NEW SERIES: Higher Ed Plus-Back to School Supplies and Essentials!

Hello friends!

I’m excited to introduce a new series to this blog-Higher Ed Plus. Being plus-sized or fat within student affairs and higher education comes with its own unique set of challenges. Even though I’ve wrote about it a little on this blog, I realized I have a lot more to say on this topic. However, I realize I come with my own set of privileges being a white, able-bodied, cisgender, heterosexual, middle-class woman. I can only speak to my experience with all of that in mind. However, I think it would be great if I someday have contributors to this blog that come from different backgrounds to speak to their experience being plus-sized in the field. I think this is something that is not spoken about often enough, and we do a disservice to ourselves and to our students by being quiet about this issue.

But for now, I’m going to start this series with a Back to School haul of sorts, if you will.  Our Resident Assistants moved back in for training this week…the summer flew by! Therefore, this past Saturday was the last day I would be able to go clothes shopping before the semester started. I believe it’s time to amp up my wardrobe, and so I wanted to  get some things and be a little more prepared for my semester. However, as I will describe later, it proved to be VERY difficult, as per the usual, to find some things that I wanted.

But first, let’s start with the “wellness” items I bought.

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This year I know that I need to be more focused on my overall well-being. My work/life balance was a little out of place last year. I’ll talk more about this later but I’ve been slowly taking steps to ensure that I am in a good place to focus on that. So I stopped by Bath and Body Works, and they were having a sale on candles-$10 off! I smelled the Autumn Day one and I couldn’t resist, and candles actually help me relax. Next, I was running low on my body scrub and couldn’t find the one I love which is upsetting (it’s a summer scent though so I guess not surprising).  A Thousand Wishes is a really nice smelling scent and it can be used in all seasons. Next, I was also running low on the Stress Relief shower gel that I am in love with. They recently came out with new scents for Stress Relief, and I got the cedarwood and sage scent. I also bought two car air fresheners-one fall scented (Leaves) and the Stress Relief one (because hi, it’s August in Higher Ed). The Stress Relief one I put right in my car and it’s SO good.

Next I went to Lush. I have been wanting to try a bath bomb for a while, especially since I’ve taken to watching bath bomb demos on YouTube…don’t ask. I bought one that would be really relaxing and luxurious, so I bought one with cocoa butter in it. I’ll probably use it either right before or after opening.

Finally, not pictured here, I went to Sephora and got the sample pack of the Glam Glow Supermud mask. If you haven’t heard of Glam Glow before, you should really look it up. It’s a mask that pulls all of the dirt, oil, and impurities in your skin…and you can see it on your face as it dries. Some people may find that gross, but I find it fascinating. It also works extremely well. After I use it, my pores are smaller and extremely clean, and my face feels so good. It’s not pictured because I put it on my face as soon as I got home, as I’d been sweating a lot lately and wanted to clean up my face.

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Next, I bought a whiteboard, some markers, and magnets. I wanted to create a vision board out of these items. I’ve created vision boards before, but nothing has seemed to stick. I wanted something that I’d be able to update and change easily if my vision changes. I believe this will help me be more focused on balance and wellness, and remind me of the things I want to accomplish this year.

 

 

 

 

But now, let’s get into the clothes.

torrid

Don’t mind my foot…

I picked a few things up from Torrid. They were having a really good sale, buy one get two free on Clearance items, but honestly I didn’t find anything. It was really disappointing, but I did find a couple of staple items that my wardrobe needs!

First of all, I bought a really colorful peach blazer. It’s so pretty and goes well with my skin tone. I bought the flowered tank top to match with it. I figure once I get some other jewelry I can also wear some solids with it, but for now the flowered top will do. I also got a jean jacket because I love the look of a maxi dress with jean jackets in the fall. Then I bought this really gorgeous purple chiffon top. It looks great under sweaters or just by itself. I was disappointed I couldn’t find anything in clearance and hated that I was about to pay full price, but the cashier took pity on me and used a code so that I got $50 off! BLESS YOU, AMAZING CASHIER.

