Being Present, Not Perfect

Imagine: your to-do list is never ending, you’re exhausted, and you swear you haven’t had a human interaction in days. For many of us, we didn’t have to try too hard to imagine because this is an oh-so-familiar feeling. We all work tirelessly to check those boxes, send those emails, and come up with the best business strategy. However, in the process, we forget to take care of ourselves. The irony in this is we do the best work when we are relaxed, rested, and enjoying others. It is so easy to get overwhelmed by work, but here at DFS Creative Concepts we try to keep in mind that we are people first and #Girlbosses second by living by these words of wisdom:


  1. Too Much Yes Leads to No

We all love to be helpful, responsible, and dependable. We all want to be the “go-to-girl” for solving problems, taking on tasks and projects of all kinds. However, after saying yes too many times, you might find yourself in an Alice in Wonderland sized hole of work. Then, when you are working to dig yourself out of your hole, you have to say no to all the fun things in life: dinner with family or friends, coffee breaks with your favorite coworkers, and even maybe the one project you’ve been wanting to be a part of! So yes can be good, but too much yes leads to no. So, say yes to what makes you happy and helps you grow, not to the busy work or the mindless task just to prove you are a responsible person. For us at DFSCC, this means we take on the projects that make us smile, challenge us to think differently, and fall in line with our values as a business.  “Yes” is for what builds you up. “No” is for what drains us.


  1. Rest & Relaxation

Now, you may read this and think, “She’s crazy, that’s what coffee is for!” Make no mistake; I love a mug of coffee just as much as the next girl, but I can’t deny the importance of sleep! While we all know that the recommended eight hours per night is a little unattainable, we can certainly strive for it. None of us wants to be the girl at her desk sipping on her fifth cup of coffee, jittery and unable to keep her eyes open. We want to be the girl who comes into the office looking like she has it all together and is ready to face whatever the day brings. Another important part of learning to be put together instead of caffeine dependent is being able to relax. In a world where we are constantly going, going, going, we forget to slow down to enjoy some peace and quiet. At DFSCC, we are constantly filling each other in on ways to relax: recommending good reads, laughing about a funny movie, or talking about a weekend bike ride. We do love to work hard, but understand how important it is to enjoy our down time. Whatever relaxation looks like for you (reading, exercising, retail therapy), don’t forget to pencil it in!


  1. Look Around, Not at the Screen!

In today’s workplace, we are constantly being bombarded with phone calls and emails that are “urgent.” It is way too easy to get caught up in the technology that shapes the way we communicate professionally. Don’t forget the to interact with people around you. While emails are effective, meetings and quick conversations in person usually are more clarifying and immediate. Don’t shy away from walking over to a coworker’s desk to ask about the social media strategy or even about their weekend. We work hard to cultivate a culture of communication here at DFS Creative Concepts with regular check-ins to update each other where we are on our projects. Communication makes the world go ‘round, but remember that a chat over coffee or lunch beats an email any day.

When life gets going too quickly for you to keep up, remember that in order to be a #GirlBoss, sometimes you have to put the to-do list down and take a breather.

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Monday Mantra: Don’t Just Stand There

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So normally, Caroline writes the majority of our posts, followed by the rest of the crew . . . And I round out the bottom of the barrel. Yep, that’s right. Being everything from my own janitor to my own bookkeeper to running my own small business (oh yeah, being a mother to a #threenager and a wife to a husband in tax season, too) has my writing time few and far between. But it’s a rainy day, I’ve actually done a good job with my bookkeeping for the morning, and before the tsunami of work (and, apparently, rain) piles up I thought I’d hijack the Monday Mantra post because there was something I felt needed to be shared for a number of reasons.

I’ll never forget how the women in my life seemed to all be in cahoots in their chorus of advice: WELL DON’T JUST STAND THERE. (Implied: do something.) Every woman I’ve ever looked up to was never just standing around. Whether professionally, personally, ideologically, ethically, or physically. Nobody just stood around and let life happen. Carpe diem, right?

There’s so much to this loaded phrase that has carried me through life.

Seeing another student being called names on the playground in elementary school? Well don’t just stand there.

