The Freedom of Truth

There comes a time in our lives when we want to believe that we have discovered, if not all the answers to the meaning of existence, at least a few of those answers. We may even manage to convince ourselves that we have, at long last, found “what works for us”—our personal truth. It seems inconceivable to many of us that we could have reached a certain point in our lives and still know so little. But is it not when we are willing to acknowledge our ignorance that we begin to learn?

I was asked a few days ago how it is that I “verify” my beliefs. My answer was, “I don’t because I can’t.” What did I mean? Am I admitting that I have many beliefs that I question the validity of? In a way, yes. I have had to develop a willingness to examine each of my beliefs in order to discriminate between those which make sense to me and those which don’t. And while I have not abandoned those beliefs that I consider to be part of my core self, I nevertheless understand that I may not be able to prove the validity of those beliefs to anyone besides myself. Fortunately, it isn’t important to me whether I do or not, for I believe that each of us must find our own truth for ourselves.

It is only those who live in fear and ignorance who believe that trying to push their own views and ideas on someone else is going to achieve any effective result. Even if we think that someone whom we know is making all of the wrong choices in his/her life, it is not up to us to point that person in another direction.

Out of kindness and love, we should always attempt to prevent someone from making a decision that might bring him or her harm or endanger the life or well-being of another person. But aside from that, we should give others the freedom to choose for themselves in every area of their lives (I’m speaking of adults, of course—not children).  Each person’s journey is unique and personal, and, whether we understand the individual choices someone makes or not, we must respect their right to choose for themselves.

Unfortunately, even though our world promotes the idea of individuality and personal freedom, most people are no longer thinking for themselves. The illusion is created, through various persuasive techniques on the part of the media, that we are all free to form our own opinions about everything. However, the criticism, ridicule, and outright contempt that are demonstrated towards those who dare to step away from the masses indicate that freedom is merely a concept—not a reality. We have become a nation of “feelers” rather than thinkers, basing our decisions on intuition and “gut feelings” rather than on solid evidence, facts, and proof.

Intuition does play a role in the life of a thinking person. But the fact that our feelings are so capable of being manipulated makes them much less reliable than our intellect. Socrates once said that he was the wisest man on earth because he realized he knew nothing. He believed that all of us must submit to the authority of reason. For him, the “stamp of truth” is that which remains independent of us and our own subjective realities, including our own needs, wants, and desires. Although indulging in dreams and wishes may not be a bad thing in itself, if doing so prevents us from gaining and sustaining a clear view of reality, then it can be dangerous.

Francis Bacon summed up  our tendency to confuse our own reality with true reality when he said, “The assertion that the human senses are the measure of things is false; to the contrary, all perceptions, both of the sense and the mind, are relative to man, not the universe. The human understanding is like an uneven mirror receiving rays from things and merging its own nature with the nature of things, which thus distorts and corrupts it.”

Perhaps, it sounds as if Bacon was encouraging us not to use our senses at all. But a man as clear-headed as Bacon would never subscribe to such an inclusive philosophy. There is no reason to suppose that we cannot use both our intuition and our intellect. However, we must develop a level of self-awareness that enables us to ascertain when are making a choice based on instinct versus critical thinking.

To know when to use one’s abilities in a certain realm can be even more important than whether or not one possesses those abilities. There is always a time to go forward and a time to hold back, a time to feel and a time to think, a time to let go and a time to hold on. Rarely, is anything ever completely final. And yet, some things are.

Being able to accept that is crucial as a failure to do so can result in living in bondage to the past. I don’t agree with those who say that the past should never be examined for I think that analyzing the choices we have made and understanding the reasons behind those choices can be helpful. But, if we remain trapped in the past because we cannot move on, as opposed to re-visiting the past in order to learn more about ourselves, we will not be able to bring all of ourselves into the future.

Freedom is more a process of detaching than it is of attachment. The more freedom you allow yourself, the less dependent you will be on anyone else. And this lack of dependency will enable you to give others their freedom as well. Because our society is so narcissistic and has a habit of nurturing insecurities in us by promoting unrealistic ideas about romance, beauty, youth, and social status, it is only natural that we develop a tendency to look towards others to build up our self-esteem.

We all want to feel loved, cherished, and appreciated. And because society doesn’t allow us to give ourselves these feelings (how can we when everyone else’s lives seem to be so much more perfect than ours?), we seek these things from other people. The problem with this is that no matter how much praise and admiration another person gives us, if we feel inadequate or worthless deep within ourselves, we’re still going to feel that way regardless of what anyone else tells us.

And, if we are dependent on anyone else to validate us, then we have given up our freedom. Just as happiness must come from within, so also must freedom. This does not mean that you won’t ever end up in situations that in some way inhibit your freedom. What it does mean is that you will always maintain the freedom of your own mind.  Even when you feel tempted to turn your back on reality in order to foster a sensation of certainty, if you choose freedom, you will resist the temptation.  You will doubt rather than trust, and, even when it is easier to believe a lie than to disregard it, you will be willing to seek Truth.

If all of us were able to cast off the shackles of preconceived ideas, assumptions, and erroneous beliefs, the world would look so different to us that we would barely recognize it. Yet, we would have found both Truth and Freedom, both of which oftentimes seem to remain just beyond our grasp. When we speak of the misery of existence, we fail to give ourselves credit for creating much of the misery that exists in our own lives.

Our fear drives us to make choices that are not for our highest good. Oftentimes, rather than accepting responsibility for those choices, we either blame others or allow ourselves to become overwhelmed by guilt. Why? Because it seems to be the easier path to take. And in a society that promotes the easy over the difficult, we are conditioned to make the decision that appears to require the least from us.

It is much harder to admit that we’ve made a grave error than it is to attribute one of our mistakes to someone else or to an outside cause. But what does reason dictate? Does evading the truth alter the truth in any way? No. Truth remains the same, whether we acknowledge it or not. Moreover, it may be more difficult to find the truth if we avoid it persistently and for an extended period of time. Yet, not acknowledging something that exists will never negate its existence.

Similarly, pretending that something is real when it isn’t will not make it so. The True is the Real. We can close our eyes and pretend that we’re living in a fairy tale. But at some point we’ll have to open them again and face the reality of our everyday lives. And when we face this reality is when our authentic lives begin.

The only part of you that will ever encourage you to live outside of truth is your False Self. Your True Self, that self who is capable of creating a life of meaning and purpose, fully understands that fulfillment can only come from within Truth. Only Truth is eternal. And, in the end, nothing else will remain.  When each of us comes to the end of our lives, the lies we have told ourselves and others will no longer matter. We will be faced with the results of a life that was either lived in freedom and in truth or in falsehood and imprisonment.

