Espresso brownies upgraded recipe from box brownie mix

They say that the way to a person's heart is through their stomach. And I think that's actually pretty true. There's no better way to make people like you than to make great food. Whether you want to impress your co-workers (and maybe even your boss!), show off to your friends at a fancy dinner party, or just make your family appreciate you even more than they already do, you can use food to your advantage to make people love you. Sounds manipulative, but seriously, it works.

However, although you may want to use food to your benefit, I completely understand that baking just isn't for everyone. And that's okay. Guess what? You can still totally impress people with your food, even if you have zero skills.

The other day, I made brownies straight from a box and just added a few extra ingredients to take my box brownies to the next level. And they were an absolute hit. My sister was shocked when I told her that they were from a box and showed her how simple the recipe was. It was a total cheat recipe, basically just adding a little something extra to the pre-made mix.

So I've compiled some recipes that are just as easy and will trick people into thinking that you're an incredible baker by just upgrading some store bought pre-made box mixes.

Espresso Brownies

[Recipe: Food Network]

These were the brownies that I previously mentioned making. The thing about these brownies is that all you need to do is add a little instant coffee powder to a box brownie mix and then whip up a quick espresso glaze (only five ingredients) just by whisking it up. No fancy equipment needed. Suddenly, your box mix brownies are transformed into classy desserts that you can pretend are homemade.

The recipe recommends Duncan Hines brownie mix, but I used Ghirardelli brownie mix and I thought that it was even better, it's a softer brownie, so it tastes a bit more like a homemade one.

Cinnamon French Toast Muffins


I love muffins, but the muffins that I make never taste as good as the bakery style ones. I'm all for the basics, but sometimes you just need to jazz them up a bit. This recipe for cinnamon French toast muffins sounds much more unique than the simple blueberry and has that bakery style topping for that extra crunch.

Rolo Stuffed Chocolate Cake Mix Cookies


Did you know that you can make cookies out of cake mix? Here's a recipe for delicious cookies that you can whip up using cake mix, meaning that they're super quick and easy, but they have a little something extra. Inside these cookies are gooey Rolo candies. Not only are your cookies easy and tasty, but the filling takes them to the next level, making you appear like a master chef.

Cheesecake Brownies


Mix cheesecake and brownies together for a rich and delicious treat that doesn't even seem like it came from a box. Use a brownie mix as a baseline and then add in a cheesecake filling to make a delicious treat in no time. Again, I would recommend Ghirardelli brownie mix, mostly because I think that it tastes a bit more homemade than other box brownie mixes.

Red Velvet Truffles


This four ingredient truffle recipe is classy and can be pulled together with great presentation. Essentially what you do is bake box mix red velvet cake, roll it up with some cream cheese into a ball, and then dip it into some white chocolate. Get even classier with a chocolate drizzle on top. 

Cake Mix Sour Cream Coffee Cake


Whether it's for breakfast or just tasty treat for snack, this coffee cake is pretty attractive. Made with yellow cake mix as a base, this coffee cake has a crumble topping to make it look even more like those expensive bakery ones.

6 Upgraded Box Mix Recipes to Trick People into Thinking You're a Great Baker

According to Tech Crunch, Americans spend roughly five hours per day on social media. That's crazy. And I bet that my usage is probably even more, considering that social media is a vital part of blogging. My point is, a huge part of our lives is spent on social media.

Many times on Bloomly, I've mentioned how stressful social media can be. Most of my points have been almost ranting, but I have mentioned numerous times about how you should unplug from social media, yet, like the hypocrite that I am, I never do. 

So I decided to take my advice and unplug. Scary, right? While one week probably would have made a better blog post, honestly, one weekend seemed daunting enough for me. So I decided to try it. And this is what happened. 

turning off the power on social media and technology

To set the stage for my social media free weekend, I picked a weekend where I went on a trip with some friends in a place with no cell service and no wifi. So yeah, maybe I was cheating a little bit considering that I wouldn't have to battle self-restraint with social media, but it's difficult, okay? On this trip I would have some internet access some of the time, but the majority of the time I would have no service, which is why I picked that weekend. 

But before that weekend could begin, some preparations had to be made. Since I am a blogger and social media is still vital for blog publicity, I did a ton of scheduling for my social media channels. This meant that I had tweets and pins pre-planned and set to schedule without needing my magic touch.

The point is, I felt that I was unable to go completely dark on social media. While this may be a little different, considering what I do as a blogger, I couldn't rest knowing that I would go off the grid entirely. I had a friend keep up my Snapchat streaks while I let Hootsuite handle the rest. I wasn't ready to let go.

I wasn't prepared to go completely off the grid. 

However, once the social media free weekend started, I felt that I finally could let go. Since I was on a trip with my friends during this weekend, making it a little easier, since I had lots of activities and distractions to keep me busy in the time in which I would usually spend lounging around on social media, I even found that I was letting go of my phone instead of feeling like I needed to have it everywhere I went. In reality, without wifi or a connection to the outside world via cell service, my phone was pretty useless.

The great thing about going social media free with lots of friends that were also doing the same was that there was less time of awkward gaps with everyone on their phones. We sat down and had real conversations, conversations that didn't go quiet when topics died down and everyone turned to their phones to feel less awkward. We sat down and played card games and Taboo, things that I haven't played in ages. With so much entertainment now being online, especially channeled through social media, it was nice to actually let go of those and find new entertainment by just being with these people.

The thing about social media and technology is that as good as it can be, it can sometimes water down a good moment. I can think of countless social events where things were going great, but people always found the need to Snapchat it or as aforementioned, turn to their phones when conversation died down.

We could find entertainment in just being together, instead of seeking entertainment on social media. 

