MALE BOX: Leaving Your Comfort Zone

By Matt G.

Routine is safe. It’s secure. It’s, well . . . comfortable.

It can be truly comforting to know what to expect when you go to school or work each day. The “comfort zone” often gets an unwarranted bad rap, and leaving one’s comfort zone is lauded as a heroic deed. Is being in your comfort zone really that bad? That’s what I wondered when I contemplated leaving my job to pursue another degree.

While there was nothing wrong with my 8:00–5:00 job, I would not have had the opportunities, growth, and friendships I currently enjoy if I had not shaken up my life and moved to College Station, Texas (a city I had never been to in a state I had only visited once prior to my first day of class).

As someone who studied English, editing, and Russian in college and worked primarily as a writer thereafter, enrolling in this program meant leaving behind a steady job with a decent paycheck to take Master’s level classes in subjects I had zero familiarity with. It meant trading in my comfort zone for business classes that at times seemed more foreign than studying Russian.

comfort zone

But you know what? The personal growth has outweighed the hardships. It has been totally worth it. And it will be worth it for you too if you decide to do something you really want to do—something that seems impossible.

That something could be a variety of things:

  • Trying out for a sports team
  • Singing a solo
  • Becoming a foreign exchange student
  • Volunteering at a hospital
  • Going on a mission trip

Doing these things will more than disrupt your comfort zone. It will change your life for the better. You will increase your education, enhance your knowledge, and become a more well-rounded person. Add in the sense of satisfaction that comes from doing something you never thought you could do.

I wish you the best of luck as you leave behind your old life and go for your goals.

Matt is a former copywriter, columnist, and Russian interpreter. He only took one business class as an undergrad. Today he is on the Mays MBA Student Advisory Board and is President of SHOC (Students Helping Our Community).

Ha-Ha-Happy: How Happiness Leads to True Beauty

By Lauren T.

It seems there is no end to beauty products these days and their promises to make us look like celebrities. The world tells us that beauty comes in a bottle or a tube. But the most beautiful women are those who are happy with themselves and who take time to laugh.

So instead of giving in to the latest makeup trends, do something better for your body. Laugh! Not only is laughter the best medicine, it’s the best natural beauty product. And just a little laughter goes a long way. Read on to discover four beautiful benefits of laughter:

1. Laughter relaxes your muscles for up to 45 minutes. When your muscles are relaxed, your face looks softer and you prevent wrinkles from forming.

2. Laughing boosts your immune system and increases blood flow, which helps you fight disease and gives your skin a healthy glow.

3. Laughter also produces endorphins, which promote overall happiness and can temporarily relieve pain. The next time you have a headache, instead of popping chemical-laden pills, try popping in a funny movie.

4. Laughter makes you more attractive to others. Think about it, who doesn’t want to spend his life with someone who is happy and healthy?

laugh

It’s important to make time for laughter every day. Try these easy tips to get more “ha ha” in your day:

Be around people who make you laugh. You’ll have a great time, and your body will thank you.

Spend time on Pinterest—there’s a whole humor section! Sneak a peek during lunch or after school or work. Now you have an excuse. You’re welcome.

Do Laughing Yoga. It’s a practice that combines breathing, stretching, and unconditional laughter. Try it at home or go to http://laughter-yoga.meetup.com/ to find a laughter group in your area.

Laugh at yourself. Chances are, something frustrating will happen today. You’ll forget your homework, get to work late, or miss the bus. Just remember the old commercial slogan, “Don’t get mad, get glad!” Learn to laugh it off, and you will be a happier, prettier you.

Listen to a comedian. This is a great way to get some laughs in while wading through chores or working out. You can find many hilarious comedians through Pandora or Netflix.

Whatever option you choose, find a way to add laughter to your beauty routine. It’s the best, most natural thing you can do for yourself every day.

Discovering My Own Self Worth Through Writing

By Erin J.

