Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Terms of Harassment

Harvey Weinstein, famed Hollywood producer, has been a hot button topic of U.S. media coverage recently thanks to more than 40 sexual harassment and rape allegations against him by multiple Hollywood and non-Hollywood actresses (Rose McGowan, Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, and more). 

If you never knew of Harvey directly, you probably knew several of the films he produced -- My Week with Marilyn, Gangs of New York, Shakespeare in Love, Nine, etc

This recent story got me thinking about how varied our perceptions can be about what is rightfully classified as "sexual harassment" or "rape" and how we respond as a society. Considering last Wednesday, October 11 was International Day of the Girl Child, it feels appropriate to be discussing this now. For organizational purposes, this post is divided into sections: Definitions, Problems, and Solutions

Sexual Harassment
"Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when either: the conduct is made as a term or condition of an individuals education, employment, living environment, or participation in a University community."

"Unlawful sexual activity and usually sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against the will (usually of a female) or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent."

In some situations, it's easy to identify that one of the above has taken place. When a person makes a sexual pass at you and you respond with an immediate exclamation of "NO" or try to push the person aggressively off or attempt to walk (or run) away yet they inhibit you from leaving by holding you forcibly against your will, pinning you down, and touching your body parts / having non-consensual sex with you -- it's clearly in line with sexual harrassment and/or rape. 

Blurred Lines 
In some situations, miscommunication plays a dangerous role. When a person makes an overt sexual gesture towards you and you respond with laughter, flirtation, no verbal request for it to stop, and no physical attempt to move the person away or leave, that often times sends the message that you find the action acceptable and would like it to continue, whether that is actually the case or not

Power Positions
There are many instances when women don't speak out about sexual assault or rape because they feel powerless. As was the case with most of Harvey's alleged victims, the assault happened when they were young, upcoming actresses looking to make their mark and Harvey Weinstein was one of those guys that could literally "make or break" their careers -- at least they believed so. They did not feel they could afford to fight Harvey or report him to the authorities because in their world, he was a "powerful don" who nobody crossed. This is not limited to Hollywood. On a daily basis, many women find themselves in positions where they feel powerless and subject to the actions or abuse of "powerful dons". 

Culture of Silence 
There is no doubt that people in the Hollywood circle knew of Harvey's exploits -- some of the allegations go as far back as two decades ago. I believe the same is the case for other well-known individuals that have been accused severally of assault and rape charges; Bill O'Reilly, Bill Cosby, Woody Allen, Roger Ailes, etc. There is a "culture of silence and cover up" that tends to happen around prominent assaulters (especially in cases like those of the men I mentioned above) when they're deemed to be brilliant and creative minds so people choose to focus rather on the great work they put out into the world and not the great devastation, pain, and torment they equally unleash on women (and sometimes men) in the world. Again, not limited to Hollywood -- happens in many environments. 

If you don't want something sexual to happen between you and another person, you have the right to say "no" -- either verbally or with your actions. It won't always be the easiest thing to do and there can be undesired consequences that come as a result of that, however it is 100% your right to say "no". If you choose to exercise that right, you can always find peace and integrity in your courageous act to do so, regardless of the consequences or what anyone has to say. 

When someone (female or male) has enough courage to speak out about an assault or rape, LISTEN to the person. Don't take a mocking or dismissive stance -- don't violate the person all over again by disregarding or shaming them (which sadly women sometimes do to other women). Regardless of if you feel they dressed inappropriately or gave the wrong signals or put themselves in a precarious position, start with empathy first and then caution second. Don't forget, it could happen to anyone -- me, you, a sister, a brother, a daughter, a son, and/or a friend. 

You might not feel that you are powerful enough to greatly help a person that has been assaulted or raped however there are more ways than one to help; from being a safe, listening ear to recommending a sexual assault / rape counselor to sharing your own story of victimization with the person, you can help. Actress Alyssa Milano started a new hashtag movement on social media a few days ago called #METOO and has asked all her social media followers that have ever been sexually assaulted to also post the hashtag on their accounts to show how widespread the state of sexual assault is and provide a community of support for women (and men) that have gone through this -- that's one way to help. 

Since I'm running the risk of making this an unreasonably long post, I'll stop here. I haven't covered all aspects of the Problems or the Solutions however, I wanted to point out at least some of them -- if you have any others to mention, let me know in the comments section below and we can continue the conversation. 

