The Beauty of a Daddy Issued Diva 

Father’s Day: A day to celebrate paternal bonds. What if these bonds have been broken, tampered, or never existed to begin with? Fatherless day is a bit more grim. It is not exclusive to those who have lost a parent, but also exists for those whose fathers are very much alive, but are not a part of their life. For the children of fathers who were there… but never really there. For the children of fathers who were around, but also brought a whirlwind of rainclouds and eggshells wherever they were. For the daughters who have never been “daddy’s little girl”, and roll their eyes at anyone who is.

The term “daddy issues” has such a negative connotation. Urban dictionary offers some synonyms; “slut, cougar, attention whore, bitch…” you get the idea. While the population of “daddy issued divas” may be a niche market, it is a population nonetheless. And, like any other population, stereotypes always come out to play. Unfortunately, the daddy issue stereotype is a hard one to be associated with. The second a guy finds out a girl’s dad isn’t in the picture… BAM! She must have some serious daddy issues.

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As a believer in Freudian theories, I can’t argue the importance of familial relationships in the development in personality, emotions, and future relationships. What I can argue, though, is that a damaged parental relationships doesn’t always lead to a broken person.

Here are 5 reasons why a Daddy Issued Diva is ultimately a stronger, more well rounded female;

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1. We have thick skin:

When the person who played a main role in creating you is the person who tries to break you down, you learn how to take criticism. I would often come home from school and consider myself lucky that I would never have to deal with bullies there– because I learned how to deal with the biggest bully in my own home. Yes, you read that correctly, I considered myself lucky. Call it delusional, call it reframing, but I’ll call it surviving. An empowered daddy issued diva understands that their biggest critic is themselves, so we consider our sources, and simply dust any unnecessary negativity off of our shoulders.

2. We say how we feel:

And we mean what we say. We’ve learned how to deal with our issues by discussing them (…thanks, therapy!). Bottling things up inside only leads to an explosion, and who wants to deal with that? We’ll write letters, draft blog posts, maybe even send a pigeon carrier to let you know how we feel. The trouble comes when these conversations land on deaf ears. But hey, we’re use to that.

3. We know better: 

When your baseline of comparison is an unfortunate one, you learn to raise the bar. We won’t settle for the shady characters of the world– because we’ve dealt with enough in our own home. I would rather be single for the rest of my life then settle for a relationship that is anything like the one my parent’s had. I learned by opposite example, which is a very difficult thing to do. During the worst of times my mom would tell me, “don’t do what I did.” I won’t, and you shouldn’t either. Never, ever ever ever allow anyone to make you feel like you’re not worth love and respect, because you are. 

4. We are appreciative: 

The little things count. Grand gestures are red flags, because we are use to them being distractions from the garbage that lies beneath the surface. You can’t put a price tag on a good relationship. People show their love in many different ways. In fact, receiving gifts is only one of the five love languages. In my experience, someone who only talks this language of love probably doesn’t have much love to give. However, the other four languages, (words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, and physical touch) are appreciated by daddy issued divas tenfold.

5. We are genuine: 

Knowing that we are “daddy issued” makes us vulnerable. In being in this position, the best way to carry on is to be 100% genuine in everything you say and do. My daddy issues are not something that I talk about frequently, but Father’s Day strikes a nerve for me. I cry every time I watch a father-daughter dance, because that type of love is one that I have never felt, or will ever feel. It is not the same sadness experienced by someone whose father has passed on from this world, for they can find some type of solace in their loving memories. My memories are clouded with sadness, criticism, control, insults, and downright anger. But, from darkness comes light. Although I will never be daddy’s little girl, I’ve got a strong family of boss ass women that are now capable of anything.

So, the next time you meet a Daddy Issued Diva, consider yourself lucky. Look at this girl with nothing but respect, because it is more than likely that she has been experienced a life that you never could imagine. To my Daddy Issued Divas out there– stay true to yourself, believe in the beautiful person that you are, and never settle for less than you deserve. And dad, if you happen to see this… I hope your day is mediocre at best.

