I Am So Proud of My Daughter

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A couple of months ago my daughter encountered a very distressing situation.  She had a friend at school she had been spending a lot of time with and she wanted to invite her to her birthday party.  I sent her off to school with her invitation, and she was so excited!  Much to my dismay, she was NOT so excited when I picked her up.

Apparently, when she had presented her friend with her birthday invitation, her friend had said “No, I don’t WANT to go to your birthday party!”.  My daughter was devastated and very angry.  We talked a little bit about how that was not a nice thing for her friend to do, and its perfectly ok for her to be angry about it.  I let her feelings run their course through the rest of the evening.

The next morning while we were getting her ready for school, I asked her what she wanted to do with the invitation.

“I want to try inviting [her friend] to my birthday party again.”  Ok, that sounded like a reasonable idea – you never know what her friend may have been dealing with the day she invited.  I prepped her a little bit, letting her know that she didn’t have to try inviting her again, and if her friend reacted the same way again that she might want to consider whether or not this was a good friend to have.  She seemed to understand, but was insistent that she wanted to try again.

This time it went well.  Her friend simply said “thank you”.  The issue seemed to have been a simple case of someone who had a bad day.

A couple of weeks ago, I entered the school again to pick my daughter up on our usual schedule.  This time she was sitting with two different friends I hadn’t seen before.  After introducing me to her new friends, she said “[her friend she had invited to her birthday party] isn’t my friend anymore.  She was being mean and pushed me down on the playground.”

Now, even just 5 years ago I probably would have said “well, that’s not nice to say someone isn’t your friend” or “maybe she had another bad day” or “think about what she might be going through”.

Not anymore.  I’ve learned a little something about boundaries in the past few years.  About valuing and prioritizing myself.  About drawing the line between me and toxic people.  So what did I say?  “Sounds like you made a good decision.  You don’t need people like that in your life.”  I congratulated her.  I told her ‘good job’.  I encouraged her to continue to find people like her current friends to spend time with.  I gave her a big hug.

I am SO proud of her.  I knew very little about setting boundaries when I was a child.  I took the friends I could find and rarely had the courage to say “no” or to stand up to mistreatment.  I’m thrilled to see my daughter paving the way to a very healthy life with very healthy relationships.  I realize that this little girl she is no longer friends with may have perfectly valid reasons for behaving the way she does.  But I don’t want my daughter to ever feel like she needs to stay in, or enter into any kind of toxic relationship with someone for any reason at all; it doesn’t matter what the other person’s circumstances are.  Boundaries are good for my daughter and, frankly, they are good for her ex-friend as well.

Here’s hoping I am raising my own Real Girl (and Real Boy as my son gets older!) who is unafraid to be herself and embrace her value!

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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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My “Mistake” Was Letting You Convince Me I Make “Mistakes”

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I’m feeling a bit caddy tonight.  Maybe a tad facetious.  May even a little irritable.  But it’s all good, because I write my best posts in this state of mind!!! (doesn’t give me much hope for my career…)

So you may be wondering about the title.  It’s all good, I don’t think I’m perfect.  I realize I have moments where unuseful words leave my mouth, or I make a poor decision, or slip up on a project.  It happens quite a lot actually, hehe.

I used to hate myself for this.  I used to beat the crap out of myself for my awkward social moments or for letting someone down or for choosing something that caused me to take two steps back instead of two steps forward.  And you know what?  I’m done with that.  Those days are over.  I gained nothing from dragging myself down like that as a result of my own criticism or the criticism of someone else.  And one of the reasons I’ve been able to get past it and leave it all behind is because I’ve let go of this one simple word: mistake.

I’M OVER IT.

This word does us a disservice.  I’ve been trying to figure out why and I’ve come to the conclusion that words like “mistake” (to include “screw up”, “sin”, “blunder”, and many more) do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING except express a judgement about the situation.  They don’t tell you what happened, they don’t explain the problem, and they definitely don’t provide any solution.  In fact, you might even say that they imply that there is NO solution.  How is that helpful??