As much as I love Snapchat, I didn't feel the need to be sending photos showing everyone how much fun I was having, I was just enjoying being in the moment.

One thing that I did realize throughout the weekend was that I fill up so many small gaps of time with social media. When I had time to myself during the weekend, I would usually turn to my phone, scrolling through Twitter or reading some blogs. However, I wasn't able to do that anymore. I would wake up in the morning, immediately grab my phone to browse, only to remember that I couldn't. What was I supposed to do with all this empty time? 

I ended up finding that I could fill the gaps with something that I hadn't looked at in a while: a book. While I wasn't as wise as my some of my friends, who thought ahead and brought books to read during the weekend, I did not. However, I had been smart enough to download an audiobook prior to the trip, originally planning to listen to it during the car ride in case I got bored, especially since I get carsick reading.

Since I had that in hand, I ended up being able to spend my empty time listening to You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero. I haven't gotten completely through it yet, but I think that it was probably a great book for that weekend. Jen Sincero encourages living in the moment, something that I think was echoed throughout my social media free weekend. 

I felt that I had so much more time when I wasn't on social media.

I remember sitting outside on a bench, completely in nature, unhooked from social media, listening to that audiobook. I wasn't thinking about someone else's life, I wasn't thinking about all the things that I could be doing, I was only thinking about how nice the moment felt, with the cool breeze and the blue sunny skies around me.

So what's the takeaway?

I'll be honest, a social media free weekend didn't exactly change me forever and maybe it didn't even change me at all. As soon as I got home, I went back to my social media, scrolling while lazing around in my bed. However, I think that what I took away from having a social media free weekend wasn't about my own personal use of it during my own time, but how getting rid of social media and technology in social situations can dramatically turn them around.

For me, the things that we did as friends was not only about getting away from all of our responsibilities, even if it was only just for the weekend, but it was also about disconnecting and really listening to each other, stopping to smell the flowers. I will remember those insightful and maybe a little nerdy late night conversations that we had. I will remember going hiking in the woods and wading through the stream.

I will remember the things that we did, but I will not remember those moments that we spent on our phones, not really talking to each other.

Some of the best social plans that I have had were when I put down social media and actually engaged in what was happening, not only this weekend, but there are countless other instances in which the same is true.

I remember going to Zoup and chatting over chicken pot pie soup with a friend that I've known since middle school about literally everything and anything. I remember going to China with brand new friends that I had never known before and bonding with them in the middle of the night on a high-speed train, eating strawberry gummies. Stepping away from social media can help to forge even stronger connections with the people surrounding you in that moment. 

While going home and using it to connect with those people online serves its purpose, are you really connecting by scrolling on social media, ignoring the people right in front of you?

I Had a Social Media Free Weekend and This is What Happened
How My Idea of College Completely Transformed During My Freshman Year

I think that we all like to think that we know exactly what something will be like and form our own ideas of things even before ever having experience with them. While it can be nice, giving you your own sense of security over something new, we don't really have a complete understanding yet, even if we think that we do.

This series is a part of the Hindsight series. If you don't know what that is, here's a brief summary:

The Hindsight series consists of guest posts from various bloggers sharing their stories on Bloomly about any personal experience that they might have encountered that reflects personal growth, self-improvement, and/or struggles with mental health. The Hindsight series is about looking back on experiences that shaped who we are and have helped us grow, which we only see now with hindsight.

Learn more: About the Hindsight Series 
More Hindsight posts: Read the Series

While Ashley (My Well Dressed Life) had one idea for what she thought college would be like, once she stepped on campus as a freshman, she realized that her preconceptions and her original plans for college were no longer the same. And that was okay. Here's why.

Freshman year is a learning curve for everyone. You’re discovering who you are and what your interests are. I remember going into the year worried about all the wrong things.

I was stressed over whether or not my clothes would fit in my closet or if my roommate and I would get along or if I would be able to make friends. I wasn’t worried about what I was going to major in or how I was going to balance the ‘work forest’ workload.

I was worried about the wrong things. 

I was thrown into the rush of freshman orientation, trying to find my way around and make friends. But once that grace period passed and the first day of classes came around I was thrown for a loop. The school work was hard and seemed endless and oh yeah I had no idea what to major in.

Ashley Fountain (My Well Dressed Life)I came into school wanting to major in political science, I had loved my government class in high school and I was enthralled by the election and I was convinced that polysci was perfect. But my first class left me completely unsatisfied. I chalked it up simply to the topic and then took my second class, hoping for something better. But it was the same thing.

I just didn’t have the passion and drive for it that other people in my class had. Some of the kids in my class lived and breathed politics and I just couldn’t see myself being or thriving in that environment. During that first semester I realized that there were other classes I was enjoying more, classes I had never expected to like. I was enjoying my religion class and my writing class more than the politics class I once thought would be my favorite.

As a result, I realized maybe this wasn’t the right major for me. Upon this realization I had a bit of a freak out. As an extremely type-A, over planner, I felt very lost. I had no idea what I was majoring in, I had no direction.

I lost. I had no idea what I was majoring in, I had no direction.

But after some deep self reflection and a whole lot of conversations with people, from my mom, to a career coach, and lots of friends I realized the point of a major is to follow your passions. When browsing through majors while looking at schools communication had always stood out to me, it seemed like the perfect combination of media, journalism and connections, and I love to write and I love my blog so it seemed like it might potentially be a good fit for me.

The point of a major is to follow your passions.

Ashley Fountain (My Well Dressed Life)But I kind of wrote it off planning to major in political science because that’s what I believed was the best path to law school. When that started to fizzle out, I started to see communication as the perfect fit. It allows me to follow and learn about the things I am most passionate about: from media, to how to portray different messages, to writing. While I still haven’t officially declared a major I am really looking forward to where this path will take me.

