Logic vs. Emotion

I swear, our logic and our feelings are like two siblings that like to constantly fight and bicker with one another. I remember fighting one of my older brothers when I was a little girl. He would pick on me or make a smart comment, I would cry, and then sometimes we would fight. I would try to rub his face deep into the carpet, but ultimately his strength and age would always overpower me! Darn you brother.

One time he pissed me off so much that I swore. “F*%&$ you!,” I boldly proclaimed! My emotions clearly overruled the logic — that I would get in huge trouble — and I said it again: “F*%&$ you!” This time, however, no brawl ensued. He simply said, “Oh, so you want to swear now?” Calmly, he walked out of the room in what I thought was defeat and I proudly proceeded to watch my afternoon cartoons. Next thing I know the phone rang for me, twice. First it was my mother calling from work and then it was the pastor’s wife! That little sneak left the room to call them… not to cry as I initially thought!  Let’s just say I got in BIG trouble when my mother got home, cried many tears that night, and the next Sunday had to go up and ask Jesus to come into my heart for the 5th time in my young life!

The annoying feeling of bickering with a sibling is what the tension between logic and emotion feels like — to me at least. Life happens, questions arise, doubt raises its ugly little head, and we have to determine which we are going to rely on to move forward — logic or emotions.

Hurdles are an excellent example of logic versus emotions. I remember having to do the hurdles during track and field tryouts in high school. It was interesting to say the least. You are running full speed ahead, see the hurdle right in front of you, and need to make a decision to jump over it. An experienced hurdler knows that proper execution relies very little on emotion but rather on three factors: (1) accurately counting the steps in between hurdles, (2) powering over the hurdle through the use of speed and momentum, and (3) proper running form in between and over hurdles.

Ready, set, go: 1-2-3-4-5 OVER…1-2-3 OVER…1-2-3 OVER…1-2-3 OVER… The hurdles race requires the runner to focus on their steps and technique rather than on trying to anticipate jumping over the hurdle. I am sure that with more training I would have become a very good hurdler. However, during the first auditions in practice I stutter-stepped before each hurdle and jumped over it each one with flailed arms and wild legs. Let’s just say that the hurdles never became by main event; I was better at sticking to sprinting without the hurdles being there to slow me down.

Sometimes my logic dominates my emotions, and in other cases my emotions overrule my logic. In general, I cannot say one way is better than the other without considering the situation. In some cases, logic should overrule emotions and in other instances we should be more emotional. The key to life is knowing which one should dominate in any given situation and then being able to listen to the appropriate one.

Logic versus emotions may play out in the following ways:

  • Sometimes you may have to trust your experience and logic, and in other times you may have to let your experience go and step out on the limb.
  • Other times, you may have to overcome your initial emotional responses and rely on systematic logic.
  • In other cases, you may have to completely throw away logic and pray that your gut emotional response is worth trusting.
  • From time to time, you might have to rely on both logic and emotions in order to navigate a situation.
  • And in certain cases, trusting any ounce of either logic or emotions will seem impossible — in which case I personally rely on the spiritual.

Logic and emotions like to fight and bicker within us. Unlike my fights with my brother, it is not always clear which side will win. I always lost, but in real life logic and emotions don’t always win or lose. Thankfully, as I got older the fighting with my brother decreased and we became siblings that have each others’ back when necessary. This is how we need to train our emotions/logic to interact– more like partners in crime than like warring children. A great partnership between both logic and emotions can make us unstoppable even in the face of the tallest hurdles.

Logic versus emotions will never be a black and white dilemma. One thing is for sure: Whether the situation requires more logic or more emotion, it is important to not slow down as we approach the hurdles of life. Momentum, momentum, momentum! Trusting our ability to generate enough power to make it over the hurdle(s) is just as important as trusting that we will be able to decide whether to use our emotions or our logic in any given situation. In reality, we need a little of both: enough logic to conclude that our experience and technique, if well executed, with not fail us and enough emotion to feel and use the power we possess to overcome any hurdle that lies ahead of us.

Photo Credit: G. Jereczek

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Having Faith in Yourself.

“Faith is the bird that feels the light even when the dawn is still dark.”

As defined, faith is a strong belief in someone or something. That concepts seems very vague, somewhat intangible, and also requires a significant level of trust. If I trust a person or object, I believe in their/its ability to be who or what I know them to be. Subsequently, I have faith in them or it. For example, I trust that the ladder will support me as I climb to reach the top shelf because I believe it was designed correctly. Therefore, I can say I have faith in the ladder. If a person has proven to be trustworthy in their character and actions over time, you might say you have faith that they will be there for you when you need them.

In general it is easy to have faith in other people or objects. But what about having faith in ourselves? What makes it so difficult to believe in our own ability as confidently as we believe in others’ abilities? Is it because we cannot see ourselves as clearly as we can see others? Or, is it because our defense mechanisms and doubts blur our ability to see all the great qualities that exist within us? In my opinion, it is probably the latter. It is great to have faith in other people, but it should not outweigh the faith we have in our own capabilities.

Over the past two years, I have wondered even more about what I would do if I had no fears or doubts. I started praying that God would (1) allow me to continue to discover everything I am supposed to accomplish in this lifetime and (2) to have the patience, willingness, and courage to complete it. After a while, it was no longer a new prayer. My confidence to explore my interests increased, yet I was still doubtful and fearful. I knew some of my interests and goals were/are destined and ordained, but I was still hesitant to move forward without more reassurance from God.

