Confident Human: Alex Maceda
BY THE CONFIDENCE CO -
Meet Amac, an SF-based, serial launch-stage operator with a passion for launching consumer companies—and a knack for identifying brands before they hit it big. She has lived and breathed the new consumer economy since 2011, where she found herself NYC-based and in the midst of the beginning of the direct-to-consumer boom. She has built a career as an operator at category-defining companies like Everlane, M.M.LAFLEUR, Two Chairs, and NORN. Both creative and strategic, she has a BA in Classical Studies and Fine Arts from Dartmouth and an MBA from Stanford.
At her core she is an artist, writer, and all around creative person who has spent most of her career in consumer start-ups. Her passion is to create compelling consumer brands and experiences with the goal in mind of wanting to make consumers feel something for a brand. She builds loyalty that extends beyond share of wallet and believes the most impactful brands speak to us as humans, in all of our beauty and hardships, aspirations and imperfections.
Did we mention she also leads guided meditation? She will be leading us through a guided meditation tomorrow at our wellness event, which you can still sign up for here. Meet Amac...
I AM Alex Maceda (but everyone calls me amac!) AND I DEFINE CONFIDENCE AS the willingness to welcome and embrace all aspects of the human experience, from the most beautiful to the most painful, and own them as your own.
WHERE DID YOU GROW UP AND WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW?
I grew up all over (4 different cities) the San Francisco Bay Area. After a ~7 year stint on the East Coast, I’ve been back in SF since 2014.
HOW DO YOU DESCRIBE WHAT YOU DO?
I’m an artist, writer, and all around creative person who has spent most of her career in consumer start-ups. I am currently in the process of launching my creative studio, amac things, which houses my fine art, writing, investing, and brand advisory work.
WHY IS HAVING A HEALTHY GUT IMPORTANT TO YOU?
You can’t have a healthy mind or spirit without a healthy body, and you can’t have a healthy body without a healthy gut! My physical health is a great gift that enables me to show up in the world the way I want to, and a healthy gut is one of the core aspects of that.
At this point in my life, I follow a mostly plant-based diet and avoid gluten and dairy at home, which has made me feel a lot better and more energized physically. That being said, food is a beautiful and delicious thing to enjoy with people! For me, an absolute or a guilt-based approach to diet hasn’t worked -- but conscious-decision making around eating has. There are certainly dishes that hurt my stomach, but sometimes sharing a slice with a friend is worth it. :) If I am going to indulge, I own the decision and allow myself to enjoy it rather than feeling guilty!
NAME YOUR FAVORITE RESTAURANT.
I trend more towards novelty (trying new ones) rather than loyalty (going to old favorites) with restaurants, but Mission Chinese, both in New York and SF, is a favorite go-to that has held so many good memories and meals for me over the past decade.
NAME THREE OF YOUR FAVORITE FOODS.
Noodles, noodles, and noodles. Any sort of noodle - all sorts of pasta, ramen, stir fry, pad thai, zoodles, you name it, I’m a fan.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE RECIPE?
I make lasagna from scratch when stressed! Something about making the sauce and placing the layers calms me.
ANY MAJOR WELLNESS MOMENTS IN YOUR LIFE?
Shifting my mindset from thinking of health struggles, both mental and physical, from being innate flaws to fixable aspects of my life has been the most impactful change to my approach to wellness. It’s not one moment per say, but a series of moments in a long process that I am still in the midst of.
From a mental health standpoint, that first looked like asking for help when I was struggling, and now looks like actively finding my voice around and opening up about my experience with mental health, therapy, and depression. So much of my experience was feeling alone, like I was the only one, so starting to share and engage with it more publicly has been incredibly empowering and healing for me - and hopefully impactful for others who are struggling, as well.
More recently, it’s been humbling to realize I was holding some of those same self-limiting beliefs about my physical health too. I grew up asthmatic and spent most of my life identifying as a bit sickly and feeling like I was just meant to run at max 80% -- always needing an inhaler and always a little sick, which also includes poor digestion.
