Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Transform Your Life

I love watching shows that feature tattoo coverups. I am quite amused by the horrible tattoos and the stories affiliated with them, but I am equally impressed by the creative talent of the tattoo artists. While that is enough to justify being entertained for a half hour, there’s another reason that I am so fascinated with tattoo coverup shows. It is nearly therapeutic to see representations of bad decisions transformed into meaningful works of art.

Each day we make decisions. Some are mundane like deciding what to wear or eat, who we’ll call or which street to take. Other decisions—those involving relationships, childrearing, education, and career choices—can cause anxiety. In either case, we deliberate knowing that some consequences of our decisions are irreversible and carry lifelong implications. However, that information is only useful to us today, as we consider future choices. Punishing ourselves over decisions we’ve already made is not useful, beneficial, nor wise. We simply need to start today.

You may have made questionable choices that have had long-term consequences. No matter the reasons for making those choices, your life is not too far gone. As long as you have tomorrow you have the ability to redirect. If you are willing, you can change your course. When you have the motivation and stamina needed to simply continue, you can change your life. Just as someone can walk into a tattoo parlor to cover an image that no longer depicts who s/he is, you can reconfigure the parts of your life that do not reflect who you’ve become. If an artist can take something permanent and unappealing and use its features to develop something aesthetically and emotionally pleasant, you can transform your life to more adequately reflect its complete and complex beauty.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What You Deserve

The way that we treat one another is the result of a combination of factors. In just one relationship there are two people who interpret things differently and will base their actions on how they view the relationship, the significance of the relationship, their histories, and how they feel about themselves. With all of those variables it's no wonder we often misinterpret the actions of others and misunderstand ourselves.

When someone we care for hurts us it leaves an impression. We want to determine if the hurt was intentional or not. We want to know if it will happen again. We also want to know what we did to cause the hurtful word or action. While it's healthy to engage in self-reflection, far too many of us internalize how we're treated in detrimental ways.

A friend of mine recently sent me a gift and I thought it was sweet and considerate of her. Not once did I assume that she took the time to mail me a gift because of a quality I possessed. She sent me a gift because she's considerate. Logical thought process, right? Ironically, when those we care for treat us in a way that is less than desirable, we interpret that situation differently. We don't consider the combination of factors that influence a relationship and we fail to connect the hurt with the other person. Instead, we flirt with notions of self-destructive feedback. How s/he treated me is a reflection on me. If I was mistreated it's because I deserve it. While self-reflection is beneficial, internalizing negativity is dangerous because we make connections with those who justify our perceptions. We seek out relationships that confirm what we think deserve.

Consider your circle. With whom do you spend the majority of your time? How do you feel when they're around? If you have a healthy and responsible sense of self then the people with whom you spend the majority of your time provide you with both affirmations and space to grow. They celebrate your victories yet encourage progress. If your circle is not affirming or encouraging or does not provide you with space to grow then it's time to think about the areas of your life that you seek validation. What you think you deserve is reflected in your relationship choices because you surround yourself with those who validate your impressions. What does your circle reveal concerning what you think you deserve and how you feel about yourself?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Reflection is a powerful and necessary part of self-discovery. Unfortunately, few of us engage in self-reflection because it requires a level of honesty that we fear. In order for reflection to be effective we have to ask ourselves some tough questions and dig deep for the real answers. It's only when we get to the truth that we can live out our truth.

I used to put those close to me through a trust test. I’d reveal a nugget of information and evaluate their reaction before believing I had evidence that I could and should divulge more. I’m not exactly sure what constituted a passing reaction, but this method brought me comfort for a while. Eventually, as I desired to be more authentic, my comfort dissolved. All that time I assumed that those trust tests revealed something about those I examined. The truth? My need to test trust revealed more about me. Why did I think that was necessary? What was I hoping to avoid or confirm? How would those I loved feel if they knew I was testing them? Why did I feel the need to test the people I carefully chose to be a close part of my life?

Asking questions and forcing myself to give truthful answers was not easy. I convinced myself that I was testing trust because I needed confirmation that I could trust them. That was easier to accept than the truth. I gave others my trust test because I didn’t trust my choices and I didn't trust my choices because I doubted self-worth. Imagine my surprise. I was the one person I felt I could trust yet I was engaging in this ridiculous behavior because I couldn't even trust my own relationship choices or my worth.

Take the steps and time necessary to do some self-reflection. Not only will you be granted with clarity to make better choices, but you'll also know what areas of your life require your attention and as a result, you'll improve your relationships with others, as well as yourself. Ever since I discovered my lack of trust in self and worth I have been able to focus on improving the areas that need work instead of the areas that felt safer to work on. Not only do I feel better and more clear, but my relationships are better and richer.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Your Own Place

My parents grew up in the same city. Over the years I repeatedly heard their fond memories and tons of remember-when stories. My view of that same location is different from that of my parents. The same place where they've seen a pleasant backdrop to their coming-of-age story, I see pain and loss. 

The place my family loves and loves visiting is one that is has become increasingly difficult for me to return. They are flooded with nostalgia and longing; I feel anxiety and heartache. They perceive their beloved hometown as a breath of fresh air; I find it difficult to breathe. I tried convincing myself to experience the city in the same light as my family. I thought it would be easier to comply and not rock the boat. What I had to learn, despite any misunderstanding or pressure—whether intentional or not—is that I am not required to thrive in the same places as others.

You were not designed to live out your success story in the same place as others. It is possible for an identical situation—a career choice, a marital status, the decision to become a parent, a location, etc.—to produce very different, even opposite outcomes. An ideal position for one can be toxic for you. What can bring about the perfect circumstances for someone to flourish can siphon the oxygen from your dreams. The same city that tugs my family's heartstrings has broken mine.

Don’t force your experiences, talents, skills, and life story into someone else’s expectations or shadow. You have your own path and it was designed specifically for you. How, where, or when others thrive is not a predictor of your future. You were created to thrive in your own way, on your own time, and in your own place.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Be Your Advocate

While waiting to get my hair cut, I overheard a kid complaining. His mother said, “It’s just a haircut. It doesn’t hurt.” He responded, “Yes, it does!” The barber turned off the clippers, looked at them and said, “I know why it hurts. I’m so sorry. Let me get another pair.” I smiled as I realized that his actions taught me a lesson—by continuing to speak up this little boy prevented a needless uncomfortable experience. This child did not allow his mother’s doubt to convince him that his assessment was incorrect. 

How many times has someone’s reaction to your feelings made you question if those feelings were valid? How many times has someone led you to wonder if you were being more sensitive than the situation called for? Do you ignore your feelings and hope that the pain resolves itself? Or do you continue to acknowledge your discomfort like this little boy had the wisdom to do?

You are not responsible for convincing others that your pain is valid. You are not obligated to prove the depth of your hurt. You are not required to persuade anyone that your experiences have left you with triggers. You are responsible for advocating for yourself. Being an advocate for yourself means standing up for what you know is your truth. Those who support you will support you. You do not have to prove or assure others of what you know to be true. You simply need to walk in your truth.

Become your advocate. Be intentional with your recovery and progress. When life hands you a challenge, you have every right to acknowledge what you feel as you select a logical course of action to push you forward.