No need for external validation

You are enough. External validation not required.

I wanted to write a post about the pitfalls of external validation, about how crippling it can be to feel like you’re not good enough unless other people say you are.

But when I started writing, the message got jumbled.

I got into a whole bunch of tangents about the difference between seeking feedback and craving approval from others. About how people can have their own agenda and think nothing of offering harsh criticism only to claim they’re “just being honest.”

But as I grappled with the idea of external validation, I realized that the real message is much more simple.

While all critique may have its truth, it’s not as important as the more positive, life-changing truth:

You are enough. 

I truly believe we all have gifts as varied and unique as we are. Each of us is in charge of our gifts and has a responsiblity to use them.

It may not seem like it, but you are enough.

You don’t need external validation, for someone else to say you’re good enough or to give her approval before you embrace your gift.

When we doubt we’re good enough and let someone else’s opinion drive our actions, we shirk our responsibility to our gifts. 

You are enough.

Sure, you’re a work in progress. We all are.

Learn all you can. Develop your gifts. Build yourself up by trying new things. Be okay with failing. Live fearless. 

You’ll need to be strong and determined to keep moving toward your dreams no matter what people say.

I’ll just say it again in case you forgot: You are enough

Live fearless.

They say the opposite of love is indifference and maybe in some forms of love that’s true. But when it comes to self-love and living your best life, I believe the opposite of love is fear.

Move past your fear and believe that you are enough.

Tuck the thought in your mind and in your heart and keep moving in the direction of your dreams.

For more reading on this idea, read How to ignore naysayers and other well-meaning people

Love yourself

6 Ways to love yourself more

I saw this little plaque at a discount store and it has such a simple message: Love yourself

I thought, “Yep. I need to see this every day.” 

Because everyone knows it’s important to love yourself, right? Like, if you don’t love yourself how can you love anyone else, right? That’s what I’ve always heard.

But if you’re like me, you kind of say, Yeah that’s true. I agree.

But wait. Am I living that truth?

Do I:

  • Embrace the true meaning of the statement?
  • Even know what that means? What does “loving yourself” look like?
  • Actually practice it?

So if we look at what it means to love yourself, it could lead you to ask, what is love, anyway?

And then it gets so sticky and confusing and you think, love isn’t something I can label with a bunch of words and it’s not always the same, like I love my kids one way and I love chocolate another way, so of course, I’d have to love myself a different way. 

Maybe. 

But if you really believe it’s important to love yourself, then isn’t it worth taking the time to figure out what that means? 

The directive to love yourself is meant to be taken seriously, not blown off, like, Yeah yeah. I get it. 

In her book, You are a Badass (I know, I always mention this book), Jen Sencero ends every chapter the same way, no matter what the chapter’s about, every chapter ends with the words (you guessed it): Love yourself. 

I came to expect it, but still was like, I know, I know, love myself. 

But really. Love yourself. What exactly does that mean?

I don’t think it’s about doing more or less, I think it’s a way of being. 

Here are 6 things a person who loves herself does:

1. She is kind to herself.

We can be our own worst critic and our own worst enemy, especially when we compare ourselves to others. But someone who loves herself has compassion for her failures. She accepts that she’s not perfect and doesn’t act like everything she does and says needs to be perfect. She forgives her mistakes which makes her better at forgiving others. She contains her inner critic. She talks to herself as she would talk to someone she loves and values. 

2. She stands up for herself.

I’m always amazed when I see this in action. It seems so ballsy. I struggle standing up for myself, for sure, because I don’t want to offend people, don’t want to make a scene. But someone who loves herself knows she can stand up for herself without being rude or aggressive. She doesn’t allow herself to be used, taken advantage of, or treated like a doormat. She doesn’t expect people to read her mind so she speaks up, otherwise she knows she risks getting angry and resentful. And that’s not who she is. 

3. She sets boundaries.

This relates to standing up for herself, but it goes beyond that. She sets boundaries for her own well-being. That includes being okay with saying “no,” loving toxic people from a distance, and not feeling guilty when she does what she knows is best for her even if it may disappoint some people.  

4. She plays a self-love mental playlist. On repeat.

She replaces negative messages, both from the past and in the present, with messages that remind her she’s a miracle of creation. There’s no desire to be like anyone else because she has everything she needs to create the life she desires. She knows this, believes it, and lives it. 

5. She sets personal goals and works toward them.

Even if she has to set them aside for a time or other commitments take priority, she doesn’t forget them. She allows them to evolve as she does. The woman who loves herself knows the essence of her passions and pursuits. She knows she has gifts she is meant to develop and nurture so she gives them attention. 