Does it sound like this is yet another matter in which making a choice is the preeminent factor?  Well, in a way, life does consist of the choices we make. We may think we’re being clever when we make choices that bring us pleasure at the expense of bringing pain to others. But the person who will pay the price of all the choices we make is us. And there is always a price to pay, whether we see it immediately or not. If nothing else, we pay the price of selling our soul and freedom to lies and self-deception. We pay the price of betraying humanity by choosing what we thought was best for us over what was right for others.

It is so easy to forget that we are all as connected as we are separate. And yet, the moment we forget that is when we cease to be fully human. It is also the moment when we think we have more answers than we do. There are many who imagine themselves to be smart enough to live successfully by their own rules. But those who make an impact on the world and who lead lives that are of consummate value will never be the many but rather the few. They may not acquire fame or fortune, yet they will have gained something of far greater merit—the freedom of Truth.

The Stoic philosopher Epictetus once said, “He who knows not who he is, and for what purpose he exists, and what is this world, and with whom he is associated, and what things are the good and the bad, and the beautiful and the ugly, and who neither understands discourse nor demonstration, nor what is true nor what is false, and who is not able to distinguish them, will neither desire according to nature, nor turn away, nor move  upward, nor intend, nor assent, nor dissent, nor suspend his judgment: to say all in a few words, he will go about dumb and blind, thinking that he is somebody but being nobody.”

What will your choice be? Is it better to be a nobody who thinks he is a somebody or a somebody who is humble enough to regard himself as a nobody? There is no reason to underestimate ourselves. Nevertheless, it will always be in humility that we find Truth, for Pride is a veil through which knowledge and wisdom cannot penetrate.

Love and blessings,

Alexis, your SuccessDiva

(for Mark Stephen Levy, with love, happiness, and much respect)

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~A Quest for Sublimity~

With all the feel-good messages about pursuing our bliss and visualizing our dreams in order to make them come true, we oftentimes forget that even though life is and should be joyful and happy, there is an inherent pain in being human that nothing will ever diminish. We can have the best intentions and the most wondrous goals, but even when we seem to be making what we feel in our hearts are the “right” choices, torment and emotional suffering can still exist.

For me, there is pain in not being able to live up to the image of myself that I want the world to see. To speak highly of virtues such as kindness, compassion, honesty and integrity is one thing. But, to consistently demonstrate behavior that embodies these character traits is sometimes another matter entirely.

We should never attempt to regard ourselves as being more loving, thoughtful, or considerate than we actually are. And yet we do. I find myself making judgments about other people and the choices they make even though I continue to regard a judgmental attitude as one of the greatest causes of suffering in human existence.

What is the difference in suffering and pain? This is a question I am still examining. For now, I will simply say that for me, at least, the concept of suffering seems less transitory than pain, which can be over in mere seconds.  Yet is it not from the soul that has suffered that the well of eternal hope springs? Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, “Know how sublime a thing it is to suffer and be strong.” Sublimity is not always achieved through joy and bliss. It can also come through intense anguish, pain, sorrow, and grief.

When I speak of grief, I am not talking about merely deeply traumatic events such as the illness or death of a loved one. I am also speaking of the type of grief that comes from having your dreams seemingly shattered into pieces from a wrong choice or a missed opportunity . . . the kind of grief that you feel when you are in an unresolved relationship in which effective communication seems to have become impossible. Grief can be experienced on so many different levels. And the suffering that comes about from this grief cannot ever be measured, even by those who must cope with it.

We will never comprehend the anguish and pain that others experience. And most of the time we find ways to escape from our own pain and sorrow. Do we somehow think that in ignoring pain it will disappear? Or is it that we find the idea of connecting with our pain to be so formidable that we dare not close enough to it to truly feel it?

Life is a gift, but we were never told that it didn’t have a high price tag. We may wish to see ourselves as entitled to the best of everything. But only when we understand that what we get out of life is in direct proportion to that which we give to life will be experience authentic happiness and fulfillment. It is never in possessions, material success, or recognition that we will find joy. We only think that these things give us happiness because they satisfy us on a superficial level.

We want to believe that diamonds or shoes or dinners at five-star restaurants actually lift our spirits. However, oftentimes we are just seeking ways to fill the void within ourselves. But a soul that is hungry can only receive genuine nourishment from food that has substance. In order to be physically healthy, you would never feed your body nothing but candy bars, cookies, and cake. So, why feed your soul, mind, and spirit with material riches that have no eternal value?

If you’re serious about becoming the best you that you can be—if you sincerely do want to live a life of purpose and significance—you’re going to have to develop a level of self-awareness that will enable you to see yourself as you really are. You’ll have to be tough enough on yourself to recognize your weakness while simultaneously treating yourself with a level of gentleness and compassion that enables you to hold fast to your dreams. In releasing yourself from the need to please others, you must make a stronger attempt to please yourself.

Rather then worrying about whether or not you live up to the expectations others have of you, create an image of yourself that you can be proud of and work towards becoming that person. You will find that you have acquired a new level of freedom when you start focusing on your journey and stop trying to control anyone else’s journey. We may choose to define the need to judge any way we choose, but ultimately it’s both a subtle and an obvious way to control other people.

Admittedly, there are many areas of life in which the tendency to make judgments seems so prevalent, so common—and even, to a certain extent, so understandable—that we find the idea of overcoming it to be nearly insurmountable. Yet, if each of us makes the effort to stop judging, although our individual impact may appear to be negligible at first, the lasting impact of our joint efforts might prove to be far greater than we might ever imagine.

There is already enough pain and suffering in the world without our adding to it through cruel, insensitive, and thoughtless words and actions. When we understand that in judging others we are coming from a place of fear and personal insecurity, it puts a different spin on the whole process of judgment. It no longer becomes about just tearing down other people. It becomes a process by which we tear down ourselves.

The world will always find a way to present to you a reflection of your true self. You may see an idealized image of yourself when you look into the mirror. But life will not let you get away with holding onto this fabricated self-concept forever. When you start to notice that the way others react to you doesn’t match up with how you want them respond to you, it may be time to take a long, hard look at who you really are. Similarly, when you find yourself pointing fingers and finding fault with those whom you know, attaching labels to them that represent some feeble effort on your part to define their behavior, just make sure that you are not defining yourself instead. 

Life has a way of giving us back what we have given out, whether it be in a positive or a negative way. Don’t imagine an existence that is centered mostly around you will ever bring you the dividends you seek because it won’t. You must understand the simple law of cause and effect in order to make your dreams a reality. A life that is strictly or even mostly about you may bring you what seems to be happiness right now. But ultimately, you will experience a level of emptiness, sadness, and loneliness that words may be inadequate in conveying.

Many times over the course of our lives, we may be faced with a situation in which we must decide between obtaining immediate gratification or attaining long-term satisfaction.  And developing a strong sense of self-awareness is what will give us the strongest possibility of not making a choice that we ultimately regret.  At the same time, there are probably few mortals who haven’t made a choice at some point in their lives that did not appear to be an irremediable mistake.

