The Power of Love

Life is the most valuable gift that any of us will ever be given. Yet,  how much of it do we fritter away in needless worries and petty concerns? One thing the world has never yet truly comprehended—in spite of all the positive messages of love, peace, and harmony that are sent out—is this simple truth. An end to suffering and the beginning of healing will only come through love.

We relegate love to the compartment of romance or measure it out to our family members and those friends who are closest to us. But must we give out love as if it were no more essential than the salt and pepper with which we season our foods? Is it not more than something to add flavor to our lives?

Indeed, love is much more than that. It is the very essence of humanity. It is the one emotion that is powerful enough to defeat  the pain, anguish, sorrow, and suffering in this world of ours.

When I finished my article “A Quest for Sublimity”, I was faced with criticism and opposition from those who believe that suffering is not a key component of our lives . . . that we can somehow limit the pain we experience by denying that it is “suffering” or by defining suffering as “complaining” instead of what it is—a genuine experience.

There are several things about this invalid reasoning and the lack of logic behind it that I wish to address. Suffering oftentimes is used interchangeably with the word “pain”. Although we may differentiate between the two words, since each word we write or speak is nothing more than a string of letters that each of us defines in our own terms, it is important to keep in mind that the words we use are part of our subjective reality. And, so are the concepts we attach to those words.

It may be that pain and suffering are both difficult concepts to focus on. But when you release yourself from the need to escape from them, you will find within yourself a new level of serenity.

In the words of Eugene Kennedy, psychologist and meditative thinker, “We cannot run away from this pain without running away from ourselves. We are ashamed of it only if we misunderstand it .  .  . In this same way, this existential pain is ‘our’ pain, the proof of our being human together.” Is there any reason why we should make ourselves ashamed of any emotions we feel, whether positive or negative? Must we be happy all the time in order to be worthy of love and respect? Are those of us who are the tortured souls branded with the words “pain” and “suffering” upon our brows? Are we to hang our heads in shame over acknowledging our suffering?

I will leave you to answer these questions. Your replies will indicate how deeply you have experienced life and how intensely you are willing to continue your life experience. When we speak of healing, if there is no pain, no sadness, no anguish, and no suffering, what is there to heal? Why is there such a need of love, kindness, and compassion in the world if there is not so much trauma connected with simply being human?

If we take a moment to remember the monumental tragedy that occurred on September 11, 2000, in New York City at the World Trade Center, we will understand that bad things can happen to good people. And we are yet again reminded of Harold Kushner’s purpose in writing his wise, touching, and insightful book called When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Whether you want to acknowledge it or not, they do.

Never deny the obvious, hoping you will miraculously make it untrue. Hard truths don’t disappear just because we don’t like them or because we don’t want to accept them as part of our lives.  There may be many paths to wisdom, but when we fail to discern that which is true from that which is not, the path we are on will only lead us to ignorance.

When I say that love will heal us, I am not speaking of the kind of love that brings about sexual union or the kind that exists merely between ourselves and those who are closest to us. The love I speak of being so powerful is that love that can bring all of us together—if not as one, then at least as joined links in a world that is well on the road to self-destruction even as we speak.

Love and life are two words that have always been intertwined. And when we cease to love or close ourselves off from giving and receiving love, we cease to be entirely human. Even though we may believe that we are protecting ourselves from being hurt or from experiencing pain, we are actually cutting off  ties with those around us. Indeed, we are creating barriers around our souls from which our body and mind cannot escape.

The psychologist Erich Fromm once said, “Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.” Why is it the only sane and satisfactory answer? Quite possibly because all other answers would only exist as part of our own subjective realities. Yet love binds us together and brings us into a spirit of oneness, of connection with our fellow men. Even when we’re deeply wounded and fear that opening up our hearts will only end up injuring us further, understand that the wounds we  already have will only heal by loving and through receiving love.

One does not have to be religious to appreciate the fact that the core essence of all of the most important religions have been founded upon the doctrine of loving one another. In Christianity, when the Law passed away and the Old Testament of the Bible was no longer relevant, the one command that Jesus gave is to be found in I John 13: 33-35, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” What could be more antithetical to this command than the legalistic, self-righteous attitude of many of those who call themselves Christians? How is it that people are able to justify the perversion of religious texts that they say they subscribe to? What is so difficult about persons obeying the command of a God whom they say they worship?

Whether you are an atheist, a Christian, or subscribe to another faith, it seems impossible to get away from the simple truth that love has the power to heal, to bless, to strengthen, and to transform life itself. Where love is lacking, there is ugliness, pain and misery. Yet, where is there not a lack of love? We complain, judge, criticize, argue, and debate—but, we hesitate to love. Why? There are many possible explanations for the thoughts of fear that some of us begin to attach to love.

Aside from being afraid that we will be hurt, some of us have a tendency to regard love as a subject fit for poets and sentimental writers. Love is such a universal term that rather than acknowledging the many different ways that it can be expressed and received, we choose to make some futile attempt to define it. Perhaps, defining it makes us feel more in control of whom we let ourselves give love to or receive love from. It also enables us to justify our behavior when we fail to demonstrate love to another person. The need to define it is often directly correlated to the need to judge, restrict, repress, and withhold.

I did not grow up in a household where I felt loved. My childhood was such that I also was unable to express freely the love I felt for others. Because I was young, I was not able to comprehend the reasons behind the lack of love and affection that I experienced. I was inclined to take the unloving words and actions personally. I believed that there was something deeply unlovable about me—that I was somehow not deserving of being loved and that the love I wanted to show others was not good enough for them.

It has only been later, as I have been able to detach myself from the psychological scars of my past, that I have seen that those who withhold love and affection from us are usually coming from a place of personal fear. As difficult as it may be to fathom, even a lack of love that takes the form of cruelty, manipulation, and abuse is rooted in fear. Does fear excuse these things? Certainly not. But, it does give us some understanding, however tenable, of the behavior of those who either cannot or choose not to love us.

There are those individuals who are so damaged that, at a certain point, it is no longer possible for them to love anyone. Oftentimes, we imagine that such people love themselves. But the reality is that what appears to be ego-driven or narcissistic behavior is oftentimes the product of hatred that is primarily directed inward. Although this hatred may be exhibited towards others, too, the negative image that these damaged people hold of themselves in their own minds prevents them from being able to love or accept themselves. In viewing others as not being worthy of their love, they also see themselves as not being worthy of self-love.

It is not always easy to discern when genuine self-hatred exists. Sometimes it is disguised by haughty and even bombastic declarations about specific gifts, talents, and abilities. Yet, in spite of all of the grandiloquence, there is usually no definitive sense of self-worth. Thus, the inability to love is part of an attempt to reinforce what is a negative and dysfunctional self-concept.  One of the problems that has come about is that as time has gone on and  people have become more obsessed with having and less focused on being, the inability to love has become not an occasional or even general problem. It has become a tragic epidemic.

The type of narcissism that is spreading through our world now is the very opposite of the dignity and acceptance of the individual. It clings to the accumulation of things, the concept of achievement and success, and the desire for mass-conformity, all of which make it impossible for each person to hold onto his/her own sense of self-worth.

Thus, rather than less pain, less misery, and less suffering in the world, these things are all flourishing. And as long as we continue to promote commercialism, materialism, and conformity, these things will continue to proliferate. Why is that we do not see what is right before us—namely, that things will never bring us lasting happiness?

Please realize that I’m not saying that things are bad in themselves. In fact, having certain things undoubtedly makes our lives a great deal more comfortable. But when we end our lives, our use for these things will have ended, also. What will be left is the impact that we had on the world and on the lives of other people. So, as long as our lives are centered around things instead of values such as love, compassion, kindness, and empathy, we will remain unfulfilled. That is the message I am conveying.

Money and material possessions are not to be despised within themselves. It is the importance we give these things that determines whether or not they have a positive or negative influence on each area of our lives. A love for material objects, no matter how lavish or exquisite they may be, must never replace the love we feel for our fellow human beings.

Even author Oscar Wilde, who was known for his taste for the finer things in life asked, “Who, being loved, is poor?” It may not always be easy to see that wealth and abundance can come from love when you barely have enough money to buy your most basic necessities. But once you awaken to the powerful impact that love can have, you will see that its value exceeds that of anything else. 

Through my own personal challenges, I have seen the difference that love can make. I have seen it bring about miracles. And I have seen the lack of it create a level of grief and anguish that words are incapable of expressing. Although the possibility of there coming a day when suffering and sorrow do not exist is difficult to fathom, there is only one thing that gives us even the slightest chance of bringing an end to the physical, spiritual, and psychological devastation that people throughout the world are experiencing. And that one thing is love.

What is harder than many of us will ever conceive of is the capacity for forgiveness that many of us must reach in order to begin loving. For, it is not simply anyone who has ever hurt us whom we must forgive—it is also ourselves. Perhaps, you don’t think that you need to forgive yourself for anything. But you do. Whether you are aware of it or not, there is some part of you that blames yourself for the wrong choices you have made and the people whom you have hurt, whether intentionally or not.

And, until you forgive yourself for both your mistakes and your perceived mistakes, you will not be able to forgive others. “How do I know?” you may be asking. Well, I have lived with self-blame for much of my life.  And the weight of this burden has brought me nothing but unhappiness. No matter how much we might want to go back, we cannot erase our past mistakes. The words we have said that were unkind or the choices we have made that were foolish are all part of a closed chapter or chapters of our lives.

