Hi, I'm Cammy!

I’m 24 years old and I have a passion for empowering young women. Why? Because every young women deserves to have confidence in her abilities. If I had it my way, every girl would grow up loving her body and believing in herself.
I’ve spent the last 12 years pursuing this dream of mine, traveling all over the country. I’ve been in front of audiences of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. From an elementary assembly to a room filled with mom’s and dad’s, I’ve had the chance to speak to every type of person with one goal in mind: to instill confidence in the heart of a young woman.

That’s why I do what I do. We all want to help, and I know how.

I believe real, bold confidence comes from simple acts of every day bravery. It’s about taking one step at a time.

Latest From The Blog

It’s the Little Things

Life moves fast. Days fly by, seasons change, and sometimes we don’t stop to notice. We focus on big events – the life-changers – the Instagrammed dream vacations, the Facebook-announced promotions, weddings, and mid-parade dance parties to ‘Twist and Shout.’ These deserve to be celebrated, of course, but there’s also so much to be enjoyed when you look at the little things. I’ve found the little things to be really helpful when dealing with my depression. Just like those tiny victories, the simple pleasures are small. They might not impress anyone else, and that’s ok. When I feel the cloud of gloom and doom settle over me and feel myself nicked by the double-edged sword of past rumination and future anxiety, I take stock of my favorite things – the little, easy, simple things – and it’s that much easier to beat back those grey clouds. My simple pleasures include daisies, old books, warm wool socks, driving with the windows down, a book that lays easily in your hand, snuggling with my kid, a perfect little black dress, dance parties, sitting with someone who makes you laugh until you ache, and macarons. Things like basking in the sun, splashing in...
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Follow Your Heart

A few weeks ago, I made a gift for a very dear friend. It was a colorfully embroidered piece of denim that said “Follow Your Heart.” Luckily for me, she really enjoyed and appreciated it. I am following that piece of advice, and as much as I hope she does too, let me tell you all this: it’s freaking terrifying. Following your heart isn’t always an easy thing to do. In less than a month, I will be graduating high school. A matter of weeks after that, I will be moving across the country to North Carolina. Once there, I will be studying Public Health with a concentration in pre-health professions at East Carolina University with the hopes of going on to medical school. From there, I hope to become either a pediatric or reconstructive plastic surgeon, or maybe something else entirely. There’s only thing I know for sure, and that’s that I want to go to medical school. This is so scary to me because I’m the first one in my family to go to college right after high school, and the only to plan on going to graduate school. My father doesn’t have a degree and my mother...
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You Do This Every Day

Can you remember the first time you “performed” your gender? Maybe this was the first time you played with make-up after watching mom in the bathroom, or maybe it was the first time you baked cookies with your mom and your grandma while the boys watched a game. Do you remember? Notice how these examples are taken from your childhood memories? That is because we learn how to perform our gender from a young age.   Gender is not biological. Sex is. Gender is a performance that we learn as we are socialized growing up. We learn from observing our parents, siblings, extended family, community, and media. We understand what “girls do” and what “boys do”. These rules we learn to live by seem natural. As if they are simply “the way it’s supposed to be”. Truth is, that’s not true.   Gender is something we learn how to perform. That is also why it can feel like SO MUCH WORK. Especially if you’re a woman. Right, ladies? The fact of the matter is, these “rules” we know so well are harmful to the development of girls and boys in a few ways.   Emotionally From a very early age,...
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My Castle in the Sky

This morning, I woke to a sea of self-doubt. Asking myself, “Who do you think you are to be starting a business? Who do you think you are to be doing any of this?! Slow your roll, girl!” What a horrible way to start the day! Does this ever happen to you? Me, too.  In the signature of my email I have one of my favorite phrases, she believed she could and so she did. I’ve always loved the simplicity of that sentence. The beauty of it is, it really is that simple. If you honestly believe, you really can achieve what you desire. Belief can, and does, take a dreamer and worker all the way to the finish line. There are countless stories throughout history to teach us that – belief creates change. The problem is, we allow ourselves to get caught in the self-doubt trap. And that is completely natural.  Self-doubt boils down to one thing: fear. When I start to doubt myself, I pull out my journal and write until the truth reveals itself. It always does. Fear takes many forms: self-doubt, anxiety, stress, anger, frustration, sarcasm, insecurity, and, many times, over-confidence. We fear vulnerability, failure, heartbreak,...
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Packing Up and Moving Out

Being brave is is often defined as “ showing courage,” and courage is defined as having “the ability to do something that frightens” you. To me, being brave is exactly that: doing the things that scare you or make you uncomfortable. This could mean anything from facing your fear of birds to going to your boss and asking for a raise, or standing up for your rights and the rights of others. To me, all of these things make me feel brave, but right now I have something else that is constantly at the forefront of my mind… I am graduating college. There, it’s been said (or typed), therefore it is now made true. Okay, that’s a little dramatic. But it actually is true, and there’s no way to change it. I only needed three more credits to graduate and I took nine, so something crazy will have to happen to cause me not to graduate. I’m on the fast track to adulthood, less than a month left and then it’s all over. Jeez, four years of college went by so fast all of a sudden. So, you might be asking: what does that have to do with being brave?...
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Tiny Victories

