Katie, you run WANT, Women Against Negative Talk. Tell us about how you got started!
I cannot think of a time in my life that has not led up to WANT. For the majority of my life, my self-image was in the gutter. Self-confidence was sky-high, but the way in which I actually viewed that confidence was with trepidation, guilt, shame, and under the assumption that I should be living smaller in order to fit in. I grew up surrounded by many adult women, and as vivacious as many of them were, there was not only a culture of self-deprecation in which they bonded over, but any outward show of my own pride in my abilities, talents, and looks was met with raised eyebrows or being outright told to “get over myself.”
I so wanted to be adult and I so wanted to be loved. And as I saw it, to be an adult woman meant to put yourself down both personally and professionally. To be an adult woman was to never be good enough. Being negative or lamenting about aspects of myself I wanted to change became a way I could bond with the woman I loved the most. “Women supporting women” was anything but trending. My lowest point came in college in 2004, when I developed an eating disorder that’s fortunately getting a lot of press as of late: Orthorexia. Since there was literally ONE website devoted to the disorder back then, the next few years were my own up and down journey with the recovery I knew I needed.
Fast forward, and my own personal healing path led me to becoming acutely aware of how the women around me spoke to and about themselves on a regular basis. I realized how involuntary it was most of the time, and how engrained in our culture it had become to say such things to ourselves – and not just about our bodies! With body-positive and affirmation-laden media campaigns gaining momentum, I was dumbfounded to realize there was no place where women could actually access tools, tips, resources – as well as inspiration and motivation – to get to that place of self love and actualization. And from that realization, WANT was born.
What is negative talk? And how pervasive is it in our every day lives?
Negative talk, in the WANT sense, primarily refers to negative self-talk – both internally and externally. It’s all those things we tell ourselves or tell others ABOUT ourselves that belittle who we are or what we do. The scariest thing is that negative self-talk has become so common and such a standby for so many of us (it’s way easier to beat ourselves up than actually explore our sometimes-scary truths) that many times, we don’t even realize we’re doing it.
Our self-talk patterns are like muscles that are constantly being strengthened. The method of how we’re strengthening them, however, is what’s tricky: we can choose to strengthen them either negatively or positively. It’s not about ignoring our negative self-talk or burying it under mantras or isms. It’s about recognizing what the negative self-talk is actually speaking to, and working to shift THAT around.
Our self-talk patterns are like muscles that are constantly being strengthened.
Wedding planning is stressful—but it doesn’t have to be. Why do you think we put so much pressure on ourselves?
Haha – where do I start? Even the most zen people (myself included) can get stressed out over the tiniest things. Most of us fall somewhere on the spectrum of wanting a wedding that is super traditional to wanting one that is completely out of the ordinary (this is in reference to the people who want a wedding. Some don’t, and that’s great, too!). But I think both of those extremes can create major stress. On one hand, you have a template you feel you need to follow to a T: boxes that need to be checked off and things you need in place for it to “be a wedding.”
On the other hand, I know plenty of people who have stressed themselves silly over wanting the most unique, quirky, NON-traditional wedding possible, so almost every decision is made based on whatever is opposite of what is usually done. It’s like our teen years all over again – imma do what I want (subtext: imma do whatever you don’t want, mom and dad)! The problem is that in both scenarios, you get stuck in “trying” mode instead of “BE-ing” mode. When we’re trying, we’re grasping to create what we think is right. When we’re just be-ing, we’re confident in what we feel is best.
So what if you want mostly traditional stuff but don’t want a bridal party? So what if you don’t jive with the traditional stuff but are all about the large processional? So what if there are things you’d like that “no one does”…or, on the flip, that “everybody does?” We end up putting pressure on ourselves to be this ONE thing. The idea we form in our minds of what that is can hold us hostage if we let it. I also think expectations of others come into play for sure. When we don’t get clear on what matters to us – and don’t ask others to get clear on it, either, you just have one big mess of “shoulds.” One last thing. Women especially…we live our lives being told what to do, what to wear, how to act, and who to be. By the media, by others. Even our own body, many times, does not feel like our own.