It wasn’t just a struggle with a major that plagued my freshman year, I had a lot of trouble learning to deal with the workload in college. The expectations for work in college were very different than my public high school. In college, I was no longer the easy A student that I was in high school. I was working my butt off and still not getting A’s.

I remember taking my first test in college, I felt so prepared but I ended up not doing as well as I expected and hoped to. This was really discouraging for me. I spent a lot of time questioning if coming to my college was the right decision, maybe I wasn’t cut out for such a competitive school. I struggled, I really struggled with feeling lost and out of place but I decided that all I could do was try my best, work hard, and keep a positive attitude.

All I could do was try my best, work hard, and keep a positive attitude. 

Going into sophomore year of college is very different than freshman year because a lot of the initial concerns you had are no longer on your mind. You’re not worried about your roommate or making friends or finding your classes. Without these preoccupations, you are a lot more free to focus on yourself and to plan out exactly what you want to do and accomplish.

So sophomore year I went to college with a more positive attitude, to work hard, work smart and to be the best I can be. College is hard and sometimes it will test you, but I think the most important thing to remember is to stick it out, to keep going. If you’re struggling with uncertainty regarding your major in college, I hope you’ll look for reassurance in unexpected places.

College is a time to try new things.

I’m so glad my school required me to take classes in a wide range of disciplines because some of the classes I’ve loved I would’ve never thought to take on my own. College is a time to try new things so don’t be afraid to experiment with your college major as well.

How My Idea of College Completely Transformed During My Freshman Year
Ashley Fountain (My Well Dressed Life)
About the Author: Ashley Fountain
Ashley is a sophomore at Wake Forest University and blogs over at She created her blog as a way to help and inspire; she posts fashion as well as lifestyle posts. In college, she is an active member of her sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, and works two jobs which she loves at J.Crew Factory and the Ronald McDonald House! But to put it simply, she is a lover of stripes, tulips, pink, doughnuts, and Gilmore Girls.
Why Aesthetic is Not Everything

I feel like now, aesthetic has become so much more important. We want to go to pretty restaurants so that we can take Instagram pictures of our food in the perfect lighting and have beautiful ambiance to surround us as we eat. Our organization has become about picking the prettiest folders and the nicest agenda. Our rooms aren't just to sleep in, but a place to decorate: with string lights, air plants, and an Urban Outfitters tapestry.

I remember talking to my mom about restaurants. We were saying that now, young people care about the ambiance of the restaurant just as much as the taste of the food. And for me, at least, that's true. My friends and I love going to this one local restaurant because it has rooftop dining with string lights. The food comes out arranged nicely and it the ambiance of the restaurant makes it feel like we're somewhere more exciting. However, the food isn't actually that fantastic. Part of the criteria is now the aesthetic of the restaurant, not just the taste of the food.

My point is, suddenly I'm placing ambiance and the restaurant's aesthetic as something of importance to me when searching for a place to eat. It's another factor that goes into the restaurant that matters to me. Aesthetic can be important in our lives.

However, although important, it might also not have the best benefits. When I was trying out bullet journaling, half of it was about trying to make my bullet journal pretty and the other half was about actually trying to organize my life with it. Based on the post where I tried bullet journaling for a week, I realized that all of the days focusing on the aesthetic caused me more stress and more time than the days making it simple. The truth was that by focusing on aesthetic, I was losing sight of the purpose of bullet journaling.

Setting priorities on aesthetic cause you to lose sight of the purpose of the task at hand. 

Aesthetic is important to me, but it shouldn't have been as prominent as it was in my journey for bullet journaling. In the end, it caused me more harm than good. Although aesthetic can bring me joy, by directing so much of my attention towards it, I was distracted from everything that I could have been doing instead.

On the other hand, although focusing on aesthetic while bullet journaling was draining, there are still benefits to it. Here's another example: taking notes. While taking notes, colors and drawings can be incredibly beneficial to effective note-taking by pointing out the important details. They can draw your attention to the things that matter and help you understand things better.

However, I've noticed that some of my peers have the goal of making their notes pretty rather than actually making them effective. Those colors may make the paper more vibrant, but if they're not actually pointing out important things and don't have a purpose rather than aesthetic, they're kind of worthless. If everything is bright and highlighted, how do you know what actually matters most?

Instead of choosing to highlight all the important things in random different colors, I like to make keys at the top of my notes so that the colors are purposeful. Maybe pink indicates important dates. Then, I know that the pink highlights all indicate that when I flip through my notes. This note-taking, while it can also end up looking super pretty, isn't done based on how I can make my notes look more aesthetically pleasing, but rather, how I can make it more comprehensive.

Aesthetic should not be your top priority. 

My point is that aesthetically pleasing things can be good, in fact, they can even benefit you. However, when setting out on a task, it's better not to have aesthetic as a top priority. Like bullet journaling and note-taking, it's best to have the purpose, which isn't aesthetic, to be of utmost importance. The purpose of bullet journaling: organization. The purpose of note-taking: effective learning. While aesthetic can be part of those, it's not the main priority.

Aesthetic is not everything because if it was, it would be kind of draining. It's tiring to have to look put together all the time. Not to mention, it can be expensive too. That rainbow grilled cheese may look pretty for Instagram, but it probably tastes exactly the same as that plain grilled cheese and will definitely be more expensive. Focusing on aesthetic can be emotionally draining, like it was with bullet journaling, and it can also distract you from your task's purpose, like with note-taking. But it can also be so expensive.

The other day, my friend mentioned that she bought a $38 agenda. While organization is totally important, $38 is kind of ridiculous. The agenda she bought was pretty and very visually appealing, but on the inside, it was pretty much like any other agenda. Buying the prettier things can be expensive.

