Dhammapada.

A giant snow-sculpture of Buddha that I was able to capture at the Ely Winter Festival.

Although I don't exactly affiliate myself with any one religion, I like to pull ideas and inspiration from many different belief systems and incorporate them into my own way of living.
Lately I've been reading and drawing inspiration from the Dhammapada, which is one of the most significant texts found in Buddhism. It is a collection of sayings from Buddha, which have been culled from various discourses of his teachings in the course of 45 years and is written in verse form. I take comfort in the Dhammapada for its accessibility, relative thoroughness, and poetic wisdom. 
For a bit of Monday morning inspiration I thought I would include a few of my favorite bits from Dhammapada. I hope they bring you as much thought and inspiration as they have brought me.

Better than a thousand hollow words,
 is one word that brings peace.


Overcome the angry by friendliness,
overcome the wicked by goodness, 
overcome the miser by generosity,
overcome the liar by truth.


To overcome one's own self 
is indeed better than to conquer others.


No one saves us but ourselves.
No one can and no one may.
We ourselves must walk the path.



Do not dwell in past 
Do not dream in the future
Concentrate the mind in the present moment.


Like a beautiful flower full of color but without fragrance,
Even so, fruitless are the fair words of one who does not practice them.


Live in joy,
In love,
Even among those who hate.



Do not follow the ideas of others,
But learn to listen to the voice within yourself.



Focus,
no on the rudeness of others,
not on what they've done
or left undone, 
but on what you have
and haven't done 
yourself. 


Learn to love without condition.
Speak without bad intention.
Give without any reason.
And most of all,
care for people without any expectation.

Gratitude.

"If the only prayer you say in your life is 'thank you,' that will suffice."
-Meister Eckhart

Thanksgiving is the one day out of the entire year that is designated for giving our thanks and counting our blessings -- even if our gratitude is half-hearted at best. Each year around this time I always ask myself the same things: Why do I need a holiday shrouded in gluttony to give thanks and to be grateful for everything I have? Shouldn't giving thanks be something that we do every single day? Shouldn't I be grateful for not only the bigger things in my life, but also the smaller, every day ones?

I believe that having a grateful heart attracts abundance and miracles. The more often you give thanks, the happier you are.

Having gratitude is perhaps the most important virtue of all. It allows us to become in tune with the source of everything good that comes into our lives. But what does it even mean to be grateful? To me, gratitude is an affirmation that there is goodness in the world, and that the source of it is beyond ourselves. We acknowledge that other people or higher powers (if you are of a spiritual mindset) give us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve goodness in our lives. Being grateful also means living your life as if everything is a miracle and to be aware on a continuous basis of what you've been given. Gratitude shifts your focus from what your life is lacking to the abundance that is already present.

We tend to take for granted the good that is already present within our lives. It is important to notice and appreciate each day's gifts -- to find the joy in smaller things instead of celebrating only our big achievements. Often times, I like to use gratitude to to help me put things in proper perspective. When things don't go as I had planned, I try to remember that every difficulty carries within it the seeds of an equal or greater benefit. In the face of adversity I'll ask myself, "What can I learn from this?", or "How can I benefit from this?"  

Having a grateful heart allows us to approach life with humility and grace. By acknowledging the smaller, every day things we become aware of just how much we really have. If we can't be appreciative for what we already have it's as if we're declaring that we deserve more. By practicing gratitude each and every day (and not just one day out of 365) we can transform our entire perspective, and with it our entire lives.

NARS: Gipsy.

You know that feeling when you find the perfect lipstick? One that just seems to flatter you so well that you vow to wear it every single day? 
I think I've found it.
Gipsy by NARS is described as a "sheer warm berry" shade, however I would say that it looks like more of a warm, earthy, brick-colored red. Either way, the warm undertones are perfect for me because I have very olive skin, and usually it's difficult for me to find a shade of red that's flattering and isn't a true shade of red.
The texture is sheer, so if you're looking for color that doesn't exactly "pop" you can wear this without lip liner. The only downfall to this is that the lipstick itself doesn't have very good staying power. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of the sheer consistency so I'll throw a red lip-liner underneath ("Cherry" by MAC seems to do just fine.) 
I usually struggle with lipsticks as I have a very small, curvy mouth. However the consistency of this lipstick is creamy so it applies beautifully -- I don't think I've ever applied a lipstick that was so easy for me to hit every little curve of my lips. 
The entire line of NARS lipsticks come in 32 shades and are infused with vitamin E to keep lips moisturized and the lipstick's color locked into place. Each shade imparts a semi-matte finish so that lips are looking velvety and full-bodied with a sheer finish.

