Sunday, August 28, 2016

4 Ways to Be More Confident

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Let me start by telling the truth.

I didn't really write this post for you. While I might make several "you" and "your" references throughout it, I wrote this post more for myself -- a. to force myself back into the swing of posting (since my lack of blog content these past few months has been downright shameful) and b. because I've been on a confidence downer recently and need a good ol' jolt of carefully-strung, honest-yet-kind words to get me back in high spirits. My hope is that this post will also be helpful for you because it's always sweeter killing two birds with one stone :) 

1. Become one with the laughter of others
We all know people won't always support our presence or our endeavors. That's nothing new. However, knowing it doesn't always make it easier to digest the opposition, doubt, and "hate" when it does come targeted your way. It can be painful. But what are you to do? There will always be a "hater" or "haters" in your life. One thing is to constantly remind yourself that "haters" are an integral part of the lives of all great figures. They serve a "good" purpose -- they make your success story (whatever and whenever that might be for you) richer because they prove you had the courage and resilience to continue to rise above, despite their presence. Here's a favorite quote of mine that I like to refer back to when the "hatorade" feels too strong: 

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." 

While it's debatable whether this is an actual Gandhi quote or not, the message is still true to our world and one worth reminding yourself. The more you understand this natural principle, the less "haters" can affect your actions, and the more confident you can remain in yourself and your value. Consider this a "zen" way of thinking.

2. Be generous

I believe "givers always get". Not necessarily the exact thing you've given, or from the same person directly, or within a similar time frame, but the universe is auto-correcting so what you put out, you will receive in one form or another. The more you find ways to give time, energy, resources and value to other people (i.e. offering a constant listening ear to a friend, helping a colleague solve a work-related problem, going on missionary trips, etc), the more valued you in turn feel; and consequently,  the people and resources you need for your personal development will find their way to you in due time. Not to mention that feeling valued is a major confidence booster. 

3. Be Focused and Specific

You are designed to shine in the lane that fits your skill set, interests, and optimal environment (i.e. a thespian surrounding him/herself with the New York theater crowd, etc). The more specific and focused you can get on what bridges your talent and interest, as well as what environment encourages the best in you, the more successful you will be. This requires honest self reflection, a commitment to continuous honing in of your skills, and an acceptance that mistakes/failure aren't the end but instead are breeding grounds for learning and innovation. The more focused you are on what you want, the more effective you will be at prioritizing your time for the "right" activities to achieve what you want, and the more confident you will be in yourself/your work -- especially as you see the physical manifestations of your head, heart, and hand work start coming to life before your eyes.

4. Accept our shared humanity

We all have fears and insecurities. No one is exempt from them; some are just more skilled at hiding or disciplining them than others. A major confidence crusher comes in the form of comparison with others and a false sense that the next person is devoid of fears and insecurities while you feel overwhelmed with them. The more you understand that everyone is doing their best to manage their fears and insecurities, the more you realize that the next person is more like you than not, and the more you can confidently live and enjoy your life knowing that the presence of fears/insecurities does not have power to stop you from your desired goals and feeling fulfilled unless you allow it. Making a habit of daily positive affirmations and self-pep talks, plus being vulnerable enough to engage and learn from those who have a confidence level you admire for advice, will also work wonders. 

And that's a wrap for this post. Now there are other things that can be practiced to boost your confidence however these four are screaming the loudest in my head at the moment. 

Do you have any additional confidence boosters to add that work for you? I'd love to know.

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Monday, May 2, 2016

4 Ways to Own Your Age

“So, how old are you?”

Silence. Agony. Fear.

Aging is an interesting topic.

You might be at a point in your life where you seem “too young” and feel the need to amplify your age. Conversely, you might be at a point in your life where you seem “too old” and feel the need to downplay your age.

I understand.

Society can be cruel. The media, co-workers, family, friends, peers, strangers even; all send different messaging our way that tell us to be cautious because there’s a right age to get married, a right age to have children, a right age to start college/grad school, a right age to get into a specific career path, a right age to do this and that and whatever else.

I’d be lying if I said I don’t think about my age. The thought crosses my mind from time to time. With that being said, anyone telling you that age means everything and your life should revolve around it is spewing a lie. I’ve spent the most recent years of my life unlearning the lies and false stories I subscribed to in my younger years – one being that my age is meant to be a source of fear or worry. No sir. No ma’am. I’d like to think I’ve come a long way when it comes to accepting and embracing my age. And so, I’m sharing 4 things the wise ones I’ve encountered (those who’ve found the way to age gracefully with excitement) have taught me about embracing my life, at any age.

