Thursday, 17 August 2017

"I Choose to Forgive You."

WRITTEN BY NICOLA HARE



I was recently asked:

‘If someone were to hurt you the way that you’ve hurt God, would you forgive them?’

To say that I was stunned into silence would be somewhat of an understatement. I am often an advocate of the freedom of forgiveness. I mentioned in a previous post that forgiveness is the liberating of oneself and though I stand by what I said, I can admit that I did not, wholeheartedly, understand the weight of my words. It was when I was asked this question however, that I was forced to truly reflect on what forgiveness meant.

Forgiveness is often misconceived. The notion is perceived as the condoning of wrongdoing, the call for reconciliation or the willingness to forget but in truth, forgiveness is surrender. It is not to invite repeated offence nor the acceptance of betrayal but rather to understand that wrong has been done to you and surrender pride, anger, resentment, shame and contempt. Forgiveness is the choice to free yourself of the burden of pain.

There’s a saying: ‘holding onto resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.’ I have watched the seed of an absent parent or lost friend build this poison within people around me. It is much easier to convince ourselves that we can simply move on and forget rather than having to confront pain, hurt and betrayal. I’ve found myself asking what right does my offender have to demand of my forgiveness when they have betrayed me. I owe nothing to those that have wronged me because surely to forgive would be to free my offender of their wrong. To forgive my offender would be to accept what they have done. The truth is, in trying to convince myself that I would simply forget as time passed, I became my own capture, I made myself the captive of my past.

Harbouring bitterness is dangerous and I can admit that I had, or perhaps still do harbour resentment. If I’m being honest with myself, the resentment, the bitterness, they became a part of my identity. I opened a door for pain, anger, contempt and resentment and in turn lost myself and began to punish those that were around me. I punished them for my own strife, my sorrow and the pain that came with betrayal. Though it was not intentional, I hurt the people that I cared about because of my unwillingness to forgive. I became distasteful and though I have been forgiven, I wonder if I have truly forgiven myself.

Distaste in life and people can consume. It can capture you, chain you and never release you if you allow it to. What you need to understand is that it is you that has the power. It is you that has the strength to break the chains. Your unwillingness to forgive is not a sign of strength, it is walking into captivity. Forgiveness is not for the wrongdoer, it is an act to protect yourself. It is having the strength to let go. It is choosing to understand that you are angry but that you will not allow anger to bind you to distaste.

 ‘If someone were to hurt you the way that you’ve hurt God, would you forgive them?’

The question still haunts my mind even as I write this piece. The truth is, we are flawed beings and if we are to be honest with ourselves, I don’t believe we’d offer forgiveness to those that had hurt us the way that we have wronged God and yet here we are, forgiven. We are bound to make mistakes in relationships, be it with our parents, friends or partners, it’s within our nature.

If God can forgive us for all that we have done then what right do we truly have to choose not to forgive others? I say choose because whether or not you want to realise it, you choose to forgive, you choose between the harbouring of resentment or freedom: forgiveness is always a choice between holding on and letting go. We are imperfect, fallen and full of sin and yet God forgives us. Why is it that you are able to ask God for forgiveness and expect nothing less and yet your offender must suffer before you can even consider forgiveness? Surely that must mean that we wrong God so often because we know that he will forgive us. Had it not been for his mercy and his choice to forgive you, where would you be?

Understand that letting go of the blame, the shame and guilt that is associated with being hurt is to give peace to your mind. You give yourself space to grow when you forgive because you learn and you develop. You become empowered instead of weakened by what has weighed so heavily on your shoulders. Forgiveness is healing. I see forgiveness as stepping out into fresh air after being locked in a stuffy room, it is a feeling we all know. We cannot fully explain what it feels like but the relief is what I imagine forgiveness to be. A breath of fresh air.

‘If someone were to hurt you the way that you’ve hurt God, would you forgive them?’

