As we head into a new year, I ponder my resolution to have better balance in my life on a number of levels. One of those (very important) levels is in the area of stress reduction and reducing worry in my life. I think these are things we all struggle with, and recently I've come to realize there's a great deal that we impose on ourselves, especially when it comes to our relationships.
This realization came after having several people tell me things that other people said and/or did over the past few weeks and asked what I thought of it. I remembered that when I was under a therapist while going through my life changes a few years ago, one of the things she told me was that the secret to finding balance was realizing what was and wasn't my business. "You concern yourself with your responsibilities and what you control and let go of the things in the hands of others," she said. That's certainly true, and in fact remembering this advice upon being asked my opinion on these various situations and issues made me realize that people, in general, bring on a lot of their own stress by worrying about or fretting over things that other people think, say or do - things they have absolutely no control over.
Why do we do this? My first reaction was that it's arrogance. Frankly, we all have a tendency to beleive that everything is all about us - and that's wrong. The truth is that everything people think, say and do is all about THEM. It's a reflection of how they see the world. Even if they say that "others made me do it," the truth is that they made the decision on how to perceive things and on how to proceed. Nobody "makes" anybody do anything. Plus, by nature, people are going to do what's best for them and the ones closest to them. Why should they do something that benefits you 100% and them none at all when you aren't the center of THEIR world?
So there's one reason, but I don't think that's all of it, nor the major portion. In fact, I think if that were the whole reason, then it would mean that people in general are extremely selfish and short sighted, and I don't believe that such a narrow view applies to most people most of the time. Some maybe, but absolutely not all. Maybe not most. And remember, I said there's some truth to this. Maybe it's a small part, but I don't think that's a "once size fits all" explanation for it. Most people learn, grow, and gain a wider perspective on the world and as such, they aren't so shallow.
I believe another reason is that we want everybody to like us. The problem is, I recently read that there was actually some scientific study that at least 10% of people aren't going to like you. Frankly, I was surprised the percentage was that low. I thought it would be closer to 30%, but the latest study I read said 10% so we'll run with that. Why is this? Plain and simple, personality differences. Some types just don't play well together. If you don't believe it, ask any extremely emotional person I've come in contact with and they'll tell you I'm mean and don't give a crap about their feelings. I am, by nature, a person that leans more toward logic and reason in making decisions than emotion. I usually don't get along well with extremely emotional types that "just want peace" and "want everybody happy right now" because I beleive happiness comes from investing the time and hard work to do things right no matter how you feel about it "right now." If you do what's right, then it will work out in the end, and that's a happiness that last; not a vapor of high emotion that wears off when the party is over and the consequences have to be paid. In fact, since I've been working in professional licensing, I'd say my tendency to make decisions based on logic and reason have become a stronger because by nature of my profession, I'm obligated to do what's right no matter how people feel about it. I don't think that's a bad thing (of course), but I've caught some flack about it because I'm female, and by stereotype I'm supposed to be all about feelings. While I'm ok to say "alright, forget the 10% and thank God for and enjoy the other 90%, well, some people get awfully fixated on that 10% and believe that if they work harder then they can get a 100% approval rating. It seems their effort would be better spent nurturing relationships with the other 90% but in fact, sometimes they turn on the ones on their side to gain approval they'll never have, counting on forgiveness from that 90% that might come, but not realizing that it will have a higher price than they bargained for because broken trust is a very hard thing to rebuild. But it happens, all the time. I've experienced it; I've seen it; I've written about it. Hey, I'm a writer. The ugly underside of humanity is a playground of inspiration. Expose it to me at your own risk.
Just kidding - maybe. And a sidenote on the emotion thing: I'm interested to see if the stereotype of "hysterical emotion" in women downplays as more generations of women have careers.Working women don't have time to fret over every little wayward comment, rolled eye, questionable social media post, tear or tirade that comes their way. Or at least, me and my colleagues don't. But we'll see as time tells this particular tale.
So there's that. But not all people are emotional and out for approval ratings that would make politicians jealous, so reason #2 can't apply to everybody. But it does apply to enough that I believe it should be considered.
There is one more reason, and I think it applies to most of us. I believe the reason people get tied up in what others think, say and do is because they don't want to be alone in how they think or feel. They want to know that others agree with them. They want others to have an opinion with them, or to get mad with them, or to be sad with them, or to take up the cause with them because they don't want to be the only freak swimming against the tide. They want to know they're like everybody else and what the other person is doing is wild/selfish/stupid/crazy/nonsense/whatever. They don't want to be alone in their opinion or feelings because they don't want to look in the mirror and ask "is it them, or is it me?" We all want to be right. We all want the world to understand that our opinion is just as important as everybody elses'. We all want respect. Nobody wants to be a nobody. They want people to know that they're here, that they have value, and that they are just as important as the other 7+ billion people in the world.