You need to find balance with aesthetic. 

But I get that, sometimes you do want some prettier things, I know I do. That's why you need balance. You need to be able to put your need for more aesthetically pleasing things aside if they're not actually going to be useful. Although a cactus pencil holder might be cute, it's just not really something that I need. I can instead opt for a simple pencil holder which is half the price.

Not only financially, but with everything you do, you need to find a good balance between striving for beauty and going about your daily tasks. With note-taking, I can still get that pretty look with my color-coding, but it also serves a purpose. It's a nice balance between getting that bonus style into my notes and also making them as effective to me as possible.

Aesthetic is not everything. It is supplemental to everything else. But you can still have a balance. Sometimes you have to let it go and maybe opt for a simpler path, even if it's not nearly as visually appealing. But it's also okay to care about aesthetic, as long as it isn't your top priority.

Why Aesthetic is Not Everything

Why Your Position Doesn't Define You

I think that it's common to associate leadership and position names such as "President" or "Officer" with worth, as they translate to a sense of power. They're like little medals that we get to wear, flaunting around in order to verify that yes, we matter. While these position names do of course come with a lot of responsibility, I think that sometimes we go for the position just to be able to wear that name with pride.

This series is a part of the Hindsight series. If you don't know what that is, here's a brief summary:

The Hindsight series consists of guest posts from various bloggers sharing their stories on Bloomly about any personal experience that they might have encountered that reflects personal growth, self-improvement, and/or struggles with mental health. The Hindsight series is about looking back on experiences that shaped who we are and have helped us grow, which we only see now with hindsight.

Learn more: About the Hindsight Series 
More Hindsight posts: Read the Series

Faith (Life with Faith) talks about how she felt a strong need for a position in high school and college and how she realized that without it, her worth didn't change.

Throughout high school and college, you run into so many opportunities to be a leader and many go through many elections for specific leadership positions. From class president to BETA Club Historian, we’ve all been through those kind of things.

I want to be completely honest and transparent as possible today, in high school I was the girl that joined every club I was slightly interested in and I ran for every position that came open. I wanted to be a leader. I wanted to be in control. I wanted a position. Those elections that came up time and time again were a big deal to me.

I wanted to be in control. I wanted a position.

When I got to college a little bit changed. I decided I was only going to join a few clubs I was really passionate about and ready to fully invest in. I realized that with the college course load I just wasn’t going to have the time or the energy to be a part of everything on my college campus, even if I wanted to. I accomplished that pretty well and have stuck to two organizations to participate in during any one semester or school year.

My freshman year, I only participated in Autism Speaks U and the beginning founding process of my sorority. During my sophomore year, I focused on my sorority and Delight Ministries. However, what didn't change was that need for a position. As a freshman, I planned for elections for the next year in all my clubs. And I actually did end up becoming Service Committee Chair in the sorority some girls and I were founding at the very end of the year. I was in charge of planning and executing all of our service events throughout our founding process and first semester on our campus. We made blankets for refugee families, we donated pencils to a local low income elementary school, handed out cookies to our fellow classmates at the start of exam week and so much more.

Holding this position was a lot of work and required a good amount of my time, but I truly loved it. I loved the fact that my sorority was able to impact people on our campus and in our city and I loved that I got to be a key part of making that happen.  I served until the end of my sophomore year until elections came up again.

I immediately searched for the next position I could hold.

Due to a couple of different reasons, I ended up not having any position at all by the end of the election period. So, as I prepared for summer and my junior year of college, I did not have any position in any of my clubs. I also want to add that at this point in time I was also considering trying to start another club, where I'd obviously have a leadership position if it came to be.

But as the year came to an end and positions were transferred to new girls, I changed my outlook on these positions. I realized that any position I held, or didn't hold, didn't define who I was. I wish I had some grand “ah ha” moment to share about when I came to this realization. However, if I’m being truly honest, I don’t have one. After the election process ended I slowly began to see that I didn’t feel any different without the position. I felt like I was the same person as Service Committee Chair and I did not having that role. I slowly saw that I didn’t need the position to feel good, successful, or worthy.

Whether I was president or just an active member, it didn't change who I was. My worth went beyond that.

I think this desire to hold a position of some sort really comes from the fact that society often sees "worth" or "being the best" as having a position or having control over something or someone. Worth is all too often measured by power. Worth is all too often measured by accomplishments or by the number of good things on a resume. But it doesn't have to be that way.

Now, I don't want you to get the wrong idea about what I'm trying to say. I'm not saying having a leadership position is bad. Having a leadership position or desiring to have one is not bad. It's a great thing to do and a great thing to strive for. What I am saying though is that it's not the only thing that defines the person holding it. People are so multidimensional that to judge a person by their position, or lack of one would be such a disservice to that person. Worth goes far beyond power or accomplishments.

A position is not the only thing that defines the person holding it, it goes far beyond power or accomplishments.

So, I want to give y'all as readers this encouragement. You are so much more than any position. You have so much more to you than any leadership role. You're not defined by any position you have or don't have. You don't have to be in control of every aspect of your life. You don't have to add something else to your resume. You're worthy if you’re the president or if you're a participant. Know that. Remember that.

Why Your Position Doesn't Define You
Faith Allyn Dumais
About the Author: Faith Allyn Dumais
Faith is a junior Special Education major and Sociology minor living in North Carolina. She's a sorority girl and with a heart for the kids and people around her. She loves life and sharing it on the internet. To learn more about her life and what she's learned along the way, check out Life With Faith.
candle, leaves, fall, autumn

Looking on Twitter, it seems that there's a universal consensus that we have not been impressed by the weather lately. With the first day of fall being just a few days ago and the weather still scorching (like honestly, was summer even this hot??) we're a little upset considering we were so ready to break out the candles and knit sweaters. So how can we celebrate the autumn season when the weather is hardly celebrating? Here are some ways that you can still do so, even if it's 90 degrees outside.

