The time I did a love challenge

A few weeks ago I had this brilliant idea. Inspired by Aileen Xu and her wonderful Artist of Life workbook, I decided to persuasively invite my two dearest friends to do a love challenge.

In her workbook, Aileen encourages us to write down 10 things we love about ourselves. To nurture self-love and confidence. As I was writing down some things I sincerely loved about me, I began to wonder – how different are the things I love the most about myself from the things the people closest to me love about me? And what can I learn from that?


WHAT IS THE LOVE CHALLENGE?


It consisted of the following:

  1. we each write down 5 things we love about ourselves
  2. we each write down 5 things we love about the other person
  3. a few days later we email each other our answers
  4. share with each other our reactions to what the other has said

HOW IT WENT


The first thing my friend told me when she reacted to my email was something along the lines of “I’m surprised by almost everything you wrote about me.” On the other end, I wasn’t so much surprised by her answers (because she usually expresses her admiration for others naturally), but more on the side of “I don’t usually see any of these as such great things to love about me, or consider them my strengths, but I am so glad that you appreciate them!”

On my email I wrote this about my friend:

“[I love] your shamelessness: yeah. for me who’s always been ashamed of so many of my feelings and likes, and afraid to show my feelings, you are incredible. I love things silently, you love them out loud without caring who hears. truly. it’s inspiring.”

The absolute best part about this whole challenge was the feedback I got from my friend on this particular point. She couldn’t comprehend why someone would be ashamed of liking something. “What is there to be ashamed about liking something? There’s nothing bad about it!”

Later, I would tell her that if you try too hard to fit in, and if people consistently tell you that something you like is stupid as you grow up, you end up being ashamed to show your love for certain things. To me, it’s always heartwarming to see someone else express their love shamelessly, because I can’t (and I really wish I could!).

This is what she told me:

“(…)because I didn’t see you learn how to love things, it’s like it was always a part of you. Because you don’t express the surprise of loving something it doesn’t seem like a new thing, it just seems like it has always been there. I didn’t even consider it love, I just considered it a part of your personality. I just thought you were a pink girl. I don’t think about me like that. I separate myself from the things that I love, but when I think about you, I don’t separate them. They are all you. Weird, right?”

Did you notice that what I love so much about her is something I don’t have that I wish I did?

I admire what I see in her as bravery because being honest about my likes and feelings is hard for me, therefore her openness about it could only be perceived as bravery for me. And I admire her for it. But to her, it’s the simplest thing!

My friend Sara is not afraid of showing her likes and feelings – it’s the most natural thing! So, to her, she’s not being brave when she does it, meaning she will not value this quality in her the same way I do.

What’s more, because to Sara it’s natural to show excitement over a new thing, and since I didn’t behave like that, my likes and loves didn’t even register as such to her. They were just who I am.

It was when I came to this conclusion that I knew I had found the answer I was looking for when I created this challenge: the things we love about others are a reflection of the things we value and fear the most in our lives. We love others in conformity with how we love ourselves. We hate others in conformity with how we hate ourselves.

In simpler terms, we tend to love and appreciate in others what they have that we think we lack, and would love to also have. And because love and hate are so connected, we might also hate others for the same reason.

This is why loving yourself is so important. Because the more parts of me I love, the more parts in others I will find worthy of love as well. I will not resent, I will appreciate. I will not envy, I will celebrate and support.


LET’S DO THE CHALLENGE TOGETHER?


Since it turned out to be such a nice way to share love for me and my friend, I thought, on this month that is considered to be the month of love, why not spread the love further? Let’s all share one thing we love about ourselves, and one thing we love about someone else in our lives.

Here’s what you have to do to participate:

  1. Go to my INSTAGRAM or  TUMBLR (if you wish to do the challenge anonymously).
  2. Leave me a message with something you love about yourself + something you love about someone else in your life (no need to identify who the other person is)

I will compile all the answers and share them on Valentine’s Day on a very special post!

Up for it?

Let’s spread the love ❤

P.S.: Please remember that if you do this I might share you answer on the blog and on Instagram, so before submitting your answer, consider whether you’d like to do this anonymously or not!

Photo by Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash

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Why Kim Namjoon is a remarkable leader

I remember being a little kid and, in my naive simplistic eyes, dividing grown ups into black and white categories: moms and dads, rich and poor, cool and cranky… the categories went on and on. Among them was bosses and employees.

