Love Your Reflection

Since I’m trying to re-establish blogging as part of my busy work week, I wanted to get back to the basics this week and remind myself why my work matters.  So let’s talk about the girl in the mirror and why we love her!

Worldwide, women are under pressure to meet beauty standards.  Those standards are different wherever you go, and even within a culture, everyone has an opinion.  That means you are never going to be everybody’s cup of tea.  No body meets every beauty standard.

So where should you be focusing your energy?

IMG_6800Instead of conforming to your society’s standards, take a look in the mirror and see what’s there.  Then, find a way to love what you see.

Easier said than done.  We all have our hangups – a freckle we can’t see past, a curve we wish would shrink.  You are your own worst critic, and that’s okay.  We all have the potential to make changes in our lives, and as long as those changes are healthy, it’s okay to make them.  Just make sure you make changes out of love for yourself, not out of pressure to conform.

So how do you love your imperfectly perfect self?  Here are a few exercises for those days when the girl in the mirror isn’t living up to the standards living within you:

(1) Take “time off”

Nobody has the energy to be “on” at all times, and time off is at the heart of my self-love practice.  Light a candle, power down your networking apps, and pour a glass of wine.  Sink into the tub or under the covers.  Open the book that’s been gathering dust on your nightstand or turn on a mindless flick.  Just be.

(2) Accomplish small goals

Every morning, I make my bed, and no matter what happens during the day, I have accomplished that one, very small, goal.  It sounds silly.  For me, it works.  No matter what else happens, I have done this one small thing for myself, and at the end of the day, I get to pull the covers back and escape.

(3) Quicken your heartbeat

Get a workout in!  The amazing thing about exercise is that it works if you’re tired or if you’re too hyped up to wind down.  A meaningless day that drains you of all energy or a strenuous day that wires you with stress can both be reversed with a little cardiovascular training.

(4) Phone a friend

Call someone who sees what you are having trouble seeing: you are amazing.  Let them remind you of all the good you bring to the world, the enrichment you give to their life.  We all need a hype man sometimes.  Embrace their compliments and love!IMG_6774

(5) Just dance

Okay, maybe don’t dance, but do something you love!  If you don’t have a hobby that you can’t talk about without smiling, it’s time to find one.  Find something that makes you feel good about yourself, that lets your talents shine.

Whatever you choose to do, make sure you are keeping the outside world quiet so you can clearly hear your own needs! 

How do you remind the girl in the mirror that she woke up flawless?

#APerfectFit

“What’s Your End Goal?”

Up until about a year ago, I thought I’d have an “Ah-hah!” moment when I became an adult and knew what I was doing with my life.  Then, I realized that becoming an adult is accepting that nobody knows what they’re doing, and becoming a responsible adult is just doing the best you can.  Fake it until you become it, as they say!

I have a simple short-term goal: receiving my MBA and finding a job to pay the bills.  My long-term goals are a little less quantifiable, though.  I want to find a fulfilling job; one that provides a two-way street allowing me to impact the world while developing me as a person.  I also want to inspire women to find love for themselves, which I believe starts with finding love for Jesus.  This blog is my meager attempt at building the foundations towards that goal.

But in all truth, there is no end goal for me.  I will die with goals I haven’t yet met, because as I reach one milestone, I set the next one.  That’s the burden of being a goal-oriented person.  Goals are always evolving, adapting to fit my capabilities and emotions.

If you aren’t sure what your purpose is and feel surrounded by people who seem to have it all together, you are not alone.  Just know that even when you feel purposeless, God has a reason you’re here.  He just doesn’t always make His reasons known.

So well-meaning people of the world, please stop inquiring as to my end goal.  There is no end goal.  There is a series of goals that will continue to evolve as I continue to grow.  We aren’t meant to know our end purpose, and it’s high time we stop trying.

#APerfectFit

What does “wellness” even mean?

My definition of wellness involves physical, mental, social and spiritual health.  I  place the most importance on spiritual health, but I try to tend to all 4 facets on a daily basis.  Some days, one area needs a little more attention than the others, and that area gets prioritized.  This encompassing definition of wellness means it’s perfectly healthy to skip a morning at the gym for a brunch with your girlfriends if you’re lacking in social health that week.  However, you have to be careful to prioritize in a way that maintains the quadrants equally, instead of focusing on your favorite each day.

What do I mean by that?  When I was competing in the pageant system, physical health fought to become my single definition of wellness.  I was surrounded by girls with phenomenal bodies, and I was going to stand on a stage next to them.  I didn’t skip workouts.  It didn’t matter if I hadn’t had a real conversation with my roommate in a week or given myself some time to rewind all month.  I focused all of my energy on that one aspect of health, and it resulted in neglect of the other areas.