It’s funny how a single question can make you question a lot of what you think you know. I’ve decided to make a list, one that I hope will be beneficial to myself and those that are reading. These are my steps from the stuffy room to the moment you step out for the breath of fresh air.
  1. Take your time to process the betrayal and the hurt. Do not allow anyone to rush this process because it matters, it is your time. You have to fully grasp why you are hurt to begin the process of forgiveness.
  2. Once ready, have a conversation. You would be surprised at how beneficial talking about what has hurt you can be.
  3.  Ask the questions that need to be answered. Do not be afraid of asking. You have the right to know why? You have the right to question what is said for you to fully grasp the situation before you make your choice.
  4. Create boundaries if you feel that there needs to be. Whether they will loosen or tighten your relationships will be known with time but make sure that you’re comfortable with whatever you decide.
  5. Explain that you are choosing to forgive. As much as your offender might need to hear it, saying “I choose to forgive you” is that breath of fresh air. It is the final step.
I told myself only a few weeks ago that I had made it to step 5 but honestly, I now understand that I am still on step 1. What I have come to understand is that this process needs care and attention. I am doing this for my betterment and so I must do it properly. I no longer wish to be my own capture. I want to forgive so that I can grow, so I may regain power over certain elements of my life, so that I can heal and though it has been years, I believe, for the first time that I may finally get my breath of fresh air.  
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Wednesday, 16 August 2017

An Open Letter To My Future Daughter


By Maisa Salum-Kilaly



Dear future daughter,

I pray that you’re not put through the toxicity and pain that I’ve been subjected to, there’s nothing I fear more than you possibly going through ordeals that I went through long ago or knowing that I won’t be able to always fix your difficult situations but I promise you that I will wholeheartedly try my best in doing so. As much as I don’t want you to start dating until you’re in your thirties, I am writing this letter with the intention of informing you that I support you through your dating and relationship experiences nevertheless there are a few things I would like to discuss that I hope will propel you in making the right choices.

The most crucial aspect is the phase of dating in the beginning, it generally sets the tone for what is to come when you have decided to enter a relationship with your chosen partner. The way you chose to date can define your relationship. Growing up you are going to hear multiple anecdotes about my experiences with the opposite sex that will have signification, prior to entering my first relationship we did not go on dates and anytime we spent together encompassed passing time in one another’s bedrooms, when we finally got together and I voiced that we should go out on dates more often, he responded with “I don’t do dates”, I would have to implore and the date would feel so strained.

Dating can be defined in so many ways so I can’t necessarily tell you “how to” date, keep in mind the aim is to explore a connection with somebody else. Through dating, you can set a standard of your requirements or expectations in a relationship if your potential condones going out or continually expresses he prefers spending time with you indoors then this will probably be brought into play when you get together. You should engage in wholesome dating which is a process that requires careful thought, the time that you’ve taken to know each other before a date thoroughly talking should be emulated in your first date.

You may have expressed that you have an adoration for poetry and your date decides to take you to an open mic night or your favourite cuisine is Spanish and your date decides to cook you tapas, this reflects sincerity and respect because they’ve made the effort to acknowledge your hobbies and interests. Building a connection requires communication, avoid dates that inconvenience this such as going to the cinema. Is your date a date? Make sure that both of you know where you stand and then make the necessary arrangements.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, I would urge you to date multiple people so that you can find somebody that is right for you, avoid being fixated on one person who might not fulfil what you’re looking for, become aware of the options available to you because you will start to learn the things you do and do not want in a partner. Settling in a relationship is the worse, find the person that takes you out of your comfort zone. Dating doesn’t only have to be about finding a companion, it can also be about creating friendships as well as networking.

You deserve to be in a relationship that necessitates respect, mutual understanding, trust, honesty, communication, and support, you can have boundaries in your relationship but ensure that they are established and respected equally by both of you. If you are in a healthy relationship you will not be subjected to any type of abuse (i.e. physical, emotional or sexual) or harassment. If you find yourself in a situation like this, leave and seek out support from the people you trust.

