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Guest Posts, Letting Go, Self Care


August 20, 2020

By Jen Butler

I’ve spent so much of my life doing things to make other people see me a certain way. I talk about my accomplishments or my wounds, depending on the conversation and the crowd and which topic I intuit will most impress. I’ve observed people, learned their likes and their humor, and then adjusted to fit in.

Perhaps this is part of being human. A desire for connection, for a tribe. A desire to be liked.

But I wondered tonight, while folding super comfy pajama pants I normally wear with mis-matched socks and an old lady sweater (but only alone, in the privacy of my own home), “What if people would have liked me anyway? If I hadn’t have tried to be a certain way. If I didn’t exhaust myself with witty banter or getting the last word. What would be different?”

Perhaps nothing would be different. Maybe the same people would be my friends and colleagues.

Or maybe, just maybe, my life would be a little different.

Maybe if I reallocated my credits of “care” toward being myself, standing up for myself, and saying what I wanted to say rather than what I thought would be most popular… Maybe I’d have smile lines instead of the crinkle in between my eyebrows from a near-perpetual furrowed brow.

I stress myself out. And I say that in the most loving way possible. I stress myself out, recognize that I’m stressing myself out, decide to worry less and relax more, then share this awareness with those close to me, all of whom are like: “Yea duh. You didn’t realize you were a bit high strung and super hard on yourself? Glad you’re learning to take it easy.”


And so, naturally, I then dive into a very dedicated and regimented plan on how to be the most relaxed person I can be.

I’ve always been irritated by the people who say, “This is just how I am. I can’t change.”

But I realize I’ve been camping out on the other end of that extreme: “I can change everything about myself until I become the exact person I want to be.”

Spoiler alert: the “exact person I want to be” is a moving target, it’s not at all a quantifiable goal, and the comparison between myself and that dream version of me results in my feeling left behind, left out, and generally like a failure.

But it’s not that I feel I’m failing my parents or friends. I feel I’m failing myself.

I feel a compulsive need to be “good” and think only good thoughts, say only good words, and take only good action. And any time something goes poorly in my life, I tell myself I wasn’t good enough and I must have manifested it with some sort of negative thinking, and I must do better.

While walking my dog today, I marveled at the white fabric peeking out from my shoes and the fact that this was the first time I’d gone in public without no-show socks. I was wearing the “wrong” socks for the shoe choice. This would have been debilitating to me in the past. (+1 point for progress, Jen!) (But -1 for poor style, which could fall under the genre of poor self-care.) (Net zero. Try better next time. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.)

I smiled at the socks, and continued the self-analysis work I’d been doing all day (and most days). I was scanning my brain for limiting beliefs and negative thoughts so I could eradicate them all with my laser beam vision, which stems from perfectionism, which stems from seeing myself negatively rather than lovingly. I was trying to stop negativity with something that is, by its very nature, negative. Trying to fix my thoughts with my thoughts.

I then had the thought pop in my head of “restriction,” and I remembered my relationship with food when I struggled with disordered eating.

I obsessively labeled foods as good and bad, shaming myself if I ate or craved a bad food, and feeling a temporary relief (combined with a bit of elitism) upon consumption of good foods. I knew there was factual evidence backing up certain foods being healthy and others being unhealthy. This was the perfect thing for me to control! I will be the healthiest eater ever!

Until I realized that food itself stressed me out, no matter the type. And consistent stress is far more harmful than occasionally eating a bowl of Life cereal.

I removed the labels of good and bad around food and instead re-learned how to trust my body and its signals.

My relationship with food and my body are both healthier than they’ve ever been. It’s not perfect. I sometimes still stress out over end-of-the-world stuff, like running out of vegetable juice, and then my boyfriend talks me back to earth. Overall, it’s much better and life feels easier.

Today, I realized I’ve been treating my thoughts and self-work the same way. I’ve found a new application for perfectionism and obsessive compulsion: monitoring and judging my thoughts and words.

It’s like a proofreader’s dream: “Your job is to tell me what’s wrong with everything I’m thinking, saying, and doing.”

I’ve rarely ended a day without a needs improvement stamped on my forehead, in the shape of a deepening brow crease. If I feel accomplished on any given day, I feel relief rather than celebration. “No negative points today, Jen. Now just do every day like today except a little bit better and then you’ll be positive and get everything you desire.”

Is anyone else stressed out reading this? I’m stressed out writing it, while also feeling so fucking free for owning how I feel and how I experience life.

Yes, I believe it is true that our thoughts and feelings and actions and words create our reality.

It is also true that we are here to have a human experience, which is imperfect in its very nature, and I personally think it’s far healthier for me to let the fuck go and allow for a natural progression of life than to try and control every word, thought, and step.

