Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Road

I was driving through an unfamiliar city, dependent on my GPS to lead the way. When I made a right turn as instructed, I found myself on Road. No name, just Road. I was confident that even without an official name, I was going in the right direction because I trusted my GPS to guide me to my intended destination. However, not being able to name my location made me consider how we approach uncertainty. How do we handle moving forward without knowing exactly where we are?

There will be times when we have to make a decision—take a turn—that is for our ultimate good without having the entire roadmap in view. We may have to relocate, go back to school, end a relationship, embark on a new career path, start an exercise regiment, or develop a financial plan. Taking that first step is often the hardest. Even knowing that change will allow us to live fully, or at least to live better, fear of that road with no name can bring so much stress and anxiety that we refuse make that turn.

We all have an internal GPS. Most of us have convinced ourselves that it’s faulty because of a few bad choices. However, the GPS isn't faulty. We fluctuate between refusing to follow its directions, being too distracted to listen, or trying to use it in a manner that it wasn't intended. GPS was built to guide you, not to drive for you. It was designed to direct you as you travel, not after you've already arrived. Your internal GPS was created to take you forward, not in reverse.

No matter how anxiety-causing, unnerving, and scary progression can be, we need to exercise trust that we’ll arrive at our destination and not be detoured because of fear. Trust your internal GPS to give you direction and trust yourself enough to hear it correctly. The greatest benefit to driving down a road with no name is that you can name it. As you travel toward your best life, you can call the road whatever you need to in order to encourage yourself. Continue following the road, even if for a moment it curves, dips, and has no name.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Three years ago I developed a recurring and annoying condition that causes my rib cage to swell. Although harmless, when it flares moving and breathing becomes uncomfortable. As a result, I am cognizant of my physical activity and try not to lift anything heavy. Being careful with my body movements to avoid a physical reaction led me to consider how careful I am when it comes to my mental health. How intentional am I in preventing an emotional reaction?

All of us have triggers that connect us to a memory. We could be triggered by a location, song, name, or even a scent. Some connect us to happy, favorable memories. Some are tied to harsh, painful ones. In the case of the more difficult triggers, some aren’t avoidable. In those instances, it’s vital to have healthy coping strategies to counter the negative association. The other types of triggers, ones we can prevent from intruding in our lives, give us more control if we are willing to take it.

There was a time when I discovered my negative triggers, but I didn’t avoid them. The reasons varied. Sometimes I was testing my strength. Sometimes I was being defiant. Sometimes I was being naive. Sometimes I was just being dumb. Either way, I had to reach a point where it wasn’t worth risking activating an emotional breakdown for the sake of being strong, defiant, naive, or dumb.

We should not toy with negative emotional triggers. It can be a dangerous game. Some of us—like I once was—are less than careful with emotional health. Some of us jump into romantic relationships with those who have personality traits that trigger unhealthy behaviors, but we do it anyway. Some of us are out of control when we consume alcohol or take drugs, but we do it anyway. Some of us are all too familiar with what a visit to a certain city or with certain friends will do, but we do it anyway.

We all have to learn to take better preventative care of ourselves. Just as I try to ensure that I don’t trigger a recurring physical condition, I also need to be intelligent about my emotional and mental health. It’s not worth the risk to use strength testing, walking in defiance, being naive, or anything else as an excuse to be lax with my emotional health.

What are you willingly picking up and carrying around that is an emotional trigger for you? Become aware of the triggers in your life so that you can learn how to eliminate or reduce their influence. It is your responsibility to take excellent care of you, in your entirety. Stop willingly lifting things that are too heavy and too painful for you to carry.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

You Have Worth

Words absolutely do have meaning. The phrases that we say to ourselves carry significant weight. Don’t believe me? Think about those miraculous days when your hair fully cooperates, your clothes fit exquisitely, your color scheme accentuates your skin tone, and that spritz of cologne/perfume sets everything off perfectly. You look in the mirror, smile, and say, “I look good!” That short realization changes your mind. You walk with your head held high. Confidence oozes from the rhythm of your stride. You smile more. You feel better. All from a single acknowledgement. One positive, encouraging, affirming statement influences your walk and what you think of yourself. Imagine what has happened internally as a result of the messages you have been telling yourself, day after day, for years. What do you say most often? Think about it for a moment.

I wish I was prettier.
I’m fat.
I’m lazy.
I’m not smart.
I hate my thighs/nose/height.

Whether you realize it or not, the messages you replay in your mind influence you. They impact the way you walk and how often you smile, but even more vital is that what you tell yourself dictates what you think you deserve. It’s not enough to walk with your head held high only on the days you feel like being kind to yourself. It’s not enough to only smile on the days you feel extra attractive. It’s not enough to accept the least that people give because that’s what you have convinced yourself that you deserve. No matter how attractive, smart, or deserving you feel, that does not equate to worthiness. Your worth is not conditional. You are worth positive reinforcement, kindness, and love simply because you exist.

Most have been hearing and telling themselves cruel messages for years. If that’s you, let’s start with something simple. If you have difficulty complimenting yourself then start by saying, “I have worth.” You don’t need a reason or a justification. You don’t need to add anything more. Simply put, you have worth.

You, yes you, have worth. Even in your non-perfect, still improving state, you have worth. Even if you want to lose weight, gain some muscle tone, or grow your hair out, you have worth. Even if you want to, but haven’t become a spouse, a parent, or a college graduate, you have worth. Even if your family constantly compares you to someone else, your friends seem to have more of life figured out, or you can’t seem to get out of a slump, you have worth. No matter how far you feel from your goals, what others have said about you, or how others have treated you, you still and always will have worth. Make sure that the messages you tell yourself, the phrases you replay in your mind, confirm your worth instead of chipping away at it, one negative comment at a time.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Love Yourself Enough

I’ve always held a high regard for my relationships. They are one of the aspects of life that I find the most beautiful and sustaining. When my father died, one of my closest relationships abruptly ended and processing that has been more than difficult. It has stretched my emotional strength beyond comprehension. It has changed me.

Like most who grieve I withdrew. I needed some time to not have to express myself. I needed time to avoid answering, “How are you?” Some gave me space. Some reached out more. Some gave me so much space that I find it nearly impossible to fill it again. While I have learned about my relationships with others—who stepped up, who stepped out, and who is somewhere in between—one valuable lesson I learned was the importance of one relationship I hadn’t considered. I was failing to take care of me. I couldn’t check out from myself. I couldn’t give myself space. Those were not options. I needed to deal with me. 

Having the support of others is vital and I have been tremendously blessed with loving and strong relationships. However, there were still some things that I needed to do. I made a commitment to myself years ago. Even if I had an off day, even during difficult times, even when I felt broken, I was always—and still am—responsible for me. No matter what others provided, whether wonderful or questionable, I remained responsible for me. I still had to make good choices, learn from my experiences, and love myself enough to work through the pain.

You may be facing a difficult situation or in the middle of a challenging transition. Whether you have the support of many or a few, you still have a part to play in your process. It is not easy and at times, it may feel impossible. Yet it is always in your benefit to love yourself enough to put in the work. Love yourself enough to exercise patience. Love yourself enough to ask for help. Love yourself enough to stand up. Love yourself enough to commit to your healing. Love yourself enough to be your advocate. Love yourself enough to be honest. Love yourself enough to provide the same level of support that you have provided to your loved ones. Love yourself enough.