The Power Of Self-Conception

The Power Of Self-Conception

How to live a better fantasy.

I volunteer at HeARTwords, a creative writing workshop for people with cognitive and physical disabilities, every other Saturday. The community is made up of an exceptional group of people who act as confidantes, caretakers, and counselors to each other.

Last week’s workshop began with one of the writers who has cerebral palsy saying that, “Art was the highest expression of inner beauty.” Even writing it just there, that sentence fills my heart and I’m brought to wonder about my own understanding and conception of others.

There’s truly wisdom to be gained from everyone and these people, who are so often dismissed or thought to be incapable, are incredible. They are comic book artists, musicians, students, and writers. One individual can list any number of countries on the spur of the moment. Another lays out the beautiful intricacies of mathematical and scientific facts within their writing.

However, the HeARTwords writers don’t always see their own luminescence. This past weekend, one of the writing prompts was to list at least four things that each writer liked about themselves and another was to list at least four things that each writer wanted to improve.

As a volunteer, I act as scribe and conversationalist, helping people like the kind, gentle woman who I was working with that day to get their words on paper.

“What are at least four positive things about yourself?” I asked.

“What does positive mean?” she said.

“It means good things. Things that you like about yourself.”


She sat and thought for a minute and then she said, “I love myself.”

"That’s great!" I thought and then I asked her to explain why she thought that was a good thing.

“I can have fun when I’m alone,” she said. It was a really good start, but the woman had a hard time thinking of other good attributes. We spent a good ten minutes talking them out until there were four bullet points on the page.

“What are at least four things that you would change about yourself?” I asked.

Without much prompting, the woman listed off several things that she wanted to do better at or be better at—eating healthier, losing weight, not watching TV. It dismayed me that this gem of a person had trouble seeing her own beauty and didn’t know an important word like “positive,” yet she didn’t have any trouble naming all of the things about herself that she didn’t like.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the power of belief. I believe I am not enough. I believe that I need to change x, y, z. Negative self-talk can be so damaging because you are the one who constructs your reality. When you think that you are less than, when you think you aren’t good enough, and when you think negatively, you become all of those things. Even the new internet humor of “I’m a millennial. How can I even adult?” is full of negativity. Why must we tell ourselves that we’re incapable?

Each person tells themselves a story and that story, in turn, becomes real to them. As Junot Diaz so brilliantly put when he came to Northwestern earlier this week, we each have “fantasies” and the real struggle is to not settle for the fantasies that we currently live with, but to replace them with “better fantasies.”

To me, that looks like a shift of attitude and self-conception. Yes, we should all be looking to improve and grow daily, but that desire for change should be tempered by a healthy view of our strengths and beauty as well. I encourage you to think about the story that you tell yourself.

In your personal fantasy are you your own knight, princess, or fearsome dragon? Or are you the unlovable witch or the evil sorcerer? When you tell yourself the story of your day, your week, or the years that add up to your life, are you looking at yourself with forgiveness and love just as you would look at a friend?

Or are you beating yourself up about things that you’ve told yourself over and over again that you can’t change? If you’re doing the latter, I’d encourage you to explore better self-feeling because you just might end up living that “better fantasy.”

Cover Image Credit: Davis James Lees - Wu Wei Wisdom

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8 Reasons Why My Dad Is the Most Important Man In My Life

Forever my number one guy.

Growing up, there's been one consistent man I can always count on, my father. In any aspect of my life, my dad has always been there, showing me unconditional love and respect every day. No matter what, I know that my dad will always be the most important man in my life for many reasons.

1. He has always been there.

Literally. From the day I was born until today, I have never not been able to count on my dad to be there for me, uplift me and be the best dad he can be.

2. He learned to adapt and suffer through girly trends to make me happy.

I'm sure when my dad was younger and pictured his future, he didn't think about the Barbie pretend pageants, dressing up as a princess, perfecting my pigtails and enduring other countless girly events. My dad never turned me down when I wanted to play a game, no matter what and was always willing to help me pick out cute outfits and do my hair before preschool.

3. He sends the cutest texts.

Random text messages since I have gotten my own cell phone have always come my way from my dad. Those randoms "I love you so much" and "I am so proud of you" never fail to make me smile, and I can always count on my dad for an adorable text message when I'm feeling down.

4. He taught me how to be brave.

When I needed to learn how to swim, he threw me in the pool. When I needed to learn how to ride a bike, he went alongside me and made sure I didn't fall too badly. When I needed to learn how to drive, he was there next to me, making sure I didn't crash.