Seeing another student struggling with high school math (who doesn’t)? Well don’t just stand there.

Want to get into the college / graduate school / job of your dreams? Well don’t just stand there.

Want to pursue a dream you’ve had for a long time, yet lack the self-confidence to pursue it? Well don’t just stand there.

Standing around is easy. Letting life happen to you is easy (whether the good, the bad, or the ugly). Staying in that boring job is easy. Not standing up for what is right is easy. Saying unkind things is easy. (Just to name a few.) None of those aforementioned situations take any thought. In fact, it takes literally ZERO thought and actually no action.

What does take thought, though? Not standing there, not just letting life happen to you, going for it, standing up for what is right, saying kind things, doing what is right, actively being present. You get the drift. It’s so much harder, and takes way more thought and deliberation, to say and do the right thing (by yourself and by others). But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t.

When I started DFSCC, I didn’t just stand there. It was extremely difficult to put myself, my name, my time, and all of my heart on the line to pursue a dream (not to mention the sacrifices that had to be made across the board). Were there those who doubted my ability to succeed? Of course. Were there those who, due to their own insecurities, questioned how I could be a working mother? You bet. I still get those side comments. “You’re so lucky you are a weekend mom,” someone once said. Hello, uncensored.

But as one of my favorite quotes from a great lifelong girlfriend goes, “We may stand out, but we never stand alone.” Read: just find the right tribe to stand with you. Tribes don’t have to be big. Just the right people are needed.

So let’s start fresh this week and challenge ourselves not to “just stand there.” Go do something. Pursue a dream, pursue a passion. Be kind to someone who needs it, and even kinder to someone who you think might not need it one single bit.

After all, nobody ever crossed the finish line in life by just standing around.

Also a good pair of shoes makes all the difference. Cinderella proved that a long time ago.

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Fix Someone’s Crown

Featured Image Source: TheyAllHateUs

We have all been there: your coworker just got the promotion you’d give your right arm for, and all you can think to do is bash her. You point out her dull personality, ghostly complexion, ill-fitting 2012 J.Crew coat and how she is so utterly undeserving.

It’s a valid reaction. (At first, before thinking about it.)

When we, or someone we care about, feels hurt, our first instinct is to attack the source of our suffering. I think of it as a defense mechanism. But there, I believe, lies a huge cultural flaw we continue to foster.

Music, movies, magazine articles, etc. They all proclaim (whether explicitly or implicitly) that the best way to make ourselves feel better is to tear others down. And I find this to be a particularly prominent ideology for women. And I really hate it. Shouldn’t we be our own biggest fans? Aren’t we all in this together? I know at DFSCC we are. But I see it elsewhere, and it’s disappointing.

Some of the #GirlBosses I look up to the most are the ones who react to disappointment and hurt in calm and constructive ways. Instead of criticizing who hurt them, they assess the situation and think of how they themselves could have done better. How they could have communicated, served, or treated people in more productive ways. I am a big believer that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. And isn’t that a better way to handle things?

As women in the work place, we at DFSCC know this mantra all too well. It is so, so easy to critique others, even if it’s well intentioned. Everyone has opinions. But that is why we are strong believers in building one another up (back to the love language thing. . . Hello words of affirmation!) and supporting each other in all we do. It’s really the only way.

But we also know that our small-yet-mighty team is just a tiny part of the broader work culture. Not every workplace is as positive as DFSCC, where we consciously work every day to understand, care, clarify, build each other up, and do what we can to ensure happiness of those around us. But imagine how much more productive our world would be if everyone focused on uplifting and speaking well of everyone, regardless of their previous actions. I can’t help but feel certain that it would allow for more trust, creativity, openness, and love. Not to mention some great collaborations, partnerships, and awesome work!

We don’t consider ourselves queens at DFSCC (heck, Dorothy takes out the trash and jokes that she needs to add that to her resume). We’re a bit too married to the positive #GirlBoss concept.

But, if a queen is what you choose to be, go on and fix the crown of another. We will be straightening up others’ desks (which, to us, is kinda the same thing as a crown, TBH).

