The Perspective On Suicide You Haven’t Heard

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I’ve found that I tend to approach these huge celebrity news stories a little bit differently than most.  Like every other human being on the planet, when I found out that Robin Williams had committed suicide, I had my normal knee-jerk reaction of empathy, sorrow, and even some confusion.  I was never the biggest Robin Williams fan, but I did enjoy his movies so it was devastating news as I believe anyone can attest – a comedian, a seemingly happy man shouldn’t have any desire to kill themselves, right??

As I started working through my own thoughts and feelings, I noticed that I made a switch pretty quickly, as I often do.  Into observation mode.  I perused the news articles, blog posts, and social media arguments and listened to how people process and react.  Unlike the whole Miley Cyrus debacle last year, this news was actually quite devastating so naturally people feel very strongly about their viewpoints and a lot of people are walking away both angry and hurt by some of the discussions.

What I find curious about our evaluation of a tragic incident such as this is that we tend to talk about it in terms of what is a valid reason for killing oneself, and what is not a valid reason to kill oneself; as if we’re trying to find a way to resolve our shock as quickly as possible.  If their reason for killing themselves is not valid then we can be angry at them, reassure ourselves that it was a deliberate choice and not an accident, and close the book on the “why” question. 

Perhaps so we can move on?  Perhaps so we can avoid the emotional asymmetry of contemplating something as complex and nuanced as suicide?  Maybe.  This would appear to be a result of human nature.  In a world of survival of the fittest, it is incumbent upon any human being to deal with emotions and move on quickly as a matter of survival.  But while this is natural and instinctual to jump to the quickest conclusion we can find and move on, it does us a disservice because it distorts the picture.  In an world where thoughts and feelings are of exponentially higher value than physical safety, it doesn’t matter so much anymore that we complete as many puzzles as possible; it matters that we complete the puzzle correctly.  

So I observe.  I analyze.  I try to understand.  And I begin putting together the pieces of this mysterious puzzle.  Because what I typically see is that a lot of people are trying really hard to understand this thing called suicide and in an attempt to find a comfortable answer quickly, they end up haphazardly mashing two pieces of the puzzle together that look like they fit, but in reality distort the entire picture.  

PUzzleAnd this ends up leaving a lot of people confused, hurt, or misinformed.

So let’s find the bits of truth scattered throughout the canvas and see if we can’t line some of them up together.  

Suicide Is Selfish

The most common and upsetting argument I’ve seen so far is that Robin Williams’ choice – and yes, it was a choice, however it was informed by mental processes most of us can’t even fathom – was selfish.  Okay, I admit, I find this upsetting as well.  So here’s what I have to say to all of you who assert this opinion: you’re right.  It was selfish.  From a completely objective point of view, committing suicide is a selfish act that causes great pain and anguish to those left behind.  Let’s make sure we understand that.  But it is not motivated by selfishness.  I can’t emphasize this distinction enough.  Depression causes the state of a person’s emotions and logical brain to be out of whack in these situations.  Selfishness is not even a consideration; escape from intense pain is.  You might compare it to a person who is being tortured as a POW and asks his torturer to kill him to put him out of his misery.  Do you think he’s in a sound state of mind to contemplate how that choice might effect his family?  No.

It’s a place few of us go, some of us return, but leaves us mourning for those who don’t make it out.

Suicidal Tendencies Can Be Cured With Faith

Another argument I’ve come across is this idea that somehow the person who commits suicide was not spiritual enough, or didn’t have a strong enough faith in God, or should have prayed more.  I have a REALLY hard time with this one.  I don’t see much logic in it at all.  But, if I dig really deep, I can maybe find a place for this puzzle piece.  I suppose that if we’re seeing “God” in this context as a spiritual/emotional/mental connection to the value of one’s inner self (through whatever type or image of God one believes in), then yes, I guess we could say the connection to “God”, or awareness of one’s own personal value, was broken.  But no amount of praying, going to church, or worship can fix something borne of a physical ailment.  I know some people believe in miracles of healing and I think that’s wonderful, but even in that context, 99% of the time you can’t spiritually fix something that is borne of a physical ailment.  And let’s particularly avoid calling this a moral deficiency.  It’s not.  In fact, suicidal people are sometimes described as being exceptionally moral.