A five year process has just become a big milestone in my life: my first novel is now available for purchase on Amazon Kindle. But writing Walls was also a process in self discovery. Through writing Walls, I was able to take a journey into my own struggles and inadequacies and discover my own self worth through my character.

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The story focuses on the Biblical account of Rahab, the harlot who saved the Israelite spies and was in turn saved when Joshua’s army knocked down the walls of Jericho.

When I first read the Bible account, I felt a personal connection to this young woman, mentioned so briefly in the Bible. What was life like as a harlot? Did she feel lonely? Scared? Worthless? Why had she decided to save the Israelites and join their nation and religion? How did religion and spiritual discovery play a part in what she did?

Although I don’t know what it’s like to be a harlot, I think all of us understand what it’s like to feel worthless, weak, and unloved. As I wrote about Rahab’s struggles, I drew from my own feelings and experiences, particularly during my teenage years. Like Rahab, I was also worth a lot in God’s eyes; but, like Rahab, it took me a little while to realize it.

Like Rahab, I hope that we can all break down the “walls” of our own inadequacies and find our inner strength.

If you’re interested in learning more about these topics, you can purchase Walls here.

MALE BOX: Why Education is Attractive

By Matt G.

As a man and the author of Male Box, I freely admit that sometimes girls confuse me.

One particular instance that sticks out in my mind was when I was in high school. I was at a church function and talking to a female classmate whom I thought was super cute. As we talked, however, my feelings of a crush quickly turned into feeling of confusion as the girl told me about the crash diet she was on.

As I mentioned, I thought this girl was very cute. As she explained her crash diet plan, I thought it sounded like the worst idea in the history of the world, and had no idea why anyone would ever want to do such a thing.

Confused, I asked her why she was on such a seemingly unnecessary, miserable diet. Her response was, “I want to be more attractive.”

In the years since that conversation, I have thought a lot about what makes someone attractive. I have come to the conclusion that attractiveness is not a measurement you see standing on the scale nor a result of the brand of clothes you wear. It is not a result of the color or the straightness of your hair, nor is it having the “ideal figure.”

True attractiveness cannot be found looking in a magazine or even by looking in the mirror. Rather, it is a measure of who you are inside, your inner beauty. And one important way to enhance your inner beauty is through gaining intelligence.

Education and knowledge are truly attractive. Here is why.

More education makes conversation easier. The more two people know, the more they will have in common. It goes without saying that this makes communicating and getting to know one another easier. It also means that there will be more shared interests, and therefore a higher likelihood of doing social activities together. Developing lasting relationships starts with shared interests and intellect, so why not study harder to enhance both?

Education is an indicator of motivation. By going to school and getting good grades, it shows that you know how to work hard. Even when school is trivial or boring, when you work hard, it is obvious you have the motivation to not give up.

This is very attractive to guys. It is also a very valuable characteristic to have in life. It means that no matter how difficult things may be, the ability to work hard and do difficult things will be enough to overcome all obstacles.

What could be more attractive than a modern-day “Superwoman” who never gives up? While you may not actually be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, you can push yourself to become better, and that is super awesome and attractive. And it all starts with education.

Books are cool.  It is impossible to get a decent education without reading a lot of books. In the old days, “bookworms” were viewed as nerdy and boring. That is not the case anymore. Books are cool and nerdy is the new attractive.

girl reading

You know how in movies like Mean Girls and She’s All That, the smart girl becomes the most attractive girl—both inside at out—at the end of the movie? In real life, it doesn’t take guys that long to figure it out.

Sure, there are some shallow guys that only look at body figure (these are the types of guys you should avoid like the plague, by the way), but every good, worthwhile guy respects education and books. After all, books are the source of adventure and wisdom.

If you want to become more attractive, hit the books harder, or even pick up a novel more frequently. Education is admirable and appealing. Education garners respect, which will only increase how others view you. Plus, it will also increase your respect for yourself.

Of course it’s important to look your best, but your outward appearance isn’t as important as the knowledge you possess and the wisdom you have learned. Education will make you beautiful, inside and out.