Because even if I say everything positively and in alignment with my positive new belief system, I’m still doing it from a place of fear. And stress. And furrowed brow-ness.

What’s in between “This is just how I am; I can’t change” and “I’m gonna’ change everything so I can be perfect.”?

I don’t know. I’m thinking it’ll find me. And I’m thinking it starts with removing the labels of “good” and “bad”.

Did you know I lost the extra fat on my body when I removed labels on food, even though I increased the “bad” foods and decreased the “good” ones? It’s because I stopped giving them so much power. I learned what it felt like to feel actual hunger rather than approaching diet analytically as if I was a research project.

If my brain is ever like, “OH NO YOU SHOULD GO EXERCISE OR YOU’LL GET FAT,” I will march my happy ass into the kitchen and eat a “bad” food and be like, “I refuse to exercise with that mindset or to be held captive by it. So this chocolate is code for FUCK YOU.”

And then I eat it.

And then the thoughts shut up because they don’t know what to do with their hands. And the stress immediately leaves.

And do I get fat? Nope. I’m the fittest I’ve ever been. Truly.

I’m not sure what the equivalent will be for the self-help, self-analysis stuff. Maybe it’s as simple as removing the labels and seeing what happens next. Maybe if I find myself being all like, “Oh that thought was bad, -2 points, and now you’ll attract negative things from the Universe” I can respond with something like “Gosh I sure hope my head falls off” or “Fingers crossed for food poisoning!” or “I sure like the word ‘c*nt’ even though it pisses people off.”

It’s the same approach recommended for people to escape other perfectionistic or anxiety-ridden tendencies. For instance, folks who nervously sweat can start being like, “I’m going to sweat more than I ever have today. Gallons of it. GALLONS!” And, in time? The nervous sweats stop.

Yea, seriously. It’s real.

So, while all y’all Love and Light Brigaders are telling your clients that the reason their lives are the way they are is because they need to eat clean and that their thoughts aren’t perfect enough, I’m going to be eating chocolate and exclaiming “CU*NT!” from my basement apartment while wearing a grandma sweater and mis-matched socks.

Maybe it won’t get me out of my apartment. Maybe it won’t bring me abundance. Maybe after a surprising unexplainable beheading you can be like, “I knew Jen before her head fell off.”

But, in the meantime, it’ll be a helluva lot more fun. And maybe, in the process, I’ll gain some smile lines.

Jen Butler is a comedic real-talk writer and artist in recovery from alcoholism, addiction, self-harm, disordered eating, cancer, Breast Implant Illness, and a weird period of time when she only listened to dubstep. Her passion is helping people feel less crazy and alone by openly sharing her own experience, strength, and hope. Her portfolio, books, and one video with a flamingo puppet can be found at

Online Webgasm With Jen and Lidia


Other upcoming events with Jen




Inspiration, Q & A Series

Alimi Ballard: Divine Source of Inspiration. The Manifestation Q&A Series.

January 16, 2012

Welcome to The Manifestation Q&A Series. 

I am Jennifer Pastiloff and this series is designed to introduce the world to someone I find incredible. Someone who is manifesting their dreams on a daily basis.

Alimi Ballard

Dear Manifesters, I have been bugging this guy for ages and it has finally happened! He did a Q&A! I have known Alimi Ballard for about 15 years. I first met him when I was working at the Newsroom Cafe and his girlfriend Dahn (now wife) became my regulars over a period of 13 years. I watched them grow and marry and have kids. 

This is a special guest for many reasons. He has seen me on my journey in a way most have not. He has watched me transform into what I am now, and, he is one of my biggest champions. He is also my go-to source for inspiration.

Alimi is an actor by trade but I think of him as my spiritual guru. I stalk his Twitter and Facebook daily for positive messages and simply to feel good. ( I recommend you do the same.) I find people in my life who I want to model my life after and he is at the very top of my list. His positivity is infectious, Manifesters. 

You may recognize from the film Fast 5 or the tv show Numb3rs, where he was one of the leads. I want you to get to know him because he is a divine source of inspiration, wisdom, joy, and goodness for me. He is an amazing father, husband, actor, friend, and teacher. His answers below made me smile as I knew they would. It is my greatest honor to introduce you to one of my oldest regulars from my waitressing days who is now one of my dearest friends and teachers.

Jennifer Pastiloff: What are you most proud to have manifested in your life?

Alimi Ballard: Most proud of manifesting….well co-manifesting ( the wife and GOD had a part in it too 😉 the two DAZZLING, DYNAMIC, DIVINE souls that are my children.

– Secondly, it would be MANIFESTING my path.. my earth-walk.. my calling.. my way.. having discovered why I AM HERE. 🙂

Jennifer Pastiloff: What is the greatest lesson you learn from your kids?

