Monday, July 6, 2015

Dare to Be Brave: Practice Radical Self-Love Wk.1

The best and most beautiful things in the world, cannot be seen, or even touched, they must be felt with the heart.
~Helen Keller~

Our desire to feel loved is a primary human need. Love is essential to our emotional health. Most of us don’t think twice about expressing acts of love toward those we care about and love. It’s second nature. Our ability to be empathetic and caring towards others helps to deepen the connection we experience in relationships. Research has found that the level of connection we feel in our relationships play a crucial role in our sense of well-being.

As children, many of us were told by our parents and other adults that it is better to give than to receive. So, many of us internalized this thought as a way of being. As a result, we developed the tendency of spending a lot of time, energy and resources meeting the needs of others while putting our needs on the back burner. When we fail to take care and love ourselves, we fail to relate to ourselves with compassion and loving-kindness. How can we ever truly open our heart to another if we are afraid to first open it to our self? And so the first call of love is to open our hearts fully to ourselves.

A Return to Self-Love

Inside each of us is an invisible emotional tank.[i] When our emotional tank is full, we feel more secure within ourselves, so, we exhibit a greater measure of self-acceptance and self-love. On the other hand, when our emotional tank is empty from all of the energy we’ve spent meeting the needs of others and placing our needs on the back burner, eventually we start to feel as if we’re not deserving of genuine care and concern. This thought leads us to feel we’re not good enough. If we fail to take immediate action to re-fill our emotional tank with acts of self-care and love towards ourselves, our thoughts and actions are much more likely to be dominated by the voice of our inner-critic.

When the voice of our inner-critic dominates our way of thinking and being, we beat ourselves up with harsh and critical words that we wouldn’t dare speak to someone we love, and, yet, we have no problem speaking them to ourselves. Wouldn’t you agree? It is only by developing a practice of demonstrating acts of self-love towards ourselves can we befriend ourselves, be empathetic and demonstrate loving kindness towards ourselves, just as we would for a family member or best friend in need of support and care.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Dare to Be Brave Blog Series

Life is a daring adventure, or nothing.
~Helen Keller~

In her book, Daring Greatly Brené Brown encourages us to be larger than our anxiety, fear and shame so that we can fully embrace the power of vulnerability and transform the way we live, love, parent, and lead. If you are a regular reader of Grow Forward & Flourish, you know that I’m a big fan of Brené Brown’s work on shame and vulnerability. One of our greatest challenges to embracing vulnerability is our fear of how others will perceive us. This fear is acknowledged and challenged by Theodore Roosevelt in his famous speech, “The Man in the Arena” which reads,

It’s not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deeds, who knows great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…”

Ever since I turned 50 years of age three years ago, the topics of courage, bravery and chutzpah have dominated a lot of reading. As I continue to immerse myself in this subject matter, I’ve been able to perceive and discern distinct patterns of mindsets and behavior in my life, in the life of family, friends, colleagues and clients which are helping me re-define what it means to be brave and how might more of us embrace bravery as a way of life.

In the face of the brutal realities of our world, we are tired of allowing the fear-based messages that inundate our society define what we believe to be possible in our life, and in the lives of those in our families and communities. We want to face the brutal realities of our world not with fear, but with courage. We want to be brave.

Finding Your Courage to Dare Greatly

In her book, Find Your Courage, Margie Warrell shares, “The word courage comes from the Latin word cor, meaning “heart,” and so the essence of courage is about living “wholeheartedly.” Therefore, so long as you have breath in your body you have all that it takes to live a courageous life. In fact, your life is waiting on you to do just that-not because you might die if you don’t act with courage, but because without it, you many never truly live.”

My friend, courage is not just about the heroic acts that we read about or see on the evening news, it’s also a reflection of the choices we make on a daily basis. Such as, when we take responsibility for our lives, live with integrity, challenge our limiting stories, dream BIG in the face of daunting circumstances, persevere in the face of failure, say “No” to people, tasks and activities that are not aligned with the vision we have of the life we want to experience, speaking up for what we believe and taking action even when we feel afraid because of a compelling vision of a new possibility.

