Tag Archive | self love

Are You Vanilla Ice Cream?

In the past few months, two major publishing houses have shown an interest in publishing the book I am planning to write. Most writers spend their entire life working for the kind of opportunities that have been presented to me, so I do not take these blessings lightly.

Words usually flow out of me like a river, but every time I attempt to write this book, I am dry. Nothing of significance gets put on paper.

I wrote a few chapters and submitted them to one publisher, only to realize afterward that they were terrible (not her words, she was too kind, but mine). I wrote about my journey, my life, like I was an objective observer, a newspaper reporter stating the facts of an event; not as someone who was thrust into darkness and climbed out of it to share the story.

I admit, the thought of actually writing a book terrifies me. The negative voices swirl round and round in my head: What if the readers don’t like it? Who am I to write a book? Who would care about what I have to say? What if people laugh at me?

But, I understand the importance of releasing such thoughts, and I have never let fear keep me from trying something new. It is my philosophy to push aside what others think, throw caution to the wind, and “go for it.” So, what is different this time? What is stopping me?

I have racked my brain for months trying to put my finger on the problem, and then, after a conversation with Dr. Barbara DeAngelis, it dawned on me that it isn’t the fear of failure that is blocking me, but rather my unwillingness to reveal a deep part of myself; my unwillingness to be vulnerable; my unwillingness to step out from the pack.

For most of my life, my identity has been based on my strength, my ability to be in control. I take care of others. I handle situations with nerves of steel. I am the energizer bunny – I keep going and going and going. If I reveal my vulnerability, as this book challenges me to do, I will show a part of myself with which I am uncomfortable. I will be flawed…exposed…human. Am I ready for that?

I am most comfortable somewhere in the middle of life – not blending into the woodwork and not swinging from a star. As Renee Gambino, an income breakthrough strategist, would say, I’m vanilla ice cream.

Writing this book presents me with the chance to make a difference in someone’s life, but in order to do so I must be willing to be authentic, open, and rise above the mediocrity. A true challenge… but a worthy endeavor.

So, after much self-examination, I’m listening to Barbara and writing again. This time with a very different approach – I’m writing from a place of truth, vulnerability and humility. Who knows where this challenge will lead me but it will definitely be an interesting ride.

The moral of this story: If you want to achieve something worthwhile in life, if you want to fulfill a dream or reach for the stars, you must be willing to dig deep to a place that makes you uncomfortable. You must be willing to expose a part of yourself, for better or worse, and you must be willing to stand out from the crowd. We have one life and it is brief. Isn’t it better to be pistachio almond (with hot fudge and sprinkles on top)?!

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Eliminate the Number One Relationship Killer

Communication is an important part, if not the most important part, of any relationship. The way you communicate has a major impact on your ability to get along with the various people in your life – spouses, children, coworkers, friends, and neighbors. When communication breaks down, relationships suffer. According to recent research, poor communication is the number one reason why couples (and friendships) break up.

Any relationship worth having experiences conflict at some point. The conflict isn’t the problem (conflict is a natural part of intimacy), how the situation is handled is the determining factor in whether the relationship will deepen or be torn apart.

Interpersonal communication styles are developed from life experiences. Your responses are often so automatic that it’s easy to fall into the trap of using ineffective communication. Being an effective communicator requires some work; it requires being mindful about your style and being honest about your role in the conversation. As George Bernard Shaw stated, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

While there is a long list of behaviors that lead to ineffective communication, below are a few that may be the biggest culprits. Do you see yourself in any of these scenarios?

Making Assumptions
A big mistake that can shut down communication is when one person makes an assumption about what another person has said or done. You’ve heard the old saying, when you assume, you make an “ass” out of “u” and “me”. While corny, the saying holds true. Assuming is a prescription for trouble.

Recently, I heard a story about one friend who blocked another friend on Facebook because she assumed the person made a post about her. Without discussing it, making her feelings known, and hearing what the other person had to say, she accused, tried and convicted the person, all the time the accused had no idea why she was being sentenced. This person offers more courtesy to someone in the judicial system (innocent until proven guilty) than she did to someone she “cared” about. This is an example of what happens when we assume to know a situation or create our own version of it instead of finding out the truth.