Suicide Is a Result of a Chemical Imbalance

Which brings me to the next argument: suicide is the result of depression which is a result of a chemical imbalance in the brain.  This is TRUE!  This is the one puzzle piece that I love seeing placed on the board because this one is in the right spot.  Science has proved it, and if you don’t believe science, then believe the millions of people who have gained a higher quality of life through slight alterations of their chemical makeup.  It’s not that they didn’t have the desire to better themselves before, it’s that the medication allows them to finally be in a place where they are able to face the thought processes, angry feelings, and self-loathing that they’ve always experienced.  And they can begin to heal.  It’s no different than a person who takes medication for high blood pressure or thyroid issues or any number of other physical ailments.

Suicidal People Should Just Be More Positive

And then there’s this lovely one: suicidal people just need to start thinking positively.  Well, okay, I suppose technically this is true.  A more positive outlook on life would certainly alleviate much of the suffering.  The problem is in the assumption that this can be accomplished without help. Or that it can even be accomplished easily, or in some cases at all.  I don’t care if positive thinking is easy for you; that doesn’t make it easy or even possible for others.

Suicide Happens to People With a Difficult Childhood

And the last argument we’re going to look at: suicide is a result of a difficult childhood.  This is certainly a possibility but by no means true across the board.  There are many whose depression is triggered by abusive or traumatic events in childhood (or adulthood, quite frankly), but not all depressed people had a difficult childhood.  Many have lovely families and lovely lives but were simply born with chemical levels that result in a propensity for depression.

There are other explanations that can help us understand suicide, but let’s be sure to debunk these popular ones now.

Now I’ll be frank: I’ve never been seriously suicidal.  I’ve contemplated it, but never been anywhere near to taking action.  But I did spend a good chunk of my life in high school talking friends off the ledge, or comforting them after they survived the jump off the ledge, so I’ve seen this stuff pretty up close and personal.  And I will be the first person to admit: I don’t understand it.  I don’t.  I can’t imagine myself being in a place of such misery that I’m prepared to give up everything in my life to stop the pain.  The difference between me and a lot of other bloggers out there is that I don’t attempt to understand it with my biased eyes; I take the word of those who have been there.  If you believe that suicide is motivated by selfishness or a poor relationship with God or a lazy lack of effort to breed positive thoughts, just listen to what depressed and suicidal people are saying/have said.  Because this is a fact: you can’t understand it.  Even if you’ve been depressed before, or felt really low, or contemplated suicide, you can’t understand the person who fell so far that they were willing to pick up a gun and pull the trigger.  So stop trying and start listening.  

Once you start listening you will hear things like this: they were so lost in their misery that they couldn’t even consider whether or not suicide was a selfish choice.  They prayed and prayed and prayed and God never took away their sadness no matter how much faith they exerted.  They fought tooth and nail for years to change their thought processes and be more positive – they fought so hard that they believed themselves to be a failure for not being able to achieve happiness.

That is the real picture we’re looking at.  So let’s hold off on the idea we can understand this, stop applying our own mental processes to other people, and stop making snap judgments.  This subject is huge and vast and meticulous and unforgiving.  There are no easy answers.  And the only answers we can trust are those of the amazing people in our lives that we are grateful to call survivors.

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Dear Past Self

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Hi girls,

Today I’d like to share with you a blog post from a dear friend of mine who I think is absolutely amazing.  She wrote this incredible letter to her younger self, and I think many of you young people can relate to some of the things she’s written.  She really speaks from the heart and spearheads some of the major issues we face in teenage hood and young adulthood (and, admittedly, in adulthood as well!!).  If you’ve ever felt like you’re the only one who feels awkward, ugly, or self-conscious, here’s a wonderful reminder that you are not alone!  And that you’re not the only one who never heard back from Ryder Strong. 😉

Here is my favorite part of her post:

“Hey Karen, I’m really proud of you for trying out for that play, even though you were scared, especially about singing in front of people.  It led to a lot of fun times throughout the years.  I know that sometimes hearing that you are ugly, stupid or fat is really really hard.  Hearing it from those poor, self-conscious (yes, they are) “popular” kids sometimes makes you feel like that’s who you are.  I know that kids can be cruel.  I look back at us 20 years ago and am sad for you.  I wish I could tell you then what I know now.”