Yet, for every fall we take, if we manage to profit from the unwise choice or choices that led to our temporary defeat, we will discover that we are stronger than we were before. To borrow words from the captivating silent film actress Mary Pickford, “If you have made mistakes, there is always another chance for you. You may have a fresh start at any moment you choose, for this thing we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.”

Unfortunately, in this world in which we live, we are not always encouraged to get back up when we fall. This is why we must always remember that we are the ones who see our dreams most clearly and that we are the creators of our own destiny. The reasons behind the lack of encouragement and support that others exhibit may not be something we will ever comprehend. 

In many cases, those whom we might have expected to stand behind us feel threatened by our determination to keep going in spite of obstacles. They assume that if they desert us in our time of need, we will give up out of hopelessness and despair. It isn’t necessarily because such people are malicious or vindictive or hateful that they behave in this way. Rather, it is oftentimes because they are so deeply insecure that they are simply incapable of supporting those whom they perceive might have a greater chance of success than they do.

It isn’t always easy to accept the concept that there is enough success in the world to go around. Some people subscribe to the erroneous idea that success is like a piece of pie and that, in order for them to get their slice, someone else must forfeit his or hers. But ideas such as these are rooted in fear. And there can be no freedom where fear exists. To release ourselves from all fear is to give ourselves true freedom. When this occurs, we will rejoice in the accomplishments of those around us. We may even look for ways in which we can help others achieve their goals more swiftly.

Reaching this level of personal security and self-assurance will enable us to stop competing with anyone but ourselves. It will thereby provide us with the opportunity to become the best version of ourselves instead of a copy of someone else. The more you cease to compare the less inclined you will be to judge for you will embrace your own individuality. You will understand that you are every bit as exceptional as any other human being on the planet.

Why try to hinder anyone else’s journey when you are fully engaged with your own? If you see yourself as exceptional, there is no reason to be envious of anyone else. If you don’t agree with another person’s choices, stop to ask yourself whether or not it is up to you to agree or disagree. For in either agreeing or disagreeing, are you not moving from a place of mere observation into a place of judgment? Since the only thing any of us really has power over in this world is our own life, how can expending time and energy assessing the choices that others make benefit us?

In many ways, life is complicated. If your personal journey is anything like mine, there are plenty of things you have to concern yourself with on a day-to-day basis that pertain to your own life. So, why worry about other people’s lives, too?  The environment that best fosters a sense of self-awareness is that in which everything extraneous is let go of. 

In cutting away that which is not essential you will find both peace and clarity. In this way, life is a lot like love. When you bring yourself out of a place of need and release yourself from all expectations and conditions, you will discover what is genuine and what is false. Even if you experience pain and suffering, the joy you will eventually find in allowing into your life only that which is true, deep, and meaningful will surpass even the most excruciating heartache.

Don’t continue to clutter your life with the rhinestones of temporary bliss when you can have diamonds of happiness, joy, and lasting contentment instead. Allow yourself to acknowledge your pain and to gain strength from your suffering. Release yourself from the need to judge others and embrace the beauty that exists within you.

Be joyful. Be extraordinary. Be the best you that you can be . . . .

Love and blessings,

Alexis, your SuccessDiva

(“A Quest For Sublimity” is dedicated to my extraordinary friends Scot Conway and Dawn Marie Knott) 

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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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Thoughts on Love

 

On Love

“When you are complete within yourself, the love you give to others no longer comes from a place of need. It is not about your needing another person to fulfill you. Rather, it is about you and another person creating a bond that enriches both of your lives. Love that is not about need builds up both you and your beloved. Whereas love that is greedy and rooted in self-gratification destroys the possibility of true love and mutual respect existing between you.”

“Never give up any part of you to be loved by someone else. The person who deserves your love will accept you as you are.”

“Fear and love cannot co-exist, but you cannot give another person that which you do not experience first within yourself. Once you begin to trust yourself and the decisions you make in your life, you will be able to trust others, too. Similarly, reaching the point where you can fully love and accept yourself will enable you to love and accept other people.”

“The way we treat others is a reflection of how we treat ourselves. If we do not accept our own flaws, we will continue to want to erase the flaws we perceive in other people.” 

“Loving people is not about trying to make them into whom you want them to be. It’s about accepting them as they are and giving them the freedom to be themselves in their relationship with you.”

“To fall in love with another person does not mean that you lose your own identity.  Instead of giving up parts of yourself, a healthy relationship will enable you to both appreciate every aspect of who you are and to discover aspects of yourself that you never knew existed.”

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

The process of becoming

 

The psychiatrist David Viscott once said, “You must think of yourself as becoming the person you want to be.” For me, this quotation brings up an interesting question: should we be focusing more on the person we are now or on the person we want to be? And are we already this person? That is, do we already have the qualities within ourselves that will enable us to become the person we want to be?

Earlier this week, I found myself telling a friend that we should focus on the present moment and the person we are now as opposed to thinking of ourselves as being a better, wiser, and smarter person at a future date. But then, upon reflecting, I disagreed with my advice. To be a free being, a person at one with himself or herself and his/her individuality, are we not always becoming and evolving? Do we not change on a monthly, weekly, and even daily basis? And if we do, how can we be content with the person we are now? How can we live “in the now” and yet desire to improve certain aspects of ourselves and our lives at the same time?

The ancient philosopher Plato famously immortalized Socrates in both The Republic and many of his other writings. The term “socratizing” was created to define the idea of constantly examining one’s life and questioning everything, even those things that one would commonly regard as “facts”. Socrates believed that death was preferable to a life in which one ceased to question commonly held beliefs and opinions.

Thus, to live a life inspired by Socrates is to exist in a world in which questioning is as natural as breathing. However, this type of life is not altogether welcome in a universe that is overridden with mindless television and other distractions. It has become much easier to adopt views that are handed to us by other people than to think for ourselves. Even those who regard themselves as “critical thinkers” and non-conformists oftentimes have sets of views that are as unoriginal as store-bought cake mixes.

So, what is it like to truly think “outside of the box”? Well, one of the keys to out-of-the-box thinking is the determination to question and examine everything. There are very few things that we should consider to be facts, and even information that we regard as factual needs to be examined and reanalyzed. If our thoughts help create our ultimate destiny, to consistently be thinking new thoughts and challenging our old ideas would seem to be the only way in which we can always be learning and growing. This means that we should continue the process of becoming as opposed to simply being.

The very concept of “being” is one that philosophers have focused on for centuries. As Martin Heidegger so aptly points out, “Being is the most universal concept.” Heidegger also thinks that the concept of ‘Being’ is “indefinable”. If the concept of ‘Being’ is incapable of being defined, the concept of “Becoming” is still more difficult to fathom. Yet, from the moment we are born, we are becoming something more than we are. For everything that we experience in some way becomes a part of our identity, whether consciously or not. The person who we become at different points of our life is indelibly a product of our environment and our experiences And even though we can choose our thoughts, we are oftentimes helpless to choose that which we experience. As for our environment, only at the point when we reach adulthood and are capable of being independent do we have direct control over our environment.  