Alimi Ballard: Humility. I believe, if you are paying attention, the presence of children reconnects you to GOD. To that vast other side. The very act of them EXISTING from a drunken night of naughtiness with my wife STILL bugs me out. I can always FEEEEEEL the aspect of life that is BIGGER than what I can put my two hands on, when I see them.

Jennifer Pastiloff:  You are such a source of positive inspiration for me and for so many people. Where does all this positivity stem from?

Alimi Ballard: About two year ago something happened to me. In the most mundane of events, I was watching a music video ( yup, it was Wale ‘Nike Boots’ ) and had an epiphany. Hahahahahahaaa….I kid you not. I’m watching, enjoying the song and BAM, a light comes on. I realized that I didn’t have to WAIT to make a difference. I could affect POSITIVE CHANGE from right where I was at AT the moment. What I have to give.. share.. offer.. is ready right now. “You can make a DIFFERENCE….no matter WHO you are. No matter WHERE you are.”

Jennifer Pastiloff: What can we expect Alimi to be manifesting for 2012?

Alimi Ballard: My first BILLBOARD!!!! Look for me on the side of the BUS when you’re in traffic. 🙂

Jennifer Pastiloff: If you could say thank you to one person right now, who would it be?

Alimi Ballard: Kwasi. He was a father figure to me from about 10 months to 4 years. 

Jennifer Pastiloff: Who/what inspires you the most?

Alimi Ballard: The ACT of sharing that INNER LIGHT that LIBERATES, HEALS & TRANSFORMS. Whether you’re on a street corner, Thanksgiving diner or in a Yoga Studio you can sometimes FEEL it. Sometimes you can FEEL when the air is charged with that special BUZZ that gives off goosebumps. OOOOHHHWEEEEE!!!!!

Jennifer Pastiloff: When was the bets part of working on Fast 5?

Alimi Ballard: Running the risk of playing favorites, it was Dwayne THE ROCK Johnson. I’ve been in the ent. industry for about 20yrs and know that how people SEEM, may not always match up when you meet them in person. I can honestly say that Dwayne exceeds all expectations of Graciousness, Warmth & Sincerity. Being roughly the sized of a Sherman tank, it would be so easy to have an intimidating persona. THE EXACT OPPOSITE. 🙂 The man is like the Mayor wherever he goes. Humility in ACTION is such sight to behold.

Jennifer Pastiloff: I see you are directing now. How did that come about and can we expect more of that in the future?

Alimi Ballard: I haven’t gotten to directing just yet, but I have begun producing and writing. The 1st short film I’ve produced, along with my wife ( she also wrote it :), ‘INTERCEPTION’ it getting great Film Festival reception. YES!!! 

Currently developing an action based web series that I COULD NOT BE MORE EXCITED ABOUT!!!! So yes, more behind the camera fun-ness in the future. 🙂 

Jennifer Pastiloff: I miss seeing you on my tv screen weekly. Any plans to return to episodic television?

Alimi Ballard: MANIFESTING as we speak. 🙂 Very Excited!!!

Jennifer Pastiloff: If there was one message you could share with people who want to manifest their dreams, what would it be?

Alimi Ballard: “Visualize this thing you WANT. See it, feel it, BELIEVE in it. Make your mental BLUEPRINT and begin.” – Robert Collier (Note from Jen: this is manifesting folks! This it it!)

Jennifer Pastiloff: I have a list of rules. See below. What would some of Alimi’s rules be…..

Alimi Ballard: Be KIND


– Do as much GOOD wherever and WHENEVER you can.

– Worrying is a habit….STOP THAT!!!

– Learn to love yourself FIRST, before trying to LOOOOOOOOOVE anybody else. ( It’s like being on a plane when the Oxygen masks fall. Put yours on FIRST, then get to the person next to you. 🙂

– Nobody is allowed in the bathroom when daddy is occupying the throne. PERIOD!

– This life is NOT a dress rehearsal. This is the BIG SHOW….and the clock is ticking. BRING THE RAUCOUS BABY!!!!

Jennifer Pastiloff: Where can we find more of you?





Jen Pastiloff’s rules:

1. Be Kind.

2. Have a sense of humor especially when it comes to yourself

3. Write poems, even if only in your head

4. Sing out loud, even if badly

5. Dance

6. If you don’t have anything nice to say… you know the deal

7. Find things to be in awe of

8. Be grateful for what you have right now .

9. Watch Modern Family

10. Duh, do yoga

11. Don’t worry. Everyone on Facebook seems like they have happier and funner lives. They don’t.

12. Tell someone you love that you love them. Right now.

13.. Take more pictures.

14. Forgive yourself for not being perfect. No such thing.