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.

It’s your heart. So, guard it!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

 

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