Here's the thing, though: Going about it by getting tangled up in other peoples' business is a sign of insecurity. If you truly walk in faith and you're confident in yourself as the authentic human being you were created to be, then you don't need to beg or scream for attention. You humbly go about your own business, believing that the life God set before and the purposes you serve speak for themselves.
That's the cure. That's how you break free from this stress. You get busy living your own life and tending to your own businss and have the grace to accept others and the decisions they make without intruding into their lives with your opinions.
Does this mean you ignore others and don't care what they do? Of course not. You should always do your best to help people in need and if there's something you can do to help others on their life path, you certainly should. The key is to use common sense and discernment. Yes, we all have opinions on things, but we don't need to share them all the time. Everything that flies through your head doesn't need to fly out of your mouth. If you aren't asked for your opinion or advice, assume it's not wanted or needed and keep it to yourself. I'd even go so far as to say that you should still use caution in giving advice even if you ARE asked for it. As one of the elves said in The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring, "elves don't give advice because all paths may run ill." Think before you speak. If in doubt, don't. And realize that advice is a take it or leave it thing - and in many cases, people leave it, so be prepared to have your advice or opinion rejected just in case and be prepared to not get offended. And please, for the love of God, if it won't make any difference and you have a thought - don't. Stop right there and go no further. If it's done and/or there's no way it's changing no matter what anybody says and you really need to get it out, set up a private blog or buy a journal to work it out, but don't go off on tirades and complain to everybody in the world about things you can't control involving people close to you. And don't ask or expect people to take sides with you unless you want to do the equivalent of renting a billboard that says I'M THE ONE WITH THE PROBLEM. It makes you look bad and it makes other people run like hell from you when they see you coming. If it's something so big that you can't live with it, find a way to either deal with it or distance yourself from the situation. Just because a war's going on doesn't mean you have to be a soldier in it. Other people might want you to have their problems, but they can't draft you. You don't have to accept them and if you choose not to accept their problems, well then, it's over.
The point of this mile long blog is that I'm coming to understand that balance is something that we have to strive for in every area of life, and personal relationships are certainly a big element there. We do live in the world, with people, so having good, balanced relationships is an extremely important thing. And one way we can achieve balance in our relationships is by not being a busybody, minding our own business, and having the grace to let it be.
Thanks for hanging in there with me on this one. I hope you had a Happy Friday and that you have a great weekend.
It’s been nearly a year since my “graveyard epiphany” that spurred me to search within myself and bring my authenticity into my “new life.” The journey hasn’t been easy, but I believe it’s been well worth it. I feel more confident today than I ever have in my life. I now trust that I am where the Lord wants me to be, and that I can do whatever He sets before me because He Himself will work in and through me.
God works in each and every one of us. He uses our personalities, gifts and abilities to do His work in the world. If we want to be vessels for the Holy Spirit, then it’s important to know ourselves because that’s how the Spirit will work in and through us. If you don’t know yourself, well, the Spirit can’t work in you because you don’t know what’s going on!
That’s why it’s so important to be authentic. We are each divine creations and everything that God makes is good. Don’t let Satan corrupt your goodness with lies. Don’t let him hold you back with despair, discouragement, and fear. You become your best when you fight these attacks and stand up for your faith and yourself to be the very best creation you can be!
When I went through my life transitions last year the #1 piece of advice I got for coping was to stay rooted in my faith and true to myself. Believe in Christ and don’t pretend to be someone I’m not. Of course the devil attacked through naysayers and I got admonished to “grow up” and“quit being difficult” in my attempts to work things out for a better life. I refused to suppress my independence and insisted on being myself and working things out the right way, and not the quick and easy way. Do you know what’s happened? The naysayers don’t have much to say now that it’s working out! I had to work hard – harder than I ever knew or imagined was possible, but things did improve, and it was because I refused to take a backseat to life. I wouldn’t be a sidekick. I insisted on being a superhero and I’m rising to it, a step at a time. If “growing up” means settling for mediocrity then I’ll never grow up – period.