Stop counting your birthdays. In other words, stop dreading the weeks, hours, minutes, and seconds as the annual anniversary of your day of birth draws near. Let the day come and pass. Celebrate the day as silently or loudly as you would celebrate any other day. Eat and drink as well as you would any other day. Enjoy good company and laugh as loudly as you would any other day. Be productive and throw yourself into passionate and creative ventures as you would any other day. Don’t treat your birthday as a day different from any other day; wake up, be grateful, embrace it wholeheartedly, and smile.

Freely tell people your age. You have earned every year added to your life. Each year has brought with it unique laughs, happiness, and tears. Cherish the opportunity you’ve been gifted to have experienced them all -- not everyone gets the chance to get to your age and say the same. Don’t allow a number to hold you captive in fear. It is no way to live. When people ask your age, you don’t have to lie. Feel at ease telling them your rightfully acquired age. Granted, you don’t have to drop the number to every last Tom, Dick, Janet, and Harriet that asks but you also don’t have to shudder in terror when someone asks, “and how old are you?”

Stop pitting yourself against old photos. There is nothing to gain in comparing yourself to your old photos from 1996. We are in 2016. That time has come and gone. Yes, you might have felt youthful and vibrant then. That does not keep you from also feeling youthful and vibrant now. The options are endless – maintaining a balanced & nutritious diet, getting constant physical exercise (I’d be lying if I said I don’t still have ways to go in this department), nurturing a joyful and forgiving spirit within (trust and believe, bitterness ages people harshly), etc. Now I’m not saying put all your old photos in a box and light them on fire; that would be silly -- they are a significant part of your memories. With that being said, curling up in bed looking at old photos of yourself and crying because your facial/physical look has changed is also not the way to go – at least, I think.

Tell yourself a different story. Most people believe their best years are in their 20s. That’s probably because they’ve been told so by those who live in lamentation of the 20s they’ve “lost”. If you choose to accept that story, then you will likely go the rest of your life dreading the coming years and constantly wishing you could relive the past. I have decided to go with another story. As far as I am concerned, my best years are just beginning. My 20s were full of conflict, confusion, and misery. Those were not my best years – I refuse to accept that. I am 29-going-on-30 this year. I am excited about my 30s. I am excited about my 40s. I am excited about my future and no “aging is bad” story will stop me from enjoying the greatness that is to come with those forthcoming years. Trust and believe, you’re also allowed to do the same.

And there you have it – 4 ways to own your age and fully embrace your life. I’m not perfect at practicing these. Some days I fail. Some days I let thoughts of my age stir up unwarranted fears and worries. The good news however is that those days are fewer and far-between in my life now compared to how frequent they were in my life 5, 6, 7 years ago. And that dear folks is what I call “progress”.

Hopefully this post can prove to be helpful towards your aging progress too :)

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Sunday, April 10, 2016

5 Regrets That Changed My Life

I believe in the usefulness of regrets.

I don't subscribe to the ever-popular "live your life with no regrets!" slogan. I think regrets serve to keep me accountable of the wrong choices I've made in my life and inspire me to make better ones in the future. If I didn't have any regrets, I'd find myself arrogantly validating all of my life choices and would have no incentive to mature mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. And since I believe in the "good" purpose of regrets, I'm sharing 5 regrets in my life I believe have helped propel my personal development forward thus far.

1.    I regret every time I've ever apologized for being different. I did this a lot. For having a different opinion on social issues than others; for having a different taste in books, music, movies, etc. than many of my peers; for having a different goal or vision for my life than what fit the desires of family members/loved ones. How unfortunate that I spent much of my life worried that something was wrong with me because I felt too “different”. I’ve learned that I don’t owe anyone to fit into the box they’d prefer to categorize me in – what I’m required to do is live in the realm of creativity that I am gifted in and share that to the service of as many people as I can.

2.    I regret many times I’ve said “yes” to things I don’t want or need to do. Sometimes, I need to say yes to things that I don’t feel like doing in a given moment for a greater long-term good. Many times, however, I’ve said “yes” to things that I should have said “no” to and the results were unsavory – resentful feelings towards others, work overload, reduced productivity, etc. I know I need to say more “no’s” in my life. The better I get at saying “no”, the more efficient I will be at the things I do decide to say “yes” to. I’d like to think I've already made headway with this.

