Category: life advice

15 Things Every Woman Should Own

What things should a woman own? Besides the perfect LBD? What about a great suitcase, a quality set of tools, and some photos of herself she really loves? Click through for 12 more things I think you should buy! >>

Lately, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about what it means to be a woman. I mean, like, a real grown up lady. I don’t mean woman in the support-top pantyhose, minivan, white wine spritzer sense of the word. I’m talking about being a female who is in possession of all the knowledge, skills and paraphernalia that she needs to make her way in the world.

Here’s what I want in my proverbial toolkit:

  1. The perfect little black dress

    Cliche?  Yes.  Still useful?  Also yes.  Perfect for weddings, cocktail parties, graduations, walking on the beach after any of the above with the cutie you just met. (That link goes to a $20 dress that has 1,500 4.5 star ratings!)

  2. Shoes that cost more than a hundred bucks

    Preferably, they will work with the perfect little black dress, your favorite jeans and that vintage pencil skirt. (This is my expensive footwear of choice.)

  3. A passport

    For globetrotting and impromptu tequila runs. Or maple syrup runs. If you don’t have one, here’s how to apply!
  4. A toolkit

    Because you can only hammer nails with the soles of your shoes for so long before it’s embarrassing.

  5. An electric drill

    For bookshelf hanging, hanging lamps, drilling a hole into your neighbor’s apartment for better snooping. Wait. What?

  6. A vibrator

    Samantha Jones would be disappointed in any modern girl without one.
  7. A gorgeous piece of jewelry you bought for yourself

    It doesn’t have to be expensive, it just needs to thrill you.

  8. A set of professional photos in which you look amazing

    Leslie Plesser does all my photos and I love them.
  9. A hardcover set of your favorite books

    I’m working on an Anne of Green Gables collection and all the Kurt Vonnegut books.
  10. Engraved flask

    Or something pretty and personalized that will hold you favorite beverage. Mine will read Ms. Von and be filled with Suntory whiskey. What about you?
  11. A fantastic matching bra and underwear set

    You can wear it under your U of M sweats and feel smug and secretly sexy.

  12. A really good set of luggage

    I’m counting my REI backpack. But LV rolly suitcases work, too.
  13. A bank account with enough money for a cushion

    In this economy, it just makes sense, eh? (P.S. how to save up for big ticket items)

  14. Skincare products you love

    Because you can’t hide your affinity for sunbathing sans sunscreen.
  15. A good planner

    For lists. Duh.

But surely there must be lots of other things that a grown-up girl should have in her arsenal. What do you think? What things should every woman own?

P.S. 7 travel tools I won’t shut up about

photo credits brooke cagle and josh felise // cc

3 Questions To Ask Yourself Before You Quit Anything

Not sure when to quit - your job, your relationship, this town, that hobby? Click through for 3 questions that will help you decide right now >>
This guest post comes to us via the hilarious and talented J. Maureen of Generation Meh fame.  Pop over and see all the other awesome stuff she writes about on the regular!
I knew it wasn’t my scene as soon as I drew back the tent flap and saw a dozen spandex-clad people jogging through a circuit that involved turning two somersaults in the middle and then bounding to your feet to skip three turns of double-dutch.
That’s what I get for being five minutes late, I suppose. I joined the single file circuit and gamely attempted my first forward roll since second grade gym class.  Much more successful than skipping, where the rope whacked me in the head repeatedly before I managed to clear the requisite number of jumps.
The rest of circus camp didn’t go much more smoothly. I hit myself in the face with a juggling ball and felt my blood pressure skyrocket when I couldn’t even manage to consecutively catch two #$%^@ little bean bag things with any regularity.  And then there were the silks, which involve climbing and hanging off a giant scarf suspended from the ceiling.
I made it three feet off the ground and hung there limply while the instructor quizzed me on how I manage to get my bangs so smooth and straight in this humidity (I refrained from telling her that they’re real and spectacular – no straightening iron here). All frustration and no fun. When I got home, I emailed the registrar and politely requested a refund. Yeah, I quit. Ya wanna make something of it?
Most of our lives are devoted to trying to figure out how to be in the world and negotiating fine lines is a significant part of that. Where isthe line between giving it your all and rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic? While only you can decide this for yourself (and making that judgment call gets easier with practice), here are a few handy dandy questions that I ask myself when deciding whether to tough something out or cut my losses.

3 ways to know when to quit

1. What would happen if I quit?

Widespread shunning, being pelted with tomatoes in the town square or having to relocate your primary residence to a van down by the river are unlikely prospects, but what about feeling like a failure? Having more free time? Reducing stress? Having to engage in confrontation?
Be honest and exhaustive and look at both the positive and negative consequences of walking away, with an eye to evaluating just how likely they are to happen, how significant they could be and, in the case of downsides, what, if anything, you could do to mitigate their effects.

