Be yourself!

snowflake3 (icy snowflake)Deepak Chopra, the author, lecturer, and endocrinologist once said, “Nothing is more important than reconnecting with your bliss.” But what if, like me occasionally, you feel as if you have lost your bliss entirely . . . or perhaps you even feel as if you never found your bliss in the first place? I have said many times in my blog posts that material possessions and such ephemeral things as fame and fortune will not give you happiness or contentment. The question is, what will fill that void within your soul?

The key may begin with making sure that you are living a life that is authentically yours. If, for example, you are living a life in which your goals have been guided  by the desires or wishes of others or you are pursuing your goals for the wrong reasons, then you are compromising the person that you are. In a world in which the superficial is often more highly prized than the ordinary and jealousy is much more common than feelings of generosity and benevolence towards others, there is a tendency to compare ourselves to other people . . . people who may or may not be anything like us.

Rather than focusing on that which we can do, many of us expend our mental energy thinking about that which those around us are able to do, and resenting the advantages they have over us. It could be said that envy and covetousness are perfectly “normal” emotions, and that those who do not admit to experiencing traces of them at least every now and then are hypocrites. Yet, when we envy that which someone else has or we are jealous of that which someone else has accomplished, are we not failing to acknowledge and appreciate the authentic being that we are?

I’m certain that you’ve heard that every snowflake is different from another . . . that each is in some way unique. Do you know what causes the dissimilarities in snowflakes? It is the discrepancies in temperature and the humidity conditions that bring about the changes. Remarkably enough, even snowflakes created in laboratory snow tanks are dissimilar to each other. It has been said that each snowflake carries the physical history of its own personal travels. Well, are we not in many ways like a snowflake? Whether they be good or bad, painful or joyful, the experiences that come into our life and the people who cross our paths help mold us into the people who we become.  And in many ways we determine whether or not the outcome is positive or negative.

To a certain extent, I am a bit of a skeptic. I do not subscribe to the idea that we are at the mercy of fate or that the stars will predict our destiny. Yet, how we use our minds on a daily basis truly will impact the way that our lives continue and end. All too often, people become so accustomed to destructive thought patterns that they develop the habit of thinking negatively, even when they are unconscious of it. To a significant extent, the environment in which we were raised as children influences how we see the world when we are adults. If we were discouraged from expressing ourselves in a way that enabled us to appreciate our own uniqueness–if, for instance, we were compared to other siblings or experienced abuse or neglect–we will tend to look upon the world as being intensely competitive. We may even see it as a hostile universe where no one can be trusted, not even those to whom we are closest. The danger is when we allow ourselves to subscribe to the idea that this type of vantage point is based in reality.

Indeed, the world is competitive in many ways, and, yes, it can be cold and brutal. But that does not mean that we are doomed to lead lives of what author Henry David Thoreau would call “quiet desperation”. Even if we have suffered nothing but abuse, betrayal, and pain up until this time, if we do not believe that our lives can turn around for the better, it isn’t the universe or fate that is placing a curse upon us. Rather, we are placing a curse upon ourselves.

Stephen Covey has spoken of how there are two types of people in this world: those who are effective and those who are ineffective. Covey believes that the ineffective people are those who allow life to happen to them . . . those who think that they were born under an “unlucky star” or who somehow think the forces of the universe are conspiring to make their lives miserable. The ineffective people are the first to cast blame on others for the mistakes they made, for many times admitting their own guilt would chip away at their already fragile self-esteem.

Conversely, effective people are those who are willing to admit their mistakes and who do their best to profit by them. They tend to disregard such terms as “destiny” and “fate” and refuse to accept the idea that they do not have power over most of the events that take place in their lives. To a large extent, ineffective people are guided by their emotions. Instead of stopping to think before they act, they frequently behave rashly, only to be perplexed, bewildered, and overwhelmed when the ramifications of their actions leave them playing the part of the “victim”.

At many times in my own life, I have been an ineffective person. Having come from a dysfunctional family, I did not have the role models I would have needed growing up that would have enabled me to effortlessly become an effective individual. When  you already feel inadequate or have issues with your self-image, the last thing you want to do is accept the fact that you have had a pivotal part in the mess that you’ve made of a specific situation, a career, or an important relationship. However, until you can see yourself clearly and objectively–until you can look in the mirror and see the real you rather than an idealized image of yourself–how will you ever create a personal vision for your life?

I find it interesting that, according to scientific studies, a large percentage of people see both themselves and their lives as being better than they actually are.  Could it be that gaining clarity about every aspect of our life is too painful for many of us to bear on a psychological level? And, if so, is the short-term attempt to sugarcoat our lives going to bring us long-term happiness, or will it only prevent us from ever experiencing true bliss? If you chose to ignore all the flaws in a diamond or an emerald, would those flaws go away? Even if the gem appears to be flawless from a distance or to an unobservant eye, would it diminish the imperfections?

