~Be your own mirror~

mirror1My great uncle once told my mother that he believed there are two types of people in the world: “givers” and “takers”. Although I would never be so quick to stack individuals into two boxed-in categories, I think the point he was trying to make was a valid one. As a diva of success, it would probably be easy for me to become so focused on my own endeavors that I didn’t give much thought to others except in terms of how they could in some way benefit me.

A couple of weeks ago, someone who has been my friend for several months suggested that self-promotion was at the heart of my Success Diva activities although he has never actually taken the time to read the articles at my blog.  Obviously, to be successful in any area of your life, you do have to take personal initiative. You must make the most of opportunities and, to loosely paraphrase a quote by author Francis Bacon, you sometimes have to create more opportunities than you find.

But, does this mean that suddenly you are the only important person in your world and everyone else is a background player?? Are you the only star in your sky? If so, isn’t it getting a little lonely up there in the heavens?? I have known plenty of people over the course of my life who seemed to concentrate exclusively on themselves and their own needs and desires. There are even those who would say that such behavior is “natural” and “normal”. Yet, is it? Or is that just an attempt on a person’s part to validate the fact that they are always putting themselves first?

Our society nourishes and promotes a philosophy that is immensely ego-driven. We are brainwashed into believing that if we accomplish enough and acquire enough, we will find happiness and fulfillment. When we turn on the television set, we see add after add telling us what perfume we should wear, what shaving cream we should use, where we should shop for clothes, and what sort of lifestyle we should crave. We can think that we aren’t being influenced by the messages that we’re hearing on television or reading in magazines and books, but, after awhile, the thoughts behind the words begin to seep into our consciouness. We imagine that we will always remain consistently devoted to our own personal goals and dreams, but aren’t we kidding ourselves? How can we not be affected by all that we see, hear, and experience?

If, for instance, our society was more inclined to encourage everyone to think first of others and then of themselves, how would things be different than they are now? Many people think that  “looking out for number one” is the strategy that drives achievement.  But what sort of achievement does it bring? We all reside on this earth together, don’t we? The only way that focusing exclusively on ourselves and our needs would be an ideal situation is if each of us were residing on our own planet. We are dependent upon other people, whether we want to be or not.

Zig Ziglar, one of my favorite motivational speakers is noted for saying, “You can have everything in life you want, if you just help enough people get what they want.” What I think Zig’s trying to point out is that you we must embrace the spirit of harmony that pervades our universe, rather than trying to fight it. Instead of looking at each relationship as being something that could benefit us, we should be thinking of ways in which each connection we make can be mutually beneficial. When it comes to the people you love, don’t you usually think of their wishes, in addition to your own? Of course, you do. So, you know what it’s like to experience that feeling of connection with another person. Why not enjoy it in all of your relationships?

It’s only our ego that makes us think that giving too much attention or affection to others will in some way cause us to be depleted. When we allow ourselves to lapse into what I call a “scarcity mentality”, we truly fear that if we let someone else take center stage in our world instead of us, we’ll somehow end up as the understudy in our own life.  And yet, the examples that have been shown in books and films of those whose lives have been lived solely to benefit themselves demonstrate that happiness is not generally found in mere self-gratification.

The film “Sunset Boulevard” comes to mind when I think of a story in which the leading figure was completely at the command of her own ego. Norma Desmond had become so fixated on her status as a “star”, that she lives in an imaginary gothic fairy tale of her own making.  Her world was a spider’s web spun from threads of lies, delusions, and memories.  She existed in the past because facing the future would have meant that she would have had to fly out of her gilded cage and face the woman she really was when she looked in the mirror. A looking glass doesn’t lie to us, but we can lie to it if we choose to see a reflection other than our own when we peer into it.

If, for instance, we see ourselves as a generous, caring, and benevolent person, but we are actually selfish, jealous, and resentful, we will never be looking at our reflection in a mirror no matter how many times we gaze into it. When you take a few moments to think about it, it’s amazing how much time many of us have taken to try to erase a small blemish on our complexions. And, yet, how much time have we spent trying to rectify the blemishes in our soul? How often have we contemplated whether or not we were exhibiting compassion and caring to the people in our lives? How frequently have we stopped and engaged in a full self-assessment of ourselves and our inner natures? It’s so much easier to ignore what we don’t like about ourselves. “Nobody knows I’m really this way,” we whisper to our souls, and maybe some part of us really buys into that theory.

