Friday, March 11, 2016

Unconditional Love...Its Possible

Last night I was scrolling through Facebook and came across this video posted by HuffPost Black Voices about an inspirational quote that changed the course of actress Tracee Ellis Ross' life. I love a good quote so I had to press play, it was:

"Right now can you make an unconditional relationship with yourself, just at the height you are, the weight you are, with the intelligence that you have and your current burden of pain, can you enter into an unconditional relationship with that." ~Pema Chodron  (Link to videoHuffPost Black Voices )

This quote forced me to really question the type of love I have for often I think, how can I be something other than I am? Instead of really loving and appreciating the person I am today, right in this moment.

Self-acceptance and self-love has been an ongoing struggle in my life. It is a battle that I fight to overcome on a daily basis. I believe what prevents me from conquering that battle is my lack of self-compassion. We are our own worst critics! We need to recognize that given our defenses, blind spots, insecurities, and that harmful things you may have been exposed to, you really are doing the best you can- and have been all along. Also we need to stop evaluating ourselves according to standards that don't really fit you are, or what you can realistically expect of yourself.

I have learned that once you succeed in accepting yourself more-in simply coming to appreciate who you are and who you are not- the self-judgement barriers that have prevented you from loving yourself other than conditionally begin to gradually fall away. Its in this much more kind-hearted and understanding self-recognition that lies the path not just to unconditional self-acceptance nut also to unconditional self-love.

I know from my own personal experience that unconditional love is an everyday battle, but its worth it. When you start to believe and know you deserve it the feelings will come easier. Just as in any type of relationship you have to put in the work or it will become stagnant. Once you start waking up everyday deciding that you're going to do whatever it takes to make my relationship with myself work, because it is important. It matters enough to me to work at it everyday. That does not mean I win everyday.

Loving yourself begins with accepting yourself right now. We must look at every vestige of limitation as a creation of past thoughts and feelings.Whether it is a personal weight problem, inflated ego, mistaken activities, or engaging in events we would rather forget, we can release all of them. 

No one can do it for you. Unconditionally loving yourself is a personal commitment and a lifelong journey. Believe in yourself enough to listen to your inner wisdom. Know what you know and be who you are.

Be patient with the process. Sometimes small shifts happen over time. Allowing your own process to unfold over time is an act of love in itself. 

We are all human, and we all deserve love. Today, do yourself a favor and start with yourself...unconditionally.

Monday, January 11, 2016

You are enough...Period.

You are enough....

The words are simple enough, but the meaning is very regularly lost.

Maybe not lost, but dismissed. Tossed aside. Neglected. I think we are all familiar with these words, but if you are anything like me, you see them for a brief moment before snatching them off their shiny, fluffy clouds, crumpling them and shoving them under a rock while looking around to see if anyone is watching.

I am not patient enough. I am not smart enough. I am not strong enough.

The enough trap. This trap is an ugly, painful cycle that can easily ensnare us. In a world that keeps telling us there is always more, nicer, bigger, better, it can be hard to feel like we are enough. We are constantly comparing and never satisfied.

I like to play ignorant of the fact that I am enough because accepting that fact is HARD. It is easier to internalize the criticisms, compare out, and constantly try to jump to a ledge that is always just a little out of reach. How does that make sense? I'll just pretend I didn't know about it and then no one can challenge the fact that I haven't been accepting it.

There are days when I get it and days when I don't. Writing about things is a wonderful way for me to process them. A way for me to think out loud. That being said, when I write posts like these they are often when I am in the middle or just on the cusp of internalizing an important message or principle. I'd rather write about them now than when I have it all "figured out" because I think writing in the middle is more authentic. Granted, I may seem more scattered, but aren't we all?

No matter how hard we try, how much we work, or how much we have, we can become victim to a vicious cycle of striving an never feeling like enough. I have my days that no matter how much I have tried and how much I have done, I still feel inadequate and defeated.

When we are so hard on ourselves and think we cannot measure up to what we think God expects of us, it can be hard to accept the fact that He loves us just the way we are.