 

Freedom

 

The internet has brought light to many different holidays, from National Donut Day to World Penguin Day and everything in between. Today, we’re honoring a holiday that has a far reaching significance to both groups and individuals.

April 27th is celebrated as Freedom Day in South Africa, commemorating the first post-apartheid elections in 1994. On the first anniversary of this holiday, Nelson Mandela stated,

“Few of us could suppress the welling of emotion, as we were reminded of the terrible past from which we come as a nation; the great possibilities that we now have; and the bright future that beckons us.”

The term freedom can mean different things to different people. For those who have never felt trapped, “freedom” is a broad word. To be free, unrestrained, unbound, allowed. But, for anyone who has lived under a grand sense of restraint, the meaning of the word freedom digs deeper. 

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Freedom is the oxygen of the soul.

When we are denied freedom, our growth as human beings is being stifled. Suppressed. Denied. For South Africans under the apartheid regime, freedom was determined by the color of your skin. In other instances around the globe, individuals are being denied their freedom of religion, freedom of speech, or freedom to marry the person they love. Bound by rules, laws, and judgements; there is a hell on earth that exists, and it is a life without freedom.

But freedom isn’t strictly systematic. Freedom, or lack there of, can exist in relationships. Abusive partners, denying their supposed loved one the freedom to enjoy life. To enjoy love. Preoccupations with materialistic wealth, or visions of success, rob an individual of the freedom to live their life in a way that is altruistic. Mental illness, denying their host-body the freedom of a clear mind.

Freedom isn’t free.

If you believe in something, you fight like hell for it. Nelson Mandela said, “As I walked out the door toward my freedom, I knew that if I did not leave all the anger, hatred, and bitterness behind that I would still be in prison.” Freedom begins within. You cannot conquer the outer world until you are free within the world that you have created for yourself. Your mindset. Your attitude.

As I sit here, and proudly practice my right to the freedom of speech, I think back on a life I once lived that wasn’t so free. It was a life of being controlled and manipulated, with freedom being the light at the end of the tunnel- but it always seemed too far to reach. But I fought, and I trekked, further and further, until I escaped the cage in which I was once held prisoner.

Today I celebrate my own freedom. I celebrate the freedom of my Mom, and my Sister. I celebrate the freedom of South Africans in their equality of voting rights. But mostly, I am celebrating the freedom of every single individual who knows what it feels like to fight like hell for what they know is right. What is just. What is free. 

I’m Not Done Yet. From Finstas to Finding Yourself

 

“Protopia is a state of becoming, rather than a destination.” – Kevin Kelly, The Inevitable. 

As I flip through my copy of “The Inevitable”, my mind wanders to the corners of its own protopia. Kevin Kelly describes it as a state that is better today than yesterday, although it may just be by a little bit. A Protopia is the realistic future we should be striving towards. It’s the unavoidable tomorrow that will arrive come sunrise…

As a working member of this technological society, I know first hand that we are morphing. We’re growing, expanding, and changing, every. damn. day.

You may be reading this and thinking, “duh.” We’re not static beings, but instead are multi-faceted humans with the capability to learn and morph with our environment… This is universally understood. However, how often do you stop and think about how our technological presence plays a part in all of this?

Maybe you’re one of those naysayers who believes that social media is the devil. Maybe you’re a child of the 00′s, who doesn’t know life without an online identity. Wherever you fall on this spectrum, we can all agree on one thing: the internet isn’t going anywhere. So, let’s come together & brainstorm ways to use these intertwined virtual networks to create a very real protopia.

Create

Unless you live under a rock, it is likely that you are a member of at least one social network. Whether its Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, or a blog platform like Tumblr- you have created a virtual portrayal of real life you. I had an interesting conversation with my 17 year old sister yesterday about this topic. She was talking about how important “aesthetic” has become, and the great lengths her peers will go through to completely scrap an old look to become something new. “Finstas” are being created, and for all y’all who aren’t in high school, these are fake instagram accounts used to post photos that you only want your close friends seeing. It’s not even a matter of these posts being nasty or offensive, these are typically just photos that don’t go with the users “real” insta aesthetic.