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Friday, September 29, 2017

When People Show You Who They Are, Believe Them

"When people show you who they are, believe them." - Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou is one of my favorite people that I never had the opportunity to meet. As a fellow woman, her evident sense of self-worth and value inspired me...and still does. As a fellow storyteller, her way with words (through her books, poetry, etc) was something quite brilliant yet simplistic, in a style that I greatly respect. 

This particular quote of hers reminds me of another saying that goes "when you meet someone for the first time, remember that who you will be meeting is in fact the person's representative." We all like to put our best faces forward when we initially begin a relationship of any sort (personal or professional) however as time goes by, and we are placed in changing circumstances or environments, some of the not-so-expected characteristics start to surface. Here are 4 things people show you about themselves and ways you can easily identify that to be the case. 

When People Show You They Love You
They're present in your life. They're constantly thinking of you and make it known. They pray for your development, growth, strength, and joy. They remain consistent in their loyalty towards you. They're champions of yours in private and more so in public, even if it is inconvenient or unpopular to do so (which is actually when it counts the most). They're there to laugh with in great times and also to cry with in not-so-great times. They provide a safe and trustworthy space for you to be exactly who you are -- for better or for worse. They challenge you to always become a better version of yourself, even if it means risking annoyance or resistance from you. These people are a gift and thank God always for them. 

When People Show You They Only Intend to Use You
You're not a factor in their lives until they need something. They will not typically ever pick up the phone to call or text and if they do, 9 out of 10 times the conversation will eventually lead to asking for a "favor". They do not invite you to outings or gatherings. They do not usually reach out in any form on your birthday (call, text, Facebook message, etc). They do not check in when you're sick. They do not have any genuine concern for your wellbeing. Don't take it personally -- be grateful they've made it plain and adjust your expectations of them accordingly. 

When People Show You They're Jealous of You 
The actions are simple enough to understand. They criticize your every move. They diminish almost everything you accomplish as "less than". They're super competitive with you about everything. They're not happy to hear good or positive news regarding you. Sometimes, they'd prefer to hear you're going through "rough times". Again, don't take it personally -- it's one of those human emotions that has a way of showing up at different phases in life due to insecurities people are dealing with at a given point in time. Empathy goes a long way in such cases; however, if it becomes unbearable, some "distance" also goes a long way too.

When People Show You They're in Pain 
They're distant and withdrawn. They're not as lively as they used to be. They can be overly emotional and get irrationally angry or upset about almost anything you say or do. It can be frustrating to deal with however, this is actually when they need your compassion the most. This is when you can choose to show concern, provide a trustworthy listening ear, and offer potential solutions to ease their pain...or not; the choice is yours. 

Don't get it twisted folks -- people are always showing you who they are; you just have to pay attention :)

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Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Remarkable and the Mediocre

In University, each student has a major (or concentration) and there are prerequisite classes required to qualify for advanced courses and transition from one grade level to the next. Let's apply that model to the "remarkable" and the "mediocre" ones. 

To qualify for "remarkable", the following prerequisites apply:

1. genuine interest in the subject area or field we operate in daily

2. consistently acquiring new knowledge about that subject area or field  

3. continuously applying acquired knowledge to improve the quality of products, processes and systems related to that subject area or field

4. confirmation that the "WHAT" of our life (activities, creations, plans, and goals achieved) are in alignment with the "WHY" of our life (purposeful way we know we're gifted to impact our world and those in it) 

5. constant fulfillment and joy from the daily "WHAT" of our life  

To qualify for "mediocre", the following prerequisites apply:

1. lack of interest in the subject area or field we operate in daily

2. no desire to acquire new knowledge about that subject area / field (or any other)

3. no application of knowledge to improve subject-related products, processes and systems

4. 100% misalignment between the current "WHAT" and actual "WHY" of our life

5. no fulfillment or joy from the daily "WHAT" of our life  

We all have the capacity to be "remarkable" however we don't always meet up with our prerequisites. Ironically, many times we incorrectly consider ourselves to be on the "remarkable" track when that's really not the case. The "remarkable" prerequisites are a combination deal -- all 5 prerequisites are mandatory. 