SO, coupled with the information I know to be inherently true and the fact that we are often far more compassionate with others than we are with ourselves, I have a few things to share with you...I venture that if there actually were a handbook issued at birth, t might go like this:

1. You are a miracle. Never forgot this fact. Just the science alone is mind blowing.

2. You are unique. No one will ever be as good at being you as you are. Seriously.

3. You are enough. Always. Never doubt this. There is nothing to add, but feel free to expand.

4. There is always, always, more to learn, but that is not failure it is a gift. It can be fun too.

5. Every obstacle is an opportunity to fall further into the miracle that is you.

6. Commit to being the best version of your ever day. Re-calibrate definition of "best" as needed.

7. Forgive. Forgive. Forgive every which way. Forgive him. Forgive her. Most of all forgive you

8. Compassion is the key to forgiveness. Compassion means you feel the humanity in others.

9. The more you forgive, the more you'll enjoy being you, because the lighter your load will be.

10. In the end, as in the beginning: YOU. ARE. Amazing.

I have a spent a lot of time trying to be what I thought others and the world wanted me to be. It has been one of the most tiring existences. I'm not sure where I got my concept of what the world wanted me to be, because when I actually realized what that was, it had nothing to do with what my brain told me.

The more that I speak from the heart and take the time to nurture the things that make me unique, the more receptive I find the world to be. Being myself requires far less work and because of that I am able to invest more time in developing who I am. Finding a voice. Changing the world...or at least my little corner of the world.

Won't you join me?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

33 Things About Me on my 33rd Birthday...

So I decided to share a little about myself for my birthday this here are a few things about me that you may or may not already know...happy reading!!

Some of my favorite quotes/scriptures that have gotten me through:

1) "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11

2) "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never   forget how you made them feel." ~ Maya Angelou

3) "Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith." ~ Steve Jobs

4) The older I get, the more I value kindness above all else. There is a Plato quote I have tried to live by for years: Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle."

5) "Truth is everybody is going to hurt you: you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for." ~ Bob Marley

6) "Remember who you are and Whose you are." ~  My Mother

7) "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13

8) "For I am convinced that neither death not life, neither angels nor demons, neither present nor the future, nor any powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." 

9) "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time." ~Maya Angelou

10) "Where there is no struggle, there is no strength." ~ Oprah Winfrey

Some things I've learned along the way:

11) Be nice. The world is a small town.

12) A broken heart hurts worse than a broken bone. And you will survive both....I promise.

13) Everyone is worse than you and better than you in some way. You can learn something from everyone.

14) Sometimes it's just your turn to be that girl/guy. Laugh it off!

15) The only real things in life are attitude and perspective. The same thing can happen to multiple people but its's each of their attitude and perspective that changes the impact, effect and aftermath.

16) You cannot control anybody else's action. You can only control your response to them.

17) A delay is not a denial.

18) Often, when you think someone has an issue with you, or you are wondering what you did wrong, it's really about them and has nothing to do with you.

19) Common sense is not common.

20) When I've been in overwhelming, upsetting or emotionally draining situations and feel like I'm drowning, I find it helps to connect with people outside of the situation (friends I haven't seen in a long time for example). I am reminded that although what I'm dealing with seems enormous, it only impacts me, and I'll get through it. There's more to life than solely what's happening to me at that moment.

21) Love is a decision, not a feeling.

Some people I am grateful for:

22) My parents - My E-very-thing! Without you I would be nothing! You have allowed me to grow at my own pace and have been there to pick me and put me back together every step of the way. Your unconditional love for Michael and I is overwhelming. You have sacrificed and given so much of yourselves to ensure that we succeed, we have no choice but to do just that!

23) My brother- My Heart. You know me better than I know myself and you remind me of that as often as you can, lol. Your amazing ability to always tell me like it is regardless if I want to hear it or not keeps me grounded. You inspire me so much with your drive and focus, once you go for something you always seem to get it or something better. I cannot wait to see what God has in store for you in all of your future endeavors. I want to be like you when I grow up!! Love you snookums!!

24) My Friends - You know who you are: those people who I can text in the middle of a meltdown for consoling, who always make me laugh even when I don't want to, who remind me of how far I've come, and those of you who check me when I an swerving out of my lane...I adore you all! They say friends are the family you get to choose and I thank God for blessing me with such amazing family.