6. She practices self-love.

It’s easy to fall into old patterns and habits so she knows she has to practice taking care of herself… in her relationships, her body, mind, and spirit.  

The master of self-love described above is not an actual person, but a super-strong, super self-loving fictitious character who is a culmination of some serious self-love habits.

Want to be more like her, but have some work to do in this area?

You’re not alone! 

But it’s okay! 

Because no matter where you rate yourself on the self-love scale (1 being “not at all”, 5 being “I’m pretty awesome. And that’s not vanity. It’s my truth.”) improving self-love is do-able. For some of us it may take more conscious effort and practice than for others. 

Practice treating yourself with compassion, patience,  and attention. 

These 6 traits are what came to my mind when thinking about how I want to love myself. Do you stuggle with any of these? Did I miss anything?

I’d love to hear from you! Let me know your thoughts, and additions or subtractions to my list in the comments.

For more on this topic, read It’s important to be good to others, but don’t forget to be good to yourself too.

photo by ruby montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com

It’s important to be good to others, but don’t forget to be good to yourself too


Be good to yourself. It’s a simple concept. It means treat yourself with love, consideration, and kindness. Be understanding and forgiving towards yourself.

The concept is simple, but not always easy.

What does it mean?

“Good people” are kind, supportive, considerate, and generous. They help us feel positive about ourselves and about life.

They’re like a warm blanket on a cold night or a bowl of chicken soup to ease a scratchy throat. 

But sometimes it feels more natural to be good to a stranger than to ourselves.

We tend to beat ourselves up, focus on our weaknesses, and criticize ourselves when we’re less than perfect. 

How can we lift ourselves up instead of putting ourselves down?

Be kind. Especially through difficult times, small acts of kindness go a long way. Take a few minutes out of a busy day to meditate, listen to uplifting music, or go for a walk.

Smile. Let your smile be your signature look. It can change your disposition and open your heart to self-love.

Be grateful. There’s an old saying that goes, “I cried that I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” It doesn’t change your situation, but it may help you see it in a more positive light.

Forgive. Forgiveness is a powerful gift. It can take time to “get over” mistakes and imperfections, but it starts with a choice to forgive yourself.

Every day is a chance to be better than you were yesterday, to do better than you did yesterday. Make it a point to treat yourself with love, kindness, and compassion. Be good to yourself the same way you strive to be good to those you love.

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com

How a simple expression of love turned a bad day around


Everyone has a bad day sometimes. Not the worst kind where something major happens that turns your life upside down.

I’m talking about the regular kind of bad day where nothing seems to go right and people aren’t nice and stuff seems kind of pointless. That kind.

I had a day like that last week.

Maybe I was due for a bad day. I’d just had an amazing vacation in Italy and was feeling energized, ready to buckle down and get stuff done. The sun was shining and all was right with the world.

I scheduled a long overdue pedicure appointment for later that afternoon and got to work.

But my upbeat mood and momentum slowed almost as soon as I started working in the not-so-user-friendly Photoshop application. I’ll spare you the details except to say it’s like losing your car keys when you’re running late for work and you can picture them in your hand. Frustrating.

What I thought would take just a few minutes was taking more than an hour. I felt my jaw clench and the muscles in my neck ball up, but I couldn’t pull myself away.

Then I remembered my pedicure appointment. Perfect. I could get away from the computer, take my mind off Photoshop, and relax in the massage chair.

Or not

The owner/nail tech was on the phone when I walked in and she stayed on the phone instead of speaking to me. Instead, she directed me with gestures like pointing to the nail polish rack to pick out a color and patting the chair where I was to sit.

But worse than that was when she finally got off the phone and proceeded to complain about people who don’t get regular pedicures and then expect miracles on their feet, blah, blah, blah.

I knew I was overdue for a pedicure. Then I realized she was complaining about me to me! I should have been mad, but I just felt bad in a couple of different ways.

I didn’t say another word, just sat there in pathetic silence.

Later I thought I should have stopped her, gotten up, and left because that was uncalled for. But I didn’t. I let her do her job which she did well, except for disregarding courtesy.

Is it me?

After that, I stopped to pick up a pair of pants that hadn’t come in in time for me to take on my trip.

It seems petty to detail the sales clerk’s rudeness, so I’ll just say there was so little communication, verbal and nonverbal, between us that I didn’t know when she was done with me and expected me to leave. Never said thank you, didn’t smile.

I walked out without saying a word, but thinking, “Is it me? Am I invisible?”

Even though these were stupid encounters with people I didn’t even know, I felt a little beat up.