For the most part, I assume that those of you who are reading my articles are not children. Thus, to say that you do not have control over your environment would be incorrect. However, I suspect that even as adults we oftentimes choose to stay in environments that are contributing in a negative way to our lives and goals. Moreover, we bring experiences into our lives that greatly restrict our choices and that also bring us pain and unhappiness. Does this mean that if we are homeless or without a job that we have brought this experience into our lives? No. However, it could mean that from choices we have made over the course of our lives that we have ended up without a home and/or a job.

I realize that accepting responsibility for your life isn’t easy if you have made a lot of mistakes. But not doing so will only make you less powerful than ever. In sharing my thoughts on this matter, I realize I am creating a breeding ground for detractors to attack me and say that I am suggesting that people choose that which happens to them. Why? Because those who feel threatened by me and the concepts I share in my articles will always find some way to criticize or denigrate me.  It is part of human nature that we reject truths that in some way threaten our “world view”. And, if we can find a way to disapprove of the truth that threatens us, we will do so, even if we end up looking foolish in the process.

On a very simple level, it would be like pretending that you were not interested in a man or woman whom you were actually very much attracted to because you knew that he/she would not reciprocate your feelings. In acting as if he/she isn’t “your type”, you manage to save your pride. But, at what cost? At the cost of lying to yourself, of course. Yet, isn’t that what many of us do each day?

Does it surprise you that I would admit that I lie to myself, too? I’m not ashamed of it for I understand that it’s part of what we oftentimes call “human nature”. Believe me, if we were completely honest with ourselves every minute of every day for 365 days of the year, we would find life almost unbearable. Could this be why suicide has been a problem that so many philosophers have been obsessed with? Is the “examined life” that Socrates promoted so difficult to stomach that committing suicide becomes a viable option?

For me, the idea of not examining life would be much less bearable than living a life where seeking the truth was the first priority. I am very tired of an existence in which persuasive lies masquerade as truth and in which people play roles. This is why I urge my readers to be their authentic selves. The problem is in finding that authentic self.

If we play a role for long enough, being ourselves may become nearly impossible. It may also be difficult for others to accept us as being a different person from the individual they have come to know. I recently read about a man whose self-concept was so warped that even years of psychotherapy prevented him from being able to disassociate himself from it. Our self-concepts are part of who we are. But must they also be an part of the person we become?

Well, if the person you want to become is different from the person you are now, then I would say that you will have to let go of the self-concept you are currently identifying yourself with. For example, if you are overweight but you want to be thin, you’ll have to change your self-concept to create a new reality. Similarly, if all of your past relationships with the opposite sex have been unsuccessful, you will need to make sure that you do not have a self-concept that matches up with a person who is incapable of having a healthy relationship before you pursue another man/woman. Otherwise, you will most likely find a way to sabotage any relationship that you begin, no matter how much potential the relationship has. Why? Scientific studies have shown that most of us are more inclined to pursue experiences that are congruent with the person we perceive ourselves to be instead of pursuing experiences that would be more in keeping with the person we want to be. The reasons for this are still being examined.  

Is it that we’re afraid of change? Or as some people have suggested, are we afraid of our own power? To me, the latter explanation makes very little sense, even though I have friends who would disagree with me. I’m sure that there are instances of people being afraid of how powerful they are, but, where are such people? Those people whom I have known who have been afraid to make changes in their lives seem to be convinced of their own powerlessness. They seem to regard themselves as being relatively insignificant in the scope of things, and the decisions they make on a daily basis seem to show their own sense of insignificance.

For me, the very word ‘power’ is a problem. I tend to see power as one of the things that is misused most often in the world. Moreover, it is the desire for power that has caused some of the events that have destroyed hundreds and even millions of lives. Thus, I prefer to embrace the idea of a life of purpose. There is nothing wrong with having powerful convictions, but we should be careful how we throw around words like “power”. 

What should we even try to have power over besides ourselves? Do we have the power to control anything other than our own thoughts, words, and actions? And, if we do, is it power that we should take? Only those who are weak need to have power over anything besides themselves. To control other people and to attempt to control events shows a lack of strength. We must give others the same freedom that we give ourselves.

But, what is freedom? Isn’t that also a word that is capable of being defined in more than one way? Are not those who promote the idea of freedom often the same people who try to take people’s freedom away? In answer to my first question, I would say that freedom is the ability to live your life as you choose to, without having to answer to someone else for your opinions, views, or decisions. As for defining freedom, I would suggest that it can be defined in both general and specific terms. My definition was very broad and general because examining freedom is not the object of this article.  Obviously, I do not believe that we are free to make decisions that adversely affect the lives of other people. In other words, we are not free to kill, rape, or harm other people, even if we want to do so.

My last question is the most complex to answer because I believe it is dependent upon specific circumstances and is a subject that is worthy of much debate. Are those who promote the concept of freedom oftentimes inclined to take freedom away from others? From personal observation, my answer would be yes. This is because that which we say we believe so often fails to match up with that which we truly believe. And, freedom is a word that most people would publicly define in a similar way, even though most of us have our own private concept of the term.  

As I have said more than once, the purpose of my articles is not to sway you to see things the way I do—but rather to prompt you to examine your own views. If I challenge some of your beliefs, perhaps you should look within yourself instead of finding fault with me. As interested as some people are in contemplating the cosmos without, I tend to think that the cosmos within is worth a lot more thought. What do you think? If the person you are now is not the same as the person you want to be, might it  not be worth spending some time in self-examination? That’s a question only you can answer, and it may well depend on whether you choose the security of the present over the unpredictability of the future.

Until soon,

Alexis, your SuccessDiva

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

What choice will you make?

Although this may sound like a simple argument to set forth, life really is about choices. Almost everything you do each day is a choice— even those things that you think you must do or that someone else is expecting you to do. Sometimes I think that our society conditions us to believe that we have to live a certain way and make certain decisions because the world, at large, thrives upon control. To hold on to individuality in a universe of conformists requires strength and courage. Even those who seem to rebel against the confines of society are often in prison cells of their own making. They do not realize that they aren’t free because the bars of their prison obscure their view, thereby preventing them from seeing their lives and the circumstances of their lives clearly.

For a long time, my favorite quotation has been one that the poet E. E. Cummings once said: “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” When I first read this quotation, I found myself asking, why should being ourselves be our hardest battle? Why is it so important to everyone that we all conform to the preconceived image of what they think we ought to be?

