Redefining the Perfectionism

After graduating from law school, as I was preparing for job interviews, my career adviser Bonny gave me some sample questions a typical interviewer would ask. To my serious surprise, one of the questions was what I consider my negative quality. Once I got over why someone would ask a question like that, I started pondering what my answer could possibly be. It’s not that I could easily be honest about it! So eventually, I came up with a clever idea to say that I am a perfectionist, but that I am pretty good at controlling how much time I can sit on each assignment. Looking back, I see that I actually knew back then, being a perfectionist was not necessarily a good quality…unless work is done perfectly within an appropriate timeframe. I didn’t stop there. I demanded nothing short of perfection from myself in everything else I did: relationship, parenting, cooking, baking, entertaining, and so on. But then, I began to realize how there is a collateral damage of perfectionism — the loss of joy… I do think many women suffer from perfectionism. To be honest, many of us were encouraged to be perfectionists because of society. As a kid, I watched my mom washing her bed whites and ironing my dad’s shirts to perfection. She taught me how to do all these tasks as I was curious to know. Then there are idols. Just think of Martha Stewart, the domestic Goddess. I tried to cook, bake, and entertain like her, especially, during holiday season! The food, the decor, the gifts, and the entertainment! As the responsibility started piling up, especially once I hit my 30s, perfectionism became more of an obstacle. It not only prevented me from enjoying my time, but more importantly, it was feeding the problem within. If you really think about it, perfectionism is a desire to be flawless. If I don’t do everything perfectly, then I have flaws… and to be honest, no matter how much effort I put in something, nothing EVER comes out flawless. Does perfectionism and the desire to be flawless come down to pleasing others or being hard on yourself? Or both? At this point in my life, as I am rebuilding from the inside out, it is important to be content with being imperfect. Everyone is imperfect, and this doesn’t bother me a bit. I love people around me no less, and I know they love me too. Having said that, I do not advocate to abandon the perfectionism in its entirety. It is important to have a purpose and a goal to strive for… as long as it is something you love. Everything else, shouldn’t require nearly as much of your energy. This year, as the holidays are approaching, I am looking forward to taking things slow, enjoying everything I do while trying not to put pressure on myself to make all things perfect. I will be flexible and open minded, do five things instead of ten, all with joy. Truly, the only parts we remember from the holidays, aren’t going to be the gifts we gave or got, what meals we ate, or how many cakes we baked. We remember how we felt. So let’s make this year out to be a warm and cozy feeling.

Photography Beyond Amateur

One thing I realized as I dove into this new endeavor of a lifestyle and travel blogger, is how challenging this business can be, especially in its versatility. I have to be a stylist, a photographer, a videographer, a writer, an editor, a manager, a brand specialist and many more things all at once. The pressure to be good, no, great, at all of these things is high because the competition is fierce. So, I dove into learning the craft each one of these specialty areas as I knew no more of them than an average enthusiast.  Talking about photography, I always hear how important the quality of photos and careful editing and styling is important for blogs, but especially for the instagram feed. So creating my own presentation style is what I tried to concentrate on at the beginning. There are tons of tutorials on photography on youtube. And my most favorite ones are Peter McKinnon, Sorelle Amore, and Chris Hau.  And I chose them for their level of professionalism, creativity, and also for great personalities that give me boost of energy to do it, because I tell you, the more I realize how much I don’t know, the more I scared I get that it’s too late for me to start learning a whole new industry. So them being realistic definitely helps. A few notes. One, before getting to watch these guys, make sure to learn all important basics of your camera. Right now, I use Cannon 80D with 18-55mm lens. I watched the boring but very informative tutorial on Cannon 80D, made notes on my phone how to change aperture or ISO, etc. which are a must know if you want to ditch auto, and start shooting raw. (and believe me, if you don’t know what any of this means, I did not know it either just a month ago!) Two, the tutorials by Chris, Peter, and Sorelle, are very informative, and fun and entertaining, but be aware not to just watch, but to practice and take pics at least a few times a week. Because I did find myself at first wanting keep clicking to the next video and next video, I don’t have a whole day to do so. I simply need to practice the skills in between learning and in the midst of my day. This also helps fight the fears of inferiority.  These photos are my first attempt on shooting photos without Auto. any photographer will be able to rip them apart, but at least its a start. It was very tempting to go back to Auto, especially since this was a crowded pumpkin patch day and I felt pressured to get out of there as fast as I could, but I leave the issue of self-sabotaging myself to another day.  Do you feel that you need to excel in photography and learn shooting as professional? 

