Friday, August 19, 2016

Why We Need Authentic Validation

Last week I watched this beautiful short movie Validation for the first time and basically all I want to do now is do what this guy does when I grow up. He practically summarizes all of my life goals. I think we can all agree that validation is vital, not simply for our self-esteem, but for our personal growth and emotional well-being as humans. Yet it is something that is extremely undervalued and cheapened in our society. A couple weeks ago I shared an article describing a few of the potential pitfalls of social media. My last point in that article was about using social media as a platform for cheap self-validation. For instance, sharing selfies and photos to achieve likes and automatically feel successful (guilty as charged).

I am going to be honest with you—I like sharing the occasional selfie and, yes, I feel validated when people like my pictures because I put substantial effort into putting myself together everyday, taking that exquisitely posed picture, and choosing the perfect filter to match. But I will be the first to admit there is a fine line between feeling comfortable in your own skin and being obsessed with your skin, your features, and your face and being obsessed with maintaining that quality, filtered, Instagram image of yourself. Because let’s face it, 75% of the time, the pictures we share on social media are not accurate representations of everyday life.

That’s the problem with social media. It’s insta-validation but it’s not real validation. If anything, social media teaches us that we don’t deserve validation on days when we don’t look like we appear in our posed and filtered profile pictures. Not only that, but I feel like social media dissuades us from offering authentic validation to others in real life. It takes a lot more effort and thought to give someone a legitimate compliment in real life, to listen to what they have to say and validate the way they feel, confirm their opinions, intelligence, and personality characteristics, instead of simply liking their photo online. Real validation takes observing someone—not in a creepy way—but in a generous, attentive, loving, and honest fashion. It also takes a giving heart that expects nothing in return. Compliments are not genuine when they are only given with ulterior motives or the expectation of having your compliment returned.

This beautiful short movie prompted me to think of the many people in my life and their many good qualities, and how often do I validate those qualities? Granted, I think it would get old fast if I kept up a steady stream of compliments for my friends and family all day long—I don’t know, maybe they would like that—but sometimes I wonder if we need to stop being so self-aware and self-conscious and instead take time to be genuinely thoughtful and appreciative of others. Because when it comes down to it, validating others takes more effort and skill than we might think.

Real, authentic, meaningful validation takes effort, honesty, genuine appreciation, and the absence of personal insecurity and envy. In order to validate someone, we have to be able to look at what they have and the gifts and talents they were given and simply appreciate them without coveting what they have. In order to really validate someone else, we have to conquer our own insecurities and discontentment. I don’t know about you, but this might be the greatest point of weakness for me. Envy is easy to bury and keep silent, but it’s an ugly monster that rears its head into visibility ever so often and is most evident in our hesitation to genuinely appreciate other people in our lives—to be able to rejoice with those who rejoice and to build one another up.

Let us challenge one another—to stop the vicious cycles of comparison, envy, self-deprecation, gossip, slander, even “soft gossip” and instead use our words to genuinely validate and build one another up, to wake up every morning with so much thankfulness in our hearts for the people in our lives that we can’t help but let our gratefulness spill out of our mouths, to be less aware of our insecurities and failures and more aware of the good gifts in our lives. Let’s look to fill needs and give grace wherever we can. Let’s be aware every single day of how much wealth we have—yes, wealth, and this is coming from the broke college student—because I for one have always had more than I need. And if you really thought hard about it, I think you would agree with me that most of us don’t have a lot of reasons to complain.

Do you make a habit of genuinely validating others? Do you have any tips or advice for offering real, authentic validation? Have you ever struggled to receive compliments or validation? 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Patriotic Polka Dots | Summer 2K16 Outfit

Outfit posts are a rarity on my blog, but every now and then I get inspired and find the time to share an outfit I absolutely love with you all! Last week I had the privilege to feature one of my favorite summer outfits and dresses on Sunday Best and All the Rest. Go check it out and follow Paige’s blog if you have not already!