Me: “God, I just want to know that you will be with me if I journey down this path. I know that if you destined this path for me then everything will ultimately work out in my best interest. I trust you God.”

God: “Yes, this is path I ordained for you. I am with you and will always be with you”

Me: “Thank you God, but I just need to know that you will be there for me…”

Repeat this dialogue every day about the same goals and paths and that’s how ridiculous I sounded asking the same questions over and over again. Unfortunately, having repeated reassurance didn’t result in me running full steam ahead down the path. Something was wrong and it wasn’t God.

I started to recognize a contradiction in the overall situation. I felt God signalling, encouraging, and supporting me to move down certain paths, yet I still kept asking for sign after sign that I would be successful. In some way I was looking for confirmation that my strengths and abilities were enough to protect me from failure — very unrealistic. If I had faith in God, then why would I doubt him so much? Why did I need to keep asking for reassurance? I finally realized that the problem was tangled somewhere within my fears, doubts, and insecurities. The problem wasn’t God; the problem was me.

With this realization I started praying instead for God to help me believe everything he already believed about me. He made me strong and intelligent (I believe), so I just needed to have faith that he knew what he was doing when he created me. I was not a fluke creation, but rather a destined life on earth. Ultimately, the goal now was for me to learn to believe the greatness he created in me and still sees in me.

Think of it like a parent-child, teacher-student, or coach-athlete dynamic:

Parent: “You are so capable, strong, and loved. I believe in you and I want you to reach for the stars. Just know that I will always have your back every step of the way. You will never be alone because I support you.”

Child: “I know. I know. But, I am still scared and afraid that things will not work out. I know you love me and believe in me, but I just can’t do it.”

Parent: “Trust me! You CAN do it and I am in your corner! Haven’t I always been there for you? Listen, I am very proud of you and I will continue to be proud of you even if you fail.”

Child: “Yes, you have always been there for me, but I don’t know what will happen if I fail. I don’t think I have enough in me to do this. I love you too, but I just can do it.”

I don’t know about you, but to me that is a sad dialogue. If I am ever having that conversation with my future children, I will wonder why my inspiration and encouragement doesn’t seem to garner even a little bit of faith that his/her goal is worth trying. I will wonder if my child trust that I will be there to catch them if they fall.

Coach:“You have so much talent and ability. If you are committed to the training, you will go very far. You can do it.”

(Athlete goes through weeks of training, is committed to the process, and begins seeing improvement in practice. )

Fast forward to game day

Coach: “You ready? Let’s do this! You are prepared. Now all you have to do is execute what we practiced, Go get ’em!”

(Athlete gets out there, observes the competition, and begins to doubt him/herself and the coach’s words).)

Fast forward to after the performance/match…

Coach: “What in the hell happened out there? You are better than that performance today.”

Athlete: I felt (insert lame injury or excuse here)… and when the referee (insert lame scapegoat excuse here) it threw me off!

(Or maybe the athlete will be more reflective and say…) “I felt great today coach. I don’t know what happened.”

Well, I will tell you what happen dear athlete: Doubt made you question you preparedness. You questioned whether your coach was just pumping you up because that’s his/her job and you froze! You didn’t have faith in yourself, your abilities, or your coaches words.

A few weeks ago I reached out to an old friend to touch base about a new project I am working on. For the most part I was super excited and confident that I was going to do a great job on this project, but of course my insecurities, doubts, and fears needed confirmation that my strengths were indeed strong enough to outweigh my weaknesses. To make a long story short, after chatting with this person for a while, I realized that although they had many great suggestions and resources to offer me none of the information outweigh the preparation and lessons I learned along the journey.

In essence, in that moment I realized that everything I went through — both the good and bad — had prepared me for exactly where I was/am. I didn’t need reassurance or more resources, what I really needed was to have faith that (1) God would not give me this path if he/she/it (whatever you what to think God is) knew I was not prepared for it and (2) that even if I hadn’t learned the lessons along the journey (as I was supposed to) that God would be there to support me when I fall. Therefore, success seemed to lie in whether I not only had faith in myself but also in his plan for me.

I have many weaknesses, but the good news is that I have many, many more strengths. Most of what we need to take those first steps toward our scariest goals are already inside of us; it is just a matter of whether we start believing the idea that (1) we are strong and (2) that God and the universe — already knowing our weaknesses — still thinks we have enough strength inside of us to positively impact the world around us. Maybe in the end embracing our weaknesses as much as we embrace our strengths is what makes us unstoppable.

Photo Credit: Zhao

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Fine Print

Sometimes one thing holding us back from doing what we want and need to do is the fact that we spend so much time getting back up from falls that could have been prevented if we paid more attention to details.

Chasing a dream can feel wonderful and turn out very wonderful having few detrimental hiccups along the way. When this happens, consider yourself blessed. I enjoy focusing on the big picture while I chase my goals; it keeps me optimistic, hopeful, and focused on charging forward. While this is a good practice, I have learned that God gave us two eyes and two ears for a reason — to figuratively keep one on the big picture and one on the details and fine print OR to enable us to focus more efficiently on one at a time.

I really dislike when the fine print and details — that I didn’t pay close enough attention to — throws me a curve ball that I wasn’t expecting. In most cases I could have been prepared for it, but I missed it because I was focusing on the wrong thing at the wrong time. It is important to discern when it is time to focus on the big picture and when it is time to focus on the details. Paying attention to the fine print and details takes time and patience, so it is no surprise that we usually want to rush through things. However, within the fine print typically lies the keys to avoiding unnecessary pitfalls. In a way, paying attention to both the big picture and the details is like running straight ahead while making sure to check the ground beneath you for rocky surfaces and ditches!