However, would  you think a diamond that looked magnificent on the surface was nearly as lovely if you held it under a microscope and saw it was full of black carbon spots? It would lose a lot of its allure, would it not? Well, if our outsides don’t match up with our insides, we’re no different than that deeply flawed diamond. So, no matter how radiant we think we are when we’re under the spotlight, sooner or later people are going to notice those telltale blemishes. It’s never comfortable to acknowledge that we’re not the person we want to be and/or that we’re pretending to be, but, in order to find true contentment within our souls and spirits, it’s much better to admit even that which is unpleasant as opposed to allowing an illusion to become our reality.

After all, no matter how many people come into our lives or how many significant others or children or relatives or friends we have over the course of our lifetime, the person we will end up spending the most time with is still ourselves. Would you choose to spend the largest amount of your time with someone who was pretending to be someone besides themselves? If you had a friend who told you that they were hiding their true nature from you and everyone else, would you continue wanting to spend lots of time around them? Well, if you haven’t been honest with yourself and others about the person you are, is it really any different?

Actually, it is different because whether or not you lie to yourself is something you have control over. On the other hand, you have no power over whether or not others are manipulating or lying to you about who they are. If someone whom you love and trust is presenting you with a fake mirror image of their true nature, there isn’t anything you can do to change that. It’s because people do deceive others and convey a false impression of themselves that many of us are quick to imagine there is a hidden agenda behind someone’s friendliness or kindness. “What do they want from me?”, we sometimes asks ourselves. And, who can blame us for wondering that? Since our culture teaches people that self-gratifaction is of the utmost importance, why would we not look for hidden motives?

What we need to make sure of is that we are not guilty of having hidden motives ourselves. It’s easy to engage in behavior that appears to be benefiting others, but if all we’re thinking about is how what we’re doing will benefit us, there will come a time when someone will start to question our authenticity. At the very least, we’ll know that our seemingly altruistic gestures are being guided by personal motives. If, for example, the only reason we take someone out to lunch is because we think that they’ll invest in a project we’re trying to get up and running, we may accomplish what we’re setting out to do, but we’ll be left with a feeling of dissatisfication because we’ll know that we had a private agenda that was intended to only benefit us.

Anthony Robbins, another of my favorite motivational speakers and authors, has ensured that his children learn the value of giving to other people. I have always remembered the story of how one of his children was given a huge bunch of balloons on a special occasion. Rather than encouraging his son to bask in the feeling of overwhelming gratification that being the recipient of so many balloons could have given him, Tony suggested that he go to a nursing home and give some the balloons away to the people staying there. At first, Tony’s young son wasn’t overly enthusiastic at the prospect of letting go of his highly prized balloons. However, after he did give them away and saw the looks of appreciation and affection on the faces of the elderly residents, his sensation of happiness far exceeded what it had been when the balloons belonged to him.  

I think what is true of the balloons is true of love, generosity, kindness, and compassion. We can allow all these emotions to reside within us. . .we can hold onto them frantically, fearing that sharing them will be too great a risk. . .or we can let go of our fears and allow ourselves to embrace the spirit of harmony that is inherent in the universe. I am tremendously fond of saying that Love is Queen of all. I imagine Love as a magnificent queen, dressed in opulent robes and sitting on a jewel-encrusted throne. I think of her ruling over an kingdom in which goblins and ghouls of hate, anger, malice, and envy roam with wild abandon on nights when she sleeps soundly. I envision her engaging in battle with these nefarious beings and conquering them not with the blade of a sword, but rather with magical words of persuasion and gestures of grace. For Love is a Queen whose power comes from stillness and calm rather than bluster, brashness, and brutality. Like those rulers who have been sagacious enough to realize that psychological combat can be more effective than sword play or fist fights, Love plays her game with chess pieces that are pure, genuine, and will not harm anyone. For she knows that truth and kindness will ultimately win, since the universe would not maintain its spirit of harmony otherwise. 

Our world may be full of those who hate and hurt those around them, but the path to happiness and fulfillment is only walked upon by those who are devoted to nourishing themselves and those around them with love, honesty, affection, generosity, and empathy. If you’re thriving on anger, envy, greed, and hatred, you may make enough money to purchase a fancy sports car to drive around in, but sooner or later you’re going to either run off the road or end up on a dead-end street. 

So, unless what you’re pursuing is short-term satisfaction or success that gives you plenty of material possessions but no feeling of inner contentment, look at yourself in the mirror and make sure that the person you think you are matches up with the reflection. And if you prefer the reflection, start making the changes today that will transform that image into your reality.

As always, make every moment matter. . .and life with passion, courage, faith, and enthusiasm!