It was only somewhere between high school and college that I began to understand that between those two categories I defined in my childhood, there is another, much more important one: the leaders.

In college, I was taught through lessons the difference between a leader and a boss. I took my notes, I passed my tests, and I knew the importance of that difference. But, after graduation, it’s in observing people who lead that I learn the most.

Kim Namjoon is one of those people.


WHO HE IS


Namjoon and a Rainbow

Being only 23, and the leader of 6 other boys who have taken the world by storm, breaking records, earning the trust of millions of fans, has made me rethink my perspective of what makes a good leader.

In case you have been sleeping under a rock for the past few months and don’t recognize him, Kim Namjoon (a.k.a RM), is a Korean rapper/musician, leader of the Korean group BTS. If you know me, you know I love BTS. And I don’t love them just because. Although I don’t want to  delve too much into the reasons why the group is amazing (I would probably get too carried away), the truth is, one of the biggest reasons why they are indeed great is because they have an incredibly talented leader guiding them through their career.

There’s no need to say much. We can all imagine what it would be like when 7 young people barely out of school get together to make music and become performers. How much conflict there must have been, how much insecurity and self hatred and fighting. All we have to do is think back to those group projects in school to know it’s not easy.

Now imagine doing that for 4 years, whilst somehow growing into friends that are like family, allowing everyone to have their say and their input, and, in the end, making beautiful songs that relate to every single one of them as well as their fans.

A boss cannot do that. A good leader can.


A REMARKABLE WEAKNESS


On more than one occasion, in songs and outside of them, Namjoon has discussed the fact that he has trouble loving himself. As an outsider, I first found it incredible – how someone who has done so many amazing things cannot find it in himself to love who he is. But the truth is, we are ruthless toward ourselves, aren’t we? Always expecting the impossible.

But you know, sometimes
I really really hate myself
To be honest, quite often
I really hate myself
When I really hate myself, I go to Dduksum
I just stand there with the familiar darkness

With the people that are smiling
And beer, which makes me smile
Coming to me softly
Fear, which holds my hand

– RM “Reflection”

Surprisingly, this unfortunate fact about Namjoon was what connected with me. I found in him a reflection of myself (pun intended).And a chance. As he began his journey to love himself, I looked at him and thought ‘if someone who has accomplished so much and is so kind hearted and real can find it hard to love himself, then even though I feel the same, maybe I have and will accomplish great things too.’

And it’s the simple fact that I can see myself in him that changes the whole way in which I see leadership. Because a leader who is relatable is one that does not keep a distance, does not inspire others by appearing to be always strong, does not put himself in a different position than those he is guiding. No, a leader who is relatable stands with those he leads as an equal, but knows how to nurture strengths and work on weaknesses. Because he knows his own, and he wears them on his sleeve to serve as an example.

Weaknesses can be worked on, strengths can always be stronger.

And, in doing so, it’s as if he’s looking at me and saying ‘if I can do it, so can you. And I love you, even if some days it’s still hard to love me too.’

Thank you for leading me towards believing in myself, Kim Namjoon.


There are many great leaders in this world, Namjoon is just one very personal choice. Is there a leader who inspires you in your daily life? Let’s talk about it in the comments bellow!

 

 

Memories of 2017

This time around I didn’t feel like using words to look back on 2017. Not because words aren’t important, but because, unless I wanted to commit to writing a book about this year, there was no way I could describe it in “a hundred words or less” (not really a hundred, you know what I mean).

Yes, yes, what I want to say is that many things happened this year. Some of the greatest moments of my life so far, as well as, perhaps, some of the worst. I did a lot of things for the first time, and lived a whole year with a vulnerable heart, treading carefully – getting hurt easily but also loving just as easily.

So, you see, this was a complex and abstract year, that I felt was best looked back on in a visual way. And that’s just what I did.

Memories of 2017, in a video (the first I made in almost 4 years, so it’s a special baby, this one).

 

I hope you have a 2018 filled with happy moments.

Let me know in the comments how your 2017 was (if you can put it in a hundred words or less).