Have any of you tried Gipsy? Or rather any lipstick by NARS?

DIY: Turmeric Mask.

If there's one thing I love, it's always a good DIY face mask.
Growing up, I spent a lot of time experimenting with different things in our kitchen (much to my mother's dismay.) Our counter tops would be strewn with eggs whites, spices, pulped fruits and vegetables -- anything that I thought would potentially give me gorgeous skin.
There was a lot of trial and error. Some things gave excellent results while others seemed to be a waste of time and resources. But that was always the fun of it -- finding the perfect combination of kitchen ingredients that would be the holy grail to all of my skin ailments.

One mask that has never failed me has been a combination of turmeric and aspirin. It seems to include properties that encompass everything that I look for in a good skin care product: brightening, exfoliating, moisturizing, and acne-fighting.
Here's a quick breakdown of the ingredients:

Aspirin (uncoated), 6 tablets
The effective ingredient in aspirin is chemically similar to salicylic acid, which is a very common exfoliant. The grainy texture of ground aspirin is an exfoliant in itself as well.
In a small bowl, cover aspirin tablets with a few drops (3-6) of warm water. Ideally, you want to make some sort of an aspirin paste that isn't runny.

Honey, 1/2 teaspoon
Honey is a natural humectant, and is therefore excellent for locking in moisture and soothing skin. Enzymes found within honey also clarify pores, keeping them clean and clear.

Yogurt (plain, full-fat), 1 teaspoon
Yogurt is full of lactic acids, which dissolves dead skin cells and leaves your skin all lovely and soft.

Turmeric, 1 teaspoon
India's most commonly used spice has also been used as a part of their skincare for centuries. One of the most important Indian wedding rituals is the "haldi" ceremony, where a paste made of milk, sandalwood, or rose water (the exact mixture depends on the individual's cultural and family customs) is mixed with turmeric and applied everywhere.
Not only is the spice exfoliating, it also dries acne, fades dark spots, and deep cleanses pore as well.
I've found that you can play around with the ingredients more or less. Personally, I like to be a little heavy-handed with the turmeric because it leaves my skin glowing afterwards. Leave it on for 20-60 minutes, and ideally wash it off over your kitchen sink, as turmeric tends to stain.

Gökotta.

Gokotta (noun): The Swedish word for rising early in the morning to hear the birds sing or to appreciate nature.


Mornings are the most beautiful part of my day. They are always peaceful, silent, and calm. This morning I woke up before dawn to watch a gorgeous Lake Superior sunrise. It was only 17 degrees at 7:16am by the lake, but I was able to embrace the cold as a reminder that I am alive, happy, and healthy.
I very much used to be a night owl -- staying awake until 2am and waking up the next day at 11am or noon. I feel like this was an unhealthy habit for my body for several reasons: I wasn't able to make the most out of my day, I was usually more tired throughout the afternoon, I would put off side projects or was never able to get things done, and I always felt as if I was in a rush.
I've found that waking up early has its benefits. Here are just a few:
1. Greet the day.
Once I'm up, I am able to recite my intentions for that day. Intentions are small promises that you make to yourself -- like small goals. My intentions are inspired by the Dalai Lama: ”Every day, think as you wake up, ‘today I am fortunate to have woken up, I am alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings, I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others, I am going to benefit others as much as I can.'"

2. Amazing start.
I used to have the terrible habit of hitting my snooze button several times before rolling out of bed. I'd be running late, be frustrated that I was running so behind schedule, and come into work barely awake and cranky. 
Now that I wake up a little extra early, I am able to get so much more done before I head to work. I come in on time fully awake and in a happy mood that lasts the entire day.

