7 Tricks For More Relatable Characters

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Hi there! I hope you’re safe & well. The fall ick has been going around lately. Hopefully you’ve been taking care of yourself and staying healthy so you can enjoy this season!

I have had one common piece of feedback on my writing: readers have trouble connecting with my characters.

This is something I’ve been working to improve because, as we all know, the characters can make or break a story!

Would you rather read a good story with a bad MC, or a not-so-good story with a great MC?

For me, it’s all about the character.

Don’t get me wrong, I love an exciting plot. But if I can’t get into the character’s head from the start, I’m bored for the rest of the book.

The problem with this is that there’s often a small window of time where if I don’t connect with the character, I never will. I have to be drawn in within the first few chapters, otherwise the character is lost on me.

So today I thought I’d share some tricks I’ve learned about creating more relatable characters.

1: Give the character something to care about-QUICKLY!

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Giving your character something to love is such an important part of adding depth to a character.

This doesn’t always have to be a love interest!

In fact, I recommend you give them something to care about that is totally platonic, or even something private they don’t share with many people.

This can be a pet, a sweater their grandma knit them, a necklace from their dad, a rock they found as a child, anything!

Make it personal, give it a story!

This is part of developing your character’s backstory-creating little scenes from their past that you can incorporate into the story in one way or another.

This adds depth to your character and a level of relatability for your reader!

They can have moments like “Oh, my grandma knit me a scarf I still have!” or “I have a dried flower from that nature walk I took with my dad, I get why she kept that rock!”

It’s the little things that make a big impact on a reader.

Everyone has things they love. That’s just human nature.

Giving your character something to love makes them more believable, and if your reader can relate to it with a similar scenario, all the better!

If you can’t think of anything for your character, think of things you care about, or things people you know care about.

Sometimes taking some inspiration from real life can be even better than making it up, because it’s real.

It’s so much more believable because you believe it.

If you write with complete understanding about a topic, even if you don’t mention every single fact, that knowledge will shine through and give your reader a sense of surety.

2: Give the character unique traits.

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Every single person has their own set of unique traits and quirks-so it stands to reason that your characters will too!

More than believability, adding a quirk will give your reader a peek into your character’s inner world.

They will gain an understanding of what makes them tick, how they behave, why they are the way they are.

More than that, it will make your character stand out amongst their peers.

If you think about your friends or family, who stands out to you the most? What makes them unique? What’s your favorite thing about them?

Often it’s people’s quirks that make us love them the most.

I have this cousin. I know I’m not supposed to pick favorites, but he is definitely my favorite! He is covered in piercings and tattoos and is in a heavy metal band. But he’s also the kindest, gentlest soul I think I’ve ever met.

I love his unique qualities, they serve to make him stand out to me.

Give your character some quirks.

Make them scared of butterflies.

Make them love cinammon rolls so much they shed tears every single time.

Make them have a weird laugh.

Make them only wear purple.

Just make them unique!

Give them (believable) traits that make your reader say, “Oh this person’s interesting. Now I want to know more.”

3: Make their best trait be their biggest downfall.

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Sometimes our biggest and best qualities can also be out greatest weaknesses.

Bravery is great, especially in a butt-kicking MC… but what happens when their bravery becomes reckless self-sacrifice?

Pride can be a good thing, but what happens when it gives your character a big head?

Being a sweet cinnamon roll can be a lovely quality, but what does it feel like to be the person who never says no, who always has to be nice?

There are so many weaknesses you can give your character, but make sure they fit the personality!

Think about someone in your life. What is their best trait? Their worst?

Can you see how these two things relate to each other?

Don’t be afraid to look into some behavior psychology.

People are fascinating. Life experience, family of origin, and present circumstances can all influence personality.

Make sure that your character makes sense, but then dive deeper into why they are the way they are and how you can make them more interesting.

4: Give your character goals.

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Everyone has a goal.

Most people have several!

Someone might have life goals, but also little goals every year, month, or even day.

Make your character want something. Make them desperate for it.

Wanting something is so relatable for your readers. So if you give your character a goal, your reader will connect with that.

Giving your character smaller goals will also be relatable for your readers.

Even if their goal is just to find something to eat.

Who hasn’t been hungry before? Everyone can relate to that!

Another thing to keep in mind here is that every character should have goals, not just your MC.

Your MC’s Big Goal will often line up with the plot, but you have to keep in mind that not all supporting characters will have that same goal.

Maybe your MC wants to save the world, but one of your supporting characters is just in it for the recognition.

Maybe your MC wants to slay the dragon, but your love interest just wants to win the MC’s heart.

Take a good look at each character’s personality and ask yourself why they are on this path.

Your supporting character is the MC of their own story, so what is that story?

5: Give your character redeeming qualities.

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Redeeming qualities are vital to creating a relatable character.

Part of relatability is likeability. No, not every person on the planet is likeable, but you will have a tough time selling a book if all your characters chafe against the reader.

Your reader needs to be able to like your MC.

Maybe you’re thinking to yourself, “But MK, I’m writing a different story. I don’t want my MC to be nice.”

Did I say nice? Nope!

The reader just has to be capable of liking them.

Not every person on the planet is kind, not even all the people you care about in your life. But I guarantee you that if you care about them, they have some redeeming qualities.

Maybe they’re tough but they love hard.

Maybe they have explosive anger, but are also fiercely protective of their loved ones.

Whatever you pick, make sure there is something about your characters that your readers can actually like.

Unless, of course, you enjoy low book sales and being ripped to shreds on Goodreads.

6: Put relatable obstacles in their path

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If you’re plotting correctly, there will be several obstacles in your MC’s path.

But part of making them relatable is showing “relatable reactions” to unrelatable situations… and giving your character some normal obstacles!

Put yourself in your character’s shoes: how would you react if you were them?

Make sure that whatever reaction they are having, it lines up with their personality and is believable for your reader.

But more than that, give your characters some NORMAL obstacles!