Maybe it was just the process of getting back to reality, but why do people have to be so rude? As much as I tried to shake off that crappy feeling, I had let them get to me.

I felt invisible and like a major loser — an unproductive, invisible loser.

Then something amazing happened.

When I got home and walked in the door, my dog ran to greet me like she always does, with her tail wagging and a smile on her face.

I had to smile back. She delivered exactly what I needed at that moment — a reminder that I was loved.

And not just by her.

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com
That face.

At that moment I thought about the people in my life who love me and who I love and about how blessed and lucky I am and it doesn’t matter that I couldn’t figure out Photoshop or that the nail tech was a meany or that a store clerk was rude.

Those are small things.

Having people in my life who love me and care whether I’m there or not…those are big things. Way bigger than the petty stuff I was letting get me down, even though it’s tempting to get tangled up in the petty crap.

It’s still a choice.

They say it takes ten positive statements to cancel out one negative statement.

But it can be hard to blow off negativity and pettiness and even a hundred positive statements won’t be enough to shake off a rude comment.

There was a time when I would have hung on to the negative vibes instead of choosing to focus on the positive and embrace the love that surrounds me.

It’s a life lesson I know, but sometimes still need to be reminded: Life’s too short to get bogged down by pettiness. Better to count your blessings, know you’re loved, and move on.

Stay flexible – She who is not willing to bend is more likely to break

Stay flexible – She who is not willing to bend is more likely to break


In a previous blogpost, What to do when you feel stuck in the weeds I covered some tips to help get you through those times when you feel unfocused, overwhelmed, or off-track. That’s what I call being in the weeds. The tips:

  1. Stay flexible
  2. Connect with people who’ve been where you are
  3. Find a process that works for you
  4. Trust the process

I’m going to expand on each of these tips over the next four weeks starting with Tip #1 to help you stay on track:

Stay flexible

Better bend than break. ~ Scottish Proverb

That’s pure wisdom.

But it’s so hard to be flexible sometimes, isn’t it? Being willing to bend when you’d rather not. Especially when bending makes you look weak or worse — wrong. It’s hard to give it up. Maybe it’s pride. Or maybe it’s the uncertainty about what to do next, an oversight or a misunderstanding.

Here are a few thought to help you be more flexible:

Check your stubborn streak.

I come from a long line of stubborn individuals and the wide stubborn streak of a few family members in particular have become legendary. The old description “stubborn as a mule” sums it up well. You can’t push, pull, coax, or persuade a mule to move if he doesn’t want to move.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons published on rubymontalvo.com
Ancient Egyptian stubborn mule – Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Maybe we’ve all been there at one time or another. (I know I have.)

But it’s important to check your stubborn streak so you don’t lost your senses:

  • Can’t hear suggestions
  • Don’t want to talk about the situation
  • Can’t see any other way than your own

Stubbornness makes you unreasonable. 

It’s easy to get off course and stuck in the weeds when you’re in that state of mind. And you run the risk of making things more difficult for yourself.

Refusing to budge won’t get you anywhere. Better to check your stubborn streak and consider giving in.

And just a quick aside, I don’t think stubbornness is all bad. There are times when you have to stick to your ideas and principles. But that’s more about being strong and determined. There will always be naysayers and people who don’t believe in your vision. In those cases, by all means, dig your heels in and get ready for all that lies ahead. 

Be open to learning.

You may know a lot about a lot of things, but no one knows it all. The best kind of teachers are those who learn from their students. If you consider people who are gracious and humble, they are open to learning from others.

Thinking you know it all is a sign of weakness. Approach things with a beginner’s mindset. Be like a child who’s mind is like a sponge, eager to learn all you can.

Swallow your pride.

We are rarely proud when we are alone. ~ Voltaire

It took me a long time to learn this hard-fought lesson: A person who hangs on to her pride can’t be flexible. Pride destroys. Relationships. Careers. Happiness.

I read a children’s picture book about the man who invented television Philo Farnsworth. I’d never heard of him. His is a tragic story. He was brilliant and creative, but he wasn’t willing to work within the patent system in place and fought for sole credit of his inventions. He didn’t die alone, but struggled with depression and alcoholism toward the end of his life.

When I first read his story he struck me as a tragic hero who’s fatal flaw was pride. I can’t help but wonder what his life might have been had he been more flexible and willing to share the credit for his invention. (I’m telling you the short version of his story, of course.)

But the bottom line is this – Pride kills lots of things: relationships, careers, health.

Be flexible.

I know it’s not always easy. Most of us have to work at it, I suppose. (Some of us have to work at it more than others.) But a little flexibility goes a long way toward personal and professional happiness. 