25) Associates- We may not be the closest, but just knowing some of you has made a a big impression in my life. Thank God for social media keeping us all connected and able to sneak a peek into each other's life every now and then.

26) Evidence of God's Hand in my life- God has turned every test I have had to face into a testimony. I can write on an on about what He has brought me through to become the woman I am today. One of my favorite sayings is, "...But God," because with Him I know that all things are possible. He may take us through some valleys along the way, but its all for a purpose...He's preparing you for greatness...step into it...claim's yours!

Goals/Promises to Myself:

27) People will come and go in life, but the person in the mirror will be there forever so Be Good to Yourself. 

28) Travel more...I recently renewed my passport and I intend to fill it up with stamps...we got to see some world ya'll.

29) Let go! So simple, but soooo hard for me sometimes.

30) Pay it forward...whether it be through participating in charitable events, mentoring, or just being a listening ear for someone who needs it.

My Hopes and Prayers:

31) In the words of the late Maya Angelou "My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.

32) I thank God everyday for my family, my health, my trials, my success, my tears, my laughter. Everything which make me and matures me.

33) I pray that we all make it some way, somehow! I pray that God will provide every need for each and everyone of you and that you will always find a reason to smile. Life is not easy, but stay patient and trust your journey!

.....That's it!

Thanks for reading! (Much Love to all of you that made it to the end! Lol :-)

Me xoxo

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Stop Settling for Less, You Deserve More!

Do The Best You Can Until You Know Better

It's easy to convince ourselves that we should keep our expectations and standards low to avoid getting hurt or let down. Settling for less, denying ourselves, or putting things off for later is something we do far too often. We settle for less far more than most of us realize, on a daily basis.

We might think it's no big deal, or that we're just being humble or modest or that we're being a little lazy. Perhaps. But when we do it too often or with regard to things that matter too much (love life, physical health, self image, and more), the bottom line is that we don't think we deserve it. That we aren't worth the extra work. That we are being selfish, picky, or demanding if we elect to ask more of ourselves and FOR ourselves.

I've gone through waves of settling for less in my life that almost make me cringe to this day.(I say almost because I was doing the best I could at the time.) My worst (best?) example is my last relationship. That was settling in a BIG way. I was extremely unhappy, but figured that was life, or at least the life I deserved. Crazy right? I had not yet learned how to be true to my heart or be independent/self-reliant--but that's another story.

Of all the difficult experiences that individuals face in life, being alone can be among the hardest. Growing up, you probably weren't given good examples of how to be alone. It seems like everything you see in movies and TV and on the internet is about how to find the right partner and make it work. There’s nothing wrong with seeking love, because it’s beautiful and can bring about some of the most treasured moments in our lives. But very few people know how to be alone and do it well. They aren't happy to be alone. They fear it and seek love wherever they go. Too often the pleasure they find in falling in love is the sweet release of no longer being by themselves in the world.

I'll share another example. In my late 20s I was very overweight, isolated, depressed and totally out of touch with my needs, wants, and identity. I wore clothes that were more appropriate for someone much older and frumpier than me. Deep down, I thought that was all I deserved. That it didn't matter, that I didn't matter. I was a passive bystander in my own life. I had not yet realized that I had a choice about most everything in my world. 

It often feels easier to settle than to fight for what you want, but in the long run it’s much more work. To not fully express who you are and to deny yourself your birthright to choose to be happy and to have fun, is ultimately a draining and depressing influence on your life.

We slip into these patterns sometimes, but be aware of when you're consciously tempted to settle, to slide into “this is good enough” mode. Keep giving yourself the time and energy to be your best. Yes, it takes energy, and it takes faith, but ultimately the more you live with that energy and attitude, the more joy and energy it gives you back. You deserve and ARE better than that!

Pay attention to your thoughts and to that little sad feeling or twinge in your heart when you deny yourself things that matter to you. A thousand of those little stings add up to make an unfulfilled and lonelier life than any of us deserve when happiness and joy is right there for the taking. Don't put off your dreams for later. 