In order to move forward, the past must remain where it is. Bringing it into the future will only trap us in the cycle of pain, doubt, fear, and bitterness. In Buddhism, it is believed that we create heaven or hell in our lives through our own responses to the circumstances that life brings us. If this were so, how much more aptly can we create a hell on earth for ourselves than by continuing a cycle of emotional and psychological anguish? Suffering is real, and pain is genuine. But that does not mean that we are incapable of diminishing both things in our lives.

To incorporate forgiveness, love, and self-acceptance into our daily lives is an excellent place to begin. The remarkable author and Jungian psychoanalyst Polly Young-Eisendrath summed up the subject of suffering and what can come from it very eloquently when she said, “When suffering leads to meanings that unlock the mysteries of life, it strengthens compassion, gratitude, joy, and wisdom. When suffering leads to barriers and retaliation and hatred, it empties you of hope and love.”

It does appear that there is a clear choice. You can either choose to allow your pain, fear, sadness, and suffering to close you off from being loved and from loving others or you can let it make you more willing both to give and receive love. The wounds and scars from your past can either serve as a way for you to experience life on a deeper and more profound level or they can hold you back from ever experiencing anything other than shallow emotions and superficial satisfaction.

Do you see how, yet again, it’s entirely up to you? Your life is yours. You can either relish it, appreciate it, and make the most of it or you can cast it aside like a useless present.  What choice will you make?

Love and blessings,

Alexis, your SuccessDiva

(for Tracey Fielder, with lots of love)

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

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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

Releasing Yourself

With the beginning of a new year, I can’t help thinking of Andy Warhol’s sagacious observation, “They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” How many of us imagine that the start of a new year presents us with a fresh opportunity for change, success, happiness, and/or fulfillment? Yet, what is the reality? Is it not true that every day gives us a chance to make the changes in our lives that will enable us to live freely and authentically?

A few days before Christmas, I picked up a book by Steve Chandler with the catchy title, 17 Lies that Are Holding You Back and The Truth that Will Set You free. I spend many hours each day reading philosophy and psychology. Thus, I wasn’t sure how much an author who evokes comparisons to some well-known self-help gurus would appeal to me.

However, I tend to consider each book I read profitable if I come away with even two or three new ideas. I enjoy having my thought processes and thinking patterns challenged, for challenge promotes growth. Chandler’s honesty is probably the reason why his writing seems both authentic and persuasive. The minute that we adopt the view that the writer of a book by has never faced any of the problems or issues that we’ve experienced is when he/she will lose most of his/her ability to have an impact on us. Taking each “lie” one chapter at a time, Chandler analyzes the myths and misconceptions many of us have about ourselves and proves the lack of validity beneath them. The lies he speaks of are the lies that others have told us and that we have told ourselves—and they are all lies about us, about other people, and about the world at large.

If you find yourself blaming others for your depression or your perceived failures or find yourself frequently making comments about being “too old” or using the excuse “that’s just the way I am” to exempt yourself from guilt, then you might want to stay away from this book. Unless, of course, you’re really serious about changing. Chandler takes a no-nonsense approach. And, for those who need for others to treat them with kid gloves or to only tell them what they want to hear, he won’t be the author for you. At the same time, I tend to think that many of those who are reading this blog sincerely do want to change, even if they don’t admit it to themselves.

I came under brutal attack for my last blog article, “Reclaim Your Power.” In spite of the incredibly positive responses that I got from most of my readers, there were a few poor souls who didn’t like my article at all. They even ridiculed my work. But I understand that they were only trying to find some way to disguise their own lack of effectiveness as people. I was accused of belittling those who didn’t subscribe to the concept that we have a choice as to whether we can be happy or not. Well, it is never my intention to belittle those who do not agree with me. In fact, I sometimes end up contradicting my own views at a later date. I consider life to be a continual learning process, and, in spite of what others might think, I certainly don’t imagine for a moment that I have all the answers.

Sometimes I think that we are afraid of those whom we choose to demean and criticize because they show us aspects of ourselves that we would rather not reveal. Ridicule and scorn generally come from one of two things—either fear or a diminished sense of self-worth. Jealousy and envy are usually evoked by the same causes. When we start to understand and appreciate our own worth as people, we are able to accept it when others do not share our views without creating a need to attack, insult, or mock them. Moreover, we do not feel threatened by the accomplishments that others achieve.

Does this mean that once we establish a definitive sense of self-worth we are suddenly “perfect” people? Not at all. We are never what you might call “finished products”.  However, until we are willing to let go of preconceived ideas about ourselves and other people and respect the different views that others have and the decisions they make, we will always have a deep sense of inner unhappiness or dissatisfaction. Releasing others from your expectations enables you to release yourself from the expectations others have of you.

Although, at the time I received the insulting remarks that I speak of, I felt compelled to defend myself, I now see that in attempting to defend myself I only gave others power over me. In coming from a place of defensiveness, I ended up making what they said about me have more value than it actually did. But, all of this happened over a week ago, and I’m such a chameleon that I tend to change on a daily basis, constantly transforming myself, my thoughts, and the way I see the universe around me.

There are very few things that I regard as “fixed” in my life. In general, I find that becoming too attached to any one set of beliefs stifles our attempts to grow and expand. On the other hand, let me clarify that I do encourage others to be true their religious faith and also to their code of ethics (like I am), for these are things that should be celebrated because they are part of what makes us authentic individuals. Once we allow anyone to make us question what we truly believe, we are starting to give our power away to others again. And, your life doesn’t belong to anyone but you.  

When my firend, Anna Lieb, spoke of the positive impact that Wayne Dyer’s book, Pulling Your Own Strings, has been having on her and her life, I felt inspired to pick up my copy of the book, too. Needless to say, I have not been following Dyer’s suggestions in recent times. I have become a victim of the whims of others and have even been allowing them to manipulate me into joining them in games of betrayal and self-deception.  Now, you don’t have to tell me that life itself is a bit of a game. The situation is, we all deserve to be victors—not victims. And ultimately, we end up victimizing ourselves more than anyone else does because we give our power away in a number of ways every single day that we enable those around us to manipulate and mistreat us. Unless, of course, we make a conscious decision to make our life strictly our own.

One of the key ways that others will victimize and manipulate you is by telling you things about yourself that aren’t based in reality. For example, if you behave in a manner that they perceive as irrational, they may label you as being “neurotic”. It might even be implied that you are emotionally unstable or much more fragile from a psychological perspective than you actually are. Pay attention. Stop to consider whether the things you’re hearing others say about you are really true.

Just because someone else perceives you a certain way, you don’t have to agree with them. People have been attaching labels to me for most of my life, some of them positive and some of them extremely negative. After awhile, you must learn to disregard any opinion about you that doesn’t match up with your authentic self. You don’t even need to spend time wondering why someone thinks something about you or says something about you. Realize that, in all likelihood, they are dealing with self-esteem issues, and they are demeaning or criticizing you in order to feel better about themselves.

Does this mean that such people are “bad” or “evil”? Not necessarily, although it is certainly within the realm of possibilities. But, whether they are “bad” or “evil” or not, they are undoubtedly toxic to you. For one thing, they are operating from a place of fear rather than joy, and this, according to psychologist Nathaniel Branden, is one of the key elements of low self-esteem. Low self-esteem doesn’t make people toxic (except to themselves, naturally) unless it creates a need in them to control, manipulate, or abuse other people. Manipulative tactics are not always easy to discern either for they can take many forms. For example, being needy and trying to dominate others are both signs of low self-esteem, and the types of behavior that are evoked by either of these things can be forms of manipulation.

It has not been easy for me to get to the point where I have been willing to let go of anything or anyone that might be holding me back. Why? Well, I tend to think that I’ve been coping with self-esteem issues of my own. It’s perfectly normal for those who do not have a definitive sense of self-worth to look towards others to give them the love, acceptance, and approval they are withholding from themselves.

The problem is that you cannot continue this pattern and have control over your own life, for you are at the mercy of other people. In some ways, it can be more difficult to maintain a high level of self-esteem than to continue living with low self-esteem. One reason that this is the case is because we tend to attract people who are quite a bit like us, whether the similarities are immediately visible or not. Thus, if we have been struggling with low self-esteem, we have most likely been drawing other people with low self-esteem to us. So, as we begin to work on our self-esteem and start having the confidence to gain control over our lives and to put our own needs first, we’ll notice that there will be people who have been there to support us who start to distance themselves from us. They may even get angry or feel that we are abandoning them.

What you have to remember though is that only when we esteem ourselves highly will we be capable of holding anyone else in high regard. We may envy others and we may admire them, but a genuine sense of self-respect will be beyond our capabilities. We will end up hurting others and ourselves because we probably won’t love and/or like them any more than we love and/or like ourselves. As Denis Waitley has so wisely pointed out, we must first have an emotion inside us before we can give it to another person. In keeping with this concept, we would have to at least consider the possibility that until we love and/or like ourselves we won’t be able to love and/or like anyone else.