 As I have said before, we are all, in a way, a gem that is in the process of being polished. But if there are flaws that we need to work to eliminate first, all the polishing in the world isn’t going to make us into the person that we want to be. Although many thinkers, philosophers, and authors have expressed this thought in similar words, I still believe that Gandhi said it best: “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” One person cannot even begin to change the world, but if we want to see the world start to change, we should start with changing ourselves.

I have found that one of the most important things we can do–an essential step in starting to embrace our own authentic selves–is to let go of the judgements and assumptions we make about other people. When we begin to criticize those around us, we shift the focus from something that we have control over to something that is completely outside our “zone of power”. While you do not have to agree with others or even pretend to, to let the people whom you know have their own opinions and views on every subject, even those which you feel vehement about, is mandatory for creating the life of your dreams. Ultimately, the only life you are going to live is your own. And, no matter what anyone else does, whether you agree with it or not, your own decisions, thoughts, and opinions are the only ones you have the right to establish, change, or sustain.

A lot of complications that come into our lives stem from our inability to separate that which we can control from that which we cannot control. Author and speaker Wayne Dyer has used the label “authoritarian” to describe those people who have the need to force others to subscribe to their same views and opinions. I think that authoritarians oftentimes seek a sense of self-importance that comes from shoving their beliefs down someone else’s throat. But, even if they are successful at doing this, that feeling of self-importance that they want to experience will continue to elude them.

The only way that you will feel important is if you establish a definitive sense of self-worth within yourself . . . and nobody else can give that to you, even if they share all of your beliefs and opinions. In fact, there is no amount of money on earth and no relationship, no matter how fulfilling it may seem, that will give you a feeling of self-worth if you don’t already experience that inside yourself. You have to let go of what you think you should be and what others have told you that you could or couldn’t be to become the person that you’re meant to be. Sometimes, that which will give us ultimate satisfaction in life is so far removed from that which anyone else has encouraged us to pursue that we feel as if we are walking alone down a road that is dark and lonely, bordered by trees on both sides. There may not be anyone there to tell us that we’re making the right choice–it may be a case of us having to trust our instincts about what is right for us.  

A man who had to carve his own niche in life, in spite of criticism from everyone around him, was Wilson Bentley, the farmer who went on to compile the most remarkable photographic collection in history. What were the photographs of? Snowflakes. Although the idea of studying snowflakes would not inspire most people, Bentley was utterly inspired by the magnificence of what he referred to as his “snow blossoms”. Because he followed his instincts and embraced his own extraordinary potential, he not only found his bliss but also stayed connected to it.

In one scientific paper that Bentley wrote about his studies of snowflakes, he used the word “beauty” or “beautiful” forty times in a mere nine pages. To be so enraptured with one’s work is what anyone would surely desire. If more of us were this enthralled with the career path we decided upon, think of what our world would be  like! Rather than a society made up primarily of people leading a humdrum existence that never fills up the void within them, people would wake up each day feeling exuberant and glad to be alive for another twenty-four hours.

Isn’t that the way you want to live? Don’t delude yourself into imagining that you will find bliss or contentment through anything other than fulfilling your individual purpose in the world. If you look at those who have millions of dollars and are famous around the world, only a mere handful of them are truly happy. Shakespeare may have said that the world is a stage and we are all players, but, if you could trade in a “fake” life, a makeshift existence that is leaving you empty and unfulfilled, wouldn’t you do so in a heartbeat? It doesn’t matter what we’ve been told that we must survive . . . whether we have subscribed to the idea that life is difficult and unfair and we must simply bear with it. We are not a character out of a novel by Charles Dickens, and we do not go through our entire existence being miserable and unhappy. Although great works of literature, art, and music have been produced through emotional and physical suffering, it wasn’t necessarily because of this suffering that these masterpieces were produced but rather in spite of them.

I am learning so much about life as I write my blog and share my insight with you. There are so many questions I still have in regard to how optimal happiness is attainable and how we can differentiate between dreams and goals that are realistic and those that will always be just beyond our grasp. Having not written a blog post in nearly three weeks, I have had quite a lot of time to reflect upon my own life and to recommit to being the kind of Diva who will truly make a difference in the lives of those who read my blog. You and I are on this journey together . . . and that is something I hope you will never forget.

For today, it is my heartfelt wish that you will look upon yourself as a snowflake, in human form . . . a unique being entirely different from anyone else. I want you to pursue the destiny that is yours alone. It is waiting for you, but only you can discover it and fulfill it.

Live with enthusiasm, faith, confidence, and passion!