If our life's "WHY" and "WHAT" are in alignment yet we don't continuously learn about our fields or apply newly acquired approaches and knowledge to improve the things we do, then we're on a "mediocre" journey. On a similar note, if we're continuously toiling away to invest time, energy, knowledge, and sleepless nights into "WHAT" we do / create yet it doesn't truly interest us or bring us fulfillment & joy or give us a clear sense of "HOW" we're purposefully impacting our world through it, then we have not succeeded and we're also on a "mediocre" journey.  

So, the next time we look at our lives, let's pay attention to which category of prerequisites listed above we're living out -- are they leading us on the road to "remarkable city" or "mediocre town"? 

If it's mediocre town, let's redirect ourselves onto the "remarkable path" by getting the WHAT we do, HOW we do it, and WHY we do it in the right order :)

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Monday, August 28, 2017

Embrace the Suck

" Of all the attitudes we can acquire, surely the attitude of gratitude is the most important and by far the most life-changing." - Zig Ziglar

If I choose to be honest with you, I'd tell you that I've done a poor job of being grateful lately. 

I've done a much better job of being thankless.

When things haven't gone as I've "expected" in recent times, my knee-jerk reaction has been to complain. To whine, to moan, to get moody, and to even lash out from time to time in anger (I apologize to all that have been on the receiving end of that :)

Since that attitude isn't helpful or productive, I'm calling myself out. I'm challenging myself to approach my life, my experiences, and my environment from a "for my good" perspective. This means also embracing when things "suck". 

Not an easy thing to do.  

It requires a painfully (yes, painfully) deliberate effort to accept that all people, actions, and experiences (pleasurable or not so much) that come my way are "for my good" and I need to be grateful for them. Based on that, let me list 5 things I am choosing to be grateful for at this point in time. 

I'm grateful for every undeserved gift I take for granted because they've typically been constant in my life (e.g. my health, my loving and supportive family, true friends that "show up" to share a good laugh or enjoy an outing or discuss ideas or provide a safe, listening ear when life feels tougher than usual). 

I'm grateful for the winds of change because it forces me to become more adaptable, flexible, and open to "new" growth, relationships, and opportunities in my life. 

I'm grateful for failures when they come because it means I have put in effort to produce something and the failures teach me what-not-to-do when I try again. 

I'm grateful for painful wakeup calls that "knock sense into me" when I am on the wrong path or take the wrong action or associate with people in the wrong way at any given point in my life. 

I'm grateful for infinite access to resources (people, books, articles, videos, conferences, etc) that afford me the opportunity to learn more about topics / themes / fields I have personal interest in and provide practical tactics I can use to further develop myself as a person & professional. 

I could go on but then this post might become novel-length :) 

I'm taking this gratitude / "embrace the suck" challenge one day at a time. I don't expect to be perfect at it. However, if I can be consistent in doing this for one day, then I have a greater chance of maintaining gratitude mode the next day, then the next day, and then the next day...and that gratitude will consistently result in joy. 

So, if you find yourself negatively reacting to your life or feeling joyless, you might find this gratitude / "embrace the suck" challenge fruitful for you -- feel free to test it and let me know how it goes :) 

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Monday, August 21, 2017

When Women Knock Other Women Down

 As women, we talk a good feminist game

We say things like "I want every young girl and woman in the world to be fierce, strong, and fearless" or "women should be confident and empowered enough to tell their truth, speak their mind and defend themselves" or "one woman, every woman...we are a sisterhood!"

That's a lot of sweet talk and it sounds delicious to hear, really it does. 

The only issue: talk is cheap.

Throughout my life, God has gifted me the opportunity to cross paths with a select group of women that have served as continual guides, mentors, and champions of mine. To the women I'm referencing: May God bless you with the same love and support you have shown me at every point in life you will equally need it. 

Keeping in mind that such female supporters of women exist, it's only fair to acknowledge the other side of the coin -- women who do not support other women. There are several reasons for this.

Sometimes, it is fear that another woman's presence threatens ones sense of confidence and security so the response to such stimulus becomes mean-spirited words/actions and "adult bullying".

Sometimes, it is a distorted belief that being a "strong" woman is equivalent to intimidating and oppressing younger women who are more soft-spoken or humble or less experienced in one way or another (e.g. in a particular field at work).