I recall many a time in my younger years, finding myself caught in stereotypical “screw-up” at work or with a loved one.  Inevitably, my boss or friends or whatever would say “What were you thinking??  What happened??  How is this possible?”.  (by the way, these questions serve no purpose either – in and of themselves they are very useful questions, but the implication is typically to pass intense judgement on the idiocy of the sinner rather than seek for practical understanding).  My go-to response after years of failed attempts to actually answer those questions honestly (which clearly failed for the above reasons) became “I don’t know, I just, I screwed up.  I don’t know, I just made a mistake, I’m a total idiot.”  And then hoped that throwing myself before their proverbial altar would grant me forgiveness, or at the very least a break from the yelling.

Which of course, would come eventually.  And we’d move on having learned nothing and having accomplished nothing.  Actually, that’s not entirely true: my judger would have accomplished a feeling of satisfaction having appropriately “punished” the do-badder, and I would have walked away with an increased feeling of insufficiency and addiction to perfectionism.

Wait, how is that helpful??

It’s not.  It’s just.  Not.  I’m not writing this to criticize the people who overreact about mistakes – we’re all human, and impatience and ego come just SO naturally to every single one of us.  But I think this kind of situation is where “mistake” and “sin” got their bad rap.  So, focusing on the screw-upper in this scenario, let’s do what my lovely sister calls “reframing the situation”.

First, let’s get rid of those pesky, nasty, useless words.  Go on, throw them out the window!  Use your crime of choice – murder, arson, abandonment… I like to imagine boxing the words into a pile of broken pieces, throwing them in the back of a trash compactor, then bagging them with a block of cement and dropping into the depths of the ocean with a nuclear bomb tied to the side.  But that’s just me.

And now, since words are kind of helpful for understanding, we’ll have to pick some new words to describe what has happened in these difficult situations.  Yay, shopping!!  I’ve found it very helpful to focus on the boutique that sells the “mis”‘s.  Misunderstanding.  Miscommunication.  Misapprehension.  Misstatement.  See how much nicer those are?  It’s a bit ironic because technically “mistake” is a “mis”.  But it’s taken on a life of it’s own in our language and no longer means strictly to “misinterpret” or “mis-take” as in the scene of a movie.  So we exiled it to a remote island.  But not a cool one.  A lonely, rocky, burning one with weird bugs.

So, anyways, let’s try these new words in a sentence.  Here’s the scenario: I just finished a project for my boss and it turns out she wanted it in a different format.  How do I respond?  Pulling my sentence from earlier:

“I don’t know, I just, I misunderstood.”

Oh my goodness!!!  Do you hear that?!?!  That’s the sound of pure, unadulterated self-non-judgementalness and – get this – understanding!  You misunderstood.  It explains what happened – it’s OK to misunderstand.  It happens all the time to normal, strong, well-adjusted adults.

Now what happens next on the part of the other person could go many different directions, and you may have to spend sometime reiterating your new words to yourself to remind yourself that you don’t deserve their judgement, but that’s ok.  Because you’ve now communicated to yourself that what happened has an explanation, and that no judgement towards yourself is needed.  If the person you are working with is in a reasonable state of mind you can now begin to improve your relationship – how did the misunderstanding happen?  What words were used that do not have similar meanings for both of you?  What was assumed in the communication by either party?

Of course, obviously, old habits die hard so getting used to viewing yourself in such an accepting manner will take time – I am still working on this big-time – but you’ve made the first step!

Word of caution – be careful about finding ways to use these words in a way that unnecessarily inflicts the blame all on yourself.  For example, the word “miscommunicate” is best used as “we miscommunicated” rather than “I miscommunicated”.  A miscommunication requires two people – just because you are the subordinate worker or the newbie doesn’t mean you should carry the full load of the problem.  Even in a situation where you “misunderstood”, there is the element of the other person having not explained the concept in terms you understand.  There are always things both people can do to improve the situation to alleviate future issues.

