Looking within

I was recently browsing an on-line forum at which I read a post by a young female acquaintance who has been spending time in India helping a woman take care of children at a makeshift orphanage. This young woman related details about one boy, who appears physically to be about seven years of age but is actually closer to thirteen, who has been the victim of a brutal rape. Although she clearly offered a certain amount of solace to the boy by holding his hand, helping him bathe, and spending time with him for several hours, she scoffed at the idea of being anybody’s savior. “I have a whole problem with the thought process that assumes somebody needs saving and I’m the one to do it,” she declared.

But wait, I wanted to say, isn’t the truth of the matter that half of the world’s population at least feels that it needs saving? Even those of us who have the advantage of a comfortable home to live in and plenty of food to eat oftentimes allow ourselves to succumb to feelings of hopelessness and despair. In fact, one of the problems is that not only do many of us feel that we need saving, but also there are some of us who actually do. Yet, inherent in this problem is also the means of solving it.

The renowned Danish physicist Niels Bohr once said, “Every great and deep difficulty bears in itself its own solution.” The solution to this problem is simple. We have to accept responsibility for our lives and, in a sense, be our own saviors for there will never be any one person who will manage to fulfill us on every level. One of the reasons that our world is overcome by such a sense of disillusionment is because so many of us have looked towards presidents and other leaders to guide us out of the tunnel of darkness and despair and into the light of hope. We want to feel that there is someone who will help us bear the heavy burden of our personal crosses. And when we are let down by these would-be saviors whom we have turned to in our hour of need, we feel bitterness, resentment, and sometimes even a certain amount of hostility.

If you’ve turned on the news at all these past several days or picked up a newspaper, you’ve probably heard about the scandal involving golf legend Tiger Woods. From all indications, Woods would have seemed like a man who had everything he could possibly desire—an opulent lifestyle, a beautiful wife and two healthy children, and a golf career that has continued to be incredibly successful. What more could anyone ask for? Well, Woods clearly wanted a great deal more. Yet, instead of giving any significant amount of thought to what issues might have led Woods to shame himself and his family by behaving in an inconceivably reprehensible way, most people are content to simply label Woods a “wife cheater”, a “womanizer”, and “an adulterer”.

But let’s stop for a minute and consider this situation carefully. Is Woods that different from many other people who have found, after reaching what others would consider to be the apex of success, that they are still hungry for more?  What Woods seems to suffer from is an insatiable desire to fill the emptiness within himself. The fame and all the accoutrements that have come along with it haven’t been enough for Woods. There’s still been a void inside him. 

Rather than facing his inner dissatisfaction and taking appropriate measures to deal with it, Woods opted for the easy path to contentment— short-term gratification that involved little commitment on his part and even less critical thinking. Like those who pursue the objective without carefully considering the possible consequences, Woods blithely carried on affairs with multiple women over the course of his married life, apparently never imagining that his escapades would at some point become public knowledge.

At this point, Woods has become fodder for the gossip magazines, and his wife undoubtedly feels humiliated. But as much as anything else, I suspect that the public who so adored Woods feels betrayed by the fact that he tainted the glowing image that they had of him. In a way, it takes us back to the days of the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal, a time when Americans both snickered and wept at the realization that their president was every bit as human as themselves.

Why is it that so many of us seek a role model to place upon a pedestal and naively expect this role model to conform to our idealized standards of acceptable conduct? In a way, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment and disillusionment, for, alas, no matter how famous or renowned someone is, he or she is every bit as much a mortal as you and I are. Thus, that person is capable of the same mistakes and privy to the same vices. While I’m not saying that there is any justification for the conduct that Tiger Woods has demonstrated, I am challenging us to examine why we are so utterly bewildered and shocked at his indiscretions.

Rather than pointing fingers and casting aspersions on Wood’s character, let’s stop to figure out what our reaction to his behavior says about us. Is it possible that we are almost as disappointed in ourselves for idealizing Woods to such an extent as we are with him for his reprehensible actions? Do some of us, on some level, feel that we have been made a fool of? And if so, when are going to cease to regard our fellow mortals as objects of hero-worship and adulation? When are we going to see that celebrities and those in positions of power and/or leadership are only presenting to us the sides of themselves that they want us to see? Much of the time, if we ripped off the masks that people wear and looked beneath them, we would be appalled.