I tried on a few pairs of pants, and I also wanted to find a skirt, but I wasn’t able to find anything. It was a little disappointing, but for some reason the styles that I tried did not fit me. However, this trend unfortunately continued.

lane bryant.jpgAt Lane Bryant, I found some items that I have been looking for since last year! I got a sports bra because I have recently joined the local YMCA. I also got a chambray shirt, and another gray blouse that could go with the peach blazer I bought. Again, I struck out with pants or skirts. I don’t know what’s going on! It could be the styles that I am trying in the stores but I know my size hasn’t changed because I have other pants the same size that still fit me. This is the struggle, not just with plus-size brands but with all brands. Sizes mean different things at different stores, or even within the same stores. It makes shopping that much more frustrating…especially for plus-size people. To make matters worse, everything is so expensive, especially for plus-size people looking to buy work-appropriate attire. There are not many plus-size brands that have business casual clothes either. I struggle a lot to find things, and I know I’m not the only one.

But, I know that I found a lot of great items and I’m excited to use and wear them all. I am still on the hunt for more pants/skirts, but will have to look online for them apparently…and I need to wait until I get paid again to shop some more.

If anyone wants the prices of anything I bought feel free to reach out! I kept all of the receipts.

If anyone would like to contribute to the Higher Ed Plus series, you can contact me on Twitter at @dani_a_johnson.

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Yakkity Yak: Talking Back

Professional conferences leave me feeling so refreshed and reenergized. I recently attended NASPA in New Orleans, and I had a great time. I’d never been to NOLA and so I enjoyed exploring the city as well as attended some great sessions on important topics. It was during some down time that I decided to look at Yik Yak to see what the content was like in a different place. That is when I saw all of the controversial Yaks that so many of us in the field have been talking about.

Initially, I was appalled. People who I consider colleagues were talking openly about their judgements on the appearance of others, about how they wanted a “conference hook-up”, and how they were partying on Bourbon street. In my mind, conferences are a chance to learn new things about our field and better myself professionally by networking and bringing ideas and suggestions back to my campus. I don’t know if it’s my status as a new professional or my naievete, but I was shocked to think that some professionals go to conferences for other, maybe not-so-professional reasons. A lot of the things I saw certainly did not align with my values, and so I began to wonder why people were posting these things that they knew would be controversial.

And then the responses to the Yaks came pouring in. As a new professional, I was offended (and still am, as I recently saw another response that said this) that so many people seemed to think that these Yaks were solely coming from grad students or new professionals. I read many responses from mid-levels and up responding directly to the Yaks…who went on the app themselves. I know many mid-level professionals who use Yik Yak on their campuses…and so I would hesitate to think that it was JUST new professionals and grad students who were posting. And apparently (as some of the Yaks stated) the behavior being discussed is not a new thing at conferences. If it WAS all new professionals posting at the conference…where did they learn that the behavior was acceptable? I feel as though a lot of people responding were hesitating to take some responsibility…

Which leads me to the next point many people were bringing up. A lot of people discussed how Yik Yak is a safe place for people to voice their opinions without being judged for them, and that the larger picture is that there is some discontent within our field. I know personally I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be “professional” lately. We have professional standards for our field, ranging from everything to behavior to dress to how we interact with our students and others. Are there some parts of our standards that  marginalize people? Who set the standards for professional dress? Are our standards stifling people? Are they outdated? There have been a lot of conversations about this type of thing on #sachat, and a lot of people believe that standards need to change. Perhaps they are right. But I just wonder if using Yik Yak was the best way to voice that discontent. We may never know who posted those things and why…and that’s a shame. It was a chance to start a conversation…and that chance has been lost to those who posted.

And then ther’s another small part of me that thinks that people knew those posts were going to get some type of reaction, and were doing it just for that. Maybe these people wanted to bring to light some of the hypocritical behavior that professionals engage in at conferences. We teach our students about healthy drinking habits and objectifying others and safe sex practices…but it would seem that some choose to forgo this during conferences. By posting it, some people could be saying “What we’re doing and what we’re saying are two completely different things.”