Does your MC need to save the world, but all the odds are stacked against them? That’s not super relatable for your reader…

So maybe also add that they get nervous in crowds or they’re afraid of spiders. Something totally normal so your reader understands it.

Maybe your character wants to ask someone out, but they’re scared.

Maybe your character is fighting with their sibling.

Maybe your character just lost a family member.

Take something away. Give them a fear. Put something totally mundane in their way that still ends up being a pain in the butt.

All these obstacles are relatable to your real-world readers and can add a sense of depth and believability to your character and your story.

7: Show growth

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Growth is vital to your story.

Characters need to show internal struggle just as much as external.

If you’re looking for some examples to take note of, YA does this so well!

You always start out with a character who changes dramatically over the course of the story.

This should happen over time, in believable increments.

Growth takes time in the real world, it should take time in your story too!

Your character should struggle against it at first. Nobody likes change. But after some growing pains, they should be better for it.

It should happen over the course of the book, with greater growth over the course of a series if that’s where your story is headed.

Maybe you’re asking, “But what if my MC ends up worse off than they started?”

Yes… there are exceptions. Something to remember about writing rules is that they’re really more like guidelines.

If you are following a different story structure and you want to show some kind of regression, go for it! It’s your story.

Will you get sales? I don’t know… Ask me in 10 years. Or just do it and find out!

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I hope this guide was helpful for my fellow writers out there!

As always, feel free to leave comments below if you think of anything that might make characters more relatable.

Sending love,

MK

This is Linux and his cousin Evie. They are the best of friends. When he’s working on character believability, he likes to think about her. Not to help his writing, mostly because that’s all he really thinks about when she’s around.

How To Show Not Tell Like A Pro

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Hi there, I hope you’re having a great week! Have you been doing lots of cozy fall things? I love this season. The leaves. The crisp breeze. The cozy sweaters and evenings snuggled up in a blanket. Whatever you’re doing, I hope you’re taking care of you ❤

I thought I’d cover showing vs. telling when it comes to writing.

I touched on this briefly in my post on 5 Common Mistakes New Writers Make, but I think it could use some further explanation.

You hear it everywhere: Show, don’t tell!

But what does that really mean?

Basically, it’s a way of expanding your writing and immersing your reader in the story.

Evoking emotions in your reader and giving them the tools to dive into your story.

Sounds great, right?

But it can be tricky.

I mean, you can’t show all the time.

Your book would be way too long and overflowing with flowery sentences that would lose their luster pretty quickly.

It’s like bumper stickers. A few carry meaning. But having your entire car decked out in bumper stickers will probably just make people turn away, not even bother to read one.

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It’s all about balance. You have to show enough to immerse your reader, but not so much that they get tired of reading the long, drawn-out paragraphs.

This balance will be different for every writer, and for every story. Something I have found is that it’s always better to show more.

Show as much as you can, then trim things down in the edits.

Do you need to say “Her eyelids grew heavy, her shoulders slumping as sleep beckoned her further from reality” every time, or can you just say “she was exhausted.”

Great question!

The answer is: Only you can know that.

I know, I know.

“MK, that’s not what I wanted to hear.”

But that’s the reality!

Only you can know what’s right for your story.

So show everything! Show in every paragraph, every line. Show until your fingers ache from typing, then go back and trim the fat.

Maybe you’ll go back and realize you already said that she was tired, so it’s good that you’re showing its affect now.

Maybe you’ll go back and realize this scene is already pretty fluffy, so you can just say “she was exhausted” and call it a day.

In the end, you should probably have a 70:30 ratio of showing vs telling.

Show me the little things that make me feel this world.

Tell me the big stuff.

Show me your character’s reaction when she sees a child’s doll crushed into the dirt in a war-torn countryside.

Show me how it feels when your character’s anxiety kicks in, and for the love of God, do some research if you don’t know what it feels like.

Show me how butterflies took flight in your character’s stomach when he had his first kiss.

Show me how it felt for your character to stand across from their partner on their wedding day.

Tell me the sky was blue.

Tell me the character walked across the bar and took a seat next to a cute boy.

Tell me your character is hungry.

Tell me what I need to know.

Show me what I need to feel.

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If you were describing the scene above, what would you tell me, and what would you show me?

You might tell me how deep the water was, but show me how it felt to be immersed in it. You might tell me she smiled when he kissed her, but you might show me what it felt like to kiss a mouth that tasted like saltwater and laughter. You might tell me the sun beat down on them, but you might show me how it felt to have your head grow warm while your toes buried in the frigid sand below.

You’re telling a story. That involves facts that need to be stated.

But this is art, at the end of the day.

Make me feel something.

Now if you’re wondering: “How do I show my readers?”

I’ve got you covered.

All you need to do is focus on the 5 senses: eyesight, hearing, taste, touch and smell.

Let’s give it a try with your actual story.

Think of a scene from your WIP that could use some flowers and fluff.

Got it?

Great.

Now close your eyes.

You are the character.

Their personality is yours.

Their habits and mannerisms are yours.

Their experience is your own.

Become your character in this scene.

What are you seeing?

What are you hearing?

What are you tasting?

What are you touching?

What are you smelling?

If you were this character, what would be the first thing you say, the first thing you do?

What, in this scene, would be the most important to you? The least?

What would you pay attention to? What would you ignore?

One character might be more interested in the art on the walls, while another character might be more interested in the people.

A good way to connect with your character is to imagine them at a dinner party. The waiter spills water on them. How do they react?

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Everyone will react differently in this situation. Some would jump away. Some would get angry. Some would get embarrassed. Some would apologize to the waiter. Some would shout at them.

Knowing how your character would react in a situation like this adds believability, and helps to shift your perspective to know how they would react in other situations.

Your character is a sweet little cinnamon roll. No combat training. No muscles to speak of. Afraid of their own shadow.

If someone tries to punch them, they’re probably not going to block it. They might duck, but not in a super-cool matrix-ish way. More in a scream-and-cower way. Odds are, if someone tries to punch them, they’re going to get punched! They just don’t have the reflexes required to dodge or block an attack.