My Mind, My Sanctuary

For the past few years, I’ve worked on creating a ‘simple living’ lifestyle for myself and family. I have to say it was not an easy task. While there may be nothing complicated about simple living, undoing the overloaded lifestyle and stress, reshaping the daily grind, and rewiring the way I perceive life, does take lots of practice, patience, and lots of start-overs.  Someone once told me that practicing mindfulness is like exercising. If you are going for a run for the first time in a long time (or ever), your legs hurt, you feel out of breath, and possibly even feel like vomiting. It is very tempting to quit after the first attempt. But if you keep going for a run a day after day, practice will make it better and eventually, makes it perfect. So, if you are thinking of practicing mindfulness, be prepared for a long haul and lots of start-overs, but just don’t give up. Always remind yourself that practice makes perfect, and all your efforts are worthy. One of the absolutely necessary steps towards my goal of mindful living, was the decluttering my daily activities in a major way (read about it here). It is absolutely impossible to practice feeling content when your day is overloaded with million things on your to-do list. Just decluttering my day in itself simplified my daily grind by half and gave my mind room to breathe and concentrate on rewiring the way I think and perceive things.  I want to make it clear, though, when I say “simple living”, I don’t mean moving into a Thailand monastery or to a countryside. These may be great options for some, but they are not for me. I like living in a busy city, going places and enjoying the experiences of a mix of things. My goal now is to learn to be mindful of my experiences, learn to be content with where I am at any moment in life and learn not to be hard on myself. I recognize that this may sound like I am able to practice mindfulness in a place overfilled with temptations… kind of like practicing sobriety in a wine country. Temptations may be everywhere, but I and only I decide what I want to do and how I want to live. And if there are many people in my society practice multitasking, perfectionism, and unreasonable self-demands, I have a choice not to do the same!  In Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert said: “You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day… This is a power you can cultivate.” So here are the choices I practice daily: Just like I choose my clothes every day, I choose what to do every day, do fewer things throughout my day instead of tackling a superwoman’s* schedule. (read about it here).  Just like I choose my clothes every day, I choose what to think about myself every day, be kind and not judgemental. Just like I choose my clothes every day, I choose to do what I love instead of what’s expected. (read about it here) Just like I choose my clothes every day, I choose to put away my phone and take a few breaths before and after I fall asleep, instead of going through social media before and after falling asleep.  I would be lying if I didn’t tell you how many hundreds of times I slipped into my old habits in the past few years (yes, years!). But practice does make things better, and I see a tremendous difference between myself even a year ago and now.  I will stop for now, but I will be coming back to this, probably one of the most important topics of this blog. Leave me your replies as to what are your struggles when it comes to your lifestyle, your mindfulness, and happiness. Do you feel stressed or content? Did you try to make a change? What worked for you and what didn’t? Love you darlings!! xo *Superwoman is a fictional character.