So go on now, make use of your new words in your daily life!  Because since we’re all humans, we all have another “mis” coming up right around the corner.  So we should get good at this really quick, right??

Funny, I don’t feel so cynical anymore.  You Real Girls are good for my psyche.

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Don’t Figure Out What to do With Your Life

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Yep, I did it; I said it.  The title of this post just completely obliterated, steam-rolled, destroyed (pick your metaphor) the most important advice you’ve ever been given.

And I’m not taking it back.

But do not fear!  I’m not going to leave you hanging.   Let me restate my take on this platitude so you can better grasp my meaning;

Don’t figure out what to do with your life; figure out what to do next with your life.

Yes, let the brilliance sink in…

Look, I’ve spent a good part of my life trying to figure out my “passion”, my “true calling”, my “purpose” in life.  For me this was primarily related to my career, though there are other pieces to the puzzle.  But the other pieces I knew: I want to have a family, I want to have a strong marriage, I want to raise awesome kids who do awesome things.  But what the hell am I going to do??  I’ve read the books, I’ve met with the career counselors, I’ve studied the MBTI until I’m blue in the face (if you want my advice, don’t waste your time, or at the very least, don’t take it too seriously) and though I’ve been able to come up with a million things to do with my life, I not only haven’t been able to narrow it down to one deep desire, I haven’t been able to maintain excitement for one career direction for longer than a few months!  I know that I want – no, I need – to make a difference in the world.  I know that I want to do something that has a nice balance between the left and right brain.  Soooooooo….??

Lucky for me, this conundrum was beautifully resolved by a good friend of mine who is building motivation and resources to pursue her greatest dreams.  Her brilliant comment over a cup of hot coffee was: “Everything that has happened in my life – every moment, every decision, every event – has lead me to this place.”

Damn, why is she ALWAYS RIGHT?!  She looked back on her life and saw all the pieces of the puzzle that were slowly combining without her knowledge or awareness.  All the moments of following something that felt good, or seemed right, or even scared her.  They all brought her to where she is today: armed and ready.

I look back on my life and I see the exact same things.  I see a girl who dove into music, singing and songwriting at a young age, who made friends with people who believed that unique is good, who pursued a practical marketing degree, who married a man with no guile and all the support in the world for his loved ones.  I see a girl who worked in intense and stressful sales positions and survived, who has suffered through corporate America despite its insensitivity, who has learned a wide range of marketing skills but has specialized in nothing despite advice to do the opposite, who volunteered for several years and felt the incredible joy of serving others even though it delayed graduation.

And all of that has lead me here.  Today.  Now.

And now I know what to do with my life.

HA! Not even close. I’m *cough*ty-two years old and I still don’t know.  But that’s the point – when you’re in the middle of the journey, when the path seems to far ahead and so uncertain, you have to simply believe in yourself and your ability to figure out what to do next with your life.

Because it is all leading somewhere.

It’s like collecting balloons.  You pick one up here, another there.  There’s a cool pink one – the deep foreboding green one matches nicely.  How about a star- or heart-shaped one, they look fun!  You keep collecting experiences, questions, conclusions, and knowledge until one day they all lift you slowly and carefully off the ground to your pie in the sky.

So feel free to wonder and dream about what you might accomplish in the future; but don’t let the pressure stress you out.  Just make the next best decision.  Use the information and the faculties you have now, and figure out what makes the most sense, and what makes your heart soar today.  Even if the next best thing is to stay where you are, or to get a new job, or to take that transfer you’ve been considering, or to take a break because you have too much going on.  Trust yourself.  Believe in yourself.

I have always wanted to work for myself.  I didn’t know it at the time, but the wide range of sales and marketing experience I’ve gained (rather than specializing) has prepared me for that.  The relationships I’ve developed in my life have taught me to embrace who I am and never apologize for it.  My volunteer experience and my experience in corporate America has taught me that it is top priority to feel like I am making a difference in the lives of others.  It’s all leading somewhere.

And I don’t know where I will end up.

But I know what I will do next.