Sometimes, it is residual bitterness lingering from being the target of unfair and nasty treatment in the past (e.g. as a new daughter-in-law or as one of the only female employees in a work setting) so it seems justifiable to "pay the nastiness forward" and offer the same ugliness to female newcomers in your environment.

Sometimes, it is a resigned attitude that "it's a man's world" and the only way to get ahead as a woman (in terms of power and prominence) is to operate from a sexist mode, discriminating and showing prejudice against other women. 

The circumstances can be different but the result is always the same -- women getting hurt, betrayed, sabotaged, and devastated by fellow women either within a family unit or at the workplace or within a social group. 

I can easily think of women I've encountered in my life to cast such blame on but that actually won't help. Instead, in a bid to follow the mantra of "becoming the change you wish to see", I'll focus on personalizing this issue. 

My call to action is to consciously remember that the way I daily choose to talk to or treat other women I cross paths with can have a direct impact on their attitude, passion, and level of optimism or pessimism in this world -- which in turn creates a ripple effect on how they treat other women in their lives and honestly, what energy comes back to me thanks to our ever-faithful friend karma

My goal is to remember this enough so that the amount of kind words and advise and gestures and opportunities I offer will exponentially grow and in turn, will mean I leave a legacy as more of a help to my fellow woman and less of a harm

To my female readers, what's your take on the issue? How does feminism and the empowerment of women play out in your lives? 

I'd love to know :)

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Friday, July 14, 2017

5 Things To Stop Overthinking About Because They Don't Matter

It's easy to get trapped in the vicious cycle of overthinking and worry. 

Am I on the right path in life? Will I ever get married? Why am I still not pregnant? When will I find a job? Why does he or she not like me? 

Some concerns are somewhat justifiable while others are simply not worth the stress. Here are 5 things I've learned are not worth the headache:

Folks will always have "something" to say. Based on their childhood and adult experiences, values, prejudices and insecurities -- they will have an opinion about who you are, what you do, and why you do it. It is nothing to worry about. They're allowed to think or say whatever they want. In the same token, you're also allowed to accept or decline what they think or say about you. It becomes easier to detach your identity from the judgments of others as you grow and learn that "they" are usually confused and still trying to sort their own lives out. 

In the same way you're not required to receive anyone's biases or judgments of you, that is also how others are not subject to your biases or judgments of them. As much as we don't enjoy biased feelings targeted our way, it is quite amusing at how easy it is for us to drop judgement bombs on others with a full sense of entitlement. And if we're honest, many times we fall into the trap of judging others inaccurately and unfairly. I've learned (and continue to learn) that I should focus on improving my imperfect self as a human being and spend more time practicing "the art of shut up" :)

There's not much new to say here. I've touched on this topic at different times on this blog. Most of us are aware of the futility of jealousy -- how obsessive, stressful, and unfulfilling it can be. In the event that you or I have forgotten, let's use this moment as a reminder that chronic or acute jealousy is a waste of precious mental capacity and productivity hours. What another person has (that you might not believe you measure up to -- e.g. money, opportunities, relationships, etc) does not mean you or your life is of any reduced value. Acceptance and gratitude are the daily antidotes for jealousy. Acceptance that the only thing you can control are your own actions, beliefs, and perspectives so let your desire to control everything else go. Gratitude for every moment you're awarded the opportunity to learn and grow, to develop a sound mind / body / spirit, and to enjoy the people in your life (family, friends, etc) to the fullest extent.

The fear of public speaking has been cited as one of the top 5 fears humans have. The anxiety, racing heart, and sweaty palms are typical symptoms of the fear that appear like clockwork to torment you prior to a work presentation, keynote speech at a conference, or any other speaking event where you become the center of attention and critical focus. And as if it isn't bad enough that you're riddled with this fear as you're about to head to the front of the room (or onto the stage), the unthinkable happens -- you bomb. You let your nerves get the best of you and end up fumbling your words, saying too many "um's", and losing the interest of the audience. The bad news? It can be a painfully shameful experience. As someone who has had a mixture of "hit" and "miss" public speaking experiences, I'm quite familiar. The good news? You survived it; your world did not come crashing down. You still have the opportunity to enjoy good laughs...and ice creamThe great news? The more public speaking challenges you take on, the less you'll suck, the more confident you'll be, and the better your public speaking skills will become. I learned firsthand that when it comes to public speaking (or anything else, to be frank), practice makes me better