So know yourself and your tendency to be stubborn, a know it all, and prideful. (Gee, they sound terrible when you say it that way.) They’re flexibility killers. And happiness killers. Give them up.

You’re life, happiness, and work are worth it.

Crossroads photo courtesy of pixabay published on strong-woman.com

Discover the Value of Your Intuition

“The only real valuable thing is intuition.”  Albert Einstein

We all have it. It’s that gut feeling when you know something’s true even if you can’t explain it.  That feeling when you’re faced with a decision and you know exactly and without a doubt what you must do; when you absolutely know the right course of action.

It’s more than a hunch.

Intuition is brilliant. A guiding force. Always present, right, and true.

Compass photo courtesy of pixabay published on strong-woman.com
Intuition is always true.

The beautiful thing is that you don’t have to do anything to get it. You already have it. All you have to do is listen.

But listening can be so, so, so hard.

Listen and you go down one road. Don’t hear, not sure, or ignore your intuition and you go down a different road.

It’s been my experience that

  • it’s better to follow, even though it’s scary
  • there’s usually a price to pay for not listening
  • intuition doesn’t hold a grudge; she will always speak to you again.

It’s your guide, your North Star.

Yes, it’s scary. I know.

Crossroads photo courtesy of pixabay published on strong-woman.com
Which will you choose?

Your head screams at you:

  • What if it doesn’t work out.
  • And what if _______ happens
  • What are people going to say
  • You’re going to look stupid
  • You don’t know how to do _______
  • Think about the people you’ll disappoint.

That’s fear of the unknown and the unknown can be scary.

Einstein says intuition is the “only real valuable thing”.

Even though it must have played a huge role in his life and in his body of work, he probably had to learn to follow just like everybody else. He probably had days when he doubted himself. Doesn’t everyone?

What would happen if you discovered the value in the simplicity of listening to your intuition.

Where would it lead? 

For more on this topic, read 3 Empowering messages to tell yourself when you feel doubtful

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

Choose belief over doubt


“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” Henry Ford.

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on strong-woman.com

So often, we give up before we start. We list reasons why something won’t work. It saves us the trouble of trying and keeps us from risking failure.

But how can we get past that? How can we open our minds to the possibility of success?

It’s about belief. And then it’s about action.

Belief over doubt

Doubt stems from fear and it’s a powerful force. How do we get from “I don’t think I can” (doubt) to “I can” (belief).

Will saying, “I think I can. I think I can,” over and over, like The Little Engine That Could, work to help me believe and succeed?

It’s a great start. 

Think of it as chipping away at a pile of doubt, all the “reasons” you think you can’t.

Believe. Be open to the possibility of success. Even if you don’t know how you’ll reach your goals and they may seem so far away, believe you can do it. Work hard and don’t give up.

Be okay with failed attempts.

Of course, you’ll face setbacks. What successful person hasn’t?  Remember that the only way to guarantee you won’t fail is to never try.

Can or can’t? Each of us must decide for ourselves.

Photo courtesy of pixabay commons published on strong-woman.com

Where you look is where you’ll go


A few years back I took a bad spill from my mountain bike. The crash left me with bruised and bloody knees. It hurt, but while it wasn’t a pleasant experience, it helped me realize something important: Where you look is where you’ll go. 

Cycling baggage

I’ve never been very good at things on wheels. Skateboards, bicycles, skates. I tend to fall for some reason. I’ve had my share of memorable falls. I once fell off my bike when it wasn’t even moving.

So getting on a mountain bike presented a mental challenge for me because I had to let go of memories of skinned knees and painful falls. I had to expect to stay on the bike.

It was a beautiful day for a ride.

I started out fine. My husband and I were cycling on a smooth, easy trail (my favorite) in a scenic state park. 

Photo courtesy of pixabay commons published on strong-woman.com

The easy trail turned into a gravel trail and then a little further along we wound up in an even more difficult trail in a rocky creek bed. 

I was trying to stay positive and confident, but in the back of my mind I was thinking, “I don’t want to fall. It’ll hurt if I fall.” 

Up ahead there was a large rock, probably about the size of a football and I kept thinking to myself, “Don’t hit the rock. Don’t hit the rock.”

Well, sure enough, my front tire hit the big rock and I went flying off my bike. I skidded on the rocks before coming to a stop.

Blood ran down my legs. My knees and hands burned. I screamed a few choice words and cried like a small child. I was right. It did hurt.

What happened? I was doing so well!

Where you look is where you’ll go. 

I was so focused on the rock, I didn’t see anything but the rock. I was saying, “Don’t hit the rock.” Of course I hit the rock.