Personally, I like looking at both the big picture and the details. However, I have found that I am less motivated to pay attention to the details when I become fatigued mentally, emotionally, or physically. When life hits, I allow certain things to slip through the cracks. It is kind of pitifully funny to think about it because sometimes I see the matter walking toward the crack and I tell myself “it will not fall through that crack because I have sealed it enough to prevent it from fitting through there!” Then boom, through the cracks it goes! In other cases, I don’t even see the matter moving toward the crack because I am too distracted or tired to take the time to inspect the area for cracks.

Over the past months I have learned that fine print and details come in many different forms; yet, in most cases they are to be paid close attention to. From my experiences, these are the types of fine prints and details to pay more attention to — both literally and figuratively:

Written and explicit: There are certain things that are spelled out quite thoroughly and clearly. Whether we choose to pay attention to those details is another story. From contracts, directions, warranties, and signs to health, relationships, work, money, or business, there are rules and guidelines that are to be followed and adhered to. It is not hard in this case to understand that failure to comply usually results in a clearly stated reaction or result. Typically, when I let something fall through the cracks in this area I feel that I deserve little sympathy. I should have read or paid attention to the details, right? Thankful I have learned this lesson before, but every now and then it comes back to bite me in the hind parts!

Is there obvious and accessible information in your life that you are simply not taking the time to pay attention to?

Written and implicit: I think this combination confuses me the most! This is the area in which the fine print and details exist within a gray area that is only implemented when and if the people that created them feel like utilizing them. A small scale example would be store return policies: the enforcement depends on the store and the sales associate. On a larger scale, there are other areas in our lives when people have the option of deciding whether they want to uphold the rules of the fine print or whether they want to let things slide and/or override them. I love it when someone overrides something or pays less attention to the fine print on my behalf; but, I also get annoyed when I know they have made exceptions for other people, yet chose to say “no” in my case. The truth of the matter is that it is usually my fault for being in a situation in which I have to rely on someone overlooking/overriding the fine prints. The only person to be upset with in that situation is me. For the most part, erring of the side of caution and paying attention to our own details puts us less at the mercy of other people’s discretion. And if those people are not fond of you for any reason, you are screwed (which is a whole other story)!

Are you often relying on other people to get you out of situations because you failed to pay attention to details?

Unwritten and implicit/explicit: There are instances in life when the rules are not written, but people in the know or with experience accept and follow them. These are the most challenging details to detect and keep up with — in my opinion. This area gets a little tricky when it comes to people, politics, institutions, and society. In general, these made-up rules will only be applicable depending on the emotions, moods, characteristics, classes, or even demographics of the people involved. These dynamics are harder to trace, but I have found that it is still important to pay attention in order to minimize being caught in the gray area. When in Rome, you may not do exactly as the Romans, but you might find it important to know the unspoken rules the Romans live by.

In other cases, sometimes things have been done a certain way for so long that they can appear to most people as actual law. You may know that it is not written anywhere, but in that context it doesn’t matter since everyone else believes it to be an unwritten rule. You might choose to shed light on their ignorance, but it will inevitably cost you energy and stress that you may or may not be willing to deal with at that time. For example, in certain professional settings male facial hair is frowned upon. It is not written but it is understood by the players in that arena. It is also polite to hold the door for the person entering behind you, but where is that written? Sadly, these rules and practices are not written but you will be judged by them.

What unwritten rules or behaviors do you need to pay more attention to?

Fortunately enough, things falling through the cracks may not ruin the end goal. However, in other times failing to pay attention to the fine print and details can be detrimental. It can cost you time, money, resources, energy, or even your life. In our personal matters, goals, relationships, jobs, and associations, we had better start paying more attention to the writing on the wall, the fine print, details, or whatever you want to call it.

We will make mistakes, but making mistakes that are the least damaging for us is the ultimate goal. When are you paying least attention to the fine print and details of life? — when you are tired, having fun, around certain people, etc. What areas do you need to go back and pay a little more attention to? Whatever you missed, take the time to pay attention to it now.

Photo Credit: Phil Roeder

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Worrying Less About What People Think About You

“Stop caring about what people think about you,” he said.

I replied, “it is easier said than done.”

It is not always easy to analyze the causes of our fears, but it is usually very necessary. In my personal fear analyses, I found that too many of my fears centered around what other people — friends, parents, coworkers, associates, strangers, haters — were going to think about me. I asked myself, “if they are not God, why the heck do I even care so much about what they think?” I didn’t always have the answer, but I knew something needed to change if I wanted to live a full life.

I have never been a person that completely bends over backwards to ensure that people love me, but as a normal human being I do have a certain preference for people liking rather than hating me. The truth is that fear, comparison, competition, doubt, and insecurity in some ways center around us caring about what other people think about us. In general, overcoming the concern about what others are thinking is a major factor and hurdle for and in our success.

Whether we care to admit it or not, other people’s standards and expectations sadly become a factor in our decision making. I believe that people who are more successful — and I would argue happier as well — have found a way to overcome the “what will people think”  syndrome. Sometimes we miss out on the greatest adventures, opportunities, people, and experiences because we are overly concerned with what people will think about us and our decisions. 

Although it is easier said than done, these are some of the conclusions that allow me to move beyond worrying about what people think of me:

Sometimes what you think they think is not even accurate. 