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Monday Mantras with Caroline

Photo source: Brouzie

I made February my month of self-improvement. And I let everyone know about it. I was somewhat obnoxious about how excited I was to make February “my” month. Aside from February being my birth month, for whatever reason, I elected it to be the month I started really taking care of myself physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Gosh, I am so glad I did.

I was (and I guess still am) in an interesting season of my life where I’m really jacked about letting go of things that hinder me from being happy. Draining relationships, mundane schedules, things I can’t control. I decided it was time to let them stop having power over me.

It was one of the best decisions I ever made. I am such a fan of the whole “love yourself” mantra going around because it makes sense: how can we best love other people if we can’t even love ourselves first? Before some small changes, I felt like my life was a tea bag stuck soaking in hot water instead of an exciting bottle of bubbly.

This little saying above is cute, but I think it applies to so much. Toxic friendships, disappointing business meetings, clients who let you down, and times when you are getting in your own way in the workplace (ever heard of burning out, anyone?). They all hurt. But we #GirlBosses can choose to let those disappointing experiences pull us back or launch us forward.

So pop the cork, #GirlBosses. It’s time to choose a life of champagne. (But hey, I’m always down for some hot tea at The Village Grind.)

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Monday Mantra: What Is Coming is Better Than What has Gone

Source: We Heart It

It was in the middle of nowhere in Alabama, I slept in a tent, and it was amazing. I got much-needed rest and inspiration. I had the chance to converse with new people about deep topics and listen to several talks. One of the talks struck a particularly deep chord with me. The talk was on parents.

I had never actually listened to a talk on parents before. The speaker went over how parents have the power to wound us in uniquely powerful ways, how we wound our parents, and what we can do about it. The most challenging part of the talk, however, was the task we were given at the end. We each had to write a letter to our parents.

It sounds fairly simple, but it really wasn’t. I would argue that writing this letter to my parents was one of the most challenging things I have ever done. I had to be vulnerable and open in ways that made me uncomfortable, trusting that this letter would in some way benefit our relationship. I tried not to think about when my parents would read the letter throughout the week. However, on Friday, I got a long text from my mom telling me she got the letter, followed by a phone call opening the door for conversation about it all.

It. Was. Awesome.

Just that one letter, that ink on paper, changed the game for me and my parents. It’s interesting how one letter can make a difference in all the right ways, and we are all so excited for what’s to come. As the mantra says, what is coming for me and my parents is better than what has gone.

This experience got me thinking about how the simple act of writing that letter was, and how great the impact is. Such a small concept has made a huge difference, and I believe this is applicable to any relationship. Just taking a moment to swallow pride, show gratitude, and to open up means the world to the recipient.

I encourage all you #GirlBosses to try to do the same thing. Pick one person to surprise with a letter. Watch the improvement in your relationship. Enjoy the good that will follow. Trust me, it is much better than what has gone.

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Monday Mantra: Speak to Beauty

Photo source: @fmtv_official

Dorothy and I clicked very early on. From my initial interview (when I was shaking in my booties) to now, she and I have felt like a unit. A few weeks and several quality life chats later, we discovered the source of our compatibility. We have the same love language: words of affirmation.

(If you have no idea what a love language is, take the quiz here. It’s too much fun.)

My grandmother was also a words of affirmation person. Considering I have her exact bone structure and love for retail therapy, she’s probably where I got it from. She would always tell me to never keep a compliment to myself, and I think that is such great advice.

But for whatever reason, I find it really, really hard to verbally tell people things I love about them. I can write notes and texts all day long, but there is a sense of vulnerability that comes with opening up to a person about what I admire about them. And I think it takes a high level of self-confidence to look someone in the eye, open up and share with them the little dialogue you have with yourself when they walk in a room and look awesome or when you watch their kind actions.

I fear that verbal compliments are going out of style. In the age of likes and Instagram comments (that can also now be liked…?), old-fashioned, honest and vulnerable words of affirmation are fading out like gaucho pants (one thing I am SO glad are gone forever… hopefully).