All I know is that, admist the controversy it caused, the conversations that have stemmed from this incident are fascinating and pose some overall larger questions about how we want to act and be portrayed as student affairs professionals. Some people have said this behavior needs to stop while others say it’s a chance for us to change. I think we need to look more closely about what “being professional” exactly is, how it affects us, and how we can hold each other accountable for that even admist professional standards.

Judgments and the Job Search

I recently had the opportunity to present to undergraduates, graduate students, and new professionals at a conference. My presentation was about the job search and little tips and tricks I learned along the way. One of those things was regarding professional dress.

“Does anyone follow #SAChat on Twitter?” I asked. A few people raised their hands. “This has been a really hot topic lately.” .

“Here’s the thing: you are going to be judged based on your appearance during your job search. Is that right or fair? I don’t know. But it’s going to happen. So you really need to put some thought and effort into how you are going to present yourself. My suggestion would be to get a second opinon. I’m all for expressing yourself and feeling comfortable in what you’re wearing, but I would think about what outfits you want to wear prior to the conference and ask a colleague or mentor what their opinion is.”

A little while later, I could see some raised eyebrows in the room when I talked about color choices. “My mentor told me that for an initial interview, don’t wear red. Red is bold and bright, sure, but some people could see it as agressive subconsciously. That would be a more appropriate color to wear at a second interview.”

Honestly? It sucks that I had to say all of that. But after a lifetime of being judged based off of my appearance, it’s a fact that I’ve come to know pretty well.

PEOPLE JUDGE.

And honestly, it’s not all our fault. We are hardwired to recognize things about other people because, way back in the day (like caveman times), humans had to make split second decisions about whether or not someone or something was safe based on their appearance. And unfortunately, we still do it today. But, that doesn’t mean we necessarily have to follow through with what we initially think about people. I know that, because of my body type, people may initially look at me and think that I am lazy and do not care about my appearance. My hope is that, while people may think that at first, they get to know me and see that it is not the case at all. I work extremely hard for what I have, and I know that I am beautiful and a really good person. My other hope is that soon our profession will be able to judge not on appearance but also in quality of work as well.

The reason I told that to the attendees at the conference is because I want them to do the best they possibly can in their job search. As it stands right now, I do not think that the Student Affairs profession is ready to look past the way people present themselves as an initial judgement of whether or not they want to hire candidates. But you can bet that I will be challenging those who judge potential candidates based on how they present themselves. And slowly but surely, maybe we can change this culture around. It starts with us!

“The Power of Vulnerability”-A guide to “Wholehearted Living”, and Confidence

Almost as soon as I published my last post…I began to struggle with my one word: confidence. Ironically I began to feel less confident. We were going through professional staff training and some of the sessions were really hard for me. I began to question whether I was good enough to be doing my job. I was frustrated and wondered why it was so hard for me to let my guard down. I thought about how I could be more confident. But still the thought of “I’m not good enough” kept running through my mind.

Surprisingly it ended up being a theme within our staff, and so our supervisors decided to show us the video above. Everything began to make sense.

I hate being vulnerable. I feel like because I am a woman, because I am young, and because I have a different body type, I already feel like I’m more suseptible to vulnerability. As mentioned in previous posts, I have never felt very confident. I think because of this, I have a hard time initially making connections with people. It’s funny because I’m an extrovert and I love people, but it is the hardest thing for me to let new people in and for me to trust them. In addition, I cannot stand crying in public. Even though it’s a natural thing, I feel like I’m showing others that I’m weak, that I can’t be strong, and that I am not capable of handling myself.

Brene Brown talks about how people who were living “wholeheartedly” embraced their vulnerability. They saw it as something that is necessary in life, “the way to live is with vulnerability”. And after viewing this, I understand now that vulnerability and confidence are connected.

I can’t have “confidence” as my one word unless I embrace my vulnerability, until I realize that I am worthy, that I am capable, and that I need to show others who I really am. This means showing my feelings. This means telling people about who I really am. This means that I need to let my guard down and let people in.