As Miguel Ruiz wrote in The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, “If others tell us something we make assumptions, and if they don’t tell us something we make assumptions to fulfill our need to know and to replace the need to communicate. Even if we hear something and we don’t understand we make assumptions about what it means and then believe the assumptions. We make all sorts of assumptions because we don’t have the courage to ask questions.”

More times than not, nothing people say or do is about you. When you remove the assumption that something is about you, you stop taking it personally and open the door for honest communication.

Projecting
Projection involves projecting undesirable feelings or emotions onto someone else, rather than admitting to or dealing with the unwanted feelings. When you project your feelings onto another person, you give your voice to the other person and create a scenario that may not actually exist.

For example, if you have done something to a friend for which you feel guilty, your friend may not agree with your feelings or be upset with you, but you project your guilt onto that person and then believe he or she is angry at you. Anything that person says or does leads you to believe he or she is acting from a place of anger and you respond to the imaginary situation. This is a distorted vision of reality that will undoubtedly create a communication issue.

Mental Telepathy
How often do you believe someone should know what you are thinking or what you want or need without telling him or her? This is a common complaint when discussing communication issues – the expectation that he should have known. How could someone know what you want if you don’t tell her? Stop expecting and start stating!

Keeping Feelings to Yourself
Do you believe that it is better to keep your mouth shut and avoid conflict? Keeping things bottled up inside is not the way to develop or sustain a loving relationship. If you have something to say, say it. Effective communicating means just that … to communicate. I pride myself on my ability to let people know how I feel. Friends and loved ones may not necessarily like to hear my expressions, but like it or not, no one can ever say that I didn’t communicate my feelings. Open communication also shows that you love and respect someone enough to trust them with your deepest thoughts.

Just as important, if you have something good to say about your partner, say it often. Praise and appreciation are usually unspoken and they go a long way in cultivating a relationship.

Good Listening
In addition to discussing your feelings, you must have the ability to enable others to talk about theirs. Stop worrying about what you are going to say next and listen to what is being said to you. Listening, empathizing and sympathizing are skills that can strengthen a relationship. Really hearing what someone says and then being able to put yourself in his or her shoes may create an understanding that can diffuse any situation.

Own Up to Your Part
Two of the most powerful words are “I’m sorry” and yet so many people have trouble saying them. Admitting the error of your ways does not make you weak, to the contrary, it shows your strength. People twist stories, shout louder, and reject others simply because they can’t admit they are wrong. Don’t be one of those people.

The importance of effective communication becomes obvious when you see all the ways ineffective communication can harm a relationship. Taking the time to recognize your style and improve your interpersonal skills is definitely worth the effort. As Anthony Robbins said, “The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.”

For Big Change, Think Small

It’s the end of another year (how is that possible?). The time when we reflect on the past 365 days, take stock of where we are, and decide the path of our life moving forward. We make a list of things we want to change and create resolutions to get the job done. We start the year off with a bang moving full force in the new direction, and then boom… a different bang, we hit a wall. Everything we strive to accomplish with such passion slides to the side and we fall back into the routine of the behavior we know so well.

There’s a familiarity about the promises we make to ourselves each year. You can easily ask yourself: Didn’t I make those self-same promises last year? And maybe even the year before?

So why, if we are so determined to make change, do we fall short of our goals?

According to experts, one of the main reasons New Year’s resolutions are so hard to maintain is because the thing we want to change is a habit – behavior that comes from the subconscious part of our brain that is done automatically, without conscious thought.

Typical resolutions like eating healthy, quitting smoking or drinking, increasing physical activity, or spending more time with loved ones, are designed to change routines that have been around for many years. While it’s easy to assume that we should be able to willfully make long-term changes to established patterns, desire alone is usually not enough.

According to Charles Duhigg, in his book, The Power of Habit, there is a three step loop that occurs: A cue or trigger, which tells your brain to go into automatic mode. The routine, which can be physical, mental or emotional. And the reward, which helps your brain determine if this loop is worth remembering for the future. Over time, this loop becomes more and more automatic.

While wanting to change is the first step, experts say that the key to enacting lasting change is understanding the process and identifying your triggers. For example, if you want to quit smoking, you can quit cold turkey, but understanding what triggered your smoking will give you a greater chance of success. When you recognize what situations trigger your current habit – having a morning cup of coffee, stress, drinking alcohol, going out with friends, driving, etc. – you can create a positive habit that you are going to do instead.

