Archive for August, 2013

August 23, 2013

Speak your heart to know your heart (and to grow your heart)

I like this quote from author and philosopher Albert Camus:

To know oneself, one should assert oneself.

As humans, we are sometimes afraid to share our true feelings or speak our true needs. We fear being rejected, criticized, disappointed, embarrassed or misunderstood. We’re scared to appear needy, hurtful, selfish, smug or vulnerable. We don’t want to cause others to feel anger, sadness, love, “obligation” or some other emotion that frightens us. The list goes on — but notice how all of these fears relate to how other people perceive or react to us, rather than how we perceive or react to ourselves? What about our own needs for personal growth and learning?

If you don’t assert yourself — if you don’t voice your own thoughts and feelings and needs and desires — then how can you ever know what truly drives you? How can you ever sort through the multitude of possible reactions, emotions and perspectives available to you, and find the ones that most accurately and comfortably express the person you are inside? And how can you communicate with other people in ways that nurture relationships built on understanding, respect and trust?

It takes practice to hone any new skill, and assertiveness is just that: a skill. If being assertive is new to you, then it’s not realistic to expect instant success. You wouldn’t expect to paint a masterpiece the first time you picked up a paint brush, would you? What we need to understand and accept is that it is OK to make mistakes in communicating our needs to others, because mistakes are how we learn. It is OK to be too pushy one day, and too flimsy the next. It is OK to cause another person to get mad. It is OK to appear “selfish,” or to disappoint someone we care about. It is OK to ask for love or help or a hug. People are resilient beings; they will get over whatever you throw at them — and if they don’t, they are probably not a good match for you in the long run.

The more we assert ourselves, the easier and more comfortable it will become. The better able we will be to discuss issues openly and honestly, and to achieve satisfying compromises. And the stronger, more authentic and more mature our relationships will become — both with ourselves and with the people around us.

As writer Hugh Prather says,

Some people will like me, and some won’t. So I might as well be myself, and then at least I’ll know that the people who like me, like me.

August 21, 2013

Instructions for Life #2: How to build a house that lasts

Today’s bit of inspiration comes from fellow blogger Daniel, whose blog Grow Up Proper I was lucky enough to stumble across today:

You cannot flip a switch and change your life, but you can change yourself and your life will change accordingly.

Many people are searching for that “magic bullet” solution to their problems, for a quick and easy “switch” that will bathe their lives in instant light and rescue them (once and for all) from pain, suffering, discomfort, smallness or what have you.

Important note:  There is no magic bullet solution to any problem worth solving. Even if there were, I wouldn’t advise that you take it (tempting as it may sometimes seem).

The major changes in life — those that involve personal relationships, career situations, health, day-to-day happiness and other things that really matter — are going to require work, and lots of it. They’ll also require focus, dedication, perseverance, courage, trust and consistency. You will have to put in significant time and significant effort, and you’ll have to put up with periods of stagnation as well as periods of progress. But if you do this steadily and in good faith, you will slowly move forward: you will slowly “change yourself.”

As you begin to gently reshape certain parts of yourself — your environment, your body, your perspectives, your outlook, etc. — your life will begin to change as well. You might not notice the change at first, but one day you will wake up and remark, “Wow, remember when I used to be like THAT?” or “My goodness, I’m so much happier these days than I have been in years!” That’s when you’ll know the changes you’ve made have taken root.

Change like this is not a quick process; it takes time to build a new house in which to live comfortably. You need time to learn how to effectively build and maintain strong foundations, time to weed the short circuits out of your wiring, and time to paint and repaint your interior spaces until they match the colour of your soul. You might not have a clue how to build a house in the first place; in that case, you’ll definitely need time to acquire and practice the skills you’ll need. All this is perfectly fine — and perfectly normal.

If you’re still wishing that you could just snap your fingers and have the whole house go up before your eyes, remember that you get what you put in. A quick job would inevitably have weak foundations, faulty wiring, and colours chosen by some person you don’t even know. You wouldn’t have a clue how to maintain the place, either, since you wouldn’t know it from the inside out. It might last you a while, but it would eventually crumble away and leave you homeless all over again.

So do it right the first time: take the time and make the effort to build your new life as you would take the time and make the effort to build the house of your dreams. It might be a slow process, but it is a process of love, and the end result will be something solid and stable that will last you a lifetime.

August 19, 2013

Observed on the street: Three food groups, one stop

I saw this sign at a local street festival I attended on the weekend.
All your snack cravings, fulfilled at just one all-encompassing food booth!

Sign reading "Slush Puppies and Samosa Sold at the Mini Donut Van!"

August 9, 2013

What would happen today?

What would happen today if I . . .

–  did the thing that scares me,
–  said what I really think,
–  told someone I love them,
–  stood up for what I believe in,
–  honoured my true feelings,
–  acted from my heart?

What, indeed.

August 2, 2013

Instructions for life (#1): Do the things you love NOW

Do the things you love now, because you never know when the possibility or the ability to do those things will be taken away from you. As improbable or impossible as it may seem to you in this moment, you could very well wake up tomorrow and find yourself unable to write, sing, run, speak, walk, swim, go outside, dance, see, hold your children, or what have you. Do the things you love now, while you have the ability to do them. Don’t waste this time, for it is a time-limited gift, and it will not be available to you forever.

Prioritize the things you love above all else. There is little point in frittering away the time that you do have on lesser activities or pursuits. Do only the things that give you true joy, do them often, and do them whole-heartedly. Do not feel guilty about this. This is your life, after all, and the best way to spend it is in doing the things that make you feel the most happy.

Remember that even if you are forced to give up some crucial part of your life because of circumstances beyond your control, you will survive the loss. You will. There are other parts of yourself, as yet explored, waiting to be shown the light. The old parts of you will live on in fond memory, and the new parts will carry you forward into the future.

There are many chapters in your book of life. Not all chapters will be easy or fun to read, but all chapters will be meaningful. Live each chapter fully, while it is before you, because eventually — perhaps at a moment you least expect or desire — that chapter will close for good, leaving you with an entirely different set of words and sentences from which to compose your path and craft your identity.

August 1, 2013

Challenge of the month: Speak your mind (your real mind)!

This month, when someone asks you for your opinion or ideas on something, I challenge you to speak your mind honestly, openly, confidently and compassionately.

So many of us cover up our true thoughts or impressions for fear of offending another person, or appearing too (un)intelligent, or because we mistakenly believe that our ideas or opinions are somehow lesser than those of others.

If you fit any of these patterns, this month, break them (at least once)! You may find that people truly value what you have to say — whether it is a compliment, a criticism, or just a point of view that’s different from all the rest. You may find that people appreciate your candour, that they take a genuine interest in your unique perspectives, and that they can handle what might seem (to you) like “criticism” with more ease than you thought possible. And you might feel better inside yourself for having spoken your own truth — no matter how big or small the issue at hand.

This August, speak out! Your opinions deserve it.