CUTTING TOXIC RELATIONSHIPS AND FORGIVENESS. The things you need to know about caring for yourself and curating the people who are allowed access to you, as well as understanding the importance and need for forgiving those who have hurt us.
The last thing on earth that I want to do when someone hurts me is to forgive. It's a counter-logical response - and it doesn't make sense! Why would you want to say, "it's okay, I'm letting this go" when someone has made it clear that you are seemingly beneath them? Which is why forgiveness has to be divine, counter-intuitive decision. Forgiving someone is hard work because it doesn't make any sense at all. When someone hurts us, it's the most natural to have a tainted taste towards their character and our memories associated with them. It also It takes little to no effort to sit in your bitterness as it becomes habitual. What's truly the strangest thing about bitterness is that it's very comfortable. It's the place where you feel entitled to, to point a finger and mark the other person as the villain, and you, the victim. It's this weird place that can consume your mind and taint all of your past memories of you and this person. You might not even know what it's doing to you, but bitterness in essences is destructive and will have major consequences for you. It is the poison you drink when you're not able to just let it go.
Truly forgiving someone else will definitely help you heal - but if you are not putting the effort into actually letting this person's actions go, its as synonymous as putting on a temporary mask of happiness and health when really you're still drinking the poison. Working to forgive someone might actually look like repeatedly telling yourself that you forgive that person, over and over again, every-time you feel choked by the memory. The consequences of not forgiving is that your bitterness seeps into all the avenues of your life without your consent. You've trained your heart to be cold and the frost will spill over.
I have this really malicious (natural) issue where when I'm really upset with someone, I dwell on the situation well over time. I'll literally repeat in my head as a coping mechanism, "I hate this person, [cuss them out]. They don't deserve my time. I hate them so much." It's to the point where I don't even realize that me choosing the recite that phrase in my mind is literally the exact moment I'm feeding into my own bitterness! I'm actually being so destructive. In those moments, I am aware how my brain is constantly trying to keep me in survival mode - only flooding my thoughts with happy memories. With every memory that resurfaces, I'll add my bitterness into the mix. My saltiness allows me to feel justified in corrupting my own memories by painting the past with undertones of hatred. But here's the cold hard truth of the matter: my malicious thoughts are not going to have revenge on this person. They are severely harming myself. In fact, this person might not even feel any guilt or remorse at all.
When it comes to boundaries and lines, there is a fine line corresponding between upholding your standards and forgiving someone. I learn more and more each year that there are many times and places where cutting toxic people out of my life takes bravery and effort as well - and is entirely necessary. This route, on one hand, should be innately human. Someone harms you, and then you pull away. But for some reason, it's just as complex as forgiveness. The more invested you are in a relationship, the more difficult it is to recognize and distance yourself from those constant red flags. I had to come to a huge lesson this past year after dealing with a lot of fear of unexplored spirituality, indulging in substances, and just generally not being perfect: People can be more destructive to you than any drug, alcoholic binge, taboo spiritual exploration, (insert non-human fear here), etc. It's actually more critical to actively be safeguarding your immediate source of influence by having standards for the people around you. And you have all the right to invite or dis-invite people into your life who are not having the mutual reciprocity that is so vital to having healthy relationships in your life. Harder said than done, but a really really valuable lesson. Nur (Nurberxo) says it best, [paraphrased]. If your life is a party and you're the host, you are the one inviting the guests in. If someone you invite takes a shit in the middle of your party, it doesn't only affect you but also all the people at the party. If you continually invite this person back and they repeat their behaviour, it's actually on YOU.
And this is where forgiveness and having standards intertwine. How do you forgive and let go, as well as keep your distance from people who have not met your standards? It sounds so difficult and these two concepts, though sisters it seems, are rarely spoken of together. But it's actually really simply broken down.
Going forward, you have three options:
1) Forgive and Rebuild You need to understand that forgiving someone does not mean they are should be granted all the same privileges that they priorly received. Forgiving a best friend who has hurt you doesn't mean that they are still your closest person to confide in after the case. You can work to rebuild the friendship but don't overvalue it - allow it to take its time to heal organically. Constantly repeat to yourself when a salty memory pops up that it's okay, you're letting it go. Understand your boundaries, and don't harbour resentment for the future. You might repeat that forgiveness phrase for years, (doing the work) - but it's hella' a lot better than smashing a broken record over and over again.