Honest conversations and genuine connections are built upon "vulnerability" -- your ability and willingness to simply tell the truth; about how you think and feel, why you make the choices you do, what/who you truly value, etc. You might find that many of your conversations are built on the opposite of that -- deception, facades, lies, and disconnection.  Those are the most common conversations these days and there's honestly no blame to cast. You can only feel comfortable to be vulnerable with others when you are in an environment that fosters trust (trust that you are allowed to be truthful without risk of attack or disregard). Trust takes time and effort to build between people; without it, your conversations will remain shallow and baseless. I get tired of shallow conversations -- they are energy depleting and leave me feeling anything but fulfilled. It's possible you do too. Solution? Spend more time building trust (with those you can) and investing energy in honest conversations that lead to deeper connections. As for dishonest conversations, do your best to get through them...quickly. 

Know of any additional stress-inducers that should have made the list? Please share in the comments section -- I'd love to know. 

Until the next post folks :)

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Thursday, June 29, 2017

15 Questions with Adaeze Obiako (Part IV)

Aloha, folks :)

Here's the fourth post in the "15 Questions with Adaeze Obiako" series; with questions in pink and answers in blue. Read, enjoy, and leave your answers to the questions down in the comments section below. 

Q1. What are three words others might use to describe you?
A. Hmmm...stubborn, considerate, and endearing. 

Q2. What is your first memory of life?
A. Eating. It really doesn't matter where, I just know that wherever I was, there was food and I was consuming it. 

Q3. What's one not-so-typical thing you're excited about?
A. Future laughs that are yet to come. 

Q4. How do you feel about Ivanka Trump?
A. Well poised, well spoken, and passionate about the empowerment of women. Funny enough, my sister Nkiru and I ran into her at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport years ago -- she smiled and said a few kind words, which we appreciated. 

Q5. What's one sound you love?
A. The sound of rain at night hitting the window panes when I'm indoors on the couch watching a movie -- very specific, I know :)

Q6. What made you laugh yesterday? 
A. An inside joke my mom and I shared -- I'll leave it at that :)

Q7. What's one thing that brings you satisfaction?
A. Ticking items off my to-do list (personal or professional).

Q8. What is one of the weirdest things you remember doing in your past?
A. When I was stressed or overwhelmed during the day in University -- I'd go into the Chapel we had on campus when no one was there, have an open discussion with God, and then take a 1 hour nap. I think about this and smile because I always felt at peace there. I did this for about one semester. 

Q9. What should every woman try at least once alone?
A. Go out to a restaurant or got to the movie theater or go on a trip at least once by yourself. It might seem scary or embarrassing to some ladies however there's something beautiful and liberating about learning to enjoy your own company. 

Q10. What are two quotes that have recently been heavy on your mind?
A. "The peace that we are looking for is not peace that crumbles as soon as there is difficulty or chaos. Whether we're seeking inner peace or global peace or a combination of the two, the way to experience it is to build on the foundation of unconditional openness to all that arises. Peace isn't an experience free of challenges or free of rough and smooth, it's an experience that's expansive enough to include all that arises without feeling threatened." - Pema Chodron

"When you are enthusiastic about what you do, you feel this positive energy. It's that simple." - Paulo Coelho

Q11. What's one thing you've done in the past that you'd happily do again?
A. Years ago, my best friend and I went to the Coyote Ugly bar in New Orleans (midday) and danced on the bar top to the song "Roxanne" by The Police. "Roxanne, you don't have to put on the red light. Roxanne, you don't have to put on the red light. Those days are over!" BEST TIME EVER. 

Q12. What's one thing you'd like to try in the near future?
A. Indoor skydiving (indoor being the operative word).

Q13. What's one new TV show you're excited to see?
A. The Handmaid's Tale. It's based on the novel by Margaret Atwood about a dystopian society, run by fundamentalists, that is dealing with environmental disasters and a declining birth rate -- where women (especially fertile women) are treated as property of the state. 

Q14. What is one thing that might surprise people to know about you?
A. I've never been to a funeral. 

Q15. What's one thing you'd like to be remembered for?
A. My capacity for unwarranted kind gestures towards others...alongside a host of many things. 

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