The Agony of Dreaming Big

In many ways, the choices we make design the shape and substance of our lives. Anywhere from things like what I should eat for breakfast, to where I should live, or what career to pick, or who to marry… These are all choices that we make that make us. If I choose to eat healthy, I feel good. If I choose to marry the right person, I get to have a friend and a happy home. If I choose the right career path, I get to enjoy my day to day grind. This also means that the quality of my life depends on my ability to make the right choices… for me.  When I wrote Finding Your Life’s Offenders, I talked about the ingredients of happiness: having people to love, enjoying my job, spending free time doing something fun. And all of these three components heavily depend on the choices I made in the course of my life. Overall, I was a pretty good choice maker. I chose the right man to be my husband, I surrounded myself with friends I love, and I created a small home for ourselves, one full of heart.  For many years, however, I did not enjoy my day to day grind at work. My career choice did not fit me as well as I originally hoped. I am a daughter of a musician and a dreamer at heart. My choice of becoming a lawyer was surprising to many of my friends. In reality, though, it is not unusual for a creative person to choose to pursue a legal career (or any conventional career) over a creative one. Fear of uncertainty and failure inside this endeavor ends up being our guide. For me, coupling my fears with the circumstances of being a brand-new immigrant, having no money and a family to provide for (you can read my story here), the choice of putting my dreamer self aside and study law made sense.  For many years following my graduation from law school, the amount of stress, pressure and worst of all, lack of a creative outlet made me feel absolutely miserable. For so long, I tried to ignore the issue. I spent years trying to patch it up with “me time”, but nothing worked. Eventually, I had to face the fact that I was at a major crossroads again. Should I make a career switch? You would think that after describing how “absolutely miserable” my day to day grind was, the decision to make a career switch was an easy one, but it wasn’t. It was actually quite agonizing!! As much as I knew that I didn’t want to do what I did, I thought how the job was stable, paid well, and I knew the craft in the back of my head. The alternative was what? To explore creative endeavors without any knowledge of a new business or assurance of success? Oh, if I only had a crystal ball!! Finally, I gathered up all my courage, pulled out my yellow pad, and drew a line down the middle. I tried to come up with reasons for and against each alternative. It didn’t take long to figure out that the decision had to come down to financial security. Quitting a well-paid job for some lucrative dream of a creative living. The agony of the decision-making process, in its condensed form, looked something like this in my head: life is a journey, and if I don’t enjoy it, what’s the point? What am I thinking about?! I am not 15 and have responsibilities to my family. What if V (my husband) loses his job? Will I be content with not being able to spend money? Well, too often I spend money to make myself feel good, so if I feel good, then I won’t need to spend money. But really, will I be okay not to have an option to spend, at least for a while? Everyone will think I’m insane, or even worse, a fool. But then, as Mark Twain famously said that whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect. Hmm, there are so many quotes to inspire people to dream big and be different, and not one suggesting to stop dreaming… it is great if I succeed, but what if I won’t?… After complaining about my life for years, I risk becoming just another person who complains but does nothing about it, and to tell the truth, if I don’t try now, I will never do it, NEVER! And Never is an awfully long time! And then, when I’m 90, I’d wonder how my life would be if I followed my dreams and desires in search of my happiness…   So that is it. I don’t want to wonder “what if” at 90 years old, and I want to love my day to day grind. I won’t let fear of failure make my choices for me. I always wanted a life filled with great loves and great endeavors. I want to travel, scope out undiscovered places, make friends, and tell people’s stories. So here I am, world! It won’t be easy, but I’ll give it all I have… Thank you for reading my dearests! I can’t wait to read your thoughts and comments, because they mean the world to me!! Aaaaaaand, follow me on Instagram and Youtube where I am sharing my creative business-building journey.  Love you lots!

Addiction to Doing it All

Every time I hear someone say that I should be “present”, I mentally want to slap them because I can’t. I CAN’T stay present, don’t you understand?! I am a modern woman, and I have things to do… things I piled upon myself. To me, being present is a feeling, a state of mind. My state of mind is always on the next subject. When it comes to feelings, I locked them deep down in me, because feelings are a complete distraction that slows me down from doing things, and more things, and more things. Kids, work, bills, emails, social media, errands, exercise, meditation, nights out, cooking, entertaining…  So please, don’t tell me to be present, my life is very happening! Now I sat back and realized what the problem evident here is.  Hi, I am Zuma, and I am addicted to doing things. Am I? Don’t I have to do all these things? Isn’t everyone else doing all these things? Aren’t we all addicted? Life offers so many opportunities now, and I finally have the opportunity to do it all, and I don’t want to be the one who can’t do it all. I DON’T WANT TO BE THE ONE WHO CAN’T DO IT ALL! Has this chaotic, crazy, and overloaded life of mine been just a marathon I run to prove to me and probably to everyone around me that I CAN do it all? And at what cost? Okay, let’s see at what cost: Music: I haven’t listened to music for years, because music would wake up my heart and that would certainly slow me down. Money: I spent money on stuff to make myself feel good, then donating that stuff to make me feel less overwhelmed. Reading: I haven’t read anything but self-help books for years. Health: I wear an Apple watch so I could count steps and be reminded to breathe. Stress: I am constantly stressed, but even my so-called self-care practices are nothing but a part of a non-stop cycle of doing things. Focus: I can’t stay on topic long enough because my mind starts craving to do the next thing.  Relaxation: As many times as I have been to Hawaii for work (pics of ocean and palm trees are all over my Instagram!), I haven’t actually lied down on the beach while doing nothing for the last thirty years. The most I did was to take three deep breaths of that beautiful salty air. Flatlining: I used to have dreams and goals, but I don’t have a plan where I am going. I only know that wherever I am going, I am going fast. Meanwhile, years go by. Does all this worth to make me feel worthy? A few days ago I was reading a book about French cooking. Aside from cooking, it talked about human senses. It said that they are one of the greatest gifts we are given at birth. Senses bring color, beauty, and meaning to our lives.  Well, this makes a complete sense! Senses are what actually bring color, beauty, and meaning to our lives. Sight, taste, smell, touch, hearing… now, hear and listen and feeeeeeel!  As much as I appeared to have a “happening life”, I did not feel it!  So what’s it’s value then? And as a first step of rebuilding my life and getting back to basics, I will have to unlock the senses I was given at birth, embrace them, and sharpen them. What to do now? Today I will turn music on, and let it slow me down. I can assume that a few things will fall out of my list unaccomplished, and I will let them be. If they don’t, I will try again tomorrow, practice will make it perfect. Now? Lets the healing journey begin. 