One. // Wear fall mini-skirts

I always see outfits on Pinterest with people wearing cute suede mini-skirts in the fall. However, when the weather does actually get cold, sometimes tights just aren't enough. With warm weather, you can still be wearing your cute fall-style mini-skirts without freezing.

Two. // Eat Pumpkin Flavored Ice Cream

Yeah, it actually exists. Although pumpkin flavored things are not my cup of tea, I hear that they're pretty popular (if you're into it, Trader Joe's is where you need to be). While it might be a little warm for a pumpkin spice latte, you can have a mix of summer and fall together for pumpkin flavored ice cream. You can probably pick it up at basically any ice cream shop (I know Coldstone has it) and you might be able to find it at your local grocery store, depending on where you live.

Similar: Hello Giggles - How to Celebrate Fall Where the Seasons Don't Change

Three. // Decorate Your Room with Autumn Decor and Turn Up Your Air Conditioning

If you can't go outside and enjoy fall, might as well pretend. In the cool air conditioning, you can just pretend that it's not 90 degrees. Put up lights, get out your blankets, decorate with leaves and pine cones, and get into the fall spirit -- even if it's just for a moment.

Four. // Try Wearing a Velvet or Long-sleeve Romper 

Honestly, velvet rompers kind of confuse me. Are they meant to be worn in the summer or the winter? The velvet makes it seem like a cold-weather item but the romper makes it seem like a warm-weather thing. Suffice it to say, velvet rompers have me mind boggled. But then again, so does this weather. It's time to wear those confusing (yet super cute) velvet rompers to try and work around this similar confusing weather. If you don't love velvet, feel free to wear a long-sleeve romper with fall tones instead.

Five. // Experiment with New Recipes with Seasonal Produce

Depending on what's naturally in season around the fall time near you, you can try cooking a new recipe that might be based around it. Whether it's pumpkin, squash, apple, you can experiment with some of your reliable, trusty recipes, and add in an autumnal twist to it. Just like it may be a little warm, you're adding your own twist to it to celebrate the fall!

celebrating the autumn season when the weather is still warm
How I Got Over the Comparison Trap and Learned to Love Myself Instead

Ahh, the old comparison trap. Anyone who says that they haven't fallen into it is lying. We're constantly comparing ourselves to the people around us trying to figure out if we're deemed "good enough". However, the thing that we sometimes forget is that everyone around us is in a different place in their journeys, making comparison not the most accurate way to gauge your skills.

This series is a part of the Hindsight series. If you don't know what that is, here's a brief summary:

The Hindsight series consists of guest posts from various bloggers sharing their stories on Bloomly about any personal experience that they might have encountered that reflects personal growth, self-improvement, and/or struggles with mental health. The Hindsight series is about looking back on experiences that shaped who we are and have helped us grow, which we only see now with hindsight.

Learn more: About the Hindsight Series 
More Hindsight posts: Read the Series

Here's Amanda's story of how she was constantly comparing herself to people that were in different places in their journeys, how it affected her, and how she learned to stop doing it.

If you are similar to me, you may find loving yourself difficult. As I’ve grown older I have realized that comparison is the ugly little devil hiding behind the majority of my insecurity issues, namely never feeling good enough. The majority of my life has been endless patterns of being blind to my self-worth and my abilities. Today I wanted to talk a little bit about the comparison game and why you should stop comparing yourself and learn how to love yourself.

Comparison is the driving factor behind the majority of my insecurity issues.

I grew up in a very affluent area in schools full of overachievers. From a young age, I was never the most dedicated student. While I do genuinely enjoy learning and value getting an education, I am more of a creative person over a math and science person. I’ve also have always had a bit of a stubborn streak in me. If I had to read a book for school, I merely didn’t want to read just because someone was telling me I had to read it. Even things I enjoy now, like writing, I didn’t enjoy in school because I was always being assigned these things that I didn’t want to do.

Despite all of this, I still desired to do well in school, but I was constantly comparing myself to these over-achievers, thinking I was never and would never be good enough. Which my stubbornness didn’t do me any favors here either, as it just reaffirmed the things that I believed that I was never good enough.

The combination of low self-esteem, comparison, and my rigorous course load in subjects I didn’t care about left me in what felt like a black pit. 

In high school I never even gave myself the chance to try to succeed.
The combination of low self-esteem, comparison, and my rigorous course load in subjects I didn’t care about left me in what felt like a black pit.

I specifically remember my junior year being the hardest. I overloaded myself with too many hard courses, between AP classes and honors, and I was taking SAT prep classes outside of school. I would look at my seemingly perfect peers at school who always appeared to breeze their way through everything, and my stubborn, messed-up brain just told me that, that could never be me. 

Little did I realize that a) these people weren’t perfect and they had their own struggles too and b) half these kids had helicopter parents who would do anything to ensure their kid was getting the highest grades as possible. I would go home with my hours of homework feeling like I never had the time to “catch-up”, so why bother trying? I had typecast myself into this role of being average and assumed that was as good as it was going to get.

In the end, I managed to scrape by with decent grades and before I knew it I was graduating high school. I was set to head off to a college that I did not want to go to, and even one that I was embarrassed to admit that I was going to. In hindsight, I am so glad to have ended up at that school but I’ll save that story for another time.

In this particular instance, not only did comparison prevent me from being my best self throughout high school, but it also made me blind to my achievements. That while I wasn’t going to the world’s best university, I had not only graduated high school but also I was going to college! Both two major things in life that are worth celebrating that I overlooked at the time.