There are a lot of misconceptions about self-esteem. And there are those who will use words like “conceit” or “arrogance” to describe people who simply have a genuine sense of self-worth. But, this is because they have low self-esteem and yet they are still living in too much fear to overcome it. You may well lose such people as friends. Yet this will all be part of the process in your embracing your authentic self.

Never forget that when you let go of those who are holding you back or who fail to respect your desire to take control of your own life, you are doing both them and you a favor, whether they realize it or not. For you are no longer encouraging them to continue the self-destructive patterns in their own lives. There is not any person who is helped by the friendship, companionship, or love of someone who doesn’t expect him/her to take charge of his/her own life. Even parents must understand that, at a certain point, a child must be taught personal responsibility. This isn’t about “tough love” although some people  may label such behavior with that overused and misused term. What it is about is about making sure that others are entitled to the same privileges that you are—namely, the privilege of having power over their own lives.

If you are someone who does look towards a new year as a new beginning, then by all means take that source of inspiration and run with it. I’m certainly not going to try to stop you. The philosophy I live by is this:  if it works for you, then do it. This is why I have to laugh when anyone suggests that I am trying to “fix” people or change the world through my SuccessDiva articles. Even if I wanted to do so, how foolish would I have to be to actually think I could? Let’s get serious for a moment, instead of entertaining fanciful ideas about me and how much power I think I have over anyone’s life besides my own.

I am here to offer suggestions to those who want to hear them and feel that they will benefit from making use of them. Indeed, I feel very fortunate indeed to have such a large following. But I certainly didn’t expect it when I started my SuccessDiva work. My SuccessDiva work was begun as part of my own personal journey towards self-discovery and spiritual and psychological healing. The recognition, respect, and praise I’ve gotten have simply been icing on the cake, so to speak. At the same time, without the support and encouragement of those who have been my fans and admirers, I wouldn’t be half the diva I am. And, this is something I recognize on a daily basis.

I want to close this article by wishing everyone a beautiful new year. I trust that those of you who take the time to read my blog will make the choice to look upon each day as a new beginning. And that rather than trying to follow New Year’s resolutions, you’ll embrace your authentic self each and every day and take responsibility for every aspect of your lives. You don’t need resolutions to do that—you just need to get to the point where you’re willing to let go of all of your excuses, your preconceived ideas, your lies, and any self-destructive patterns you may be holding onto.

Be bold . . . be daring . . . be authentic . . . and Live without Limits, SuccessDiva style!

Blessings,

Your SuccessDiva

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

Believe in yourself!

believe135 (flower)Many people have the erroneous idea that faith must be in some way inevitably connected with religion. However, I have never thought that this was necessarily the case. True, it can help in times of immense turmoil to imagine that the universe is guided by a Divine Force, whether we call that force God, the Creator, or something entirely different. At the same time, there is the unshakable sense of self-assurance that I feel those who succeed in life never quite lose sight of–and who can deny that this, too, is a type of faith?

Norman Vincent Peale, the preacher, speaker and self-improvement author extraordinaire who first brought the concept of “positive thinking” to the forefront of society, believed that the most important seed we must plant in ourselves is the seed of self-worth. I think our world is so focused on outward appearances and on the superficialities of life that many people don’t even know what they should base their self-worth on. If their sense of value comes from their appearance, what do they do when they start to see the first signs of aging on their face? Does their self-worth suddenly plummet? And, if so, is there any validity behind their feeling they are less valuable than they once were? You can pick up fashion magazines or newspapers or turn on the television, and you see impossibly gorgeous models, both male and female, advertising everything from perfume and shampoo to blue jeans and designer duds. After awhile, you cannot help but wonder, “Is how I look truly the most important thing?”

This is where a personal “vision” comes into play. I have heard people scoff at the idea of a “mission statement”, and, perhaps, it does sound like too grandiose a term to describe a sentence or two summing up what a person wants to accomplish in his or her life. The irony is, the people who roll their eyes in amusement or smile smugly at such terms are the very people who don’t honestly have a clear-cut direction for their life. They are those who drift aimlessly, like boats which glide across the ocean, allowing themselves to be tumbled about by the waves. They are the people who swim but never make it up to the diving board. Such people may have moments in which they occasionally accomplish something significant, but, with no clearly defined plan, how can they ever use even a fraction of their innate potential?

Truthfully, I have never enjoyed writing down goals. In fact, I find it downright tedious! But, like the treadmill some of you get on at the gym, I write down goals because they  help me achieve my objectives–not because they bring me any momentary gratification. How many times do you go to the grocery store without having made some sort of shopping list, even if all you’ve done is scribble down a handful of items you desperately need? Well, is a trip to the grocery store that much more important than your life? Even though there may not seem to be a logical explanation for this, there is something about writing down a goal or plan that turns it into a reality for your subconscious mind. The crucial part of this strategy is that your goal or plan must be entirely your own. That is, you must let go of everyone else’s expectations of you.

I am currently re-reading my friend and mentor Denis Waitley’s incomparable book, Seeds of Greatness, and I am struck yet again by the story he shares about trying to live out his father’s vision for his life. Like so many parents who mean well, yet do not understand the importance of their children making their own path in life, Denis’ father encouraged him to go to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Knowing Denis both from his writing and through my friendship with him, I fully perceive that his spirit is too poetic and creative for him to experience total fulfillment in fields such as mechanical engineering and marine engineering. And, even though Denis did graduate from the Naval Academy and enjoyed a nine-year career as a naval aviator, he was never at home in that profession. However, like those who always manage to find the positive aspect of those sets of circumstances that don’t turn out precisely the way they want, Denis credits being a naval aviator with teaching him an incalculable amount of self-discipline, in addition to the invaluable importance of goal-setting and teamwork.

How many of us would have looked upon those nine years as being wasted? I must confess, it took me a few years to fully cherish the benefits I gained from all the years I dedicated to the goal of one day being a world-renowned concert violinist–a career which never became an actuality. I had to fight the impulse not to consider the largest part of my life as having been wasted. Although I read about such remarkable women as actresses Jane Seymour and Charlize Theron, both of whom began as dancers only to be swept into acting because of an injury, I still found it hard to stomach the idea that there could have been a purpose in my having worked so hard to design, create, and shape a career that was cut short by lupus. There were moments in which I somewhat cynically thought, “Sure, it sounds good to say that everything has a purpose. But isn’t that just what we want to think?” If you ever have had moments like that, you know that they are generally accompanied by a feeling of despair, hopelessness, and diminished self-worth. Why?  Well, I think that all of us want to believe that the things that happen in our lives have a purpose behind them, even if we don’t admit it.

Once again, I will reiterate that the word “purpose” has nothing to do with religion. It can incorporate God, for those who do believe in Him like me, but it can also be that inner sense that you have a role to play in the universe–a role that only you can perform. Shakespeare once said, in his play All’s Well that Ends Well that all the world is a stage, and all of us are merely actors on it. To a certain extent, I think Shakespeare was right in comparing the universe to a stage. And in drawing on this comparison, you can look upon your life as being a specific part in a production that the world is staging. It is a part that no understudy will ever be able to take over, even on the days when you don’t feel like getting out of bed or when you feel like everything is going wrong. It’s also a part that you cannot walk away from, no matter how badly you may sometimes want to.

So, what are you going to do? If you were a bird or an angel, would you clip your wings, or would you use them to enable you to fly? The potential you have within you is as miraculous as the wings on a bird or a butterfly. . . or the aura around a celestial being. I’m not certain that anyone has ever expressed the remarkable capabilities of the human spirit more aptly than Thomas Edison when he said: “If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.” The reason why we so rarely astound ourselves is because we have so little faith in our own unique potential. We allow the doubts we have about ourselves and the skeptical comments others make about our endeavors to cloud our vision. Instead of looking through a glass that shows us what we can do, we’re actually looking through a glass that shows us what other people think we can or cannot do. And, if we’re not doing that, we’re looking at a reflection of ourselves that only gives us a close-up of our flaws and our failures.  After awhile, we will experience a sense of fear about even trying to do something because our conscious reminds us of all the times we’ve failed in the past.

It’s this sense of fear I speak of that makes faith so important. You may still be at a point in your life where you think that the fear you feel when you’re taking a risk or striving towards a goal will somehow magically evaporate. Well, guess what? That fear will only get stronger if you’re waiting for it to go away. It’s kind of like thinking that the stack of dirty dishes in your kitchen sink is going to diminish if you leave it there long enough. Unless you have a fairy godmother somewhere in your midst, you or someone else will have to wash and dry all those dishes. Similarly, you are going to have overcome your fear at some point, whether you want to or not. Because a more powerful emotion is often the only thing that can diminish or eradicate a weaker emotion, the best way to combat fear is through faith.  You don’t have to complete your vision in your mind of what you want your life to be like–just start with a few pieces of the puzzle. Like an architect building a cathedral, you will soon see that patience and perseverance will do more for you than any momentary bursts of exuberance. I have had many people tell me that patience is what they find to be the hardest virtue to learn. Yet, when you remove patience from your stack of playing cards, you will find that you are trying to win a game with an incomplete deck.