Karen feels a strong devotion to God and her religion, and though we are not all religious, I believe our life experiences are still very similar and very interconnected.  So pull the encouragement that you can from this awesome post – I hope it gets your weekend off on the right foot!

http://firstcomeslove-jacobs.blogspot.com/2014/02/dear-past-karen.html 

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Harnessing Your Power

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Whew, ladies, I feel I have neglected you!  It has been a little while since I’ve laid out some new pearls of wisdom before you (hehehe..heh…..hm…), but not to worry: I’m back!

In fact, I’m back in many ways these days.  Many things have begun for me recently, which I hope they have for you as well.  I’ve started trying things again.  It’s common for me to come up with an idea for something I want to do – a business I want to start, a class  I want to teach, a technique I want to learn – and then vet all the possible pitfalls before even attempting to try.  Now I try things and then just see where they go.  It’s a MUCH better way to function and has so many more rewards!

In addition, I’ve begun my Teen Life Coach training (YAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!!!).  This is the most exciting beginning of all!  I’ve always felt a special connection with teens and young adults, and a strong desire to work with them and walk them through an incredibly confusing, incredibly difficult, and incredibly AWESOME time of their life.  I’m now one step closer to that dream.

I’ve also started selling my artwork on consignment in a couple of stores in Denver (details TBA), and, as is the topic of this post, I’ve started boxing again.

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In fact, tonight was my first night back.  I tried to start last year a few months after my son was born, but I just wasn’t ready yet.  That’s okay, by the way girls, to not be ready yet.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there are seasons for everything, and if the motivation and desire isn’t there, just give yourself some love and patience until it returns.  It took about 9 months this time.  9 months that would have been far more miserable if I had beaten myself up everyday over my negligence.  And anyways, in that time I discovered some other types of exercise and activities I really love that I would never have discovered otherwise.

Back to boxing.  When I’m in that “place”, boxing is SO invigorating for me.  So motivating.  So empowering.  I’ve long felt it is one of the best ways to bring a girl into a state of self-love, self-respect, and personal strength.

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I was thinking about this on the way home and I came up with a new idea: I should teach Boxing Empowerment classes.  I think boxing on it’s own can teach those lessons, but how COOL would it be to combine the physical workout with the vocal life coaching lessons?  To say aloud, and shout to the world words of your own inner strength while exerting your energy towards living them at the same time.

As this idea percolated, I began building a dialogue.  A speech or mission statement, if you will, that embodies the meat of what such a program could accomplish.  I’d like to share that with you today in hopes that it will inspire you as much as it inspired me:

“You’re already good people.  I don’t have to teach you that.  You already know to be kind to others, you already know to consider others’ feelings in your words, you already know to give others respect.  But no one ever taught you how to have unabashed, unapologetic respect for yourself.  The respect to hurt someone else if you have to defend yourself.  The right to be strong, the right to be tough.  The right to own your body and do amazing things with it.  The respect to allow you to be you.  The respect to walk away from people who don’t play fair.

To choose to be powerful instead of being afraid.

There is no apologizing here.  No hiding your strengths or denying your weaknesses.

This is a place to be real.

You are not allowed to play a role, you are not allowed to pretend you are anything other than who you are.

If you throw a good punch, you are going to own it.

If you feel awkward or strange or weak, you’re not going to flinch because that’s life and life isn’t about being perfect.  In fact, life is precisely about not being perfect.

I know that’s not what your teachers say, or your parents say, or the media says, but that’s what we say here.  Boxing is the place to learn to embrace imperfection.  You will not learn to be perfect.  You will not learn to do anything perfectly.  You will learn to love being imperfect.  And in doing that, you will begin to see exactly how amazing you are.

Here: “power” is not a bad word.  “Power” and “woman” are not oxymorons.  You don’t have to be nice.  You don’t have to be sweet.  Here you can be tough.  Here you can be bitchy.  Here you can express yourself, exert yourself, be as pissed off or deliriously happy as you want.