5. He encourages me to best the best I can be.

My dad sees the best in me, no matter how much I fail. He's always there to support me and turn my failures into successes. He can sit on the phone with me for hours, talking future career stuff and listening to me lay out my future plans and goals. He wants the absolute best for me, and no is never an option, he is always willing to do whatever it takes to get me where I need to be.

6. He gets sentimental way too often, but it's cute.

Whether you're sitting down at the kitchen table, reminiscing about your childhood, or that one song comes on that your dad insists you will dance to together on your wedding day, your dad's emotions often come out in the cutest possible way, forever reminding you how loved you are.

7. He supports you, emotionally and financially.

Need to vent about a guy in your life that isn't treating you well? My dad is there. Need some extra cash to help fund spring break? He's there for that, too.

8. He shows me how I should be treated.

Yes, my dad treats me like a princess, and I don't expect every guy I meet to wait on me hand and foot, but I do expect respect, and that's exactly what my dad showed I deserve. From the way he loves, admires, and respects me, he shows me that there are guys out there who will one day come along and treat me like that. My dad always advises me to not put up with less than I deserve and assures me that the right guy will come along one day.

For these reasons and more, my dad will forever be my No. 1 man. I love you!

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The Top 10 Gay-Themed Commercials That Should Be Celebrated

Gay-themed advertisements are an important part of our representation in pop culture. Here are the ten best gay-themed commercials that deserve celebration.


Advertisements have a long history of reflecting and influencing popular culture. As someone from one of the boroughs of New York City, I've always been surrounded by advertisements. So it is extremely obvious to me why representation in these advertisements matter. Commercials online and on television are no exception. As a gay man, I'd like to present you with ten commercials that make me feel a sense of pride.

1. Israeli Gays Get Distracted On The Beach

Israel is a safe haven for LGBTQ people living in the Middle East. While places like Saudi Arabia and Iran treat gay men horrifically by enforcing Sharia Law, Israel welcomes them with open arms. That open minded attitude was even more obvious with this commercial from 2006.

2. Pepsi Brings Out The Confidence In One Guy (With A Gay Twist)

This Pepsi ad from the UK has a comedic twist that will delight the viewer with the main character's confidence. I find the women's reaction to him passing by each of them even more humorous than his friend's reactions.

3. Doritos Gay Sauna Contest Entry That Could've Gayed Up The Super Bowl

This commercial was created as a contest entry where aspiring filmmakers could create commercials for Doritos. The winning entry would be aired during the Super Bowl and the filmmaker would win a cash prize. This viral smash didn't make it, however. It seemed unfair, as several straight-themed commercials feature tons of innuendo. Unfortunately, it seems as though gay male sexuality is still threatening to some.

4. Campbell's Soup Portrays The Adorable Gay Household We All Wish We Had

This Campbell's Soup commercial is a short and sweet depiction of two gay dads sharing a sweet moment with their son. If it proves anything, it's that gay households are just like any other.

5. Marriage Equality Gets An Endorsement From Tide

While marriage equality has been a source of debate over the years, the only thing wrong with this union was the attire chosen for it. A brilliant twist ending courtesy of Tide.

6. This Heinz Commercial Is A Gay New Yorker's Dream Come True

As a gay man and a New Yorker, this commercial makes me very happy. Affection between same sex couples hasn't always been something we could see on television. However, this Heinz commercial squashes all that.

7. A Sweet And Unexpected Coming Out At McDonald's

This McDonald's commercial from Taiwan features a twist ending that is heartfelt, not comedic. For anyone who has struggled coming out, this should hit you right in the feels!

8. Sister And Brother Fight Over The Hot Pool Boy... With Coca-Cola

A nice bottle of Coke is quite refreshing. Who knew it was the perfect ice-breaker to approach your crush? This ad features a brother and sister competing for the pool boy's attention. However, it seems like someone else beat them at their own game.

9. This IKEA Commercial Was A Historic Turning Point

This classic IKEA ad from 1994 was groundbreaking for gay representation in advertising. It would be remiss of me not to include this important commercial on the list.

10. What Happens When Your Dad Sets You Up On A Tinder Date?

It's always nice to have your parents acceptance. However, even for gay guys, parents can get a little too close for comfort. This Vote Savvy ad portrays just that. But hey, they mean well, right?

Whether comedic, heartfelt, or provocative, these ten commercials have done wonders for gay male representation in advertising. It also reflects the representation of gay men around the world. From Israel to Taiwan to the UK, these commercials reflect the growing acceptance around the gay community. As far as I'm concerned, that's something to be celebrated.

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