The 8 Most Empowering Experiences Of My Life

The other day, Wendy wrote a list of the different things that make a woman feel beautiful, outside of hearing the words from a man. I noticed that many of the items on the list were experiences — successfully cooking a great recipe, doing yoga, etc. — and it got me thinking about some of the experiences I’ve had in my life that not only made me feel beautiful, but also empowered. These are the eight most empowering experiences of my life — tell me yours in the comments! 1. Moving to New York City : I grew up in Southern California and went to college in Northern Cali, but I spent my summers living in New York, interning for a couple different magazines in my quest to eventually become a writer/journalist. Spending two and a half months each summer living in this big ol’ city without knowing a soul was scary and challenging, but it forced me to overcome my shyness (can you believe I used to be, well, bashful and kind of meek?) and develop more confidence. When I graduated from college, I packed up two bags of clothes and moved here without a job, a confirmed place to live, and only a couple friends. It was gutsy and I’ve never looked back.

2. Learning to surf: Despite growing up in California, I never surfed, save one failed, brutal attempt in Hawaii. I’ve always been a strong swimmer, but learning to surf had long been on my bucket list. Last summer I went to an all-female surf retreat in Costa Rica and stood up on my board on the very first day.

3. Getting engaged: When my boyfriend proposed it was a huge surprise. Getting married is not something I’ve ever aspired for, but when he asked, I was overwhelmed with how much I wanted to say yes. Saying yes to his proposal was empowering because it was something I very much wanted for me and for us (at the time), not something I agreed to because it was “about time” or the “right” thing to do.

4. Getting dumped: Eventually, of course, that relationship ended and it came as a huge shock. But going through the pain of losing him, us, and our life together proved to me just how strong of a person I am. Recognizing that in myself was incredibly empowering.

5. Going to Carnival in Trinidad: In 2004 I went on a press trip to Trinidad for Carnival. Now, Carnival in Rio gets all the glory, but the one in Trinidad is completely amazeballs. In addition to, um, partying for a week straight, I got to get all dressed up in one of the skimpy beaded, bedazzled and feathered get-ups that all the women wear to parade through the streets on the main day of festivities. Walking around in just a bathing suit, surrounded by thousands of other women whose bodies are beloved for being full and voluptuous (all the better to dance with, my dear), made me feel pretty f**king hot.

6. Launching The Frisky: True story — when I was offered the job of launching and editing the site now known as The Frisky, I considered saying no, even though it was a total dream gig. I seriously didn’t know that I could do it successfully and I was scared of failing. But taking on a project where failure is a possibility and every day is a challenge, but still giving it my all, has been the biggest growing experience of my professional life. And seeing the site succeed as much as it has? Out-of-this-world empowering.

7. Chopping off my hair: Up until a year and a half ago, I had really long hair. I had been growing it out for 10 years, ever since I got a dreadful short chop in high school. I associated long hair with femininity and beauty — I feared cutting it again. Wearing it long was a security blanket. After my breakup, I had this weird surge of confidence that went along with my depression, and cutting off the hair that had been with me through so many experiences, both good and bad for over 10 years, was incredibly freeing.

8. Finding forgiveness: I forgave — with my heart, not just my words — two people who hurt me terribly. Letting go of anger allows for far more wonderful emotions to enter your life.

There are other experiences I hope to add to this list someday — having a child, jumping out of an airplane, getting into that goddamn headstand in yoga that has been eluding me for years. But for now, these eight are pretty great. What have been the most empowering experiences of YOUR life?