Perhaps, having a chronic illness has forced me to learn the importance of patience. Who knows? I do think that anyone can learn the art of patience, though. It is when you become completely aware of what a difference patience can make in the quality and substance of your accomplishments that you begin to work towards mastering it. Faith and patience actually go hand in hand, too–for we must often have faith about things that have not yet happened. When we take a trip by airplane, we usually have faith that we’ll have a safe journey, just as we have confidence that we’ll get up the next morning when we go to sleep at night. If your belief system has been grounded in fear, it won’t be easy to change it. But, I have often found that what we must work hardest for is that which is most worth our achieving.

The psychologist and author William James summed it up well when he said, “To perceive the world differently, we must be willing to change our belief system, let the past slip away, expand our sense of now, and dissolve the fear in our minds.” Even if the fear is never completely gone, it can become so diluted by the level and strength of our faith that it will lose any power it has over us and our lives. That is when the forces of the universe, whether we believe in a Creator or not, begin to somehow work together to help us achieve our aims. Whether you call it a miracle or simply the way the world works is up to you. But, I challenge you to start replacing fear with faith for the next month and to observe how your life begins to change. See whether or not those obstacles you imagine to be mountain peaks are really molehills in disguise. . .and whether or not that setback that you thought was permanent might not pave the way for an undiscovered opportunity. Although being realistic about what’s possible is always important, we do sometimes have to look at what can be instead of what is.

May you live each moment of today with courage, passion, enthusiasm, and faith! Make each moment count!

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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This message 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

Star Power!

star5I think we all sense when we are not fully engaged with life. Don’t you? It’s when you have that feeling of just trying to make it through the day. . or when even the smallest issues make you feel discouraged or annoyed. So, what’s happening when you feel like this? Does it mean you should blame yourself? Actually, I never think that blaming ourselves accomplishes anything. However, it is crucial to take full responsibility for our lives, our thoughts, our feelings, and our actions. This means that we must refuse to shower blame on outside forces or other people, even if we’re tempted to do so. Hey, there’s no doubt about the fact that there will always be people around who are going to mistreat us or say unkind words. And, although this saddens me to have to admit this, we may often not be able to comprehend the motives behind the behavior of those around us. All we can do is simply recognize that everyone is at a different place in their lives. . .and some have not reached that turning point that they must come to before they reach the end of themselves and begin to focus on the feelings and needs of others.

This is one of the key reasons why we cannot allow ourselves to become dependent on anyone else’s opinion of us. In order to establish and maintain a genuine and healthy sense of self-worth, we must be the ones to give ourselves our own approval. When we know that we have done our best in a certain situation or set of circumstances, even if everyone around us criticizes us, it’s important that we put up a psychological barrier between our own fragile psyche and the negative energy that others are sending in our direction. Energy can be very powerful, you know. In fact, the sort of mental energy that is required for physically demanding activities is something that many people are unaware of. However, when you read about athletes who have trained for the Olympics, you continue to hear about what they call mental preparation. Well, preparing in any realm requires energy, time, commitment, and effort. When Mary Lou Retton, the first American gymnast to win the all-around Olympic title, was asked whether or not she felt strange or awkward getting up on the platform to get her medal, she said that she had already replayed the scene countless times in her mind.

What Mary Lou Retton was doing was practicing what my mentor and friend, author and speaker, Denis Waitley, calls the habit of “positive self-expectancy”. I must make something clear: positive self-expectancy is not just another term for wishful thinking. Rather, it is the visualization of your desired outcome. Now, if this outcome is viewed to be unrealistic or even impossible by other people, you have to decide whether or not you would rather hold onto the limitations those around you are placing upon you or if you would prefer to be true to yourself and what you inherently believe you are capable of. Haven’t you ever had a distinct feeling that you were cut out for something extraordinary? Have you ever had moments when you’ve thought that you could write like John Steinbeck or Dorothy Parker or days when you thought you had the artistic talent to one day paint like Henri Matisse or Van Gogh or do something else extraordinary? If so, did you shrug off these thoughts as soon as they passed, telling yourself that you were simply having inflated ideas about your own capabilities? Many of those who have made it to the top of their field could have easily been dissuaded by those who told them that their dreams were impossibilities. When Fred Astaire, the incomparable dancer and film star, first auditioned for a screen test, it was said that there was nothing about him that would ever make him successful as a leading man.  Fred’s detractors even said that he wasn’t able to dance.  What if Fred had listened to this criticism?  A true legend in entertainment history would have never been born!

I’m not encouraging you to imagine that you are gifted in some area that you have no aptitude in. However, if you do seem to have talent in something, and you are also enthusiastic and passionate about it, don’t ever be quick to listen to the naysayers, even if their advice sounds logical. Although we all must use logic in our thinking to a certain extent, we cannot be so devoted to using common sense that we don’t have big dreams. Small dreams aren’t going to get  you anywhere. Why? Well, for one thing, they won’t fire you up. How can small dreams ignite the flame within you? How can a little goal make you tap into your inner Star Power?  Have you read my post from July 11 called “You Are the Star”? If not, I hope you’ll do so because I make a very valid point in that particular post. I urge you to fully realize that you are the only person who can be the star of your own show. There is one small hitch, though. In order to be the star of your own show, you have to have Star Power. What is Star Power? It’s that unshakable faith in yourself and your dreams—that determination not to let anything or anyone get you down no matter what—that commitment to your personal vision. That is Star Power. It isn’t something that you’ll only find in such exceptional icons of entertainment as singers Whitney Houston, Barbara Streisand, and Madonna. And it’s not something that you have to ever walk down red carpet to acquire. Instead, it is that deep-rooted sense that you have something unique and exceptional to contribute to the world and to the lives of those around you. You can use your Star Power to be a supermom or a supermodel. . .you can use it in a courtroom or an operating room. . .you can tap into it whether you are building a house or creating a poem.  It all begins with believing that what you are doing is truly significant—and in understanding that, even if you don’t yet see the results of the effort you are putting into your work, it is still in keeping with your ultimate vision for your life.

The thing about Star Power is that it cannot be purchased or borrowed from somebody else. You can’t rely on someone else to lend you a little bit of the Star Power they have.  It will only be effective if it belongs to you exclusively. Like your self-image and your self-respect, Star Power begins and ends with you. And no one can take it away from you, either. For, once you’ve got it, you’re a candle that has been lit from within. You are on the path to ultimate fulfillment, and, when obstacles cross your path, you will find that your Star Power will enable you to overcome them in a way that you would never have dreamed possible at one time. 

To avoid any possible misunderstandings, Star Power is never about thinking that you are superior to anyone else. It is only about recognizing and embracing your potential, your talents, and your creative vision.  Yes, when you possess Star Power, you should feel a significant amount of self-assurance, but it is the kind of genuine self-assurance that will never leave you feeling as if you must impress anyone else. Rather, your feelings of inner worth will be so firmly rooted that what others think of you will matter less to you than ever before.  You will be like a house that is built on firm ground, instead of a castle made of sand that the first ocean wave is able to tear down.  And, even if some of your dreams don’t become a reality, in knowing that you have worked towards making them come true, you will experience a genuine feeling of self-satisfaction. Whenever, we pursue anything we do with the intention of excelling, we cannot really consider our efforts a failure.

Of course, failure is only devastating if it is permanent. Otherwise, it can be a profitable learning experience. For, the more times you fail and bounce back again, the easier you’ll find it to regard failures as stepping-stones to ultimate success. As Zig Ziglar says, “Failure is a detour. .  ..not a dead-end street.” What can become a dead-end street, however, is a road that leads you away from your dreams rather than towards them. The direction in which we are heading is of monumental importance. This is why one of the first things you must make sure you’ve done is visualize a clear-cut image of what your personal vision is. In life, all of us are on a quest—-and even though we may not be seeking The Holy Grail or some other legendary treasure, what we are searching for is an existence that gives us a feeling of significance. For me, inspiring others is what makes me feel significant. For you, it might be finishing law school and becoming part of a well-respected firm. . .or meeting and marrying the man or woman of your dreams. . .or writing and publishing a best-selling novel.  Only you can know for sure what would give you that sense of deep contentment that you yearn for. Similarly, whether or not your quest is ever successful is something that only you can decide. You hold the keys to your destiny.

So, you can either start tapping into that innate potential that I call your Star Power, or you can continue to merely indulge in fantasies about the kind of life you would like to lead. Which option are you going to choose? We are all created equally in nearly every way, but so few of us even begin to use the talents that are within us or fully embrace the chances that are offered us. The good news, though, is that things don’t have to be this way. No matter how many times you’ve made the wrong decision or how many times you haven’t taken advantage of a opportunity that came your way, you can begin changing your behavior starting now. You can take the lid off that well of Star Power within you and start making magical things happen in your life, for only The Star has control over his or her Star Power. So, it’s up to you whether you let it ferment or whether you begin using and multiplying it.