Try not to confuse love as infatuation, love is progressive and in most cases, infatuation is an immediate response related to the psychology of the mind. When you are infatuated you will find trying to satisfy sexual needs becomes a priority in comparison to love where you are consistently thinking about the person’s feelings. Infatuation is a powerful euphoria that will have you ready to risk it all, not in my household though! I’m joking, hold back from forgetting what’s real because you are in your feelings, do not allow your emotions to overpower your logic. You and your partner will communicate and confer expectations from one another through love.
I believe sex is a conversation that every parent dreads. Consent is essential and you should never feel pressured to have sex or do things that you are not entirely comfortable with. Just because you are the age of consent don’t feel like you are immediately ready to have sexual intercourse and don’t feel pressured because supposedly everyone is doing it. Contraception is essential to avoid unwanted pregnancies but also maintaining sexual health. Sex does not reflect your love for someone and they do not own your body. I remember my ex-boyfriend once said to me I could never leave him because he had taken my virginity, there’s a lot more to a relationship than poor penetrative skills – sex does not equate love.


Spend a considerable amount of time learning to love yourself and chasing after your dreams. Pursue your passions and cultivate your self-esteem, your life can be great without a partner through building strong relationships with family and friends, driving your potential, and living out life with your calling at mind. Not finding fulfilment in yourself will cause you to depend on somebody else to fill that void, you should be the only person that can validate and define yourself, not other people.

All my love,

Mum



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Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The Best Time is Always Right Now




By Ellie Constantinou


What’s that thing that you want to do ‘one day’? The thing that’s always at the back of your mind, the idea that has always remained a dream, something that you’ve never even tried to make a reality. Everyone has it, some people have more than one and some even have more than they can count. We all have something in common though, we aren't taking any steps towards making these things happen. It might be a hobby, or a business idea, something that we’d love to do if only we had the time, or the money. My genuine question to you, is why not?

Unfortunately, we’re good at convincing ourselves that right now isn't the best time. Next year, or maybe in a couple of years, it will be the right time. Right? The problem is, that the right time will never come. Ever. Next year, another excuse will come along. The year after that, you’ll find something else that’ll stop you. So, stop waiting for the decision to feel comfortable, because taking a risk will never feel comfortable and that's what makes doing it so rewarding. It’s up to you to work out not whether the time is right, but whether the thing is right.

About a year ago I decided to stop using the word ‘later’ as a means of pushing something to the back of my mind and never thinking about it again. Instead, I started thinking practically about the ideas I had and whether I could take any steps in my current circumstances to make them happen. Rather than killing off an idea with the mentality of ‘I can’t do it’ or ‘It would never work’, I started asking questions like ‘What part of it can I do?’ or ’What do I need to do to make it work?’. Most of the time I found that it was my own mind creating limitations and second guessing anything that I wanted to achieve. Decisions were clouded with self-doubt and lack of confidence, a fear that I wouldn’t be able to see something through and that only end up looking unreliable. If I couldn’t remain committed to my own plan or idea, why should anyone else trust me?

With my personal blog/website, I had written the first post weeks before actually sharing it on the website or on any social media platforms. I was worried it would be my first and only post, a whole website dedicated to my lack of commitment and simply a showcase of the failure that I had set up for myself. It was three weeks after I had written the post, that I found the document on my laptop and read it back to myself. It was only once I’d closed the document and then hesitated and opened it up again changed a word to improve the flow of a sentence, that I realised I had something that would probably be appreciated by a few people around me and that there was a small possibility that it might be worth sharing.

It was the moment I hit ‘Publish’, that I realised that any discomfort I was trying to avoid was all in my head. It’s most likely the same for you too. You don't feel that you’re good enough, or that someone else could do whatever it is you want to do, better than you can. Imagine just how much difference it would make if you changed your mind-set and focused on making progress in your own growth and the development of an idea as opposed to selling yourself short or comparing yourself to others.

Founder of his own media network, Tim O’Reilly said “Pursue something so important that even if you fail, the world is better off with you having tried”. Whether it’s a business, a blog or a YouTube channel, anything that you pursue with your undivided attention and effort, is important. With something important, you will always win. The outcome might not be 1000 views of your first video like you wanted, but it might serve as a source of inspiration to someone that watched it. Your business might not break-even in it’s first year, but it might help someone achieve something that they weren’t able to do on their own. The world is better off just because you tried.