3. Quiet. 
Self explanatory. Mornings are the calm before the storm (i.e., my usually very hectic workdays.) 

4. Breakfast.
The most important meal of the day. If you take the time to prepare something that is filling, your body feels sated until lunchtime and you are less likely to reach for foods that are unhealthy.

6. Exercise. 
When I wake up, I feel a burst on energy that lasts for 2 or 3 hours, which I try to utilize. I find that this is the best time for me to exercise. I usually like doing yoga, or when it's warmer outside I prefer running. 

Aware.

A few snapshots from this past fall. All photos are taken by me, from my Instagram -- @MinnesotaN1ce

It has finally happened: the year's first snowfall. I'm embracing the cold with extreme reluctance, as my corner of the world has had such a gorgeous extended fall that I didn't want to let go of. This year the colors were shockingly vibrant and our weather was unseasonably warm. I consider myself very lucky to have been able to make the most out of my favorite season, even if its beauty is fleeting -- but as Robert Frost once wrote: "Nothing gold can stay."

I find that often times the most beautiful things in life are never permanent -- sunsets, the last burst of summer, a dalliance, dreams, or life itself. They pass us by and are bittersweet, and remain as nothing more than a brief, faded memory in the back of our conscious.
The Japanese have the perfect word for such a feeling: aware (ah-war-ay): the awareness of impermanence -- the idea that we are aware that the present moment we are living in is transient. But maybe that's what makes brief moments like autumn so beautiful -- the fact that they are only momentary, and that we should relish every second for what it is.

Adele.

What is the first thing you notice when you see Adele on the front cover of the latest issue of The Rolling Stone? Perhaps it's that she is sans makeup -- almost as if she's about to settle down with coffee and the morning paper. 
The very first thing that captivates me is that her look is direct and defiant, as if to say, "I will not be sexualized, as all of the women on this cover before me." It suggests (in no uncertain terms) that her body is not up for grabs, and that she's a woman most certainly upending norms in a male-driven industry. There is nothing lustful about the way she stares out of the image at us. In fact, her visage stands completely autonomous against its surrounding competitors -- objectified women on the covers of Cosmopolitan and Glamour and Self who vye for our attention with their airbrushed and hyper-sexualized bodies.
The image on the cover bears a single caption: "Adele -- A Private Life." When a woman puts herself in the public eye, there's an immediate sense of entitlement to her body and her life. She is pulled limb from limb by critics and the media until there is nothing left of her -- all just to satiate a hungry and perverse audience. There seems to be a general consensus that once a woman allows herself to be revealed, she is owned by those she reveals herself to.
There's a sense that the successful woman must rely on exposing herself in order to stay relevant or find success in the entertainment industry (I'm looking at you, Kim Kardashian & co.) It's like a modern Catch-22, and Adele refuses to play this. After hiding from the media for over three years she reemerges into the limelight with "Hello" -- her record-breaking single that had 1.11 million downloads within its first week. She obliterates the idea that women do not need to be "seen" in order to be desired. Her whole comeback rests squarely on the merits of her singing/songwriting abilities rather than her visibility.  

Why is it so unexpected for us to see a woman defined first and foremost by her formidability and not her sexuality? We believe that women have reclaimed their bodies, and that by displaying them in small acts of empowerment in a male-empowered industry, there's little rivalry against the idea that female attractiveness equals success. But Adele is changing the way we see her power. It doesn't emanate from her body and how she can manipulate sexual emotion in the eyes of the spectator. Her power comes from an expression that tells us that she's here, that she's independently capable, and that she will not be moved by our expectations of how she should and should not be -- and I find that to be a most admirable quality.

Fear.

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." 
- Franklin D. Roosevelt

Looking back, I can point out so many times where the fear of failure has caused me to fall short of all the things that I could have achieved. In fact, it kills to me think of where I could be today if only I had worked through the excuses I would make for myself or I had vanquished all of the self doubt procured by constantly second guessing my decisions. 

