Enjoy the Small Blessings in Life (like Birthday Freebies!)

“The best things in life are free.”

“Nothing in life is free.”

These are two very different statements and both have significant ramifications for how and what we choose to pursue in life. Maybe it is possible that both carry truth and are worthy of intellectual pursuit. Well, we will save that for another day because today is my birthday and over the last nine years I have discovered that in fact some things in life are free (or basically free), especially on your birthday. Those things are called birthday freebies! And, as I am learning more and more to appreciate even the smallest blessings in life, I am proudly here to accept what has become one of my annual birthday blessings.

What are birthday freebies? Oh, I never thought you would ask. Well, they are free items or products that businesses offer to you every year on your birthday. In some cases, it comes in the form of a discount or credit.

How do you get these freebies? It differs by company; however, it is simply by signing up for an account with that company and providing your birth date. Once your birthday approaches, you will typically receive a “happy birthday” email with access to your free item or discount. Simple as that.

My journey to learning to accept these little birthday freebies is quite hilarious in retrospect. I was so resistant to accepting something so small, thoughtful, and FREE. I was introduced to the world of birthday freebies nine years ago by my boyfriend. For the first few years, I thought he was absolutely nuts for going around collecting all these freebies (now, here I am writing this blog post to tell you to go collect on your freebies). On his first birthday together, I was ready to make a BIG impression. You know, like show my love by purchasing some thoughtful gifts and going out to a nice restaurant big. Well, we definitely planned something nice that included food and a live event, but he also insisted that at some point around his birthday we go grab his freebies. So there we were, hopping in and out of the car in the weeks surrounding his birthday collecting his “gifts” at the places offering the best birthday deals.

At that time, I only knew about the Sephora birthday gift because I love them and no one rejects free makeup and samples from Sephora. So I would gladly accompany him to pick up his Sephora freebie because I knew he would give it to me since he could not use it. I would tag along and partake in the items he wanted to share but this did not mean I would become the freebie convert when my birthday rolled around. I guess subconsciously I felt like people might think I was a cheapskate, broke, or desperate. How ridiculous, right? It really is not that deep. Honestly, if someone gave me a gift card to a store or restaurant, I would happily accept it and head right on over at some point to spend the money. In this case, what is the difference? The store is basically giving me a gift card!

When it came to freebies, I guess he took the “best things in life are free” approach and I most definitely started out taking the “nothing in life is free” perspective.

My resistant in the beginning went a little something like this…

  • I am not going to give out my email to fifty thousands companies. They just want your personal information and there is already too much personal information out there.
  • I don’t have time for twenty thousand spam and sale emails a day. I already get too many junk emails.
  • I don’t have time to run all over town chasing freebies. If I want something that bad, I will buy it for myself.
  • I am not interested in that particular freebie or item.

And his rebuttals always included something like this…

  • Exactly. Your information is already out there. Just use a different email address than your main one if you are that concerned. You have like three email addresses anyway.
  • You do not have to collect them all. You only pick up what you want. You are not obligated to go get them.
  • What is the difference between a birthday freebie and when someone gives you a gift card?
  • Pay attention to the expiration dates. You can collect most throughout the entire month. You do not have to get everything at one time.
  • Everyone loves a good deal.

As the years rolled by, I started to discover the specific freebies I actually enjoyed and began looking forward to going to get my “gifts.” Look, the older you get, the less gifts you receive. This is like Christmas in February to me. Now, when my birthday rolls around, I begin checking my emails, starring the freebies, cross-referencing my list with his, making a plan of what I want to collect, and then the fun begins.

Some of my friends and family think I’m crazy just like I once thought he was. Listen, we work so hard and life can be stressful at times. If the universe wants to give me tons of small presents and discounts, I will happily and proudly receive these tiny blessings just for being born.

Some things in life are free, like birthday freebies. So, as my gift to you for your birthday, here is a list of some of my favorite freebies to enjoy during my birthday month. Happy birthday in advance!

Comment down below! What other great birthday freebies should I check out? What are the tiny blessings in life that make you happy?

Happiness is a Choice Not a Chase 

Dear Self,

Are you happy? You have asked yourself this question so many times throughout your life. Whenever people asked you where you envisioned your life in the future, your answer always included that you wanted “to be happy.” If someone asked you right now where you want to be 5, 10, or 20 years from now, “being happy” would definitely make the list. Sure, it’s a common goal. Then again, who would not want to be happy in this life?