Hey, all. Depression is hard. It’s really, really hard. Someday maybe I’ll write about what the depths of what that actually felt like, but lately I’ve been working to see that sunshine and focus on the positive. I’m working on winning my tiny victories. When you’re fighting depression, the smallest thing is overwhelming. I was too tired and worn out to do anything, even simple things like pick up my toddler’s socks from the living room floor without bursting into tears. Tasks that seem so easy and routine when you’re healthy now require you to disembark on grand voyages when you’re sick. When I’m in the lowest points of my depression, my tiny victories are things like staying awake past 6:30pm and not crying on my way to work. However, the Catch-22 of depression is that you’re not able to see past the depression to celebrate those as victories. Now that I’m learning how to deal and what works best for me, my tiny victories look like eating enough fruits & veggies for the day and having enough energy to take my daughter to the playground after work. Tiny victories can be something you achieve every day. Little moments deserve...
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5 Self-discovery Take-Aways

Self-discovery is one of those journeys that you don’t realize you’re actually on until you are moving through it. I found myself on this journey after facing a tough breakup. This heartbreak I was struggling through took over my thoughts and held my mind captive from unlocking my inner peace. I constantly found myself stuck in a place that was keeping me from my fullest potential. Through this moment of weakness, the truth finally dawned on me. The realization that I was in control of how I want to face this challenge. That’s when I made the choice to start picking myself up piece-by-piece, and build myself up into a stronger, kinder, women.  As I continue on my self-discovery adventure today, I leave you with five takeaways that will challenge you to go out of your comfort zone to build a better you. If I can make the choice to find peace within myself, so can you.   Befriend your challenges Self-discovery begins when you make the choice to turn a challenge into a friendly teaching. Having this change in mindset allows for personal growth in your journey. I’m a firm believer that what’s meant for you won’t pass you...
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I’m not alone…

Recently, I had the privilege of speaking to 50+ high school and college women about building a personal brand.  Together, we walked through aligning their passion with their brand and practicing their elevator speech so they would be comfortable and confident when walking into the sponsored networking event later that afternoon. It was a huge success! They did great work and we all left feeling prepared to take on the world (or at least the evening). That, however, was not what moved them the most. After we completed our time together we had a Q&A session. During that time, I was asked what my greatest challenge was in my life and how I overcame it. In that moment, I chose to be brave and share my truth with this group of women. I shared my story of struggling with perfectionism and anxiety throughout my life. Since I was a little girl, I’ve always struggled with keeping myself calm and feeling like I am enough as I am. I really struggled when I was in college trying to manage academic challenges and meet the expectations I had for myself by getting involved. I lost a significant amount of weight in my undergraduate education. My...
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Brave in 2017

2017 is upon us! A new year brings new opportunities, new challenges, new sights, and new sounds. For many of us, a new year is a fresh start and a chance to change our lives.  It’s refreshing to feel a chapter close and start writing the next. 2016 is behind us, and we have all of 2017 to make of it whatever we choose. As you settle into a new rhythm to make your resolution a success (remember, it takes 21 days to form a new habit), I would like to challenge you to make a change with me.  If you’ve read some of the blogs I’ve written in the past you already know that I struggle with perfectionism. It has shaped the majority of my life and I’ve always been ashamed to admit it. That shame I felt was just one more element of my struggle. Now I know, you know, and we can all look at 2017 at a time to do something about it. This year, I would like you to make a change with me. 2016 showed us a lot of pain, tears, hate, and fear. We felt loss and we felt terror. Our reality has...
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Dating with Bravery

Dating is weird. It’s hard and complicated and if you’re like me, it makes you a little nervous. I’ve been single for the last 6 years. (I’m still young but that statement makes me feel ancient haha) I’ve been on a few dates here and there but the only guy I’ve officially dated was my high school boyfriend. It was an intense relationship that was exciting but also really unhealthy in a lot of ways. Side note: If you are in an unhealthy relationship it takes SO much bravery to get out of it, but it’s so worth it and I promise you will have the strength. Feel free to email me at music.annamae@gmail.com if you need any support when it comes to tough breakups because I’ve been there. My dating life, and all of ours, takes bravery at every stage. I think if you don’t date, it can take so much bravery to be single and to be at peace with that. It takes bravery to be willing to go on dates when you feel like your heart is closed off and has been hurt. It takes bravery to commit to someone. It takes bravery to stay with someone....
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Enough

Enough… I’ve never been able to wrap my hands around that word. I’ve tried to take deep breaths; to inhale and exhale “enough”. I’ve tried to trap that word in my lungs and memorize the feel of it dancing across my lips. I’ve felt it, but I’ve never been able to hold on to it. To see it on me, in my footprints. I’ve felt it, but a feeling is fleeting. Feelings roll in and pull away. That was how I experienced enough. It came to me when I was proud of myself, and left as soon as I felt imperfect. What I failed to understand is that enough never left me. I was the one who turned my eyes on enough, on me. I criticized me, I held myself to an impossible standard. Enough wasn’t the prize waiting at the finish line – no, enough was the energy and power coursing through my body as I continued to run the race.  Enough didn’t shoot the gun to start the race, enough was the one whispering “we both know you can do this, keep going. I know it hurts; you’ve got this.” I was the one holding me back. I...
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The Starting Line