Comparison made me blind to my achievements. 

Comparison is a nasty little beast that comes up and tells you, you are not good enough because you haven’t done this, you don’t look like this, you do, do this. But who created those rules? 

There is no guidebook to life that says graduating high school with a 4.5 GPA means that everything will just fall in line for the rest of life or having perfect skin means a perfect life. And Instagram? That’s a whole different story, it is a selection of curated and highly edited pictures of people showing you their favorite, and often-romanticized bits of their life. It is not real life.

Throughout college I learned a lot about my self-worth and the detrimental effects of comparison. Comparing yourself to other people is an attempt at trying to find and measure your value, when in reality you are enough. I have learned that all those lies that I was telling myself in high school, you know that I was not good enough, were exactly that. Lies. Comparison is a game that you can never win.

The moment you look at someone doing something great or at a great point in their life and say that will never be me, is the moment that you kill the idea of that ever being you. I am slowly learning to replace those “I could never do that,” with why can’t I do that? Sure maybe there sometimes are legit reasons why you can’t do something, but I’ve often found that there aren’t. 

Change those comments like "I could never" with "Why not?"

Don’t underestimate your capabilities because you never know what you can do until you try. Also, everybody has different goals and aspirations in life. While I have realized I am capable of that perfect GPA, or being a doctor or a lawyer. I’ve also realized that I don’t love spending hours studying in the library and I don’t want to be a doctor or lawyer, and that’s okay. 

It’s okay that I’d rather go out to dinner with a friend any day over spending that extra hour perfecting my already acceptable paper. And if spending that extra hour on that paper is what you’d rather do, then that’s okay too. Nobody can be good at everything and just because other people focus more of their time on different things than you does not make them any better or worse.

I want you to know that, that ugly little voice inside your head that is telling you, you aren’t good enough is feeding you lies. You will never be satisfied with yourself when you are comparing yourself to others. We were all created to be different and we all have value and beauty and worth. Next time you tell yourself you are not good enough remind yourself that you are good enough and if that doesn’t cut it, I think that you are more than good enough.

How I Got Over the Comparison Trap and Learned to Love Myself Instead

Amanda Howdershell (Chronicles of a Modern Gal)
About the Author: Amanda Howdershell
Amanda is a recent college grad living on the East Coast. She spends her free time admiring pretty things, reading, and dreaming of new places to visit. For more about Amanda, visit her blog, Chronicles of a Modern Gal, where she likes to share about her life and everything in between. 
Why You Need to Define Success Before You Can Get There

Imagine walking around in the dark, trying to find your way around a room with no idea of where you're going and how you're going to get there. That's what it's like if you haven't defined success. You know that you want to achieve something, but you can't really find your way there and you don't have a clear idea of what it is yet.

The Merriam-Webster definition of success is: "a favorable or desired outcome" 

What you'll notice about the definition is that it's incredibly broad. What might be considered favorable or desired in my eyes, might not the same in the eyes of someone else. Since the Merriam-Webster definition of success is so broad, it's wide open for interpretation. Therefore there's a lot of wiggle room to rework and find your own interpretation for the definition based on your life.

I believe that everyone has their own idea of what success is, which is why that official definition is so broad. While I might believe that five-point increase on my average test grade from an 80% to a 90% might be success, the person next to me might believe that a five-point increase on his/her average test grade from a 60% to a 65% is a success. Based on our own abilities, perspectives, ambitions, and personal experiences, we each have our own ways of defining what success is. While this test grade example is pretty straightforward, there are other things that might not be as clear.

Let's take social media influencers for an example. What makes a social media influencer successful? Is the number of followers? Level of engagement? Content creativity? Span of social media presence? Audience reach? The easy answer would probably be followers, but it's also clear that there are a lot of other factors that define a social media influencer's success.

Let's say that Influencer A might have 200,000 followers from all over the world and let's say that Influencer B has 1 million followers, but her audience only consists of people living in California. Influencer B is successful in California, but just because she has the numbers, doesn't necessarily mean that she's successful on a global scale. Therefore followers, although seemingly the easy answer, isn't always an entirely accurate representation of success.

You can be successful according to one level of criteria but unsuccessful according to another. Success is relative to the criteria. 

Furthermore, maybe Influencer A is only present on Instagram while Influencer B has large social media presence on Instagram and Snapchat. Therefore Influencer B is more successful in her audience reach and her span of social media presence, because she is reaching more people. Again we see that success is dependent on its definition. While Influencer A seemed to have a larger reach, reaching globally, she is also only reaching one type of audience, through Instagram, which suggests that her reach might not be that wide.

My point is that based on how you define success, your standing in relation to it and the journey that you'll need to take to get there will vary. Since success is relative to the criteria that you use to measure it, you need to determine which criteria you believe to be most essential to your definition of success in order to figure out the best route of action to getting there.

New example! If I define success to be relative to my number of American followers, then I would want to discuss topics that are relevant to an American audience and I would choose to use social media platforms popular in America. However, if I wanted my success to be success in China, then I would want to discuss topics relevant to a Chinese audience and use Chinese social media platforms, some of which differ from American social media platforms. Instead of using Twitter to reach that audience, I would use Weibo, the Chinese equivalent to Twitter. The way that I define success dictates what I should do in order to reach it.

If you don't define success, you're just randomly shooting an arrow and hoping that you'll hit a bullseye. 

If you try to seek success blindly, without defining it, you have no clear direction on how to reach it, only a plethora of different things that you are trying to succeed in all at once. If you want to succeed in all the criteria that I mentioned for social influencing, I bet that you could, but I would try and go one at a time. Right now, I define success to be relative to engagement. Maybe a little later, I define it to be based on numbers of followers. In order to reach them both, you have to target them individually, not just randomly shoot and hope that you hit a bullseye.