 Matt G. is grateful for his opportunity to receive an education, and he loves learning new things every day. He frequently posts for TRU, offering a man’s perspective on inner beauty.

Body Image: The Middle Ground

By Erin J.

I’m the type of person who usually sees 2 (or more) sides to an issue, and something that has bothered me a lot lately is how to reconcile body image.

This has been particularly prevalent in my mind lately because I work for a company that sells health supplements, supplements that are meant to help people lose weight, improve athletic performance, and altogether achieve a better body.

Some people would argue that these supplements are wasteful. That you should be happy with the body you have and stop obsessing over trying to look like someone else.

On the other hand, other people believe that achieving the best, fittest body you can is improving your health and is a form of honoring and respecting your body.

I see the benefits and errors of both sides. On one hand, no matter how hard you work, you will never achieve “the perfect body.” You might try every workout, diet, and supplement you can, but if your motivation is to look as hot as someone else, you’ll never be satisfied.  Your beauty needs to start from within.

But then there’s the other side to the issue. If you don’t care about your health, including losing weight if you need to and getting fit if you want to, it can cause all kinds of problems which affect all aspects of your health: physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual.

As I think about these issues, there are a few points that come to mind:

  • Like we believe and talk about so much at TRU, your inner beauty is more important than your outer beauty. You need to work on your spiritual, mental, and emotional health in conjunction with your physical health. If you focus on just one aspect of beauty, you will never be satisfied.
  • Your body was given to you by God. Keeping your body healthy is important. It’s crucial that you eat right and exercise. An unhealthy body negatively affects your spiritual, mental, and emotional health as well.
  • BUT your fitness goals should come for the right reasons. If you simply want to look hot or fit an ideal image, you’re never going to be satisfied.
  • It’s easy to make things your “idol.” For some people, looking hot or fit is their idol. All they think about is losing weight or getting fit, and they don’t focus on other aspects of their lives. It’s okay to be fit, but you need to find a balance.
  • Remember, you need to focus on all aspects of health, and in my opinion, your spiritual health is the most important. Work first on your relationship with God and with yourself, because that will affect every aspect of your health. If you truly believe God loves you, and if you learn to love yourself, than you won’t feel the need to beat yourself up about how you look.
  • You shouldn’t compare your own body to other people’s. Just don’t. Everyone is completely unique. Compare only your present self to your past self. If you’ve become healthier, more energetic, and happier than you were in the past, than you’re on the right track.

body image

Like many of you, I’ve personally struggled with a lot of these issues. For as long as I remember, I’ve struggled with my weight. For the most part, I’ve tried not to let it bother me. I think this is because I’ve tried to put my relationship with God first. I believe that I am a beloved daughter of God, and this makes me happy, no matter my physical struggles. I know God has given me specific talents and personality traits that make me unique, and that He has work for me to do.

But God has also given each of us trials to help us grow stronger, and I think that weight is one of those—albeit minor—trials for me.

Throughout my teenage years, my weight constantly fluctuated. I didn’t worry about it, until eventually people close to me told me I needed to lose weight. That hurt. It made me feel inferior, and that my weight was entirely my fault.

I worked hard to exercise and eat right, but that was hard to do when I was eating the same foods as my family and friends. I gained some weight in college, but I wasn’t too worried about it. Then I decided to serve a mission for my church. I’m not blaming the mission on my weight, but let’s just say that the lifestyle made it extremely difficult to maintain a healthy weight. We had hardly any time to exercise and were driving from appointment to appointment throughout the day. I was also fed meals by many generous people, but they often offered me foods high in refined carbohydrates and sugar. As a result, I gained 20 lbs. on my mission.

When I got home, my physical health was at a low point for me, and I knew it. Fortunately, I took action. I saw a doctor, who informed me of medical conditions I had that made it difficult to lose weight. I found out there were things I couldn’t control, but fortunately, there were also things I could control.

