Be Extraordinary

I believe that we are all connected to one another. But I also think it’s important not to lose sight of our own individuality. We can be extensions of one another in terms of being fellow human beings. However, you are not a direct extension of me, and I am not a direct extension of you. 

There is a danger in identifying ourselves so closely with someone else that we imagine they are like us in nearly every way. Although we may find ourselves relating more quickly and easily to those who are similar, we need also to understand that our dissimilarities are what make the world the colorful, exciting, remarkable place that it is.

No, I don’t see our universe as being a cold, bleak, brutal place. I have  a vision of a different world. And I think that the more we honor our own individual selves, the more beautiful our world will be. I want those who read my words to feel more freedom than ever to be their true selves.  Oscar Wilde once said, “Society exists only as a mental concept; in the real world, there are only individuals.”  

The problem is that our concepts become our reality. Eventually, there may come a time when we find that we are unable to discriminate between the concept we hold in our minds and what is really there. Yes, we do create our own reality, and this is not some off-the-wall New Age idea.

If you actually imagine that the way you see the world is the way anybody else sees the world, then you are allowing yourself to fall into the trap of self-deception. This is why making judgements about other people can bring about so much injustice. Just because you value certain things—such as money or material possessions—it doesn’t mean that another person also should or that something is wrong with that person if he or she doesn’t.

I have noticed that my own lack of materialism appears to make people feel the need to find reasons behind my not caring about accumulating possessions or becoming rich. I have been accused of being “afraid” of money or of having a sense of guilt associated with money. Quite honestly, these assumptions are too ridiculous for me to even respond to. How could I feel guilty about having too much of something that isn’t important to me? And how can I be afraid of something that I don’t care about? While I do want to have my basic needs taken care of and would like to also have enough to take care of those whom I love, my recognition of the fact that money does not bring any lasting happiness prevents me from having a significant interest in it.

At the same time, I give you the freedom to love money and to pursue having lots of money because I give each person his/her freedom to take his/her own personal journey. We must stop imagining that we have the right to criticize or interfere with another person’s journey. When each of us was born, we were given the most precious gift of all: our life. It is only when we allow another person to take parts of our life from us that we are in some way failing to appreciate this priceless gift. This is why I encourage individuality and non-conformity above all else. To reach the point where you understand that your freedom is your birthright is to also reach the point where you feel no desire to take anyone else’s freedom away.

Why is it that so many of us feel the need to criticize those who are choosing a path that is completely dissimilar to ours? Do we have a habit of trying to control other people and how they live their lives? Is it not because we feel so powerless and helpless at times?

Circumstances come about that leave us feeling as if we are at the mercy of some unnamed and perhaps undefined fate. Thus, we seek ways to control our lives by seizing the power that rightfully belongs to others. There are subtle ways to do this, too. One of the most discreet I have seen is the chipping away at the self-concepts that other people hold of themselves. When we belittle, ridicule, or demean another human being, what we never seem to understand is that we are only giving the world a reflection of the person we are.

I see people trying to tear down other people in ways that completely astound me nearly every single day. For example, whether it’s a thoughtless comment about a person’s appearance or a criticism of a book, movie, or TV program another person likes, we often cut people down without even realizing it. Then,  in our same state of mindlessness, we wonder why we feel so unhappy with the person who we are. 

Yet, the clue is right before us if we stop to pay attention.  I don’t believe that people are basically mean, cruel, or thoughtless. What I do think is that thoughtlessness and cruelty can become a habit. I also think that these traits in one person tend to bring them out in others. But does that justify the fact the traits exist in the first place?

I remember what actress Jodie Foster said when she accepted her Best Actress Oscar for “The Silence of the Lambs”. She said that cruelty was very human and normal,  yet still completely unacceptable.  The problem is that we tend to subscribe to conceptualized thinking when it comes to cruelty. We have a rather structured idea of what cruel behavior constitutes. Because of this,  we don’t notice the little ways in which we may be cruel to others on a monthly, weekly, and even daily basis.

Until we get to the point where we recognize the lack of compassion and kindness that we show the world, we will never be part of the change that the world needs to experience. It is a spiritual change, even though it has nothing to do with religion. Hate must be replaced with love, misery with joy, violence with peace, and selfishness with compassion. Do you think this is impossible? I’ll agree that it sounds somewhat idealistic. But if we stop believing in possibilities, we give up any hope of change.

Always remember that I do not see myself as an expert, a role model, or someone who has all of the answers. My articles are written for you and for me for this is a journey we are taking both separately and together. We are both acknowledging our individuality yet also learning about ourselves from each other.  If you find yourself resisting some of the ideas and concepts I set forth, before discarding them completely, at least ask yourself why you are resisting them.