Remember, it’s not about a number or anything so rigid - be kind to yourself. It’s about how you feel. Be dead honest with yourself and your internal compass will steer you straight. Accept yourself and keep pushing yourself to be your best you WHILE loving yourself (no conditional love allowed: "I'll love me when I lose 20 pounds" - no, boo boo, that is not how it works). Find love in your heart for yourself as you are right now and you will find the inner strength and belief that can move mountains.

Now go do something nice for yourself, you deserve it! And as always Be Good to Yourself (BGTY)!

Mostly, you gain strength when you learn to listen to your own voice and live life on your own terms.” 
~Sara Eckel

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Foreboding Joy

"Joy is the most vulnerable emotion we experience, and if we cannot tolerate joy, what you do is you start dress rehearsing for tragedy. When we lose our tolerance for vulnerability, joy becomes foreboding." When I heard Dr. Brene Brown say this on Oprah's Lifeclass I had an epiphany.

What we do in moments of joyfulness is we try to beat vulnerability to the punch, 'dress rehearse for tragedy.' This is my biggest character flaw, I tend to downplay anything good that happens to me because I am terrified that the other shoe is going to drop and this 'joy' will be be taken away. The second I start feeling joy, instead of relishing the blessings, I start analyzing the reasons why this joy won't last. It's like, by trying to imagine the worst case scenarios, I think I am going to protect myself from what I fear most. But vulnerability is not a weakness, in fact it can turn out to be our greatest strength. But instead of being vulnerable we put up emotional shields to protect ourselves.

Dress rehearsing for tragedy is imagining something bad is gonna happen when in reality, nothing is wrong. Dr. Brown also shared this: "How many of you have ever stood over your child while they're sleeping and thought, 'Oh my God I love you' --- and then pictured something horrific happening? Or woke up in the morning and thought, Oh my gosh, job's going great, parents are good....this can't last. Instead of using joy as a warning to practicing disaster, use it as a reminder to practice gratitude."

Truth is, it doesn't work. If we lose a loved one, get fired from our job or fall into financial distress, no dress rehearsal will protect you from the reality of loss and pain. And in the interim, you've missed your chance at real, uninhibited joy.

Truly joyful people do not allow fear to take away from fully experiencing joy. Instead of dress rehearsing for tragedy they say I am going to practice gratitude. Gratitude is a is tangible! Go get it!!

"To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in life that doesn't come with guarantees -- these are risks that involve vulnerability and often pain. But, I'm learning that recognizing and leaning into the discomfort of vulnerability teaches us how to live with joy, gratitude and grace." 
~ Dr. Brene Brown

P.S. I have been writing this post for two weeks...glad that I am finally in the right space to post it. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Love the Skin You're In

During this award season the beautiful and talented Lupita Nyong'o has taken Hollywood by storm. She has won award after award for her profound performance in 12 Years A Slave. During the whirlwind of acceptance speeches she gave, one stuck out to me in particular and inspired me to write this post. At the 7th Annual Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon , she was honored with the Best Breakthrough Performance Award.

She said:

 " mother would say to me, 'You can't eat beauty. It doesn't feed you.' And these words plagued      and bothered me; I didn't really understand them until finally I realized that beauty was not a thing that I  could acquire or consume, it was something that I just had to be. And what my mother meant when she said you can't eat beauty was that you can't rely on how you look to sustain you. What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul. And so I hope my presence on your screens and in the magazines may lead you...on a similar journey. That you will feel the validation of your external beauty but also get the deeper business of being beautiful inside. There is no shade to that beauty."

I can remember when I couldn't look into the mirror at my own reflection...I just didn't like what I saw. I didn't think I was beautiful, pretty, attractive...none of those descriptive words resonated with me in any way. These feelings led me to make decisions that did nothing to uplift my thoughts or encourage any type of self-love.

It has taken many years and many changes in my life to get to a place where I can say that I am falling back in love with myself....just the way I am. So often we will say, I'll love myself when I lose this weight, when I get this man/woman, or when I get this job. But what about loving ourselves now...right here in the middle of all our imperfections. Can we do that?