I saw a dietician, who helped me learn which types of foods were best for me personally. I made subtle but important changes to my diet. I continued to exercise regularly and started going to a gym, where I discovered exercise classes I enjoyed. Due to small lifestyle decisions, I was able to lose the weight and keep it off.

Throughout the whole ordeal, I didn’t believe God thought any less or more of me based on my weight. He loved me just the same, and when I was ready to change my body, He was ready to help me.

Furthermore, I didn’t think I was less of a person for having gained some weight. I wanted to lose the weight, but not so I could look hot or feel better about my worth. I wanted to look better, certainly, but mostly I wanted to be healthy again.

The “battle of the bulge” is an ongoing battle that will probably never end for me. But I’ve learned a lot of things about my specific health needs and what I can do to improve my health. I’m in great physical shape now (for me). Recently, I ran a 5K. I love fitness and being active, and luckily, my health isn’t stopping me.

What I learned from all of this is that there are perhaps matters related to health and appearance that each of us can improve. But change is a gradual process. We should be happy with the person we are, yet constantly striving to be a better version of ourselves. That means we’re setting goals to improve all aspects of our health: physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual.

If we fall back a little on our goals, that doesn’t diminish our worth or our inner beauty. We just keep going forward and try to be a little better each day, and that’s what a healthy body image is all about.

This isn’t by any means a conclusion on all matters of body image. My understanding of the topic is definitely ongoing. If any of you have thoughts or experiences related to body image, I would love to see your comments!

Erin J. is a writer and thinker. In her “real job” she writes web content; in her “preferred job” she writes young adult and children’s lit. She loves peanut butter and sunshine.

Taking Control: What I’ve Learned from Having PKU

By Elisa S., http://meupku.wordpress.com/

“This isn’t fair! I hate this! It’s not my fault!”

We’ve all felt this way at some time or another. Believe me, I’ve been tempted to feel this way as well.

I have phenylketonuria or PKU, a rare metabolic disorder, which means my body can’t metabolize one of the amino acids in protein. Because of this, if I were to eat a normal amount of protein there would be a build up of this amino acid, phenylalanine, in my blood. This would cause brain damage and cognitive/emotional problems.

Fortunately, just a few decades before I was born it was discovered that being on a low-protein diet for life can prevent this brain damage and people with PKU can have normal healthy lives.

What this means for me is that I can’t eat meat or eggs or nuts or even cheese or pasta. I have never eaten a hamburger in my life!

Also, in order to get the protein and other nutrients I need I have to drink 32 oz. of a not-so-delicious-tasting formula every day.

Elisa

Me with the formula I drink every day

Now, before you start feeling sorry for me you should know that I am totally used to this and I have no problem with it. I have accepted PKU as the way my life is.

Following the diet has allowed me to do everything I want to do in life. Being grateful for my situation has allowed me to be content. Helping others who have PKU gives me deep fulfillment and satisfaction.

You may have a different challenge in your life than PKU, but we all have challenges outside our control. What we can control is how we react to them.

Choosing Not to Be a Victim

Complaining and giving up is one way to look at an undesirable situation. But it really doesn’t help you. If that is your outlook you are making yourself a victim of your circumstances. You are giving away your power to things that are outside of your control.

Don’t be a victim.

It may seem at times that the only way to get attention is to say something negative. I’ve even noticed that sometimes people who don’t know what to say to each other just complain about something and then they feel like they connect with a shared negative feeling. That type of connection isn’t very deep and doesn’t lead to genuine friendships. The truth is, everyone really likes being around a person who is positive and outward focused (meaning aware of those around them).

Because PKU is a genetic disorder with no cure, there is literally nothing I can do to change it. If I went around hating that I had PKU every day, I would be pretty miserable.

But I can choose my attitude. I can choose to stick to the diet that keeps my mind and body healthy. And I can choose to enjoy the foods I can eat, to be so grateful that I was born after treatment for this disorder was discovered, and to reach out to others who have it and try to help them embrace it as well.