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

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

when you reach a turning point. . .

turningpoint1There are moments in life when something happens that is so unexpected that we really don’t know how to cope with it. Whether it’s finding out that our boyfriend or girlfriend is seeing someone else or whether we just lost our pet dog or cat in a freak accident, there are those times when it’s as if something in our world has gone so wrong that everything else seems to be out of focus. I remember reading about how the actress, Jane Seymour, suffered an injury when she was pursuing a career as a ballerina, and all I could think was how catastrophic this event must have been for her. Of course, watching her in such films as “Somewhere in Time” and “Lassiter”, it’s difficult to imagine her as anything other than an actress. But that’s because she took an incident that could have brought an end to all her ambitions and turned it into something profitable. It reminds me of a passage I came across today from a poem called “Don’t Quit” by an unknown author. The passage was “Success is failure turned inside out.” I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I’ve ever really thought of success in those terms. I understand that failure and success are directly connected, and that you cannot have one without the other because rarely do we succeed at anything on the very first effort. But what I don’t think I’ve fully comprehended is what a turning point failure can be for us. One of my favorite actresses, Mary Pickford, once said, “If you have made mistakes, there is always another chance for you.  You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing called ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.”  But how often do we really look at our failures in that light? How often do we acknowledge ourselves for picking ourselves back up after we fail?? Don’t we have a  habit of concentrating more on that which we fail at than on that which we succeed at? I know I do. If a relationship or a career doesn’t work out, it can diminish your sense of self-worth to such an extent, that there are moments when you actually feel a sense of overpowering hopelessness.

When I think of someone who has continued to strive in spite of not accomplishing her ultimate objective, the brilliant American figure skater, Michelle Kwan, immediately comes to mind. If you saw Michelle skate at the 1998 Olympic games, you probably remember the look of subtle disappointment on her face when she lost the gold medal to her American rival, Tara Lipinski.  Although a silver medal at the Olympics is scarcely something to feel ashamed of, an athlete with Kwan’s capabilities and work ethic is always somewhat chagrined when he/she doesn’t come in first. However, Michelle handled the situation like a pro. In fact, rather than allowing herself to get discouraged, she decided to bounce back.  At the 2002 Olympic games, she once again tried for that gold model, but again, it eluded her. This time, though, she ended up with the bronze model instead of the silver. The young American skater, Sarah Hughes, took the top prize. Do, did Kwan give up?? No. She made plans to try her luck yet a third time in the 2006 Olympic Games. It wasn’t until Kwan suffered a groin injury in her first practice session in Turin, Italy, that she withdrew from the competition. And Kwan is still talking about the possibility of competing in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia. Now that’s the kind of attitude all of us should work towards!  “But Michelle Kwan’s persistence hasn’t really paid off,” you may be thinking. “I mean, she never did get that gold medal she wanted so badly.” No, Kwan didn’t get the gold medal. But I think she got something even more important. She got the kind of respect and deep admiration that only those who persist in the quest for their ultimate goal both deserve and receive. Indeed, Michelle Kwan remains a more reliable role model than either Tara Lipinski or Sarah Hughes, the two skaters who won gold medals at the Olympics she competed in. Perhaps, whether or not we win first prize isn’t as important as the attitude we demonstrate during the competition itself. And life is a bit like a competition, isn’t it?

As a diva of success, I would love to tell you that every one of your dreams will definitely come true. However, since I promised I would always be honest with you, I have to remind you that life gives us no guarantees. What it does give us is lessons, learning experiences, and role models. Those of you who know this diva over at Facebook have probably noticed that I’ve begun a photo album dedicated to women whom I consider to be “Icons of Inspiration.” Well, the group of inspirational women is so diverse that there aren’t that many things that many of the women have in common with each other. But there are a few fundamental character traits that they do all share. What are these traits? Well, all of them have or had an invincible belief in themselves and what they could accomplish. Even when they felt their faith in their talents and abilities was slipping, they managed to pull themselves together and move forward. Your success diva will be the first to tell you that sometimes you have to pretend to have more confidence in yourself than you actually feel. In other words, you have to adopt what I call an “as if” mentality. You act as if  you can accomplish that which you dream of achieving. You act as if  you have an optimisic outlook on life, even when you’re actually feeling despondent. You act as if  the man or woman of your dreams is right around the corner, even though a part of you believes that your soul mate must have gotten lost in another dimension. Do you see the point I’m making? To expect yourself to always be on top of the world simply isn’t realistic. There will be times when you feel like you’ve accomplished very few things in life that are of true significance, and you could feel this way even if you were an Oscar-winning actor/actress or a Nobel prize-winning author. Why? Well, it’s simply part of being human. The world we live in is chaotic and full of all sorts of of negative and cruel people, and circumstances are rarely going to be completely ideal. So, since we are human, we naturally react to the obstacles and crises that come into our lives in a way that isn’t always positive. Should we blame ourselves for this? To be honest, I think that doing so only makes things worse. It would be like blaming yourself for depression, when those of us who are well-informed know that there are many instances of depression in which psychiatric therapy and medication are essential. What you must do, though, is understand that the way in which you react to something can actually turn out to have as significant an impact on you as the event itself. “Wait,” you interject, “are you telling me that if a man/woman is raped, his/her reaction to that rape could have as momentous an affect on him/her as the rape itself?” Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. . .and, no, I haven’t suddenly lost all my reasoning abilities. Look, I know of women who have allowed an incident of rape to destroy the rest of their lives. There are also many women who have committed suicide after being raped. Does this mean I cannot comprehend their actions? No, it doesn’t mean that at all. In fact, I fully understand how a woman or woman who has been raped might feel like taking his or her own life. At the same time, for a victim of rape to take his or her own life means that the person who victimized him/her ultimately has the last word. On the other hand, for a someone who has survived rape to take that terrible catastrophe and turn it into something that benefits both himself/herself and others by doing volunteer work for groups that help counsel rape victims, for example, would mean that an event that could have been devastating would actually end up having a positive result.

I remember when I first heard the motivational speaker and author, Tony Robbins, talking about how our response to something can be as important as the event. I must admit,  I thought he was being utterly illogical at the time.  “Well, you can tell that nothing that bad has ever happened to Tony,” I found myself muttering. Yet as life has gone on, I have come to see Tony’s point. We truly can make a traumatic event a hundred times worse depending on how we react to it. An experience such as rape will always be horrendous no matter how someone responds to it. However, what should always be remembered is that no matter what someone else does to us it does not in any way diminish our self-worth. We may feel that something that someone tells us or does to us makes us less valuable as a person, but this is just a trick our mind is playing on us. It’s also something that the person who mistreats, abuses, or violates us wants us to feel. Why?? Well, that’s one of those questions that I’m reluctant to answer. I always think that those who hurt us, whether it be through their words or their actions, are hurting within themselves. But I don’t think that explanation justifies anything, which means it is scarcely satisfactory, even though there are times at which it can be a source of comfort. The truth is, we will probably never begin to understand why certain people do certain things. As one of my friends reminded me a couple of hours ago, this is an unjust world we live in. So, all that each of us can do is try to treat others with kindness and fairness, whether they treat us the same way or not.

One reason that I can speak with authority on the subject of turning what seems like a failure into a success is because I’ve had to continue to do this throughout my life. I trained for a concert career on the violin beginning at age three, only to be told at age 17 that such a career was impossible because I had a chronic illness called lupus. Did I have a nervous breakdown? Well, no, but I came pretty close to having one. For a couple of years after I had to give up playing the violin, I couldn’t even listen to any of the recordings I owned of violin music. Unfortunately, my sense of self-worth was entirely connected with the violin, and without it, I felt as if I had no real value as a person. It has only been through my accomplishments in other avenues that I have re-established my self-confidence. Although I am blessed to have a mother who has taught me to believe that who I am as a person is far more important than what I do, it has always been difficult for me to separate my personal value from my achievements. I don’t think the materialistic, career-driven world we live in tends to instill in people the sense that such traits as integrity, honesty, and compassion are far more important than how much money you make each year or what kind of car you drive. And yet, unless we start to understand this ourselves, how will we ever teach those who look up to us—-such as our children, if we have them—-what’s really important in life?? When I mentioned Michelle Kwan earlier, another thing I intended to say about her is that she has never compromised who she is simply to get ahead. Yes, she has won two Olympic medals, but I have always had the sense that she would rather be seen as an icon of grace and elegance of spirit than as merely another Olympic medalist. Audrey Hepburn is another lady who had her priorities in order. In spite of the fact that she could easily have acted in dozens of films throughout the 1960s and 1970s, she chose to devote herself to being the best mother that she could. I guess we don’t have to wonder why her son, Sean Ferrer, speaks with such lavish praise about his mother! And this is why it’s so crucial that we stand back and view our lives from a long-term perspective, rather than being sidetracked and discouraged by the setbacks of the moment. Only those who fail to strengthen their inner spirit allow themselves to see any failure as being permanent. Those who understand that life is a like a corridor, in which some doors open while others close, know that resilience is an integral part of success. I think actress Brooke Shields summed up the philosophy that all of us should adopt when she said, “If one window closes, run to the next window—-or break down a door.” Well, this is what your Success Diva advises you to do, too. The only way that a failure can have any lasting impact on your life is if you let it become permanent. So, no matter what happens, don’t let yourself be defeated. Begin to see each failure as a turning point in your life.  .  .as a mere curve in the road that will eventually lead you to the life of your dreams.

If you haven’t yet joined my mailing list, you can subscribe at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/successdiva  This is an announcement list, which means no participation is necessary. Also, I am always available and eager to help anyone with a specific situation they want my input on. Write me at successdiva7@yahoo.com, and I will respond at my earliest convenience.

Live with passion and enthusiasm. . .and remember, it’s only too late to create the life of your dreams if you believe it is!

