The Importance of Changing Your Negative Self-Talk

Words have power. Therefore, it’s crucial to keep working on changing your negative self-talk.

Growing up you might have heard the expression, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s a lie. The sooner we accept this is the sooner we can start to acknowledge the impact words have had on us throughout our lives and start healing and changing the way we speak to ourselves.

For the sake of this post, let’s think about words like seeds that we plant into our lives. The seeds we water will grow, and those that we don’t water will die. It’s simple as that. If we feed the negative self-talk, it will grow. If we feed the positive that will grow.

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Focus on Productivity, Not Perfection

Have you ever wondered how someone with more responsibilities or demands is able to achieve more than you? No, they are not perfect, alien, or some breed of human meets robot. They are not special. It’s possible that they have just learned how to focus on productivity and efficiency.

Let’s get one thing clear before we move any further: A happy life does not mean a “perfect” life. So, be careful not to strive for a one-sided picture of someone else’s life as your measure of success.

Merriam-Webster and Oxford dictionaries define perfection as:

  • “having no mistakes or flaws”
  • “completely correct or accurate”
  • “having all the qualities you want in that kind of person, situation, etc.”
  • “having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be”
  • “free from any flaw or defect in condition or quality; faultless”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen anyone that’s flawless and perfect. If this is how you are defining our success, then you are already headed down the wrong path.

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There Is Room For Everyone: Racial Equality

Nicki Minaj’s feud with Taylor Swift over the nominations for Best Music Video of the Year makes me wonder whether there is room for everyone.

According to Minaj, who was not nominated, “If your video celebrates women with slim bodies, you will be nominated for Video of the Year… 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. In a reply to a follower, she says “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” or not, we can all admit that her comments resonate with other discussions of racial equality happening all over social media and news outlets 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.

There is room for everyone.

Racial differences, social tensions, and everything in between are topics of conversation. The debates about musical accolades, whether “All Lives Matter” or “Black Lives Matter,” controversy over the recent Supreme court decision on equal marriage rights, and the never-ending daily personal, relational, career competition all make me wonder whether there truly is room for everyone.

Throughout history, humans decided to pursue what they thought was best for survival and success. Unfortunately, this repeatedly meant the exploitation of one group for another group’s gain. Our history is filled with competition, domination, conquest, class wars, enslavement, subjugation, racism, ethnocentrism, and sexism. The bad and good news: We create and perpetuate it which means we have the power to change them.

We are all responsible for these issues in our society. There was a time when equality was illegal, and that still exists today. Differences are despised and buried beneath the voice and power of the more influential, the more armed, or the majority. But, our history gives us valuable information about what NOT to do to create a more peaceful society.

We need to learn to love and embrace the commonalities among all humans and accept there is room for everyone.

Our hearts don’t have a limit on love. If someone of a particular race, group, or class has slighted you, please don’t assume that there is nothing left inside of you to love other people of that same group. You just have to be willing to do it. We all need each other to move society forward for the benefit of all humanity.

We need more of “your culture, identity, customs, and language are just as equal and cool as mine” and “you being on the same level doesn’t take anyway from my awesomeness.” What I have to offer this world is just as important as what you have to offer this world.

It is from these connections and encounters among ideas and cultures that we make great progress. Maybe 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 we need to break down the walls of hatred and prejudice lurking in us all.

Creating room for everyone does not mean we should be “colorblind” to race and racial identity. Colorblindness means that you don’t see cultural differences which is the very beauty and power of humanity. We need to adopt color appreciation and advocacy. Appreciation is to actively notice the differences in others and to embrace them as equally beautiful. Advocacy is to actively support and champion the freedom of every group and the opportunity to achieve success without discrimination.

Everyone regardless of race should have the opportunity to attain any position and live out any dream they want to within our society. 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.

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 bodies are just as cool as smaller ones. One artist can be just as awesome as another artist. One religion has the right to believe what they want, just as another has the right to as well. Your career is just as important as mine. Your talent is just as unique and cool as mine.

I really want to know, do you think there is room for everyone?

Read Part II: There Room for Everyone: Success and Competition

Read Part III: There is Room for Everyone: Compromise and Chemistry in Relationships

The Conundrum: Being Strong

After breaking my silence about a personal life event, I know there are a lot of people that suddenly have a lot of questions. My original post was intended to shed more light on an issue in our society than a whirlwind of questions about me. However, I accept the questions and curiosity as a part of the journey. In the initial aftermath, I noticed that there was one reoccurring message among conversations with people that personally know me– they have always viewed me as strong and smart. It is so sweet and wonderful for so many people to say this. To be honest it is oddly reassuring, yet in it also lies one of the descriptors that has caused unnecessary emotional turmoil throughout my life– STRONG. I have always aspired to be a women of great strength so I am happy that this trait is visible to others. However, for a long time my desire to be “strong” caused me great distress because I had no clue about what “being strong” really meant in practice. In my opinion, being strong and feeling strong are two different things and there is no great lesson in school that teaches us the differences between the two. For me, it is something I had to figure out over time.