I am OK with you leaving happiness on your list of goals as long as you promise me to remember one important principle — happiness is just as much a choice as it is a chase. There were so many times when you didn’t feel happy. It was sad for me to watch you become increasingly frustrated with not “feeling” happy because happiness is just that — a feeling.

The “feeling” came and went and the other feeling called blah came and went too. I cannot even tell you how many hours, days, weeks, and even months you spent trying to figure out what would make you happy. At times you looked like a deflated happy birthday balloon struggling to hold on to helium. You smiled and wished that people could not detect how frustrated or unhappy you were, but I know you and I knew better.

Yet, look at you now. Time taught you what me and life were trying to teach you all along — happiness is a choice not a chase. Even more, I was trying to show you that happiness is external and joy is something you find within. You were quite hardheaded at times, but you slowly started to learn that you could bring happiness into your life instead of waiting for it to come knocking on your door.  Please do me a favor. Do not go back to being a semi stress hoarder. I am going to need you to eliminate the joy killers in your life one by one.  Do not think for one second that you are going to just coast through life and stumble upon happiness. You are going to need to work at this thing! Even fairytales are not that smooth sailing.

By the way, can I just say one thing before I move on? Child, thank goodness you learned to stop equating people and things to your happiness! You were killing me with that emotional rollercoaster. Ugh! I’m sorry but I had to get that one out. Oh, and another thing… we secretly had a party when you discovered that happiness is not something you need to earn! I’m not sure how you developed that warped thinking. We put that thinking through the lie detector test and it determined that whoever told you that is indeed a liar.

So, now back to business. Your joy is what is going to endure when you have less than you hoped for. You do understand that life may become somewhat unpredictable, right? Well, it will be your choice to continue stamping your life with the hashtag #goodvibesonly.  Yes, good vibes only! Learn to breathe and give your mind a break from ruminating on things that stress, worry, or deplete your happiness. Not just once, but whenever your mind needs it. Breathe baby, breathe.

Honestly, I’m proud of your growth. You’ve moved from chasing happiness to choosing happiness. Now, the goal is to learn to maintain your inner joy among all the different demands of life. Overall, I think you are going to crush this goal. All you need to do is remember some of the things that help you stay in control of your joy.

Remember…

  1. Organize and plan your day as much as a possible. Take control of the things you can and plan for success. This will allow you to make time for things that bring you happiness or at least help you to minimize your stress levels.
  2. Check your stress! Minimize it as much as you can.
  3. Be more conscious of the things that go well versus everything that may go wrong.
  4. Take a few moments to be thankful for both the small and big things in your life.
  5. Let it go. Don’t dwell on the negative for too long. Allow yourself time to mope and then move on. Tomorrow is a new day and this too shall pass.
  6. Be happy for someone else. Happiness is contagious 🙂
  7. Feed your happiness jar. Listen, read, explore, and surround yourself with things/people that inspire and motivate you.
  8. Practice self-care.
  9. Exercise, meditate, and pray.
  10. Be patient and don’t expect perfection; it’s not realistic.

If you can choosing happiness and find that joy inside, I can almost promise you that happiness will keep choosing you.

Dear Reader, how do YOU continue to choose happiness everyday? Comment below! 

#dearself is a series of blog posts written to my past, present, or future self. To follow the #dearself series, join our email list or follow The Life Me Blog on Facebook and Twitter @thelifemeblog 

Read another blog post on Happiness: 10 Steps to Finding Happiness

How To Deal With Frustration With Life: 20 Questions

“I have a lot of faith in myself which is why I am frustrated with the fact that I am not doing more,” said my ridiculous-too-hard-on-myself mind. Can anyone relate to this?

About 5% of the month (or more), I wake up with this overwhelming thought that I am not doing enough and/or have not accomplished enough by my age. If I am honest with myself, it’s usually around the time(s) when work, bills, stress, life, and my personal goals collide in competition for my time. If I am not careful, these few days or moments of the month can snowball into longer negative narratives that re-play in my head. The mind is a terrible thing to waste, especially when it’s being wasted thinking negatively.

Two months ago I wrote a blog post about Having Faith in Yourself. It was a great reminder to rethink the mental and emotional limits we place on ourselves. Yes, exactly– the limits that we place on ourselves. It is true that sometimes the world, circumstances, and people seem like they are against us; however, it is also often true that our worst enemy is the person in the mirror looking right back at us. For this post, I want to chat with you about another side of life’s Rubik cube: When you have the faith in yourself to accomplish your plans/dreams, but things are not moving forward in the way you planned or hoped in your mind. What do you think/do then?