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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

The magic is within you!

magic5You know, I think too many of us fall into the trap of thinking that something wonderful must happen before we really can expect to feel inspired. In other words, we wait for the magic to happen to us. . .rather than making the magic happen. This diva has been guilty herself of waiting for an opportunity to come her way, instead of going forth and seeking it. And yet, most of us have heard the quotation from the Bible, “Seek and ye shall find.” Indeed, this principle is at the root of most motivational programs and books. So, why do we sit waiting for good things to come our way? Could it be that it’s easier to accept the idea that the opportunities and “lucky breaks” didn’t find us as opposed to admitting that we tried and failed? Michael Jordan, the world-renowned basketball player and promoter of the philosophy that it’s more important to try than to succeed, has some interesting thoughts on failure. During the height of Jordan’s career, he was asked by a school publishing outfit whether or not it would be all right to post pictures of him in classrooms to inspire thousands of school children to pursue their dreams as he had pursued his. Jordan agreed, but only if his message could be about failure, rather than success. “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life,” he declared, “and that is why I succeed.”

Now, if someone like Michael Jordan is able to acknowledge failure as a valuable and essential part of the success process, why are we so afraid to fail?? Well, I think it’s because society tends to regard failure as something that none of us should admit to. We’re supposed to disguise our failures at all costs. And this type of misguided programming is why we are so afraid to really take the risks that are necessary to turn the life we’re living right now into the life of our richest dreams and deepest desires. For example, there are men and women who marry whoever comes along because it’s easier than holding out for that man or woman who would make their lives truly complete. After all, a bird in the hand is better than ten in the tree, such people tell themselves. And, indeed, it is important not to throw away a relationship that is important to us simply to pursue a whimsical fantasy. However, I think that once we begin to “settle” for second best, we will never stand a chance of getting first best. Do you really think that any athlete goes to the Olympics saying, “I want to win a silver medal”? No, of course they don’t. Because they know that only in striving for that gold medal are they going to be able to give their all to the competition. Look, it isn’t always about the results of your efforts. It’s about how hard you try. There are many days in which this diva wonders how she’ll ever be able to write a blog post that is as inspired as the one she wrote a day or two before. But, you know what? When you write from the heart as I do, it isn’t as important whether or not I express my thoughts as eloquently as I would like to as it is whether or not I reach you with my words.  When I read back over some of my old posts, there are all sorts of ways in which I feel they could be improved. However, at the time I wrote them, I was making my very best effort.

Well, life is a lot like that, you see. Sure, you may have made some unwise choices yesterday or last week, but, at the time, you probably weren’t aware of the fact that you were using poor judgment. And, in order to keep having the kind of faith you need to have in yourself, it’s crucial that you not dwell on all the errors you’ve made. How can you possibly find magic in your life if all you’re focusing on is your mistakes? You must let go of the gray clouds of the past and embrace the rainbow of the present. Otherwise, you’re like someone who only notices the weather when there’s a thunderstorm. Magic can be found in things that are seemingly insignificant, too. For example, there can be magic in the smile of a child or in the song of a bird. You don’t have to wait for a major event to take place to feel grateful and joyful about life. In fact, the more things you find to feel joyful about, the more likely it is that wonderful things will begin to take place in your life. Haven’t you ever noticed that on days when you seem to see the world through rose-colored glasses people seem to treat you more thoughtfully and you seem to have a more established sense of self-worth? Do you think this is merely a coincidence? Or, could it be that something about the positive energy you are feeling is felt by those whom you come into contact with?

I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the life and work of the remarkable artist, Frida Kahlo, but, when I saw the 2002 film focusing on her life, it struck me that she would never have been the painter she became if it hadn’t been for the suffering she endured and the obstacles she had to overcome.  The reason she came to embrace life so wholeheartedly was because she knew what it was like to live for months bed-ridden and in excruciating pain. She understood that if you respond to the trials that come into your life with courage and strength, you can actually become a more powerful individual because of that which you have overcome. When I look at Frida Kahlo’s art, her use of color is one of the first things that attracts me. It is incredible that a woman who could so easily have chosen to live her life in shades of black and white responded to the agony of living with such exuberance and enthusiasm. Truly, Frida Kahlo is a testimony to the triumph and vibrancy of the human spirit. So many of us tend to get caught up in petty annoyances and concerns. We make mountains out of molehills, to use a trite expression that is nevertheless relevant to this diva’s train of thought. We concern ourselves with whether or not our favorite film is out on video yet or whether one of our best friends is giving us enough attention. Yet, if we really stop to think about it, how important are these things? What if you found out tomorrow that you only had six months to live? Would it change the way you saw your life? Which of the things that are annoying you now would seem important? I don’t know about you, but very few of the issues I worry about on a daily basis would seem essential if I knew my life would be ending in a matter of months. It wouldn’t matter to me whether or not everyone approved of everything I did because I would be devoted to being completely true to myself. To borrow a famous quote from comedian and actor Bill Cosby,” I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” The question I would like to pose to you is this: should the way you’re living right now be so different than the way you would live if you knew you only had a certain amount of time left on this earth? And, if you answer is “yes,” then why should it be so different? None of us know how many more days we’ll actually be alive. This being said, shouldn’t we start finding the magic in our lives right now? Shouldn’t we stop letting ourselves be sidetracked by other peoples’ opinions of us? Shouldn’t we cease to let the criticism and discouragement of those around us cloud our personal vision?

I’ve had a lot of you tell me how much my last post, “Capture Your Vision” meant to you. Well, one of the clues to capturing your vision is to notice the things in your life that you have to be grateful for. In a way, gratitude is directly related to magic. How? Okay, think about when you were a child and Christmas morning came around. When you went downstairs and saw presents under the tree, didn’t you feel as if you were experiencing a moment of magic? And, when you opened your presents, even if you didn’t get the gifts you wanted, didn’t you feel grateful? Now perhaps some of you will tell me that you didn’t feel a large amount of gratitude because you rarely were given what you had asked for. But, in all likelihood, you can still relate to the feelings of intermingled gratitude and magic that you felt when Christmas morning arrived. And, if your family didn’t celebrate Christmas, think of another occasion that seemed magical to you when you were growing up. Perhaps, your birthday seemed like a magical time when you were a child because it was a day that was all about you. Well, the life you’re living right now is about you, too. The only difference is, now that you’re an adult, you fully understand that you’re not on this planet alone. So, you realize that even if you’re the focus of your life, the other people in it are very important, too. In fact, if you’ve been applying some of your diva’s philosophy to your day-to-day existence, you may have even come to see that you are dependent upon the special people in your life to make your dreams come true. The well-known motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, believes that only when you help enough other people make their dreams a reality do you experience the life that you’ve always dreamed of. Now, when I was younger, I might not have fully understood Zig’s belief system. However, the more time that passes, the more aware I become of the fact that life really is more like a team sport than most of us realize. It may seem like you’re on the path to success for awhile when you focus exclusively on you, but, sooner or later, the road you’re walking down will turn into a dead end. For one thing, there’s only so much magic you’re going to find in your life when your primary focus is yourself. At some point, your feelings of self-confidence are going to be eclipsed by a sense of extreme loneliness. Although you may be experiencing plenty of success, the fact that you have nobody to share it with will eventually oppress your spirit. This is why you must both find the magic in your life and help others find the magic in their lives. Of course, you’ll never be able to instill a sense of gratitude in toxic people because they are never truly happy. Rather, they not only will prevent themselves from experiencing happiness but also they will do their best to steal your joy from you. In the most fundamental sense, toxic people are what I call “dream-stealers,” and, if you let them stay in your life, they’ll snatch your dreams from you. However, once you de-clutter your world and make sure that everyone whom you’re spending time with supports and encourages you and shares your vision, then you’ll be able to find those magical moments in your life that you might overlook otherwise.

One thing that is exceedingly difficult to cope with is when someone very close to you refuses to let you spread your wings and fly. I cannot begin to count the number of people who have crossed my path who have told me how impossible it seems to them to make their dreams come true when their spouse, parent, or boyfriend/girlfriend continues to challenge and criticize their opinions and/or attempts to sabotage their goals.  All I can advise is that you determine whether having this dream-stealer in your life is more important than making your dreams a reality. I know that walking away from someone who has had a pivotal role in your existence can seem almost impossible, but there are times when you’re not going to have another choice. Although I would never advise you to make a decision that you would always regret, the people who remain in your life must respect your determination to pursue your dreams with passion and a sense of purpose. There’s no way that you’ll ever be able to discover the magic if your world is clouded by fog. You must be able to see the beauty of the world through eyes that are full of wonder and joy. . .not blinded by the bitterness and cynicism that dream-stealers nourish themselves with. So, loose yourself and your life from the limitations that you and others have placed upon it, and start seeing every day as a fresh opportunity. . .as a chance to make magic happen in your world.