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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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You Are A Greater Leader Than You Think

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Let me tell you ladies something about leadership: it is intensely skewed these days. From what I’ve viewed and experienced in my life, the MOST CAPABLE leaders in the world are often highly unaware of it, and highly underutilized. Leadership has, in recent years, taken a very unfortunate form. I’m aware of this because I have experienced it in almost every job I’ve had leading up to the current position I’m in (which, thankfully, has excellent leaders and a fantastic work environment).

Leadership today is largely defined by bad behavior. The people that yell, belittle, patronize, complain, and place impossible expectations on others are the ones that make up a large portion of management in the workforce these days.

If you are a Real Girl, and you believe in who you are, this can be rather discouraging. Because true leadership has nothing to do with these qualities. Being assertive is not the same as being overbearing. Being confident is not the same as being cocky. Being a delegator is not the same as being a dictator.

The latter of each example seems to be the norm these days, and it leads to very difficult work environments where it’s extremely hard for the TRUE leaders to stand out and make progress to the position that fits them best. And it’s especially difficult for you girls. Because both men and women exhibit these poor behaviors, but for women in particular, oftentimes being assertive is perceived as being overbearing. Sometimes when a woman is appropriately confident, she is said to be cocky. When she is effectively delegating, others call her a dictator.

Please understand that you have no less capability than anyone else in this world to find that line between being a dictator and a pushover. In fact, you likely have far MORE capability to be a great leader than most people in your life have ever credited to you. This is why it’s so important OWN and BELIEVE in who you are. Because once you reach that point, the interpretations of others don’t matter anymore, and you can begin to grow, interact confidently as your true self with others, and show them why they are wrong. The opinions of others may never change, but knowing who you are can give you the ability to make strides beyond the limitations presented to you by others.

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So focus your mind and your energy on positive leadership qualities. The ones likely already brewing naturally inside you, and which will simply take some attention and nurturing to reach their full potential.

One of my favorite bloggers in the ENTIRE WORLD is Erica Andersen who writes for Forbes.com. She is a brilliant leader and currently runs a consulting business where she works with other business executives to help them see how many of their more self-focused and bottom-line-focused behaviors are actually stunting the growth of their organizations. I find her perspective and insight to be a breath of fresh air.

In her recent post, “3 Qualities That Define The Natural Leader – Do You Have Them?”, she gives a short laundry-list of the top qualities of fantastic leaders:

Far-sighted
Passionate
Courageous
Wise
Generous
Trustworthy

Amazing, wonderful girls. There are those in the world that would have you believe that you cannot develop these qualities. That they are not natural to women, or to people at your level in the workplace, or to people with your income, or people your age, with your upbringing, with your level of education, blah, blah, blah…

IGNORE THEM

It is important to acknowledge to yourself when one of these people is attempting to limit you by one of these factors. Then tell them either vocally or to yourself that they are WRONG and remind yourself of all the reasons why you have the incredible ability to emulate every single one of these attributes. Then do it. Practice it. BE the person you dream of being.

And make some mistakes along the way. Every trustworthy person was once untrustworthy. Every wise person was once naive. Every far-sighted person was once impulsive.

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Begin your journey today. If you feel you are destined for leadership, or for mentorship, or for changing the world, embrace that courage and hold it strong inside you. No one else can take it away; they will only lose the opportunity to gain greater perspective, love, and confidence by underestimating a person willing to achieve their unlimited potential.

Be You. Be an Amazing Leader. Lead with boldness, courage, and passion. And don’t let anyone convince you that you are anything less than limitless in your endeavors.

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This Week: Be Brave

This week’s thought is short and sweet: be brave. Be bold. Be daring.

I find myself incredibly inspired this week by this amazing song by Sarah Bareilles

My favorite definition of the word “brave” is “to defy; challenge; dare” (ref: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Brave?s=t)

This week, girls, dare to be you. Challenge the world’s notions of who you “should” be and dare to explore the person you want to be. Do something you’ve always been afraid to do. Speak up about a subject or cause that is important to you. Defy the social expectations placed on you and bravely show others what YOU can accomplish with your unique talents and gifts.