When I graduated in December of 2016, I had a lot to think about.  One evaluation I made involved looking at my beliefs and how they were driving me.  This 4-dimensional model of wellness is something I’ve always stated was part of my belief system, but my actions hadn’t been adding up.  I realized I still believed it was the best model of wellness for my life, but I was letting the picture-perfect models of Instagram alter my reality.  I was prioritizing based on the mindset I ended up with after scrolling past perfect picture after perfect picture on social media.  I knew I had to make a change.

I took a serious look at my mental health and recognized how harshly I was evaluating my body.  My physical health was no longer about true health.  It had become more about being as toned as the (often edited) photos than about BMI and clean eating.  This twisted perception of physical health was certainly impacting my mental health.  It was also hurting my social health, as I couldn’t skip a day at the gym.

In my last post, I admitted my physique isn’t what it once was.  Despite a few new curves, my body is still strong and healthy, and now, I have a mindset of strength to match.  My social calendar is always open to new bookings, and I can truly say I am happier than ever.  All that despite facing a new challenge in my life.

Working part time while staying on top of my MBA coursework has simply been exhausting.  If I didn’t have amazing people in my life building me up, it probably wouldn’t be going as well as it is.  As disciplined as I try to be, I don’t have time to do everything I want to do.  I am slowly becoming proficient at prioritizing, but it’s a skill I’ll be working to improve for the rest of my life.

There are moments when I see a fat girl in the dressing room trying on clothes that are no longer the size 0 I once wore.  There are moments I want back the abs that generated buzz.  They are fleeting and becoming more infrequent with each passing week.  My investments in social activities have resulted in waves of love and support, and my mental health is doing much better focusing on my daily successes instead of my physical appearance.

It’s difficult to talk about appearances when everyone’s perception has been effected by numerous positive and negative events.  Your body is the vessel through which you can impact the world, and physically taking care of it is important.  But I encourage you to recognize how much more there is to health than weight.

Tonight is going to be a candlelit bathtub and wine kind of night for me.  What do you need to do tonight to be well?

#APerfectFit

Bikini Body

There’s this thing that girls do when they put on a swimsuit – they evaluate. I don’t care who you are or how much you love yourself, it is incredibly rare not to check the mirror before you hit the beach/pool. There’s nothing wrong with a little pride in your appearance. Ensuring the girls are looking good and a little “dang, girl, lookin’ fine” to yourself is great attitude prep for walking around in what is essentially underwear. The problem is when that one second glance turns into several slow minutes of serious evaluation.

I didn’t do that a year ago.  Between you and me, I am the “fattest” I’ve ever been in my life today.  I am also the happiest.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: healthy is physical, mental, social, and spiritual.  Physically I’m not my best me, but I’m doing better on the other three than I have in past memory.  But more about that some other time…

I didn’t evaluate myself in the mirror a year ago because there was no part of my physical body I was unaware of.  I knew I was toned; I knew what I’d worked out the day before and that day and would work on the next.  Now, it’s highly likely I skipped a couple workouts to get drinks with friends or even just because.  So when I put on a bikini, it’s unknown what’s going to be jiggly or the exact state of bloat I might be in.

My roommates and I will rush back in forth to each others’ rooms before a trip to the pool trying to determine what swim suit doesn’t make us look “fat”… and this is a problem.  Because none of us are by any means “fat”.  We are all at a healthy BMI, perhaps higher than it once was, but by no means overweight.  And this would be a problem even if we actually were overweight.

Evaluating your body is essential to knowing its current state.  It helps you know what you need – for some of us that’s a large meal and for others it’s a trip to the gym.  There are times when it’s essential to look at your body and see what’s there and figure it out, but when you just put on a swimsuit for a day of fun, it’s not the right time.  It’s time to get tanned and boozy by a body of water!

So the next time you put on a swimsuit, regardless of your BMI and what may or may not need work, get your priorities straight.  You’re putting it on to have a good time, not to work on any changes, so don’t evaluate.  Instead, remind yourself that you love yourself and if that doesn’t work, live by the “if you can’t tone it, tan it!” mantra.  Now go show off that bikini body!

Why Hating Valentines Day Matters

There was a time in my life when I said I hated February 14th, but I absolutely loved to hate it.  Valentine’s Day was a celebration with my gal pals – we ate chocolate, threw gummy bears at couples in movie theaters, and in later years, popped bottles.  As much as we whined and complained about being single and forever alone, we were never actually alone.

Fast forward a few years… it turns out I wouldn’t be single forever.  You won’t be either if you don’t want to be.  I love him every day, but he gets extra attention today both for the Hallmark holiday and his birthday.