One of the last blog articles I wrote, “The Authentic You”, was about the masks that so many of us hide under—the masks that prevent us from revealing our authentic selves. When I look at Woods, who presented the sugar-coated family man image to the public while  leading the life of a promiscuous playboy on the sly, I cannot help but think of how important the concept of authenticity is. Although Woods will have a difficult time living down the scandal his behavior has created, I believe that in order for him to ever grow into the person he has the potential to become, the details of his private escapades needed to be disclosed to the public. How will those of us who are living a lie ever cease to do so unless we’re exposed for the frauds that we are?  Oftentimes, it takes what some people call a “defining moment” for them to gain clarity about themselves and the personal issues they may never have taken the time to come to terms with.

In my SuccessDiva work, I have already traversed many paths, all of which are leading to the same destination, but with many twists and turns . . . and, yes, even a few roadblocks. I started this blog with the intention of instilling hope in those who felt like giving up. Since I have felt like giving up so many times in my life, I felt that I might be able to speak with a voice that others could relate to and perhaps even find to be a source of strength. Yet, somewhere down the road, I realized that I needed to refine my objectives and be honest with myself about how much it is possible for me to do.

When you are only one person, you must always remain aware of the fact that your influence is going to be vastly limited, no matter how committed your efforts may be. This undeniable truth has frustrated me so greatly at times that it has taken a considerable effort for me to push forward. However, I never forget what Helen Keller once said, “I am only one, but I am still one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”

I suppose, to a certain extent, each of us, who wants to make a difference in this world, must have faith that what we do will create a ripple effect. And that our willingness to look outside of ourselves and our own personal lives will inspire others to do the same. Although we should never regard ourselves as being more successful or better than we are, what we also must keep in mind is that to be all that we can be we sometimes have to believe in our ability to accomplish things that we haven’t yet done.  In order to pursue anything wholeheartedly, we must have some faith in ourselves.

A life without passion and a sense of purpose is only an existence, and, when we limit ourselves in our own minds, we are actually removing the possibility of doing all that we can. We’re deciding how the game of cards is going to end before we even start playing. This being said, perhaps it was better that I overestimated what I would be able to achieve at the start of my SuccessDiva work. Maybe it would have been difficult for me to withstand the amount of criticism and ridicule that has been lavished upon me if I hadn’t had an innate belief that I was doing something meaningful and purposeful.

At this point, I don’t need critics to tell me that trying to fix people’s problems isn’t ever going to work. The young woman, whom I spoke of earlier who finds the idea that people might need “a savior” to be personally distasteful, admitted to me that she had the impression that I was trying to heal people’s wounds with Band-Aids (TM) when what they really required was stitches. What I happen to know is that many of those with wounds that require stitches actually prefer to wrap bandages around them so that will not be forced to deal with the harsh reality of their situation. If this were not so, why would people be drowning their pain in drugs and alcohol? Why would people need to take sleeping pills to get adequate rest? Why would so many marriages be ending in divorce?

We are a world in which the quick-fix option is what we turn to first instead of as a last resort. Rather than true faith in an all-powerful God or Divine Creator, many people use religion as a way to escape the chaos in their souls. They are so afraid of having to face their inner torment, that they will latch onto anything that brings them some feeling of security. But, is this any way to live?

Rather than naively imagining that nobody in the world needs a savior, what we need to do is realize that the majority of the population feels a desire to be saved, whether that desire is consciously acknowledged or not. At certain times of our lives, we may have experienced this desire, too. And, until we can separate a desire from an authentic need, our perception of reality will be much more real to us than actual reality ever is.

The brilliant psychologist Carl Jung once admitted, “The whole world has a savior expectation; you find it everywhere. The savior complex is certainly not a personal motif; it is a world-wide expectation, an idea which you will find all over the world and in every epoch of history. It is the archetypal idea of the magic personality . . . and image of the collective unconscious. ” Doesn’t this explain why we look towards everything from food, drugs, and alcohol to celebrities and material possessions to bring us personal fulfillment?