Now, as a supervisor and working in Residence Life, I’ll need to be a different kind of vulnerable. Some things are not appropriate to share with staff members or with residents. However, if I make a mistake I need to own it. If I’m struggling with something that affects my work life, I need to make others aware. I need to role model how to properly and healthily deal with emotions, and not make myself numb in order to look strong or capable. I need to ask for help and input. But I also need to believe that I was hired for a reason and that I am capable of doing this job and that I am worthy of everything I’m achieving. I need to put myself out there.

So now, the “One Word” movement has another, additional step for me-but that’s okay. I believe everything happens for a reason, and so I needed to see this video in order to fully be able to be and think confidence. And if I can both embrace vulnerability and be confident, I think I will be a better individual, professional, and citizen of the world.

One word: Confidence

I want to feel brave enough to do anything I put my mind to!

Recently I came upon the “One Word” Movement. I was reading through some old documents and saw that the building I’m currently running had decided to do this as a staff. Essentially people who choose to do this will pick one word that they want to live up to for the entire year…kind of like a New Year’s resolution, only more manageable. I found this a profound idea, and from the documents I was reading it seemed like the students and staff really took to it. Not only that, but they said it helped them set goals and they actually saw a real improvement in themselves.
Then, yesterday, I read this article that essentially stated the same thing, with a twist-a man decided to change his password to something he wanted to accomplish-forgiving his ex-wife. He found it very healing, very cathartic, and over time he began to set goals for himself by changing his password. It was a reminder every day to do the things he wanted to do-and he found these one word phrases to be very powerful in his life. To anyone who says words can’t hurt or do nothing, I beg to differ. But anywho…
I’ve decided to join the movement. What better time than my first professional job than to come up with a “New Year’s Resolution” of sorts? And so, for me, my word is going to be one of the things I find to be the hardest: confidence.
It’s hard to say when my struggle with self-acceptance began, but I think it started when I was young. I’d always been chubby, and my family has always been very body-conscious. I’ve struggled with that my whole life. Then to top that off, my brother and I are 14 months apart, with me being the elder. He did well in school while I struggled. He was athletic while I was more creative and musically inclined. Even though it was unintentional (or at least I hope it was), there was definitely some competition and rivalry between us. I think it’s these factors that made me self-conscious. I just wanted to be accepted and loved by everyone…and I still do. It was a hard thing for me to realize that no matter how nice I am, no matter how well I sing, no matter how I look, no matter how much I try to make other people happy, not everyone is going to like me. However, that didn’t stop me from trying. It got to this really unhealthy point where I realized I was only doing things because other people told me to, not because I truly enjoyed them. That’s when I started doing things for me.
It has been a rocky road. I almost didn’t go to grad school. I had trouble finding an assistantship, and then when I did I was lonely. But I grew. I grew so much that I was honored as the Graduate Assistant of the Year. Then the job search struggles happened. I learned to just be myself and that it wasn’t always about me, it was about fit. That was hard, wondering if I fit somewhere that I really liked. But eventually I’ve found my new job, and like my last post mentioned, I’m unbelievably happy. But I still struggle with confidence, and wondering if other people like me.
The thing is, I know that they loved me here and that’s why they hired me. They believed I would fit in with the other people and that I would make a great addition to the team. I am going to try my best and my hardest to make sure that I am a great addition, but I also need to believe that I already am. I have what it takes. I’ve got skills. I’m competent. I can do this. As for other people liking me…well, if they don’t, at least they respect me. Again, not everyone is going to like you. People naturally bond with other people. But I’m here to do a job, and as long as I have my colleague’s trust and respect, that’s all I need.
So my word for this year is “confidence”. Every time I feel unworthy, I’m going to think this word. Every time I question a decision, I’ll remember to trust myself and my abilities. Every time I feel like I’m feeling vulnerable, I’m going to remember to be confident. And in the end, I hope I really will feel confidence in myself without having to try. I want it to come naturally. I believe in the power of one word, and I welcome the changes this word will bring.

The Importance of Being Happy

As previously mentioned in this blog, I had a really hard time adjusting to my last institution. It took me a long time before I felt comfortable there. But, also like I mentioned, I learned a lot. I grew. I now understand what I do and do not want in an institution where I work.