So what’s the point of this post?  I guess I just want to give a little bit of completely unsolicited advice to all my single friends.  And maybe even to the younger girls whose relationships with boys are so much less important than their friends (even if they don’t see that right now).

Hating Valentines Day is one of the best girlfriend activities in the world, and if you aren’t embracing it, you are seriously missing out.  By embracing it, I mean pouring your heart and soul out to your friends.  Laugh and cry and verbally abuse people who have done you wrong.  If you’re doing it with your best friends, it’s going to turn into a beautiful memory, and all the mushy outcries are going to make you closer.

Hate on couples and romance, but immerse yourself in the love of your friends.  Open your heart up and be vulnerable with the people who will stand by you at the altar one day, tears in their eyes because they know how much you prayed for the person standing across from you.  Don’t harden your heart on a holiday about love.  Just because you’re single now doesn’t mean you don’t or can’t love, it just means you have extra feels for your friends right now.

As thankful as I am that I have a man to do life with, when I hear my roommates talking about getting wine, cookie dough, and a chick-flick for tonight, my heart aches a little.  Because as happy as I am to be in love, some of my best memories with those girls include those very things and hating on everyone who had done wrong by us.  So my advice is simple: embrace the stage you’re at in life; you’re going to miss it tomorrow.  If that means wine night and Magic Mike, engage in every minute of it.  You might have all the romance your heart craves next year, but until then, be with people that matter today and love them with all you’ve got.

And to my beautiful roommates, thanks for having a second go round on Thursday so I can participate.  Knowing a night with my best friends is only a couple of days away heals the FOMO I have about going on a romantic date tonight.  Thanks for making it possible for me to have both.  I can’t wait for Galentines!

Miss Clemson University 2016

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil to bring you an expected end.
Jeremiah 29:11

That verse has been playing in my head ever since I was crowned Miss Clemson University in January of 2016.  From the moment I hit campus freshmen year, I was in love with this institution, but I never anticipated the opportunity to represent it in such a special way.  This was a part of my life planned by someone much wiser than me, and as they put the crown on my head, I couldn’t help but ask, “Why me, God?  What is your plan for me in this role?”

I never participate in anything without putting my best foot forward.  That’s how I was raised.  At the same time, I in no way anticipated beating some of the biggest names in the pageant world in order to win this title.  I was happy to be considered, so blessed my sorority sisters trusted me to represent them.  I had no idea what was coming, though.

With my reign ending this Saturday, I want to take a moment to reflect on the past year and what it has meant to me.

Being Miss Clemson University is special in that she has no ties to a larger pageant organization.  While this means no director or assistance with scheduling events, it also provides a special autonomy.  For the past year, it was on me to determine what I should be doing.  I chose to primarily integrate the title into my existing life, not necessarily seeking special circumstances, but just using it as an excuse to volunteer more.

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It’s not happy people who are thankful; it’s thankful people who are happy.

As usual, I did most of my volunteer work for the GHS Children’s Hospital, using the crown and being executive director of Clemson Miracle to get through the door.  I got to see a lot of smiling faces, kids who thought I was way cooler than I actually am.

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Giving our check to CCDC

Through the pageant itself, we fundraised for the Clemson Child Development Center.  I had the honor of delivering the check.  If you’ve never been, it’s often a little chaotic.  The kids have a lot of energy, and the adults have been there all day and will most likely take some work home.  However, when their director, Carol, found a moment to step out of the room and saw the check, her face said more than words could about her gratitude for Mortar Board and all they do for CCDC.

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First Friday Parade 2016

 

Then, there was the moment they let me ride in the First Friday Parade.  If you didn’t go to Clemson, this is the parade before our first home football game every fall, and to us, it’s kind of a big deal.  To have my own car in the parade was a huge honor, and I loved every minute of blowing kisses to little girls and screaming cadence count with our alumni band.

Of all the years to be crowned Miss Clemson, I got 2016 – the year we finished off our football season with a National Championship title by defeating Alabama.  The year Clemson Miracle raised over $71,000 for the children’s hospital.  The year I graduated from Clemson and was accepted into their MBA program.  The year my little brother started his freshmen year as a tiger.  It has been a year I will never forget.

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Trading the crown in for a mortar board. (Christine Scott Photography)

Five years ago, I decided to attend Clemson University.  As a Georgia native, people repeatedly asked me why, and I had little to say other than “it just felt right.”  I had no idea I had made the best decision of my life.  During my time at Clemson, I met my best friends and the love of my life.  I was challenged and changed by numerous mentors and opportunities.  I realized that above all it wasn’t the school I chose but the people I found.  The Clemson family – all the unique individuals who find common ground in a love of orange and purple – is the best to be surrounded by, and I am forever thankful I found each and every one of you.