I’m a strong advocate for asking the big question ‘What’s next?’ and my friends can testify that I am constantly pestering them when they get a bit too comfortable or reluctant to make moves towards their bigger goals. What I tell them, and what I really want you to take away from this post is that planning is already half of the work. Asking yourself what you can do within your current capacity and circumstance to make your dream a reality and then committing to completing that task to the best of your ability is the biggest push in the right direction. From that first step, results and feelings of accomplishment will be enough momentum to carry you forward to the next stage. A simple formula that creates the most amazing, rewarding, and worthy results.

There really is nothing stopping you except yourself and the best time is right now. What’s your next step?

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Sunday, 13 August 2017

More To Life Than Bills


By Jayde Ware

When I was 10, I couldn't wait to grow up, go to college, and get a job. I craved the feeling of freedom I thought being out on my own would bring. The thought of being able to write checks or swipe my credit card was mesmerizing. I thought that’s what life was all about… getting a job so you could pay for the things you want. It turns out working and paying bills looked a lot more glamorous than it really is.

On the surface, I have everything my 10-year-old heart desired. the college degree, my own place, my own car, and all the subscriptions I’ve ever wanted. I have the fancy title, a nice office, I even have my own business cards, and a salary that compliments all those things. But most days, I catch myself whispering "there has to be something more. There has to be more to life than just paying bills." This isn’t fulfilling, some days it feels quite empty. But, money makes the world go around. We have bills to pay to survive. We have rent, car notes, utilities, cell phones, insurance, wifi, and Netflix accounts. We have student loans. And a lot of them at that. We need a source of income. It’s easy to be intimidated by the bills and our debt. It’s easy to drown in the constant budgeting, stressing of making sure you have enough to meet ends meet. that’s the world we live in. We have to survive after all.

So, we work. We hustle. We grind. We get resourceful. We work odd jobs. We take corporate jobs we may or may not be passionate about to cover our bills. We sell our old things for extra cash. We do whatever it takes to get by because we must.

But, what happens in those Sunday-night-gotta-go-to-work again-tomorrow moments? Those moments where you’re dead tired and can name a million other things you’d rather do besides go to work. Those moments when you’re scrolling through social media on your lunch break to see your friends all living it up without you again...because you had to work or you were too tired from work to go out. The moments when you get home after a long day, kick your shoes off, and realize you’ve done nothing for your own enjoyment. And those moments when you’re asking yourself “what good is having enough money to cover your rent and utilities when you’re never home to enjoy it?” What about those moments?

Those moments that make you want to scream because you know your landlord doesn’t care that missed your best friend’s birthday party, he only cares if his check is in his hands on the first. And the bank doesn’t care that you have a passion for writing because it isn’t paying the bills yet and those student loan payments are due on the 15th. Those moments where you begin questioning there’s more to life than bills.

There is more to life than the numbers we crunch and stress about in our bank accounts. So much more. We are not our bank accounts. We are not our bills. We are not our debt or our student loans. We are multifaceted humans who need more. We need laughter. Knee slapping, tears running down our cheeks, belly aching laughter. We need love. Love altering, life enhancing, mountain moving love. We need time to be present with the people we love. We need time to let laughter in. We get so caught up in work in paying bills that we forget that life has so much more to offer us than dollar signs and account balances.

We have memories to create, legacies to build, and love to make last. We have hobbies and interests that set our souls on fire. We have new views to see, new foods to try, and new friends to make. Those are the things that matter. Singing your favourite song with your best friend at 2 AM is what matters. Taking time to enjoy your home and the people you share it with matters. Creating memories, you’ll tell your grandchildren about someday matters. And there isn’t a dollar sign you can put on that.

All that sounds nice in theory, but I know what you’re thinking “laughing with my best friend won’t pay my bills.” That’s true, it won’t. But, it keeps your soul young. It keeps your spirit alive. It prevents you from waking up in 30 years and realizing that you missed out on life because you were “too busy” working. It prevents you from forgetting how it feels to dream because you were too busy building someone else’s dreams instead of slaying your own. It saves you from feeling like a stranger in your own life because you no longer recognize yourself outside the walls of your job.