While working at a very prestigious university some time ago, I was doing a good job but still felt slightly inadequate compared to what I thought were the geniuses I worked with. There were a number of opportunities to take more risks — some I did and others I did not — but I kept wondering what others would think about me if I stepped out in front, failed at a task, or took things in a new direction. To make a long story short, I was worried about them thinking I wasn’t qualified enough but the entire time they were thinking (I later learned) that I was doing great work, was very capable, and had a lot of potential to go even further. If you have ever experienced a time when you were certain you knew what someone else was thinking but ending up being wrong, then you have evidence that sometimes our worries are not always accurate. We cannot read minds so it makes little sense to be preoccupied and hindered by thoughts we may never know for sure.

Unfortunately, things are not always that positive; sometimes people are thinking negatively about us. In those cases, I use the following to help me move past the fear…

People are going to talk about you even if you are perfect.

From work to friendship circles to acquaintance gatherings, I cannot count the number of times in which we were all talking about how we love or like a person, place, or thing only to have one Negative Nancy (an expression, not a real person) chime in to share how much they do not like them or it. When asked for reasons why he/she did not like that person, place, or thing, they had absolutely no evidence to support their feelings! I can discuss the many reasons I think this happens, but it will never change the fact that people will have something to say about everything and everyone! God bless celebrities because we have never met most of them, yet we judge them like we own them! From these many experiences, I concluded that human beings are too complicated for me to ever prevent people from having an opinion about my life. I have been in situations were I felt I did everything right and someone still had something to say about it.

Sometimes people’s negative opinions about you are really just reflections of issues they have within themselves.

As you might have learned in a psychology course, sometimes people project their issues onto you. Sometimes people are thinking negatively about you simply because you remind them of what they are not or what they do not have. I remember when an old friend went on a rant about how I thought my boyfriend was the greatest guy on the planet. It was a very odd occurrence because I rarely talked about how deeply I was in love with him or ever mentioned much of any of the amazing things he did for me to her. She personally had a lot of issues going on in her life at the time, so I was quickly able to recognize that her comments stemmed from something else. Another instance came at work in which one woman tried to downplay the success of my work. She had a lot of social anxiety and insecurity (her own words) so I just assumed something about me reminded her of something she wasn’t happy about within herself. I have had my fair share of realizing that I don’t like someone simply because they have something I wish I did; so, I can speak with certainty when I say that you will never be able to control everyone liking, approving, or thinking positively about you. Sometimes the issues lie within the other person and out of your control.

The moral of the story: we should not allow our concern about what other people think of us to hinder us from taking opportunities, risks, or from striving for greater success. Since people are going to have an opinion no matter what you do, you would be crazy to wait around until everyone liked or agreed with you to make your move. It is probably impossible to completely stop caring about what people think of you, but you can work on getting to the point were the fear of opinions doesn’t prevent you from making a decision, taking a risk, or trying something new.

Photo Credit: Jenny Downing

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Relationship Timelines: Dating, Marriage, Babies…

Is it just me or does it seem like when you are in a relationship and (1) get to a certain age (between age 25-30, at least) or (2) have been dating someone for 3 or more years (past age 21), people seem to ask the same basic questions regarding your relationship?

“How long have you guys been dating?”

“When are you guys getting engaged? Have you discussed it?”

“When are you guys getting married?” 

“When are you guys planning to have kids?”

And then after one child, “When are you guys planning on having more?”

As annoying as these questions can become, I am guilty of asking my friends these questions as well.

Let’s assume these are natural questions to ask (although I am not certain of that). The problem I have is when the questioner doesn’t think my answers are sufficient and proceeds to ask more questions. This ultimately ends with me feeling like I need to defend my timeline and the strength of my relationship. “Sufficient” answers in this context is hilarious to me because sometimes we really believe we know how another person should live their life; but most times, we barely even know how to live our own.

Listen, if you are in a great relationship, you need to feel that with certainty and not allow yourself to be swayed by other people’s decisions for your life. Yes, I have a great relationship, but that doesn’t mean my timeline choices make it any less wonderful! Usually people don’t even know the reasons why you make certain timeline decisions, yet they jump to conclusions and dole out timeline suggestions that you probably never asked for.

People can be in very different places relationship-wise– some single, some in new or long-term relationships, some newly engaged, engaged for a long time, newly married, married for a few years, not interested in marriage, in positions where they cannot have children, or with someone that is not interested in marriage or children. As I talk to friends about relationships, I find myself living by and sharing the same piece of advice: “The best thing you can do for your relationship is to stop comparing the relationship and timelines to other couples.” 

Disclaimer: With that said, do not use this statement as an excuse or justification for staying in a jacked up or abusive relationship! Every couple’s relationship dynamic and timeline might be different, but love is clearly identifiable and distinguishable. Disrespect, cheating, abuse, degradation, and selfishness are not characteristics of love. While you should not compare your relationship to others in aspects of timeline and dynamic, you should look to great relationships for positive traits of love. There is no ” thin line between love and hate” in a relationship. If you feel that you love and hate a person at the same time, then it is probably a sign you need to re-evaluate that relationship– fix it or end it. Trust me, I have been there and done the love/dislike thing and my conclusion is that a relationship like that is full of cracks!

For the most part, comparing your relationship and timelines to other couples’ is not a good idea! If you have found a great life partner– which should be the ultimate goal and requires more than chemistry [I wrote a post about this]– chances are you are destined to have a life journey unique to you as a couple. I believe that’s God’s ideal plan. So, chasing another couples’ timeline/journey means that you have stepped off your path onto theirs and at some point you will either (1) discover that your shoes weren’t built to last on their road or (2) that you missed out on the many blessings your road held because you were so interested in traveling on another couple’s path. In general, people need to live according to the timelines that work for their life.