Today I want to share another one of my favorite summer outfits. I like to call this one Patriotic Polka Dots. This outfit features one of my current favorite blouses because you can't go wrong with navy and polka dots.

This summer my hair is growing at an astronomical rate. You might not believe that a year ago it was short, just past my ears. I am still adjusting to styling long hair again and unfortunately most of my attempts are sabotaged by the Oklahoma wind and heat.

Braids and ponytails have been my go-to, because neither requires a whole lot of product or time to maintain and both still look descent even when a little messy. This summer I have come to learn to simply embrace the messiness. Embrace the stray wisps of hair, the tussled pony tail, and the heat-flushed cheeks.

Blouse – St. John’s Bay via JCPenny
Jeans – NY Artisan via TJ Maxx
Earrings – Gift via my sister
Bracelet – A purchase of 3+ years ago from a local boutique
Sandals – via Ross Dress for Less 
Claddagh Ring - a gift from my friend Bridget, from Ireland
Pictures - by my sister Anna
Lipstick - Clinique Pop Lip Colour in the shade Love Pop

What are some of your favorite summer fashion items? What are some of your least favorite drawbacks of summer (i.e. heat, so much heat)? 

Friday, August 5, 2016

3 Signs You Need a Break From Social Media

Earlier this summer I bought a smart phone for the first time. Prior to purchasing my smart phone and a data plan, I had a stupid phone on my parents’ old family plan. You know you need to upgrade your technology when eight-year-olds are adamantly telling you, you need to upgrade. To which I would reply, "you’re accustomed to a standard of living, little child, that you do not have to pay for. I have to pay for everything I own!" But that’s another story for another day. Before I bought my smart phone I didn’t really think about all of the ramifications of owning one. For instance, I didn’t realize just how much I would love emojis and Instagram and how much of my time both would consume.

However, it didn't take me long to discover how easy it is for me to inadvertently spend hours scrolling through snapshots of the lives of my friends and acquaintances, scrolling through posts by people who I am not even sure can legitimately be considered my friends...or acquaintances for that matter. There is nothing wrong with slowing down each day and taking time to catch up with family and friends online, but when it comes down to it, social media is a distraction and sometimes it can be a distraction from really slowing down, resting, and having some quiet in our lives. I am still working on finding the healthy balance here, and would deeply appreciate any input you might have!

Here is what I have so far; three pitfalls or warning signs, if you will, that it's time to take a break from social media. And by take a break, I mean go cold turkey for several hours, days, months, however long you need. 

1. When social media becomes a constant distraction from reality. Before I bought a smart phone, I already spent plenty of time on Pinterest and Facebook on my computer, but for some reason it’s easier to compartmentalize my time spent online when it’s just the computer. I can turn off the computer and it won’t buzz with notifications every five minutes or so. It’s not as easy to lumber a laptop around, whereas with a smart phone, it can go everywhere with you--everyone expects it to go everywhere with you. Basically, it becomes an extension of you and I’m still not sure how I feel about that. Just because my phone is on and charged, does that mean I should be available 100% of the time? Is that a realistic expectation for anyone? Or should I set aside time in my life to simply focus on what’s around me and in front of me, be all present in what I do?

I am constantly hounded with the temptation to pull out my phone at every turn and capture the moment on camera, share it on Instagram, or simply write something on Twitter or Facebook. What’s more, I’m tempted to exaggerate the truth, put a saturation filter on life to make everything look a lot prettier than it really is. But a part of me is still more inclined to leave my phone in my purse and simply be all-present in every moment as they come.

2. When social media is a forum to celebrate narcissism. It’s no secret our culture is a culture that celebrates and promotes narcissism. I recently saw an article about how women now wear engagement rings on their left pinkie fingers as symbols of their “self-love”. Now, there is nothing wrong with loving yourself, but our Savior Jesus teaches us that the purpose of loving ourselves is so that we might also love others. “Love your neighbor, as you love yourself.” Loving ourselves comes naturally, at least to most of us. The difficult part is getting past our own image—whether we love or despise ourselves—and focusing on others and loving others.

