Getting outside of the box

day1Earlier today, a friend of mine asked me why, if I am a success diva, I am worried about what others think of my decisions or actions.  She told me that it “troubles” her that I would be bothered by other peoples’ opinions of me. Well, since I have committed myself to being completely honest with all of you, I have a confession to make. I have always been a person who has battled a plethora of insecurities. At one time or another, I have considered myself to not be pretty enough, accomplished enough, successful enough, or popular enough to achieve anything important in life, and I have consistently found myself blaming that which I have achieved on mere “luck”.  If you think for a moment that I have always been someone who has possessed a tremendous amount of self-assurance, you are quite mistaken. What I have discovered, however, at this point in my life, is that I must accept myself for who I am, in spite of all my perceived flaws. To do otherwise will prevent me from ever making any of my dreams a reality. Does this mean that I feel confident about all the choices I make?? No, far from it. In fact, I have to work each day to convince myself that I am doing the best I can at the point I’m at in my life. It sometimes seems like a bit of an uphill struggle, yet I persist. In reply to my friend and anyone else who thinks that being a success diva means that I am immune to the criticism I receive from others, I can only say that the opposite is true. If anything, I am more sensitive to criticism than ever, for I am more committed than ever to being the kind of person that others look up to and are inspired by. So, when someone comes along and sends a dart in my direction—whether that is their intention or not—it penetrates far below the surface. I have said in past times that I am a “deeply flawed diva”. Well, I think what I was really feeling when I made this remark is that I am an entirely human diva, which means that, like each one of you, I, too, want to be approved of and appreciated. The difficulty with this sort of mind-set is that you will always be frustrated because no matter what you do or how much you strive to make all the right decisions, there will always be someone that you end up disappointing.

So, how do you manage to hold on to your feelings of self-worth, knowing that there are others who are going to find fault with  you? First of all, you have to free yourself from what I would call in-the-box thinking. What is in-the-box thinking? It’s the kind of thinking that many of us have lived our whole lives with. It is rooted in fear and tends to encourage us to dwell on all of our past mistakes rather than focus on the things that we have done well. Although most people don’t realize it, fear is something that will hold you with an iron grip that is so tight that it often feels as if you’re in a prison. Author Dorothy Parker once wrote of how she felt an enormous amount of apprehension when it came to writing. She even implied that trying to express herself was sheer torture, even though she knew that she must do so in order to be fulfilled creatively. Another example of someone who ended up imprisoned in a cage of fear is writer Ernest Hemingway. Who would think that a man who seemed to live so fully and enjoy life so thoroughly would end up being paralyzed by fear? And yet, Hemingway was so incapable of conquering his fear that he ultimately ended up taking his own life. His suicide was blamed on manic depression and memory loss, but it’s also likely that his inability to unleash his creativity and continue to express himself through writing contributed to his tragic end. It’s very simple, really—when you are destined to be a writer, you need to be able to write in order to be content. This could be why I have experienced such a lack of satisfaction for most of my life. Although I have pursued writing as a hobby, I have been swept into other avenues when it has come to a career, and now, when those other avenues ended up all being dead ends, I am forced to finally come face to face with that which I was supposed to do in the first place.  “So,” you may ask, “how do you know when you have truly found that which you are meant to do?” Well, I remember how actress and ballerina Moira Shearer responded in the classic film, “The Red Shoes,” when the conductor who ended up being her mentor asked her why she wanted to dance. “Why do you want to breathe?” she asked him. When he couldn’t answer her, she added, “You don’t know, do you? You just do it.” This is how I think it seems when we find that which are destined to do. We may not be able to put into words precisely why we must do it—we only know that when we aren’t doing it, nothing else in our lives seems to be quite right. For me, there was always a nagging sense that I wasn’t fulfilling some part of myself that needed to be nourished. I knew that no matter how many plays I acted in or how many paintings I finished, I would still be left with a feeling of discontentment. Yet, when I express myself through words. . .when I truly put that which I am feeling into sentences, phrases, and paragraphs, it’s as if I have been given a pair of wings with which to fly. It really is the most liberating sensation in the world.