I hope this blog series has been helpful and inspirational to you. If you have enjoyed it, I encourage you to check out my first book titled Battleground Earth – Living by Faith in a Pagan World
. It’s available for sale through Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/Battleground-Earth-Living-Faith-Pagan/dp/1413733468/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_1
and through PublishAmerica at http://www.publishamerica.com/shopping/shopdisplayproducts.asp?catalogid=5696
I’ve read many books on finding yourself, but I won’t bore you with an entire chapter of suggested reading. Instead, I’ll limit my suggestions to the two most powerful books I’ve read on finding yourself:
The first is How to Succeed at Being Yourself – Finding the Confidence to Fulfill Your Destiny
, by Joyce Meyer. This is actually the book that gave me the confidence to start writing and pursuing publication after years of falling away from the craft because I allowed myself to become distracted with things that I didn’t intend to have in my life permanantly. I learned that I needed to be true to myself and my calling if I ever wanted to find happiness. This is what I call a “get up and conquer the world!” read. It motivates you to do something positive. This book is available through Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/How-Succeed-Being-Yourself-Confidence/dp/0446532045/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1322012510&sr=1-1
The second is Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy
, by Sarah Ban Breathnach. This is a daily devotional book that has the single purpose of helping you find your authentic self. Each day has helpful entries to guide you into delving deeper within yourself to find the truth of spirit. It’s not specifically Christian and is meant to appeal to a wide audience, but it’s powerful and motivation. This book is available through Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/Simple-Abundance-Daybook-Comfort-Joy/dp/0446563595/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1322012631&sr=1-1
Thanks for joining me in my reflections on this journey, and I hope you will embark on your own path to authenticity. It’s a journey well worth taking and revisiting from time to time as you continue to grow and learn in faith.
I entered a counted cross stitch in the State Fair in October 2009. It was my largest stitching project and, I thought, a masterpiece of creativity. Unfortunately, the judges didn't agree. I didn't win a ribbon.
I was heartbroken. This piece took nearly three and a half years to complete, and I felt it was my best work. But under the scrutnizing eye of others, it didn't measure up.
Family and friends consoled me and urged me to keep at it. Don't give up, they said, because eventually you'll win. As I considered the situation, though, I started to realize some things. That project had been very time consuming and difficult for me to complete; to the point that it became frustrating in the end. In fact, part of the reason why it took me so long to finish the project was because I put it on hiatus for a period of 7 months while I wrote Blurry. I realized that looking over that period of time, the hobby that brought me the most contentment wasn't the cross stitch, but writing the novel. It made me ask myself what I really wanted to see bear fruit in my life, and the answer, without a hitch, was my writing. So the next time a friend encouraged me to start a new stitching project, I finally admitted a truth that I should have faced sooner. "You know," I said, "I realize now that stitching is an arena for others. Writing is mine, and I need to return to it."
That wasn't well received. A lot of people assumed I was quitting and saw it as a bad sign and completely out of character for me. What they didn't know was that an idea for another novel was developing. Soon after, I began work on Anywhere But Here, a novel about a young woman battling depression in the face of major life transitions. I made it my mission after that failed contest to grow and develop as a writer, and it paid off. Blurry was published by Wings ePress in August 2011; Anywhere But Here will be published by Whiskey Creek Press in April 2012, and I recently completed Splinter, a sci-fi apocolyptic novel that I successfully completed a rough draft of during 2010 National Novel Writing Month.
I could have given you a monologue about mining your talents and finding your passions, but I felt that relating this experience would be a better demonstration of the process of using your interests and experiences to find authenticity and purpose. All of us have a number of talents, skills and abilities with potential for development, but our time and energy are limited. There simply isn't enough time in a day, week, month, year, season or lifetime to do it all. You have to set priorities by making active decisions on what you want to see bear fruit in your life and investing in those purposes. Prayer, of course, is the best way to do this, because it helps us to look within and be absolutely honest with God and ourselves about what's best for life.
Another point I hope you take from this is that finding authenticity and purpose is a journey. I didn't wake up one day and say "I'm putting stitching on a back burner while I focus on writing more material and learning how to get published and promoted." It was trying and failing, assessing myself and learning from mistakes, making realizations and trying again. It's a process of trial and error, and you will certainly make mistakes. Don't look on it as wasted time, though. The missteps and mistakes can be mined for wisdom that leads to success in future endeavors. I knew that hard work was the key to progress, but this experience also taught me the importance of focus. I saw the true meaning of "a jack of all trades is a master at none" and realized that I needed to pick what meant the most and zoom in on that as my primary goal.
Above and beyond all else, I hope you see the importance of being true to yourself. Others can mean the best and still be wrong. You are the only one that has to live with yourself and your life 100% of the time. The path will only be revealed to you, and there are many steps in that path that won't make a bit of sense to others. That's ok. The ones that are meant to share the journey will learn to accept you for what you were created to be. The others will fall away. Simple as that.
As a final note, I'd like to mention that I haven't completely given up cross stitching, but I'm limiting my projects to very small scale items. That's more practical for my current lifestyle. Maybe one day I'll tackle another large project, but for now my focus is on becoming a better writer. And to me, that's what really matters.
Next time: Standing Alone - Staying Strong Under Attack.