Our Seoul in black and white

Have you ever wondered if, maybe, just maybe, some pictures are able to capture a little bit of a person’s soul? Sometimes, I think they do – when the photographer knows exactly which moment to snap the picture, catching his subject in a perfect still moment where their soul shows.

I’ve seen it in smiles, in gazes, in the way that the wind blows our hair. I think it’s beautiful, and it’s capturing these moments that has been my passion these days.

sara in black and whitesara and maia in black and whitemaia in black and white

All of this because, finally, about 5 months later, I decided to really go through all of my pictures from South Korea. Saying it took a while would be an understatement, and I might have used up a tissue or two wiping hypothetical tears because I miss that city so much, but I finally pulled through. After picking some of my absolute favorites out of mine and my friend Mariana’s camera roll, it somehow all came together in black and white – a style I am not usually one to pick but found so fitting in these pictures.

 SM artists at SM Town Mari and sara with BTS Maia in Gangnam

I always have said that, although black and white rarely fails to make a picture look good, it also gives it a gloomy vibe which I haven’t really ever wanted my pictures to have. However, looking at these, and as I write these words, I can finally understand why this style portrays these pictures in just the right way. And that is because of my very personal feelings toward them. You see, looking at these memories, 5 months after living them, brings me a strong sense of longing.

I miss that city like I have never missed a place before. I miss the friends I made there and the ones I left there. I miss the moments we all shared together in Noraebang and AirBnB houses, crowded streets and spicy food restaurants eating lamb skewers like crazy. It wasn’t just one thing or two about that trip that made it amazing. It was a lot of small, special things, and special people.

 Beautiful sara in Gyeongbokgung Maia in Gyeongbokgung Rae and her tattoo in black and whiteRae in Seoul Sara and Maia at a noraebang

Sometimes, I go talk to my friend and tell her ‘Mari, I miss Seoul so much today’. Sometimes, she will come up to me and tell me how she listened to a song and it made her think of Seoul too. And we will reminisce and hope that one day we get to go back. We hope that the friends we left there update us on what is going on over there, and send us pictures of the smallest things that make our hearts full of longing skip a beat.

Maia reading blonote at Arriate flower café Maia reading blonote at Arriate flower café Beautiful mug and flower at arriate flower café

And that is why black and white makes these pictures come alive. It brings out the nostalgia and longing towards a city that probably took a piece of me and kept it there safe and sound. Until another day, hopefully soon, when I go back and find it again.

Seoul (& Busan),

보고 싶다

(I miss you)

P.S.: Almost all of these pictures are from my lovely friend Mariana, so head on over to her instagram if you would like to see more!

Inspiration on being yourself: Kim Taehyung

It came to me, on a rainy afternoon as I made my way through the streets of Lisbon, that there is one thing I have been wanting to write about for a while – in urgency, leaving a tickle on the tips of my fingers and my mind racing with words just dying to be written. That one thing – or, rather, one person – is Kim Taehyung.

Odds are you have not heard of him. If that is indeed the case, then I am so glad you are reading this! You get to discover someone new, and, hopefully, feel inspired by him like I do.

Kim Taehyung photograohed by himself in mirror

At first glance, Kim Taehyung is a pretty face (like really fucking pretty, though). On second glance he is an ambiguous character with a smile that will make you happy, and his head in the clouds. After a while, if you care to pay attention, he becomes the most interesting book you will read – with the bonus of having a beautiful cover.

The basics are, he is a 21 year-old korean guy who belongs to one of the biggest and most famous acts of Kpop (short for korean pop), a group called BTS. He is a singer and a dancer on paper. But really, Taehyung is an all around Artist. He has what I value the most in people: a curiosity to explore the world, the open mindedness to see it from his unique perspective, and fearlessness to show his failed attempts and trials.

Jeon Jungkook photograohed by Kim Taehyung on a balcony

Jeon Jungkook portrait by Kim Taehyung
Jeon Jungkook captured by Kim Taehyung

What I have been finding the most inspiring about Kim Taehyung lately, though, is his passion for photography. The truth is, he has been blessed by both the face of a model and the eye of a photographer. He doesn’t just pose, nor does he just snap pictures. He is able to awaken a wide range of different emotions in you, whether that is in front or behind the camera.

Truth is, if there is one person who should really have an Instagram account, that would be Taehyung. Sadly, he does not. But you can keep up with his amazing self over on the BTS group twitter acount @bts_twt (which I highly recommend).