Somehow I developed the misconception that being strong and smart meant that I always had to feel and act strong and smart. I had this idea that I couldn’t let people see my greatest weaknesses or else they might question my strength. In reality I was probably more terrified that if I acknowledged those weaknesses to myself it would disapprove what I believed about myself– I am strong. So when people kept saying how strong and smart they always viewed me to be, I started to wonder if this somehow meant they no longer believed it as much as they once did. The old way of thinking tried to sneak its little way back into my mind. After the comments, concerns, shock, and testimonies started rolling in, I started worrying about how this news would affect people’s image of me as a person. Would they think that the strength, drive, smile, laughs, ambition, and positivity we shared was all a lie? I mean, I worked so hard to overcome this adversity and serve as an inspiration for others so the last thing that I want is for people to treat me differently or question the many good times and happy days that we shared together. Yes, this little mind of mine was trying to test me! But, rest assured everyone; I passed the test in the end. Of course, without a doubt I know I am strong. How could I have overcome this secret adversity if I wasn’t? Yes, I may have scars, but I am still me.

In our society, people look up to the “strong.” Every Marvel comic superhero has his/her weakness, yet even though they often come close to demise in every movie, we still wish we could take a special daily multi-vitamin to gain some of their superpowers. We admire people that seem to endure adversity and subsequently emerge as victors. Well, as a young girl I had no clue about the complexities of strength, of how I even attained that label, or how to understand what it really internally feels like in a complicated world. Before the assault, I was strong. So after the assault, and when I felt I was over it (if that is ever really possible), I felt that I needed to continue being what I knew myself to be– strong. I thought feeling strong meant feeling confident, powerful, and happy. So, in my mind it should work in reverse order– being strong must mean being confident, being happy, and being powerful. Clearly, it takes more than a few years of life to develop confidence, happiness, and unwavering strength, yet I was certain that when I was not doing these things or feeling like this, I was not strong.

While my secret was significant and traumatic, I had a life, dreams, and other issues outside of it that I wanted to focus on as much as I could. In my adolescent ignorance, and in the face of a world that seems to enjoy playing dodgeball with human life, I set out to (1) feel, look, and embody my strength and (2) to fulfill my dreams. WHAM! Doubt. WHAM! Insecurity. WHAM! Failure. Mistakes. Fear. Acceptance. WHAM! WHAM! Loss. WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! Ball after ball, life was starting to put my strength to the test and I felt that the whole world was watching to see how strong I really was. In reality everyone was probably worried about their own issues, but I told myself that letting other people see my pain would mean that I wasn’t strong. Where did I even come up with this crap? It is kind of funny; we really believe some warped ideas at times. Think about it. When an elite athlete is interviewed on TV immediately after a game, are they not breathing pretty hard? Aren’t they usually tired, sore, and possibly on the brink of exhaustion? Exactly! So, why would I ever think that exhaustion signaled the lack of strength?  This is real strength, not the silly mentally I had. Strength says, “I ran the race and finished. I tripped, fell, am tired, and sore, but I did not and will not give up. I will be back.”

After living life a little more, one the greatest discoveries I made was to realize and understand true strength through the lens of fitness and sports. In my athletic heyday, I could lift a pretty hefty amount of weight in the weight room. I was a young female athlete on a mission to sprint faster and run longer. I was am proud of my strength at that time. But I have to tell you, I was usually physically sore most of the time during the season! Eventually, I accepted soreness as a necessary component of building strength and after a while I got used to it. It was natural. “No pain, no gain,” right?  Overtime, I was less sore and very strong. In the beginning, I would say to myself, “Get it together girl. You are stronger than this. You are supposed to be strong.” In the end, I began to understand that I am “not stronger than this” but rather “I am strong because of this.” In my mind feeling strong once meant feeling confident, happy, and powerful. Well, on the journey to building strength one does not often feel confident and happy about difficult training and subsequent soreness. I finally started to see that strength is more a behavior than it is a feeling. From that point on, I learned to stop questioning my strength whenever I discovered another area of weakness. I was as strong as I believed I was and as strong as everyone says I am. Looking at strength this way has given me freedom in times when the weight of trauma, loss, failure, and disappointment are at an all time high. I was free to show the world that my physical and emotional “soreness” by no means was a sign of weakness, rather a sign of great strength.

In the end, I began to understand that I am “not stronger than this” but rather “I am strong because of this.” […] I finally started to see that strength is more a behavior than it is a feeling.

In most areas of success, business, or fitness, it is imperative to analyze areas of weakness in order to make the necessary adjustments to improve performance. It is no different for “strong” people. Anyone who is willing to reflective, notice their weaknesses, and take action toward improving themselves is strong. Strength is never an indication that a person is not carrying a heavy weight; it just means that they are choosing to never let it overtake them. Everyone displays emotions differently and everyone deals with things differently. If someone who is viewed as “strong” displays their emotions in a different way, it in no way indicates that their hurt is easier, lighter, or their character stronger or better. It just means that everyone is different and yet everyone is the same– human.

Strength is never an indication that a person is not carrying a heavy weight; it just means that they are choosing to never let it overtake them.