How they feel about it is another story. Cinnamon roll might be scared. Or they might be embarrassed.

When I get scared, my instant reaction is to get angry. Call it a defense mechanism. Call it a problem. Whatever. It’s just how I am. If someone tries to punch me, and especially if it hurts, I’m going to cover up any fear or embarrassment I feel with anger. It will be gut instinct. My very first visible reaction.

But if I’m writing a super tough character that doesn’t have this reaction, I have to set that aside while I’m writing the scene.

It’s a lot like acting, just for anti-social weirdos such as myself.

So get into character!

Imagine how your character would feel, react, act, and write it down!

Show your reader how to feel.

If you ever feel like a scene is missing something, go back and count how many senses you used. You need to use every single sense to give your reader a fully immersive experience.

The most common one is sight. Writers are always telling me what a character is seeing, but I have a pretty active imagination. I don’t need to know what they’re seeing, I need to know what they’re hearing. Smelling. Tasting. Feeling.

You don’t have to tell me your character walked into a bakery with purple walls and a case full of breads and black and white tiled floors and a cute baker boy in the back.

If you tell me your character walked into a bakery and the smell of baking bread filled their nose, cute baker boy in the back kneading dough, I’ll fill in the rest.

Your reader is smart. And sometimes, it’s best to hint at your world and let your reader use their imagination. This adds believability, and gives the reader a better experience.

I hope this was helpful to my fellow writers out there!

If you have any more tips on Showing vs. Telling, I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

As always, take care of yourself. It’s a tough world out there.

Sending love,

MK

This is my boi, assisting my mom as she tries to work. He’s telling her she needs to show more and tell less, all while making his signature derp face.

Will The Pain Ever End?

*Trigger Warning*
This post talks about suicidal ideation and mood disorders, and may be triggering for some readers.
If you are struggling, please reach out to someone. 800-273-8255

Hi there! I hope you’re safe & well. Have you been taking care of yourself? I hope you have. You’re worth it ❤

This month is Suicide Prevention Month, so I thought I’d write a short post in honor of it.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US, the 2nd leading cause for people between 10-34 years old.

This doesn’t, can’t possibly, account for the number of people struggling with suicidal ideation. Because for every reported case, I can only imagine how many go unspoken.

How many people sit with their darkness instead of reaching out, because they’re afraid to burden others with their pain.

Afraid of the repercussions.

Afraid of the stigma.

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I think a lot of us can attest to how hard isolation has been on us as well.

It’s the responsible thing to do in light of the pandemic, but it can be so difficult for individuals who were already struggling with mental health.

A lot of people I’ve spoken with have said their mood has been lower than usual, and I can totally understand that!

Frankly, my mood has been pretty low as well.

That’s not so much because of isolation, as I’ve been struggling with my mood for many years now, but it certainly didn’t help to feel so alone, so separate from family and friends.

I’m not going to dive deep into my story and give you any ugly details. Partly because it’s private, but also because I want to show you the light, not how deep the darkness can go.

All I’ll say is that, over the course of my life, I have practiced self harm as a (very unhealthy) means of coping with emotions and situations that felt out of my control. I have had suicidal thoughts, as well as failed attempts.

I have made more calls and chats to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline than I can count.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: You’re not alone.

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These feelings you have, the darkness that seems to envelope you, the burden you carry…. I feel that too.

It’s not the same.

Your struggle is your own.

Your story is unique.

Your burdens may be heavier, or they may be lighter, or maybe our burden is the exact same, but that really doesn’t matter.

Because the reality is, however heavy it feels, however easier someone else’s burden may seem to you, it’s heavy for the bearer.

Too heavy.

And sometimes those thoughts start to creep in.

Maybe it would be easier if…
It would hurt so much less if…
I just want ______ to stop…
No one would really care if…

But people would care.

Lots of people.

The dark cloud looming over you makes you feel alone. Worthless. A burden. Like no one would mind if you just weren’t here anymore.

But that is NOT TRUE!

You have value.
You are worthwhile.
You are good.
You are worth the effort it takes to love you.

And more than that, you’re not done yet! You have stories to tell.

And you can’t tell them if you’re not here.

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Once upon a time, more than once truthfully, I dove headfirst into the Deep Dark.

I felt so alone.

I wanted it to be over.

I didn’t want to do it anymore.

It. This. Life. Pain. Fear. Sadness. The abyss that lies within my head.

So I asked myself what would happen. What would happen if I wasn’t here anymore?

The truth didn’t come to me immediately. It took time and self-care. Love from the people close to me and love from myself.

And therapy. Like… a lot of therapy.

The truth I have come to is this:

If I wasn’t on this Earth anymore…
My family would be devastated.
I would never travel the world like I want to.
I would never read another book.
I would never again dance in the rain.
I would never again sip coffee by the fire.
I would never again kiss my husband.
I would never again jump on the trampoline with my nephews.
I would never have children.
I would never publish any books.
I would never write another word.
I would never get to help anyone out of their darkness.

You have reasons too. Sometimes they just become clouded by the dark thoughts taking over your mind.

I dare you to make a list of reasons why you’re worthwhile. A list of reasons you want to live.

Yes, there is a lot of bad in this world. But there’s a whole lot of good too! Don’t miss out on all the wonderful things in store for you.

Don’t let the darkness win.

You are stronger than the weight you carry.

And you never know how many lives you could have touched, never know how many people could be pulled out of their darkness by hearing how you survived yours.

I know sometimes you feel so alone. Like no one in the world cares about you.

But that’s the Darkness talking. And it’s a lie.

There are people in this world who love you. Who would be devastated to know you are struggling all by yourself.

It took a lot for me to reach out. To ask for help.

But I’m so glad I did.

I got into therapy. I learned how to take care of myself, body and mind.

It took work, and I still have hard days, but what’s important is that I always come out on the other side of it. I have things to live for. Things I want to see and do and experience.