3.    I regret not volunteering my time, energy, and resources to others sooner. In 2014, I made a conscious decision to start volunteering a few hours of my time each week at a local food bank in New Orleans packaging after-school lunches for low-income children. I also started visiting and speaking weekly at a female group home for abandoned and/or abused teens. Two of the best choices I ever made. They were such fulfilling experiences. If only I hadn’t taken so long to begin. I could have started volunteering many years earlier in a myriad of ways but didn’t. I was more ME-focused; my academic journey, my career growth, my family’s well-being, my personal happiness, etc. I’d like to think I’m better at this now. I’d like to think I volunteer through the writing/stories I share that awaken passion/purpose in people and build connections. I’d like to think there are other things of impact I do but at the risk of sounding like a braggart, I think it’s best not to list them.

4.    I regret having great expectations of others I was unable to fulfill myself. I’ve expected friends not to lie to me – but I’ve lied to friends in the past. I’ve expected people to be patient and considerate of me, but I’ve been impatient and inconsiderate of others. I’ve expected others to forgive my transgressions easily but I’ve been known to hold world-class grudges. Imagine the irony. I have cut back greatly on the expectations I have of others – I realize now that I am not qualified to have great expectations of others that I have not mastered. Any characteristic or quality I want to experience/receive more of in my life, I need to develop and project more of from myself to others and the world at large.

5.    I regret every time I’ve ridiculed someone. It’s petty, fueled from insecurity, and deeply unattractive. I gain nothing by spotlighting and shaming another for something they did, said, or messed up in. We’re humans and we’re prone to screwing things up. It’s more beneficial for myself and others that I either find ways I can be of help or remain silent -- rather than sit on the sidelines pointing fingers and snickering like a venomous being. I'd like to think I've made great strides in this area.

And there goes my list of 5 regrets that have changed my life. Just to clarify, I’m not advocating that you remain “stuck” in your past choices or operate from a place of guilt and shame; I am simply saying that regrets can be used as fuel for positive change -- which has proven to be the case in my life. But, enough about me.

Do you believe in regrets or subscribe to the “no regrets” philosophy? If you do believe in regrets, which ones have inspired you to make a change in the right direction for your life?

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Saturday, March 5, 2016

5 Things I Wish "They" Had Told Me

For all intents and purposes, “they” represents anyone who has knowledge/wisdom about a certain aspect of life that could be beneficial to another yet intentionally chooses not to share.

There are some things I learned later on in my life that honestly, I would have much rather preferred a “heads up” about. However, I figure I can go ahead and "hack" the cycle by doing some of the sharing myself :) Here are 5 of them:

1.       “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” - Albert Einstein. There are only a few things more painful than working and fighting so hard to succeed in the wrong lane. Cheers to having the courage to be fishes that decide to swim in the ocean rather than keep attempting to climb the monkey trees...greatness awaits :)

2.       "You can only give what you are filled up with."  If you are filled with joy, you will spread joy to others. If you are filled with misery, you will spread misery to others. It’s as simple and short as that. Regular self-reflection is advisable.

3.       "There is poetry in failure and rejection." They are proof of effort and work towards a desired goal. How unfortunate that many times we take away bitterness and shame from the experiences. They are meant to be embraced more as friendly teachers rather than scary enemies.

4.     "Just because a cause is worthy, doesn’t mean you are the one called to champion it." I believe every worthy cause has someone called to it. I also believe that not every cause is meant for everyone. Discover that which ignites your spirit and run with it.

5.       “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” Mark Twain. The amount of peace you will experience in this life is directly linked to the amount of forgiveness you are willing to dispense to those that “crush” you (including yourself at times).  And truth be told, most people do not experience the joy of peace because in this world we live in, with the level of crushing taking place, having peace requires the daily choice of forgiveness. 

There they are - 5 things I wish "they" had told me. Any other ones you wish you'd been told earlier?

 I'd love to know. 

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Monday, February 29, 2016

The Link Between the Pursuit of Happiness and Cheating, Drugs, and Oppression

There are times in life when God's Will intersects with my happiness - and in those moments, I am overjoyed.

There are times in life when God's Will does not intersect with my happiness and I am forced to make a choice - happy or God? 

Happiness is like unadulterated sugar - pure sweet delight. But just like too much sugar leads to an agonising tummy ache, too much happiness can be problematic. 

Let me explain. 

Some things that can make one happy include: getting an A in Biochem class, getting a new job, buying your parents a new house, having a nice dinner with your significant other on the beach while watching the sun set, etc. 
Some other things that can make one happy include: getting drunk, doing drugs, watching porn, having sex with a "married" man or woman, having sex with an underage partner, stealing money, human trafficking, oppressing others, etc.

Yes, it's true. All the above listed things can produce "happiness" in a person - hence the reason that while most of them are universally tabooed, they are ALL universally practiced.