The question then becomes, what is real? 

If you scroll all the way down to my very first Instagram post, I’m still the same ol’ Lauren I am today. Just younger, and strapped with an iPhone 4. The core of a social media identity is to represent who you are, but in a virtual world. This is sort of a crazy concept to wrap your head around, so it does not come as a surprise to me that we’re running rapid with finstas and gym posts, when we haven’t once lifted a weight IRL.

On or offline, there is a (not so) simple solution to this: self awareness. 

How do you define yourself? How would you describe yourself to others?

When I was in 6th grade, I shopped at Hot Topic and listened to Good Charlotte. In 7th grade, I had a change of heart and style, and started shopping at PacSun. The middle school years are when you’re searching for your identity. Trying on different masks, seeing which one fits. If I had an Instagram back then, do you know how many punk rock princess posts I’d have to delete before setting foot in PacSun…

It is concerning to me that kids have to go through this process of finding and creating themselves with a smartphone permanently attached to their hip. Social media has become a window to the world, and rather than developing their own identities, we’re clinging to the identities of others. Everyone wants contoured skin, a million followers, and an A1 aesthetic… but are losing touch with their own reality in the process.

Don’t get me wrong, if anyone is a social media advocate – it’s me. But, I am not blind to its dangers, In fact, I’ve made it my life work to create an anecdote.

Educate

We’re always learning, whether we realize it or not. While scrolling though Instagram, you’re learning about the world. About what people ate for lunch. About protopias. Literally– anything and everything.

This classroom is an interesting one, though. With the exception of posts that are created with the intention of being educational, most users aren’t putting their content out there with the thought, “wow, someone is really going to learn something from this.” But we should. What if everyone on social media stopped and thought for a second, “what can people learn from this?” before hitting that – post – button? Unrealistic, I know. But this can be flipped. What if everyone on social media stopped and thought, “what can I learn from this?” as they are scrolling though online content. This type of open-mindedness and thirst for knowledge can lead to a more fully developed sense of self. Think about thinking. Don’t just get lost in the mindless clatter that social media can be.

Inspire

Perhaps content we see or post isn’t meant to teach a lesson, but instead has the power to spark someone’s imagination. At the core of the platform that I’ve created, Out There Social, my goal is to inspire others to leave their comfort zone. This is the fuel that ignites the fire of everything I capture, ponder, write, and share. This is why I do what I do. This is why I love social media. Because I can reach the masses with messages that are so near and dear to my heart. I left my comfort zone in the dust years ago, and have been virtually screaming from the rooftops for everyone else to do the same.

We must realize the power we have as social media beings. Anything you post online, is seen by someone. It may not be a crowd of millions, but an audience is an audience. You have the conscious choice to decide how you will use this virtual stage. You have the free will to portray yourself to this audience anyway you choose. Your best bet, be yourself. Easier said than done, when most of us have a hard time grasping who we are.

Think of yourself as an online source of inspiration. Use your voice to challenge others to think for themselves. Allow people to walk in your shoes, but give them the freedom to tie their own laces. Close your eyes an imagine your own protopia. Then, get out there and make it happen.

Imagine an alien came down to Earth, and asked you to describe the taste of water. How would you do it?

Trying to describe the nondescript taste of water, to me, is the equivalent of trying to describe what it’s like to live in an unhealthy mental state. There is nothing to compare it to. It just is.

Now, imagine this alien takes you back to their planet, and gives you a taste of what water is to them. Suddenly, you can describe what you have been drinking your whole life by comparison. You have gained a fresh perspective into a different world, allowing you to reanalyze your baseline norm.