I learned how worthwhile I am.

I learned how to love myself.

And so can you.

There are people in this world who need to hear your story. Need to know that you made it, and so can they.

You have stories to tell.

And people want to hear them.

I want to hear them.

Sending love,

MK

This boi is so dang tired of the sad! He just wants everyone to be happy and eat treats and throw tennis balls for him.

5 Ways To Improve Your Mood

*Trigger Warning*
This post deals with mood disorders and may be triggering to some readers.

I may earn commission on any links in this post.
See Disclaimers for more details.

Hi there! Sorry I was MIA again last week. My mood has been super low and I’ve been having a lot of trouble snapping out of it. I hope you’re doing well and your mood is staying level. ❤

Since my mood has been so low, I wanted to chat about some of the things I do to level out, or to not dip too low.

Sometimes, not diving headfirst into the Deep Dark is all you can manage.

And that’s ok!

Whatever feelings you’re experiencing are real. You shouldn’t try to ignore them or shove them down.

I’m guilty of that.

I often push myself to just get better… but that’s not really how my brain works.

Sometimes I get stuck in this perpetual darkness and the only thing I can do is love myself through it.

Remind myself that it’s ok to be sad sometimes, as long as I don’t let it consume me.

There’s a difference between feeling your emotions and going into a negative spiral.

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So, if you’re like me this week, and you feel like you can’t do anything except watch that Darkness close in, I’ve compiled a list of things you can do to make yourself feel a little better.

1: Read a book

I do this one a lot!

I find that getting swept up in a story is the best way for me to get my brain out of a rut.

Sometimes I get so focused on the sadness and the negativity that it can become really toxic.

Reading about another life, another time, another world can really help me get out of my head for a while.

So pick up a good book, even if it’s one you’ve read before, and get lost in another world for a while!

2: Take a shower

I’m not sure if anyone else feels the same, but for me, there’s something really calming about a shower.

I like baths too, but they’re too quiet for me. Too much space for my thoughts to take over.

Something about the steam curling in the air, streams of water pounding on my back, the smell of my favorite shampoo. It makes me feel safe.

The chaos of water pelting down is all I need to think about.

Sometimes I sit in the bottom of my shower and just let the water wash over me.

The sound of the water drowns out the sounds of the outside world and I’m alone, in the best possible way.

I’m safe.

I can cry, I can talk to myself, I can just sit in silence.

Whatever I need to do.

3: Get outside

This one’s tough for me.

Whenever I’m feeling really down, the last thing I want to do is go out.

But every time I force myself to get outside, whether it’s just to sit in my backyard, go for a walk, or go somewhere like a bookstore, it always makes me feel better.

Something about the fresh air.

Or maybe just physically removing myself from a situation where I was unhappy.

Whatever magical power outside has, it always works on me.

That is, if I can force myself to get up.

Sometimes it takes a lot of will power on my part.

A lot of “Just get up. You’ll thank me later.”

But it’s always worth it.

4: Watch a movie

I usually watch a Disney movie when I’m really upset.

Something about the simple plots. The humor. The characters.

You can laugh or cry and not really think about it.

Not worry about anything.

Nothing makes me feel quite as comforted as putting on some fuzzy pajamas, wrapping up in a blanket like a burrito, and watching something silly.

5: Talk to someone

This one’s hard for me.

Mostly because I have a hard time trusting people with my innermost thoughts.

But if you find someone you can trust, this can really be the best thing you can do.

If you’re nervous about how they’ll react, you can simply say, “I need someone to talk to, would you mind just listening and being here?”

Simple as that.

Talking it out can work some serious magic.

In the process of thinking through your emotions, putting them into words, you can come to conclusions you might not have reached before.

You might realize how to fix what’s wrong, or maybe why you’re so upset, or maybe you’ll just feel comforted and supported.

Reaching out is always a good idea.

I hope this list helps you!

Sending love,

MK

Whenever I’m sad, this boi brings me a ball because fetch always makes him feel better, so it’ll probably do the same for me.

Having Needs Does Not Make You A Burden

*Trigger Warning*
This post deals with feelings of depression & feeling like a burden and may be triggering for some readers.

I may earn commission on any links in this post.
See Disclaimers for more details.

Hi there, I hope this post finds you safe & well! No post last week as I was very sick. Hopefully you’ve been taking care of yourself while I was MIA ❤

I ran across something recently that I wanted to share.

It’s something that I personally struggle with, especially as a neurodiverse individual. Something I think a lot of us can relate to, neurodiverse or not.

I was reading about assertiveness, trying to overcome my passivity.

I struggle with standing up for myself. Asking for what I need.

Being a “burden”.

So I’ve been doing some reading.

It said:

You have a right to be an inconvenience to others.

I was surprised, because over the course of my life, that has not been the message I have received.

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My past, and if I’m being completely honest, a whole lot of my present, has always said to me, “You need to be better.”

Do more.
Speak less.
Be more positive.
Be more helpful.
Do things.
Be everything to everyone all the time.

It’s exhausting.

It doesn’t help that I’m a perfectionist.

It doesn’t help that certain chemicals in my brain are out of balance. That there’s a little voice in my head that tells me I’m not good enough.

You see these messages everywhere saying that’s not possible.

You simply can’t be everything to everyone all the time.

You’re not responsible for the happiness of others.

But those messages are overwhelmed by the messages you receive from the people in your life.

The social media posts.

The professional criticism.

The pressure to be and do and think and exist for the happiness of others.

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So when I read this – You have a right to be an inconvenience to others – it felt foreign.

Wrong, at first.

I don’t want to be an inconvenience. A burden.

I pretend I don’t care, but I do.

I want to be the bubbly, happy, helpful person.

I want to be the reason you smile.

And sometimes that overwhelms me.

Sometimes I forget that I’m my priority.

My mental health is important.

Sometimes I focus so much on being what other people need, that I forget to be what I need.

So I wrote it down.