We want to be saved from the void that exists within us—we want to find some way to bear the emptiness we feel inside. If we can find someone or something to cling to in our hours of doubt and despair, perhaps we’ll manage to get by. But what happens when we give up drinking or using drugs or overeating? What happens when the person whom we’ve been looking up to does something completely unforgivable? How do we go on then? In a way, aren’t we worse than we would have been if we had simply taken responsibility for ourselves and used our own inner strength to make the most of our lives?

It’s important that I make it clear that I’m not suggesting that merely visualizing our “ideal” lives or adopting positive thinking patterns is going to change anything. These concepts, though widely promoted by those in the self-help field, are only as reliable and/or effective as the person making use of them wants them to be. What I do believe, though, is that each person has the tools within himself to create a life that is at least reasonably satisfying. Even if years of therapy and/or psychoanalysis are needed, a person still ultimately chooses whether he or she lives a life that is meaningful and fulfilling. There is no psychiatrist or psychologist in the world who will be able to provide more help to someone than that person is willing to accept.

Gandhi may have summed up a profound truth when he said that we must be the change we want to see in the world. But what he neglected to mention is that we have to want to be that change. Nothing will ever change in your life unless you want it to. So, you can either continue looking for salvation from some outside source or you can turn your vision inwards and accept the knowledge that nobody besides you can transform your life. Which choice will you make?

Until soon . . . Live without Limits, SuccessDiva style!

Your SuccessDiva

This page and all written material at the SuccessDiva pages is written by Alexis Wingate. All Rights are Reserved. (C) Copyright by Alexis Wingate, the SuccessDiva

Am I just another self-help guru?

When I started this blog, my intention was to present everything from my own personal perspective. That is, I didn’t want to rely on the information I had absorbed from the books on success, creating the ‘life of your dreams’, and other similar topics that I’ve read through the years. Now perhaps it’s inevitable that some of the insight this diva shares with you has been influenced by the motivational books she’s read and the tapes and CDs she has listened to.  But. . .I will say that I’m not directly or intentionally ‘borrowing’ other people’s ideas. To truly live life fully and richly, I think each of us has to be a ‘sponge’ to a certain extent. That is, I believe that we must absorb as much as we can from the information and knowledge that others pass on to us. Don’t you agree? If, for instance, we are able to walk into a meadow covered with red poppies and yet we fail to notice the color and beauty of the poppies. . .I would have to ask, are we observant enough? If we can look at a rainbow in the sky and not be struck with its radiance, what has happened to that child we once were? Do you remember the first time you felt the rain against your skin or the first time that you saw snow fall from the sky? How old were you? A cousin of mine had to help her daughter with a school paper a couple of years ago, and the subject of the paper was her daughter’s ‘first snow.’ What was interesting—and yes, also a little sad—is that my cousin couldn’t remember the first time her daughter had seen snow. She could remember when the family dog had gone out for the first time in the snow because she had taken pictures of him wallowing in it. But the memory of her daughter walking or playing in the snow had clearly vanished from her mind. How many of us truly do fail to remember some of the most important moments of our lives?