Within the past couple years, I saw a doctor who had me do a breathing test and found out I was breathing at 40% of my target lung capacity for my height and weight. Can you believe that! It was a huge wake up call -- I knew my breathing was bad, but I didn’t think it was 40% bad!
I found that diagnosis to be empowering because for the first time, my physical health struggles were framed to me as something fixable and not something that was an innate flaw. Since then, I’ve made a lot of lifestyle changes, including major changes to my diet and generally listening to more of what my body needs, and now feel in the best place I have in a long time (maybe ever!) both physically and mentally.
WHAT'S YOUR CURRENT SELF-CARE ROUTINE?
I am clearest-headed in the morning, so I am normally up by 6:30 and do a combination of yoga, meditation, journaling/writing or reading until about 9a. The quietness of that time is very centering and I get most of my best ideas, and puts me in a great place for the rest of the day. At 9a, the rest of the world starts to wake up so that’s when I start clearing my inbox or doing other work.
I have a checklist of things I go through in my mind whenever I’m feeling down: did I sleep enough, did I workout today, am I avoiding or not addressing a situation, what did I eat, have I gone outside? If more than one of those things are off, chances are I’m not in a great place mentally, so fixing any of those by doing things like moving my body, sitting in the sun, confronting a hard situation, etc. is where I start.
Overall, the most impactful self-care strategy for me has been cultivating a more mindful mindset, that is, letting all my feelings come and go without judgement and actively trying to ‘feel into’ them rather than push them away or keep them here. Especially for negative emotions, I try to take the time to notice and identify the feeling and consider what it’s trying to show or teach me rather than judging or running away from it. It is certainly easier said than done, but it really helps!
WHERE DO YOU GET OR DRAW INSPIRATION FROM?
My creative work is primarily focused on exploring the human condition: what does it mean to be human, why are we here, and how do we make meaning of this beautiful and fleeting thing we call life. Which is to say, my inspiration comes from the human experience - and not only the good or simple parts! I find the extremes, or the edges, are often where we find definition, and the complexity and interaction between different emotions, good and bad, is the space where we spend most of our lives.
WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR 18-YEAR OLD SELF?
Allow yourself to feel all the things - it won’t be easy, but you will get through, and will be stronger and more beautiful for it.
HOW HAVE YOU KEPT UP YOUR CREATIVITY DURING THIS TIME?
I set off to start my creative studio less than two months before shelter-in-place, i.e., I introduced an immense amount of uncertainty into my life right before the world fell into a huge state of uncertainty!
Luckily, art has always been a release for me and a way to communicate that which I didn’t have the words for, so really, the only way I’ve managed through everything going on is through creating art and through my creativity. They say a picture is worth a thousand words -- I like to say a picture is worth a thousand feelings. So much of what I have made the past few weeks has just been pure emotion about this time poured out onto canvas.
In that way, I feel lucky that the need to shelter-in-place has actually kickstarted my creative work. In addition to creating, I’ve found a lot of connection in sharing my process through my instagram posts and videos. We often get to see a finished canvas but rarely are invited into the process, which I think is as important, if not more than, the finished product. Sharing has been an amazing way to connect with people, especially during these distanced-times, and create community around a process that is traditionally more solitary.
WHAT ARE IS ONE SELF-CARE RITUAL YOU'RE LEANING INTO FOR COMFORT?
In addition to my creative work, I have really been leaning into yoga. We hold so much of our stress in our body and I find that moving or stretching guarantees a release for me. I try to do yoga everyday -- some days that’s a 1.5h power yoga class, some days that’s me lying in child’s pose, face down on the floor for 15m crying. It’s not always pretty but these are strange times and as they say, you have to feel it to heal it!
I am also sheltering-in-place with my dog, Minion, who is the absolute strangest and sweetest. Letting her sleep on my lap (or head, as it might be) is another go-to comforting activity.
DO YOU HAVE A QUOTE, POEM OR SONG THAT YOU WOULD DEFINE AS YOUR ANTHEM?
I came across this quote by Anais Nin this year and have adopted it as the anthem to my current phase of life: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
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