But dwelling on what I could have done or should have done doesn't help me at this point -- right now I'm focused on moving forward, and recognizing my fear of failure is a start. They say that the best way to overcome trepidation is by examining its source. I've been able to recognize four patterns in which fear has greatly limited my potential:

1. You create your goal and wait for things to happen.
You create a large goal that seems impossible to reach. Because it seems impossible, you don't act on it. Instead, you wait for some sort of cosmic shift to occur -- a cosmic shift that that will likely never happen.
You are afraid that if you try and you fail, you will not only let yourself down, you will prove that the goal itself really is impossible. 
The reality is that things will very rarely fall into your lap. Achieving your goals requires careful planning and hard work. I've found that the easiest way to reach a seemingly impossible goal is to create a list of smaller, more approachable goals. 

"Nothing is impossible. The word itself says 'I'm possible.'"
-Audrey Hepburn

2. You focus on the judgement of others.
The moment you go from "This is going to change my life for the better" to "But what will my family/peers/etc. think?" you have already inhibited your chances of moving forward. 
Everyone wants the approval of their peers, but you can't let the fear of disapproval prevent you from reaching your goals. Even if you don't necessarily agree with their judgement, take it with a grain of salt and move forward.

3. You procrastinate.
Starting a new venture is always the most difficult part, as fear lives within the act of starting. Why? 
Starting means one of two things: you will achieve the thing you set out to do, or you will fail. Failure is scary, so you decide to start later -- once you're more comfortable, once the timing is just right, once you have your ducks lined in a row -- any subtle lie that will justify why you cannot start today, right at this very moment.
Recognize procrastination for what it is: your fear that if you start, you will ultimately fail. The solution is to move anyway, even if it's just a small movement that will lead you in the right direction.

4. Life is all about trial and error.
You aren't going to live a perfect life, as perfection does not exist. But you can come close to perfection by achieving everything you could have possibly achieved, and certainly more than you have so far. However, in order to achieve you have to fail. You have to overcome your fear of failure by realizing that failure is okay. Hopefully, you will learn from your failure and try again, only this time bearing the wisdom gained from your previous experience. 


"There is only one thing that makes our dreams impossible to achieve, and that is the fear of failure."
-Paulo Coelho

Recognize failure for what it is: a natural part of life. There is no reason to fear it, and there is certainly no reason to let it hinder you from living a fulfilled life. Once you are able to recognize that fear is largely, if not totally, of your own making, you are able to push the envelope of your potential and achieve way more than you ever thought possible.

So look fear in the eyes, call it out, and keep moving forward.

Uncertainty.

"The most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why."
-Mark Twain

Not a day goes by where I don't doubt myself. I am constantly questioning my life choices -- am I on the right path to a successful future? What is my purpose in life? Am I being productive enough? I feel as if the last few years have been shrouded with uncertainty, and this leaves me constantly feeling anxious.

I remember five years ago was my freshman year of college. It was a new and exciting time -- a completely fresh start that was full of potential and opportunities. People kept asking me, "Where do you see yourself in five years?", and I would always envision a perfect future for myself: one where I was fulfilled and happy and following the perfect path to the beginning of a budding career.

Five years later, I can honestly say that I am nowhere near that vision.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that perfection does not exist. Whenever I start to stress over the uncertainty of my future or whether I'm following the right path, there are several things that I try to remind myself of:

1.  Everything is uncertain. 
When you are feeling jealous of others posts on social media, it's because you are uncertain that you are getting the most out of life. When you are procrastinating, it's because you are uncertain of whether you are capable of finishing the task at hand. When you are feeling anxiety, it's because you are uncertain about the future. When you are feeling guilty or bad about yourself, it's because you are uncertain that you are a good person/disciplined person/reaching your fullest potential.

2. Realize that this is a natural feeling, and nobody likes feeling uncertain.
If you come across someone who says that they actually enjoy not knowing what the future holds, they're fooling themselves. We all dogged by uncertainty -- there are not many of those who live without it. To cope with uncertainty, we try to find different outlets: drinking, shopping, over eating, shutting down -- all of which are unhealthy habits.

3. Notice when you are feeling uncertain.
It's important to become aware of when you are feeling anxiety, fear, procrastination, anger, self-doubt, etc. You are feeling these emotions because you are uncertain. Once you are able to realize when you are feeling these emotions, it makes it much easier for you to handle them appropriately.