On a little notecard above my desk.

You have a right to be an inconvenience to others.

What does that even mean?

Well, it means that it’s ok to have needs.

It’s ok to let other people help me.

It’s ok to ask for things.

It’s ok not to be perfect.

It’s ok not to be ok.

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The thing is, asking for help can be the hardest thing to do.

Harder than the loneliness.

Harder than the pain.

Harder than the ache in your chest.

Harder than the darkness that settles over you like a wet blanket.

Harder than the weight dragging you down, the one that makes getting out of bed an accomplishment.

But it’s necessary.

You’re strong and brave and amazing, but you can’t do it all by yourself.

And you shouldn’t have to.

There are people in this world who want to help you.

Maybe it’s your parents.

Maybe it’s your friend.

Maybe it’s your partner.

Maybe it’s a therapist.

But there is someone out there who cares enough to put in the effort it takes to love you.

There is someone who thinks you’re worth the sacrifice.

Don’t be afraid to remind yourself of that.

Write in on a notecard and pin it to your wall.

Write it in lipstick on your mirror.

Draw it in your journal.

Tattoo it on your skin.

Do whatever you need to do to remind yourself that you are worth effort.

Your own, and that of others.

You are worthwhile.
You are lovable.
You are special.
You are good.

Be gentle with yourself.

Be careful what thoughts you allow to enter your mind.

Because you’re always listening.

Sending love,

MK

This is my boi Linux. He has yogurt on his chin and nothin’ but love in his heart.

Why “No” Is My New Favorite Word

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Hi there, how’s life been treating you lately? Are you taking care of yourself? You’re worth the effort. ❤

I’ve been working on boundaries over the last several months.

I’ve never been very good at saying no. I feel obligated to be nice. Polite. Helpful. “Lady-like”.

I think that’s something ingrained in us as children. Especially for women.

We are taught to be quiet.

To just deal with it.

Keep pushing through.

A lot of women get into trouble when there’s a situation where they should get out, but society tells them they have to be polite.

You have the right to feel safe.

And you don’t have to “be polite” to someone who is scaring you.

I digress…

Everyone, every gender, is taught to value politeness over boundaries.

But there are ways to protect your boundaries without damaging your relationships.

And, honestly, boundaries won’t damage your relationships with people who truly value you.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

For a long time, I was told to be quiet.

I received both subliminal, and explicit, messages that my feelings don’t matter.

As a child, I wasn’t really allowed to have boundaries.

Do what I say, because I say it. I don’t care how it makes you feel. If you’re uncomfortable, suck it up.

Even children (especially children) are entitled to boundaries.

Growing up like this, you learn to keep a lot inside. To shove your feelings down and ignore them. Something I’ve had to work against in adulthood.

I became Passive.

I didn’t stand up for myself.

I’m learning how to reverse this in the Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Skills Workbook.

It can be scary, changing yourself so drastically.

People who know me are used to me just going with whatever people say.

Don’t ask questions.
Don’t stick up for yourself.
Even if you don’t like it.
Even if it’s painful.

I’m working on finding a happy medium.

Standing up for myself, while staying true to my moral standards of kindness and respect.

Boundaries can be stated in a kind and healthy way.

This is something I was unsuccessful with at first.

I swung in the opposite direction and sometimes came off as rude or aggressive.

Photo by Liza Summer on Pexels.com

Also, people were so used to me “just being nice” that my new outlook rubbed some people the wrong way.

Especially people who were used to using my doormat-ish tendencies to their advantage.

That sounds gross, and manipulative, but it’s true. Honestly, everyone uses “too-nice people” to their advantage every now and then. We’re human. We err.

It’s been quite the learning curve, to watch who accepts and who rejects my boundaries.

It says a lot about what I mean to the people close to me.

For example, I recently told someone close to me that driving causes me a lot of anxiety. I asked them to give a little more space from the car in front of us, just while I’m in the car.

They listened, and they changed their behavior to make sure I felt safe.

Positive experience.

Here’s another example:

A while ago, I asked someone close to me to be respectful towards myself and my husband.

They refused, then took steps to cut me out of their life.

It was shocking.

I had not expected them to run from my life after such a simple request.

It’s been a couple years and we’re still not speaking. And honestly? I’m ok with that.

I know how important I am to that person now, and I’m not interested in cultivating a relationship with someone who isn’t interested in respecting me.

Yeah, it sucked. But I’m better off knowing the truth than continuing on thinking they care about me when they really don’t.

Photo by Liza Summer on Pexels.com

Nowadays, I’m doing more to set boundaries.

I’m saying no. It’s become my favorite word.

I’ve learned that downtime is a good enough reason not to make it to every event.

I don’t have to hurt myself to make others happy.

My mental health is a priority.

But how do you go about setting boundaries, when standing up for yourself seems so scary?

The first thing you should ask yourself is what is important to you?

For me, I value kindness and respect pretty highly.

People are important to me.

My mental health.

Then you ask yourself what you need.

I need to feel valued by my loved ones – wanted and important.

I need hugs and affection from the people closest to me.

I need kind words and compassion from those whom I consider friends. (I don’t like to be touched, which is why my needs differ from friends and family, to close friends and close family. This is a boundary I’m still working on establishing with people.)

Then you ask yourself what is not ok with you.

I’m not ok with unkindness or disrespect, in any form.

I’m not ok with physical touch, except from those closest to me.

I’m not ok with people using my neurodivergence against me.

This is obviously a short list, and one that can be expanded on over time.

The most important thing to remember is that you are allowed to have boundaries.

You deserve to feel safe.

Your boundaries are more important than politeness.

If someone doesn’t respect the boundaries you set, that says more about them than it does about you.

And finally, even when you’re scared, you should push yourself to set the boundaries. Stand firm. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need.

Because setting boundaries can be the best thing that happens to your relationships. While, not setting them, only leads to discomfort and bitterness.

I hope this article helps someone out there who, like me, is afraid to stand up for themselves.