The Success Diva got a message from someone who had happened upon her site this afternoon. It said: “In response to whether or not I am living the life of my dreams, what I am living is the lie of my dreams.” The first question I wanted to ask this person was, And are you happy living a lie? Is that what your dream is, a life of lies? However, I chose not to respond at all, for I understood long ago that there are only certain people who will be open to the advice I share. Some people have already closed themselves off from certain things. They have chosen the frame for the painting that is their life and they are unwilling to look around for a larger and more beautiful frame. Generally, these same individuals have also chosen the colors that they will make use of to paint the picture of their lives.  And no matter how limited that palette of colors is, unless they come to the point where they want to experiment and try new and different colors, they will be limiting themselves to painting exclusively in those colors.  Have you ever looked at a painting by an artist such as Monet, Chagall, Gaugin, or Van Gogh in a museum and wondered how many different shades of blue, and yellow, and red, and green it must have taken for them to create a masterpiece like that? Do you know anything about the life of Jan Vermeer? Have you, by any chance, seen the film “The Girl With the Pearl Earring?” Are you aware of what great pains Vermeer took to create the shades of paint that he wanted? For example, lapis lazuli was used to obtain a specific shade of blue. Vermeer was never wealthy, but because he was living his life with passion and pursuing that which brought him fulfillment he was able to create the life of his dreams. Having money, fame, and fortune is not something that anyone can ever promise you. And, no matter how many changes you make in your life or how open you are to the Success Diva’s suggestions, wealth and international renown are things that are never guaranteed. Many of you probably would say that you wouldn’t even want such things as you are not interested in material possessions or public acclaim. However, some people do deny that they desire that which they secretly yearn for. When the world mourned the death of pop icon Michael Jackson, they were also mourning the fact that they no longer had another person’s fame to be a part of. As difficult as it might be for some of Jackson’s fans to admit, the reason that his life and career had such an impact on them was because the part of them that had been unfulfilled was living through Jackson’s accomplishments. To look at someone like Jackson and see that he is living what you perceive to be the life of his dreams can make you feel both admiration and envy, even if you are unwilling to confess that you feel the least bit envious. And, of course, there are those people who have already reconciled themselves to the life they’re living right now, no matter how unhappy or unsuccessful it is. For these people, immersing themselves in the fame and glory of celebrities like Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Tom Cruise, and Madonna is a way to distract them from the fact that they have so many dreams that they have already chosen to push aside. In a way, focusing on the lives of those who are living the sorts of lives that most of us only fantasize about is a way to escape our own inner discontentment. But as you probably have guessed, trying to escape from the pain, emptiness, and unhappiness you are feeling inside is only a temporary antidote. Sooner or later, you will have to face that pain, that emptiness, and that unhappiness.  And the longer you wait to do so, the more difficult it will be to do so.

Sometimes I feel like the things I am telling you must seem as if they come from others who have tried to inspire people via through books, seminars, tape programs, and so forth. Hence the title of this blog post, Am I just Another Self-Help Guru? To be honest, I easily could be just that. However, I often get the feeling that some of those people are more interested in the benefits that the advice they are sharing with others will bring them—such as money and fame—than they are with truly helping other people. I do see why there might be a certain amount of skepticism in regard to anyone who says that her mission in life is to reach out to others and help them create the life of their dreams. In a world where so many people are only looking out for #1 (i.e., themselves), why shouldn’t someone be looking for the Success Diva to have a hidden agenda? All I can say, in response to the cynics and skeptics is that every bit of advice and insight I am sharing with others comes straight from the heart of this diva. If I didn’t completely believe everything I’m telling all of you, I wouldn’t have created this blog in the first place! I’m certain that many of you think that the Success Diva must have a life that’s pretty much in keeping with what the life of her dreams would be if she is going out of her way to share her suggestions and the wisdom that she has gained from her experiences with you. Well, the truth is that the life I am living now and the life that I want to have are two entirely separate things. However, I have made the choice to build the ship that will steer me to that other side of the ocean where the life of my dreams awaits me. You see, whether we like it or not, our lives are going to pass whether we make the most of them or not. If we choose to let opportunities pass us by. . .if we decide not to opt for happiness or love when it comes our way. . .well, the only person who is going to miss out on anything is us. Although it would please me greatly if I knew that all of you were living happy, fulfilled, and successful lives, whether you make the choices that will make this possible or not isn’t something that will directly affect me. I do know some of you, but there are many of you whom I don’t know and never will know. To imagine that my life will be impacted greatly whether you live the life of your dreams or not is not logical or realistic. Yes, it will sadden me to think that you have chosen to deprive yourself of the happiness, love, success, and joy that could have been yours for the asking. . .but knowing that I have done all I could to help you bring these things into your life will be enough to leave me with a feeling of contentment. As I have said before, nobody, including your Success Diva, can change your life for you. You have to do that. And to all those detractors and naysayers, all I can say is that if you are truly happy living in the box you have chosen to place yourself and your life in, then continue living exactly as you are now. Who’s going to stop you? Not this diva! She’s busy enough sharing her insight and input with those who are genuinely open to receiving it.

Live today with passion. . .make every moment matter!

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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