As we weave through the characters and complex world around us, remember that everyone has a story. They may never tell you the story or act it out before you eyes, but that doesn’t mean that their pages are not filled with complicated stories like everyone else. Never think that a “strong” person has never experienced great emotional challenges. Most likely, it is their journey through those challenges that makes them who they are! Chances are you are one heck of a strong person too; maybe even more than you know. And yes, life will play dodgeball against you too! Listen, you grab life by the balls and start fighting back with all you’ve got! You might feel a WHAM or a dozen along the way, but that’s OK. When you take the hit, you regroup and knock those challenges right back on its _ _ _ ( ← clue: another word for butt)! What? Strong people don’t swear… 😉

Protect Your Optimism

Man, oh man! How much bad, poor, negative news can we handle? Does anyone else feel like every time they turn around there is more bad news being reported? Yes, Facebook is usually filled with positive messages and laughs; Instagram with joyous photos and smiles; but, the news, forget about it– sad news upon weird news upon more sad news. Of course, there are many hopeful stories mixed in, but violence, rape, fraud, cancer, overdoses, war, terrorism, racism, death, and financial ruin seem more prevalent than the positive, the hopeful, and the good.

I often struggle with keeping a positive, hopeful, faith-filled head when I watch or receive dreadful news. In the moment, it really knocks a little bit of the wind out of me and makes me wonder if there is any good left in the world. In some instances, I find myself asking myself “why” this or that happened. Thereafter I usually utter a “God, help me,” put everything back into perspective, and realize more and more that living to the fullest is the only alternative to the negative surrounding us. Herein lies the good news: the more I attempt to live life to the fullest is the more that I realize and believe that there is still more positive than negative in the world.

Some time ago, I began thinking about how often fearful negative things actually happen to me or people I know. Throughout this exercise, I found that more negative instances did happen more in some areas than others, but overall the chances of the negative prevailing were lower than my fears would lead me to believe. In no way does this mean that I believe bad things will not or cannot happen to me or those that I know. It just means that although the negative, bad, discouraging events may happen, they are probably far less prevalent than my fears will allow me to believe.

Sometimes it can feel that negative things unceasingly happen to us. While this may or may not be true, the goal is to not lose hope and try not to become too overwhelmed by them. In the grand scheme of life, the statistics may still fall on the side of hope and good. If life does not feel positive right now, keep living and eventually the numbers will straighten themselves out. Who knows? Maybe the positivity and optimism we all seek lies inside of us all.

Protect your optimism, then, share it with the world.

Photo credit: https://flic.kr/p/qBtgR4

How to Accept the Cards You are Dealt

Why are we dealt different cards in life? How do you accept the cards you are dealt? What can we do if we don’t like the cards we are dealt?

How many times have you asked yourself this question: “Why them and not me?”

I am not an expert card player so I do not have some great analogies from Poker, Blackjack, Spades, or Solitaire. UNO, however, is a card game I understand. I already have some people in mind that I would make “draw four” cards. And, it would be nice to “skip” some of the challenging parts and get to the beautiful ending. Clearly, if the greatest card analogy I can come up with is UNO, then I should probably stop while I am ahead.

Figuratively, I do believe that life has dealt us all a hand of cards. The good news: We don’t have to scheme or steal other people’s hands in order to win the game called life. In reality, we are competing against ourselves, and the missing cards we need are somewhere hidden inside us or are within our reach.

There might be a few different ways to look at the hand you are dealt:

1. We are equipped with everything we need to find the “right” cards; therefore, we are not at a permanent disadvantage.

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

3. Maybe “winning” our own race is directly connected to accepting that we are both our greatest strength and our greatest resource.

4. You will acquire the necessary cards into your life when the time is right.

Personally, I have found comfort and faith in numbers 3 and 4. I trust that God created me just the way I am and that I have everything inside me to improve. Life is waiting for me to dig deep inside to find the cards labeled faith, confidence, strength, resilience, hope, and hard work.

If you don’t like the cards you are dealt, start changing your perspective about what is still buried inside you. Most times, what you need is hidden behind hard work and personal beliefs.

To accept the cards you are dealt, do not wish for a new hand, focus on learning how to work the one you have.

10 Lessons I Have Learned in the Past Hectic Month

1. Praying for strength might mean I have to experience life puzzles that require me to exercise/expose my weakness in order to gain and maintain “strength.”

2. Be less afraid of standing my ground and fighting (figuratively).

3. Accept that opposition is inevitable and necessary; and then learn how to prepare to win.

4. Being healthy is more important than being Instagram “sexy” Although, being healthy usually makes me feel Instagram sexy and happy. So, win-win!

5. Yes, sometimes blessings come in small things, but other times they come hidden within challenging times and hard work.

6. Be more patient and have more faith, especially in times when the outcome is unknown.

7. Sometimes success cannot be achieved in anonymity.

8. Care less about what people think about me, and then care even less.

9. Count the moments instead of counting the years.

10. Life is not short, maybe we are just wasting time.

What are some life lessons you have recently learned? Share your nuggets of wisdom!

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?