I’m not telling anyone to quit their jobs to spend their days laughing at life and dancing under the stars. Making ends meet is important. I am, however, simply reminding you to take time away from focusing on the dollar signs and just live. You are not your debts. You are not your loans or any number associated with your bank account. Bills are an aspect of life, not the entire picture. Take time to rediscover your passions. Learn a new skill, read a new book, try something for the first time. Live life before it passes you by. There’s more to life. So much more. We just have to want more and believe that we deserve more.












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Friday, 11 August 2017

Finding Your Community


Written By Kayla Sprague

Growing up the youngest of three and the only girl was something I was made very aware of at a young age. Sunday dinners with my brothers running around the house while I set the table with my mother. Our conversations always sprinkled with "That's not lady-like." I spent years thinking I was rude and cold, shuttering whenever my eldest brother called me bitch because how could I possibly know better?

This is the family that raised me; Loving, trying. Being the black sheep in a way that hid my wool. I wasn't rebellious or defiant. I tried to fit my shell but you can only ignore biting your tongue until you know what blood tastes like. 

I entered the world assuming I didn't know better. Assuming I could speak up, but only to agree with an opinion already stated. It was difficult to argue without collapsing in on myself whenever the word emotional was hurled my way. I wanted out, so I checked out. Only nodding but not listening. 
It wasn't until my late teens that I found myself diving into blogs and websites (Riot Grrrl leading the way) that shared the voices of women. Women I would have never met, sharing their stories in public forum. Not being a social butterfly, I loved these women. I knew their pain and their injustice like it was mine. Because it was mine too. 

Posts and blogs littered my screens as I sat back with my first lightbulb moment, "I have been living a passive life." My life was happening to me because I wasn't participating. I was letting men touch my thigh on the train to school because why make a scene? I pretended not to hear cat calls as I walked to the coffee shop downtown. This was my normal because my environment told me I was better as a side piece in every definition of the term. I wasn't the first in eye sight when you scanned a room, I wasn't first in heart when you looked for a mate. I let myself fall to the side. These women were talking and they were LOUD. 
I wanted to be LOUD. I've listened and I have stories. My world wasn't only dusting the Good China on Sundays. I ached to be a part of this community, this open dialogue.

I will never forget my first post. Sure, it was anonymous and probably lost in a sea of submissions, but I hit send. It was about a term that followed me everywhere, a term that cloaked itself in understanding but waited for me to turn my back to pounce.
Confused. 

I just wanted to talk about being confused. I wanted to filter my release, begin a trickle to see if I fit here. I was a snowball tumbling down a hill too fast to stop.

I'm not confused, you're sexuality is black and white while mine is shades of grey. 
I'm not confused, I'm arguing with logic and you're disputing with my emotion. 
I'm not confused, rape is rape no matter who they were. 
I'm not confused, I know my feelings and I know they're valid.
I hit the base of my hill and was exhausted.

Send. 

I've never felt any feeling without the pang of self-doubt afterwards. Opinions that used to only know the rattling of my skull, now flowed into the universe for ridicule.  My community, the voices I identified with and knew so well, did not let me down or tell me to hush. I had comfort, but more importantly I had Validation. Courage. I had my truth. 
I had to seize this moment, this feeling. I began sinking deeper into the present. Feeling the hands of women holding my shoulders square as I made my stances. Rude does not define your character, it shows the emotional string you plucked. Cold is a temperature that my tongue prefers to be kept at as long as you feel my chill. I seized my moment and now it's my podium. 

This world has made me angry and sad, not confused. This community has given me a voice that says NO loudly. Every key stroke I make and foot I put down, I want to be that woman I heard. I want to be LOUD and echo my confidence so it registers with any female within ear-shot. I needed to be within ear-shot but had to really listen to hear it.
There is a phenomenon called the cocktail party effect. It's when you're in a crowded room and everyone is talking over each other, but you can always hear the voice of someone you know; the most familiar voice always stands out to you. Females need to become the loudest voice.
We need to be most familiar. In a world where beauty and size depict our worth, we need to be the voice that gets heard. It's quality of our words and the quantity of our tongues that will change the tide so it's easier for us all to swim. 