You don’t have to have a certain type of body here.  Because everyone can box.  There are no standards here, no crazy expectations, no ideals.  You’re going to use your body in amazing ways, and you’re going to love your body because of it.

Most importantly, you’re going to let go of the way you used to think.  You’re going to think in a new way, and you’re going to practice that every week.  You’re going to forget everything except for your ability to believe in yourself.

And you’re going to kick some ass.

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Second Real Girls Giveaway Winner: Poetry

I am SO excited to announce our next Real Girls Giveaway winner: Sarah!  This fantastic lady sent us a brief glimpse into her life and her talents by submitting a poem – all the way from Dubai!  Inspired by the last Real Girls Giveaway winner, she wanted to share this poem she wrote on being real.  

A few comments before I post the poem: I am so unbelievably inspired by this poem.  It is so eloquently written and uses very sensual visuals to illustrate the raw reality of being “real”.  Poetry has such an incredible ability to express things that we cannot say in any other way, and it takes real talent to be able to bring together the harsh reality of our everyday lives with the beauty and subjectivity of the written word.  I am also in LOVE with her handle: Desencajada, which, according to her blog, means “out of her place”.  I believe it is Spanish (Foreign languages have such an amazing way of conveying meaning we often can’t express in English!).

You’ll love this read – 

What’s yours?

Link to the original poem on Sarah’s blog:

 

To stop resenting others for their happiness,
to unclench the knot in your throat that forms when they smile, 
pouring out their joyous abundance.

To start sculpting your own happiness, 
with bare trembling hands and tears in your eyes.

To dig deep in the dirt of your own secret garden 
and bury deep in the fertile soil 
all of your own dreams and hopes 
and grow and care for that garden, 
not allow the winter nor the beaming sun 
to either freeze nor burn your desires and destinies.

To gouge your own ditch 
to let the countless little streams of your heart flow 
until they form the thirst quenching sea 
and to have the courage to jump into it, 
not be afraid of its depths nor shallows 
and swim all the way through it 
to get to know its tide and temperature.

To untie all the strings that your fears have woven around your ankles,
keeping your feet from walking 
away from this house, this backyard, this fenced garden of deafening monotony.

To embrace the pain of growing wings, 
of tearing open your best guarded box, 
that chest, treasurer of that little throbbing muscle, 
and let the sunlight undisclose all the hideous secrets,
yes, 
to live and not dread the honesty of being real, 
range of possibilities exposed, of steps untaken and peace unmade. 

And yet to love, deeply, freely, guiltlessly, oneself…

To Love Freely Oneself

My favorite line is:

“To start sculpting your own happiness, 
with bare trembling hands and tears in your eyes.”

What’s yours?

Thanks again, Sarah, your gift will be arriving soon!

If you have a story, poem, experience, thought, piece of artwork, photo, or anything else that tells us about who you really are, please email Real Girls at BeaRealGirl@gmail.com and you’ll have a chance to win the next Giveaway!  

 

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Loving Your Bare Self

I’m not talking about physical nakedness in this post, although that is absolutely an amazing part of you that deserves your value and attention. At the moment, I’d like to focus on metaphorical nakedness. This concept is best explained with a short activity.

Pull out a paper and pen, or iPad, or the Notebook feature on your cell phone, or just close your eyes and participate in your head (after you’ve read the instructions, of course). We all have metaphorical “clothes” that we wear everywhere – some are placed on us or encouraged by others, some are taken upon ourselves. Some are positive, some are not, but they often become a strong part of our identity. Your metaphorical clothing might include “musician”, “smarty pants”, “nerd”, “writer”, “sister”, “beauty”, “gymnast”, “nice girl”, “niece”, stubborn” girl, etc. I want you to write down every word, title, or label, positive or negative, that you or someone else might use to describe you.

Do you have your list? Ok, now I want you to look at your list and imagine yourself standing behind the words – maybe the words just float on you, maybe they are tattoos, or maybe they are just descriptors pointing to different parts of you. Picture it however you like, but imagine those words being on your body, your person in some way.

Now picture those words melting away until they are gone. As if they no longer apply to you. What is left?

More importantly, at this juncture, I want you to ask yourself: “do I love and value what is left?”.