The mind is powerful. Where I focus my thoughts and attention is the direction I’ll go, even if it’s not where I want to go. 

It’s a reminder to be aware of how your thoughts direct you. What you focus on is an indicator of where you’re going.

How many times does it happen that the one thing you decide you don’t want to do is what you end up doing? The one thing you don’t want to happen is what happens?

Photo courtesy of pixabay commons published on strong-woman.com
Where you look is where you’ll go.

Avoid focusing on what you don’t want. Focus on where you want to go and on what you want to do, because where you look is where you’ll go.

Fun extra: Here’s another illustration of the principle that where you look is where you’ll go. It’s from Bob’s Burgers when Tina learns to drive a car.

Let negativity roll off your back

Let negativity roll off your back


Negative and insensitive comments that can be hurtful and leave you doubting yourself and feeling stupid.

Little jabs like:

“Are you wearing that?”Photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

“You don’t know what you’re talking about!”

“You can’t/won’t be able to do ________ .”

“Can you try to pay attention, for once?”

Off-handed remarks can float around in our heads for a long time. We analyze them to death and think, “What’s that supposed to mean?” If you’re already self-conscious or lacking confidence, negative comments can have an even bigger impact. 

Positive vs. Negative

Negativity stings. Psychologists say it takes at least 10 positive comments to cancel out 1 negative comment.

Downloaded from Pixabay published on strong-woman.com

How can we get past it and not let it shake our self-confidence?

Is the negative comment worth my time and consideration?

If not, consider the matter closed. Visualize yourself walking away from it. Don’t let it get to you. If it starts to re-surface, remind yourself that you’ve put it behind you.

Understand that often people are negative because it’s easier to knock things down than build them up.

Don’t worry about it. Let negativity roll off your back like water off a duck.

Blow it off like bubbles in the wind.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay published on strong-woman.com
Words have power.

Do you trust the person who said it?

People speak without thinking. Feelings get hurt.

Consider giving people the benefit of the doubt instead of thinking they intend to shake your confidence.

I’d want that consideration. As much as I try to be encouraging, sometimes I speak before I think and wind up sounding negative or insensitive.

Words have power. We must choose wisely. And this applies to how we speak to ourselves too. Encourage yourself with positivity instead of speaking negativity towards yourself.

Stay focused on your goals. Be patient. Ignore negative comments. Don’t let them shake your confidence. Let them roll off your back like so you can’t remember them even if you tried.

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on strong-woman.com

Choose the Opportunity of Now


My husband introduced me to a website wolframalpha.com “an engine for computing answers and providing knowledge”. The website provides facts – quantifiable facts. It doesn’t provide opinions or recommendations.

Interesting information

Type in Chicago, Illinois and you’ll get Chicago’s population statistics, current weather and time, income statistics, demographics, and more.Photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

Put in today’s date and you’ll get information about observances and holidays, moon phase, sunrise and sunset times, and more.

Type in a specific date and year, like your birthday, and you’ll get the day of the week it was and how many days have passed since that date.

It provides facts. Facts alone aren’t disputable. It’s what you do with the information that can make a difference. For me, the information it provided spurred more questions and judgement.

Facts made personal

For example, I put in my birthday. I was born more than 20 thousands days ago. That’s more than 2800 weeks. That’s really a long time. I had to ask: Have I done enough? It makes me wonder about how many more days will I have and how will I do everything I want to do?Photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

It’s easy to get discouraged about the time that’s passed, to feel sad about getting older.

Most of us struggle with that at one point or another.

But I realize it’s better to get excited about right now and living each day being as happy and productive as I can. Not so much to live each day as if it were my last, but to not waste it regretting the past. It’s much better to be motivated about the opportunity of now.

Almost exactly a year ago, that’s 365 days, I quit my job as a school librarian and decided I wanted to do something different, that what I really want to do is write. I finished my 1st draft of my 1st novel on March 15 of this year. As of this blogpost, that’s just over 80 days ago.

I’m on the 3rd draft of revisions.

Here are some of the questions I ask myself:

Isn’t it a little late to start a new career? Maybe.

What could I have done if I’d started when I was in my 20’s. A lot more than starting in my 50’s.

Would I be a better writer now? Almost certainly.photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

And yet, I know it’s pointless to re-visit past career choices and wonder if I’ve made good use of my 20 thousand days.

The more important question is “What now?” Better to move forward grateful for every day and the opportunity to do something I’ve always wanted to do.

It’s not just about living in the present. It’s also about looking forward to the future.

We all know our time is limited. That reality can be either depressing or motivating. Each of us has to decide for ourselves which it will be.

Choose to be motivated by the opportunity of now.