Many years ago I started witnessing couples I adored (and swore had a strong relationship) go through divorce. In most cases, everyone loved the couples together. On the outside they were the perfect couples… or so we thought! After years of marriage (ranging from 1-15 years), we all were shocked by the news that they were getting divorced. From celebrities to people we know, we all have witnessed relationships we covet fall apart. Feeling hopeless and scared for my own relationship future, I decided that I would learn from other people’s relationship successes and failures, but that in the end I would do what works best for my relationship. Here I was comparing my relationship to ones that looked great on the outside but was suffering internally. However, all the while my relationship was working for me, my life, my journey, my purpose, and my happiness. I learned that if I am going to compare my relationship to others, it might be beneficial to know the details of what is really going on behind closed doors. 

I am not a relationship or a statistics expert, but based on what I have observed throughout my life, I know that having a successful long-term relationship requires more than simply checking something off on a timeline or list (engagement, marriage, babies, house, etc.). It seems more important to work toward things that will make my relationship last long-term versus working on a timeline or checklist.

Personally, I think couples’ timelines vary based on a few factors. So, before we go judging, questioning, or pushing someone into a particular timeline, we should consider some factors:

  1. the mental/emotional readiness, finances, health, and career trajectories varies from person to person and couple to couple making it difficult to force someone into a timeline and
  2. meshing two personalities, two families, two different careers, two different sets of life experiences, and two different life purposes in order to yield a strong relationship that is built to last is not something that should be rushed or taken lightly.

Photo Credit: Jurgen Appelo

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Relationships: Chemistry and Compromise (Is There Room For Everyone? Part III)

Section 1: CHEMISTRY

Organic chemistry: The thing that everyone desires in matters of lust and love and the class everyone despises in college.

I was 16 when I had my first “official” boyfriend and it was also the first time I learned that great relationships require more than just chemistry. Well, there were three guys who wanted to date me, but I was nervous at the thought of heartbreak. In an attempt to protect me from heartbreak and teen pregnancy (I am assuming here), older women at church kept telling that “boys only wanted one thing–sex.” So, I was determined to be very careful with whom I gave my love to since I didn’t want the big bad boys to crush my heart and innocence!

Anyway, I remember being confused about which of the boys I wanted to date. I figured I should go for the one that would most likely be my husband some where down the line. I know, very naive and silly. The only problem was I couldn’t see far enough into the future to figure out which one would last that long! I had different kinds of chemistry with each one and needed advice from someone that I thought had a great marriage. So, I sought advice from one of my mentors.

Me: “I am so confused. I like them all for different reasons and I think I have a lot of chemistry with at least two… but it’s different with each one.”

Mentor: “Listen girl, don’t be confused and swept away by having chemistry with someone. Do you think that you are only going to have chemistry with one person in your lifetime? We are human! You are going to have chemistry with a lot of different people in this world– even when you are married– but don’t confuse having chemistry with meaning you are supposed to date that person, never-mind spend the rest of your life with them.  A great relationship needs to have strong organic chemistry, but it must be built on much more than that. And listen, since you are such a gorgeous girl with an amazing personality, a lot of men might likely want to have a relationship with you throughout your life. Don’t be fooled…You might feel chemistry with them, but chemistry is biological and real love and true commitment is something much deeper than chemistry.”

Ha! Well, I picked the guy I thought would be the best choice for me and it last 6 months! He was a certified player. Let’s just say I learned a lot after that and really internalized what my mentor said. Through experience, I later would come to understand exactly what true love and commitment really is and also what it is not. I would also come to realize that possible lifetime relationships could have “worked” with a lot of people, but there is a noticeable difference you find the one that works on more levels than just organic chemistry.

From dating to flirting, marriage, divorce, cheating, and everything in between, it is safe to say that “chemistry” lies at the center of it all. It is important, but it is not everything. In my opinion, there are five different kinds of chemistry: physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual. To some degree, a great relationship will have at least 3 or more and relationships with more “issues” will likely have fewer. I am aware that I am making a huge generalization here, but for the most part I think it is true.

Sometimes, however, once someone discovers they have “chemistry” with another person they are tempted to jump into a relationship without first considering all the other factors that make a person a good life partner. It is easy to become overly excited– or overly desperate (we have all been there)– in love and wrongfully allow “good chemistry” to make us…

  • believe the relationship is “meant to be” causing us to put large amounts of energy into something that we should not be in to begin with.
  • try to force the person to change the negative aspects of their personality into what we desire since the chemistry “is so strong it must be meant to be.”
  • sit in silence and unhappiness about ways we are treated because we don’t want to lose that “great chemistry.”

All of the above are things NOT to do simply because you feel you have “good chemistry” with another person.

Good organic chemistry is lovely and necessary, but it should not translate into anyone being in a relationship that causes them to compromise their happiness, morals, or character. So in terms of “chemistry,” there is NOT room in your heart for everyone you have “chemistry” with. 

In my opinion and experience, in order to have a great relationship one must really consider more than chemistry as important. Choosing a life partner should include more “life” related things like how the person fits into your life purpose(s), what individual goals you each have, whether you are both confident and clear on/in your own identity, both of your work ethics and resiliency, and how flexible you both are to compromising as each individual person grows and changes.

Section 2: COMPROMISE

Is there room for the both of us [to be happy long-term]?