You have needs. You are worth the effort it takes to meet them.

Sending love,

MK

This boi respects the heck out of your boundaries. Though, if your boundaries include not getting licked in the face, you’re outta luck.

Do You Give Yourself Permission To Feel Your Emotions?

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*Trigger Warning*
This post talks about overwhelming emotions and may be triggering for some readers.

Hi there, I hope you are safe and well. Have you been taking care of yourself? It’s important to prioritize your mind & body. Self care isn’t selfish ❤

I’ve been doing a lot of work on feeling my emotions instead of just brushing them aside.

Not going to lie, I’m pretty bad at it.

I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to “be strong”.

Tough it out.

Don’t let them get to you.

Don’t let them see you cry.

It’s taken a lot for me to realize that reaching out is a form of strength, not weakness.

Making connections, talking to people about my neurodivergence, opening up about my experiences… These are all scary things.

But they’re so good.

Photo by Ashford Marx on Pexels.com

In the past, opening up hasn’t worked out so well for me.

I was shut down, disregarded. My feelings didn’t matter. Children should be seen and not heard. Friends didn’t really want to hear the ugly stuff I was sifting through.

The message I took away from these interactions was other people don’t care, so my feelings must not matter.

That’s the thing about having overwhelming emotions. Other people… just don’t get it.

They don’t get excited and feel like their body is exploding.

They don’t get scared and feel like they’re going to die.

They don’t get sad and feel like the entire world is crashing down around them.

They feel their feelings on a neurotypical level, instead of this gut-wrenching, heart pounding, world-ending level.

Being a highly sensitive person (HSP) isn’t all bad. There are some cool perks that come along with it.

But the bad parts can be pretty challenging.

For a long time, I just tried to deal with everything on my own, because no one really cared enough to try to understand.

Usually, that looked like shoving my feelings into a box in the back of my mind and trying to move forward.

Photo by Ryanniel Masucol on Pexels.com

This isn’t a very effective way to deal with your feelings.

Those feelings will start spilling out of your box because there isn’t enough room for all of them. They will creep out and latch onto your mind at super inconvenient times.

Like when you’re talking to your boss.

Why? Because you never dealt with them. So instead they lingered.

If you leave a half-eaten sandwich in your bedroom, it will start to smell. And that smell will linger, cropping up at odd/inappropriate times, until you clean it up.

But how to you deal with your emotions?

This can be such a challenge for people like me who grew up being told to just suck it up. Smile through the pain. Big girls work around the pain.

But that’s not how healthy adults cope with emotions.

Shoving them into a box and hoping they’ll fade away is not effective, as you may have discovered.

The first step to coping with your emotions is giving yourself permission to feel them.

Maybe something bad happened at work. A disagreement with a coworker. A demotion. Maybe you lost your job. Maybe there was a rude client. Maybe working for a living just sucks…

So feel sad.

Photo by Alex Green on Pexels.com

Have a good cry.

Give yourself a hug.

Ask a friend or family member if they have some time to chat.

Talk soothingly to yourself like you’re a child.

“You’re sad. That’s ok. Everyone gets sad sometimes. We can be sad for a little while until you’re ready to feel better.”

Seriously.

Especially if you didn’t get this as a child.

It’s time to raise the child living inside your head, so you can cope with adult life.

For an HSP, the scary part about feeling your emotions is that they can overwhelm you.

This can present a problem, and if you are getting overwhelmed and you feel like the healthy thing is to distract yourself for now and come back later, read this post.

But usually, even though your feelings seem scary, they will not overwhelm you.

And if they do, use the Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Skills workbook to develop some coping skills to deal with those moments.

So how to you let yourself feel your emotions?

Take a deep breath, and ask yourself “What am I feeling right now?”

Get to the root of your emotion.

I’m going to use a specific example for the sake of your ease of reading. But you can apply this to whatever you’re going through.

A coworker said something negative about your recent performance.
You feel angry.
When you look inward (later, when you have the time and privacy to dig into your emotions) you realize your anger was actually stemming from hurt and disappointment with yourself.
You accept that, yes, you are hurt. Yes, you are disappointed in your recent performance, as well.
Maybe you feel embarrassed they called you out.
You give yourself space to feel those feelings.
Then you develop a game plan for how you will deal with work tomorrow.

That anger you felt may have been overwhelming.

You may have been seething all day.

But by looking inward, you found that your anger was actually some other, more vulnerable, emotions putting on a brave face.

You used Radical Acceptance to accept what you cannot change.

And you developed a game plan to change what you can.

That’s some pro-level adulting, right there.

The thing about emotions is that, inevitably, they do pass.

Emotions are like a wave.

Photo by Emiliano Arano on Pexels.com

If you give yourself permission to feel them, they will become bigger and bigger, they will crest, then they will fall-become small and more manageable once again.

If you struggle with the emotion, and feel as if it is beginning to overwhelm you, it’s ok to take a step back and come to it when you’re ready.

As a neurodivergent individual, it’s important to find the balance between allowing yourself to feel your emotions, and going down a negative spiral.

So how can you tell the difference?

Usually, allowing yourself to feel the emotion looks like comforting yourself. Building yourself up. Accepting what is.

Spiraling looks self-depreciating. Focusing on all the negative things and jumping from one ugly thought to the next.

Feeling and coping with your emotions in a healthy way will not involve shaming yourself for the way you feel.

If you do it in a healthy way, it should feel very healing.

You should feel refreshed afterwards.

Lighter.

That doesn’t mean the crappy situation is magically solved, it just means you gave yourself permission to feel the emotions it brought up.

To heal from trauma, in whatever form it was presented.

And to move forward in a healthy way, without lugging your emotional baggage with you.

I hope this post helps someone out there deal with their overwhelming emotions, and maybe even get in touch with themselves a little more.

Sending love,

MK

This boi would love to give you a smooch if you’re feeling sad, and snuggle you until you’re ready to feel better.

What is Radical Acceptance?