2) Forgive and Move On. Just because you are working to forgive someone doesn't mean that you have to put in the efforts to keep this person in your life. In some cases, no effors on your end should be made. They may have shown you their true colours, and it can be your decision to let them go. Even though sometimes you will want things to go back to how they were - you can't erase a circumstance. Call a spade a spade, and move on. The more doors you close on unhealthy relationships, the more room you make for healthy ones. A lifetime of being separated from someone you care about can seem really daunting, so be open to reconciliation in the future when you both are in healthy spaces as a possibility, but don't make that your silver lining of hope. Protect yourself. Prioritize yourself, no one else will do that for you. There are 7 Billion people in the world and you have the privilege to surround yourself with mutually beneficial relationships.
3) Stay in Bitterness, Never Forgive, and Hate. Life is linear, time doesn't stop. It's a real option that actually the majority of people take to stay in bitterness and resentment. But if you choose this, I'd like to let you know: bitterness and resentment have their own agenda. You will bring your toxicity into your other relationships as you try and cope with this hurt. And though you may live life and carry on you will always feel powerless and like a victim while growing the weed of bitterness. The consequence to not forgiving (though seemingly easier) is far more damaging than actually doing the mental work. Bitterness will be your legacy because it will be the undertone to how you approach relationships and the cycle be inevitable.
Awareness is your first weapon. When I am thinking about the person who has caused me heartbreak and pain, I am already reciting my bitterness in my head. If I'm really hurt, I'm thinking of this situation on loop for weeks. So I do this technique (a mix of techniques from meditation, my relationship with God, and psychological studies) to help me break this cycle.
First, I will become aware that I am having a destructive thought. I will then imagine myself watching myself in the situation (ie. I'm watching myself sitting in my car in traffic ruminating about this past event). I'll simply tell myself "Oh, I'm having a thought." I'll then either choose to change my inner conversation or jump into prayer and ask God to help me change my thoughts. Instead of saying "I hate this person," I'll recite something like "I forgive them, they're human just like me." Over and over, and then I will try and think of something else that is more deserving of my attention.
In the end, bitterness is a choice. If you live in it it will consume you, and I promise you there is such wealth behind forgiveness even if its the harder route.
Photos by Yuot Tut
Styling by myself
I'm obsessed with the 2017 Wrapped Playlists that Spotify has developed. 100 of my top listened songs that got me through this year! Apparently this year I listened to 53,122 hours of music. My most loved genre is Indie R&B, and my top 5 artists are Drake, SZA, H.E.R, Solange, and Tom Misch.
My favorite songs of the year were:
Run it - Cardo Antonnio
Before I Do - Sevyn Streeter
Pull Up (fea. Jaquees) - Summerella
Ego - Bibi Bourelly
There are so many memories associated with these songs for me! I never knew I would such an R&B fan :)
I was doing some product shots in some fun lighting and couldn't help but jump in front of the camera for some concept shots. (it was 2 AM LOL). I've been learning to catch creativity while it comes and execute before it escapes me!
This is what happened:
I've wanted to sit down with the camera for ages! This past year I have immersed myself in learning through podcasts and it has served me so much. I wanted to chat about the ones that have been particularly special to me during this time away from the camera!
I've been watching some of my amazing friends jump onto this wave called Socality. Actually, the founder and the internal team are some of the most amazing people I know. They are so dedicated and watching this wild online community set fire has been a privilege and an honor. Scott Bakken says it best, Socality is a community for all eternity. A platform of social influence! But impact really does come down to the relational level, which is why I loved getting to be apart of the first ever Socality Camp.
Here are some of the shots I got at the camp! To be honest, I'm really rusty when it comes to photography and I was renting a camera body and lens so it's not my best work. But I still have some favorite shots to share and am very excited to spend time behind the lens again!
Everyone starts their photography journey differently. Some people are into shooting landscapes, some portraits. For me, I started my journey with photography mostly because of a website called www.lookbook.nu and some pretty exceptional creatives that showcased their work on websites such as nexopia, tumblr, and flickr.