It’s ironic, really, that rebels and those who step away from the crowd are ever admired or held up as role models, considering how strongly we are all urged to be like everyone else. Of course, many who have been courageous enough to embrace their individuality and live authentically have been vilified and maligned by the world, at large. Throughout history, this has been the case, and from Jesus to Martin Luther, King, Jr., we have seen the revolutionary leaders cut down, oftentimes in their prime. It is easy for people to criticize, mock, and demean that which they do not understand. And we can all point fingers at those who choose to forge a new and unchartered path for themselves, particularly if we are one of those unfortunate souls who remains entrenched in a life of mediocrity.

Oddly enough, I have encountered so much criticism and mockery at this point, that none of it touches me anymore. I am like the bird who will not be deterred in its migratory flight. But a friend of mine has recently been attacked for some of the choices she has made. When I read the negative comments others made about her, I realized how true it is that those who try to tear others down only end up tearing down themselves. Those who create beautiful castles do not build their masterpieces by destroying the castles that other people have built. 

When we were children, sometimes we may have done things that hurt others without meaning to. Perhaps, we wanted to be liked by our peers. Or maybe we just had not yet learned that there can be lasting consequences to our actions. However, when we grew up, we learned that even those things that are seemingly insignificant can have lasting affects on not only our lives but also the lives of others. And unless we derive satisfaction from cruelty, most of us do our best not to injure other people. At the same time, there are exceptions. If we knew why this was the case, we would be able to solve a question that has been puzzling cognitive scientists, psychiatrists, and philosophers for centuries. As it is, we can only speculate and try to content ourselves with the very plain yet frustrating truth that there are many mysteries in life that will never be understood.

From now on, I am making no more efforts to turn enemies into friends or detractors into fans and admirers of my work. If someone doesn’t like the articles I write, I would suggest that he/she stop reading them. A person’s life  is too short to spend time on things that he/she will never make a choice to appreciate or understand. We each have our own journey to take. Therefore, I encourage everyone to go his/her own way, with both my blessing and my request that he/she gives  me the freedom they are giving themselves. When we let others walk their own path, we should be secure enough in our own choices that we feel no need to criticize them.

I tend to think that those who feel the need to tear down others do so because they have so little power in their own lives that they feel they must try to take the power away from others. This is why you will oftentimes notice that those who are at the top of their chosen professions are more caring, generous, and gracious than those who are living what Henry David Thoreau would call “quiet lives of desperation”. When we feel content in our lives and we are truly aligned with our own purpose, we want those around us to be engaged with life the same way that we are.

But when we are not happy or fulfilled and we see others who seem to be leading lives that are successful and joyful, some of us start subscribing to the idea that we have been shortchanged in some way. Why? Because it’s easier to turn ourselves into victims than to take responsibility for our lives and the choices we have made. If we can blame someone else for our mistakes and our missed opportunities, even if it doesn’t do any good, it can leave us with a temporary feeling of satisfaction. But can it satisfy us on a long-term basis?

Some people speculate about what the driving force throughout the world is. They debate whether it’s love or money or both. Well, although I am still examining this issue, I am relatively certain that it’s neither love nor money. Rather, I believe that it’s desire. If you will look around, you will notice that most of the choices we make have begun with a desire. The problem with this, of course, is that in allowing desire to control our choices we are being moved by passion rather than by critical thinking. Yes, there is something to be said for intuition and “gut feelings”. But by its very nature, desire is a force that should be used with care and caution.

Yet, since desire is what I believe rules this world we live in, it is being misused and abused in ways that most of us would never even be able to imagine. And, it is what brings about most of the pain in the world, too. For it is a desire for power and control that prevents people from giving other people the freedom to lead their own lives and make their own choices. Even crimes like murder and rape are rooted in desire . . .  the desire to take the life of another person or the desire to have sexual and physical power over another person. Neither love nor money is involved in either rape or murder, but both of these vile acts are more prevalent in the world we now live in than ever before.

Do not misunderstand what I’m saying and subscribe to the erroneous idea that I’m saying desire is a completely negative force. Desire can be very positive as well. I think the question we all need to examine is this: are we controlling our desires or are our desires controlling us? When we tear down other people, it isn’t because we are powerful but because we are weak. When we criticize, complain, and demean, we are relegating ourselves to the role of victims, rather than victors. We are saying, “My sense of self-worth is so low that I have to try to make others feel less valuable in order to feel good enough about myself.” Once we realize that this is the message we are sending out, it forces us to rethink our behavior—or, at least, it should.

Like everyone else, I have had moments in which I have offered criticism when support and encouragement was what was called for. But this is because I am human as opposed to being a divine being. Thankfully, I’ve learned that I will never have freedom in my own life if I do not let others have their freedom, too. We cannot expect to have something that we try to take away from other people. And we can expect that we will be criticized if all that we offer others is criticism, just as a spirit of hate provokes strife and malevolence breeds disdain. Life seems to have a way of giving us back what we have given to others, which brings us once again back to the issue of choice.

In the past, I have shared certain aspects of my personal story in my SuccessDiva articles. But since everybody has a story, I feel that more can be accomplished if I do not share all of mine. I would rather focus on you and the changes I can inspire you to make if you choose to let my words enter into your soul and bring your deepest and most exquisite dreams to the surface of your consciousness. 

What do you want to accomplish in your life? If you must end your life with regrets, which regrets do you want them to be? Would you rather regret not reaching a goal in spite of all your efforts or would you prefer to regret not ever having tried to reach the goal in the first place? Do you want to regret having stayed in a relationship that never made you happy because you were unwilling to give up your security? Or would you rather take a chance at finding the man or woman of your dreams, even if you never find him or her?  

Yes, life really is about choices. And the choices you make today truly will influence not just tomorrow but also the rest of your life. Choosing wisely isn’t enough—you also have to choose courageously. Taking risks is part of what will bring you the life you want to live. None of us have a user’s manual to help guide us through our lives. To imagine that we will never have self-doubt or fear or moments of panic and anxiety isn’t realistic. What the determining factor in each of our lives is is whether we overcome all of these things. Do we let society dictate our needs and desires? Do we let other people make our decisions for us? Do we waver in our choices, even when we know we are making the choices that are right for us?  

A life of purpose is a life that is lived with a sense of conviction. A person who wants to live freely and authentically must be brave enough to break free from the boxes that others try to keep him/her trapped in. He or she must understand that it is better to be rejected for his/her authentic self than to be accepted for a role that he/she is playing. The approval of the multitudes matters not when we have lost all genuine respect for ourselves. And how can we respect ourselves unless we are being authentic?

One reason I have ceased to care what others say about me is because I have tuned in to who I really am. When you reach this point, you become aware of the fact that it doesn’t really matter who says what about you, if the things they say don’t match up with reality. We may all see the world through our own pair of glasses. But if we take the time to examine ourselves, we can get to the truth of who we are. If we don’t like that person, no matter who else may like us, we will be unhappy. But if we do like that person, then no matter how many people don’t like us, we should be content.

I only like the authentic me . . . the me who does not want to be identified with a specific persona or “image”. And because of this, I have chosen to let go of the image of me to embrace the authentic me. This is a choice I will never regret—not now nor at the end of my life.