4. Stay with it.
Winston Churchill once said, "If you're going through hell, keep going."
Realize that it is a natural feeling. Learn to cope with these emotions in a healthy way. Meditation, walking, and coloring are a few examples. 

5. Find the beauty in it. 
After a while, you'll realize that you're trying to know the unknowable. You don't know what the perfect path in life will be or where you'll end up. You won't know your destination until you get there. Instead of worrying about the unknowable, focus on what you have right in front of you -- live in the moment and realize that building a future takes baby steps.


"The problem, often not discovered until late in life, is that when you look for things like love, meaning, or motivation, it implies that they are sitting behind a tree or under a rock. The most successful people recognize that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, and they generate their own motivation."
-Neil deGrasse Tyson 

Tchotchkes.

Tchotchke (n.) choch-KEE: a small bauble or miscellaneous item.


I love thrifting. I'll spend all afternoon scouring the highest shelves and crawling through creepy, dusty corners of thrift shops for the most unique and beautiful little things that I can find. I get a strange thrill out of finding things to add to my almost entirely thrift-decorated apartment, as I love things that have character. 
My adventures can be hit or miss. Some days I'll be able to fill an entire basket full of things, and other days I'll come out empty handed. 
Today was a lucky day. My findings from this afternoon's hunt include:
A vintage Tetley tea tin, which now houses a few of my finest tea bags. I'm in love with it -- the colors are vibrant and the container itself is still in great shape, despite its obvious age. It looks pretty sitting at the top of my tea cabinet (which is a mecca for all things tea-related.)
A brass peacock. I fell in love with this majestic little fella right away -- I happen to love any and all things that are brass.
Two lovebirds. You can't exactly see it in this photo, but the painting actually has gold accents as well which adds a bit of depth.
Colored dishes. Stained glass window panes are crazy expensive, so a lot of times I'll find pretty colored glass to place in my window or around my apartment, which works just as well if not better. These little beauties have found a home on my coffee table where they hold incense and sage.
A turquoise bird, whose purpose I guess could be multi-faceted. It would make a cute succulent  or cactus planter, but for now it sits on a small shelf above my stove and holds toothpicks. I particularly love the colors as well -- turquoise and gold are my favorites. 

Fox Fires.

When people think of "north" they often think of cold. The farther north you travel, the more frigid the air. However, I consider myself to be incredibly fortunate to live so far north that I am able to see the northern lights. They are eerie and yet resplendent -- a billowing, vibrant display of electric fury that fills the entire night sky.
Last night the auroras made a guest appearance (a very common occurrence for this time of year), and this gave me an excellent opportunity to practice capturing them using my Nikon. Granted, it was very early in the morning and I'm tired today, I will rarely ever pass up a chance to see them.
The Ojibwe believed that northern lights were the spirits of ancient heroes battling in the sky. While this notion is romantic and I wish it were true, Aurora Borealis are actually electrically charged particles that are caused by flare ups from the sun's surface. Once these electrons reach the Earth's magnetic field, they become a gorgeous curtain of celestial colors that paints the entire northern hemisphere.
Lately I've been having these recurring dreams where I'm driving at night down a wide, pinetree-lined highway, and just above the treeline I'm able to see a flicker of the northern lights. I get excited, but my excitement quickly turns into disappointment when I realize that I won't be able to catch a good glimpse because the treetops are in the way. So I continue to drive, determined to find a spot where I can get a better view of the auroras. I take turns onto new roads but it doesn't help -- the pines are still blocking my view. I start to get frustrated, and my frustration turns into desperation because I'm afraid that I won't be able to see the northern lights before they go away. 
In all of my dreams, I am unable to get a full glimpse of the lights -- either they go away or the dream ends.

Confidence.


"Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit." 
- E. E. Cummings

Today I had an interview for a part time job to supplement my full time one. In the upcoming months I'm hoping to save as much money as I possibly can, as I have very big plans for myself that are in the not-so-distant future. Although the interview wasn't for a job that's high-profile by any means (it's in a bakery) I still felt nervous, which I guess is a natural response for almost any individual. 
Growing up, whenever my self-confidence was feeling low my mother would tell me to "walk like every step you take is exactly where you want your feet to go," which is advice that has transcended into every other facet of my life. In times where I've been confronted with adverse situations it has helped me face them with grace, positivity, and above all: confidence.