And this brings me back to what I said about in-the-box thinking. As you might have guessed, there is also what you might call in-the-box living. This is the sort of living that consists in going through the motions of life. A good way to be certain that you are experiencing in-the-box living is when you wake up with the sense that you’ll be doing well simply to make it through the day. People who live in the box are frequently making comments about not being able to wait until the weekend is here. . .or about how they are constantly busy and feel stressed and overwhelmed.  I happen to find myself guilty of in-the-box living much too frequently. However, the fact that I’m aware of it means that I am on the way to freeing myself from it. And freedom is a large part of living outside the box. When we are shackled to the past, concentrating on the pain that others have caused us or on the mistakes we have made, we are automatically preventing ourselves from being free. It is a fallacy to imagine that just because we have come from a dysfunctional background and/or have had certain mistaken ideas passed down to us from our parents, teachers, and other people who have crossed our path, that we have to remain in bondage to these mistaken notions and repressed mind-sets. We do not have to repeat the patterns of the past, no matter how impossible it may initially seem to us to break free from them. This diva was told, beginning at a very young age, that she was without any value or worth, simply on the basis of her being female. Unfortunately, for many years, I was unable to erase the messages that had been repeated to me so often that they had inadvertently become part of my own mental programming. Try as I might, I constantly found myself lapsing into the thought patterns that I had grown up subscribing to. Indeed, I allowed the way that someone else—namely, my father—had perceived me to shape the image I had of myself. And only when I fully understood that his perception of me was not based in any sort of conceivable reality was I able to spread my wings and fly. Even now, there are days when I lapse into in-the-box thinking. Overall, in-the-box thoughts are as toxic as noxious fumes. Yet, just like a perfume that is overpowering but somehow strangely bewitching, in-the-box thinking will draw you to it with all the tenacity of a magnet. It can sometimes seem like a herculean effort to break free from the box, and you may even find yourself resisting the idea, simply because it seems beyond your capabilities. But you and I both know that nothing miraculous has ever been achieved without a large amount of courage and persistence. Although we usually think of other people being the ones to thwart us in the pursuit of our dreams, the truth is, we are the ones who prevent ourselves from accomplishing our goals a hundred times more often than anyone else does. This bare and fundamental fact is why it is crucial that we accept responsibility for our lives and the choices we make. It has been pointed out recently in the  media, that, of the young women in Hollywood who have been known as “party girls”, the only one who has chosen to transform herself into a lady whom others can really respect is the actress and singer, Nicole Richie. Rather than continuing to live a careless and promiscuous lifestyle, Richie has devoted herself to her new role as a fiancee and mother. What does this prove?? Why has Richie chosen a different path than her fellow party girls, Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, and Lindsay Lohan? Well, I think Richie obviously chose to stop and analyze her life with an unmitigated amount of clarity and concluded that she was not achieving the results she wanted from the choices she was making. In other words, she made the decision to take charge of her life, even if it meant losing the friendship of those whom she had been spending time with previously.  When you start to make things happen in your life, you may notice that some of your old friends won’t be happy for you. For one thing, they’re going to feel threatened by your new powerful attitude. You may also remind them of all the things that they could be doing but aren’t choosing to do because they would rather complain about the misfortunes they’ve experienced or the way that others are treating them. As hard as it may be to comprehend, there are people who prefer to hold onto ill feelings and destructive emotions, rather than moving forward and fully pursuing their goals and dreams. Whether fear is what’s keeping them from taking any action or it’s their own inability to work through issues that they need to resolve is something that only they know for sure. I tend to think that fear is the most common factor that prevents people from taking responsibility for their lives. I am reminded of a story that my mentor and friend, Denis Waitley, shares in his phenomenal book, The Psychology of Winning. Actor and singer Maurice Chevalier almost had a nervous breakdown early on in his career. Why?? Well, he became terrified of performing. He was convinced that he would embarrass himself by having a memory lapse or making some other unforgivable mistake. However, he was wise enough to seek the advice of a doctor, who worked with Maurice until he came to the point where he understood that he would have to perform in spite of  his fear. You see, many of us wait for our fear to disappear before we take action, and then we wonder why we can’t seem to ever really go after the things we want. The reason why is because we wait for our fear to disappear, when what we must do is to act in spite of the fear. Life is about new experiences, and there is no way that you will ever create an existence that even approaches the life you dream of if you are waiting for the moment when everything feels safe and secure. Ultimately,  you have to make a choice: would you rather be “safe” and banish your dreams or would you rather take risks and make your dreams come true??  The famous boxer and activist, Muhammad Ali once said, “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” Well. . .the choice is yours. Do you want to continue living and thinking inside the box or would you like to step out of that box and start designing your life the way you want it to be?? You can’t have it both ways. Living or thinking inside that box will never give you anything but a life lived in shades of black and white. And is that what you really want??

Until soon. . .make every moment matter!

Your Success Diva

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This page and all written material at The Success Diva pages is written by Alexis Wingate. All rights are reserved. (C) Copyright by Alexis Wingate. The Success Diva

when you have to close your heart. . .

heart23I have always been a compassionate person, but, as I have gotten older, I have been even more inclined to demonstrate caring and love towards those around me. Perhaps, my mother’s battle with advanced stage cancer over two years ago has had something to do with my desire to truly be a loyal and supportive friend to the people in my life. When something of that nature comes about, you are reminded of the brevity of life. . .and you also realize how important it is to make sure that the people whom you love know that you love them. Saying the words “I love you” becomes twice as important—hugging people and making sure that you never make them feel as if you have forgotten them seems essential. What is difficult, however, is knowing when the time comes that you must not let your compassion for others prevent you from making the choices that are best for you.