I will be the first to admit that sometimes relationships are not honeymoon phases and rose petals. If you have ever been in any kind of romantic relationship, then you know that from time to time relationships can feel like there is not enough room for both of you to be happy. Arguments, drama, misunderstandings, apologies, compromises, limited schedules, hectic jobs, and other responsibilities can make it seems like in order for one person to be happy the other needs to be unhappy. This is not true, but it can definitely feel like that sometimes. Momentarily, it feels like it is the end of the world, but typically a few good conversations yield a great compromise that makes both people walk away feeling like there is room for both of their feelings and voices to be heard.

In even the best relationships, there will never be good times all the time! I think in some weird way a good partner helps us grow, so reasonable friction is good– enough for iron to sharpen iron, but not enough for two sticks to start a fire and burn down the whole house every other week! For me, the important part was/is to never allow “there will never be good times all the time” to act as an excuse to tolerate someone’s nonsense.

There is a definitive line between understanding that no relationship is perfect and settling for foolishness. Sometimes that line is very obvious as in cases of physical and verbal abuse or clear incompatibility. In other situations, the line is blurry and can only be considered on a case by case basis. If you are questioning whether you are in the right relationship, you definitely should discuss your thoughts with someone that you can be completely honest and open with (and who has a great long-term relationship). Maybe they can help you figure out if it is time to move on, if there are some steps you might take to repair or improve the relationship, or if maybe you are just overreacting or manifesting other issues and insecurities.

Creating room in a relationship for both people to feel loved, be happy, and to have space to grow requires both people to be willing to make that a priority! And on that note, let’s just point out that the “room” in the relationship should be an equal amount for both parties. It should look and sound something like this:

“I lay down some of my baggage to make room to love you more, and you lay down an equal amount of yours to make room for me. We may not lay down the same baggage, but we are going to lay down equal amounts so that the other person has an equal chance to experience the love God created for them to receive.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a warped definition of love that the other person created for me. Please, love me the way God loves me and love me the way I need to be loved in order to become the best possible version of myself. That’s another problem: sometimes we want to love people they way we want to love them or the way we are used to loving other people (even exes). Leave it up to us and we will try to play God in people’s life and love them how we think they need to be loved, not the way God intended for them to be loved. But, I digress.

The key to creating room for people to experience the greatest love they ever will in their lifetime is quite simple yet challenging to apply. The key is to compromise in order to maintain a harmonious balance– meaning both people have equal chance to be happy in the relationship– but never compromise yourself, your character, your long-term happiness, or mostly importantly, your purpose. Love and relationships should be about two people deciding to share their love with each other and, maybe eventually, their life together (if they so chose). Making room for two people to co-exist in love together is not easy, but it also shouldn’t be overwhelming challenging.

In my opinion, healthy relationships are those that require two whole people. I can say from my experience– both personal and observed– it takes two emotionally and mentally whole individuals in order to have a great relationship. Of course, initially you may not be completely there yet, but both people must accept and be actively working on bettering themselves in order to be the best people that they can for each other and the world. Without each person being mostly whole within themselves, it makes everything in the relationship that much more complicated.

Unfortunately, sometimes we find ourselves in the rut of a series of bad compromises. I have been there and done that so I bare no judgement. However, after compromising your preferences and happiness enough times, your heart will begin telling you that it’s had enough! At that point you are faced with having to make the necessary decision to (1) come back into balance as a couple, (2) to end the relationship, or (3) to stay in a dissatisfying relationship with irreconcilable issues and unhappiness (the ultimate compromise).

I have been in all three positions: the one making the decision to leave, the one being left, and the one wanting to leave but being too weak to to follow through (until all the issues back me into a corner and I had no choice but to say goodbye). The good news is that there is a fourth position to be in: a relationship with great chemistry with someone else who knows how to make room for you and themselves without compromising the internal happiness of either party. If you have found that person, you know exactly how refreshing and awesome it feels! If you haven’t yet, trust me it is possible. So in terms of compromise in a relationship, there IS room for everyone (everyone here = only the two of you) if both people are equally committed to making equal room for each other. 

Note: This is Part III and the final post (for now) in a series around a critical question: Is There Room for Everyone? I invite you to read Part I on Race and Racial Identity and Part II on Success and Competition.

Would you like me to continue this series? What other topics would you like me to write about?

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Success and Competition: Is There Room for Everyone? (Part II)

Note: In Part I of this series entitled “Is There Room for Everyone?” I attempted to consider this life question through the lens of a major issue facing our society right now— racial tension. I hope that you a chance to read it and share your thoughts! If not, it is not too late.

For Part II of this series, I would like to consider this same question but applied to another area of life: personal success. If you have ever lived–which obviously you have– then you can relate to the pressure that comes with needing to feel competent, competitive, and successful.

From birth we are taught to “be the best,” to “eat or be eaten,” to “strive to do better than we (our parents) did,” to “set an example for those following behind us,” to “live up to our fullest potential,” and to “strive for success.”

Well hello, I was only 10 years old and I didn’t know what all that meant in practice. Thanks for setting me up to chase after something I had no idea about! Of course, back then I did not have that smarty pants reply to everyone who ever encouraged me to strive for success. If I knew the hunt would be so convoluted, I might have spoken up!

There is a lot pressure on children to figure out life! No wonder youth struggle with so many internal and external pressures. All I knew as a child was that “success” was this illustrious concept that every older person I knew was still striving for. I just wish someone would have told me that success is something you achieve everyday, step by step, goal by goal, instead of making me think that it is something to be achieved at one major level.