In our day there is so much emphasis put on achievements, abilities, and accomplishments – all by people who love us and want the best for us – that it’s easy to wrap our identity up in all those different roles we play, the things we do, and labels we carry. But when you take all that away, and leave just the nakedness of you, that is the you that needs your greatest love; The you that is valuable and worthy simply because you are you. There doesn’t have to be any other reason. You are of value. With no strings attached.

Now skills, abilities, and accomplishments are all amazing things and quite necessary for fulfillment and even survival these days, so let’s not pretend they don’t exist and ought not be celebrated! But they are not what make you inherently valuable. They are what an already valuable person exudes. And the greater your sense of inner value, the more you can believe in yourself and guide yourself towards that achievement that will contribute to your fulfillment and survival.

Look back at your page with you and your non-existent words. You may not love that naked person right now. You may feel she is only worthwhile with her baton or calculator or hairbrush. That is not the reality. Take some time every day to spend with that naked girl. That girl deep in your core that lies at the very heart of who you are and does nothing, accomplishes nothing, just simply is. Begin to nurture her the way you would your own child and practice cultivating loving feelings for her. In time, you will find that your value lies in far more than what you contribute to the rest of the world. And that your contributions to the world are simply loving expressions of your deepest self. Give her a chance, she needs some attention.

And I think you’ll like her.

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We All Have Something to Believe In

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What an amazing time of year.  We are all celebrating all the amazing, wonderful things we believe in.  Some of us our celebrating Jesus Christ the Savior, others Jesus Christ the inspired guide, others Allah, God, or simply a belief in themselves or the love of their families.  Others have already concluded their holiday celebrations, and many have celebrations yet to come.  I have my own personal beliefs of religious and secular natures, but today there is one thing I believe in more than anything: 

YOU.

I believe in you.  Every one of you.  I believe in your goodness, your worth, and your potential.  I believe in your weakness, your challenges, and your imperfection.  I believe in your ability to change the lives of those around you for the better and to change and improve your own life simply because you deserve it.  I believe in the work and effort you will put into improving yourself over the next year – and not because you are weak, or unworthy, or dysfunctional, or an idiot.  Rather, because you are already amazing and important; and amazing and important people owe it to themselves to continue to become more amazing, more inspired, and more improved.  You owe it to yourself to aspire to greatness, whatever that means for you.

So whatever you believe in this holiday season, remember that, most importantly, that person, God, Savior, or group believes in you first and foremost.  And the best gift you can give back to those that inspire your is to believe in yourself.

Amongst all the amazing giving you are doing today, remember that you are giving because you are a wonderful person!  Give yourself the gift of credit.

Much love, Real Girls.  

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A Song for the Real Girls of the World

Hi Girls!  I took some time these past couple of weeks, sucked in some creative juices, and wrote a song for all of us!  It speaks to girls I’ve met in so many different situations, and the amazing power I’ve seen in those who overcome great life challenges.  Hope you like it!

Keep in mind, it was recorded on an iPad so it’s not professional by any stretch of the imagination.  But it’s pretty damn good compared to the stuff I used to do with my tape player!!!

(P.S. my Soundcloud handle is “Jayniey” in case you want to follow me…just sayin…)

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Looking Out for Number One

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We’ve all been there, right?  You’re walking down the street, or through the mall (do teens still hang out at malls?), or at the park talking about your friend’s ex-boyfriend or girlfriend or boss who has been less than kind lately, and your friend utters the cliche we all know and love: “You know her: always looking out for Number One.”

Ok, maybe I’m dating myself thinking that’s a common phrase, but either way, you’ve heard it before, right?  We all know that those who put themselves in the #1 spot every day of their lives have a problem with being selfish and don’t spend enough time thinking about or helping others.

Right?

Actually, no.

Wait, wait WAAAAAAAAIIIT!!!!  Don’t go yet!  Just hear me out first!  This is very, very important because I think so many of us have been conditioned throughout our lives to always put others first, to forget yourself, to exist only for the good of others.  And these are all great and wonderful sentiments!  In theory, anyways.  But they can cause a lot of confusion, as does this idea that putting yourself first is a self-absorbed way to live your life.

