Click To Tweet

You can’t do anything else, you’ve given it all you’ve got. There’s nothing to get psyched out about. Also – when you’ve realllly tried your hardest? You’re pretty likely to succeed, right?

Consult your cohorts

If you’re losing your mind over your millions of term papers, your fruitless job hunt, your never-ending singledom or your frequently rejected manuscript, it’s easy to feel like you’re the only one going through this.

But, shockingly enough, you’re not. Other people in the world are stressed out, unemployed, unhappily single or unpublished. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend hunkering down for a three hour bitch-fest with your equally frustrated peers, it feels good to know you’re not alone.

Allot yourself a bit of time to whine about this predicament and then see if these friends are trying anything you haven’t thought of. Maybe they’re friends with a physics whiz or a publishing agent or a single cutie. Maybe they’ve got some academic references you can use. Combine and use your powers for good!

Take a tiny breather

If you’ve been going all out, trying your absolute hardest for the last two weeks, you’re probably in need of a breather. Energy and creativity need to be replenished, and really? The library has to close at some point. So take some time (two hours, a day, a week) and completely distance yourself from the project.

Shower, change clothes, grab lunch somewhere new with someone who’s not studying the same thing as you. Take a weekend away and read things that have absolutely nothing to do with what you’re working on. Watch a fun, mindless movie. Go dancing and drink a little bit too much. Get a massage. Go rollerskating.

Realize that the world will not end

During graduate school I was whining to my fantastic friend Jess, lamenting the possibility of getting a C (shock and horror!) on a paper. She leveled her eyes at me and said “And you know what will happen if you get a C? The world will keep doing this (insert rotating hand motion here)”

And girlfriend was right. I know that these papers, this job search, this grad school application seem like the end-all-be-all right now. But they’re not. Really. They’re not. I didn’t get my driver’s license till I was nearly 17. I went through a terrible break up at age 29. I didn’t get into the first graduate school I applied to. And you know what? Not dead.

Remember your other strengths

In the event that you really try your hardest on these papers (or apartment hunt. or your gallery submission) and things don’t work out, remember that you are not defined by this one small thing.

You are not just a student or a writer or an ex-girlfriend. You are a great friend, a sibling, a maker of great sandwiches and the owner of some gorgeous legs.

And the grade on your term papers isn’t going to change those things.

How do you deal with deadlines and pressure?

P.S. You don’t have to be failure-proof. That’s not a thing.

photo by jason briscoe // cc