I did not have a comprehension of how detrimental my mental state was until I learned what positive mental health was. This is a petrifying thought. For 18 years, I lived in a figurative cage— bounded by the confines of mental health. I went for physicals every year… I was a healthy specimen. I was an honor roll student, had hobbies, interests, and a great group of friends. Yet, I was ridden by anxiety—- but that was my norm. I was use to the apprehensive fears that would keep me up at night, because that’s how everyone feels, right?

My anxious mental state was just a drop in the bucket compared to the bigger issues surrounding them. For 18 years, I dealt with problems that were bigger than myself. They all revolved around one thing—- mental health. But, it was not my own mental health that consumed me, it was my Dad’s.

Have you ever met someone who had behaviors so ridiculous that you just attributed it to, “oh, that’s just who they are.” Well, let me tell you, one glance at the index of a psychology textbook will tell you, there is a rhyme and a reason for everything.

I know of many people who have grown up with a parent or loved one that was ill. Disorders of the heart, brain, muscular or skeletal system are apparent, but disorders of the mind or personality are not so easily recognizable. Sometimes, in the most frustrating of cases, the disorders aren’t even recognized by the person who is suffering. In these cases of denial, the suffering falls upon those around them. Suffering becomes a part of everyday life, but you learn to put on your big girl pants and deal with it, because everyone is dealing with something, no?

I am here to tell you, nobody deserves to suffer. You are more than your circumstance, and there is always a way out. Sometimes, you have to fight like hell, but I promise you, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Everyone says that life is short, but I think that discredits time spent suffering. I know there are people who look at me, and judge the life that I live. But you know, I wouldn’t challenge these people to try on the shoes that I have once walked in, because they have trekked through a dark, painful, and treacherous past.

Yes, life is short, and there will be suffering that we cannot control. That is inevitable. But we must recognize the things that we can work at— with mental health being at the top of this list. Sometimes, this means making hard decisions, and doing things we don’t want to do— such as seeking treatment. The ratio of those who would benefit from speaking with a mental health professional and those who actually do is incredibly skewed— which I personally think is a MAJOR underlying reason behind many of the problems in our world as a whole, but I digress.

The fact that #WorldMentalHealthDay is trending is a victory for the entire world. Between the election, clowns, and everything in between, we can scroll through a feed of support for those who know what it is like to fight an internal battle. Today is a day that we recognize the warriors who have overcome wars within themselves, and more importantly, letting it be known that you are not alone. There may not always be answers, but there is always someone who will listen to you. Who will understand you. Who will support you. Who will let you know, you are not crazy. No one deserves to feel that the weight of the world is resting on their shoulders. No one deserves to think that “grinning and bearing it” is any way to get through life. You deserve happiness. You deserve mental freedom. You are entitled to your health.

’Twas the night before school starts, as I lie in my bed,
thoughts of new lessons race through my head.

A journey on hiatus for about 2 years,
as I traveled the country and conquered my fears.

Now it is time to get back to the grind,
Researching articles, stimulating my mind.

Deepening my passion for psychology:
from Bachelor’s, to Master’s, now on to PhD.

A dream I had reasonably put on the shelf,
Is now within reach, so I can better myself.

A deep desire that my heart has been yearning,
that magical quest: the adventure of learning.

I’ll be up late doing homework, you’ll probably be snorin’,
But one day soon, I’ll be Dr. Lauren.

So, on this, the eve of my first day on this quest,
I leave you with this poem to get the excitement off my chest!

I am here to debunk several patterns of close-minded thinking. What comes to mind when most people think social media: selfies, hashtags and narcissism. They think, this generation doesn’t stand a chance, because they are so self absorbed in the world wide web, they lost the ability to communicate face to face.

While yes, I’ll have to agree, the number of duck faced selfies is disheartening, I am going to have to take a stand against the pessimism surrounding a world that is so near and dear to my heart.