You're only the black sheep until you find your herd. 


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Thursday, 10 August 2017

Strong. Powerful. Beautiful.




Written By Nicola Hare



“Sisterhood is about really holding each other accountable to be our very best and loving each other when we are at our very worst.”



The words belonged to Regina Hall as she talked about the hit-movie Girls Trip, a movie that has quickly become one of my favourite movies of all time. Not only because of its brilliance, nor comedy, nor the way in which the multiplicity of black women was presented but for something that is much richer: black sisterhood.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had this craving for a thing that I’ve come to learn is this notion of sisterhood. Whether it was watching the Cheetah Girls or the Sleepover Club in my younger years or admiring the bond of the Sex and the City girls in my teenage years, there was something beautiful about a group of women; learning, loving and growing together. Though I admired these friendships, there was something different about Girls Trip because for the first time, I could fully relate to the women on the screen.

Whether it was TK’s wardrobe in Jada Pinkett’s character Lisa or the way Morayo brings us all to tears with laughter in the character Dina, Carmen’s selflessness in Sasha or Rachael’s ability to inspire in Ryan Pierce. There was something beautiful about watching the bond between the black women. The interaction between the four friends warmed my heart in a way that no other group ever had and I soon realised why. Sisterhood became more than matching outfits, singing duets out of key and watching each other do things we know we shouldn’t. Sisterhood became the sharing of these experiences as well as a notion I believe is so precious: black womanhood.

Alfre Woodard stated that “when Black women stick together, we are the most powerful force in the universe” and how refreshing it was for this to be depicted in such a lighthearted and genuine way. How refreshing it was to witness the black woman as compassionate and full of love. How refreshing to see the black woman, not as the overly sexual, the saint or the angry diva but as the comedian, the beautiful mother and the loving friend. How refreshing to see unapologetically black women who support each other. How refreshing to see the black woman as she is: complex, dynamic and beautiful

 I cannot express how important it is for us, black women, to learn to love and support each other. More often than not, we trade our happiness and identity for an image, partner or perhaps for employment. We must embrace our identity for there is no one else that can understand the black woman like the black woman. We must learn to love ourselves and not trade this love, our self-discovery or truth. We should be each other’s core and bask in our empowerment together as we build friendships. We should learn to laugh and encourage each other, support each other for there is something so beautiful and pure in our love.

I am blessed enough to have four beautiful, strong women by my side. Women that teach me daily, women that inspire me, women that move me, women that motivate me to be a better version of myself. We’ve seen each other through the good and the bad and we continue to grow, not only within ourselves but as black women. I’ve learnt that having a support system of women that truly understand you for who you are can bring a person out of darkness. Our sisterhood is our constant because no matter what image we present to the world, the women we call our sisters will always know who we really are. Our sisterhood is our safe-haven.

Girls Trip has ignited a need to see the beauty that is the black woman. I want to see black women rise for we are gifted, we are strong, we are powerful and we are beautiful. We are full of light and wisdom, we are full of love and compassion. We are incredible and its time we truly believe in our light. We must refuse to be comfortable in the character that has been written for us and take charge of who we are. We must embrace the struggle of being outspoken and different for it is the discomfort that will build the foundations of our greatness. It is often our light that terrifies us. We must no longer be our own enemy but use our sisterhood to be our greatest strength.

I want to meet more black women that love black women. I want to learn and be inspired by black women that are changing the world. I want to have a club with black women where we talk about black women things. I want positive friendships for black women. I want love and joy for black women. I want freedom for black women. I want a sisterhood that is like no other.


 “Thank you for watching me walk across the stage,
For walking me through my heartbreaks
Thanks for the love every step of the way
With no support, this wouldn’t be as great
Thank you for making me stronger than most
For taking it beyond my coast
Thank you for raising a glass when I toast.”


These lyrics belong to Kehlani’s ‘Thank You’. The song was used during the credits of Girls Trip and it wasn’t until I finished this piece that I understood why. It’s a thank you to sisterhood, a thank you to our best friends, our girls, our sisters. I pray, queens, that through it all in our journey of self-love and self-discovery that we always remember that together, we are strong, we are powerful and we are beautiful. 


