It’s not Donald Trump that worries me

I’ve been thinking about Donald Trump a lot lately. With all the coverage he gets in the media, it’s been hard not to.

At the beginning of the presidential primaries, I didn’t really give him much thought. If anything, I thought his presence as a candidate might be a little amusing. As I began to learn more about him and hear some of the things he was saying, I became a little disturbed, but not worried. “People will see right through him,” I thought. “He won’t last long once people actually start to vote…”

After he won the first couple of states, my optimistic self thought it must just be some kind of a fluke. But the more delegates he wins, and the more incendiary his rhetoric becomes, the more bothered I am. Forget the fact that he has absolutely zero platform and has given basically no details about how he plans to actually accomplish any of the things he talks about. That I could deal with. That’s not what bothers me. What bothers me is how critical he’s been about entire swaths of the population, how he encourages people at his rallies to engage in violence, and how he childishly bullies anyone who dares say anything remotely critical of him. Not to mention his pumped up view of himself and his inability to take responsibility. This man, people, is not fit to be president. Not of the United States, and not of anything else. What he is, is a narcissist, a bully, and a racist. Even children watching the Republican debates recognize this. Why don’t his supporters?

And that, my friends, is what bothers me the most. Because the more I think about it, it’s actually not Donald Trump that concerns me. It’s all the people who support him. All the people who approve of what he says and who agree with his hate filled ideas and words. Donald Trump didn’t insert their hate into them; he’s just the flame that lit the fuel on fire.

Living in the little bubble that I do, I wasn’t aware of how much hate had been simmering beneath the surface of our great nation. Oh sure, I know prejudice exists and that people can be nasty. But I had no idea it was at the level I’ve seen demonstrated lately. I was watching footage of one of Trump’s rallies the other day, and some of the things I heard coming out of people’s mouths directed at his protesters were downright nasty. Maybe I’m naïve, but I thought we’d made more progress than that.

Apparently not. Apparently people are really angry, and we’ve just been sitting on a volcano ready to blow this whole time. What got us here? Was it the police shootings in the past couple of years or does it go back further? Was it the economic crises we’re still struggling to fully recover from? I really don’t know. I just know that what I’m seeing and hearing is really, really, really upsetting, and I’m afraid that it’s not going to just go away.

Unless we do something. It’s time for those of us who aren’t filled with hate to step up and use our voices in a constructive way. What that will look like will be unique to everyone, but if you’re reading this and you, too, are concerned about the direction this primary is taking our country, please speak up. Vote in your state’s primary. Write letters to the editor. Talk to your friends. Smile at a stranger. Help a neighbor. If you hear someone say something racist, call them on it. We have to fight the hatred that’s threatening to tear us down. Don’t feel like your voice is insignificant. It isn’t. I keep thinking of the Martin Luther King Jr. quote

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hatred cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

So get out there and spread the love people. It’s the only weapon we have left. Because getting rid of Donald Trump will not fix things. He’s already unleashed the dragon, and the dragon is us.

The Folly of “Awareness Weeks”

It’s that time of year again — Eating Disorder Awareness Week begins today and runs through this coming Saturday. The theme this year is again “I had no idea,” alluding to the fact that so many people know so little about eating disorders and the truth behind them.

While this is true, and I would absolutely LOVE it if everyone truly understood what eating disorders were like and what they were caused by, I’m not sure that’s a reasonable goal. Should more people be aware of the signs of eating disorders so they can be caught sooner before progressing to chronicity? Of course. Should children be taught better coping skills so they don’t feel the NEED to begin habits that will lead to something like an eating disorder? Most definitely. But is an awareness week really going to accomplish any of that? I doubt it. Sure, a few more people will come away with a better understanding, but from what I can tell, most of the publicity spread during this week concerns body image and the portrayal of thinness in the media. Both of which are important topics, but they don’t have a whole lot to do with the nitty gritty facts about eating disorders. The only benefit I can see to something like an eating disorder awareness week is that it might put these horrible illnesses higher up on the public’s radar and eventually lead to more funding for research into more effective treatments, as well as better funding so sufferers can actually AFFORD those treatments. Other than that, I think it’s pretty pointless and might actually spread more MIS-information than clear up any confusion.