Kim Taehyung photograohed by himself in mirror

One day, I would like to have the confidence that he has, to be so unapologetically myself. Honestly, there is nothing more attractive and inspiring in a person. I guess, in the end, it’s not his voice, not his dance skills, not even his photography, that impact me the most – it’s his capacity to love himself.

He is a role model when it comes to embracing who you are.

And I wish him all the best.

Do you have someone who has been a source of inspiration to you lately? Let me know in the comments!

What it was like to finally go on the trip of my dreams

Seoul was the vacation of my dreams.

You know the kind of  vacation I’m talking about, right? That far away place we long to visit one day, seemingly so far out of reach. That place we might have spent a little too much time on the internet drooling over – looking at pictures of it on Instagram, reading article after article about it. Maybe we have cried once or twice while doing this. Possibly. Cannot tell you with certainty because of reasons.

To me, that place was Seoul.
Gyeongbokgung palace entrance
Amazing Maia at Gyeongbokgung palace Ever since I started learning Korean a few years ago (damn, has it really been years?), and I became more and more curious about Korean culture, this became my dream destination. But going there would require a lot of money that fresh-out-of-college-me did not have, as well as someone else crazy enough to come along with me.

Until this day, I am still impressed by how it all came to be. How I went from seeing Seoul as a dream to actually making plans to go, buying our tickets and being there. Between you and me, I think it was one little miracle.

Of course, I had to work hard to save enough money to go and spend over there, but I also managed find some crazy friends who were willing join me.  Two friends that also were willing to work hard to save money so that we could all go.

And so it was that in July the three of us packed our bags and ventured to the opposite side of the world.


SEOUL AND US: A LOVE STORY


Our Polaroid in front of Kim Sejong the great

Now, listen, don’t get ahead of yourself there. It’s not that. None of us found a hot Korean prince and moved in with him into a palace. We just fell in love with the city, day after day, until the thought of coming back was one of disappointment. I’m not kidding, I’ve never been this sad about coming back home from a vacation before.

It wasn’t love at first sight, though. When we arrived, nothing looked particularly interesting to me. It was raining, the sky was overrun by dark clouds and all I saw were tall grey buildings everywhere. And the air… the air made me feel like I was inside a sauna. Bye bye straight fabulous hair!

Our second day did the trick. Finally, I was walking familiar but completely new territory. Seeing in person what I had previously only seen excerpts of on TV and completed with my imagination. You see, I watch a lot of Korean tv shows – I find them funnier and way more lighthearted than western ones – so the streets of Seoul weren’t strangers to me. The city was like a friend I had met online, and our friendship was finally transitioning to real life.

Seoul at night Amazing Maia in Myeongdong Amazing Maia in Myeongdong Amazing Maia in Myeongdong

Quite just like meeting an online friend we have talked to for years, meeting Seoul was, at the very least, a thrilling experience. The realization that I was actually there, so far away from home, listening to the language I’ve been learning being spoken so casually everywhere — speaking it myself!  There was so much I wanted to see, so much I wanted to do. Just riding the subway was already drawing the biggest smile on my face!

Since I have already been in New York once, Seoul’s skyscrapers and flashing lights weren’t exactly a novelty to me. Yet they felt different, with their saturated multitude of colors and designs. It’s like, whilst New York is a carefully curated art collection, Seoul is an assembly of independent artists showcasing their art freely. My eyes had a feast every time we were in the city, finding more different and unique things to look at every day.
City lights in Myeondgong
All of this made up a perfectly imperfect and charming atmosphere for what would be my favorite 10 days of 2017 so far. We had many little adventures, many occasions where we lost our way, strange and exciting encounters with locals. We laughed a lot, fought a bit and tried new things. We bought a lot of stuff and polaroid-ed our way through the trip.

I made many memories over there that I will treasure in my heart for a very long time. And I will always remember fondly my everyday struggle to find non spicy food to eat.

And, just like that, I had fallen in love.

Polaroids of South Korea


And you, have you ever been on the vacation of your dreams? Where did you go? How was it? 

Feel free to share your experience with me down in the comments!

All of these pictures were taken by my dear amazing friend Mariana Pereira. You can click here to check out her Instagram!