It feels good to see, taste, or touch the forbidden fruit - infidelity, porn, drugs, etc. It feels good to exert power over another - human trafficking (did you know it's one of the most profitable industries to date?) and oppression (i.e. at the workplace with junior staff, domestic staff, etc). It feels good to take what you want, when you want it, no matter what anyone says. And if we resolve to be people that pursue "happiness", then such behavior must continue on - after all, "it makes me happy". 

I have a theory. 

Unlike the world's current mantra that "life is about the pursuit of happiness", I believe God's mantra is that "life is about the pursuit of holiness". 

I know most people do any and everything to stay "happy" avoiding sadness like the bubonic plague. I think that's a bit misguided. I think there is room for sadness in our lives. There is purpose for it. 

Think about it. 

If Jesus was in the pursuit of happiness, you and I would be automatically doomed. The Bible says that when Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, before his capture, torture, and murder, he was in such agony that the sweat droplets falling from his forehead were as thick as blood. 

Does that sound like somebody embarking on a happiness pursuit? 

I mean he was not a happy man in that garden. He wasn't going through a happy time. His sacrifice wasn't a happy choice - it was a God choice. That "sad", God choice opened up the option of salvation to the entire world. Like Him, are we willing to make some God choices over happy choices, when those moments present themselves? Are we willing to pursue holiness instead?

Now don't get me wrong - happiness in itself is not a bad thing; there are many times we are rightfully happy. And heaven forbid we are to be "sad" all our days. However, as the saying goes, "everything in moderation". When our happiness becomes the number one priority, there's a great chance we will lose God along the way - because there will be times when He will ask us to make unhappy choices and we will likely say "NO". 

I should know. 

I struggle with this on a daily basis. Why? Because there are many happy options that make my fleshy side feel very, very, VERY good. In that same breath, those happy options are the same ones that corrupt and destroy my soul very, very, VERY much. 

It's a dance, you see. And sometimes if you choose "happy", you do find yourself dancing with God and that is the greatest gift. But, sometimes when you choose "happy", you find yourself dancing with someone terrifyingly worse. 

I daresay we should all be careful - before too much happiness gets the best of us :)

But don't mind what I think. What do you think?
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Saturday, February 20, 2016

If You Were Single and Sad on Valentine's Day

 You might have hoped that by this time, this year, your single status would have changed but it didn’t.

You’re disappointed.

You might have gone on Instagram and seen pictures of ladies and gents “booed up” with their significant others on that “day of love”, while you sat at home alone watching The Notebook, eating a large pepperoni pizza, and possibly shedding a bucket load of few tears.

You’re lonely.

You might have felt your family and friends recently giving you the “how sad…she’s still a poor, single gal” look that makes for quite the discomfort.

You’re ashamed.

You might have looked in the bathroom mirror this morning just to see a new line or wrinkle has crept up on your face, reminding you that not only have you crossed the 30 year mark, you’re also physically “depreciating” as the age rolls in. Who will want to be with you now?
You’re afraid.

So, what are you to do with yourself? 

One option: tell the truth.

You’re allowed to say that you don’t like being single – if you don’t.  You’re allowed to say that you desire to be married – if you do. You’re allowed to say that you are afraid of possibly being single forever – if you are.

You don’t owe anyone to be “single and happy” on Valentine’s Day...or any other day.

However, you might owe it to yourself to be “single and actively working on my personal & spiritual development”.

So that if and when your single status changes to “taken”, you’ll find yourself equipped to be more of a blessing to that person than a burden.

Consider that the real sadness isn’t being single on Valentine’s Day…or any other day. Consider that the real sadness is waking up years down the road, struggling in your marriage, to find out there was so much wisdom, growth, and enjoyment you could have gained when single that would have helped your future relationship but instead you missed out on because all your energy was spent praying away the gift that was your single period.

But never mind what I think. 

What do you think?
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Friday, September 18, 2015

5 Things to Remember When You're Feeling Jealous

One of my favorite subjects in college was psychology.

I like studying the human mind and understanding the “why” of the “what” that we think, say, and do.

Human emotions are directly tied to our psychological well-being and one of the emotions I find rather interesting is jealousy.

Jealousy is an emotion that is driven by the fear of inadequacy.

Jealousy is not a new emotion; it has been around for quite the while. In fact, it dates back to the first children of the first family – Cain and Abel.  The story is a simple one. Cain works as a crop farmer and Abel as a shepherd; Abel decides to give God the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions while Cain gives more like the leftovers of the land's produce. Consequently, God finds favor in Abel and regards his offering more. Cain notices this and jealousy ensues. And then, he takes that jealousy one step further by killing his brother.

So, what makes jealousy such an interesting emotion for me to explore?

The power it yields when a person succumbs to it.