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Wednesday, 9 August 2017

A Guide To Letting Go Of Your Insecurities


By Maisa Salum-Kilaly


The utmost consistent battle any person fights is with themselves, we find ourselves either winning or losing but how often do we take a step back and reevaluate what we are truly battling against?

Innumerable times I have allowed my insecurities to deprive me of experiences, opportunities, relations and mental and emotional health because of how I felt about the way I look and who I am. Reluctance to go to events or interviews, cancelling plans with friends and dates, secluding myself in my home (only choosing to leave the house during late hours or quiet periods of the day to avoid seeing anyone) shows the critical thoughts affect emotional security.

A lesser part of me credits those thoughts as an internalisation of painful occurrences in life that have been witnessed or experienced and have been propelled by hurtful attitudes targeting me or those close to me – this is how the “critical inner voice” is formulated.

What we need to do is stop allowing other people’s viewpoints to become our internal dialogue since their point of views are not always substantiated. We should take the time to discover and embrace our sense of self as well as begin our journey towards self-love, we are way too young to give up on ourselves just yet.

I’m continually at woe with my aesthetic identified through my fluctuating weight, discarded grooming rituals, unkempt hair and tracksuit ensemble. We all let go of ourselves sometimes. I find that looking ragged on the outside typically mirrors feeling ragged on the inside. How do I overcome this? By making a choice about acceptance and change.

Sometimes we must accept where we are to get where we would like to be. I believe it is key to comprehend that our current states do not eradicate how beautiful we truly are. Although societal expectations usually push unrealistic standards of beauty, it can be defined in various ways and we all fit the criteria.

That day we spend pampering ourselves should not go unmissed because it can boost the way we feel about ourselves. Taking steps to get your nails done, endeavouring a new hairstyle, “beating” your face and threading your eyebrows stimulates endorphin, oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine – the “feel good” hormones. You won’t be searching for approval from others because you are content with where you are and who you are (this can advantageous in formulating relationships as you avoid seeking personal fulfilment in someone else). On the contrary, I have exercised spending that much longer getting ready and it has always been met with compliments which are uplifting. Compliments create positive energy and happiness that points out the best in others, giving compliments is just as instrumental to enhancing self-confidence and nourishing self-esteem.

Visiting a spa or a salon also triggers relaxation which is beneficial to reducing stress especially when you’re trying to enhance your self-esteem. You should also believe that you deserve it, we spend most of our time overthinking about the worst of us instead of trying to bring out the best.

Pampering also improves your productivity, by spending less time in hiding away you are distracting yourself from fears and insecurities brought on by the resentment you have for letting yourself go or lack of appreciation for oneself.

In Sherry Argov’s ‘Why Men Love Bitches’ she states that “a person’s self-respect is reflected in how he or she maintains physical appearance”. Your exterior showcases how much you value yourself. Haven't you got there? Well neither have I but let's fake it until we make it. By practising self-acceptance, at some point,  the acceptance of worthiness will happen.

Acceptance eventually leads to making progressive changes that can take you to where you want to be. Accepting your insecurities is a powerful move that you can use to your advantage, acting on your insecure feelings pushes you to make the changes that are necessary. It can be grating to hear someone say "If you're not happy, change it", use that as a means of creating a plan of action, anticipate what is contributing to your unhappiness, immediate steps that can be taken to change and the desired result. Don't look back, keep moving forward regardless of how it difficult it may be, difficult times are a concealment of opportunity, nothing that you are trying to achieve in life will happen overnight. Slow-moving progress is still progress.

I understand that insecurities cannot only be cured by spa treatments and that working on yourself from the inside out is just as important. Voyaging towards self-discovery is instrumental in attaining your sense of self. How must one do this?

Avoid neglecting your interests by making time for them, they can enhance not only the aspect of your life to do with recreation but also friendship, you may find someone with common interests or motivations as you.

Avoid not making time for friends, this takes away from being surrounded by people who truly understand you and is also an essential reminder of who you are.

Avoid forgetting about your skills and talents, you are gifted, reaching for your potential is so fulfilling. Who knows, you could be the next big thing.