So how can you define success?

Figure out what's most important to you.

What is most important in your life? Find out what your idea of "favorable or desired outcome" is. Maybe you want influence in your life and you think that success means being able to compel people to listen to your ideas. Maybe success to you is rising in the ranks of a law firm. Maybe success to you is to be able to open your own business and not just survive, but thrive. Based on your ambitions, figure out what you want in life so that you can use that to outline your definition for success.

Related: 3 Better Ways to Define Success in Your Life 
+ Business Insider - 12 rich, powerful people share their surprising definitions of success

Set specific criteria.

Your definition of success is essentially a long term goal. Therefore, like goal setting, you need to set specific criteria for your success so that you can better devise a plan of action. Maybe your definition of success is to graduate from business school. The specific criteria gives you somewhat of a path. You know that your plan of action would include a) getting into business school, b) taking the proper courses to graduate, c) working hard in your classes. This is much more specific than general success, where success might comprise of monetary success, success of rank, success through power, and who knows what other plethora of ways that we could define the broad term of success?

Imagine your goals as an umbrella.

Can't think of the big idea of what success is? Don't worry, it's pretty daunting. Instead of working from the big idea downwards, work towards that big idea. What are some of the small things that you consider to be little successes? Group them all together and look for commonalities and how you can create an overarching general direction of what your ultimate definition of success is. Let's say that I believe that success means that I can get all of my responsibilities done and still have time for myself. In addition, let's say that I believe that success means that I don't have to neglect passion projects. Based off of those two, I can say that life balance is my overarching idea of success.

How do you define success and how do you plan to get there?

Change the definition of success from broad to personalized for better self-improvement.

Although we all say that we want to be happy, sometimes it's difficult to take control of our own happiness, especially when it means letting go of something that used to make you happy. However, sometimes things change and what was right for you a year ago isn't right for you anymore.

This series is a part of the Hindsight series. If you don't know what that is, here's a brief summary:

The Hindsight series consists of guest posts from various bloggers sharing their stories on Bloomly about any personal experience that they might have encountered that reflects personal growth, self-improvement, and/or struggles with mental health. The Hindsight series is about looking back on experiences that shaped who we are and have helped us grow, which we only see now with hindsight.

Learn more: About the Hindsight Series 
More Hindsight posts: Read the Series

This post was written by Kristine (My Little Box of Tricks), who joined a sorority, loving the excitement of it all, only to soon find out that what made her happy at the beginning of her time at college, didn't anymore. Here's how she took control of her own happiness.

When I first landed on my college campus, I was thrown into all of the Big 10 excitement that welcome week brought. A new school in a new town filled with new people - I was exhilarated. The Sunday before welcome week begins, hundreds of student organizations fill the Quad with tables and try to convince you to join their organization. As I walked around the Quad with some girls from my floor, I saw herds of men and women walking around with Greek letters on their shirts. They all looked so happy and there were so many of them. Everything I had previously heard about sorority and fraternity members was that they partied a lot, slept around and were mean - you know, things you learn from movies. Sure enough by the end of the week, after many conversations with my roommate and a lot of uncertainty, I had made a decision: I would rush a sorority. After all, what could go wrong?

I absolutely loved the rushing process. As someone who loves to talk, there was nothing better (or more exhausting) than hustling to the different houses to sit in air conditioning and talk to new people. After the two week process, my sorority and I were a match and I was ushered off with 60 other young ladies to the house for Bid Day.

During those initial weeks, I became heavily involved in the sorority, so much so that it quickly took over many aspects of my life. Between squeezing in lunch at Panera with other new members between classes or blowing off homework to go to a social event, I was busy.

Despite a twinge in my gut telling me to slow down and reevaluate my decision to join, I pushed forward and deeper into the sorority. 

When I think back to the headspace I was in, I don’t blame myself for sticking with it for so long. I finally could say that I had a lot of friends and had a jam-packed social calendar. These people said they understood me and brought me soup when I was sick. I found people I told myself would be my best friends forever. I felt, at least temporarily, that I belonged. It was this desire for friendship and feeling of belonging that convinced me to run for the Executive Board.

I was elected to serve as a member of the Executive Board and loved it, initially. I was part of this exclusive club within an already exclusive club - I felt special. It wasn't until 2 years later when I was in the middle of Exec obligations and meetings that I reached my breaking point.

I was miserable, constantly conflicted between what my 'obligations' were and what I wanted to do.

I knew I should do my homework and study at night, heck, I wanted to do those things because I love to learn. Yet at the same time, I felt like I should be going out with other members because if they could find time to do their homework during the day, I should too. I was torn.

After many weeks of ceaseless crying and phone calls back and forth with my family, I hung up my hat and bid it goodbye. I write that very nonchalantly, but if you’ve ever had to leave an organization you were heavily involved in, it’s quite the emotional rollercoaster.

As I packed my things and moved them out of the house I shared with many of my sorority sisters, I couldn’t help but feel itchy. On one hand, I had the overwhelming urge to laugh - I had known all along that the initial, small twinge in my gut was right. On the other hand, I questioned why I couldn’t make it work. Was something wrong with me?

Why couldn't I make it work? Was there something wrong with me?

My question was answered as soon as I moved my last box from the house. Immediately after doing so, I felt like I could breathe. I realized that my only true obligation was to make myself happy. I was in complete control of my happiness. For me, being happy meant doing my homework at night guilt-free, spending my weekends in pajamas instead of at a bar and eating dinner that I made myself in my own kitchen.