With that being said, for each of us to find the courage to dare greatly, we have to learn how to better manage our perception of our fears and self-doubt. Self-doubt is often a reflection of our fear of failure, being rejected, looking foolish, or just being inadequate. Finding the courage to dare greatly requires us to acknowledge and accept our fear and insecurities as a normal part of our human experience, while at the same time, refusing to allow them define who we are, who we can become and what we are worthy of experiencing in life. Finding our courage to dare greatly increases our ability to think bigger, live bolder and create more rewarding lives.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Love Empowers Us to Rise above Adversity

Love Gives You the Strength to Transform Pain Into Power.
This article has been inspired by the recent mass murders that took place in Charleston, SC. As a resident of Columbia, SC I’m deeply saddened by the loss of lives that occurred on June, 17, 2015 inside Mother Emanuel Church.  

In life, we have no control over unexpected events that occur in our lives. When faced with setbacks and adversity, it is common for each of us to question “WHY” some event happens and question our ability to rise to the challenge and be strong enough to overcome it. This is natural and to be expected. The wisdom I’ve gained as a result of experiencing several personal adversities has taught me that when we are faced with adversity the best thing I believe we can do is to lean on, and trust in God. I know. This can feel impossible to do. I get it. I’ve experienced many occasions when I turned my back on my faith and started to blame God for the bad happening in my life. Which is all the more reason why I feel a heartfelt need to share that even while experiencing anger and questioning God as to “why” something happened in your life, you need to continue the spiritual rituals that have served as anchors for maintaining your faith prior to the experience. I know from experience that a disconnection from our Creator results in a spiritual wilderness that wreaks havoc on us mentally and emotionally.

Walking by faith is an individual journey. So there is no need to compare our walk with another since all of us are at different levels of our spiritual and emotional development. Our faith walk will never be perfect because we are imperfect. We will experience missteps. And that’s okay. Nothing in this world can separate us from the love of God. God is a God of mercy, grace and restoration. He rejoices like the father in the parable about the prodigal son when we see the error of our ways, humble ourselves and return back to his love.

I can attest to the fact that in the face of great adversity when I chose to walk by faith and embody and express love while my suffering from a loss, I have always be able to access a greater measure of the strength that dwells in my spirit and soul. We are stronger than we think. Life tests and trials often serve as a springboard to showing us this truth. Our joy is our strength. When we are experiencing difficulty, it’s important to our well-being that we do our best to maintain a heart of gratitude. Gratitude helps us to focus on the good that is present in our lives. Keeping a song of encouragement and praise in our heart helps to strengthen our fortitude to press on and walk out the victory we have in Christ.

 Showing ourselves compassion is a key component to healing our heart wounds after experiencing disappointment, heartache, and adversity. It is important that we understand that we are vulnerable during times of great challenge. This is not the time for us to isolate ourselves. We need to feel the support and love of others to maintain our hope and faith. Allowing ourselves to be cared for by people reinforces our intrinsic value. Knowing that other people have our back reassures us that we are not alone as we navigate the challenging realities of our lives.

In the face of difficulty, we need to choose love. Love heals. Love restores. Love protects. Love forgives. Love shields our heart from bitterness and hate. Love enables us to shine our light in our darkest moments as a testament of our faith in the goodness of God and his grace that abounds beyond measure to strengthen us so that we are able to bounce back and move forward better, stronger and wiser. It is God’s unconditional love that draws us to him. It is God’s love that lights our path in difficult times so that we can best navigate our way forward. It is God’s love that strengthens our ability to rise above adversity. Love never fails.

It is my prayer that each of us experience a greater measure of God’s peace, presence, power and provision in our lives so that our light shines brightly in the good times and the bad times. 

Sending you lots of love and light,