The social media boom happened within my lifetime. I remember my mom taking me to the library as a kid, playing computer games, teaching me to become more savvy than I was able to realize. Next came my family’s first desktop computer being installed in the den (…it was a Dell, and I’m not talking pop singer). Soon after came “AOL”, when I created my first screen name: Cimba12000 (Cimba was my dog, don’t ask where the 12000 came from). What spiraled after that was a world-wind of AIM profiles, away messages, buddy chats, homepages, and icons, until one day, a brand new world was created: MySpace.

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I was the girl people would give their myspace passwords to, so they could “pimp them out.” I became proficient in HTML by the 7th grade, and would help create “sick layouts”, to make my profile stand out amongst the pack. When I started high school, a friendship began when a girl came up to me and said, “Hey! I recognize you from Myspace…”

I followed the ebbs and flows of this world of social interaction, and kissed Tom from Myspace goodbye when Facebook entered the room. At first, it was strictly for college kids. Soon enough it became open to the general public, and naturally, I was one of the first to make the switch. This gave me the learning curve I needed to hit the ground running, maintaining my throne as a social media queen.

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Fast forward to today, we’re switching app to app from Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Youtube, and Google+, just to name a few. Social media as become an entity that most people can’t remember life without. Being so engaged in the timeline (Facebook reference intended) of this crazy world from the start is what gives me such passion for it, and has led me to my current career: Social Media Publicist.

It drives me crazy when people say, “Oh, so you just Facebook for work?” Another line that drives me nuts, “You studied psychology, when are you going to get a REAL job in the field…?” Ouch. The science that goes behind social media is an intricate one. If you think about it in simplest form, social media is people’s thoughts, conversations, and actions being recorded; allowing us to study it in both a qualitative and quantitive way…. that is a psychology major’s dream.

In grad school, we were inspired to become not psychologists, but agents of social change. As we went up, one by one, presenting our capstone research, many people applied their studies to the world of mental health counseling: hospital settings, rehabs, schools, and even businesses. Then, I went up there, and presented my research on using social media to change the stigma of mental health. After I concluded, my professor, and director of the Master’s Program stood up and said, “This is what Community Psychology is all about. Using the lessons and techniques we have learned, and applying them in a setting where people would least expect it.”

Taking what I have learned in the classroom, on the internet, and in this crazy reality called “life,” I bought a web domain and named it “Out There Social.” I wasn’t sure what to do with it, but I knew I needed it.

Here I am, on my 3 year anniversary of working as a Social Media Publicist, virtually screaming from the rooftops: Social Media is what we make it. It’s something that’s created by us… so if we don’t like what we’re seeing, let’s change it.

Out There Social became my platform for promoting resiliency, confidence, and positive mental health in the most fun, exciting, and aesthetically pleasing way I possibly could. I truly believe the power is in our hands (quite literally, our fingertips), to change the world. Next week, I will begin my journey on the road to a PhD, studying the use of Social Media in the world of psychology.

On my first day of grad school, I was assigned a question, “What does it mean to be an agent of social change?” So here it is, my response, (written in Sept. 2012), which perfectly sums up everything I believe about social media, why I work in the field, why I will continue to study it, and why I am so head over heels in love with it:

“In psychology, the tools we need to change, help, or make a difference are already within us. The job of a psychologist is to communicate to the world how we access these tools, and what to do with them. We are surrounded by psychology whether we recognize it or not…. A psychologist, or an agent of social change, has the important job of making the components of the field recognizable by everyone.

The important role of psychologists is to learn from this, and inform the population on the skills they need to properly handle the problems life will throw at you. As time progresses, problems become more complex. Technology has changed drastically since the time of Miller’s addresses, which introduced a new version of old problems– such as cyber-bullying. Face-to-face communication was also greatly impacted by the changing times, meaning some people relate better to a computer screen than a human.

On the bright side, technology makes psychological research and information instantly available. Miller states, “the practice of valid psychology by non-psychologists will inevitably change people’s conception of themselves and what they can do” (Miller, 1969). Due to the fact that technology connects both psychologists and non-psychologists, if used correctly, this may be the tool we are looking for to implement a mass social change.” – Lauren DiTo