Greetings, and welcome to my new blog series titled “From Sidekick to Superhero – Claiming Your Place in the World.” This idea was actually born from suggestions from several people that I return to my first book, an inspirational self-help book titled Battleground Earth - Living by Faith in a Pagan World and update it with lessons and life experience I’ve gained over the six years since it was published. It sounded like a great idea, but in looking over that manuscript, I discovered something shocking: I’m not the same person I was six years ago. While my morals and basic ideals haven’t changed, I have undergone a radical change in my perspective on life and the world that make the approach I took with Battleground Earth seem inadequate and, frankly, too elementary for me to return to. I feel I’ve moved to a new level and as such, I need to pick up at a point beyond that particular book. (Plus, I’ve also switched to writing fiction due to changes in the publishing industry since that time). I do welcome you to purchase and read it, though, because it provides an excellent foundation for the very intent of this blog series.
So what is the point? It’s simple. My platform is finding your purpose through God and being authentic. I have always believed that if your foundation is in Christ, then the ground level should be knowing, accepting, and appreciating the person God made you to be and to build your spiritual house based on His purpose for your life. The problem is that we live in a world where things like authenticity and unique perspectives are not only devalued but mocked. I suppose it’s always been this way, so nothing has really changed, but with the spread of technology the pressure to conform is coming at people in means and ways that didn’t exist before. It’s harder to find quiet places to be alone and to disconnect with the world. It’s harder to turn off the pressure to conform. It’s harder to stand up for what you believe in and to find the courage to be yourself when you’re pounded with messages through the countless means of communication telling you to get in your place and stay there.
Personally, I believe that I’ll be in a box when I’m dead, so I refuse to be trapped in one now. I also have a very strong and independent personality. Life experience has shown me that it’s actually very difficult for many people – maybe most – to be themselves. They don’t feel like it’s safe because they fear judgment from others, many times from those closest to them. They believe in Christ, but they don’t understand the freedom Christ brings. They don’t have to be in a box, but they stay there because it makes other people happy and it’s easier to stay there than to fight their way out. Rising above where they are might make others uncomfortable or unhappy, and they don’t want their individuality to cause trouble or pain to anybody.
That might be the safe way and the easy way, but I believe there’s too much at stake to play it safe. First, life is too short to settle for the lowest common denominator. God created you for a purpose and the greatest tragedy isn’t how people reacted to you, but the fact that you will one day stand before Him and have to explain why you weren’t the person He made you to be, and why you didn’t fulfill the purpose He sent you to fill. Too many of us fear judgment from others when we should be concerned with the final judgment where we will answer for all – it’s the classic tunnel vision of only seeing what’s convenient today at the expense of the good of eternity. Second, there’s no guarantee that people will be happy or comfortable no matter what you do. People have an inherit sense of when people aren’t being genuine or honest with them, and they resent it if they feel like you’re wearing a mask. I know, I just said we live in a world that prizes conformity – but people also don’t like to be deceived. It’s a double edged sword. They want you to want to center your life around their desires/wishes/convenience, but the truth is that none of us were created to be a sidekick to anybody. God meant for all of us to be superheroes, and you’re never going to find peace, contentment or joy in your life until you mine that hero out of the muck of conformity and let it fly in the light of day.
The purpose of this blog series is to share my faith, journey, and observations with you on how I discovered myself and “grew up” into the person I am today. Experts are great, but sometimes it helps to hear from somebody that’s travelling on the road with you. Consider this blog series as a companion along the way.
As we start this journey, I’d like to spell out a few disclaimers for you:
· I’m not trained in the ministry, so this isn’t formal theology. In other words, this isn’t “meat and potatoes.” It’s more like your cup of coffee in the morning. It’s intended to wake you up and set you off in the right direction. There are many resources from those formally trained in theology and psychology. I’ll draw from some of those sources (and other media) and will hopefully offer you others to point you in the right direction for formal education on the issue of individuality. Here, I offer my experiences, observations, and personal knowledge to get you started on the journey of finding your authentic self.
· This is Christian and it’s Biblically based. I’m not going to beat you over the head with a Bible, but it’s based on scripture and I will quote scripture if and when it’s relevant. And other things as well.
· I welcome feedback. You may agree or disagree with what I present here. I’d never deny anybody their opinion. In fact, I encourage and welcome your feedback. If you agree and find some spiritual help, please let me know. If you think I’m coming from outer space, tell me. Writers need to know what their readers are thinking and how their work is being perceived and received.
Welcome to the journey! I hope there is insight, knowledge and spiritual help offered through this blog series and that we all come out of it enlightened and stronger than before.
Next time – The epiphany that changed my perspective on everything. It was more recent than you think, and it will explain why I titled this series Sidekicks to Superheroes.