So, when you wake in the morning and have coffee, instead of smoking, what will you do? If you’re stressed or out with friends, what will you do? Replace the old habit with a positive one. Be mindful and consistent. Create the new routine that results from the trigger and your brain learns the new reward.

Don’t try to change your life all at once. Some people decide that they are going to lose weight, exercise every day, quit smoking, get a new job, and spend more time with family. A complete overhaul will lead to overload and you will give up. Work on one habit at a time and take baby steps. Lean in gently. If you usually leave work at 7 pm and want to spend more time with family, go home at 6:30 pm for a few weeks or even months. Then gradually make it earlier. Once that becomes a new habit, work on something else.

Lasting change won’t happen overnight. But with mindfulness, determination, consistency, and patience, you can achieve any goal you desire. Remember for big change, think small. As Mark Twain said, “Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.”

The Miracle of Friendship

A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you. – Elbert Hubbard

Recently someone asked me what I believe are the qualities of a good friend. To be honest, I had to stop and think about this for a while because it is something to which I really hadn’t given much thought. I have always been surrounded by an army of friends, many of whom have been by my side since childhood, so I probably take friendship for granted.

To answer this question, I decided to look at the people in my life to find some commonalities and examine my behavior towards them. In doing so, I compiled this list of what I believe makes a good friend. There are many more qualities that can be added, but I think these are the biggies. Finding someone who embodies these attributes and being this person for another is a true gift.

Loyal to the end. Perhaps one of the best ways to determine true friendship is to see who keeps your secrets. A true friend would never make you the subject of idle gossip and would go to the grave with something you said in confidence. Finding a confidant can be quite challenging, but when you do, cherish that person and hold on with everything you’ve got.

Doesn’t judge. We all make mistakes and do stupid things. A true friend does not judge you and will not treat you differently, no matter what you’ve done. He or she will stand by your side when everyone else has turned against you.

They’ll be the mirror you’re afraid to look into. Sometimes you may not see that you’re involved in harmful behavior, physically or emotionally. You may be in a romantic relationship that doesn’t serve you well, have a dead end job, or be abusing substances. During these times a true friend will tell you things you don’t necessarily want to hear. This person will speak the hard truths and will be someone on whom you can depend for brutal honesty.

Motivates you to do better. A true friend is your best cheerleader. This person is not jealous about your accomplishments and will always encourage you to believe in yourself, because he or she believes in you. This friend challenges you and builds you up, he or she doesn’t tear you down.

Unconditional love. You don’t have to work for a true friend’s affection; the love is not based on what you do for him or her. This person doesn’t care about your financial status or job position. You are loved solely because of who you are.

Always by your side (even when you don’t ask for help). Everyone has times of need, and a true friend will be by your side helping out, or just sitting with you in silence. He or she provides support and comfort and you get through the difficult time just because this person is there.

Spend Valentine’s Day with the Love of Your Life

­I was watching television recently when it happened … I saw the first commercial for the Valentine’s Day diamond collection – you know, the gift that every woman will treasure. As I listened to the music and watched as the camera panned the romantic setting, waves of emotion overcame me like a tsunami. At that moment, in my mind, everyone in the world was in a loving, committed relationship and I was going to be the only person sitting home alone on February 14 (most likely eating ice cream).

Realistic assumption? Of course not. But for a few minutes the drama queen in me took over and my emotions ran wild. Fortunately, I was able to reign them in, but the feelings I experienced are very common.

The truth of the matter is that while there are many people in wonderful relationships, there are more people today living life as singles than ever before. So, there are more people sitting home believing that they are less of a person because they are one and not a part of two. Society perpetuates this belief.

When we are little, we are taught that we need someone to complete us. The princess is always in search of her prince. We search high and low for him, trying on every glass slipper looking for the perfect fit. Sometimes we find the right shoe, other times we squeeze a size nine into a seven. Going barefoot is never an option.

We are given the misguided notion that life is a Hallmark commercial. But… guess what? The fairytale doesn’t exist; at least not in the way it’s portrayed. There is no prince or princess that will make any of us live happily ever after – no outside person can do that; it’s an inside job.

Until we rekindle the flame of self-love, there will be failed or unfulfilled relationships and tears at the thought of being alone. The self-love I refer to has nothing to do with being selfish, it’s actually being selfless. It’s putting the time and energy into understanding who we are and what we want. It’s about finding our path and fulfilling our dreams. It’s making ourself whole so we can be in a relationship with another (or not) in a healthy way. When we’re whole, there is no jealousy, resentment or neediness. It enables us to find (or stay with) someone who complements us – not completes us.