Recently, I was hired at a new institution. I was anticipating a similar transition. However, to my surprise and delight, it has been smoother and better than I could have imagined. I feel at home here. I’m excited to be here. I am looking forward to all of the different possibilities this institution has to offer. And, I have good work life balance for the first time in what feels like a very long time.

I’m so happy.

It could be because I have been so stressed out for so long. Trying to graduate on top of completing my assistantship, my internship, and job searching was absolutely exhausting. To finally be settled into a professional position where just a few months ago I was wondering if I would even have one is a relief. But, truly, it doesn’t matter why I’m happy. It’s just great to know that I am and feel it.

Ever since I’ve arrived here, I have felt confident, self-assured, and feel like I belong. I have noticed that I am more productive, more willing to go out of my way to do different things, more willing to jump into different aspects of the position. I have already begun to see the benefits of doing so, and I feel like it’s because I’m truly and utterly happy.

Imagine what we could all do if we were happy most of the time. It’s unrealistic to think that I’m always going to feel this way-there will be hard times, and I will face challenges. However, I feel like if we capitalize on the times that we are happy, we will be able to navigate the difficult times easily. I don’t need to be happy 24/7 but when I’m in a good mood, watch out world! I feel as though a lot of times in this field, we capitalize on the things we are doing wrong, and the things that are going badly. We are a very reactive field. My top Strength from StrengthsQuest is Positivity which means that even when bad things are going on or something happens, I try to look for the positive angle and see what needs to be improved from there. I think I need to learn how to better use this strength so that I can channel my “happy energy” like I’ve been doing this week!

The hardest challenge I’ve faced: separating emotion from my job

I am a caring person. I love to make people feel good. I like to do things for others that will boost them up and make them feel happy. So when it comes to Student Affairs…that part of me has cringed while facing some difficult situations with students who are facing reprimands and sanctions.

I know, I know. You can’t make everyone happy. It’s physically impossible. I understand that. But tell me that your own heartstrings haven’t been pulled when you have a crying student in your office…right. That’s what I thought. My problem is that I just want to help students so much that when I’m in the moment, I’m thinking Well, everyone deserves a second chance, right?

I’ve discovered that second chances, while good for some people, are sometimes impossible to give depending on the situation…and that may be even better for the student in the long run.

I first discovered I had trouble separating my emotions when I became a Resident Assistant. I had a floor with a lot of roommate issues…and I was getting emotionally involved in these conflicts that had absolutely nothing to do with me. It was draining and exhausting, and doing roommate mediations became harder because I empathized with both roommates. It was difficult to come to a solution. I realized how apt I was to do that, and knew it needed to stop. I could and should empathize with students, sure, but not so much that I was agreeing with one roommate and then agreeing with another roommate when they spoke with me. It had nothing to do with me, so why was I getting so worked up? That’s when I realized I needed to leave emotion out of it, and if I really wanted to help my students I would need to become an impartial party and help foster the discussion between them.

Now, as a supervisor for Resident Assistants, I’ve found myself having to do the same thing. As we all know, sometimes people make mistakes, including RAs. Sometimes those mistakes require job action. For me, it’s really hard when an otherwise really good RA messes up, because they say It was a one time thing. I swear I’ve learned my lesson. I’ll never do it again. Well…that’s great. But one thing that RAs fail to recognize is that if we as supervisors let those things go…it sends a message to the other staff members. This person made a huge mistake and violated their contract, but they’re allowed to be on staff. If I was on that staff, I’d start thinking maybe I could get away with something of my own, or that the policies were not valued by my supervisor. The thing about policies is they’re there for a reason. Even though the RA may lose their job for one mistake, one mess up…there could be other consequences as a result of that mistake, and often times RAs don’t see that.

Sometimes it’s still really hard for me to “discipline” students and staff members. The part of me that is concerned about making others happy fights me tooth and nail. But in the end, sometimes it works out better for students and staff. They could learn a hard lesson that they never would have learned otherwise. Sometimes, as they say, you have to go through hard stuff to get to the good stuff. It is now my job as a supervisor and a higher educational professional to think about all parts of the situation and recognize what’s best for all parties involved…not just the sobbing student in front of me.