There is so much I want to experience and accomplish and at times it can begin to feel like I am not moving at the pace I would personally prefer. The pace, whether slow or fast, is attributable to either my own action/inaction while other paces are simply due to life and/or God having a better plan or better timing for me. Nonetheless, in some areas of my life things are moving slower than I would like and in other areas the pace is faster than my little life legs want to run.

When I think I am “not moving fast enough” or determine that “I am not yet where I want to be in life,” it is usually traceable to my tendency to over-analyze things. In most of my being-too-hard-on-myself sessions, it is easy to fall into the trap of focusing so much on the big picture that I overlook past and present victories. Sometimes we need to slow things down, count the blessings, weigh the good versus the bad, and appreciate the accomplishments and victories written in our life’s story.

When I start feeling like life is not moving at the pace I planned, I have discovered that it is very important to evaluate whether my frustrations are warranted, healthy, logical, or accurate. It is true that sometimes we are justified in feeling frustrated with certain aspects of our lives. On the other hand, sometimes we are dangerously infusing negative self-talk and energy into our life where it doesn’t need to exist. In order to figure out the difference and to minimize the negative thinking in my life, these are some of the questions I ask myself:

  1. Am I frustrated because I am being too hard on myself?
  2. Am I realistic about the goals I have created?
  3. Am I creating more frustration in my life because my priorities are not in the right places?
  4. Am I frustrated because I have not dealt with past frustrations and issues?
  5. Am I sacrificing too much in one area while neglecting other important areas of my life?
  6. Are my frustrations based on things within my control? If not, how can I spend more energy on the things I can control?
  7. Am I creating harmful frustration because I am comparing myself to other people’s timelines and successes?
  8. Am I listening to life when it tells me to readjust my plans?
  9. Am I adopting the right attitude for the situation at hand?
  10. Am I creating frustration because I am not organized/disciplined enough with my time and energy?
  11. Am I creating frustration in my life by  having the wrong kinds of people around me?
  12. Am I frustrated because I am trying to copy another person’s life?
  13. Am I frustrated because I have not taken the time to examine whether I am in line with my purpose, morals, principles, and values?
  14. Have I taken the time to establish what I want out of life?
  15. Do I need to learn to be more flexible?
  16. Am I just cranky and tired?
  17. Am I frustrated and just blaming my problems on everyone else?
  18. Am I really frustrated with the right situation or am I deflecting/avoiding addressing other issues in my life?
  19. Am I willing to throw in the towel on unnecessary battles?
  20. Am I creating frustration because I am living in a box that is too small for me and my life knows/feels it?

If you are willing to learn from the mistakes and successes in your life, then you are growing and learning! The faster you learn the lessons, the less time you will waste repeating the same test(s). Your life can change overnight– positively or negatively– so what’s the point in being stuck in a frustrated mindset? We will get frustrated; that’s life. But, we should still be willing to discover the lesson within our frustrations, move forward, and find greater success than before. Remember, you are only stuck if you keep repeating the same mistakes. Life is full of frustrations, but we don’t have to let the frustrations fill up our mental space.

What is one of your frustrations with life? What do you do when you feel frustrated? Care to share, vent, get some ideas, etc.?

Comment below or chat with me!

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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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Photo Credit: Petteri Sulonen

Untangle Yourself.

Slaves to the mind, trapped back in time

Freedom seems to be confused with nickels and dimes

Success nothing more than a borrowed image

Satiated by perverted perspectives

Chained to rusty bars of mental prisons

Fighting for the chance to realize destiny

While clothed in costumes of hijacked dreams

Stolen language, borrowed frames

Walking in circles waiting for answers

Convinced that conquering the world will reveal it

Yet there’s still no dirt on the bottom of your shoe

And the real you still stands hidden inside of you

If you ever stopped to take an inventory of your thoughts, frustrations, goals, and priorities, you will often find that they have become wildly webbed with borrowed pieces of other people’s goals, fears, and thoughts. Sometimes those borrowed pieces are beneficial and help us push toward finding our true self. Other times, however, those borrowed pieces weigh us down in knotted webs that seem to make finding our true self more stressful than just living out other people’s dreams and expectations for us.