Until soon,

Your SuccessDiva

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

It’s your heart. So, guard it!

heart13There will never be a way to prevent ourselves from being hurt by other people. Even if we were able to look inside the hearts and minds of everyone around us, we would probably still fall into predicaments that brought us misery. At the same time, in order to make a toxic person really have the effect they want to upon us, we must dwell on all the ways in which they have hurt us. We must allow them to continue to steal our joy and happiness from us long after the wounds have been inflicted, which means that if we let go and refuse to hold onto the pain, we are the ones who win—not them.

As you know, I am very forthcoming at this blog. I share things that some people might not even reveal to their closest friends. Do I care? Actually, if I can reach even one of you by something I say, I regret none of my personal confessions. But you do have to watch who you open your heart to. Look upon the heart as a beautiful sanctuary within yourself. There are two doors closing this sanctuary off from the rest of the world. You can open them only if you decide to. If you are at a place in your life where you feel that you need the approval of other people to feel okay about yourself—that their acceptance of you is crucial to your happiness and positive opinion about yourself, you are at risk of being deeply hurt. There are what I would call predators of the heart, and they come in many different shapes and wear a variety of masks. They are almost like vampires, in a way. They prey upon your energy and your spirit to satisfy their inner emptiness. However, they are often convinced that their lives are bringing them fulfillment. Rarely will they admit to you that they are seeking something other than that which they’ve already got. To make you feel that you are necessary to them in some way would give some of the power they think they possess away. Now, if push comes to shove, and they are concerned that you may escape the designs they have on your life, they might be capable of saying anything. But they are generally reluctant to admit any signs of personal weakness.  When I think of a character in literature who is a predator of the heart, I cannot help but think of Miss Havisham in Charles Dickens’ classic novel, Great Expectations. She is not content to merely lick her wounds and drown her sorrow by living a reclusive life. Rather, she picks out another person as a vessel for her vendetta. If you haven’t read the book or seen a film adaptation of the book, you will not have a thorough idea of what I am speaking of. However, you can take my word for the fact that Miss Havisham is a true predator of the heart. In a way, she is a tragic and pathetic figure. It is nearly impossible not to feel sorry for all the pain she has experienced. Yet no pain that we experience justifies our preying upon the hearts of others.