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Hi there, I hope you did something just for you today ❤ Practicing self care is important, even if others like to call it selfishness. It’s not, you’re just taking care of you. So read a book. Watch a move. Eat ice cream. Do something that brings you joy. You deserve it!

Today I’d like to share about the technique called Radical Acceptance. I learned about it in the Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Skills Workbook. I’ve mentioned this book a few times now, so if you’ve been following along, you can probably tell I like it. A lot.

In truth, I’ve been dealing with some big things. Mental health has always been a struggle for me, and as an adult I’m having to learn things children are usually taught. Emotion regulation. Coping mechanisms. The fact that it’s ok to feel my feelings. Being vulnerable. Self Care. The list goes on.

Woman teaching her child. Learning.
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One thing that has been really helpful in cultivating inner peace is the technique Radical Acceptance. I touched briefly on this technique in my post How to Stop Letting Others Control Your Mood, but I think it warrants its own post.

So what is Radical Acceptance? Basically, it’s when you accept a situation for what it is.

One thing that throws a wrench in this is judgement.

Judgement can have a negative connotation, but it’s actually just coming to a conclusion or making a decision about something.

That person is rude.
That sweater is pretty.
That man is ugly.
That woman is attractive.

The main piece of Radical Acceptance is letting go of these judgements. Letting go of labeling a situation as good or bad, and instead accepting that it just is.

Our examples from before could evolve in our mind to leave either a negative or positive imprint.

That person is rude, and that’s bad.
That sweater is pretty, and that’s good.
That man is ugly, and that’s bad.
That woman is attractive, and that’s good.

Radical Acceptance encourages you to let go of these judgements. To see situations for what they are, then let go of any feelings that crop up. To not seek out whether something is negative or positive, but to simply give it a nod, and move on with our day.

Sounds great, right? But you’ve been making judgements for as long as you could form coherent thought. So where the heck do you start?

Thought, exploration. Judgement. Where do I start?
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One way to start is to take note of how many judgements you make in a day. I actually wrote my judgements down for two days, then went back to see what I had written.

I realized I spent a lot of time labeling things as good or bad, positive or negative. That time, when I could have been living my life, was totally wasted to judgement!

And the worst part? Once I started down a path of judgement, I tended to keep on judging.

I don’t like this sweater.
I don’t like any of my clothes.
I’ve gained a lot of weight recently.
I’m not attractive.
I’m worthless.

See how it can spiral?

What if when I made the judgement “I don’t like this sweater” I simply gave it a nod and moved on?

Yep, I don’t like this sweater. That’s true.

Moving on…

How much more peaceful does that sound?

But sometimes it’s harder to stop that spiral than to simply smile and nod. Sometimes you need to employ a coping mechanism.

What does this look like?

You’re running late for an event. You are feeling stressed. You say to yourself “My partner always makes us late”.

By doing this, you are labeling your partner as a tardy person, possibly implying a lack of respect for the time of others. This stirs up feelings of anger, then old wounds start cropping up.

My partner made us late today.
My partner was also late to that dinner with my family.
My partner doesn’t care about other people’s time.
My partner is just a disrespectful person.
My partner doesn’t care how I feel.

Wow, that escalated quickly…

What can you do when the emotions are intense and you’ve already fallen down the rabbit hole of judgement?

Well, you can choose to crawl back out.

It’s honestly that simple.

My partner does care how I feel.
My partner is not a disrespectful person.
Yes, my partner was late to dinner with my family, but there’s not much you can do when work runs late. And they were pretty stressed that day.
My partner was not the only person running late today, I could have helped them get ready or reminded them of the time sooner.

See how we climbed back out? You’ve reversed the negativity and reminded yourself of reality.

Now, you can accept it.

You’re late. You’re never going to be not late because you were pissed about it. So why not show up late holding your partner’s hand, as opposed to slamming doors and glaring at them across the room?

Accept the situation for what it is, and move on.

Breathe in, breathe out.

Inner peace. Radical Acceptance. Meditation. Happiness.
Photo by Monstera on Pexels.com

That brings us to another key piece of Radical Acceptence: accepting the role you played in the situation.

I know, I know. It’s not fun to think about. Trust me, it’s my least favorite part too. But bear with me, because it’s important.

Let’s circle back to the situation where you and your partner were running late to an event.

Heckin’ frustrating.

I hate being late. I get so stressed out. My anxiety goes through the roof and steam practically shoots out of my ears. It’s not fun – for me or the people around me.

So I employ my coping mechanisms. Some deep breathing, some balloons full of stress and frustration floating away on the breeze. Then I get to Radical Acceptance.

Yep, I’m late. That is a fact.

Now I need to accept that my partner is not the only one who is late today. Yeesh, I know. IT’S ALL THEIR FAULT THOUGH!

But is it?

We had to leave by noon to be on time. I started getting ready at 11 am, which would have been enough time for me. I noticed my partner was still scrolling through the black hole of YouTube, but I decided not to remind them of the time because I’m not their mother. They started getting ready with 10 minutes to spare, and I began to seethe.
They always do this, I say to myself.
We left 20 minutes later than we should have, and I felt angry and like my partner did not care about our plans.

Now, using Radical Acceptance, I will take a look at both of our behaviors.

My partner made an irresponsible decision with time management.
I failed to communicate with my partner that we were getting short on time.
I failed to communicate how I felt when they were late.

Now, let’s take a breath here. This is not to say that you are responsible for your partner’s behavior. You’re not. You are only responsible for your behavior. But, at the end of the day, there are things you could have done differently in order to avoid tardiness, or maybe to avoid bitter feelings between the two of you.

It takes two to have an argument. It also takes two to avoid one.

Radical Acceptance says not to dwell on the what-ifs, but lets just take a detour here…

What if you had told your partner they were running short on time?

Well, they may have thanked you for the reminder and started getting ready. You might have been on time…

Or they may have gotten annoyed at your “mothering” and you would have still been late.

Either way, you did your due diligence. You behaved the best you could.