I feel that confidence is something that's always there -- something that's born within us and sometimes gets lost along the way or else worn down by others. Sometimes you have to dig deep to find it again. Confidence was our original nature before it was chiseled away by time. Once we develop a sense of being self-aware, we start forming doubts and insecurities about how other people see us. 

People will often say "fake it until you make it." But I say fake it until you become it.
Just like with anything else, in order to build confidence you must practice it -- it is a mindset. Learn to embrace uncertainty of what could potentially happen or not happen. After a while, you begin to trust your understanding as well as your way of learning, which in turn makes it much easier to approach new situations and people. Even if you feel like receding back into your shell when you're confronted with intimidating situations, your posture and body language says everything. Keep your head up, shoulders back, gaze firm, and voice steady.  By making yourself look "bigger" or more "spread out," it will give the aura of confidence (which is a tactic we often see in the animal kingdom.) 

To me, having confidence isn't knowing your abilities (or lack thereof.) It is having a correct perception of the world around you and of yourself. Having confidence does not entail knowing that you will succeed. Rather, it means knowing that failure cannot stop you.

Intent.

I feel that starting my mornings in a positive way sets the tone for my entire day. Beginning each morning with positivity sets the foundation for the way I live my life. I strive to begin each day consciously and turn it into a precious ritual of morning inspiration.
I start with this beautiful intention from the Dalai Lama:

"Today I am fortunate to have woken up,

I am alive.

I have a precious human life,

I am not going to waste it.

I am going to use all of my energies to develop myself,

To expand my heart out to others,

and achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings.

I am going to have kind thoughts towards others,

I am not going to get angry or think badly about others.

I am going to benefit others as much as I can."

By definition, an "intention" is an aim or a plan -- a deliberate articulation of a conscious goal. The above intention consists of small, daily goals for yourself: to be grateful, to make the most out of your day, to give love, and to be open-minded. By acknowledging how you desire to feel, you can enter any situation with a whole new sense of being. The classic Vedic text known as Upandishads states that "You are what your deepest desire is. As your desire is, so is your intention. As your intention is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As is your deed, so is your destiny." By embodying your daily intention, you are able to live a more authentic life.
That said, the intention cannot be forced -- you cannot set an intention you do not believe in. If done forcefully, the purpose of the intention is ruined.

Setting a daily intention takes a brief minute of my morning. It allows me to set the tone for my mood and to begin each day with a grateful, open heart.

Self.

I wanted to dedicate this post to extending a thought that I briefly touched on in Thursday's entry -- the idea of having a strong sense of self, or rather realizing who you are.
When I think of a strong sense of self, I think of emotional maturity -- the ability to understand and control your emotions and to take full responsibility for your actions.

To me, these are signs that you have a strong sense of self:

1. You are able to make your own decisions and follow your own advice.
A person with a strong sense of self is able to make their own decisions. They don't feel the urge to share every little detail of all the problems in their life in hopes that they'll be advised, reassured, or consoled by others. They are able to use logic and intuition to work through adverse circumstances.

2. You act authentically, not how you think you should act.
Having a strong sense of self involves being authentic and leaving a strong sense of ego behind. These individuals are unafraid to abandon all of the "norms" that society has placed upon them. They feel what they want to feel. They won't be sad about something because they think that's what they should be feeling. They know that every time they make an effort to respond or react in a way that is "unnatural" it just adds another facade or act that must be maintained -- which ultimately takes more effort than what it's worth. 

3. You keep promises to yourself.
It is impossible to maintain a strong sense of self if you are constantly breaking promises to yourself. Every time you break your own promises, no matter how insignificant it may seem, you start to lose trust in yourself, and hence you lose confidence in your abilities to accomplish greater things.