I’m human. With humanity comes a side order of raw, unfiltered emotions and feelings. And consequently, jealousy is no stranger to me. I’ve been jealous of different people at different points in my life for different reasons. When I look back on my life, I notice the times where I handled jealousy improperly. I notice the times when I allowed jealousy to negatively affect how I thought of people and treated them. I notice the times when I enabled jealousy to grow within my soul and embitter my spirit. I notice the times when I deluded myself into thinking I wasn’t jealous when in actuality, I surely was.

As I add in years, my desire to grow in self-control and mastery has significantly risen. One of the emotions I have a vested interest in managing is jealousy.

It has such a history of destruction. From Cain and Abel to Brutus and Julius Caesar to Mary Jo and Amy Fischer (don’t know the story of the “Long Island Lolita? You might want to Google it. ) And for such a potentially volatile and deadly emotion, it’s important to stay one – ok let’s be real, TEN – steps ahead to win the battle over it. From studying jealousy, there are 5 things I’ve become aware of about the emotion. And from that awareness I’ve been able to get a good grip - at least I’d like to think so - on the emotion that has a way of making even the strongest of men (and women) crumble. Of course, I’m sharing those 5 things for your reading pleasure.

1.       Jealousy is a normal human emotion. It’s scary to admit that you get jealous. It’s scary to admit that you’re capable of jealousy. It’s scary to admit that you have insecurities and those insecurities can flare up as jealousy when triggered by another person’s words, actions, or lifestyle. The truth, however, is that people get jealous every single day. It can be jealousy that someone has attained more money, power, or materialism than you have. It can be jealousy that your pretty co-worker always gets more attention and praise at work than you do. It can be jealousy that the guy or gal you like doesn’t feel the same way about you but desires your best friend instead (ouch). It can be jealousy that a sibling seems smarter or more talented than you and your parents clearly favor him/her more. It can be jealousy that your neighbors just had their 5th child while you and your spouse have been trying for years and still haven’t had one. There are a host of things that inspire jealousy. For an emotion that has been around since the beginning of time, it’s almost comical how difficult many of us find it to admit we get jealous. The truth is that no one is above jealousy. Not you, not me, and not cousin Lucy. Once you understand that, you won’t be so taken aback or rattled when jealous feelings arise.

2.       Undisciplined jealousy destroys relationships. I’ve had two friendships that have ended over jealousy; in one case it was my jealous feelings that did the damage and in the second case, the other gal takes the credit. Undisciplined jealousy is an ugly thing. It makes a person act small and petty – been there, done that. It makes a person overly critical of others and negative in character – been there, done that. Undisciplined jealousy makes it extremely hard to have compassionate, loving, and fulfilling relationships with others. Undisciplined jealousy brings out the worst in people.

3.       Jealousy is your ego issue, not the other person’s. It’s your emotion. It’s your reaction to that person or situation. It’s not “their fault”. Granted, there are times when folks actively work to make others jealous but at the end of the day, it is our individual sensitivities that determine the jealousy we deal with in our lives. Jealous is much less about him/her and much more about you.

4.    Jealousy must be acknowledged to be overcome. It’s that whole “acceptance is the first step of healing” mantra all over again. Redundant, yes, but ever so true. You can’t heal what you won’t admit. When you name your struggle or temptation by name, you strip off some of its power over you. You weaken it. So, “call a spade a spade” and put jealousy out in the open. Admit it to yourself. Admit it to those you’re close to. If you’ve really got some cojones, admit it to the person you’re jealous of. Admitting you are jealous of someone affords you the freedom to take the first step towards self-mastery of your jealous feelings. If it only it felt as easy to do it as it does to write about doing it…yikes.

5.     Jealousy always shows up to teach a lesson. I believe everything in life happens to teach us a lesson – whether we care to learn it or not – and jealousy is no exception. When jealousy shows up in your life, the questions to ask are, “Why am I feeling jealous?” “What is it about this person that makes me feel insecure or threatened?” “How can I become comfortable with the fact that there will always be someone that has something I want but don’t have yet or might never have?” The good thing about jealousy is that it shows you exactly what your fears are, where your sense of self-worth lies and the areas of emotional/spiritual growth you need to develop. Jealousy is one of life’s great teachers; not necessarily one of the “fun” teachers, but a teacher nonetheless :)

And now we've come to the end of the list - 5 things to remember about jealousy. More specifically, 5 things to remember when you’re feeling jealous. I recommend meditating on them anytime you find yourself wrapped in the web of jealousy. They’re great reminders. These 5 truths undoubtedly help me manage jealous feelings when they start to bubble up in my spirit.

That is of course, when I choose to remember them :)

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