What choice are you not making right now that you know is right for you? What’s holding you back?

Live today as if there will be no tomorrow . . .

Until soon,

Alexis, your SuccessDiva

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

Free yourself!

believe173 (bird flying)As I’ve said many times before, life is a series of peaks and valleys, and what can seem like the most difficult thing in the world is holding onto the idea that there is still a mountain to climb when we feel as if we’re sinking deeper and deeper into the quicksand of despair. It’s not always easy to convince ourselves that changing our life is really as simple as changing our thoughts, and, to a certain extent, it is a bit more complicated than that. We must combine actions with our thoughts to design a life that will bring us ultimate fulfillment.  When these two things match up–deeds and thoughts–in a way that is positive and effective, miraculous events actually do take place.

Those who are skeptical are reluctant to believe in miracles, and you don’t actually have to subscribe to that belief in order to bring into your life blessings that seem like miracles. One thing that keeps us from engaging fully in life is the fact that we set definitive limits on ourselves and our abilities, whether we realize it or not. These limits shape our thoughts, and those thoughts, in turn, determine our actions.  It may be daunting to think about the fact that what you’re doing on a daily basis right now is going to have a significant impact on the way your life turns out, but day-to-day living has a much greater influence on our destiny than we want to admit.

If, for example, you’re holding onto toxic energy connected with past experiences or your own fears and doubts about yourself, the life force within you will never be able to free itself, which means that you will always live in a prison of your own creation. I’ve spoken before about getting outside the box, but that concept can be explored even more profoundly. It isn’t just a “box” that we put ourselves in–it’s actually a prison. After all, some boxes can be unlocked and opened. But when you’re in a prison, you’re kept away from the outside world by bars and locks. Ironically, many people consider that they have a realistic view of the world and human nature when they allow themselves to think the worst of everyone they meet, rather than allowing themselves to continue to trust. Living can be experienced richly on a very instinctual basis, but,  when those instincts are wrong or clouded by subjective reasoning, it’s beneficial to begin examining things more analytically and less instinctively. Is it realistic to think that you can never achieve anything just because you have had disappointing results thus far? Realism and faith may seem antithetical, but, in an ideal scenario, the two should work hand in hand like two ingredients in a recipe that never fails to produce outstanding results. Does that make sense?

Realism is not and never has been the same as pessimism. George Lucas, the well-known film producer of such movies as Star Wars and Return of the Jedi has confessed that he is a cynic. At the same time, he also says that he is an optimist who has never let himself be hampered by the critics or by those who have told him that his dreams couldn’t come true. Perhaps, the fact that Lucas was at one time a race car driver demonstrates that he had the inherent spirit of a risk-taker. To take risks demands a tremendous amount of courage, not merely because it’s so hard to have complete faith in ourselves but because there are always those naysayers around us who will tell us what we “cannot” do. Since Star Wars was such a groundbreaking movie, it only stands to reason that plenty of narrow-minded people told Lucas that it was an impossibility, before he got the project off the ground.  Had Lucas not been such a big dreamer and had he not had an enormous amount of confidence in his dreams, he would not be the household name that he is today.

There is little doubt that the surest way to accomplish any dream, big or small, is to visualize its completion from the beginning.  For one thing, our minds generally cannot tell the difference between something that we strongly imagine and that which actually transpires. Wayne Dyer, the self-development expert whose books and audio programs have sold millions of copies around the world, says that the the only way to see any sort of transformation in our lives is to believe in it before we see it. At the root of visualization is will-power. We must be willing to visualize ourselves accomplishing that which we aspire towards. We have to make a conscious choice to engage in visualization, casting aside any misplaced ideas we may have about such concepts being nothing more than funky New Age ideas. Regrettably, some people are so quick to label anything that they don’t understand fully as being “weird” that they close themselves off from strategies that could make a world of difference in their lives.

Labels–in regard to people, ideas, and life itself–are something I would urge everyone to dispense of. For like deeply ingrained prejudices, labels have a way of narrowing your own way of thinking, even if you mistakenly believe that you’re only applying them to someone else. Once  you begin to label things,  you will find that you’re closing windows and doors of your world that might have offered you interesting and perhaps even life-changing experiences. It’s one thing to make wise choices and use sound judgment, but labels are unnecesary and only serve to foster a limited belief system. And, there are certain labels that can destroy others and corrupt the beauty of your own soul. Such words as “fat”,” stupid”, and “ugly” should be permanently removed from the vocabulary of anyone who wants to experience happiness or success over the course of their life. In a way, such labels are words of hate. And, as I said in my most recent post, “Cultivate your Garden,” destructive emotions are like weeds in your garden. No matter how beautiful your flowers may be, if you grow an abundance of weeds the blossoms will all be destroyed. For, just as dark clouds passing over the sky block out the sun, toxic emotions will seep into your heart, eventually leaving no oxygen to nourish love, kindness, compassion, or generosity. As surely as water quenches one’s thirst, a spirit of hate will also quench a spirit of love, and, even if you think that you can love and hate at the same time, I challenge you to examine whether or not you’re genuinely experiencing both of these emotions simultaneously.

When I was younger, I was someone who often spoke without thinking and allowed myself to give into outbursts of temper. Although I always felt depleted after getting angry, I failed to connect the fact that I was robbing myself of energy and power by letting such a destructive emotion overtake me. Those who get angry easily sometimes experience a false sense of power when they manage to intimidate others. True power, however, can never be had at the expense of others. If what you believe to be power comes from evoking fear in another person, it’s not really power at all. It is inherent weakness, stemming from a tarnished self-image and a lack of genuine self-assurance. Cowards are the ones who tyrannize and manipulate others. Courageous men and women are secure enough in themselves and their own capacities that they have no need to control anyone around them. When you think about Napoleon, the notorious onetime Emperor of France, even though you may admire his tenacity and determination, you have to admit that he did demonstrate a certain amount of cowardice. His ruthless desire for power without considering the needs of anyone else shows that he had a need to win at all costs simply to be important in his own eyes.

Do any of us really want to live that way? Do we want to be imprisoned by fears, doubts, and feelings of worthlessness? I tend to think that prisons we build for ourselves come in many different shapes and sizes. There are those that allow us room to reach our own goals, yet prevent us from considering the needs of those around us. And there are also prisons that force us to place limits on ourselves, thereby eliminating the possibility of us ever enjoying contentment on any level.  In order to be free, we have to let others have their freedom, too. That’s a lesson that isn’t learned overnight, but it’s one that will change everything about the lives of those who  haven’t yet learned it. When you free yourself, you free those around you, too. You realize that the only thing you can control and should control are your thoughts, opinions, and decisions. When you are completely free, you want to give others the freedom to be free, too, for you realize that the only way you will be able to sustain your freedom is if everyone else has freedom, too. There are situations in which it seems impossible to give another person that freedom that they deserve. For example, if you love someone and they don’t want to be with you, you may have to fight every fibre of your being to pull back and let them go. But, in not letting go of someone or something, you are putting yourself back in a prison and giving up your own freedom. Freedom cannot exist unless everyone is given the right to make their own choices and subscribe to their own belief systems.