There is something very liberating about letting go of the desire to resist those ideas, thoughts, and concepts that do not agree with our own. For resistance helps nourish fear. And fear prevents us from growing and transforming ourselves into the people we can be. We are already in the process of becoming ourselves at this very moment. Yet with each decision we make and each thought we hold in our minds, we are influencing whether the process will be positive or negative.

Who do you want to be? Do you want to be a person whose life has been one of significance? Do you want to make at least one person’s life a little better from having lived? These questions are not as simple as they may sound nor are they profound. However, they are worth thinking about. 

If you are living a life that is centered strictly or even mostly around you, think about whether or not this type of existence will ever bring you any true happiness or fulfillment. Can’t you be extraordinary without living  just for yourself? And must everyone be simply an extension of you in order for you to let them into your world? The minute that we find ourselves closing our lives off from people whom we perceive to be too different for us to be able to relate to, we are once again resisting.

In an article I wrote awhile back called “Releasing yourself,” I didn’t mention all the things that can prevent us from releasing ourselves from that which is holding us back. Two of the things that will always hinder us are restricting and resisting. For, when we restrict ourselves from experiencing an emotion that we need to embrace, and possibly even express, or when we resist the desire to express our thoughts and feelings—or, at least, to acknowledge them to ourselves—we are creating barriers in our soul that will prevent us from being all that we can be. You can’t keep walls around your heart or fences around your mind and expect to live freely or intensely nor can you allow others to have this freedom.

We run from words like “love” and “affection” and use them with discretion because we fail to understand the meaning of these words.  We put words like this in little boxes in our minds, and then we waste loads of mental energy wondering whether or not it’s okay to use them with someone. We are so convinced that another human being has the power to make us feel less valuable than we are that we repress emotions and feelings in order to protect ourselves. But don’t we see that nobody can make us feel a certain way unless we let them?

Before you decide that you don’t agree with me, think about what I’m saying. Nobody besides you can make you feel a certain way about yourself. If you don’t agree with that, you’re essentially saying that another person has the power to make you feel a certain way. There is no in-between. While it’s true that the environment you grew up in and the level of emotional deprivation you received can and does have a tremendous impact on how you respond to the world and other people, you must embrace the power you have within you.

You need to  understand that you are the person who controls what you think and what you feel. This is where the concept of choosing to be happy originates. People have gotten angry or upset with  me for promoting this theory. Yet, if you think about it, if you don’t choose whether or not you’re happy, you’re giving the power away to other people or the circumstances around you. And why would you want to do that?

It is a tremendous responsibility to think that we make the choice about whether we’re happy or not. But isn’t it better to accept responsibility than to give away your freedom? What would you rather be—just another member of the crowd or a unique and extraordinary individual? When you accept responsibility for every choice, even the choice of which emotion you choose to feel at any given moment, you are embracing your individuality. But, what you also must be willing to do is give everyone else the same freedom, too. 

What does this mean? It means honoring the thoughts, opinions, and ideas that another person has, no matter how dissimilar they may be to yours. It also means not needing to identify yourself with anyone else.  It is only when you doubt your own power that you have to identify yourself with another person.

This is why people look up to movie stars and other celebrities. They are choosing to run from their own insecurities by identifying themselves with someone else. Personally, I think this habit is much more common than we think. Otherwise, we wouldn’t constantly be looking to form friendships and connections with those whom we perceive to be a lot like us. It is when we can stand alone, honoring ourselves as completely unique individuals, that we will be able to tap into our true value, power, and strength.

Who do you want to be like? Why not make a vow to yourself that on this day you will free yourself from the need to compete with any other person and simply be your extraordinary self?

Be the best you that you can be.

Love and blessings,

Alexis, your SuccessDiva

(this article is dedicated to my wondrous friend, the extraordinary Adriana Sassoon, with love and blessings always)

Want to find out more about me? https://successdiva.wordpress.com/about/

Read my Personal Creed and Thoughts I Live By: https://successdiva.wordpress.com/2010/02/12/thoughts-i-live-by/

Is there such a thing as being too extraordinary? Of course not! And these thoughts will empower you towards Being Extraordinary in An Everyday World: https://successdiva.wordpress.com/2010/02/28/on-being-extraordinary/

This Diva’s Thoughts on Love: https://successdiva.wordpress.com/2010/02/24/thoughts-on-love/

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This page and all written material at the SuccessDiva pages is written by Alexis Wingate. (C) Copyright 2010 by Alexis Wingate, the SuccessDiva. All Rights Reserved.

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You’re not just telling me to think positively, are you?