“You can choose to blame your circumstances on fate or bad luck or bad choices, or you can fight back. Things aren’t always going to be fair in the real world. That’s just the way it is, but for the most part, you get what you give. The rest of your life is being shaped right now—with the dreams you chase, the choices you make, and the person you decide to be. The rest of your life is a long time. And the rest of your life starts right now.” ~Keith Scott, One Tree Hill The future—it’s what we’ve been looking forward to ever since we could first remember, and it’s what we’ll keep looking to even at our last moments. Hope for the future is often what drives us, pushes and inspires us to get through even the darkest of days. We are living in a society that has instilled us with mindsets that always focus and prepare for the future. What do you want to be when you grow up? Where do you want to go to college? How are you going to pay for college? Are you even going to go to college? What’s your dream job?...
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Two Weeks After November 8th: Acceptance

Like so many of you, I’ve spent the last two weeks trying to process the results of this election.  I’ve felt tears, anger, confusion, and so much more. There was a moment when I was chatting with one of my dearest friends asking, “is there room for a Cammy Nelson in Canada?” while tears were streaming down my face. We all needed time to exhale, time to process the shock. Now, two weeks later, I have arrived at acceptance. This is not the acceptance you may be expecting. The acceptance I’ve reached stems from two very different places: History has a way of repeating itself. We had eight years of a Democratic administration. Rarely in our history as a nation has a party remained in the White House for more than two Presidential terms. Additionally, we can reflect on the election of the Nixon Administration. After progress came from the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s there was resistance as there was progress. The same can be seen in this election. Action is no longer an option; it is a necessity. Anyone who has studied history knows that great change comes from even greater sacrifice. It is no longer acceptable...
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To My Best Friend

For the past little while our lives have mainly consisted of each other and our normal routine. Guys haven’t really been a big part of that routine but I think we both know that someday they will be a part of things and there is a chance that time is coming soon. It’s exciting and also kind of scary. I get a little nervous (and I know you do, too) thinking of how things will change. I’ve gotten afraid thinking of a guy coming between us and somehow pulling us apart. I love being your closest person and it makes me a little jealous to think of someone else being that person for you. But I know I’m not meant to be your forever person in that way. That’s scary but I think it’s best. I think the best part about it is that even though someday we’ll have husbands and will be so close to those people, the way we love them does not need to change or affect the way we love each other. When I’m dating someone, you’re going to be the first person I go to to talk about what is going on. I’m going to...
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From The Girl Who Has Never Been Homesick

Back in July, I gave a talk at a weekend retreat for an organization called TEC. I basically had poured the toughest parts of my life out on paper and shared it with a room full of people I had just met that weekend along with my closest friends and a few guests I was allowed to invite. At the end, I was allowed to play one song while I received hugs from my family and everyone else in the room. The song I chose was Brothers by Needtobreathe. The lyrics perfectly describe the desperate need for love and support of others; my talk proved that I—as well as every other human being—can’t make it through this life alone. Every squeezing hug, tearful smile, and heartfelt prayer from this talk showed me how much love and support I have and how much I have given. To this day, I cannot listen to that song without returning to these moments and choking up or letting a tear hit the ground. Since I was little, I always loved adventure. I loved being away from home and trying new things. I was the girl that could easily go on a mission trip for...
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Searching for Brave

I’m sitting here struggling to come up with a topic to write about this week. I feel lost and hypocritical. Who am I to be telling you to be brave when I struggle to do so every single day. High school wasn’t the best experience for me. I visited my hometown for the first time since I went to college this week and it was flashback city. Just driving down certain roads triggered so many memories, mostly bad, from my years here. It wasn’t a good time but it was a necessary time because it shaped who I am today. I guess I don’t give myself enough credit, I mean I might struggle to be brave every day, but I do it. I did it all through high school and there were moments where I didn’t think I would see 18 years old but I am here writing this blog. One of the things I value is transparency and honesty. I think there should be no other way to be. So I want to tell my brave stories but I want to tell my not so brave stories too. Being brave isn’t just admitting yourself to treatment or moving across...
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Growing Pains

I’ve never felt it more true than now that beauty is pain. This phrase is usually used in terms of physical beauty, but I think the saying is much truer when it comes to internal beauty. I’ve recently been going through a time of life with intense growing pains. Many of those pains have been related specifically to physical beauty which I’ll explain more in a moment. For the first time in a long time, I’ve had to face hidden insecurities to an intense degree. It’s like a floodlight turned on in my heart and all of a sudden I saw all the ugly— and all the pain causing it. In the past when insecurities would flare up I was able to run away from whatever was causing the pain. But I’ve been deciding to let those insecurities turn into growing pains in hopes that life looks and feels different on the other side. Now back to the mystery of physical beauty and how it should really be defined. This is still a little tricky for me to navigate and explain so bear with me — I spent most of my time in middle school feeling bad about how I...
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Life in Reverse

Two weekends ago, I was blessed with the privilege to attend Young Life College Weekend in Ocklawaha, Florida. For those who might not know, Young Life is a youth ministry that is fun-filled and devoted to strengthening each individual’s faith. Just showing up in the parking lot to head out for the weekend was a giant leap of faith for me. I barely knew anyone (I’m awful at remembering names), and I had no idea exactly what I was getting myself into. Taking the initiative to put myself out there and introduce myself to new people is awkward, out of my comfort zone, and just something I’m not confident in doing, but I told myself that college is a time for everything new, so I put on my brave face and got in a car with three other girls and made the 3.5 hour road trip to the campsite. The weekend was everything I needed and more. Colleges from all over Florida attended the weekend, so I was surrounded by hundreds of new faces. The campsite itself was unbelievably beautiful, with a lake waterfront, beach volleyball courts, a three-story giant swing, and a giant pool with a waterslide, not to...
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I was brave once. That was when my whole life changed.