It is very sad to think that we spend the majority of our childhood, teenage, and early young adult years chasing a concept that we likely cannot even define for ourselves until much later in life. People ask, “do you want to be successful?” Well, YES, of course! Who doesn’t want to be successful? Duh.

Unfortunately, that is the wrong question. The real question is, “what does success look like for you?”  Figuring out what success looks like for us as individuals yields a more attainable picture of success. It is wiser to know what we are chasing before we start wildly running around hunting for a random target. Unfortunately, most of us are not taught the importance of the process so, just like me, you probably started wildly running after success without direction, confidence, or a clear focus. Can anyone relate?

Ultimately, any positive or negative decisions we make in our lives can be boiled down to two motives: (1) we are either chasing what we think will lead us to success, or (2) we are doing something that helps us cope with the stress and pressures that comes along with chasing and achieving success. However, simply asking someone if they want to be successful without first guiding them toward a personal definition does two things: (1) gives them the impression that they are currently unsuccessful and (2) ultimately sends them spiraling into the abyss to chase success with a blindfold on. Hooray!

And with that, we find ourselves quickly entrenched in the Comparison and Competition Wars at a early age. “Be yourself” they say. But what does that mean when one doesn’t even know who he/she is? So in an attempt to figure out who we are, we start looking at other people for clues and direction. We take bits and pieces of other people’s success to help form our own, which is not entirely bad. It does, however, open the door for the dangerous trends of comparison to and competition with others.

Personally, I think this is one of the most damaging things we do to ourselves: compare ourselves to other people. From the physical, intellectually, financial, materialistic, and the emotional, we constantly struggle with comparing ourselves to others.

1. If we think that we are better than them, we either…

  • directly or indirectly treat them like they are less than we are
  • gain internal confidence, or
  • become prideful and exert our “better-ness” every chance we can.

2. If we think that we are not better than them, we either…

  • find ourselves challenged with insecurities
  • strive to improve ourselves to catch up to them, or
  • do things to bring them down to our level and in turn seek justification for those actions.

3. Finally, if we find that we are on the same level, we either…

  • work on maintaining an equal level or status,
  • feel comforted that we finally found someone that can relate to the highs and lows of our journey to success, or
  • do everything we can to push them (1) a little lower so we feel higher or (2) a little higher because that’s what confident people do!

This comparison and competition is only heightened when it comes to professional areas of life. Do I even need to explain this one? If you work, hang around professional people, or have any kind of position or status in an institution or business, then you know that competition is both subtly and not so subtly at an all time high. The more prestigious the job, the more competition. It really takes a mature, self-assured, confident, independent person to not fall victim to the competition and comparison wars of professional culture.

So in the end, is there room for everyone when it comes to being successful? Is it possible to compete less with each other and work more to support each other?

It will be challenging, but I say it is possible to make room for others. However, there are a few things to keep in mind…

  • There will never be room for everyone else if we don’t figure out what success looks like for each and every one of us. We are all unique and have our own individual paths in this world. Success means finding your own lane and mastering the art of running in it. From relationships to professional careers, are you mastering running in your own lane or are you running in another person’s lane?
  • Until we embrace this concept– of defining our own success and staying in our own lane– we will always find ourselves pushing everyone out of the way to make room for our self. In reality, we were all created to be different so there are enough lanes for everyone. I know, competition seems natural and inevitable; I understand that. But I think that one of the reasons we compete, personally and professionally, is to ultimately be crowned a winner. Winning validates that everything we have been chasing in our own lane has not been a total waste of energy. We want to at least know that if we wasted our energy, someone else did too. However, our success is not measured by how we competed against someone in another lane, but rather how we mastered everything laid out for us in our own lane. Competition against others only leads us to emotional and mental exhaustion. So, the only time you should be looking at someone’s lane is to get tips on how to better run in your lane. Remember, the best version of you is not a series of stolen bits and pieces of other people.

There is room for everyone in success, but that’s only if everyone commits to staying in their own lane. You can look at other people’s lanes to find inspiration, but at some point you have to go back to your own lane and get moving. The only competition allowed is between following your heart or listening to the handicapping thoughts floating around in your head. In that battle, only you will decide which one wins.

Read Part I: Race and Racial Identity: Is There Room For Everyone? (Part I)

Read Part III: Relationships: Chemistry and Compromise (Is There Room For Everyone? Part III)

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Race and Racial Identity: Is There Room For Everyone? (Part I)

“This town ain’t big enough for the both of us.” – The Western Code

Nicki Minaj is currently allegedly feuding with Taylor Swift over the nominations for Best Music Video of the Year. According to Minaj, who was not nominated, “If your video celebrates women with slim bodies, you will be nominated for Video of the Year.” She continues, “When the “other” girls drop a video that breaks records and impacts culture they get that nomination.” In her subsequent tweets, Minaj presents her confusion over not being nominated for the award. She states in a reply to a follower, “I’m not always confident. Just tired. Black women influence pop culture so much but are rarely rewarded for it.”

Whether she was throwing “shade” at Taylor or Beyoncé (for her thinner body)– who is also a woman of color nominated in the category– we can all say that her comments poke at underlying topics currently booming on social media and news outlets– race and racial identity. If you watch the news, surf your Facebook or Twitter timelines, or read articles online, race and racial identity are particularly hot topics right now. Are all races equal? Where do we go? Who is to blame? Who is responsible for fixing the problem? These are just some of the questions that people are attempting to answer.

Racial differences, social tensions, the causes, effects, likes, dislikes, and everything in between are the topics of conversation. From feuds about musical accolades, to debates about whether “All Lives Matter” versus “Black Lives Matter,” to religious controversy over the recent Supreme court decision on equal marriage rights to all same-sex couples, or down to the never ending daily personal, relational, career competitions around us, they all make me think about one question– Is there room for everyone? 