The writer Dame Rebecca West was a woman who destroyed her ability to have any happiness in life because of her desire to imprison others in the cage of her own expectations. Although the heroines in much of her literature are liberated and free-spirited, West herself was unable to remove the gate around her heart in order to give unconditional love and acceptance to those who she cared for most. In her personal relationships, West thrived on the art of intimidation, for she wrongly believed that she could manipulate others into behaving in a way that conformed with her wishes by using the force of her will. Willpower may be a potent force, but the results it achieves sometimes come about at the expense of kindness and love. West was forced to be satisfied with the contentment she experienced through the success of her writing for even her son didn’t want to spend much time in her company. West’s objectives were achieved–yet she paid dearly for them.

It all comes down to the simple fact that there are consequences from every one of your actions. This is why you have to let go of destructive thinking patterns that include limiting beliefs about yourself and negative emotions towards others in order to be free–free in the truest sense of the word, like a bird that has been let out of its cage in order to fly. Don’t let another day go by in which you remain imprisoned in a web of false ideas and narrow-minded beliefs. Let go. . .free yourself and let the joy of your freedom be shared with everyone else!

Live with passion, enthusiasm, and courage. . .and make each moment matter!

Until soon,

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

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

It isn’t just about you. . .

meerkat-team spirit2

 

Sometimes I think we have to make happiness. . .you know, like making a batch of cookies. Yes, it sounds easier than it is (now you know I’ve admitted that most things seem that way, right?). Admittedly, you cannot manufacture happiness like a chocolate factory manufactures candy bars. Happiness is not a commodity that is mass produced. And I haven’t seen any available for purchase at the local discount store, either. What I have seen, though, is that it’s almost impossible to find happiness if all you focus on in life is yourself. Have you noticed this, too?? Now don’t get me wrong—I am not saying that you aren’t the star of your show or that the title of my first post here, “It’s All About You” didn’t mean that it is, in fact, all about you. The thing about it is it’s not just about you. Does that make sense?? It’s like saying that you can have anything you want (and you can!), but not everything you want. For one thing, acquiring one thing in your life may automatically make it impossible for you to acquire something else. If, for example, you want a new car and you want both a BMW and a jaguar,  you probably aren’t going to be able to get both, unless you are a millionaire.  Now this diva couldn’t afford either car, but that’s beside the point *wink*.  Let me give you another illustration. If you go into a restaurant and you order a slice of cheesecake, the chances are that by making this choice, you will have to forfeit the chocolate cake and the apple pie. So, as you see, we make choices. We also make a choice as to whether we want a life that centers exclusively around us, or whether we would like to have a cast of supporting players. Having been a theater actress for a few years, I can safely say that one of the very worst things you can do, when you are starring in a play, is not realize that the entire cast of the play is a team. Competitiveness can be a positive thing, but if it means that you don’t want the best for someone else, especially someone whom you’re working with, it can become very destructive. In a way, life is the same way as a play. I’ve mentioned before that there are a lot of similarities between the world and a stage and between people and actors and actresses. The American author Nathanael West, in his bleak but brilliant novel, The Day of the Locust, presented the pessimistic theory that life is essentially like a Hollywood sound stage. There is a scene in the book that I found particularly painful. Oddly enough, it involves a cock fight. On my initial reading of the book, I failed to see the significance of this brutal scene. Reading about two roosters brutalizing each other seemed as if it hadn’t much of a point. But now, on reflection, I’m wondering something: was Nathanael West trying to make a point about life and what some people do to other people? Was he not basically saying that the world supports and promotes the idea of the “survival of the fittest”, so to speak? Was he not saying that if you’re weaker than someone else, they will take advantage of that fragility? West himself had to witness other writers succeeding who certainly didn’t possess his genius, while he was forced to sell Hollywood scripts just to have enough money to eat and feed his family. Maybe his own experiences are what shaped his oppressive worldview. But what West failed to see is that just because the world is attempting to promise this “you win/I lose” mindset, it doesn’t mean that we have to buy into it. Society and “popular” culture will always try to get us to buy into what they say everyone is doing, thinking, saying, or experiencing. However, let me ask you: when you go into a clothing shop, do you buy everything you see? If one of the sales assistants comes up to you and tries to persuade you to buy a dress or a suit by telling you about how many other people have bought it, do you automatically go into the dressing room and try it on? And if you try it on, do you purchase it, even if you don’t like how it looks on you?? Well, if you answered “no” to that, then why are you purchasing the opinions and ideas that society promotes?? If you believe in God but society tells you that you shouldn’t, why would you listen to them?? Similarly, if your best friend is a Christian, but you have no interest in becoming one, are you going to let him/her convince you? I’m not saying that having faith in a power beyond ourselves cannot provide us with solace in our darkest hours. Your Success Diva believes in God. But she doesn’t try to push others to believe in Him just because she does. Why?? Well, you see, here’s the way I look at it: only those who feel a weakness within themselves would feel it was necessary to alter the opinions and beliefs of those around them. If you have full confidence in your convictions, you don’t feel you have to persuade others to share them nor do you feel that you have to defend them or disguise them.

I have a great many friends who are atheists, and we all get along beautifully. On the other hand, my grandmother, a religious fundamentalist, tends to alienate those who do not believe exactly the same way she does. In fact, her best friend, whom she knew for several decades, didn’t feel that she could share personal things with her. She knew my grandmother would judge her for any conduct that she didn’t approve of. It’s funny how so many people who believe in God want to adopt the role of God for themselves. Rather than allowing everyone to have the freedom to believe the way they like, they somehow feel they have the right to interfere and control the lives of those around them. What I feel would be so much more beneficial is to merely share the positive qualities that others might associate with religious faith with your friends and acquaintances. Could there be a better testimony than that? I daresay not. Of course, whether you are Jewish, an atheist, a Christian, a Buddhist, a Mormon, or someone who hasn’t ever made up his/her mind what you believe, you will probably see at some point that making yourself the only focus of your life isn’t going to leave you feeling very content.  We are not made to be solitary creatures. If you will note, birds tend to migrate in flocks more often than not. And if you have the cable channel, Animal Planet, you might have had the chance to watch the fascinating and entertaining show, “Meerkat Manor”. If so, did you notice how the meerkats supported and cared for each other?? Yes, they had misunderstandings and quarrels and so forth. Yet, ultimately, they bonded with one another and saw that living in harmony with each other provided them more benefits than braving it out by themselves. “But I’m not a meerkat, dear diva,” you say. No, of course you’re not. You are a living, breathing human being, and my guess is that you need to give and receive love and affection a great deal more than any meerkat in existence does.