When Norman Vincent Peale, the motivational speaker and author, first published his best-selling book, The Power of Positive Thinking in 1952, many people thought his theories in regard to focusing on positive thoughts and ridding your mind of all negative thoughts would completely alter their lives. Well, there are plenty of documented cases in which Peale’s way of. . .well, thinking. . . played a definitive role in people recovering from emotional/mental breakdowns, terminal illnesses, and poverty. But is positive thinking as beneficial and effective as it has been reputed to be by Peale and his followers? The answer is no.

You see, there is a basic problem underlying positive thinking that people like Peale don’t really stop and address—namely, that you have to think about it. That’s right. . .think about it. This means that, no matter how sad or depressed you’re feeling, no matter how scattered and unclear your mind may feel, you’re supposed to be able to somehow ‘magically’ get your mind to start thinking in a specific direction. Is it impossible?? No, course not. Is it logical, though? Not from the Success Diva’s frame of reference. I know, from personal experience, that just thinking sweet, pretty, little ‘happy thoughts’ isn’t going to really do me one bit of good at all. You know why? Because I’m too smart to buy into that sort of philosophy. And you see, friends, I know that you are too smart, too. That’s why you’re at this blog. You’re aren’t coming to my blog to hear a lot of recycled theories about how you can force-feed yourself positive thoughts all the time, trying to delude yourself into believing that your life is better than it is. Your life isn’t better than you think it is.  What? Your Success Diva is telling you that your life isn’t better than you perceive it to be?? Nope. She isn’t. She promised she would always be straightforward with you, and she isn’t going to stop now. Hey she’s on a roll!

The bare, cold, hard, truth. . .and for some of you, this may not be easy to accept. . .is that most of the time we have made a pretty accurate assessment of the problems that are going on in our lives. If our marriage is falling apart, we know it. If we didn’t get that promotion at work because we weren’t willing to put the time and effort into pursuing it that was required, we know it. Sure, we can lie to ourselves–we can tell ourselves, “Things can’t be as bad as all that,” but they really may well be. Would it make any sense for me to tell you that you were one step away from getting the job opportunity of your dreams if you’re out of work right now?? Would that kind of advice do you any good whatsoever? I daresay it would do you more harm than good as you would start having unrealistic expectations. Similarly, if your husband or wife has just filed for divorce and won’t communicate with you except through an attorney.  .  .well, the chances of putting your marriage back together are probably slight, at best.

Believe me, I’m familiar with nearly every aspect of the positive thinking theories. And even though they won’t do you any harm, they really won’t turn the life you’ve got right now into the life of your dreams. Thus, we must disregard them, mustn’t we? There are certain things, such as not watching CNN all the time and not trying to find out details about every crime that’s committed all over the nation that will naturally make you feel more optimistic. I mean, who wants to think that we’re living in such a cold, cruel, harsh world?? But to live in oblivion isn’t wise, either.  As I spoke of in two of my previous posts, there are those toxic people out there, and they come in many different guises. I want to make it clear that I’m not suggesting that all toxic people are intentionally toxic. Overall, toxic people don’t really love or accept themselves, and this lack of self-acceptance prevents them from being able to contribute in a positive way to the lives of those around them. At certain points of our lives, I think that many, if not most of us, can exhibit behavior that could possibly prove to be detrimental to the health and/or life of someone we love. Does this make us toxic, then? Well, that depends. If we know, for example, that we have emotional or psychological issues that we haven’t worked through and we are aware that these issues are preventing us from being able to be the kind of parent, child, friend, or partner/spouse that we should be, then, yes, in a way we are in danger of becoming toxic. I have known women who have not worked through the repressed anger within themselves stemming from a childhood in which they didn’t feel they received love from one of their parents, and they have gone on to verbally and physically abuse their children. Can they help it? Well, in a way, they can’t entirely be held responsible for it—not for the abuse, that is. What they can and should be held responsible for is not getting therapy for their issues when they knew they needed to do so years earlier, probably before they ever met their partner/husband, much less had any children. 

I have learned in recent times that those who hurt others are usually desperately hurting within themselves, and I feel there is a lot of validity in this viewpoint. This is why, if you are hurting, you may need more than your Success Diva to help you deal with your pain. Hey, Success Diva herself needs a little outside input at times. There are, of course, books you can read and tape/CD programs you can listen to that will provide you with some very helpful suggestions. I’m not going to list any right now because I want this blog to be a place where you can safely know you will receive advice that is original, personal, and carefully considered. This blog is all about success, Diva style. And that means it’s about pursuing your goals and dreams with passion, zest, and enthusiasm—not merely a handful of ‘positive’ thoughts. What you need to do, this very moment, is stop blaming anyone else for the way your  life is right now. Now this is a very hard thing to do, and even though you may not think you’re blaming others for the poor choices you made, there is probably a part of you that is still holding on to something. . .whether it be feelings of guilt, rejection, resentment, or emotions that are similarly destructive. Even if you suffered extensive abuse—physical, emotional, sexual, etc.—at the hands of a parent, family member, or other severely damaged person while you were growing up, if you don’t let go of every single bit of hate, anger, bitterness, and resentment that you have stored within yourself  because of what you suffered at the hands of those who hurt you, then you won’t ever be living the life of your dreams because you won’t ever have made the choice to take ownership of  your life. Tough words, hmm? Yes, but keep in mind that they are every bit as hard for me to have to say as they may be for you to hear. But here’s the question: do you want the people who hurt you to continue to have power over you? Do you want to be in control of your destiny or do you want everybody in the past who has ever caused you pain to continue to control your life? Because as long as you do not let go of all the destructive emotions you have inside you that are tied to that abuse, cruelty, rejection, or neglect, you will not ever achieve long-term success and happiness. . .and that is something your Success Diva virtually guarantees you.