When I was just about 20 years old, I decided to (despite the disapproval of my family and friends) take a year off of school. I was not happy with my lukewarm life, I was craving something more, something completely different and I couldn’t put my finger on what exactly that was. So I did what a lot of people do when they feel how I felt; I travelled.  I left the country for my first time in my life and I travelled nearly 9,000 miles to Thailand, to assist an acupuncturist in her mission to provide medical relief to the ethnic minority refugees from Myanmar.  Little did I know this moment of bravery would completely shape me for who I am today, 6 years later. Today, I am almost 26 and living in a rural community in Ecuador as a Peace Corps Volunteer living my real-life dream, rereading the journal entries I wrote while I was in Thailand, some were as followed: “They transport people in the back of trucks and people ride motos with 5 people on them!” “A lot of people aren’t wearing shoes” “I met a woman named Dee, she escaped from the ethnic cleansing in...
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Behind the Catchy Caption

Just like being healthy, being brave looks different for everyone. For some, closing a business deal is being brave, but for others it might just be getting out of bed. For me, it’s being who I am every day, regardless of what that looks like to others.   When I was in 11th grade I was in a treatment program for an eating disorder. Along the way I blogged about everything. I shared my struggle with what felt like the world. I lived in a small town so it really did feel like everyone was reading what I wrote. While I was going through this it was very therapeutic for me. I’m not sure if it was sharing my story and possibly helping or inspiring others or if it was a way for me to come to terms with what was happening. I loved it until one day I couldn’t write anymore. I would sit in front of my computer to type and go numb. I started to get this feeling when I would do anything that involved sharing myself socially from posting Instagram photos, or sharing something on Facebook. The thought of everyone knowing everything about me and that...
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When The Odds Are Against You

Have you ever had a year that just seems to be a bit more intense than other years of your life? Because let me tell you, 2016 has been exactly that for me. But through it’s high highs and low lows I’ve learned a whole lot about what being brave looks like to me. Some of it has been crazy hard but my favorite thing about pain is the redemption on the other side of it. And I’m excited that part of this year’s redemption is getting to share with y’all some of what I’ve learned! I want to share part of my backstory because it has a lot to do with how I’ve found new bravery in this year – I grew up in Minnesota and moved to Nashville five years ago to pursue music. For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to be a ‘famous’ singer. When I was little I constantly dreamt of the fame and fancy parties that I would someday get to partake in just because I could sing. (Disclaimer: I was not born some child prodigy who was amazing at singing. I sounded like every other 6 year old girl. Also fame...
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Another Face, Another Story

Everyone has a voice. Everyone has a story to tell. What you decide to do with your own voice and story is completely up to you. As for myself, I am working on raising my voice in order to share my story with others in hopes of reaching out and showing people that life is a struggle, but we can get through it with the help of family, friends, and belief in our own selves. To sum it up in the shortest way possible while still covering the important details, I’ll start from the beginning. Or where it all began, that is, the summer before sophomore year. I was caught in the quick sands of a young-love, toxic relationship. I had developed a mindset that I wasn’t “skinny enough” based off of his constant commentary that I could “always improve a certain part of my body”. I worked out nearly every hour that I was awake, whether it be biking to work or the store, running down a new trail, or traveling on foot to the gym to lift weights and swim. I was fatigued before halfway through June but kept grinding forward with my “motivation” to be skinny. By the end...
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Freedom from Facebook

I haven’t been on Facebook in 3 months. Okay, I can’t say with complete confidence that it’s been a full three months. All I really know is that I haven’t scrolled through my newsfeed all summer. This wasn’t an intentional decision. You won’t find any kind of dramatic declaration on my Facebook page about a decision to take a break. I just did it. I initially decided I should probably cool it on the Facebook check-ins when I found myself clicking on my Facebook bookmark like it was muscle memory. I thought that may be a sign of an addiction rather than something I actually wanted to do, so I took a break. I went two weeks without Facebook and I didn’t see a reason to check back in. So I didn’t. More time passed and I deleted the app from my phone. I wasn’t getting updates and I didn’t give Facebook the opportunity to pressure me into “coming back”. I disconnected. I didn’t post my thoughts, comments, or pictures. I wasn’t living for Facebook. Do you want to know what happened? Nothing. And that is exactly what I expected. The world didn’t end; No one sought me out to...
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10 Questions with the Brave Ambassadors

Over the past few months, we’ve gotten to know four incredible young women. Autumn, Elle, Madilyne, and Adrianna were brave enough to share their stories with the Brave Like Me community! From huge transitions, to family matters, to mental health, these Brave Ambassadors wrote their stories down and handed their experiences to the world with the hope that they might help or inspire. Yesterday, I was lucky enough to sit down with Autumn and Elle to talk about exactly what went through their minds as they dug into insecurities, overcame fears, and chose brave! As you listen to the interview, Elle is the first voice answering a question and Autumn is the second.   http://www.bravelikeme.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Audio_05_26_2016_09_59_08.m4a  
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The Truth Hurts, But Lies Kill