4. You know enough about yourself to decide how true an insult is.
When you have a strong sense of self you realize that you do not always have to react to criticism with hurt or defensiveness. You are the only one who interprets everything that is thrown your way as something belittling. Individuals who have a strong sense of self are more aware and accepting of the way they are. Nothing that you tell them will be much of a surprise, and they are able to react with emotional maturity. You do not depend on other people's words to define who you are and leave the highs of feeling complimented and the lows of being criticized. 
"Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is perspective, not the truth." - Marcus Aurelius

5. You take full responsibility for your life.
When you have a strong sense of self, you give up blaming other people and start looking at your own motives and actions. You see failures not as failures but as opportunity for growth. I once read that failures make excuses, and by making excuses rather than addressing them head on you are not taking responsibility.

6. You can set boundaries on other people's demands.
Individuals who have a strong sense of self are okay with saying no. You can look objectively at requests, make your decisions, and set boundaries kindly without being afraid of letting other people down. You see your time as a valuable resource and you don't give it away carelessly. 

7. You have your own hobbies and interests that you pursue outside of your friendships/relationships.
People with a strong sense of self are brave enough to pursue hobbies that their partner or close friends are not a part of. These individuals are the most interesting people because they place equal importance in exploring themselves. They don't always stick to what is familiar and comfortable to them. They are happy and busy people that don't depend on another person's involvement in order to pursue something that may interest them.
"I think it's very healthy to spend time alone. You need to know how to be alone and not defined by another person." - Oscar Wilde

8. You notice when you are wrong, and you are able to verbalize it with grace.
When you are wrong it is easy to get defensive and deny responsibility, or become overwhelmed with shame for our lack of ignorance or imperfection. Admitting when you are wrong takes humility, self-compassion, and courage.

9. You know how to self-soothe.
I think this is so important, as the ability to self-soothe will take you far.
In moments of conflict or emotional strife our natural response is to turn to others console you, help you understand, and and accept responsibility of the matter and implement changes.
In that moment when the storm is coming, you must become the calm. You must learn to respond and not react.
Having a strong sense of self does not exclude these individuals from experiencing conflict or emotional discomfort. Rather, their reactions to these situations are different -- they know how to console and quiet themselves. They don't try to control what is happening, they just control themselves. They don't depend on another person's reactions (or lack thereof) to feel better about themselves. They know specific things that help restore them to their natural balance -- taking time for themselves, meditation, or going for a long walk. 
In moments where you want to become more submissive or dominant -- don't. Just become more conscious.

And there you have it. Nine things that I feel define a strong sense of self and emotional maturity. They are nine truths that I strive live by that have significantly improved my overall happiness.

Pilot.

“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” 
― Christopher McCandless
I feel like in order for us to do great things we have to be shaken up a bit. Hence, we have to be cast out of our familiar surroundings and into something completely different, if not somewhat uncomfortable.
In the foregoing months I've become too comfortable -- so much so that I've accepted the every day mundane. But deep down there's been an insatiable craving for different horizons that has sat like a stone in the pit of my stomach. I can't eat or sleep because my mind is always wandering to places where I could be, or rather where I should be. 
The Germans have a beautiful word for such an obstinate feeling -- fernweh (n.): an ache for distant places; the craving for travel.

I consider myself to be very lucky. I'm young, healthy, happy, and have no real obligations or commitments. Essentially, I could be doing almost anything I wanted. However, I find myself dogged by the inevitable -- rent, student loans, a tedious desk job, a degree with no real bearing, and worst of all, the imperious "what ifs?"  What if I can't reach my goals? What if I'm making the wrong choices? What if I can't afford any of the things necessary to pursue my passions? What if I completely fail and come crashing down like the hapless Icarus after flying too close to the sun?

These "What ifs" are what have set me back for far too long. They have instilled the unnecessary fear that I am incapable of accomplishing great things. They are the reason that I retreat back into the deep recesses of things that are comfortable and familiar to me, and I have made the decision that I will no longer let these "What ifs" hold me back -- don't overthink, just do.

For the upcoming months I have set goals for myself. In a way I feel like I'm starting a completely new chapter of my life. It's refreshing, thrilling, and yet somewhat daunting knowing that my ultimate goal is still so far off. However, it eases my restless soul to be motivated by the intense desire for positive change.

A Northern Light is the backdrop to a new beginning. It is a strange and uncomfortable transition period, and I can't wait to document every moment of it.
Thank you for reading what I have to say.