Locus of Control

In psychology there is a term called locus of control. If you have a high outer locus of control you feel that most of your success, happiness, failure, or disappointment comes from circumstances outside of your control. This is being a victim. This leaves you at the mercy of what happens to you.

Having a strong inward locus of control means you believe your choices and attitude determines what your life is like. This is empowering.

I was diagnosed with PKU as a baby, so I wasn’t exactly thinking about locus of control at that point. But as I’ve grown up I’ve realized that this attitude has really made a difference in my life and that it can apply to other situations in life as well.

Acceptance and Taking Control of Your Life

Whenever you feel stressed or upset it may help to pause and consider these questions.

  • What am I feeling?
  • Why am I feeling this way?
  • What can I do about it?

First you need to figure out what you’re actually feeling. Sometimes we get so busy we don’t have time to pause and think or realize how our feelings are affecting our behavior. This may cause us to take out our stress on those around us or place unfair blame on them.

Once you’ve identified the feeling, determine why you are feeling that way. It may be a conversation at work that didn’t go very well, or an expectation you had that was disappointed.

The last step is the most empowering. Once you’ve identified the cause of your feeling, you need to see what you can do about it.

Chances are there are both factors that are within your control and factors that are not. Maybe you could have explained yourself better to your boss, or your expectation could have been more realistic. On the other hand, maybe your boss’s personality just doesn’t click with yours and you’re going to have to accept that.

The key is to accept the things that are not in your control, and work on the things that you can improve. This frees you from being a victim. This helps you gain control of your life.

My experience embracing PKU has taught me that practicing acceptance and developing your inner locus of control will build your self-confidence. Your positive outlook on life will make people like being around you and will help them be more positive as well. And that is what TRU beauty is all about.

Elisa is a full-time mom of one so far. She sings and teaches piano lessons, and she enjoys watching National Geographic documentaries with her husband and being outdoors. She blogs at http://meupku.wordpress.com/.

The Power of Being Genuine

By Marianne M.

I believe in being genuine. It is the key to developing beautiful relationships with others throughout life. Its absence, however, leads to poor, low-quality relationships.

Being genuine, according to the dictionary, means being “truly what something is said to be; authentic.”

Being genuine—being your full, true self—can be scary; it involves vulnerability and can expose your weaknesses, and yet I believe it is required to be truly happy.

Now, being genuine does not mean that you say whatever you are thinking out loud the moment you are thinking it. And it doesn’t mean you tell people everything about you straight up.

I believe being genuine involves looking people in the eye when you talk to them, using body language that shows you are truly listening to them, and responding with questions that indicate your interest. When you do this you are communicating that you care about the person you are interacting with, and that is the most genuine thing you can do. In this sense, being genuine is a huge facet of possessing charity, or loving others purely. I believe truly genuine people have charity, which is the greatest source of true beauty there is.

In college, I had the chance to study marriage and family related issues, including pornography addiction. While this is a sober topic, I learned a great deal about the antithesis of being genuine–fear.

People who are addicted to pornography usually get there by being afraid to tell a loved one about what they are feeling.  Insecurity, curiosity, and a sense of anonymity lead people into habits they forever regret. If they would have just told someone about the images or videos they came across when they were 11 years old; if they would have just reached out for support early on rather than recoiling in shame and fear; if they would have just felt comfortable asking their parents about what they saw and what to do about it–families and lives could be saved.

Similar tragedies occur when people refuse to be genuine in relationships with their significant others or even with their family and friends. Once again, that reaction is created by fear–fear to trust and to allow yourself to hope in someone. It leads to unnecessary power struggles in relationships, where people are striving to be right more than they are striving to be kind.

genuine

If you are genuine, you bring out openness and truth in others. Relationships will never be a game to see who can win over whom; instead, relationships will be about true admiration and regard that is genuinely expressed in faith, not fear. This is beautiful. The media doesn’t tell you about this, but let me tell you a secret–this is TRUE LOVE! And it has nothing to do with being pretty, cool, thin, or anything to do with sex! *gasp* (Of course, sex is a wonderful conduit for true love within marriage, but true love is deeper than sex.)