Avoid abandoning your religion or spirituality because spending time with what you truly believe in can really make you feel centred and at peace. Nobody is perfect but it is worth working on this region when you feel like people have failed you since God never will.

Building your self-confidence is a journey worth taking, restore your life.
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Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Self-Love over Self-Sacrifice

BY ELLIE CONSTANTINOU


Insecurity seems to be in fashion. No matter how good we are at what we do, we’re never the ones to admit it. Girls especially, are taught not to boast about their talents or their appearance, and that they should downplay their achievements. Comments like “She’s so full of herself” or “She loves herself too much” are all too common, coming from both men and women. When did it become so wrong to acknowledge the parts of ourselves that we love?

As a teenager I was extremely conscious of what people thought of me, and what they saw when they looked at me. It was almost as if I was looking at myself through the eyes of others, trying hard to fit in with the image they wanted of me. Any decisions I had to make were based on what others were doing, or what would benefit the people around me, rather than what would make myself happy. I constantly found myself minimising my own personality to make room for others, even some of the people that I considered to be closest to me. I made a conscious effort to draw attention away from myself and ensure that I was never in the spotlight for too long. My success and achievements were always overshadowed by other people’s accomplishments, for no other reason than that I was allowing it to happen.

A few years ago, however, when life as I knew it was facing a number of significant changes, I gave myself a choice. I could either continue to live life in the shadow of what other people thought of me, or choose to love myself and express self-love through every decision I would go on to make. Unfortunately the idea most of us have when it comes to “loving yourself” is often associated with being conceited or narcissistic. In reality, loving yourself means accepting yourself, seeing yourself through your own eyes rather than measuring yourself up to the value that others place on you. It’s a skill to love yourself, don't get me wrong. It’s a journey and not an easy one at that, but it’s so worth it! Actively choosing to embrace the person I was becoming was one of the best decisions I ever made and it’s a piece of advice I’ll give to anyone that will listen.

When you put yourself first, rather than others, your life becomes one much easier to live. Embracing yourself for who you are allows you to make the right decisions based on what’s best for you and those that will reap the greatest rewards. All it takes is for you to establish boundaries that allow you to lead a comfortable, yet fulfilling life, not one that will please your parents, partner or friends. Not being able to accept yourself, whether it be your personality or appearance, will only lead to struggles with your identity and sense of self. When these two components are not secure, it shows. The people around you can see that you lack security in yourself and it makes it easy for them to exploit it. Accepting yourself for who you are will only attract the right people; people that can add to your life and give you the security to believe that you can add to theirs.

One of the first steps to achieving an all important level of self-love and acceptance is establishing your core values. Doing this allows you to set boundaries and live your life according to a standard that you have set for yourself, rather than living up to someone else’s standard or conforming to the values of the people around you. Decisions are made much more easily because you already know what’s important to you, your set boundaries and the identity that you want to create for yourself. Without an established identity that you accept and strive towards, you’ll only find yourself questioning your own decisions and being easily persuaded by others, losing what it means to truly be yourself in the process. When you are strong in your values and beliefs, people won’t expect you to accept anything below this standard, and trust me this matters!

Once you’ve accepted yourself and made the decision to express self-love in everything you do, that’s when life really begins. You find yourself no longer doing things that mean nothing to you, and instead trying to find what it is that fulfils you as a person. Personally, I found myself at a point where the biggest change I had to make included cutting certain people off and being more selective with who I gave my time to. The fact that I had chosen to put myself first made this decision so much easier because I no longer felt as though it was my duty to spend time with individuals that took away from my life rather than adding to it. I was able to be stricter with the energy I was allowing into my life, because I finally valued my own mentality over what others might think.


Contrary to what some might say, this isn't selfish! Self-love is never selfish. As they say, you can’t pour from an empty cup. If you aren't taking care of yourself and loving yourself for who you are, there’ll be no love to give to anyone else. Robert Holden said “Your relationship with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship you have”. There is nothing more important than focusing on what makes you a better person and filling your life with people or things that make you truly happy. You are your number one priority and that’s something that should never change.
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