So let me see if I can clear this up.  Now, I’m not a big fan of labels for myself or anyone else, but I do think it’s important for us, as we go about our lives, to make judgements about the acts or humaneness of others so as to help us decide what we want to choose for ourselves and what kind of people we want to be in our lives.  The purpose is not deem a person “good” or “bad” or to pit ourselves as “better” or “worse”, but instead to simply and objectively say, “That thing that person did, or the person that human is seems selfish, so I don’t think I want to live my life that way, it doesn’t seem like it would benefit me as a person.” (I find it helpful to avoid “that person is selfish” and rather say “they seem selfish” because it reminds me that I don’t really know their circumstances).

So, with that in mind, I will openly acknowledge that I have known a lot of people throughout my life who seemed to live rather selfishly.  Some of them have had a very drastic effect on me, and others have just made for good observable guinea pigs.  Either way, I’ve tried to learn something from them.  And this is what I’ve found:

I should probably remind you that I am not a psychologist or sociologist, or even anything cool like a Magician or a Lance Corporal.  Nor do I really have any credential for anything related (though a certain affinity for card games has earned me the nickname ‘cobra’ – more on that later), so I am speaking very simply from careful observation and a [fairly obsessive] desire to understand.  

Being selfish or self-absorbed has very little to do with putting yourself #1, and everything to do with how far beyond #1 you put #2 and #3.

I’m a visual person, so I’ll try to help illustrate this with a picture.  Let’s say we’re looking at an “Importance Meter” where you’re ranking the people/things most important in your life.  At the very top you have #1 followed by #2, #3, #4, etc.  But in this case, there is no set distance between each number.  So while #1 is always at the top, #2 can be halfway down the meter, a quarter of the way down, or even all the way at the bottom depending on how important your second priority is to you.

According to much of the common knowledge we’ve been taught, #1 should be everyone else at the top, and  #2 – you – should be (depending on how much the “think of others before yourself” rhetoric has been drilled into you) halfway down, maybe even at the very bottom in some cases.  Fantastic idea in theory; great way to overexert, exhaust, and depress yourself in practice.  But wouldn’t the reverse – putting ourselves at #1 – make us incredibly self-absorbed and not concerned about others?

I often wonder who came up with that idea – maybe someone who was worried that if s/he taught people to put themselves first they would cease to serve him or her’s every whim?  There’s the cynic in me for you. 🙂

It’s simply not true.  BOTH selfish and unselfish people put themselves at the top in the #1 spot.  The difference between a selfish and an unselfish person (assuming labels for simplicity’s sake) is that a selfish person puts #2 (typically family and friends) at the bottom of the meter, or maybe doesn’t even have any other numbers on the meter at all.  An unselfish person, by contrast, puts #2 perhaps just inches below #1, or maybe even feet below at times when their individual health and sanity needs more attention than usual.

To be sure this idea makes sense, let’s look at it a couple of different ways to see if it justifies itself.  There’s, of course, the most common justification I hear for putting yourself first which is that “if you don’t take care of yourself, how can you take care of anyone else?”.  Which has some merit, but at the end of the day is kind of like saying “put yourself first so that you can put other people first” which is confusing and takes away from this incredibly valuable truth:

You are worth putting first.

Put yourself first simply because you deserve it.  Because you are valuable, because you are worthy, because you are amazing.  Put yourself first because no one in this world merits your love more than your own self.

If you’re anything like me, your brain fights you on this justification.  It wants to step back and take a holistic viewpoint: isn’t everyone as valuable as me?  Ok, let’s humor that side of us.  If you’re looking at it from an outer space view of the whole world, yes, every person is equally valuable.  But even in this paradigm, it does you no service to value others over you because you are the only one you have control over.  You are the only one you can truly nurture, love, and embrace and KNOW that it makes a difference and brings value in your life.  Yes, please, absolutely keep your loved ones very close to the top; there will be times when their needs take over and you have to give unrequitedly for a while.  But always, always return vehemently to the respite that is the caring and nurturing of yourself.  Maintain it as often as you can without letting your loved ones slip too far down the meter.

The ironic thing is that, by doing this, you will inevitably teach others to do the same.  Prioritizing yourself and your physical and mental health makes the world a better place, and more importantly, you a better person.

It makes you more Real.