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

Capture your vision!

astronaut1It’s so easy to get caught up in the trap of day-to-day living, which essentially involves doing the things that are tasks, rather than pursuing our dreams. Is it not so? When you write down your daily to-do list  (or mentally think about it), don’t you notice that you’re focusing on a lot of activities that have little or no bearing on your ultimate desires? In other words, are you really working to create the life of your dreams every day? I know that I am guilty of letting myself get caught up in the struggle to do what has to be done in each 24-hour period. It’s frustrating but sometimes it seems inevitable. But, is it? Well, I think there’s no doubt about the fact that there are certain tasks that we must accomplish on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. However, when we focus on just those things at the exclusion of the activities that would get us closer to the life of our dreams, this is when we start to feel pessimistic. Do you remember my mentioning the film, “Groundhog Day”? Do you recall my talking about how it sometimes seems as if the same day is virtually repeating itself over and over again? You see, I have felt like that too often not to completely relate to the concept. There have even been certain periods of my life in which I dreaded getting up in the morning because I was certain that I would simply be repeating the day I had just lived through. “Okay,” you say, “I get the point. But what I don’t see is how I can prevent myself from feeling this way.” Well, the only way you can prevent yourself from feeling this way is if you choose to see life from a specific vantage point. You must replace those thoughts of hopelessness and frustration with faith in yourself. The only way you will ever accomplish anything is if you see it as being completely within the realm of possibility. In other words, you must capture your vision. . .and you must hold onto that vision, no matter what.

Let me ask you: do you think an astronaut goes into space without first envisioning the trip in his/her mind? I would say not. Indeed, my guess would be that before an astronaut ever enters his/her space shuttle, he/she has visualized the endeavor in intricate detail. I would also imagine that many surgeons use visualization before they ever enter the operating room. Believe it or not, the mind often cannot distinguish between the things we do and the things we imagine that we do. This is why it’s essential that you begin to incorporate visualization into your daily routine. It’s particularly effective if you tend to get nervous or anxious easily. To envision that you complete a task successfully prior to beginning it will automatically give you a sense of self-assurance. And this self-assurance will make it extremely likely that you’ll accomplish whatever it is you want or need to do. When I was a stage actress, I used to envision myself making a fabulous impression at an auditon before I ever arrived there. Did this mean I necessarily got the role I was auditioning for? Of course, it didn’t. But what it did do was prevent me from letting my confidence be eroded by stage fright or feelings that I wasn’t experienced and/or talented enough to be cast in the part I was up for. Sometimes, we have to coach ourselves, you know. If we wait around for someone else to tell us that we have what it takes to achieve success in our chosen career, we may find that a lot of opportunities come our way that we fail to seize. It was the legendary singer, Janis Joplin, who once said, “Don’t compromise yourself. You’re all you’ve got.” And, you know what? To a certain extent, I think she’s right. Although I will always declare that I wouldn’t be half the diva I am without my fans and friends supporting me and offering me words of encouragement, I know that, if I stop believing in myself, no matter who else believes in me, it won’t matter much. Your psyche responds in a certain way to the image you hold in your mind of the person you are.  You cannot deceive yourself. If you are frequently allowing yourself to focus on thoughts of worthlessness and self-doubt, you aren’t going to ever be able to use most of your potential. I use the word “most” because there are very few of us who will ever use all of our potential. We are amazing, complex creatures, and it’s rare that any of us will ever understand all that we’re truly capable of accomplishing over the course of a lifetime.  We are actually consistently limiting ourselves. It isn’t that we lack the talent, intelligence or social skills to make great things happen in our lives. Rather, it’s that we’ve attached ourselves, body and soul, to a self-limiting belief system. Whether we are aware of it or not, we let ourselves absorb the negative energy that other people around us are nourishing themselves with. Rarely do we take the time to create a psychological barrier between ourselves and these self-destructive individuals, and because we fail to do this, we end up letting other peoples’ ways of thinking control the way we think. I know it may not be easy to accept this idea, but I assure you, it’s true. And, with years of being conditioned by the pessimistic thought patterns that are handed over to us and passed down to us by friends, family members, and acquaintances, we eventually get to the point where we feel like our chance of ultimate success is practically impossible. How can I speak with such authority on this subject? Well, I was raised with a father who believed that girls were intrinsically less valuable than boys, and, in spite of doing my best to eliminate this toxic viewpoint from my world, my father’s words and ideas seeped into my system and poisoned my blood. Yes, I still do have to convince myself that women are capable of accomplishing remarkable and incredible things. Although I am dedicated to not being controlled by the erroneous views that my father tried to impart to me, it is nevertheless a struggle to have an enormous amount of faith in myself. I remember reading about the actress Candice Bergen, and how she battled her feelings of rejection from her father for a number of years. When she was a teenager, Candice’s father, the famous ventriloquist, Edgar Bergen, made Candace feel that she was unattractive simply because she didn’t have a curvy figure. In later life, Candice has spoken candidly about the self-esteem issues that came about as a direct result of her father’s rejection of her and her appearance. And yet, when we look at Candice in such classic films as “Gandhi,” “The Wind and the Lion,” and “Starting Over,” for which she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, it’s not easy to believe that anyone would have ever thought she was anything less than beautiful. In fact, she bears a striking resemblance to one of the classic sex symbols of the 1980s, actress Kim Basinger. And, oddly enough, Basinger also struggled with a lack of self-acceptance. In fact, she made the erotic film ,”9 1/2 weeks”, mostly to please the man she was married to at the time, whose approval Basinger desperately wanted. Do you see what happens when you depend upon other people to make you feel as if you are worthwhile?? This brings me back to what I said in one of my most recent posts about establishing a genuine sense of self-worth. But you must go beyond that if you want to live the life of your dreams. You must actually create a vision of your ideal life and sustain that vision no matter how many obstacles come your way. The only person who can hold you back in the long run is yourself. It may be easier to blame other people or various circumstances for the fact that you don’t achieve your goals, but unless you are fully prepared to acknowledge the role you played in not making your dreams a reality, you will not succeed. Yes, the psychological and emotional scars that are inflicted upon us at the most vulnerable times of our lives may not ever completely heal. However, continuing to blame those scars for the fact that we haven’t done more with our lives will only hinder us. In fact, in blaming the scars for our lack of success, we are really giving power to those persons or events that caused the scars in the first place. Am I making sense? I wish I didn’t feel like I had to keep re-iterating these things, but, if I don’t repeat important concepts, there is no way I’ll be able to help you eliminate the thought patterns that are preventing you from finding happiness and fulfillment right now. Every day, this diva works to erase the carefully installed negative conditioning of the past. Sometimes I feel like my mind is a computer, and I am constantly having to re-program it to think in a way that will make it possible for me to be the success diva of my dreams. The good news is that the more committed you are to the task, the easier it will become. So, even if you feel that you are fighting an uphill battle at first, as time passes, you will find that your mind is starting to work with you. Rather than having to force yourself to think differently, you’ll find that any negative ideas you have about yourself will be easily replaced with positive ideas. Now, I’m not going to predict how long it might take for this change to take place. For all I know, it could take a year, two years, or even five years. But those years will pass even if you keep your old, poisonous thought patterns. So, you might as well do yourself a favor and make it possible for you to do something with all your talents and abilities, instead of sitting back and using phrases like “I wish” and “If only.” I’ll talk in future posts about the phrases we use on a daily basis that are automatically sending us down a tunnel of doubt, fear, and repression. For the moment, I urge you to pay attention to your thoughts. If you find it’s difficult to keep track of the toxic thoughts you’re having about yourself, those around you, and your life, keep a tablet or some notepaper and a pen or pencil nearby and start writing down your thoughts. You don’t have to write your thoughts down often, but you should at least check in with yourself a couple of a times a day, preferably when you’re feeling especially miserable or unhappy. When you see that you’re having thoughts that involve feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, address them immediately. Don’t let them take up residence in your mind like a teabag, steeping in a cup of hot water. If you don’t work to eliminate the destructive thought as soon as you’re aware of them, they’ll have a chance to start poisoning your system. Before you know it, you’ll be psychologically ill, and you’ll have lost nearly all your confidence in your ability to do anything that you consider worthwhile.

So, to sum up Success Diva’s input and suggestions, let’s re-visit the subject of your personal vision. As I said of earlier in this post, an astronaut or a surgeon or anyone else who is going to perform a major task scracely starts that activity without visualizing in their mind what how they’re going to go about it. You need to have a definite idea of what you are going to do, how you are going to do it, and why it’s essential that you do it. This means you must come up with a what, a why, and a how. That sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it? However, some of you may be prepared to tell me that there isn’t a specific reason for why you do many of the things you do. If this is the case, then why are you even reading Success Diva’s blog? I think you are wanting to live your life on purpose, rather than by default. I believe that’s why you’re here. And if you make up your mind to capture your vision, I have complete confidence in the fact that you will one day have not only the life of your dreams but maybe even a life that exceeds anything you could have ever dreamed of. 

I hope you will make each minute of this day matter and that you will start replacing doubt with faith and feelings of apathy with passion and enthusiasm! Only you can capture your vision. No one, including your diva, can do it for you.

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

when you have to close your heart. . .

heart23I have always been a compassionate person, but, as I have gotten older, I have been even more inclined to demonstrate caring and love towards those around me. Perhaps, my mother’s battle with advanced stage cancer over two years ago has had something to do with my desire to truly be a loyal and supportive friend to the people in my life. When something of that nature comes about, you are reminded of the brevity of life. . .and you also realize how important it is to make sure that the people whom you love know that you love them. Saying the words “I love you” becomes twice as important—hugging people and making sure that you never make them feel as if you have forgotten them seems essential. What is difficult, however, is knowing when the time comes that you must not let your compassion for others prevent you from making the choices that are best for you.