Nothing was wrong with me. Nothing was wrong with them. I was just a circle trying to fit into a square - it wasn’t a true fit.  

I wanted to celebrate being able to breathe easy. I thought that in a few months, I would be able to look back on my time and reflect about what I learned about myself. But for the time being, I could finally smile easy and hold my head up high. I did what was right for me and removed myself from a toxic environment. I am still so proud of myself.

The moral of my story? Your gut knows you better than anyone else. The moral of this story is not about bashing those who are in sororities or those who want to join one. I still have positive relationships with many of the women who were in my new member class and those who are in other sororities. Rather this story is about knowing yourself and taking control of your life so you are happy.

If something feels icky or uncomfortable right away and that feeling never goes away, listen to yourself. If walking away will serve you best, that's what you need to do. Some fallout may ensue, but know that you are better off. I am thankful to have the strength and support to be able to share my story not a few months later, but a year and a half later.

Staying in situation where you are miserable, trying to make a circle fit into a square - it’s not worth it.

You are strong. You are brave. You deserve true happiness. Staying in situation where you are miserable, trying to make a circle fit into a square - it’s not worth it. You are worth more than staying in a unfavorable situation because you feel guilty.

moving away from a sorority that just didn't fit anymore and how it made me happier
Kristine (My Little Box of Tricks)
About the Author: Kristine
Kristine, the blogger behind My Little Box of Tricks, recently graduated from college at the University of Illinois and uses her blog to share adulting tips and tricks that will make the transition to adulthood much easier. She lives off of coffee, Friends reruns and puppy snuggles.
How to Differentiate Between a Mental Health Day and Just Being Lazy

The past few days, I haven't really been doing that much work, so I've had this little biting feeling that I needed to make the most of my current time by boosting my productivity. However, I was also hit with a slump, completely ruminating over something that I couldn't possibly fix. Whenever I opened up my blog, I just couldn't do anything, because my mind wasn't into it, it was focused on something else.

I think that the thing about self-love is that there is a thin line between taking some time off for your own mental health and taking some time off just because you don't feel like doing anything. The main counter-argument against taking mental health days is that it's just being lazy and is not a sufficient enough excuse to take the day off. However, mental health days can be extremely effective, as they allow you to recharge so that you can be even more productive in the future, can help you to feel better and happier, and can benefit your health, that is, your mental health, which is just as important as physical health.

Related: 6 Signs That You Are In Need of a Mental Health Day - Huffington Post

However, while I highly believe that mental health days can be miracles to your well-being, I do understand how it could potentially be a slippery slope, which is why some people are wary of them.

That's why I believe that it's important to be able to know and understand the differences between taking a mental health day and just taking the day off because you're lazy. By doing so, you can be more sure that your mental health day is truly a mental health day, without the added guilt of "what if I'm just being lazy". So here's how to differentiate between the two.

Mental health days are planned. 

A mental health day should be something that you plan around your schedule in order to ensure that you get that recharge time, but that recharge time doesn't conflict with any important meetings/events/responsibilities. This means that you consider when you can take the day off that won't be work-heavy. Maybe you have an exam on Tuesday, so don't pick Tuesday to take the day off. Maybe pick Wednesday, when you have a light schedule.

Mental health days aren't excuses to skip a work-heavy day, but carefully planned days in order to recharge while still being able to attend to your responsibilities. 

Mental health days are planned in order to get the positive benefits of recharging without restricting any of your other responsibilities, whereas being just plain lazy means that you don't consider the ramifications, just picking any day to take off that you feel like not showing up for, maybe even avoiding some of your big responsibilities by taking the day off.

Mental health days are taken when you feel intense anxiety, but taking a lazy day is taken for the opposite reason.

When I'm lazy, I have absolutely unwilling to put in effort into anything, even things that might have fast-approaching deadlines. Somehow, I'm completely at ease, even though there are probably a million things that I should be thinking about. However, on the other hand, when you need to take a mental health day, you might be feeling intense stress and/or anxiety about everything, even the things that are far in advance and you probably don't need to worry about yet.

Related: How to Know When it's Time to Take a Mental Health Day

Mental health days are for when you're losing sight of yourself.

When you take a mental health day, you're trying to grab onto feeling like yourself again, maybe that means through doing activities that you usually love and haven't really been feeling lately or by sitting down and engaging in some mindfulness. On the other hand, when you're just being lazy, there's no reason to be taking the day off, there's no purpose for it. Mental health days have the purpose of recharging you so that you can feel like yourself again. 

Mental health days are purposeful. Laziness is not. 

Mental health days are for when you are losing sleep to the point of poor performance.

Often, we take mental health days to catch up on some sleep. However, what seems "lazy" about that is that you're spending more time in bed rather than actually getting things done. However, the thing about sleeping during your mental health day is that you're catching up on that sleep that you had been losing for days. Let's say every day during the week, you've been coming in, totally sleep-deprived, to the point that you could not focus and produced poor work.

Related: 4 Reasons Why Relaxation is Productive

By having that day to recharge and catch some Zs, you are able to come back and give your best efforts into your work. However, being lazy just means spending extra time in bed, just because you don't want to put any effort into work. A mental health day of sleep is an investment for your future productivity while being lazy and sleeping the days away for no reason is the refusal of productivity. 

So what's the main difference?

Based on what I've mentioned, the main difference between mental health days and laziness is that laziness is just not doing anything for the sake of not doing anything. However, mental health days have a purpose. Mental health days have reasons for needing them (ex: poor performance, anxiety, irritability, unhappiness, etc.) while also using them to better future work. Therefore, mental health days are pay-offs that will better enhance our endeavors, while being lazy has virtually no effects on work ethic.

How to Differentiate Between a Mental Health Day and Just Being Lazy