2. Is this activity/relationship/behavior helping me to be who I want to be or to get where I want to go?

This is the big one and it has nothing to do with building your personal brand. It’s about asking yourself what you want your life to look and feel like and evaluating whether the activities and relationships in question support these values or work against them.
For example, writing/pontificating/boring the internet with my minutiae makes me feel all warm and fuzzy and important. Sometimes, I have nothing to say or I would rather be doing 106 other things than sitting in front of my laptop, but because I have a very clear understanding of where this activity fits into my life and my world domination plans, I suck it up and power through the dry spells.

It’s also important not to get caught in the trap of evaluating an activity based on whether or not you excel at it. Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you need to keep doing it and just because you’re at the bottom of the class, it doesn’t mean it should be scrapped if you’re having a blast.

You can be an absolutely abysmal basketball player and still live for Thursday night pick-up games. You can be Midwestern Pharmaceutical Sales Rep of the Year for four years running and still dread the thought of getting up for work every morning. Take proficiency out of the equation and focus on how you feel when participating.

If you ask yourself this question and the answer is no (This friendship makes me feel like an unpaid shrink. Running is giving me shin splints and making me hate exercise and I’m more interested in capoeira anyway, etc.), letting go doesn’t make you a quitter.

Nope,  it makes you savvy enough to understand that our time and energy resources are limited and should be spent on those activities and individuals that are in line with our values and make us feel good about ourselves in the long-term, with the understanding that there will always be short-term bumps in the road.

Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you need to keep doing it. Click To Tweet

3. What could I be doing instead?

If you quit doing or being X, what  would you then have resources to tackle in its place? Is the potential alternative more attractive than
what you’d be giving up? The alternative doesn’t even have to be bigger and better (Well, if I quit the genealogical society, I could devote my Monday nights to reading to blind orphans), it just has to be more valuable to you (see Q2).
And yes, free time and unearmarked space to simply breathe and/or sit on your porch sipping sweet tea totally counts.

How do you know when to quit?  What things have you walked away from?

P.S. How to quit your job without another one lined up

P.P.S. Did you know I have an ENTIRE Pinterest board devoted to life advice? And other one devoted to career advice. Juuuuust FYI.

photo credit: phoebe dill // cc

How Do You Stay Optimistic?

Dear Sarah Von,
How do you stay so optimistic even though the world around us has so
many problems?  Everyday I see awful things on the news (war, famine,
class inequality, etc), and even my work is slowly taking a toll on me.
I work in the environmental justice field, and it’s just sad to see how
unfair the world is.  I used to be a much happier person when I
was younger and more oblivious to these sorts of things!  Is this just a
normal part of growing up?
– Maya

Girl, I hear you.  Just like a lot of people, I spent several years feeling certain that bad things only happened to Other People and that what happened in those dirty, war-torn countries didn’t particularly apply to me.Then I started watching the news and paying taxes and paying attention to someone other than myself.  And stuff got real preeeetty quickly.  Here’s how I try to stay positive and optimistic in the face of a world-wide recession and an impending six-month winter.

1) I pick my battles.
I have three causes
that I actively donate to and support: marriage equity, reproductive rights, refugee resettlement.  This is not to say that I ignore
all the other problems in the world, but these are the issues that
speak to me.  I find it’s a lot easier to feel good about the world and
the difference I’m making when I narrow my scope.

2) I choose my news sources carefully.
News melts my brain as does any radio or television show in which people raise their voices
or call each other names.  Nope, not interested.  I read headlines
on The Morning News, I read Slate and Salon, I listen to public radio on the weekends.  That’s it.  I also make an effort to read things like People Are Awesome and 1,000 Awesome Things to level things out a bit.

3) I deal with worldly issues in a way that works for me.

Sometimes  I donate money.  Sometimes I donate my time and skill set.  Sometimes I donate products
or ad space on this blog.  Sometimes I say “that’s totally, totally
awful” and then I turn off the radio.  I donated money to earthquake relief in Japan, but knowing exactly how many died and exactly how much radio active waste is leaking into the ground isn’t going to change anything or make me feel better. (Please note: I’m not advocating putting your head in the proverbial sand in regards to current events but I don’t think knowing every.last.detail about every.single.catastrophe is productive or beneficial.)

4) I surround myself with positive people.

This isn’t to say that my friends and I ignore current events or never
complain about anything (we live in Minnesota, there are six months of snow to gripe about.) But we try not to snipe or to let
conversations deteriorate into negative commentary about our
jobs/bodies/relationships/the state of the world.  Because why talk about that stuff when there operas to go to and fried green tomatoes to eat?