Finding Your Life’s Offenders

I always thought, no, I was always absolutely certain that when I would grow up, I would create for myself a great life, full of love, color, and adventure. I thought I would be traveling the world and writing stories about people I meet and tell them to my children and my children’s children… Sadly, twenty years later, I somehow ended up being a stressed and depressed mom, trapped in a long, daily routine made of work, work, and more work. Some call it “the reality”, but I think there has to be a way to overwrite this “reality”. There are some happy people out there in the world, and not because they are lucky, but because they live right, because they found their best formula. And now I want to find mine. So the first step in rebuilding my life is to re-evaluate what my life is like now. Rules for happiness: have someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to. ~ Immanuel Kant When re-evaluating my life and looking for the reasons why I felt so dissatisfied and unfulfilled (I call them “my offenders”), I broke life down into three equally important sections: home – i.e. someone to love, work (as something to do), and my soul (as something to look forward to). With the idea that every aspect of life can and SHOULD be enjoyable, I started by answering these simple questions: 1. Home: Do I have people I love around me? If you struggle with this, write down the names! 2. Work: Do I have a job I enjoy? 3. Soul: Do I take time to do things I love? 4. Do I allocate an equal (or at least, somewhat equal) time or energy to all these three sections? You may think these questions are too simple or too obvious, but the basic principles of life ARE simple and obvious. If you are not feeling good about your life, then your answer to at least one of the questions will be NO.  I posted my answers below, and you can read them if you would like. But before you do, answer the questions yourself. Write them down on a piece of paper, because if you don’t like your answers (they may be too simple, too complicated, scary, or embarrassing!), then it will take no effort to brush them away. Meanwhile, when you write your answers, it takes actual, physical action to dismiss, discard, or move the paper. I mean, if you are going to do it, do it right. You’ve got to know what your offenders are, it’s impossible to tackle any problem without knowing what the problem is… Now, what you do once you know what the problem is is the million dollar question, but we will leave it to another day! My Answers: 1. I say Yes!! I am lucky to be able to say that my family and friends are my everything! 2. Well, partially. I am a private immigration attorney and do enjoy some aspects of my job ~ the human factor: I do help people change their and their families’ lives. I also get to travel for work and get paid for it! On the other hand, I absolutely hate the stress of being on top of things all the time, long hours away from home which leads to multitasking and a constant switching of my work and motherhood hats back and forth. Also, my type of work does not fulfill my creative side, quite opposite of it I’d say… 3. No. I do schedule time for fun, but don’t seem to enjoy it. I feel tired, time passes in a flash, and my mind is occupied with all the things I have to do when I get back… so, No. 4. Absolutely NO, NO, NO! Now it’s your turn to tell me what your offenders are hehe! Leave your replies, email me, DM on Instagram, and follow!! Talk to you next week loves!! xo

Rediscover Series

I was always absolutely certain that when I would grow up, I would create for myself a great life, full of love, color, and adventure. I thought I would be traveling the world and writing stories about people I meet and tell them to my children and my children’s children… Sadly, years later, I somehow ended up being a stressed and depressed mom, trapped in a long, daily routine made of work, work, and more work. Some call it “the reality”, but I think there has to be a way to overwrite this “reality”. There are some happy people out there in the world, and not because they are lucky, but because they live right, because they found their best formula. And now I want to find mine. So here’s my rediscovery journey to find that life I always wanted to build for myself.