So what do I propose?

Well, here’s a novel idea. How about we all just accept that not everyone has to completely understand everything? It’s simply not reasonable to expect everyone to understand every single mental or physical illness that could befall someone. I, for one, don’t fully understand what it’s like to have breast cancer. I know it must be horrible and scary, but I’ve never been through it, so I don’t really know what it’s like. I also don’t fully comprehend why someone would want to cut themselves or otherwise self-harm. I kind of get the reasoning behind it, but I still can’t imagine doing it or even wanting to. I also don’t really get what it means to have bi-polar disorder. I’ve seen movies and read things, but I still don’t really get it. But just because I don’t fully understand these things doesn’t mean I don’t think they’re important issues that deserve our attention. I also don’t think any one of them is more deserving of our attention than others.

So what DO I think?

I think people should respect people simply because they’re people. I think we should care for one another simply because we’re human, and I think there shouldn’t be an hierarchy of illnesses where some are regarded as more important, more devastating or more worthy of our time, attention and money. We’re all on this earth together; each of us are fighting our own tough battles; and the least we can do is support one another along the way. It’s not awareness we need. It’s love and acceptance.

So this year I won’t be posting daily about eating disorders. Instead I’m going to try and post something along the lines of love and acceptance. Stories, examples and inspiration for how to encourage those qualities in your own life. Today, I’m going to start with myself and build on the big step forward I made yesterday in my eating disorder recovery. I hope you’ll do some loving and accepting today of your own. If you do, please let me know about it in the comments!

Why we Need to Retire the Phrase “Self-improvement”

The self-improvement industry is big business these days. It seems everyone is on a quest to become “better,” whether it’s by playing games like Lumosity to improve their thinking skills, attending yoga classes to become more centered, or the perennial favorite, exercising and dieting to “get fit.” All told, people (primarily Americans) spend roughly $11 billion a year in their efforts to achieve greatness.* Once relegated to the dark corners of the book store, so-called self-help books are now the world’s best selling genre. Ironically, though, as writer Jessica Lamb-Shapiro tells the Guardian, 80 percent of the people purchasing self-help books are repeat buyers, which may or may not be indicative of how much they’re actually being helped…

However, my problem with the self-improvement movement is not the insane amount of money people spend (though that is a bit disturbing), or even with the fact that so many of the things they’re spending it on are probably completely bogus. No, my concern is with what the term itself implies. Because to be interested in self-improvement, one must first believe they are in possession of a self that needs improving. The underlying message here is “I am not good enough, I am flawed, I am not okay just the way I am.” While I won’t assume that everyone who buys the books, invests in the workshops or goes looking for a life coach is necessarily coming from a place of unworthiness, I’d be willing to bet that with a little digging, they would find they believed at least one of those messages had a nugget of truth in it. But the thing is, you can’t hate yourself into improving. Believe me. I’ve tried. And it wasn’t pretty. If you dislike yourself — any part of yourself — even just one little bit, you will never, ever, be good enough. You will just spend the rest of your life jumping through an endless gauntlet of hoops, running a race that can never be won.

All this being said, I will confess I still read “self-help” books and engage in some other “self-improvement” related activities (meditation has done wonders for my mental health, and I loved Brené Brown’s book Daring Greatly). But there’s a key difference now: My motivation has changed. Where I was once coming from a place of disgust — at myself, at the current state of my life, etc. — I’m now coming from a place of love and compassion. For me, it’s no longer about self-improvement, but life-improvement. And that mind shift has made all the difference.

I’m interested in what others think:

What are your thoughts on the term ‘self-improvement’?

Have you ever purchased anything that falls into that category?

Do you think you’re ‘improved’ now?

Let me know in the comments!

*I obtained all of my data from this article in the Guardian:http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/dec/28/self-help-books-literature-publishers-growth

Another interesting article on the self-improvement industry juggernaut from PR web: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/1/prweb10275905.htm