As a diva who tends to speak whatever is on her mind, I want to share with all of you something that happened to me yesterday. I was betrayed by someone who had pretended to be my friend. Has this happened to me before? Yes, of course. It’s probably happened to most of you, too. I think that one reason this happens is because our society preaches a “me first/you second” philosophy. This means that, even if a person betrays someone close to them, if it’s in that person’s best interest at the time they do it, they somehow manage to excuse their conduct. Now, many cases of betrayal are connected to revenge. Rather than letting go of resentment and anger, a certain type of person holds it in until, at last, it boils over and they do something that hurts someone else in a way that can be devastating. Unfortunately, when bitterness, resentment, and/or anger begin to cloud someone’s vision, there is a strong chance that they will begin to perceive that they are being deceived or wronged in some way, even if they’re not.  In other words, they may at some point be incapable of thinking logically. Predators of the heart are often paranoid, too. They see those who do not allow them into their inner sanctuary as being against them. They may even have grandiose ideas about their relationship with someone whom they are trying to prey upon. They may see that person as belonging to them, even if the person doesn’t. The person who betrayed me felt he had the right to interject himself in many different aspects of my life. He was also jealous of anyone else whom I have in my life, including my mother. You see, he felt that anyone who was giving me advice or input aside from him might prevent him from having the all-powerful influence in my life that he felt he needed. When he finally saw that I was determined to remain in charge of my life and was willing to fight him for control of it, he betrayed me. He made sure I was aware of his betrayal, too. I think he concluded that only in my knowing about his betrayal would he receive any sort of personal gratification. How many of you believe, now that I am introducing you to the concept of predators of the heart, that you might have crossed paths with one of these persons? Might there even be one in your life right now? “Maybe so,” you say, “but how can I tell?” Notice how you feel when you spend time around someone whom you suspect is a predator of the heart. Do they find ways to make you feel that you are weak? Do they play up your faults in a way that is subtle? For example, might they say something like, “Well, you know, you have loads of flaws, but I love you anyway.” Does this sound familiar? You do see what they’re doing, don’t you? They’re wanting you to feel that you can’t really handle the big, bad problems in your life on your own. So. . .they are there to help you. All you have to do is wrap up your heart and hand it over to them first. Then they’ll take care of everything.  Pretty soon, of course, you’ll be wondering why the decisions you’re making don’t really match up with the decisions you want to make. You may also find yourself tolerating things that you never thought you would put up with. But, you see, your pet predator of the heart has convinced you that you will never find another friend or lover like them. So, you’d better let them drain all your own thoughts and opinions from you. If they want to start controlling your mind, you’d better let them do that, too. I mean, they’re probably smarter than you anyway. . .or at least wiser, right? They seem to know so much. They seem to have all the answers figured out, and, even though it seems like they are trying to take control of your life, surely all they’re really trying to do is help you. Right??? Wrong. Predators of the heart have no more compassion or empathy than the living dead. Never deceive yourself. A predator of the heart is never thinking of his prey as anything more than an object to nourish his or her desire to control. Your feelings and needs don’t count. Dracula never did seem to care much about the needs of his victims, did he? No, he cared only for satisfying his lust for blood. And he was very seductive, too, wasn’t he? He never told his victims, “Hello there, I’m a vampire. May I bite your neck and drink your blood?” If he had done that, how believable would it have been? Well, like a vampire who beguiles his victims, preying upon the hearts of others begins with seduction. For you to be willing to open up your heart, you must first be under the predator’s “spell”. For me to say that a predator of the heart has a standard method of worming his or her way in to your life would be giving you the false idea that you might be able to pick out a predator of the heart readily. You will rarely be able to do that. What you must do, though, is immediately pay attention to any feelings you have of wanting to distance yourself from the person. If you ignore them when you feel them, they may go away as the predator starts to know you better and begins using better and more cunning tactics. Pay attention to the behavior the possible predator exhibits early on in your communication with him or her. Does he or she argue with some of your beliefs and opinions? Does he or she make you feel that you are ignorant or ill-informed for standing by the convictions you have? Later, if the predator perceives that arguing with your beliefs isn’t the way to win you over, he or she will use different methods of doing so. This is why you must analyze all of your initial contact with the person.  To be honest, the predator of the heart who has just exited my life showed plenty of sides of himself that were objectionable to me early on in our friendship. I found him abrasive and argumentative. I even wondered why he wanted to be friends with me since it was evident to me that he and I were different in a number of ways. Yet after awhile, he seemed to have somehow made himself a fixture in my life. I didn’t even realize it had happened, until it already had. Although this man had seemed perfectly content with his life when I first met him, as time went on, he began to infer that I was fulfilling some kind of deep personal need he had. By making me believe this, he succeeded in brainwashing me into thinking that I had to put up with him, no matter how unkindly or harshly he treated me. When he would instigate debates, I would be drawn into them like a fly being drawn into the web of a spider. Before I knew it, he had actually managed to create a certain amount of alienation between me and my mother because she recognized him for what he was, and he sensed that. I suddenly became a victimized princess locked in a tower with a mother who was, to use his terminology, “an ogre”. He tried to make himself the center of my world—indeed, the only person who really had my best interest at heart. At one point, he sent me ten and twelve e-mails a day. When I tried to tell him I couldn’t respond to all of them, he attempted to make me feel guiltyand even accused me of trying to end our friendship. Predators of the heart are very good at making you feel as if you are blame when you try to fight them. For them, you see, only their desires exist. And your mission in life, in their mind, is to gratify these desires.

“But what do I do?” you ask, almost in despair. See, I knew you would ask this. . .and, truth be told, I am still finding new and better ways in regard to how to deal with predators of the heart with each passing day. What I advise is that you stop looking at the conduct you see and start looking at the intentions behind the conduct. If your would-be predator-of-the-heart tells you that he/she loves you even though he/she told you a few weeks before that he didn’t believe in love, pay attention. If he or she says that he is a loyal and true friend to you, even though he/she told you at another time that he/she had a “big mouth” and was always talking about his/her friends behind their  backs, do not ignore it. If he/she confesses to you that he/she is usually the one who walks out of a relationship, do not assume that you will be treated any differently. Although there are many people who will never tell you the truth about themselves, there are also many people who will sometimes make revealing declarations or remarks in an unguarded moment. And the moments in which a predator of the heart lets down his/her guard are the moments that matter. If you have already been the victim of a predator of the heart, the worst thing you can do is to continue victimizing yourself by dwelling on the situation and/or associating it with the person you are right now. The only reason you should even remember what happened is to know how you can prevent it from ever happening again. For if we do not look towards the past to teach us lessons, then it serves no purpose. Indeed, should we not allow the past to instruct us in how to live better and more wisely, the past is, as the poet Carl Sandburg said, no more than “a bucket of ashes.”

This diva didn’t think she would manage a new blog post today. For one thing, physical exhaustion is something I’ve been battling since I awakened yesterday. This being the case, it wasn’t a good time to be betrayed. But, you know, things like betrayal don’t come at the times that are most convenient for us! *wink* In fact, I would say that they are more likely to come at inopportune moments. However, I have a bit of encouraging news: sometimes we’re dealt our hardest blows in life just before everything takes  a turn-around for the better. So, the next time somebody who pretended to be your friend turns out to be an enemy instead, just know that the void they create in your world by no longer being in it will leave room for somebody or something wonderful.

Make each moment matter. . .make each day count. And live with passion and enthusiasm!

Until soon,

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