More importantly, the greatest commandment given in the Bible is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. This comes before loving our self and loving our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40, Deuteronomy 6:4-6). The love we have for our self and for one another should be a secondary outpouring of the love and worship we have for our God. The self-destructive narcissism comes when we substitute our Creator with the creation and instead worship ourselves--our image, accomplishments, etc.

3. When social media provides a cheap form of self-validation. There is nothing wrong with sharing pictures, even pictures of ourselves (yay selfies!), online with our friends. C.S. Lewis reminds us in his Reflections on the Psalms that praise is the ultimate completion of human joy, that it is a natural human response when we see something that excites our wonder to want to share it with others. That is why the praises of Jesus are meant to be sung together by the saints and sung to one another. Singing praise to God and to one another is like the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae that is our joy in Jesus. It’s not enough to see God’s goodness and to think of God’s goodness—we have to declare it. We have to see others delighted by it.

But if we are honest with ourselves, the majority of pictures and posts we share online do not reflect a heartfelt worship and adoration for our mighty God and His creation. Rather, social media serves as a distraction to our everyday lives and a cheap validation of everything we do. We put filters on our lives and faces to exaggerate and amplify reality. I don’t want to sound disparaging because with everything else in life, I think there is a healthy balance to social media. I love Instagram filters and I think there is something to be said for an artistic photograph, just like any other artistic creation. I love seeing pictures of my niece and nephew and the rest of my friends and family each week. I guess what I wrestle with is finding that healthy balance.

The struggle is real because according to the world, there is no struggle. This is the standard of living, this is what we do, and no one really questions it. But narcissism is destructive and constant distraction—whether that distraction is socializing online or overworking—is just as damaging.  At some point we need to be willing to be raw and real with one another, authentic and true, focused and present. And I’m not sure if essential authenticity can be fabricated over the internet. 

With that being said, I understand how difficult it is to escape social media forums and take breaks, especially when Facebook is often the go-to for practical contact for many people. For me, social media is also a means to promote my blog and keep up with comments and messages on my website. There are still simple ways to fast from social media: 

1. Choose one or two social media websites/apps, for instance, Facebook or Twitter. Stay off these selected sites for a week, a month, however long you need to. 

2. Old habits die hard and quitting for even a day might be easier said than done, so be sure to set yourself up for success. Uninstall that app on your phone. Block those websites from your browser as a reminder.

3. If you're worried about keeping up with your website during your absence, schedule your posts in advance and give your followers some forewarning that you will be absent from social media but will reply to their comments and messages when you return.

4. Just like fasting from food, it's not always a smart idea to try and go cold turkey for long periods of time. Sometimes it's best to pick one day each week where you stay completely off of all social media. 

I am genuinely interested in your thoughts and would love to keep this conversation going as I am sure this is a subject I will be reflecting on in the months to come.

What are your thoughts on social media? Do you struggle with being distracted from reality by social media? How do you find a healthy balance? 

Friday, July 29, 2016

We Need Wonder and Hopefuls

Early in June my friend Hannah and I took a day trip to the Wichita Lantern Fest in El Dorado, KS. The experience was magical, to say the least. We spent the better part of the day traipsing around Wichita, visiting our favorite coffee house and local shops. In the late afternoon we took off for El Dorado to set up camp at the festival. We came prepared with a picnic, water, and plenty of bug spray. 

The best moment of the festival was when we watched our first lantern launch into the night sky. For the record, it's not as easy or glamorous as the movies all make it appear. Lighting and releasing the paper lanterns takes a lot of coordination and teamwork. Mostly we were trying to not light ourselves on fire accidentally. Both of us were very thankful for the friendship and assistance of the people around us. By the time we lit our second lantern, we were pretty much pros. And, yes, we sang "At Last I See the Light" at the top of our lungs. 

During our road trip, Hannah took some lovely photos. Go like her official Facebook page, Sojourn, if you haven't already! 