As you know, my blog posts are loaded with examples from my own life experiences. Sometimes, I feel as if I’m putting into words a documentary of the Success Diva’s life. It isn’t always easy to open up my heart to those who are reading these posts, particularly since there are so many of you whom I do not know and probably never will know. Yet it is my choice to come from a very personal place, even if that place is full of pain, heartache, and unhappiness. Remember what I said in my last post about the heart being like your inner sanctuary? Well, that’s what it’s like. Pretend that you have a little church or cottage within yourself and that there are gates around this place. Whom you open the gates to is your decision and no one can force you to open those gates if you choose not to. But when someone has managed to persuade you to open your heart to them, and then they end up mistreating you or betraying you, what do you do? Well, you close those gates in their face, of course, and never look back. However, that is easier to suggest than it actually is to do. The person whom I just discovered has betrayed me has tried to offer an explanation for his conduct now. He has told me that he didn’t mean the mean and cruel things that he said about me behind my back. Well, being the compassionate diva that I am, it would not be impossible for me to keep him in my life as a friend. When we think of certain books we have read or movies we have seen, we can probably recall cases in which someone forgave and accepted the person who betrayed them. One book that comes to my mind without having to give it an abundance of thought is Russian author Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel, Anna Karenina. In this story, Anna, the title character, is unfaithful to her husband. She has a passionate affair with the dashing Count Vronsky. Her affair soon ostracizes her from society, and her husband becomes aware of her disloyalty. However, he chooses to forgive her and even offers her a divorce so that she can marry her lover. Unfortunately, Anna makes a series of unwise decisions, ultimately resulting in her eventual suicide. This book has been immortalized a few times in films, and, even if you haven’t read the book or seen the film, you may well have heard references to it in other books or movies. Yet another example of betrayal is in the consummate novel by the American author, Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence. In this story, a man, Newland Archer, marries an innocent young lady from a good background, only to be drawn into a beguiling infatuation with the exotic Countess Olenska, who lives on the fringes of society because of scandalous behavior. Archer’s wife, May Welland, knows that her husband’s affections reside elsewhere, and, yet, throughout a marriage that lasts several decades, she never once indicates that she suspects the truth. Finally, towards the end of the book, after his wife’s death, Newland finds out that what he thought was a secret that only he and Countess Olenska shared was known by his wife from the very beginning.