When we’re just be-ing, we’re confident in what we feel is best.
Planning a wedding, therefore, can feel like the ONE time you are “allowed” to exert control and call the shots. “Women’s Empowerment” is a buzz-phrase right now…but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a long way to go. Planning a wedding, to some, can feel like one of the only shots they have at full autonomy. And that creates a feeling of desperation – because a wedding is only one day. One moment. Taking control of our lives does not, and should never, begin and end with just one day out of a lifetime.
Do you think we’re more prone to negative self-talk when we’re wedding planning?
I think we are more prone to negative TALK in general, mostly to direct our stress, fears, or anxieties at something, anything we can define. Which is dangerous. It’s easier to bond over the things we loathe rather than the things we love. So whether it’s an argument, gossip, or constantly venting about the same things over and over, the more we do it, the more fluent we become in the language of negativity. That’s all it is: a language we practice and eventually feel comfortable deferring to. The more we practice the language of pettiness, anger, and negativity outwardly – the easier it is to go to that place internally. And vice versa. Is that really how you want to be going into this next amazing phase of your life?
How do you get yourself out of those dark, murky moments?
Diving in, digging deep, and identifying not only your triggers but WHY they are your triggers is really important. So, my awesome mom and I are working as a team to lock down the details of this wedding (along with the magic-work of our BRILLIANT coordinator and my long-time chosen sister, Sarah from LB Events! Thank you, Sarah, for working with two strong personalities and still loving us fiercely!). There have been a few times I’ve gotten really defensive with my mom or presented her with an idea as if I need to defend it right away. This usually happens when she tells me something she thinks is great, or I come up with something I’m not sure she’ll be on board for. I get upset for what seemed like no reason.
But when I dug deeper, I realized I had a big reason – one having nothing to do with our wedding. For most of my life, I’d say yes to things or people because I was told something was the easier or more practical option, or someone’s feelings would get hurt otherwise. I’m lucky to have so many people in my life who love me, but a lot of times I felt like the plucky supportive friend in the rom-com instead of the one actually making the decisions. This made me feel like a child, like I was runner-up to everyone else, or like my decisions weren’t the right ones unless I got everyone to sign off on them first. So when certain things would come up – where it would be easier or more practical or more “acceptable” to say YES and not deal – I’d start to stress out because the part of me that’s felt like the “go with the flow” girl, the trooper, or the sidekick my whole life was being majorly triggered.
I’m still working on it, but I try to keep myself in check more often while asserting myself in a non-defensive way (basically, a way that isn’t preemptively expecting she’ll be shut down or convinced to cave). It allows me to express why I want the things I want a whole lot easier, and helps me let go of the things I actually DON’T care that much about without feeling like I’ve lost control.
Wedding overwhelm is real. How do you deal?
It’s so important to get clear on what matters most to you and your partner, otherwise it can seem like everything matters most. A nice recipe for overwhelm! People always say that the best wedding planning advice is not to listen to anyone else’s opinion and to do things however you’d like to do them. But the part they don’t leave out is to choose what actually matters to you and focus your energy there. For us, it was very important for everything to feel cozy, relaxed, and personal – we knew we wanted to involve friends and family, and then crowd-source our most trusted peeps for vendors when needed. That’s what mattered.
Wise men and women say it over and over in literature and culture: people will forget the way things looked, but they’ll remember the way you made them feel.
But in my mind, plated food conjured up images of dressed-up waiters and a super formal vibe. I was dead set on family-style, because I thought it felt more community-oriented and chill. Turns out, family style was way more expensive and the quality of food could suffer. So we’re doing plated. Is it our ideal vision? No. Can we get the same feel? Yes. And that’s what matters. Wise men and women say it over and over in literature and culture: people will forget the way things looked, but they’ll remember the way you made them feel. That applies to yourself and your SO, too.