Our world history is undoubtedly filled with the forces of competition, domination, conquest for power, class wars, enslavement, imperialism, subjugation, racism, ethnocentrism, entitlement, and sexism. There seems to be a prevailing need to win, and in our society winning means ultimately being better than someone else. With this attitude apparently dominating our society, is it really a surprise that we tend to compare ourselves to other groups? Is it strange that each group ends up determining that their group needs to be on top in order to win? Who defines this standard for what is “better” anyway? When did one body type become better than another? Or one religion become better than another? Or one career more prestigious than the other? Or in the context of race and racial identity, when did the color of someone’s skin continue to make them inferior or superior? We as humans created this complicated society. We made the rules and I would argue that we also still obtain the power to change them.

Our society created the standards that we still willingly follow. And in that sense, we all might bear some of the blame for the continued issues in our society. Yes, there was a time when people were legally not allowed to be equal. Their differences were despised and buried beneath the voice and power of the more influential, the more armed, or the majority. But those events in our history– despite some of the causes they fought for still needing work today– give us information that might help us figure out a more peaceful and honest way to coexist in a overly complicated world.

Based on the lessons we have learned from the past, two conclusions stand out in my mind: (1) we need to learn to love each other more and embrace the commonalities among all humans, and (2) we need to accept the possibility that there is not only room for everyone, but that we all need each other in order to move society forward for the benefit of all humanity.

Throughout history, humans decided to pursue what they thought was best for survival and success. Unfortunately, that repeatedly translated into the exploitation of one group for another group’s personal gain, and co-existence eventually resulted in the domination of one group over the other. Because of that, we all carry the fear that on the journey toward true equality one group will ultimately try to overthrown the other. It is disheartening that even on the smallest scale, we continue to conclude that there is no room for someone else on our level, in our group, or in matters that directly affect our life and our success.

If we peel back all the layers, we will find this fear, although having historical basis, persists as a result of our own insecurities, miscommunications, hurts, hatred, and weaknesses. In the end, love multiples when we choose to use it. There is always more than enough room in our hearts to love someone new after we have been hurt in a previous relationship, right? So then that is proof that there is a lot of love in our heart, if only we allow ourselves to access it. If someone of a particular race, group, or class has slighted you, please don’t assume that there is no more love left inside of you to love other people of that same group.

I am by no means trying to assert that we embrace things that intentionally undermine basic human rights and liberties. I am saying that overall, we need more of an attitude of “your culture, identity, customs, and language are just as equal and cool as mine, and you being on the same level as me doesn’t take anyway from my awesomeness.” Even down to the less attractive issues in our individual groups (violence, poverty, class), if we look closely enough we will find that those issues are less race specific and more problems that plague groups, governments, and societies around the world.

You have something to offer me and I have something to offer you. What I have to offer this world is also just as important as what you have to offer this world. It is from the connections and encounters among ideas and cultures that great progress is made. So maybe just maybe, loving more, viewing each other as human beings, becoming more empathic, embracing all races and racial identities, and actively supporting and promoting equality for everyone are the important steps needed to continue breaking down the walls of hatred and prejudice lurking in us all.

Saying we are “colorblind” in regards to race and racial identity means that I don’t see your cultural differences and you don’t see mine. I don’t think God intended for us to be “blind.” Instead, I would propose that we need to adopt– what for lack of a better term I will call– color appreciation and color enrichment. Color appreciation is to absolutely notice the differences in others and to actively embrace them as both beautiful and equal. Color enrichment is to actively support and advocate for the freedom of every group and the opportunity to achieve success without the limitations of discrimination.

While, we might not be able to solve society’s problems overnight, I can say that most solutions are going to have to start with open arms by everyone. Together, we might have to place particular focus on one group for a certain time, but it is not to the detriment of another– “All lives matter” and “black lives matter.” As issues arise in any and all groups, everyone rooting for that group proves that we stand for unwavering true equality in our society.

Every race should have the opportunity to attain any position and live out any dream within our society. Historically, challenges to progress did not stop people from pushing for progress. We can debate about the correct strategies to bring about true equality all day and night, but I am convinced it starts with a few things: cultural appreciation, cultural enrichment, love, empathy, and open arms. The only way all these will ever happen is if we conclude that we all need every group to play an active and equal role in our society.

Although separate does not mean equal we must be careful to understand that “different” in terms of culture, race, and racial identity should still mean equal. To annihilate one group for the gain of another is wrong. On the other hand, to assume that one group needs to behave, act like, and become like another group in order to be “equal” is equally as wrong.

In my opinion, all lives matter, black lives matter, and [insert your group here] matters too; straight hair is just as beautiful as curly hair; big booties are just as cool as smaller booties; one artist can be just as awesome as another artist; one religion has the right to believe what they want, just like I desire to love God the way I want; your career is just as important as mine; and your talent is just as unique and cool as mine. At the end of the day, there is an element of preference involved, but your preferences should not cross lines of cultural insensitivity, discrimination, or condemnation. We may not all be recognized equally for our greatness (for many different reasons), but we shouldn’t tolerate any one group not being recognized simply because of their given race or racial identity.

I really want to know, is there room for everyone? What are your thoughts…

Read Part II: Success and Competition: Is There Room for Everyone? (Part II)

Read Part III: Relationships: Chemistry and Compromise (Is There Room For Everyone? Part III)

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