However, it is necessary to determine how entangled you are with the images, goals, fears, and expectations of others. On that journey of disentanglement, you will find happiness, freedom, and purpose in life. Until you make the first steps to untangle yourself, you will always have the weight of the skeleton of the real you pulling you under water. It may not seem like it at first, but once you bring that skeleton to life — by accepting and embodying who you were created to be– you will feel lighter, happier, and less like you are constantly drowning in a world that seems to enjoy pushing you under water.

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Accepting the Cards I Am Dealt.

Life Question: Why are we dealt different cards in life? And what should we do if we don’t like the cards we are dealt?

“Why them and not me?” Let’s be honest folks. Throughout your life, how many times have you had some variation of this question? Personally, I have had this thought invade my mind probably close to 10,000 times on topics both serious and insignificant. I hope you don’t think that I actually counted because that would mean I am a little crazy ;).

In general, I am not an expert card player so I cannot come up with some great analogy using Poker, BlackJack, Spades, or Solitaire to answer this question. UNO, however, is a card game that I secretly wish I could use as an analogy here because I already have some people in mind that I would make “Draw Four.” Not to mention, I would like to “Skip” some hard work and get to the beautiful ending. Clearly, if the greatest analogy I can come up with is UNO, then I should probably stop while I am ahead.

I love competition (to a certain degree), however, card games have never been my thing. I am sure the fact that my parents used to believe that card games and gambling was of the devil (I think they have since spoken to Jesus directly about this) is probably a better explanation of my level of suck at these kinds of games. My high school also used to confiscate card games at lunch as a violation of the code of conduct. So, if life was a big card game I would be at a great disadvantaged due to my somewhat sheltered childhood! Thank God it is not quite a card game.

Figuratively, I do believe that life has dealt me a “hand” of cards. We all have been dealt “hands.” The good news is that we are not really competing against each other. We don’t need to scheme and trade cards in order to increase our chances of winning the game called life. In reality, we are more than likely competing against ourselves, and the missing or more valuable cards are somewhere hidden inside us (or are close by). If the “hand” we are dealt sucks, there might be a few different ways of looking at it:

1. We are equipped with everything we need to find the “better” cards, therefore we are really not at any disadvantage.

2. We don’t need the best cards to win if we are competing against ourselves.

3. Maybe winning is directly connected to accepting the fact that the cards in our hands are not as important because WE internally possess the rest of deck (meaning we are our greatest strength and our greatest resource)!

4. God is planning on bringing the necessary cards into our lives when the time is right.

Personally, I have concluded on 3 and 4. I trust that God created me just the way I am, that he is bringing the right things and people into my life at the right time FOR ME, and that I have everything inside me to win against myself. If I was indeed given a “bad hand,” life is more than likely waiting for me to dig down deep  inside my internal deck to find the winning card labeled faith, love, confidence, strength, perspective, resilience, hope, and happiness.

If you don’t like the cards you are dealt, start digging down deep inside yourself to find the cards you need. Most times, they are usually hidden behind hard work, insecurity, un-forgiveness, hurt, and impatience. When you finally find them, remember that you are only playing against yourself — your happiness, your success, your destiny.

What’s your theory about why we are “dealt different cards” in life? Do you even believe that?

Proving Yourself to Other People

LifeFact: If in the course of talking about why you are pursuing something or making a particular decision you find yourself saying “I am going to prove to ____, that I ____,” it is a huge indication that you are not free, your intentions are misguided, and you are too concerned about what other people think. Trust me, I have been there; OK, I am there more often than I should be.

Often times, this thought is not something that is articulated to others, but rather it is whispered in our minds. Typically, it is because we don’t want to admit that we are still holding on to the hurt of what someone thought or did (or didn’t do) to/for us a long time ago. In reality, we shouldn’t try to consciously or subconsciously “prove” anything to anyone; not an arch nemesis, not a parent, not a former friend, boss, or ex. The only person we should seek to prove anything to is ourselves. Then again, if we really believed our true worth would we even be worried about what can or cannot be proven to someone else?

Instead of worrying about what other people think about you and what you need to “prove” to someone else, focus on strengthening how you see yourself. Look in the mirror and tell me what you see. Ready? Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the finest of them all? If your answer is not “me” (meaning you) then Houston, we have a problem. Look again and see your own greatness — which is the only thing you should start believing in for YOU, not someone else.

What are some things that you do to overcome the temptation to “prove” your worth, intelligence, beauty, strength, or success to other people?