To my parents, who agreed to send me to the only school I didn’t have a full scholarship to, thank you.  I cannot express either my love for you and your support, or my love for this place, because the words just don’t exist.  Just know, I could not have accomplished all I have without the unconditional love and support of you both.

To my little brother, Henry, I truly appreciate all of the pageants and dance recitals you have sat through.  I’m so excited to watch your love of Clemson grow and to see how you both change over the next 4 (or maybe 5 if you’re lucky!) years.

To all the people who made it possible for me to succeed in the world of pageants: thank you.  Mama K, you are truly my second mom, and I’m just so thankful for every hour I got to spend with you in the studio.  Christine (Smith), wow, you’re the most talented human, and your salon is going to be the talk of the town!  Thanks for making me the absolute best version of myself and drinking mimosas with me during makeup time.  Cathy Scott, it has been way too long since we crossed paths, but you were the first to recognize I had the potential for the stage.  Thank you for every gown you altered to perfection.  And of course, Gregory Ellenburg, thank you for the gown of my dreams.

Christine (Scott) – thank you a thousand times over again for the hundreds of shots it took to perfectly expose a white evening gown at midday on a football field.  You are such a talented photographer; I’m blessed to call you my friend.

girliesTo the women of Kappa Delta, thank you for letting me represent you on stage last year.  I’m thankful for the continual support of so many of you, especially my roommates.  Savannah, thank you for dressing me when clothes became overwhelming / taking me to wine night when life became overwhelming.  Littlest One, thank you for being the best sister I could have asked for.  My other Courtneys – all my love, I wouldn’t have made it if I hadn’t found you both 4.5 years ago.  And English, you were last to the roommate party, which is good because the amount of fun we have together is deadly.

 

To my amazing boyfriend, Lawrence I know you never thought you’d sit through a pageant (or 5), but you have been so great about supporting everything I pursue.  I’m thankful every day that Clemson brought me to you.  You’re also the best puppy dad, and I’m so proud of the little nugget we’re raising.

Maybe it’s the sunsets, or the ice cream, or the tailgates that make Clemson so special; everyone has their own opinion.  To me, it’s the people that make up our Clemson family that make it such a special place to call home.  I am blessed every day to be a tiger, and I want to thank every member of my Clemson family for allowing me to represent you over the past year.  To the girl we crown on Saturday, what you do is up to you, so make it the best year of your life to date!  I am truly so excited for whoever gets to experience this incredible #ClemsonMoment next.

Forever your Miss Clemson University 2016,

Tracy McGee

Cheers T(w)o More Student Football Seasons!

Just when you thought I was really going to graduate, I found another way to stay in Clemson!  I like to think the administration regretted that I had reached the end of my time as a student tiger, but whatever the reason, a spot magically opened up in Clemson’s MBA program.  One week before accepting my diploma, I accepted a spot to begin my masters studies at Clemson starting in January 2017.

The day before I received the call about the opening, I made an important decision: I chose faith instead of fear.  I decided to fully let go of the worry over my uncertain future, to trust instead that God truly does have a plan.  I recognized worrying was doing nothing to help me.

This is an uphill battle for me – I’m from a family of ruminaters.  I have to actively choose faith over fear every single day, usually many times a day.  I have to remind myself constantly not to fear the future’s many unknowns or even the present’s uncertainties.  Anxiety is the root causes of the tension in so many peoples’ lives.  Fear has never solved a problem, and it certainly isn’t good for your health.

So here I am, trying to laugh without fear of the future as they say, and I get a call about an opening in Clemson’s MBA program.  It’s an opening that would allow me to start January 9th, less than a month after my graduation.  If I can get my application and references by the end of the week, they are willing to consider me for this spot.  Luckily for me, I had incredible mentors throughout my undergraduate experience.  One had her reference letter ready before I even asked, and another hustled to get hers done in time.  I turned it in and crossed my fingers, thinking this had to be meant to be if they were willing to make so many exceptions on my behalf.

I guess it was.  I got into the program and accepted my spot a week before I crossed the stage to receive my undergraduate diploma.

I’m standing on the doorstep of a grand new adventure, and I’m thrilled that this opportunity fell on me.  I no longer feel like I picked the “wrong” major in undergraduate school.  Though psychology was ultimately not what I wanted to do, my major opened doors for me through the people I met, the challenges I overcame, and the things I learned about myself along the way.  I think a business degree is a much better fit for the gifts and talents I’ve been given, but I don’t regret the path I’ve taken to get to where I am.

In summary, I have successfully put off becoming an adult for 2 more years, and I get the added bonus of 2 more tiger football seasons!  Although, this season might be unbeatable.  Clemson has a rematch with Bama on January 9, and it seems only fitting that my boys will be playing for the Natty on my first day of graduate school.  Go tigers!

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