So, if characters in books and movies can not only forgive such instances of betrayal but also keep the person who betrayed them in in their lives, how can we know when we should refuse to accept any excuses or explanations?? Well, this is a difficult point to address as each situation is obviously different. However, if we are talking about someone whom we are in a committed relationship with who continues to be unfaithful to us, I would have to say that choosing to end that relationship is the decision that is in your best interest. But, if we’re speaking of instances of betrayal that are. . .well, less significant, the line between forgiveness and actual acceptance can become a wee bit hazy. For me, betrayal is unacceptable in all its forms. I truly do expect loyalty from those whom I let into my life. Whether or not you do is exclusively your choice. At the same time, never think that you have to have someone in your life. I don’t care how dependent you think you are on someone—or how dependent they make you feel you are on them. Should a person whom you have trusted and cared about betray you in any way, you are always perfectly justified in cutting that person out of  your life. If we look at our circle of friends as a large round of cheese, any treachery on the part of one of our friends would be like a portion of that cheese that became corroded with mold. Would you let that portion of cheese stay where it is. . .or would you cut it off? I know you wouldn’t eat the moldy cheese. Well, when you keep a traitor in your life, you are essentially serving slices of mildewed cheese to yourself on a cracker or a piece of bread. How does that make you feel? It sounds rather disgusting, doesn’t it? You probably feel like saying, “Yuck. I would never eat cheese with mildew all over it. . .and I don’t see how continuing to keep someone in my life who has betrayed me is like eating rotten cheese.” Oh, but it is like that. Just as your body is precious and requires certain types of food to nourish it, your heart and soul also require certain things to remain well nourished. One of the things your heart and soul both need is loyalty. Another essential need is unconditional love and acceptance. If someone betrays you, even if they say they love you, the type of love they are capable of giving you is not worth very much. Never imagine when you are betrayed that you are at fault. I mention this because I have noticed there is a tendency to blame ourselves when someone we care about mistreats us. Yet, we have the choice not to blame ourselves. We can make sure we look at the situation with a clear-headed and analytical vantage point. We can say, “The person who hurt me is the one with the problem—not me.” Sometimes we have to remind ourselves of this, particularly if we tend to be too benevolent or generous. I must admit, I have to consistently strive to make sure that I don’t allow myself to feel guilt over someone else’s mistreatment of me. Why? Well, I always think that if I had done or said something differently, they would not have betrayed me, lied to me, or treated me cruelly. In a way, this is what is called “if only” thinking.  I’ll speak about this more in future posts, but I must at least caution you now: the “if only” mind-set is dangerous. It’s the sort of mind-set that people have who are eighty years old and have chosen to let all sorts of opportunities pass by them over the course of their lives. It reminds me of my grandmother, who chose to marry a man other than her great love. She can now look back over her shoulder and say, “If only I had married so-and-so instead.” As hard as it sometimes is, we have to accept the decisions we make once we make them. If we use poor judgment, we must profit by this and use better judgment next time. I tend to poke fun at myself, saying that it’s unlikely I will ever use better judgment, when I rarely use good judgment *wink*. Yes, I am a diva who rarely takes herself very seriously. And, in a way, it’s a wonderful way to live because you don’t let yourself get too overwhelmed by those things which are relatively insignificant. If I ever am dramatic, I can assure you that  something major has happened in my life as I am generally a pretty level-headed lady. I won’t say that I can’t be capricious and even volatile at times, for I am a spirited diva, too. But, I think it’s essential for us to all be able to laugh at ourselves. If we let ourselves cry and castigate ourselves for every dish we break or every purchase we make that we didn’t really need, we’ll end up feeling rather worthless. I think that we tend to forget, too, that the only way we will ever feel truly worthwhile is a person is if we have a strong sense of self-worth. This is the complete opposite of conceit or arrogance. Conceit or arrogance is a state of mind in which a person believes that they are superior to another person—or, to people, in general. A strong sense of self-worth, on the other hand, is a state of mind in which you understand that you have something unique and valuable to contribute to the world and to the lives of those around you. It is when you begin to embrace yourself, flaws and all. A friend of mine asked me recently, “How do you love yourself?” Well, I think it begins with creating a deep and dynamic sense of self-worth. It doesn’t matter how many mistakes you have made or even keep making, for if you learn something from each one, you are succeeding. You must guard your heart, though, and make sure that the people in your life do not have a negative effect upon your well-being. Although Eleanor Roosevelt said “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent”, I still think that as long as we keep toxic people and predators of the heart in our lives, we’ll never feel as valuable as we should. Even when they tell us how wonderful they think we are, we shouldn’t believe them. As I said, predators of the heart will tell you anything they think you may need to hear in order to keep controlling your life. Although they may not always tell you what you want to hear, if they sense that you are slipping out of their nefarious clutches, they’re capable of saying the most beautiful and flattering words.  After all, they must seduce their way into your heart. . .and seduction is an art in which many tactics are used. So, when you begin to hear exquisite phrases from someone whom you don’t entirely trust, be very careful. Even though you don’t think it is doing you any harm to listen to them, sooner or later you may notice that you become addicted to their flattery.

Since the main subject of this post has to do with when you should not let someone who has hurt you remain in your life, I want to make a few more points about that. There are several different kinds of wounds that others can inflict upon us. Some of them are unintentional, and some of them aren’t. Betrayal, by its very nature, is intentional. The cases in which betrayal is unintentional are very rare. We all know that, if we say things that were confided to us by a friend in private, and we broadcast these things to other people, that we are betraying our friend. Right? Did we know we were doing something we shouldn’t do? Of course, we did. This being said, we can safely assume that if someone does this to us, they were fully aware of what they were doing. Also, if a man or woman who is a friend goes out of their way to pursue a friendship or relationship with someone who has mistreated us, we can feel pretty certain that they realize they are betraying us. I do think it’s crucial to forgive those who hurt us, even if they hurt us in some way that seems unforgivable to us. To forgive is something we do not for the person or persons who hurt us, but rather for ourselves. However, keeping the person or persons who hurt us in our lives is something else entirely. It is accepting what they have done—not merely forgiving it. And I do not think that accepting mistreatment of any kind can benefit us. Thus, your diva’s final word on this subject is this: if someone hurts you unintentionally, keeping them in your lives might not be an unwise choice. However, if someone hurts you intentionally, you should carefully examine whether that person deserves to be in your life because only those whom we can trust are worthy of our friendship, our love, or our affection.

Thanks to those who have told me how much my last post on predators of the heart meant to them! It always inspires this diva so much when I feel that I have helped or encouraged someone. Please know that I will respond to any personal mail that I receive at successdiva7@yahoo.com And, if you aren’t already a member of my mailing list, consider joining. It’s free and lots of fun!

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Until next time, friends. . .live with passion and guard your heart! Remember: there are times in your life when you have to close your heart to someone, and you must always be willing to do so when it is necessary, no matter how difficult a decision it may be.

Your Success Diva

This page and all written material at The Success Diva pages is written by Alexis Wingate.  All rights are reserved. (C) Copyright by Alexis Wingate. The Success Diva