Some of the hardest things to admit in life are the ones that you don’t even want to believe yourself. It’s so much easier to brush them aside, to the back of your mind, pretending that everything is fine and to go on living life like nothing is wrong. But then the night will come, you’ll lay in bed and all of those thoughts and realities that you’ve pushed away will all coming flooding back into your mind. At the time, the truth can be unbearable; but in the end, it’s a lot harder to live in a lie than to face the problem at hand. I’ve always been one to put on a happy face. I wanted to be known as that girl. The one who was always smiling, had a great family, the perfect relationship, lots of friends and was as some would call ‘picture perfect’. I strived for that image, not only in person, but on social media as well. I wanted everyone to think that my life was exciting and interesting. I wanted to be the girl that everyone wanted to spend their friday nights with. I wanted to be noticed. For the most part it...
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I Wanna See You Be Brave

Have you ever watched someone gain confidence in themselves for the first time? I have. I saw it just the other day and it was one of the most beautiful moments I have ever witnessed. I watched an amazing person light up with joy and excitement. Fists were literally raised to the sky in excitement. It was beautiful. It’s not every day that a daughter gets to watch her mother gain newfound confidence in herself, but I did. You should know, my mom is an incredibly talented woman. She would never say this, but she is an artist. Her simple doodles are works of are that, no matter how much time I spend practicing, I will never be able to create with my own hands. Her mind works in creative ways I will never be able to understand but I’ve always admired. My mom has always had remarkable talent. When I was in middle school, I would intentionally leave my homework for my art class sitting on the kitchen table in the hope that my mom might sit down and improve the drawing if she was restless at night. Many nights I would go to bed on a Thursday night...
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More Bitter Than Sweet

This was a big year for “lasts.” Some lasts I was happier to experience than others. Those others, however, I’m already missing. It’s never easy to watch something come to an end but it happens no matter what. So today, my LAST day of high school, I say goodbye to 18 years of my life in education to now move on to bigger things. The first last of this year was probably the hardest. To make it worse, I never forgot about it all year. It just sat in the back of my mind as all my other lasts came along. I said goodbye to cross country, a sport I have done since fourth grade. I refused to cry because I’m not a crier but as the title of this says, it was more bitter than sweet. When I thought about it, it was truly the last time I would ever experience anything like that. Spending every Saturday morning at an organized officially timed race with 300 other high school girls in Florida will never be a part of my everyday life again. On the other hand, it felt good to move on. Looking back on it, I can proudly...
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New: Brave Like Me Playlist!

Are you looking for a little inspiration to strengthen that brave muscle? I got you, girl! For those of you who don’t already know, I LOVE MUSIC! I love dancing, and I love singing in my car. Most of all, I love the way music inspires me. One song can turn my entire day around and, have no doubt, I’m ready to dance as soon as the beat drops. That is why it seemed only logical to put together a playlist of the songs that never fail to make me feel brave! Click on the link below to hear it for yourself! But first… I’ll give you a little preview of the jams that will be moving your hips and inspiring you to be Brave! Little Mix – Wings This song kept my head up while I was waiting to hear back from the grad programs I applied to! Kelly Clarkson – Invincible Girl, I love me some Kelly! Honestly, I think we would be best friends if we ever had a chance (and we will have a chance if I have anything to say about it!). This song always inspires me to keep going when I’m feeling “beat down...
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25 Under 25… or not

I realized something yesterday. I’m 25. This really shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me seeing as I’m many months into my 25th year, but this thought hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m 25. When I was 13, I made a list of my big dreams and taped the piece of yellow, legal paper to my bedroom door. You should know that I love lists. I’m one of those people who loves the feeling of crossing something off a to-do list. So, making a list at 13 seemed like the only reasonable way to plan my life. From what I can recall, it included the following: Graduate from high school with straight A’s Attend the University of Wisconsin – River Falls Walk a red carpet Write a book Win a Nobel Peace Prize Run for Miss Red Wing Become best friends with Taylor Swift (this was at the top of the list, might I add) Be listed on Forbes’ 25 under 25 list I was a strange 13-year-old, I know. My dreams ranged from the need to have a deep personal relationship with Taylor Swift to the Nobel Peace Prize. Some might say that was a tad...
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It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

Sunday evenings are the bane of my existence. Just the thought of them makes my heart turn to brick – heavy enough to drop into my churning stomach. The creeping thoughts of the upcoming week cloud my mind with dark storms, for I fear the stress and possible failure that I could face in the following 6 days at school, dance, work, etc. I’ve always hated Sunday nights growing up, but there is one in particular that felt worse than any other. Now, this Sunday night didn’t just come out of nowhere. There is quite the backstory to it, actually. It’s not an easy tale to tell, but I am going to share it with you now in hopes someone, somewhere, will learn from my battle. Since I graduated from high school, life has not been “peachy keen”. The summer leading to college, I faced many disappointments, heartbreaks, and far too many goodbyes. I thought these bumps in the road would make me more excited to transition to the new lifestyle of college, but boy was I wrong! The upsetting thoughts from that summer were even more prevalent once I left home, and I found myself unable to thoroughly enjoy...
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The Love Doctor