In high school, I had a friend invite me into an exclusive online community where people posted portraits of their outfits through modeling. At the time, camera phones were just on the rise and I was still snapping blurry selfies with my first ever Canon Rebel, T1i. I grew up under the concept that taking selfies was the ultimate manifestation of vanity and narcissism, a lesson passed down to me through my parents (love you both lol). This led my rebellion of sneakily taking self-timed images every day after school for a period of 125 days (the goal was to complete a full 365 day Self Portrait project). The photos were tragic, and my outfits were worse. But ultimately, it was self-portraiture that pushed me to learn how to technically use a camera. Those skills have translated seamlessly into all aspects of my creative world (video, photo projects, .gif work, design, etc).
If you are jumping into the world of self-portrait photography and amateur-modeling right now, you will have it a bit easier. Taking self-portraits with a prosumer camera is simpler than ever with features like Facial Recognition and easier access to camera remotes. But still, with budget constraints, some people are doing the traditional trick of setting up your camera, marking the correct position in the sand, and running from tripod to position over and over again while trying to model to get that one shot. I have done this all too many times, including one time in -31°C weather, for an art project. I. Died.
There are some optimal settings for making sure you catch focus and aren't wasting your time figuring out how to stay easily within the small range of focus that comes with shooting an image with an F-stop lower than 5. The depth of field range of safety in my opinion which still is flattering without making your background all completely in focus is between 8-11 in my personal opinion. If shooting with natural lighting, or you can keep the ISO still quite low at these settings.
With the rise of Influencers on Instagram, and having a posting schedule - there are times where you will need to learn how to take your own portraits if you are the face of your personal image. For those of us who are single/do not have access to someone to help us with taking our photos - becoming a double threat is necessary (and very fun/daunting). I guess one of the biggest obstacles I've had to face with getting the 'dream shot' has been taking images in public with just a tripod and me. In these cases, confidence places a massive part - and also facing the stigma of taking your own photos in public with the possibility of being judged by strangers. You will find, that many people will offer to take a photo of you to save you the embarrassment of making an obstacle of yourself. Stay true to your vision, and challenge yourself to be confident with your choice of going against the grain! This will teach you so much about how to navigate awkward social situations as well give you the ability to work on your patience in getting the right shot.
This past summer I took a road trip with a friend up to Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba. Unfortunately, my friend had to leave because of a family emergency and I was left with a week to explore the beaches just with myself and a Fuji Mirrorless camera. I took the time to take some photos of the place that I grew up as well as jump into what I could do in self-portraiture, once more. I genuinely love modelling and being in front of the camera as much as I love being behind the lens. The thing I love the most though about modelling for yourself is the confidence that comes from learning about your personal external self. There have been many times in my life where I've dealt with a desire to look or embody someone else - but when you learn your angles and what works for you (along with learning to love yourself inwardly) - it's truly life-changing. The camera is a huge reason why I have been able to walk into external confidence - it all comes down to self-acceptance, but that's a story for another day.
Here is a collection of photos from my time at Victoria Beach. The photos with myself in the water are not taken via self-timer but were directed and taken by the help of my friend, Sasha. The images in the portrait style photos though are all taken with self time and a facial recognition feature, allowing me to have the luxury of playing with the apeture more freely. If you look close enough you can catch a portrait where I left my fly undone by accident! And that is truly the benefit of being a one person wonder (missing the simple things).
Here are the remaining images from my vacation! Thanks for reading my post and I hoped I can shine some light on a the taboo hobby of polished selfies.
This summer JC and I were galivanting around the DT area and we decided to shoot this lookbook. We've been meaning to collaborate on a style video forever (I'm sure there will be more to come.) We spontaneously shot this video - which is why I edited it to reflect the day.
I never grew up wearing VANs. Well, that's a lie. This one time I purchased a pair of fluorescent pink Hawaii flower slip on vans and wore them mercilessly for a semester in jr. high. It's safe to say that those shoes made a quick retirement when I came to realize the clashed severely with my school uniform. Now VANS have made a crazy come back and I wear my Old School High Tops to their death because they are such an easy way to hype up and outfit.
Make sure you follow JC on instagram at @johnsephsantiago - and let me know how you like the way this video was editted.