There are those out there who would put restrictions or boundaries on your potential; when you are brave enough to embrace who you are, their opinions no longer matter. Let them live within their own self-made borders – while you soar to new places, new experiences, and new levels of growth.

I want to see you be brave.

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MY Stress Is Better Than YOUR Stress!

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Anyone remember this game?  We used to play it all the time when we were kids.  In fact, my daughter was playing it just the other day.  Her friend came to play, and in the midst of an intense discussion about the merits of being able to successfully lasso a younger sibling’s leg with a shoelace, the line in the sand was drawn.

“MY family is better than YOUR family!”  Uh oh.  Tears erupted, accusations flew, emotions ran high.  Remember all the versions of that statement?

“MY Mom can beat up YOUR Mom!”

“MY car is faster than YOUR car!”

etc. etc.

The funny thing is, when you think about it, there’s nothing really WRONG with any of these statements.  Every individual thinks they have the best family, best car, best parents (well, maybe not everyone…), best life.  Why would we have chosen them if it was not so???  So it’s not really wrong to say such a thing…. It’s just not really helpful.

SO!  It’s a good thing we grow out of that stage eventually, right??

Ummmm….wellllllllll…..actually, most of us don’t.  We simply disguise it and reuse it in a different form (see, it’s recycling, we’re just being efficient, right??).  Let me set the (fictional) stage.

I’m at a wedding reception.  I’m sitting at one of the fancy white tables with a few other people, all making conversation about various topics.  I’m tired.  It’s been a long evening.  My two kids are tired and cranky, I spilled strawberry cake on my brand new dress, I have to get up early the next morning for a meeting, and to top it all off, my daughter runs up to me and head barrels into my chest.

“ALYSSA!!!!”  After some scolding and very frustrated sighs, I send her back off to reak havoc on her next victim.

As I am visibly agitated, the others at the table begin to console me.

“Hey, it could be worse; you could have 5 kids like me!”

“How can you be stressed, you only have TWO?!”

“haha, you’re right.” I say, and in increased frustration, I belabor through the rest of the evening.

The translation of their statements? “*scoff*.  MY stress is better than YOUR stress!”.

Unfortunately, most of us do this to each other.  We even do it to ourselves!  We’ve all caught ourselves chanting the “Children are starving in China!  War is breaking out in the Middle East!  What do I have to be upset about”, AMIRIGHT?!

If I’d had the (fictional) courage to respond to these (fictionally) well-intentioned (fictional) folks, my response would have likely gone something like this:

“Really, I shouldn’t be stressed because I only have two kids?  Because you have, what, 10?  Well, when you had only 2 kids, you were just as stressed as me.  And yes, if I had 5 kids, 2 kids would seem like a walk in the park!  But I don’t have 5 kids, I have 2.  So I will go right ahead and reserve my right to feel stressed about my 2 kids just as you felt stressed when you had 2 kids.” *Curtsy*  *Skip away*

Probably not very helpful either….

Here’s my point: when you’re stressed, do what’s helpful, and leave the rest behind.  There are times when it is actually quite helpful to play the “ItCouldBeWorse” game.  Sometimes you’re just in the kind of mood where you want to brush off your struggles, turn to the sunshine, and remember everything you’re grateful for.

And sometimes you’re not.

And when you’re not, don’t worry, you don’t need to torture yourself by repeating how Susie might get kicked out of school, AND her parents are getting divorced, AND her brother is in rehab, AND her dog died, AND she has diphtheria, AND she’s losing her house so she has to move to Africa and starve and fight in wars and live her life with only three toes, blah, blah, blah….

Sure, there are people out there who have it much worse than you, no doubt.  And it’s worth recognizing that at times.  But your life is just as valuable as theirs is.  Your stress is just as worthy of your attention as theirs is.

So give yourself a break.  If someone comes at you with an “ItCouldBeWorse” and you feel like vomiting in your mouth, just let it float away with the wind.  You’re allowed to be stressed about your midterm, your boyfriend being a jerk, your parents fighting, your college decisions, your wayward child, your mounting bills….