Trust me, I know its a tall order. I didn't reach this space overnight, it has taken me a little over a decade to be able to genuinely say that I truly love and accept myself just as I am.  Once I started focusing on my positive qualities, my strengths, and abilities, I started letting go of my harsh self-criticism, comparing myself to others and self-hatred.

Here are some steps I took to get back to loving me:

1. Be Kind to yourself, or my favorite  Be Good to Yourself (BGTY) - Accept yourself shortcoming and all. And be aware of how you treat yourself, you are IMPORTANT!

2. Give yourself a break- No one is perfect! Don't set such high standards for yourself emotionally and mentally. Its normal to feel sadness and to hit some low points in life.

3. Embrace yourself - Are you content being alone by yourself without feelings of anxiety, fear and judgment? Learn to embrace the solitude and get comfortable in your own skin. 

4. Be Grateful - I cannot stress this enough! When you are grateful for the things that you have, no matter how small they may be, you will see those things increase. Whenever I am about to start my own personal pity party I look at all I have and how far I've made it...that always brings me back to being grateful.

5. Give yourself in service to others - The love you share with others in the form of service will help you feel more love and fulfillment in your life. 

The process of loving yourself starts with understanding your true nature. It took a combination of meditation, therapy, writing and silence for me to come to terms with my past and my present. Only once I realized I wasn't loving myself could I attempt to change that.

Falling in love with yourself is a beautiful experience. It's learning to laugh at your awkward tendencies and smile at all your quirky little habits. It's learning to be grateful for the many sides you have -- confident, crazy, shy, sexy, nerdy, angry, weird, and all the rest of them. It is realizing that you're one of a kind - there's only one YOU - and that you deserve to give the world the best person you can be. Falling in love with yourself is being happy in your life and knowing that in this one moment in time, you're beautiful simply because you are you.

"Your task is not to seek for Love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it." ~ Rumi

Friday, February 21, 2014

Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone

Being the naturally lazy creatures that we are -- always doing our best to make life more pleasurable (or rather, what we believe would make our lives more pleasurable) -- we prefer staying within our comfort zones. Leaving our comfort zone is unpleasant and comfort is easy to achieve most times. We all fear uncertainty, loss, pain, and so we seek to cushion ourselves against the rawness of life by spending our lives in artificial, climate- controlled boxes safe from unwanted intrusion.

Powerful forces conspire to keep you in your comfort zones, penned by fear. The system wants you to be compliant, following the rules of the group, be an acceptor rather than a creator. Fear of social judgment discourages you from trying anything with a risk of rejection or failure.

Unfortunately changing our habits is not easy -- for one simple reason: it's uncomfortable. No matter what your habits -- healthy, unhealthy, productive, destructive -- going against them will be uncomfortable. Most people don't give discomfort the credit it is due because most of us , if only subconsciously, do our best to avoid feeling uncomfortable.

The problem is that if you never feel discomfort then you clearly never leave your comfort zone. if you don't leave your comfort zone then you will never form the habits that you need to form in order to succeed. That's what it all comes down to: forming habits that will nurture and support your success. In order to change your life you must form new habits -- habits in all aspects of your life moving your comfort zone to new, unknown territory.

Think back to the most meaningful, amazing moments of your life. When you examine them you will find that they had you stepping out of your comfort zone. Trying something new and unfamiliar brings extra excitement and emotion to an event. These highs leave us with a greater sense of accomplishment and fulfillment than simply doing the same thing every day.

Ideas, concepts or goals alone are not enough to motivate us. They are ideas -- not living things that move and can affect. We can try to find outside sources of motivation, but unless you can hire a personal trainer and life coach to sit down with you every week, then you're basically on your own. But this is not something that should scare you.

You can become your greatest motivator, all that you need to do is talk to yourself. Yes, I know it sounds silly. And yes, if you talk to yourself out loud in public, then people may very well think that you are insane. But thankfully you can have full conversations with yourself inside your head. Most people underestimate the strength and importance of talking to oneself. Not only will talking to yourself keep you sane -- literally -- it also works as the greatest motivational system the world has ever seen.

"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone." ~ Neale Donald Walsch