The point is this: cultivating the attribute of being genuine and open can save you a lot of grief and bring you A LOT of joy. When people confront truly genuine people, they have a hard time not being genuine themselves. Openness begets openness; a soft, genuine heart begets a soft response.

Here are some practical ways you can be genuine in your life:

  • Express your feelings TRUthfully
  • Look people in the eye when you tell them how you feel
  • Show sincere interest when conversing with friends and family
  • Avoid letting fear guide you in any relationship
  • Be transparent when saying sorry to someone; show that you truly feel it and have a desire to be better
  • Be your authentic self; live your beliefs; don’t just do what everyone else is doing
  • Openly reach out to your loved ones when you are struggling; know you do not have to fight your battles alone
  • Express trust and hope in other people, and in order to do that, you must first trust and hope in yourself

If you have been seriously hurt when being genuine, and are afraid to do it again, don’t be afraid. Healing will come, and you will feel the ability come to you again.

By being genuine, you will avoid making mistakes that lead to loneliness and despair. By being genuine, you will openly admit your mistakes and say you’re sorry, and yet have hope that you can improve. By being genuine, you will communicate to people that your love is real and undefiled. By being genuine, romantic relationships will be the sweetest they can possibly be. In fact, being genuine makes ANY relationship fulfilling and lasting.

Being genuine and real are huge aspects of being TRUly beautiful  : )

Marianne M. has a bachelor’s degree in Marriage and Family Studies. She loves studying social issues, loves the gospel of Jesus Christ, and wants to be an influence for good in the world.

My Confidence Shift

By Megan A., http://meganbethadventures.blogspot.com/

After my first semester of college, my self-worth had taken a beating. I had fallen into the trap of feeling that I wasn’t “enough,” and that included everything—from being “outgoing enough” to “beautiful enough” for anyone to like.

In an attempt to reach out to me, my dad took me on a drive through the canyons. And he said something that struck me. He said, “I’m not going to make this a conversation where I say over and over again that you’re beautiful and you don’t believe me. But I need to start with this—that you are beautiful, and if there’s a word I would use to describe you, it would be elegant.

driving though canyon

The word was like a lightning bolt to my head and heart. Elegant. That was more than just a catchphrase. There was power in that word. Power, confidence, and poise.

Hearing my father use that word to describe me wasn’t an ego-booster. It caused me to think about what I really wanted to be. I didn’t just want to build my self-worth on media’s distorted perceptions of what it means to be beautiful, my own self-doubts, or what other people said. I wanted confidence. I wanted grace. I wanted to be elegant.

I don’t know if my dad knows just how much that talk meant to me. But it shifted my view as to what truly makes a woman beautiful—not her outward appearance, but who she is. And when a girl or woman knows who she is and is happy with that . . . well, that my friends, is confidence.

I remember another confidence shift for me happened while I was serving as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Ukraine. On my mission, in a foreign country without family, friends, or anything familiar to turn to, I came to know what it was like to be forsaken and alone, and how to turn to God completely.

It was through these difficulties that a transformation came to me. I can’t even pinpoint how it happened, but slowly and surely, I began to gain true confidence. I realized my worth before God, and I knew that worth was infinite.

I wrote these words in my journal, about nine months after I started my mission:

“I’ve become more loving during these past nine months. And more sure of myself. . . . I just feel like myself. I know who I am. And I’ve found that I like this girl—I like myself.”

aDSC7495

Me right before I left for my mission in Ukraine

That is, I believe, a desire of all women—to be able to like ourselves. And we should! Because in all reality, we are incredible. We are fighters. We are heroes. We teach, reach, and love. We should be proud of who we are and who we are becoming. We are beautiful.

Confidence always shines through. And that confidence is beautiful.

Megan A. is a writer, student, and friend who blogs at http://meganbethadventures.blogspot.com/