As you know, my blog posts are loaded with examples from my own life experiences. Sometimes, I feel as if I’m putting into words a documentary of the Success Diva’s life. It isn’t always easy to open up my heart to those who are reading these posts, particularly since there are so many of you whom I do not know and probably never will know. Yet it is my choice to come from a very personal place, even if that place is full of pain, heartache, and unhappiness. Remember what I said in my last post about the heart being like your inner sanctuary? Well, that’s what it’s like. Pretend that you have a little church or cottage within yourself and that there are gates around this place. Whom you open the gates to is your decision and no one can force you to open those gates if you choose not to. But when someone has managed to persuade you to open your heart to them, and then they end up mistreating you or betraying you, what do you do? Well, you close those gates in their face, of course, and never look back. However, that is easier to suggest than it actually is to do. The person whom I just discovered has betrayed me has tried to offer an explanation for his conduct now. He has told me that he didn’t mean the mean and cruel things that he said about me behind my back. Well, being the compassionate diva that I am, it would not be impossible for me to keep him in my life as a friend. When we think of certain books we have read or movies we have seen, we can probably recall cases in which someone forgave and accepted the person who betrayed them. One book that comes to my mind without having to give it an abundance of thought is Russian author Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel, Anna Karenina. In this story, Anna, the title character, is unfaithful to her husband. She has a passionate affair with the dashing Count Vronsky. Her affair soon ostracizes her from society, and her husband becomes aware of her disloyalty. However, he chooses to forgive her and even offers her a divorce so that she can marry her lover. Unfortunately, Anna makes a series of unwise decisions, ultimately resulting in her eventual suicide. This book has been immortalized a few times in films, and, even if you haven’t read the book or seen the film, you may well have heard references to it in other books or movies. Yet another example of betrayal is in the consummate novel by the American author, Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence. In this story, a man, Newland Archer, marries an innocent young lady from a good background, only to be drawn into a beguiling infatuation with the exotic Countess Olenska, who lives on the fringes of society because of scandalous behavior. Archer’s wife, May Welland, knows that her husband’s affections reside elsewhere, and, yet, throughout a marriage that lasts several decades, she never once indicates that she suspects the truth. Finally, towards the end of the book, after his wife’s death, Newland finds out that what he thought was a secret that only he and Countess Olenska shared was known by his wife from the very beginning.

So, if characters in books and movies can not only forgive such instances of betrayal but also keep the person who betrayed them in in their lives, how can we know when we should refuse to accept any excuses or explanations?? Well, this is a difficult point to address as each situation is obviously different. However, if we are talking about someone whom we are in a committed relationship with who continues to be unfaithful to us, I would have to say that choosing to end that relationship is the decision that is in your best interest. But, if we’re speaking of instances of betrayal that are. . .well, less significant, the line between forgiveness and actual acceptance can become a wee bit hazy. For me, betrayal is unacceptable in all its forms. I truly do expect loyalty from those whom I let into my life. Whether or not you do is exclusively your choice. At the same time, never think that you have to have someone in your life. I don’t care how dependent you think you are on someone—or how dependent they make you feel you are on them. Should a person whom you have trusted and cared about betray you in any way, you are always perfectly justified in cutting that person out of  your life. If we look at our circle of friends as a large round of cheese, any treachery on the part of one of our friends would be like a portion of that cheese that became corroded with mold. Would you let that portion of cheese stay where it is. . .or would you cut it off? I know you wouldn’t eat the moldy cheese. Well, when you keep a traitor in your life, you are essentially serving slices of mildewed cheese to yourself on a cracker or a piece of bread. How does that make you feel? It sounds rather disgusting, doesn’t it? You probably feel like saying, “Yuck. I would never eat cheese with mildew all over it. . .and I don’t see how continuing to keep someone in my life who has betrayed me is like eating rotten cheese.” Oh, but it is like that. Just as your body is precious and requires certain types of food to nourish it, your heart and soul also require certain things to remain well nourished. One of the things your heart and soul both need is loyalty. Another essential need is unconditional love and acceptance. If someone betrays you, even if they say they love you, the type of love they are capable of giving you is not worth very much. Never imagine when you are betrayed that you are at fault. I mention this because I have noticed there is a tendency to blame ourselves when someone we care about mistreats us. Yet, we have the choice not to blame ourselves. We can make sure we look at the situation with a clear-headed and analytical vantage point. We can say, “The person who hurt me is the one with the problem—not me.” Sometimes we have to remind ourselves of this, particularly if we tend to be too benevolent or generous. I must admit, I have to consistently strive to make sure that I don’t allow myself to feel guilt over someone else’s mistreatment of me. Why? Well, I always think that if I had done or said something differently, they would not have betrayed me, lied to me, or treated me cruelly. In a way, this is what is called “if only” thinking.  I’ll speak about this more in future posts, but I must at least caution you now: the “if only” mind-set is dangerous. It’s the sort of mind-set that people have who are eighty years old and have chosen to let all sorts of opportunities pass by them over the course of their lives. It reminds me of my grandmother, who chose to marry a man other than her great love. She can now look back over her shoulder and say, “If only I had married so-and-so instead.” As hard as it sometimes is, we have to accept the decisions we make once we make them. If we use poor judgment, we must profit by this and use better judgment next time. I tend to poke fun at myself, saying that it’s unlikely I will ever use better judgment, when I rarely use good judgment *wink*. Yes, I am a diva who rarely takes herself very seriously. And, in a way, it’s a wonderful way to live because you don’t let yourself get too overwhelmed by those things which are relatively insignificant. If I ever am dramatic, I can assure you that  something major has happened in my life as I am generally a pretty level-headed lady. I won’t say that I can’t be capricious and even volatile at times, for I am a spirited diva, too. But, I think it’s essential for us to all be able to laugh at ourselves. If we let ourselves cry and castigate ourselves for every dish we break or every purchase we make that we didn’t really need, we’ll end up feeling rather worthless. I think that we tend to forget, too, that the only way we will ever feel truly worthwhile is a person is if we have a strong sense of self-worth. This is the complete opposite of conceit or arrogance. Conceit or arrogance is a state of mind in which a person believes that they are superior to another person—or, to people, in general. A strong sense of self-worth, on the other hand, is a state of mind in which you understand that you have something unique and valuable to contribute to the world and to the lives of those around you. It is when you begin to embrace yourself, flaws and all. A friend of mine asked me recently, “How do you love yourself?” Well, I think it begins with creating a deep and dynamic sense of self-worth. It doesn’t matter how many mistakes you have made or even keep making, for if you learn something from each one, you are succeeding. You must guard your heart, though, and make sure that the people in your life do not have a negative effect upon your well-being. Although Eleanor Roosevelt said “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent”, I still think that as long as we keep toxic people and predators of the heart in our lives, we’ll never feel as valuable as we should. Even when they tell us how wonderful they think we are, we shouldn’t believe them. As I said, predators of the heart will tell you anything they think you may need to hear in order to keep controlling your life. Although they may not always tell you what you want to hear, if they sense that you are slipping out of their nefarious clutches, they’re capable of saying the most beautiful and flattering words.  After all, they must seduce their way into your heart. . .and seduction is an art in which many tactics are used. So, when you begin to hear exquisite phrases from someone whom you don’t entirely trust, be very careful. Even though you don’t think it is doing you any harm to listen to them, sooner or later you may notice that you become addicted to their flattery.

Since the main subject of this post has to do with when you should not let someone who has hurt you remain in your life, I want to make a few more points about that. There are several different kinds of wounds that others can inflict upon us. Some of them are unintentional, and some of them aren’t. Betrayal, by its very nature, is intentional. The cases in which betrayal is unintentional are very rare. We all know that, if we say things that were confided to us by a friend in private, and we broadcast these things to other people, that we are betraying our friend. Right? Did we know we were doing something we shouldn’t do? Of course, we did. This being said, we can safely assume that if someone does this to us, they were fully aware of what they were doing. Also, if a man or woman who is a friend goes out of their way to pursue a friendship or relationship with someone who has mistreated us, we can feel pretty certain that they realize they are betraying us. I do think it’s crucial to forgive those who hurt us, even if they hurt us in some way that seems unforgivable to us. To forgive is something we do not for the person or persons who hurt us, but rather for ourselves. However, keeping the person or persons who hurt us in our lives is something else entirely. It is accepting what they have done—not merely forgiving it. And I do not think that accepting mistreatment of any kind can benefit us. Thus, your diva’s final word on this subject is this: if someone hurts you unintentionally, keeping them in your lives might not be an unwise choice. However, if someone hurts you intentionally, you should carefully examine whether that person deserves to be in your life because only those whom we can trust are worthy of our friendship, our love, or our affection.

Thanks to those who have told me how much my last post on predators of the heart meant to them! It always inspires this diva so much when I feel that I have helped or encouraged someone. Please know that I will respond to any personal mail that I receive at successdiva7@yahoo.com And, if you aren’t already a member of my mailing list, consider joining. It’s free and lots of fun!

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Until next time, friends. . .live with passion and guard your heart! Remember: there are times in your life when you have to close your heart to someone, and you must always be willing to do so when it is necessary, no matter how difficult a decision it may be.

Your Success Diva

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