I get it, words of affirmation are not everyone’s thing, just like physical touch is not mine. But they are powerful. Being able to give honest and genuine words of affirmation starts with a strong sense of self. You need to be confident in who you are before you can celebrate others for who they are. This is another reason why Dorothy is the best giver of compliments and affirmation – that woman knows herself.

Here is why I think this is important: the working world is becoming more and more competitive and sharp-elbowed, and I fear that kindness is becoming confused with weakness. You are not any less of a person by building another up. In fact, it’s the other way around.

Take a note from Dorothy and my grandmother. Speak kindness to other #GirlBosses, or all bosses for that matter, and make them feel good. It will make you feel good, too.

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Monday Mantra: Embrace the Swirl

Source: Jenn Gietzen

A few weekends ago I went to a leadership conference. I had no idea what I was walking into. I figured there would be some interesting speakers and small group time to discuss what we heard. But I was wrong.

There were great speakers, yes. But the small group time was incredible. I was in a group of six other women who were vastly different from me with two facilitators. The concept of the small groups component was to dig into who we are and what we struggle with to find the power in difficulty. I was sure I was simply too different from the other women to share anything about myself. I was self conscious, and blown away by the stories these women told. They were so kind yet were lugging around lost relationships, broken families, difficult failures and closed opportunities. They were so strong and so brave. I thought they were absolutely beautiful.

Eventually, I did share. It felt so good. It brought down this wall that, if we are all honest with ourselves, we have all constructed. . . That has “My life is great and I don’t need help!” spray painted all over it. (In hot pink letters, no less.) I looked around the circle of women, our sweet little motely crew, and they gave me eyes full of compassion. I mean, how often does that happen with absolute strangers? Especially with women?

By the end of the weekend, we were high on encouragement and ready to change the world. But the best part was that we were ready to change the world by embracing what challenges us and what, at times, seems to defeat us; by agreeing that we are all messy and yet, at the same time, dynamic.

That is our power.

My struggles are different than Dorothy’s, whose are different then Megan’s, and so on. The hard things we’ve been through are as unique to us as our fingerprints. And we are meant to share them, and use our individual experiences to create a collective powerhouse.

Mindy Kaling is my. freaking. girl. I adore her for her witty wisdom and undeniable #GirlBoss attitude. Her funny quote, listed above, touches on what I am getting at here: we’re all a bit of a mess. But, we have the choice to channel our energies into something awesome and impactful for other people. Relate to someone. Open up to someone who looks up to you. Write a note to your coworker letting them know that you admire them and the work they do. We are made for relationships and genuine community.

Here’s to the phrase “you are a hot mess” being one of the nicest things you could say to a #GirlBoss.

Monday Mantra: It’s OK to Take a Break

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The other day I took a nap. *gasp* Yes, I, Caroline, in a moment of absolute weakness, went against my word and slept during the day. Meaning that I was unproductive for approximately 60 minutes. I mean, what even?

I live for the word “productive.” It’s honestly my fuel. When someone asks me how my day was, I usually respond with, “Really good! So productive!” I tend to measure my happiness in how much I accomplish or check off my list, not how I feel about what I am doing. I fear that I have substituted feeling things for doing things.

In moments of utter exhaustion, I wonder how I got to that point. It’s such a cycle: work, work harder, eat a little, sleep a little, mope around, break down, recharge, start again. I honestly feel that our culture plays a role. We celebrate the girl who can manage 12 meetings in one day with a ho-hum attitude over the girl who enjoys a slow morning and invests in her conversations and feels present in what she does. We’ve started to see taking breaks as a sign of weakness.

So, back to my revolutionary nap. I decided it was time for me to unwind when the words I was reading in my book stopped looking like English and I could not carry on a kind conversation. I woke up and felt brand new. My friend saw me and said, “Caroline, I’m really glad you did that for yourself.”

That struck a chord with me. It really is only up to me to be mature enough to take care of myself. I need to stop confusing productivity for being mentally and physically healthy. In fact, resisting rest will only make me less productive. Totally not a #GirlBoss move.

This time of year is busy. #GirlBosses, I want you to take a break and feel good about it. No one ever ruled the world, and felt fabulous doing it, on little sleep.