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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for some, it’s all about them. . .

cat-snowwhite and the mirrorAs someone who feels that it is her personal mission (ever heard of writing a personal mission statement? No, well. . .we’ll talk about that later) to reach out to others and share with them her insight and ideas, this diva is grieved whenever she encounters those who reject that which she has to offer. Hey, it’s inevitable that such people exist. Why? Well, let’s face it, if this world were full of nothing but positive people, it would be an entirely different place. What frustrates (yes, frustration is a negative emotion. I admit it!) is that no matter how much I try to help and/or show affection to some people, they end up showing a  lack of gratitude at one time or another. “Okay,” you say, “but that’s the way the world works.” You know what? You’re right. However, I tend to think that such individuals are not applying the principles that your Success Diva promotes. Rather than the world not being just about them. . .it really is all about them. “But wait,” you interject, “you have said more than once that each of is the star of our own show.” Sure, that is what I said. But that doesn’t mean that you forget about everyone else’s needs besides your own. To put your needs first in no way means the needs of those whom you care about are unimportant. Does it? It simply means that you understand and realize that only in putting you first can you be all you want to be to those special people in your life. For those of you who are mothers, you know how easy it is to become so wrapped up in your child’s concerns and wants that you forget all about you. I’m not speaking of the things your child actually needs, for what mother who truly loves her child/children doesn’t do her best to provide her child/children with everything he/she/they need (s)? No, what I’m talking about are those times when you choose to spend yet another hour playing with your daughter or son, even though you really need a quiet hour to yourself, perhaps reading one of your favorite authors or writing in your journal. It may seem as if you’re being selfish to spend time on you, but, in the long run, you’re doing both you and your child a favor. I oftentimes notice that parents who devote themselves exclusively to their children and their children’s wants end up losing their temper, getting impatient, and exhibiting other signs of behavior that convey their personal lack of self-fulfillment. It isn’t a matter of it not being just about them—it’s not about them at all. Rather, it’s about a child who will probably grow up feeling that, if  he/she isn’t the center of attention, something must be wrong. When I was a child, I spent a large amount of time practicing music every day. So, I never had the chance to feel I wasn’t being given enough attention because I was alone with whatever musical instrument I was practicing and was generally completely occupied with this activity. My mother was the sort of woman who would willingly have sacrificied all her wants to make me happy, yet she never had the chance to do that since my primary occupation was music practice. I do feel that my mother began identifying herself too closely with the role of being a mother. If I had it to over with, once I was old enough to understand how important it is for parents to have time to pursue their own interests, I would have encouraged her to engage in more activities that were focused primarily on her. However, there are so many things we tend to ignore when we are children. We look towards our parents to provide all the love we need, which means that, at a certain age, we find it difficult to love ourselves, particularly if one or both of our parents failed to give us the unconditional love that we sought and needed. Believe me, neither of my parents were perfect. Of course, who is perfect? Moreover, my father was too young and immature to understand what being a father really meant. He was obsessed with work and spent most of his time away from home. When he was around, he was often verbally, emotionally, and even physically abusive. Without sharing parts of my personal life story (if you know me privately, I’m sure you can fill in a few blanks), I will say that I still have psychological scars from my childhood. At the same time, there were certain things that I was taught that I am very grateful for. I learned a definitive work ethic at a very young age, and I also grew up to understand that integrity, honesty, self-discipline (even if you don’t think you have it, look for it and you might just find it), and compassion are more important than money, material possessions, and other things of a similar nature. It fills my heart with delight whenever someone tells my mother what a lovely and sweet daughter she has raised. I’m certain it makes her proud, also. Indeed, I’m certain that what makes her most proud of me has nothing to do with the things I’ve accomplished. Rather, she is proud of the person I am inside. Have you ever read author and wit extraordinaire Oscar Wilde’s famous novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray?  Or, if you haven’t read the book, have you seen the film, by any chance? Well, I cannot think that there is a better indication of how outer beauty can mask inner hideousness than that particular story. What does it matter if you are exquisite without if you are filled with bitterness, malice, cruelty, vindictiveness, and other poisonous emotions inside?? In the long run, those emotions will destroy your beauty, no matter how magnificent it once was. The people we are and become have a way of revealing themselves to those around us in the most extraordinary ways. Don’t think that you are just fooling yourself if you are thriving on malignant emotions but are showing a mask of goodness and kindness to the world. The masks we wear are sometimes not nearly as opaque as we might think. And ultimately, the person who will be affected most by those pernicious emotions you may be nourishing yourself with is (yes, you guessed it!) you.