What better time than Valentine’s Day to reestablish a relationship with yourself? Let it take root and then share it with your soul mate or your sole mate!

You’re Amazing Just the Way You Are

You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection. ~ Buddah

One recent evening, I was invited to be the keynote presenter for a divorce recovery group. As I was getting ready to go on, the moderator opened the event by playing the Bruno Mars hit, Just the Way You Are. As the song played in the background, she commented to the group that anyone would want to have that song sung to him/her by a loving admirer.

As I looked around the room, some attendees nodded in agreement, but written across the faces of others was a tearful longing for such an expression of love.

I agree that the words are beautiful and that most would desire to be involved with such a devoted partner, however, before we should want to hear those words from an outsider, we should be able to look in the mirror and recite those words to ourself.

Why do we feel the need to look externally for validation? Why can’t we find it within ourself to have a love affair with ourself. We are the one person we can always count on from cradle to grave. Why do we need someone else to tell us we’re beautiful in order to believe it?

If we don’t love ourself, how can we truly love another and participate in a mutually beneficial, healthy relationship? It’s time to stop looking outside and begin a love relationship with yourself. Once you do, one day should you hear those words from another, it will be the icing on the cake and not the cake, and you’ll believe them, own them, and treasure them.

Here’s my challenge to you, write the following words on a piece of paper and tape them on your bathroom mirror. Every morning when you wake up (after brushing your teeth) and every evening before you go to sleep (after brushing your teeth), look directly in the mirror… smile as big as you can… and recite the following:

When I see your face
There’s not a thing that I would change
Cause you’re amazing
Just the way you are.
And when you smile
The whole world stops and stares for awhile
Cause… you’re amazing
Just the way you are.

Say it… hear it… believe it… Cause you’re amazing just the way you are!

There Will Always Be An Invincible Summer Within

In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer. ~ Albert Camus

Happy New Year!

As another new year begins, it is time for my first message of the year. I have spent hours pondering what I want this important message to be, as it sets the tone for the year ahead. As I reflected on 2011, and all the wonderful things that have happened to me, I realized that the message is simple: Even in the darkest moments of your life, there is strength within you (that you don’t even know exists) and, if you don’t give up and succumb to the negative feelings, you will realize that there is hope and that better times lie ahead.

For someone who is going through an extremely traumatic period in life, you may believe that I am preaching bull because you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel or because you believe that your life is over. While the life that you know may be over, or to be more correct, changed, there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel. Trust me…I know.

You see, up until recently, I lived a pretty charmed life. I had wonderful parents and a loving family. I got married immediately after graduating from college. We bought a nice home, had two kids and great friends. I was living the dream. Then from August 2010 until January 2011, in a period of five months, everything changed. Little did I know when I began my work about the importance of a positive attitude (which I always believed), that I would become the greatest student of the lessons. During those five months, my 23-year marriage fell apart, my mother and sister (my last remaining original family members) died, my dear friend lost her battle with brain cancer, and a trusted friend betrayed me. In those months, I lost almost everything that I knew. I lost my security. I felt alone and vulnerable. The life I knew no longer existed.

People often fall apart from experiencing any one of these events. For some reason, I experienced them all at once. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t knocked down. There were dark moments when I questioned whether I wanted to keep going. While deep down I knew I would never take my own life, there were moments when I thought about it.

Fortunately, due to my work, those really dark moments were fleeting. I became the student of the people I interviewed. I read the books, learned the lessons, and shared the wisdom. I spent much time thinking, writing, reflecting, and getting in touch with myself. Being an active participant in the process of healing saved my life. I learned the importance of a positive attitude and CHOSE to see the gifts and lessons being offered to me. I have found my inner strength and am learning how to count on ME and love ME!

Now when I look back over 2011, while there may be a twinge of sadness, the pain does not engulf me and I am able to say that many wonderful things have happened to me.

So, as 2012 begins, no matter what you are experiencing, always remember that change, resulting in pain and sadness, is inevitable. But if you embrace it, learn from it and grow with it, you will realize that you are strong and that there will always be an invincible summer within. Sometimes it’s just a bit more challenging to find …  but it’s always there.