I want to address in a forthcoming post the ways in which we drown our miseries via distractions and addictions because that’s another issue that is very close to my heart. A few years ago, I had to break an addiction I had to prescription painkillers and, although it was a mild addiction compared to those that many people cope with, it has made me well aware of how easy it is to let substances (drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes) become not just a vice. . .not just a dependency. . .but what I would call, to put if very bluntly, a ‘crutch.’  I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t take medication when you need it. In fact, Success Diva encourages those who need medication for physical or emotional/mental health issues to take all their medications regularly and to have them monitored by a doctor. But when we’re speaking of recreational drugs, excessive alcohol, and things of a similar nature. . .all I can say is that once you really decide (and it is up to you—remember that) to ‘own’ your life, once your life becomes really and truly yours, you will quickly see that you cannot be dependent on anything and ever experience the feeling of personal freedom you need to pursue the life of your dreams. So, ultimately, you’ll have to make the decision: do you want to continue to be dependent on a drug or a drink to make you happy and fulfilled or do you want to find true and lasting fulfillment? The same thing applies to eliminating toxic people from your life and/or making sure that you are not becoming toxic yourself because of your reluctance to get help in working through personal issues in your life and/or your past that you’ve never dealt with. The unfortunate truth you must face is that there are really just two types of people in the world: ‘owners’ and ‘victims.’ The owners are the ones who accept responsibility for every choice they make, whether good or bad. They are the ones who refuse to blame others when they make a mistake and they are the ones who will ultimately create the life of their dreams. Now what about the victims? Well, they’re in a prison of their very own making. Rather than freeing themselves from the ties that bind them to past hurts, they are letting themselves be drawn deeper and deeper into what I refer to as the “Pit of Despair.” Let me make one thing clear, too: victims, not owners, are the people who victimize other people. An owner has no desire to make another person his/her victim because he/she realizes that in victimizing another person he/she is ultimately also victimizing him/herself.  On the other hand, victims are always very unfulfilled people, who have no idea how to fulfill themselves because they have gotten so accustomed to playing the ‘part’ of a victim that in many ways ‘the victim’ has become their actual identity. They have a deep, overwhelming need within themselves to rid themselves of emotions that they have never worked through and may not even fully comprehend. And this means that a victim will never been entirely harmless, which is why, if you are a victim right now, you must become an owner no matter how much effort it takes. Effort, you ask? But I thought that was the whole point of Success Diva’s blog. I was going to be able to make my dreams come true with a minimal amount of effort, simply by following her one-of-a-kind advice. I wish I didn’t have to disappoint you, but it isn’t going to work that way. Why? Because you and your Success Diva are two entirely separate persons. And even though your Success Diva is behind you every step of the way, you are the one who is going to be transforming your life—not me. I’m just an adviser. . .not a miracle worker.  I can tell you which ingredients you need to purchase to make the cake or pie, but I cannot make the cake or pie for you. You have to do that. I’m not even going to be able to be there to make sure that you measure all the ingredients perfectly and/or mix them together properly. In other words, I can give you the recipe that might very well result in the life of your dreams, but unless you want that recipe to turn out beautifully, your life may very well always be merely about trying to exist on a day-to-day basis rather than truly living.

Your Success Diva is going to be a sleeping diva soon, which means that you won’t hear any more from me for awhile. Were it otherwise, she would certainly post more of her thoughts in regard to the fundamental flaws behind nearly all positive thinking theories, and how her personal success philosophy is in most ways completely antithetical to the advice that’s been handed out like bags of rainbow-colored M & Ms by such motivational ‘gurus’ as the both reviled and beloved Norman Vincent Peale.

But it really is time for Success Diva to catch that train to Dreamland. So, come back later on and see what I’m up to.  I know you’ll miss me in the meantime, yet keep this in mind: the best things in life are often those which are most worth waiting for.

Until soon,

Your Success Diva