Because at the end of the day, YOU are the one who gets to live your life; the good and the bad.  Own it.  And give yourself a little more room every day to be you.

Be Real.  Be stressed over stupid things.  Find helpful ways to cope with it.  Be human.  Be You.  And don’t let anyone convince you that you’re better off being any other way.

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Really, ANOTHER Miley Cyrus blog post???

Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you what I think about the Miley Cyrus debacle.  In fact, I’m not really going to even go into it.  I’m only going to tell you this: it happened.  And, as a young adult, or a parent of a young adult who has access to computers, smart phones, or just everyday gossip, you and your young adult have at least heard about it, if not seen it.  So what now?

So many young adults (and adults too!) like yourself are running to their parents, their religion, their friends, the blogosphere (which I believe are all very good places to seek advice and council) to get answers on how they’re supposed to feel about this.

My thoughts? It’s too easy these days to look to others for answers to questions when we should looking to others for guidance on how to find our own answers.

Instead of asking your positive influences what their conclusions are, why not start by asking them how to effectively evaluate such a situation?  How did they come to the conclusions they came to?  What is their reasoning process?  This is the time in your life to start getting an understanding of how to understand, evaluate, and reason things which sometimes (read: quite often) have no clear or consistent conclusion.  Once you’ve got a sense of the reasoning behind others’ conclusions, start asking yourself some questions:

What does this mean, if anything?  Does it send any messages about women, sexuality, or Miley as a person?  Why or why not?  If you think it does send any messages, what are they?  There are few things in life that are all good or all bad, so what good could potentially come from this event?  What bad?  Does one outweigh the other?  What do you think could have been the source of motivation for what you saw?  Is it something that you would like to emulate in your own life?  Why or why not?

Have a nice long discussion or think-sesh over a bowl of Pho.

Then DROP IT (the subject, not the Pho!).  Because Miley is only one person among millions who wakes up with bedhead and gets constipated every now and then just like you do.  And you’ve got your own life to worry about.

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What is a Real Girl

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Be real.  Be you.  And don’t let anyone convince you that you are better off being anyone else.

You are beautiful, original, unique.  You are amazing in so many ways.  Being a real girl is simple: just be yourself.  Dig deep, search through your life and environment to find those things that make you uniquely you; then love them, develop them, and embrace them every day.  Encourage others to do the same.  No matter what social construct, race, religion, or society you belong to, there is no set prescription for who you are supposed to be.  There are certain societal spaces where specific behaviors are encouraged or expected – in the workplace, at church, in formal environments – and you will likely benefit from respecting those conventions (though not always) while letting your personality and true self shine.  Never fear being exactly and authentically who you want to be.

This blog is for the Real Girls of the world: the unique, unafraid, and powerfully different.  By the way, this is ALL of you.  Here is a place to learn how to discover all the beautiful qualities, opinions, pieces, and parts that make up who you are.  Who you are and who you want to become is ultimately your sacred and beautiful choice.  Life will give bits and pieces, hints and discoveries to show you who you have the potential to become.  Keep them safe, keep them special, and close to your heart for no one but God Himself (if you choose to believe in him or her) will understand your value as you can.

People may try to say you are not who you are; build your personal proof and your personal confidence so their opinions no longer matter.  Never be afraid of what you feel, be it good or bad, right or wrong, for every feeling is a part of who you are and deserves your attention and love.  There is good in every shortcoming or mistake; find it.  There is hope in every loss; seek it.  There are pieces of you everywhere you look: find them.

And remind yourself of these personal discoveries when the inevitable rough road of life causes you to forget who you are and the potential overflowing inside of you.

Your parents love you; they want what is best for you.  Their advice is often sound, if not well-reasoned, they simply want you to avoid the mistakes they made or have seen others make.  They do this out of LOVE.  You have the right and responsibility to make and learn from your own mistakes, and pave your own path just as they did.

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