One of the biggest struggles that I have faced over the past 5 years has been learning to love myself again. By loving myself, I mean wholeheartedly believing that I am the beautiful, smart and able woman that I was created to be.   As I made my way through middle school and high school, I began really struggling with confidence. I remember being at dance, looking in the mirror and comparing myself to the girls around me. Some tall and lean, some shorter with dense muscles; we were all different, each made in our own unique way. I would sit and wish that I was taller or that the arches of my feet were deeper, or that I was ‘more like the other girls’. What I wasn’t seeing was the powerhouse of a body that worked for me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; the countless muscles that I used each day during dance class, the growing brain that helped me earn exceptional grades in my classes, and the strong heart that kept me alive day after day.   My confidence and self-love only grew smaller over time, being teased about my “thick legs” and “muscular hips”....
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The Experience

For the past five days I have been at RYLA, Rotary Youth Leadership Awards. This is my fourth and final year going, it was extraordinarily bittersweet. RYLA is a five day long leadership skill building camp. Some of the activities we do include canoeing, archery, speaking sessions, the walk of courage, a rope course, and tons of energizers and games. Considering this was my fourth year, I had a bit of a different experience, I was the one and only senior team leader. As a freshmen I was a camper and sophomore and junior year I was a team leader. My junior year I was asked if I’d be interested in being the senior team leader. After thinking about it, I put on my bravery hat and said “why not!” RYLA is life changing, to say the least. I never thought it would change me as much as it did. I grew as a person and as a leader. Building up to these five days the pressure really set in. As the senior team leader I was in charge of everything, literally. The man who runs the camp would tell me what to do and then I would tell the...
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It’s Okay to Be Alone

Can you go solo to breakfast?  Can you go to the bathroom without having to take a group of girls? Are you able to go to the gym by yourself? Can you be single for more than a few months?  …..Can you be alone?   One of many people’s greatest fears is the fear of being alone. As women in this society, so many times we are deemed to be dependent on so many others than ourselves. This can come from the lack of security in ourselves. Some say it’s not okay to be single in high school, to be thirty without a ring on your finger, or to be content with just focusing on you.  We give love and we seek love but where is the love, time, and attention we are giving to ourselves?   Looking at my past and evaluating others, I’ve noticed that the fear of being alone can force us into situations of heartache and heartbreak. Maybe you find yourself staying in a relationship too long when you know it’s unhealthy or depending on someone who always lets you down. Sometimes we think it’s easier to stay in something we know is wrong for us,...
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Treat Yo Self

I believe girls don’t do this enough. The monthly spa visit or weekly bubble bath doesn’t cut it. Taking care of yourself needs to be number one on the list of to-do’s. With a strong, confident, and healthy you, being brave is easy.   Recently I’ve been swamped with scholarships, last minute college prep, studying for quarter exams…where’s the time to focus on me? Coming home every day from school and going straight into work until five was not something I enjoyed. Once I finished all the work I could possibly do in one day, it would be too late to do anything except eat dinner and go to bed. I lost sight of my daily workouts, I started breaking out because of all the pressure I felt, and it led to me being more stressed.   Right before I hit that “breaking point” I took a break one afternoon. I got home from school, I put my shoes on, and I went for a run. I was amazed by how good I felt. I was rejuvenated. When I got home from my run, I continued my afternoon of “refreshing.”  I took a warm shower and ended with a dead...
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The other side of Fear

I’ve acquired a lot of nicknames in my life. From “Elle-Belly” to “Boo” to “Cheeks”, I’ve learned to respond to what feels like hundreds of forms of my name. However, I never thought I’d ever be responding to “Mom” at the age of 19. No, I don’t have an actual kid of my own. Surprisingly, it is my roommates who started this trend. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that I obtained this title, but I really seemed to fit the definition. The nickname especially stuck when I brought home a dog from the humane society! Now let me back up, for this wasn’t an easy decision! When my roommates gave me the nickname originally, it stemmed from the joy I received in caring for others. In college, I found myself wanting to find the peace that pleasing others brought me. I craved offering others my “mom” like love, and I felt that volunteering somewhere would help satisfy such thoughts. This is what brought me to apply to become a volunteer with the Coulee Region Humane Society. Well, okay… You caught me. It wasn’t by chance that I chose to volunteer my time with adorable puppies! However, the...
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Miss Independent

This is me being brave. Laying in the twin-size bed of my college dorm room. I am exactly 1,047 miles away from the place that I have called home for the past 20 years, which is exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time. I can tell you now that my journey to Massachusetts was not a simple path. To be honest, it was quite the opposite. There was a lot of questions, doubts, kleenexes, moving boxes and prayers involved, but since I’m here to tell you the story, I guess I can say it wasn’t all so bad.   I never pictured myself moving across the country to go to college in a place far away from anyone/anything I’ve ever known, but I’ve found that sometimes it’s the things that we least expect that are the best teachers. For as long as I can remember, family has been a significant part of my life. My sisters are and have been my best friends since I was in diapers, and going even a week without seeing them was unbearable. My mom has been my strength and support throughout my entire life. She was there to witness my first words, my first...
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So You Want to be Brave?