It’s easy to blame our childhood and/or the pain others have caused us for the person we are right now. In fact, it’s far easier to do this than to accept responsibility for who we are. And yet, we will never be able to lead the life that we desire until we understand that we are responsible for the person we are and for the life we are leading. What does this mean? Am I suggesting that you crucify yourself for the bad decisions and the cruel things you might have done?? No, I’m not. What I am suggesting is that you decide to make a change starting right now. On a certain level, I think we all do the best we can at the point of our lives that we’re at. Life is like a long and curving road, and that road is much smoother in some places than it is in others. We will never have all the answers nor is wisdom something that you will ever have enough of. But from reading some of my posts and absorbing my ideas and my insight, I hope that you will be willing to admit that you may still have things to learn about life. I hope, too, that you will be willing to learn those things, rather than simply saying that the way you are now is the way you’re probably destined to be. I have invented a new phrase that I feel sums up those people who focus on their own needs at the expense of anyone else’s needs. They have IAATD. Do you know what that is?? Well, it’s “It’s All About Them Disorder“. Now, maybe I emphasized the fact that you’re the star of your own show a bit too strongly. Who knows? I don’t retract anything I’ve said in my previous posts, but I will say that being the star of your show and being the only star in your show are two entirely separate things. Did I not mention how important it is to be part of a team? When have you seen a team in which each player was thinking only of what was best for him or her? If you have ever watched the Olympics, I’m sure you’ve noticed how ALL the players in a team sport relish and delight in the successes of their fellow team members. Did you have a chance to catch the Olympics last summer? If so, didn’t you see how happy the all-around Olympic champion in female gymnastics, Nastia Liukin, was when her teammate, Shawn Johnson, won a gold medal in one of the individual events? And did you also notice the way Shawn Johnson was smiling when Nastia won the all-around gold medal? Don’t you think Shawn must have been disappointed that she didn’t win that all-around gold medal ? Of course, she was. But being the champion she is, she understands that only in being happy in the victories that others achieve will we ever experience any personal triumphs.

When I was an actress, I had a tendency to let my competitive instincts prevent me from fully being pleased when actresses whom I knew got parts in plays that I had auditioned for. I also found it difficult at times to be excited when an actress had the chance to be in a production that was of a higher quality than the production I was acting in at the time. If this means I was a little jealous, okay—I was jealous. Do you think this jealousy helped me in any way? No, it didn’t. It only prevented me from being able to make the most of certain opportunities that came my way. You see, these negative emotions have a way of creating misery in a person’s life sooner or later. You might think that it isn’t doing you any harm to resent someone or even feel contempt or malice towards them. However, you will ultimately pay the price for allowing yourself to keep these emotions as pets. It’s sort of like keeping mildewed cheese or a rotten egg in your refrigerator. I don’t know about you, but after a time, that rotten egg or that mildewed cheese starts to smell terribly bad. In fact, it starts to stink up your entire refrigerator. So, what I’m basically saying is that negative and destructive emotions belong in a garbage can, along with all the other trash. Let the garbage men take them to the dump—don’t keep them around the house.

I want to say a few more things about the IAATD (It’s All About Them Disorder). When you encounter people who have this disorder, the best thing you can do is let them know that you are there if they need you and then simply let go. An alternative to this is to walk away entirely, and that is a choice that you must make for yourself. Your diva isn’t going to say, “Hey, get so-and-so out of your life.” What I will say is that IAATD can be contagious if you spend too much time around someone with it. It’s ideal if you can surround yourself with as many positive, encouraging, and loving people as possible. The people you have in your life should support you in all of your endeavors. When you have to start explaining what you’re doing to them or defending yourself to them or proving to them that you still care about them, even though you aren’t able to give them as much attention as they might like, then you’ve crossed paths with someone who has IAATD. Unfortunately, a lot of people with IAATD like themselves the way they are. Indeed, they are very content focusing exclusively on themselves and what’s best for them. So, even though you can make an effort to help them see the light (so to speak), I would imagine that they’ve gotten so accustomed to the darkness that they have started to enjoy it. But, if you think someone whom you care about who has IAATD is willing to change, by all means let them know that the path to true happiness comes from making sure your life isn’t just about you.

For those who have discovered this blog via Facebook, I want you to know how pleased I am that you’re here. I have done my best to promote my blog at that site as I happen to think there are people there who can truly benefit from what I have to say. Please don’t forget that writing me personally for specific help and/or input is always something I appreciate. My e-mail address is successdiva7@yahoo.com  Also, I do accept most friend requests at Facebook. I think that only in having an open mind and a caring heart can anyone ever experience ultimate joy, fulfillment, and success.

I encourage you to live every moment like it truly matters. Make each hour count! Live with passion and enthusiasm.

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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