Growing up, one of the things my dad always said to me was to write down my goals. The physical act of writing them down was supposed to help them come to fruition in your life by solidifying them into something tangible. I followed this advice several times, from writing down my New Years’ Resolutions in my childhood diaries (which every year including losing pounds or inches, especially from my stomach) to writing down up to 50 goals on index cards and tacking them to my giant corkboard so I could see them every day; a sort of “vision board”.

I respect my dad’s advice, and I know it has worked for many people. But now, at the age of twenty-five, I realize that I needed to solidify many other traits in myself before attempting these lofty goals.

Self-love and self-care are ideas that I’ve only been introduced to in recent years. After struggling with food and body issues for most of my life, I eventually admitted myself to a residential eating disorder program. And thanks to Ashley and Rachell, who let me live with them, I was able to complete several weeks of outpatient care. I could write a novel (or three) about what I went through that summer of 2013. But I will start by saying this; the idea of becoming healthy for health’s sake was never something that had occurred to me. It was always about achieving a flat tummy, or the perfect Beyoncé curves, or the slender arms. According to nutrition experts, that can be incredibly dangerous. By focusing our goals on the aesthetic benefits of nutrition and exercise, we completely forget about the very real health benefits that lead to a long and productive life.

This leads me to a popular hashtag that has surfaced on social media: #goals. I see it posted by women of all ages on images of models with incredibly thin and toned bodies, often posed and arched to get the perfect shot. I see it posted on images of Taylor Swift and her very famous supermodel “squad.” #SquadGoals. I find this to be a bit troubling. Not because having goals is a bad thing, or that to be inspired by a celebrity is a bad thing; but because instead of aspiring to be our best selves, we are hashtagging ourselves on to the latest trending photo of another person. We will never be them, nor should we try to. We don’t know what state of health that person was in before these photos, and we really don’t know if they’re healthy now. All we see is an image that has been circulated around the Web, and has a large number of little hearts that prove that it is worth our time.

While on my own journey of self-love, I have had to remove myself from social media periodically because I feel it can inhibit my progress. My new #goals have much more to do with what’s going on inside, than how I look on the outside. I won’t lie to you; I am so not even close to being there. I continue to struggle with negative thoughts about my body, and I continue to struggle with my eating disorder. But I’m a lot more forgiving on myself than I used to be. Instead of feeling like a failure when those 50 index cards collected dust and never came to fruition, I now realize that life is more unexpected than that. The sooner I learn to roll with the punches instead of being knocked down by them, the stronger I become.

I’m thrilled that Ashley and Rachell have asked me to contribute to The Embraceable Project; consider this the first of many embraces!

January Guest Blogger: Azriél is a New York based performer with a BFA from NYU’s Tisch School of The Arts. She is a proud feminist, and a not so proud Bachelor enthusiast.

**Photo by Leslie Hassler

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