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Just This: Know Your Mind

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I have some amazing people in my life.  People that love me to the core; people that bolster me up when I’m down; people that lovingly turn my head when I’m facing the wrong direction.  There is nothing like meeting a good friend over hot tomato soup after a tough week – catching up on each other’s lives, sharing inspiring stories, crying together, and reminding each other what makes each of you wonderful, unique, and valuable.

I feel strongly about what I’m going to write about tonight.  I have had the opportunity to know some incredibly strong women and men in my life.  They exude a strength that I always felt alluded me.  A resolve, a self-confidence, a solid rock in the center of their being that never allows them to waver in their self-worth.  Now they are not perfect, of course, everyone has their issues, but I’ve always greatly admired this part of them; it’s a part of me I am belaboring to build and develop.

(Don’t worry, I will get to the part where I tell you what it is!)

I think I’ve always had a stubborn streak about me.  I recall times in my younger years when I was unafraid to argue or step up on my soapbox when I felt injustices were being committed.  But I always had an awful time making decisions.  I did NOT like to decide!!  It ties back directly to my perfectionistic tendencies and fear of making the wrong choice, but it crippled me in many ways, especially when there were those around willing to make the decision for me.  Be it a parent, a friend, a teacher, an authority, God, or a spiritual mentor, I always preferred to let someone take the responsibility for the final decision.

Though I have grown in this area throughout my life, I’d like to dispense the advice I would LOVE to go back in time to give myself in my teen years:

KNOW YOUR MIND.

Know what you think.  Know your opinion.  Know the decision you would make it if were up to you.  As a teenager or young adult, you are often in a situation where you don’t get a lot of say.  It’s easy to throw your hands up in the air in frustration or simply enjoy the lack of responsibility that comes with being young.  But no matter the situation, know your mind.

Even if it’s not your decision; know your mind.

Even if you know others will disagree; know your mind.

Even if you never express it because you are afraid of the response you might get; know your mind.

Even if you decide to default to someone else’s opinion; know your mind.

Even if you decide to leave the decision in God’s hands; know your mind.

No matter the situation, take the time – even if a few minutes is all you have – to think it through.  Weigh the good and the bad, look at the logical and emotional consequences, consider how you feel about the situation, consider what you’ve been taught by your parents, your education, your religion, your mentors.  And begin learning how to sort through, weigh, combine, and contrast those things to come to a conclusion that you feel confident about.  Know what your mind wants. Know what your mind needs.  Know what your mind thinks.  Even if you find out it’s wrong.  Even if you find out it’s right or good, but what you wanted was not an option.

There will be many times in your life when the better solution to your problem comes from the advice of someone else, or from putting your faith in God (if you believe in one), or from leaning on the teachings of your upbringing despite your reservations.  That’s OK.  Do what you feel is right; follow your instincts.  But I wish that, when I was younger, I would have spent more time thinking things through first.  I wish I had made my own decision and formed my own opinion before approaching someone else for advice, or asking God for guidance, or defaulting to what I knew and what was most comfortable.

And then what?  Own your decision.  Own that you decided to follow someone else’s advice, but never forget what you wanted to choose because you NEVER KNOW the right answer or decision until after the decision has been made and the action is complete.

Knowing your mind is about two things:

1) Taking responsibility for your opinions and your final decisions.

2)  Knowing yourself, what drives you, what you value, and what you are willing to sacrifice to get it.

The day may very well come when these skills come in handy because you will have no one but yourself to rely on to make a given decision (don’t be confused – you are always the only one you can rely on in decision-making; everyone else is simply an information provider or a spiritual guide, but the final decision is always yours – However the day may come when you have no one to turn to for advice or direction).  But don’t do this for any other reason but for yourself.  Do it simply because you are valuable, your opinions are valuable, your decisions are valuable (right or wrong), and you have intrinsic worth that deems that you can think and believe whatever you choose.

And if you already do this – that’s awesome.  Find a friend to share it with.  Discuss your thoughts, your ideas, your opinions – even your wacky ones.  Find friends like I have: that love you, embrace who you are, and see your incredible potential.  You are doing wonders for your own personal development and inspiring others to the same.

Be Real.  Be You.  Know Yourself.  Know Your Mind.  Embrace it.

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