When I first moved going-on-three years ago, I was anxious about how my move would alter my friendships. God in his providence dismissed all my fears one by one and I have learned since then that the people of God never walk alone. Where the worship of God dwells, where his people gather together, there is always fellowship and companionship to be found. If anything, the distance and time between my close friends has only served to strengthen the most meaningful relationships and friendships in my life.

I don’t know about you, but I have a tendency to sometimes become too internally focused. I can hyper-focus on my flaws, my failures, my lack of direction and seeming lack of a future. It’s easy to superficially validate myself during times like this; to build up my vanity, but ultimately what I need is wonder. I need contentment in Christ, not satisfaction with myself. I need to stop looking at myself and instead crack open God’s Word and marvel at his majestic sovereignty and salvation. I need to take a drive, go on an adventure, and open my eyes to the world and people around me, be reminded how finite and temporary life really is, and how all of my worries completely diminish in light of eternity and the glorious reward before me.

On this pilgrim journey we all need hopeful companions by our side, just like Christian in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress needed his friend, Hopeful, and his unwavering encouragement. My sweet friend Hannah has been one of those Hopefuls in my life. Not only is she always ready to plan or spontaneously endeavor upon the next adventure, but she constantly encourages me in Christ, reminding me of his promises, and how my identity and future are grounded in my Savior.

I have known Hannah all my life. Her and her sisters have always been soul-sisters to me. We have grown up together and in spite of distance and the many ways our lives vary and alter over the years, we always come together again, and just like family, there’s nothing sweeter than the times we reunite.

The other day I was contemplating how fortunate I am, how fortunate I am to have faithful friends who have been there from the beginning, who have withstood tribulation, conflict, loss, and sorrow beside me and who have shared some of the happiest memories and moments of my life with me. I forever anticipate the days when we collide with one another as I ultimately look forward to the eternal reward we will share with our Lord and Savior.

Do you enjoy taking road trips, spontaneous or otherwise? What are some lessons God has been laying on your heart recently? 

Photos © Sojourn 2016

I would love to stay in touch! Like my official Dani Jeanne Facebook page if you haven't already, follow me on Instagram @accordion2dani and Twitter @piano_dani, or feel free to email me at

Friday, July 22, 2016

Favorite Things || Summer 2016 Edition

In a matter of days I will be twenty-two years old. TWENTY-TWO PEEPS. You know how most birthdays, another year turns over and it’s exciting and all but ultimately it doesn’t feel that different? Turning twenty-one was pretty awesome because it meant I could purchase alcoholic beverages legally (not that I ever purchased or drank alcohol illegally), but apart from that it didn’t feel very different from twenty. Well this year I’m turning twenty-two and I can already tell this next year is going to be a whole lot of crazy and awesome. Here are a few of my favorite things so far this summer and I might have to share a second installment at the end of this summer because there's no way I'm going to fit everything in here.

>>finishing my twenty-first year of life in style
>>realizing my hair is long enough to braid
>>girls’ day out in the city
>>music stores

>>my first smartphone (not gonna lie)
>>the whole new world of Instagram
>>road trips with my adventuring friend

>>lantern fest
>>magic in fire and light

>>campfires and toasting marshmallows
>>befriending strangers
>>visiting New Orleans, LA

>>basically everything about NOLA
>>witnessing my dear friend's wedding
>>third time a bridesmaid
>>catching the bouquet
(first time!)
>>4th of July festivities
>>live orchestra & fireworks display
>>family & friends
>>decluttering life
>>out with the old, in with the new
>>Joshua Radin, The Script, and Bastian Baker
>>running the trails at dusk

>>cow appreciation day at Chick-fil-A
>>Brigitte’s Blend loose-leaf from Harney & Sons
>>sunshine and swimming outdoors

>>feelin’ twenty-two

Photo by Missy 

What are some of your favorite things about summertime? Favorite summer memories?

Like my official Facebook page if you haven’t already! Much love to everyone who liked and followed my blog this month! 

Follow me on Instagram @accordion2dani and Twitter @piano_dani!!

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