Walking Home

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So, I don’t really know who Ram Dass is. I just looked him up and apparently he is a pretty big deal. While I may not be well acquainted with his work, I like his thinking.

A little background on me: I grew up in a very competitive environment going to an all-girls private school in the mid-Atlantic region. Everything I did was measured in terms of social value: how I performed in school, what I wore last weekend, what sports team I made, etc. It was exhausting. I left with a somewhat sour taste in my mouth and excited to embrace my new life in the South (spoiler: I am so glad I’m here). Regardless of the geographical location of my house, I didn’t necessarily feel at home.

I began working at DFS Creative Concepts completely oblivious to what the real working world was like. I wasn’t sure whether to expect the competitive, no-holds-barred environment of my background. . . Or whether this company who insists on doing things a better (read: happier) way really is what it espouses itself to be. Happily, I can say the latter held true.

We love our clients and value our connections around Greenville more than we can truly express. In my time here so far, I have realized the importance of kindness. . . Especially in this industry. Of looking out for each other (whether it’s a co-worker, a vendor, a collaborator, etc.) and of treating human beings like human beings. It could be so easy to shoot off an email to someone I will probably never meet without much thought as to my tone. When working an event, it could be easy to snap at the caterers and photographers when under stressful circumstances. It’s happened to me, and I am sure I have done it to others. Dorothy has mentioned several times, “Anyone can be rude or mean. Unfortunately, that’s easy. It’s so easy to spout off without thinking, to let your attitude get in the way. But it’s much harder, more difficult, and takes more self-control to hold back and exude positivity. A true testament of a woman’s strength is not about what unkind things she can say to prove her point, but rather what KIND thing she can say to help others see things her way.”

I think I am so drawn to Dass’ quote because it highlights the profound fact that people are people. We have hard stories, broken families, ex- best friends, and tough baggage we’re towing with us everywhere. It’s inherent and true.

So here’s my Monday charge to you (and I am doing the same): Walk people home. Make them feel comfortable and loved, no matter how well you know them. Whether you’re corresponding with someone via email or text, or you are in a huge real estate development meeting with 30 c-level executives, exude kindness. Yes, work is work. But I believe that our world isn’t suited by any of us postponing joy, and exuding it.

One of my favorite song quotes from The Head and the Heart says, “You are already home where you feel loved.” So, fellow #GirlBosses, love on people today. Lead them home. Let’s be a force for good, and always remember. #YGG (You Go, Girl).

Oh, I just really love this

It’s time for a #ConfessionSession: I’ve been in a major funk. Nothing in my life is going particularly “wrong,” but things have not exactly felt right. I don’t feel on top of my life like I usually do, and I walk around as if I’m living in a dream. I’m not present, not joyful, and not myself.

I recently ran into a friend who asked how my day was going. But she’s the kind of friend who gives me that look that says, “No, really. How are you actually doing?” (love those kinds of girls). I told her about my mental rut I couldn’t seem to cure, and to my surprise, she revealed that she felt the exact same way. I was immediately surprised yet comforted. My sweet friend, who has her life together better than Oprah, was also just not feeling it.

Here’s what I, and every #GirlBoss out there, needs to remember: #GirlBosses are human, too. Life does not slow down for any #GirlBoss. In fact, life will kick our butts harder and harder because we refuse to allow those tough days to get to us. As #GirlBosses, we feel the need to triumph over those inevitable days that just bite. We are resistant to emotions and keep running through our schedules when we should consider jogging.

If there is anything I have learned since working at DFS Creative Concepts, it is the importance of balance. Feelings are meant to be felt and bad days are meant to be had. There is no weakness in sitting on your boss’ couch and telling her about what’s wrong (only if your boss is as cool as Dorothy, of course). Hard times have no power over you. Let out your thoughts so you can get your head back in the game. It’s so worth it, I promise.
I love this little quote above because I am almost positive Dorothy has said this to me word-for-word. If you are also in a rut and are having a hard time finding the value behind what you are doing, stop. Take a walk. Call your friend from out of town. Eat your favorite feel-good meal. Put on a cute outfit and lots of pink lipstick. Walk with this mantra: You are brave, you are brilliant, and oh so resilient.