Sometimes, I get this idea that perfection is attainable. I begin to believe that bad days never happen, and that every night with my friends is going to become my favorite with memories I’ll never want to forget. I begin to fall for the idea that every decision I make is going to be the right one. I build up this image in my head of how my life is going to play out – how I need it to play out –  in order to consider myself successful and let myself be happy. I start to think I have to be perfect. That, my friends, is my downfall. I’ve never been one to judge others for not being “perfect,” yet I’ve never been so kind to myself. The quote that rolls off others’ tongues when I mention the above is “you are your own harshest critic”. As a youngin’, I always compared myself to my two older sisters. They’re both talented, graceful, and admired by many – and I wanted to be that. As I grew older, I kept on that trend of comparison by comparing myself to every figure on TV, to the dancers that stood in front...
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Closing a Door, Opening a Beginning

I’ve been staring at this paper for a good hour praying for the right words to explain one of the most difficult and one of the bravest moments I’ve ever experienced. When trying to come up with the words to write I feel vulnerable, raw, and emotional, but I realized letting these feelings come to light is one of many definitions of brave. The beginning of my 1st grade school year was also the beginning of the time I would spend in the foster care system. It was a time of change and a time that my brother, sister, and I will never forget. My birth mother was struggling with drug related problems and my birth father had never been a part of the life that I can remember. After being in the foster system for 2 years,  I was adopted in the 3rd grade. I grew up with a big family in Wisconsin and was lucky enough to be adopted with my siblings, too. Having very little contact with my birth mother, I had even less contact with my birth father, but I always felt like a part of me was missing. My senior year of high school, I found my...
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Baby I’m Worth It

I think bravery has all sorts of different contexts. For some, being brave is getting up on a stage in front of hundreds of people and sharing their thoughts or talents. For another, being brave is raising your hand in class, even though it might not be the ‘cool’ thing to do, or what all of your ‘friends’ are doing. For other people, being brave is waking up in the morning; getting out of bed, getting dressed and starting a regular day. For one person, being brave is admitting that they’re wrong. For me, being brave has been all of those things and much more. Being brave is this; writing and sharing my story with anyone who is willing to read or listen.   There have been so many instances in my life where I have been faced with decisions, some small and some big. High school was filled with a lot of changes for me, and I didn’t necessarily know how to handle them. My freshman year was everything I dreamt high school to be. I had a big group of friends, was involved with the dance team, my family was great, and I couldn’t picture life differently. I...
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Under the Layers

Think of an iceberg. They are huge blocks of ice that are seen above and below the water. Usually, more is below the water and we never even see that part. We only see what is in sight. The same goes with people. We only see people for how they appear. Little do we know that’s only the smallest part of the person. Just like the iceberg. The iceberg analogy has grown and grown and more people are aware of it. The first time I learned about it was freshmen year. I learned about this analogy at a very developmental time in my life. Everything was different compared to now and I credit that to how I started to view everything. The iceberg made me think. Going into high school I was very closed and stayed with my “group.” I didn’t do much without my two friends. The three of us always did everything together: sports, clubs, etc. Never would I have thought that I wouldn’t even be friends with them anymore. We all, slowly but surely, drifted our separate ways. It made me realize that I was holding back on things I wanted to do just because of them....
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Embracing Change

January 26th, 2016 Today is a big day. For most, it is just January 26th, 2016. For others, it is simply the second day of classes for the 2016 Spring Semester at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse. For me, it is the one-year anniversary of the 2nd most nerve-wracking day of my life. One year ago, it was my first day of classes at a brand new college. Now, I should explain why it was the 2nd most nerve-wracking day of my life. The 1st most nerve-wracking day was the day I left my sweet, little hometown of Red Wing, Minnesota to move to Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. So how did I end up in Wisconsin after moving to the glorious country music capital? Well, it took teary-eyed phone calls to my mom, a different perspective on the concept of changing, and more bravery than I ever thought I possessed. When you graduate from high school, move to new state, and leave the life you’ve always known for college, you expect things to change. I, however, did not want to change. I had found my best friends and developed a reputation for myself in high school that...
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Submit to Your Calling

During this time last year, I was waiting on an acceptance letter to the University of Minnesota for grad school. I had applied for the child welfare program and was banking on going to grad school the next year. As I worked hard on my essay, had great letters of recommendations, and a good Baccalaureate GPA I believed there was no way I wasn’t getting in. My future was set. The funny thing about planning your life out is that it doesn’t always go that way. Just when I thought my future was set I didn’t get into the University of Minnesota. I was at dinner when I got the email, “We regret to inform you….” YES, it hurt like hell. YES, there were tears at dinner, and YES, at that moment I had no clue what was next in my life.  It was a whirlwind of emotions but a blessing in disguise. Feeling such uncertainty can be very scary, but when you don’t know, God always knows. So there should never be a reason to be afraid. When one door closes, another door opens. That is exactly what happened to me. TEN MINUTES after I got my denial letter I...
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Stop Looking for the Emergency Exit

  Tomorrow brings the beginning of my second semester of grad school. For those of you who don’t know, the first round brought quite a few punches. Anxiety, stress, and panic became my new best friends. My family worried that I wasn’t eating (because I wasn’t, really) and my friends barely heard from me. I remember sitting in a bar last summer with a bachelorette party talking to a guy about his grad school experience. I believe his exact words were “you’re going to want to tear your hair out and you’re going to feel like you’re drowning most of the time but, if you love what you’re learning, it will all be worth it.” I laughed his words off a bit saying “ok, thanks, I’ll remember that” thinking it couldn’t be that bad. Oh no, he was right. That’s what it felt like. Lesson #1: there’s a difference between listening and understanding. Through 3 classes and 27 students to teach, I was challenged to my core. My mental health was tested and my concept of self was pretty much thrown out the window. The confident, strong, self-assured young woman I had known was replaced by an intimidated, scared, overwhelmed...
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Confessions of a Recovering Perfectionist