One of the most difficult things to do, though, is to reach out to others when you are in the depths of despair. How do I know?? Well, I have often isolated myself when I have been experiencing deep depression. I have shut people who cared about me out of my life by refusing to return phone calls and/or answer e-mails and letters sent to me by post. It was not a conscious decision on my part—or, at least, I didn’t think it was at the time. The problem is, the more I isolated myself, the more depressed I became. The fact that I wasn’t willing to give affection to others made me even less able to give myself any affection. The more I withdrew, the more I disliked myself. The less love I gave, the less I received, and the less I was able to give to myself. Even now, when I am feeling extremely sad, I have a habit of closing myself off. It often seems like such a formidable task to talk to others about how you are feeling, when all you really want to do is sit in a chair and/or cry for a few hours. You also fear that no one will really understand. To be honest, there are plenty of people who won’t understand. They’ll tell you things like “Pull yourself (or your act) together,” or they are sometimes even insensitive enough to say, “Snap out of it.” Does this mean that they don’t care about you?? No, it doesn’t. What it means is that they haven’t yet learned how to respond to the needs of other people. To them, depression is merely a state of mind, and they probably think that a state of mind can be changed as easily as a pair of shoes. It’s very easy to resent such people and to blame them for their uncaring attitude. But what I think will benefit you the most (and remember, you are the most important person in your life, even if you aren’t the only important person) is to not allow yourself to give way to resentment and bitterness. The moment you start feeling yourself getting angry at the people who don’t understand, ask yourself this: if I let myself be driven by a negative emotion because of this person, who is in control of me and of my life—me or them?? Do you see that the answer is “them”? I hope you do because it is. Anger can be used positively, but more often than not it is used destructively. Reacting in anger to something another person says or does is the same as saying: “Hey, I want you to know that you have had such a powerful influence on my life by what you said or did, that I am allowing you to make me angry, even though I know that anger is a destructive emotion and that I am hurting myself more than anyone else.” Is that what you want to do?? Is anything that anyone does or says worth it? Have you noticed, too, that anger, even if it seems to lend you energy at first, usually exhausts you in the long run? I have. Emotions such as love and compassion and generosity will actually give you energy, but resentment, frustration, anger, and hate will take energy from you. Now it’s one thing to remove toxic people from your life. There are indeed times when you simply must walk away from someone. However, never do so out of anger, even if ridding yourself of the anger you feel towards a particular person seems impossible. Always keep in mind that the last impression you make on someone can be every bit as important as the first impression. Wrap your mind about that thought for a moment, and tell me whether or not you want a person’s final impression of you to be of someone who has no control over his/her own emotions.

Now that you’ve heard your diva’s thoughts about anger, I will return to the subject of reaching out to those around you. Have you ever noticed that when you get intensely preoccupied, you forget about other things that are going on in your life?? For example, let’s say that you love foreign films. Well, if you go to the video store and rent a couple of movies directed by Federico Fellini or Francois Truffaut or Ingmar Bergman or another foreign filmmaker who is among your favorites, even if you just found out that your boyfriend or girlfriend has been cheating on you, are you focusing on that when you sit down to watch the films? Sure, you can’t exactly forget about it entirely. I mean, it’s a real situation—it does exist. But if you’re watching Fellini’s muse, Giulietta Masina, light up the screen in “La Strada” or “The Nights of Cabiria,” are you thinking every second about your unfaithful “significant other”? I doubt you are. To give another example, if you have a headache, but you love ice cream and decide to stop by the ice cream shop to get a scoop of your favorite flavor (whatever that might be), are you thinking about your headache as you enjoy the ice cream? If so, are you thinking about it as much as you were?? Are you sure?? Come on now, you know you weren’t.

Well, the emotional turmoil that comes from depression is not unlike the pain that you would experience if you found out that the man or woman you love has been involved with someone else at the same time he/she has been romancing you. It’s also not unlike a stomach ache. Sure, stomach pain is usually the result of a physical ailment, but it’s still pain, isn’t it? Next time you’re feeling blue or having a bad day, try reaching out to someone else. You don’t have to do anything that requires a lot of time and/or effort. Your act of kindness can be as simple as a short phone call, a brief e-mail, or a greeting card sent by post. Also, you don’t have to say much. I emphasize this because often, when a person is hurting themselves, they are unsure what to say and have difficulty communicating. What I would suggest is a simple message such as “You are in my thoughts” or “I’m sending you a hug” or “I just want you to know that you are one of the special people in my life.” You don’t have to worry about being eloquent or profound or charming. Just be sincere. A simple and small gesture can often mean as much to another person as an expensive gift, a bouquet of roses, or a lengthy letter or e-mail. And a phone call just to say “hello” can make the difference in both how you feel and how the person on the other end of the phone feels. You can make it a situation that is mutually beneficial. Is there anything better than that? Our competitive and fast-paced society is repsonsible for the “What’s in it for me?” attitude. But you know what? If you adopt your diva’s suggestion, you will find that there’s always something in it for you when you show caring for someone else.

I must provide one word of caution, though: not everyone is receptive. Why? Well, it’s easy for people to be skeptical when people do nice things for them or say kind things to them. They tend to think that you must have a motive behind your actions and/or words. This is why being completely sincere is essential. If someone is a friend but not a close friend, don’t pretend they are. It will probably make them suspicious. And when you tell another person that you love them, make sure the words are coming from your heart. And don’t expect them to say that they love you, too. Love is something that must be unconditional if it is to be at all genuine. Perhaps they are at a place in their life where they feel they must withhold affection. Maybe they have been rejected so much that they are afraid to freely give love. Or maybe they usually associate love with romantic love, and feel that saying they love you wouldn’t be appropriate. Whatever the case, don’t worry about it. You have done yourself a favor by verbally expressing your love. Love happens to be one of those emotions that has no negative consequences. Even if it isn’t reciprocated, it will not harm you or anyone else. Indeed, it is the only emotion that can fully heal someone.

That being said, I urge you to open yourself up to the love that others demonstrate towards you. In accepting the love you receive, you will be able to pass it along to others. What is essential is that you not count on the fact that the love you give to others will necessarily be returned to you from those specific people. You will get the love back, but it may come from other sources. Life is an odd thing, really—it’s incredibly complicated, utterly unpredictable, but ultimately fulfilling. But it can only be fulfilling if you let yourself be fulfilled by it. Now, it’s going to be complicated and unpredictable whether you want it to be or not. Those are two things that you haven’t any choice about. Personal fulfillment is something you do have a choice about, though. And although you should never look to others to fulfill you, I think you’ll find that in reaching out to others, you will be enabling yourself to experience a significant feeling of fulfillment.

To all of you, I send love, peace, joy, happiness. . .& loads of success!

Your Success Diva

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(photo: a group of meerkats show what team spirit is all about)

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