What are some ways your partner can help you manage stress during the wedding planning process?
A couple weeks in, I was starting to majorly stress – my mom was in GAME TIME mode and while I was for the most part, I was still soaking in our engagement and was not ready with a bunch of answers for her yet. I absolutely despise it when there is zero hint of one member of the couple in the wedding process (in heteronormative couples, usually this ends up being the groom) – after all, it’s not just a party, it’s a kickoff to a marriage between TWO people! – so I wanted to make sure we were on the same page from the get-go. And I didn’t want to make decisions about things without them being what we BOTH want (or if we didn’t both want them, at least find a compromise).
I want to have a wedding because I love my fiancé, I love my friends, and I love my family – and I love the idea of one night, all of us coming together under the umbrella of the latter and just being family.
Seeing my stress bubbles start to come to a boil, my fiancé sat me down with a piece of paper and we wrote down every single thing that was involved in a wedding, from the guest list to the ceremony to the flatware on the tables. He circled two things. “These are the things I have a strong opinion about.” He put stars next to about five things. “These are the things I have an opinion about, but they’re not super important.” The rest? “These are the things I 1000% defer to you and your mom. Just have fun and go crazy!” Even the “strong opinion” things, he said, were flexible if we needed to budge for practical or logistical (or just stress-reducing, tbh) reasons.
I mean, we did the whole combined Pinterest board thing too, which ended up being funny because we pinned almost EXACTLY the same images as each other. But knowing the things he cared a lot about – which all mostly boiled down to the vibe of the day – made it so much easier for me to take action, bring ideas to the table, and translate his Jeremy-ness into the day. When it comes down to details and the bells/whistles, I still discuss everything with him either beforehand (ie photographer) or in the midst of planning (ie caterer), but I know I can make an executive decision while keeping him in the loop and without wondering if we’re on the same page.
What are some ways you and your partner stay connected while planning?
This applies to the rest of my life, too – but when we are talking wedding stuff, we are talking wedding stuff. When we’re not, we’re not. I like to compartmentalize so that I can keep my focus where it should be. Sometimes that’s on wedding planning. Sometimes that’s on watching The Mindy Project. Sometimes it’s about talking about relationships and marriage. Sometimes it’s about politics. Sometimes it’s about self-improvement. Sometimes it’s about our favorite things in NYC. Wedding planning is not THE conversation in our household – it’s one of many. And I like it that way. Talking too much about the “stuff” can get priorities jumbled. A wedding is for a marriage, not the other way around.
How should a woman articulate to her partner what she needs when it comes to staying positive?
I think that sitting and stewing in stress is bad as is – but sitting and stewing in stress when it comes to something that’s supposed to be positive that involves another person is another thing. I know I didn’t want to talk to my fiancé about certain things when I was really worked up, because I only wanted him to have positive associations with this day. Turns out, he just wanted me to know that I didn’t need to stress!
What should a bride-to-be tell herself every day to ensure she stays above the fray?
Come back to your why – WHY do you want to have a wedding? Plenty people elope or go down to City Hall. This is a choice you are making. Know the reasons you want a wedding, ideally before you even start a planning process (ideally even before you’re engaged!).
I want to have a wedding because I want to see and feel all stages of my life, and of his life, coming together to move us forward into our next chapter.
I know I want to have a wedding because how meaningful I think the tradition of it is. I know I want to have a wedding because I want to kick off the next chapter in our lives together in a big, bold, beautiful way. I want to have a wedding because I love that it symbolizes us as a united front – everything from the ceremony to the vows to the venue and décor choices. I want to have a wedding because I want to see and feel all stages of my life, and of his life, coming together to move us forward into our next chapter. I want to have a wedding because I love my fiancé, I love my friends, and I love my family – and I love the idea of one night, all of us coming together under the umbrella of the latter and just being family.