I have a confession to make: I’m a perfectionist. It took me 24 years to realize this, but now that I have I’m seeing the many ways this pressure I put on myself creates more problems than it solves. It’s true, I give the world permission to make mistakes and be less than perfect but I still expect perfection from myself. It’s frustrating and, honestly, suffocating. That being said, this is the advice I’m giving myself (sometimes more than once) daily: You are stronger and more powerful than you realize.  You can add brave to that, too. You are far more capable than you can understand at this moment. Just know that you already have everything you need to be exactly who you dream of becoming. There may be pain and frustration (or, in my case, lots of crying and dramatic phone calls) but you will ultimately get through. Keep pushing. Don’t give up. It’s okay to say no! Being your most fearless you means focusing on what you truly want to become, and taking offers that align with that vision. You don’t have to be everything to everyone. Saying “no”, while scary, can be extremely empowering. You do not have...
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How to Beyonce

There’s a trend I’ve noticed among millennial women, myself included. There’s a group of women we idolize because of what they represent and the attitude they exude. It’s the love affair we have with Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Lawrence, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lopez, Amy Schumer, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and more. We admire their confidence, their strength, their attitude, and their fearlessness. We see the way they use their voices and we love them for it. We praise the “flawless” attitude and we embrace an empowered sense of self. Then, I step away from the Internet and I see a generation of women who don’t know how to love themselves. That’s not okay. Because, really, praising these women and living life in a similar fashion really isn’t that hard. I know I’m not Queen Bey, but I have a few suggestions on how to live a more “flawless” life (and I’m pretty sure she would agree): Be bold enough to stand among a group of your friends and look different. We don’t need to be an army of the same. You have your own mind and your own style. Do you. Be brave enough to embrace your silly. Life is...
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Confidence is… wait, what?

There’s a meme I’ve seen floating across Pinterest, Instragram, and Facebook the last few days. “Confidence is not ‘they will like me’; it’s ‘I’ll be fine if they don’t.’” The first time I read this particular meme there was definitely a smile on my face, but there was something about it that didn’t quite fit. I read the statement a few more times, reflected on what confidence means to me, and realized why it didn’t feel right: true confidence isn’t about other people. I understand that the intentions behind the image are good, but confidence is all about you. It’s the way you carry yourself and the way you choose to treat yourself. It’s the words you use to describe your passions, your body language, and the pride with which you describe the most important pieces of your life. The trickiest part about confidence is that it can’t be defined strictly one way. There are too many layers for that. We might not be able to explain it easily, but we absolutely know it when we feel it and we recognize authentic confidence when we see it. Confidence is not about what other people think of you. And, really, it’s...
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What’s your story?

One of my favorite quotes fell into my lap while I was sitting at work one afternoon. It reads, “People become really quite remarkable when they start thinking that they can do things. When they believe in themselves they have the first secret of success.” – Norman Vincent Peale The truth of this quote became quite clear as I walked into a job interview last week. What was advertised as a receptionist position turned out to be something else, entirely. As I sat and stared at what could be my new reality I had the overwhelming feeling that I was worth so much more than the position I was placing myself in. After just a few seconds of the words “HELL NO” running through my head, I knew that I had no other choice but to, as Mr. Peale explained, believe in what I could do. There are countless stories about the human spirit and what the sheer force of will can do to change or save a life.  What’s your story? Do you have one? If not, are you okay with that? You were not born to be average. You were not born to be small, or afraid, or...
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How badly do you want it?

It’s that thing that wakes you up in the morning and tells you to get out of bed; it’s that feeling you can’t ignore; it’s a passion that burns for a craft you’re determined to master; it’s the challenge that keeps whispering “you can’t give up now, give it one more try”; it’s there and you need to keep going. How badly do you want it? This question has been creeping into my thoughts in the most subtle but powerful ways over the past few weeks. Whether it’s a fight song I heard on the radio, an academy award nominated movie that gave me a very real image of the work it takes to be great, or a television show that reminded me to “be worthy of being believed in”, I’ve been inspired to ask myself how badly I want this dream I’ve carried with me for so long. It’s not a simple conversation to have. It’s about taking the time to ask “is this really what I want and just HOW BADLY do I want it?” Sometimes, the answers aren’t as graceful as we hoped they would be. You can be anything you want to be. You really can....
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When part-time breaks my heart

There’s a women’s clothing store in my hometown that I spend quite a bit of time in. Not because I love shopping, but because I work there. I’ve been there for awhile now and there are parts of mu job that I love. The women I work with, the impact I can have, and the smiles I get to see. But, there are definitely moments that I dread. It’s not what you think – I don’t dread the frustrated customers or those who need more help than the average shopper. It’s not that at all.  I dread the moments when a woman is standing in front of the three-way mirror, looking fabulous, and she says to me… “Well, I don’t look like you so I don’t look THAT good in this.” “I wish they looked as good on me as they do on you.” “I could never wear that. I need to hide more than that.” Or, it’s the moment when I overhear a mother sharing her body-bashing with my coworker or a fellow customer and I can’t help but feel the need to take her daughter’s hand and walk away for a few minutes.   I’ve  been struggling to find...
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