5) I realize that the world has been going to hell in a hand basket since ever.
My grandparents grew up during The Depression and had to drop out of high school to support their families. My mom grew up with neighbors who built bomb shelters in their backyard.  My dad and uncle were in the military during the Vietnam war.  All of those things are scary and challenging and fairly horrible.  But you know what?  All of those people now lead happy, healthy, productive lives.

Again, this is not to downplay the scary things that are happening in our world today, but scary things have been happening since time immemorial.  Lovely, wonderful, amazing things have been happening for that long as well. 

How do you stay positive and optimistic?

image credit: Jennifer Charlotte Saul

I’m An Oxymoron, So Are You (and that’s okay)

Do you struggle with impostor complex? Worry that you're an oxymoron or that 'someone like you' should have it more 'together'? You're not alone. Like, at all. >>
 This fantastic guest post comes to us via the talented and funny J. Maureen of Generation Meh fame.  Pop over and have a rifle through her awesome archives!
Recently, someone called me successful.
I laughed. I quite literally own nothing but the contents of one Samsonite suitcase and four cardboard boxes (most of which are filled with papers) and a laptop that’s about to give up the ghost. I’m not married. I don’t have a family. I don’t own any property. And I can’t even make it until 5:00PM without all my makeup smearing off.
But I do have a good job where I make business deals and finesse contracts and bat clean-up when stuff goes wrong and I  get well praised for it. I
write for Forbes. I have no debt and I take excellent care of my skin. I make people laugh. Last week, an old man told me I was really beautiful*
It’s all relative. My failure. Your success. Your vice. My versa.Who can say definitively what’s thriving vs. just surviving? Click To Tweet

What would have seemed incomprehensibly dull and stultifying to your 16 year-old self turns out to be a pretty sweet deal when you hit 40.

Of course you already know there’s no ambition ceiling. 

As soon as you have a little, you want a little more. When you have a lot, you can imagine having + doing + being a lot more.

When you have nothing, making the ends meet and being able to knot them off is a $#@%* triumph. When you’re living the proverbial good life, a renovated kitchen is all that’s standing between you and perfection.

Maslow had it down cold. If there’s not an obvious need or gap, human nature is such that we’re gonna create one just to give ourselves something to chase down, to long for, to believe in.

And forget about the mythic ideal of balance. Just because you get 110% of your RDA of Vitamin C, doesn’t mean you can’t still be woefullyiron deficient.

After all, you can be the richest woman in the solar system and still fight a (very public) 25 year-long battle with your weight.

So, if you feel like the world’s most awesomely-successful-on-paper failure or most fraudulent success story, you’ve got a lot of company. Like, say, most of us.

*No, he wasn’t angling for my spare change, thanks for asking.

What are your oxymoronic tendencies?

P.S. You can choose to want less.

photo by pineapples // cc

My Minimalist Makeup Bag (just 3 products!)

Trying to create a more minimalist makeup bag? Looking for travel makeup that won't take up tons of space? These are the three products I absolutely swear by for travel and run-to-Target situations!

Friends, let me be honest.If we’re going to a Beyonce concert, a New Year’s Eve party, restaurant with a maitre de – I will be wearing significantly more than three beauty products. There will be liquid eyeliner, eyebrow filling, and maybe some pore-minimizing magic.

But I spend 80% of my time working from home or running to Target and I’m not sure my fellow shoppers care about my eyeliner game. So I’ve assembled a super quick, super affordable, super tiny makeup kit that allows me to look put together and polished …. and it can all fit in my ever-loving back pocket.

My minimalist makeup bag

1. E.L.F. Concealer + Highlighter
You can use the highlighter as eye shadow (I use two coats) and the concealer is perfect for zit-covering and that around-the-nose redness.  And it costs less than $6!  And it’s tiny!

2. CoverGirl LashBlast
Cheap, waterproof but comes off easily with Cetaphil, wand features those weirdly awesome rubbery, alieny things.  Sold!

3. Benetint Pocket Pal  
Don’t let that embarrassing name dissuade you!  This tiny product is magical.  Rub a few drops of that sweet pink liquid into your cheeks and you’ll look like a fresh-faced Swiss maiden.  Smear some on your lips and top with gloss and you’ll look like a popsicle eating cutie. It’s a little bit expensive but worth every cent.

The best part?  You could probably fit these three products in the back pocket of your jeans.  You could definitely fit them into one of those ridiculous clutches that’s only supposed to hold a credit card and your keys.

What are your absolute favorite products? Tell me all about them in the comments!

P.S. 6 loving ways to broadcast body confidence

Photo by Jake Peterson on Unsplash

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