Now let’s look at the other piece: you lack of communication about your feelings. It is your responsibility as a romantic partner to communicate your feelings. Whether you feel comfortable or not is another story, and one you should broach with your partner or with a trained counselor or therapist.

Your job as a partner is to communicate your feelings, because how else will your partner know when you’re upset?

They’re not psychic, no matter how much you wish them to be.

So, what if you had said, “Hey babe, when you are late, I tend to feel stressed, and sometimes I get angry with you because I feel like you don’t care about my feelings on timeliness.”

Maybe your partner would have heard you, and would have apologized about their tardiness, and for hurting your feelings. Maybe you would have been late, but walked into that event hand-in-hand.

Or maybe they would not have validated your feelings. Which would suck. But then you would use Radical Acceptance to think, yep they didn’t validate my feelings, and that makes me feel sad.

You can then use that knowledge to make informed decisions about the longevity of your relationship.

I suggest counseling if this is the norm. An outside perspective can really work wonders when you’re in the thick of it.

Love. Bonding. Getting along. Couple. Fighting. Coming together. Accepting responsibility. Letting go.
Photo by Jasmine Carter on Pexels.com

So now that you’ve learned to accept your responsibility in a situation, as well as your partners, you can accept reality for what it is.

You’re late. Nothing’s going to change that now.

Radical Acceptance allows you to separate your feelings from fact.

Feelings are real, and you should not ignore them. But sometimes they paint a different picture than reality.

Think back to the sweater example. Feelings spiraled out of control and you ended up having some serious hate for your body, when it all started out as not liking a sweater.

So I encourage you to weigh your feelings against fact. Is what you’re feeling really an accurate depiction of reality?

And when you’re in a situation, good or bad, just give it a nod.

Enjoy the feelings of happiness and satisfaction that come along with some situations.

Understand the feelings of sadness or frustration that come along with other situations.

Acknowledge them, and move on with your life.

Seek contentment within yourself, like I mention in this article.

I’d like to mention that part of Radical Acceptance and learning to let go of judgement also means not judging yourself.

You are going to fail sometimes, especially when you first start trying this technique. Judging yourself for making a judgement is the opposite of helpful.

So be kind to yourself.

Acknowledge when you’ve made a judgement, and move on.

If you feel frustrated with your progress or disappointed when you make a judgement of someone, give that feeling a nod, and let it go.

Dwelling on judgements of yourself is no more healthy than dwelling on your judgements of others (or situations). Actually, it kinda defeats the purpose of the whole exercise.

Whatever you do, try not to let your emotions consume you. Feelings come and go like a tide. Make sure that when the tide passes, you have behaved in a way you can feel proud of.

Do your best. That’s all anyone can do.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and learn about situations where you practiced Radical Acceptance in the comments below. Even situations where you totally failed! This is a learning process and we’re here to support each other.

Sending love,

MK

This good boi thinks you’re awesome and is proud of how far you’ve come. He also acknowledges that is technically a judgement, and lets the feeling go so he can go sniff things and lick his butt with inner peace.

Re-Discovering A Passion

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Hi there, I hope you’re safe & well!

I’ve been writing here and there for as long as I can remember, but only taking it seriously in the last couple years. It started out the usual way. Pieces of paper thoroughly scribbled upon, plots mashed together from the inner-workings of a young mind, pages pressed together with staples or tape or glue.

Then I got my hands on a computer, and all bets were off. I pecked like a chicken until that gave way to furious fingers dancing across the keyboard, almost as if my fingertips were the ones telling the story and I was merely a bystander. I knit stories together, wove personalities and desires, painted a world with my mind. I showed my work to a friend. She didn’t appreciate the mastery of my twelve year old imagination.

Then I stopped.

Sure, I wrote emails and school papers. I texted and posted my woes on social media like all good teenagers do. I grew up and my creativity was pushed to the back of my mind. Something less important than the tasks of impending adulthood piling before me.

I went to college. I got married. I looked up and seven years had passed me by. Ten. Another amount of time that shall go unnamed. When did I lose myself?

To be fair, I had never been taught to put myself first. Being raised the way I was raised will do that to you. I know that’s vague, but bear with me. When you’re raised in survival mode, you have no idea what it means to truly LIVE.

Learning how to live–how to thrive–has been quite a journey for me. A long one. And part of that was re-discovering this love of written word. I remembered what it felt like to dive into a book, to get wrapped up in another world. I felt this pull to write.

I procrastinated. What if I couldn’t do it? What if I was bad? What if no one liked it? What if I never sold any copies?

What if I was a success?

I’m still learning. Not just about the writing process, but about life as a whole. But if I can share one thing I’ve learned, it’s this: who cares what anyone else thinks?

Sending love,

MK

Linux says you’re doing a great job.

Something New

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Hi there, I’m MK.

It’s always a little nerve-wracking starting something new, but here I am. And here you are! Yay us!

I thought I’d kick things off by sharing a bit about myself. I write (mostly fantasy), and I read (also mostly fantasy). I love to fill my days with artsy projects like writing, painting, drawing, baking… well, you get the idea.

That being said, I’m juggling full-time work, full-time wife-ing, and trying to stay true to my artistic self while not losing my marbles. I’m sure you’re reading this thinking, “Oh wow, MK. That sounds tough. Good thing I’m not busy at all *insert eye-roll here*.”

But don’t worry, that’s why I started this. Let’s do life together. Let’s be busy and stressed, but still seek the goodness in each new day. Let’s do arts and crafts and talk about that time your dog dropped a massive poo on your carpet and you found out by stepping in it. Let’s talk about how much you love your family, but how sometimes you also kinda want to rip your hair out or move to Fiji.

Let’s cut the “I’m perfect” b.s. that seems to be all over the internet.

Let’s embrace our crazy and be imperfect together.

I will share about life, love, art, books, writing, all sorts of things that swirl around in my mind. If that sounds good to you, stick around!

Sending love,

MK