Stripping Labels: Leading By Living

Stripping Labels: Leading By Living

Seeing the world through rose-colored glasses is an idiom often used to express an optimistic perception of life. But the sad truth is, optimism is a disposition rarely extended to others. Instead, we tend to look at others and decide what color glasses to wear when viewing them, based on our judgment of them.

Humans have a natural inclination to favor certain sects of society while believing there is justification for harboring caution (at the least) if not outright hatred (at the worst) against certain groups of society. Generally, those biases are formed to include themselves and people like them.

Despite recent trends, I believe women more than men are pigeonholed in their careers and their relationships. Women still don’t receive equal pay for equal work (especially minorities). Women more often than men are trapped in abusive relationships. Women are sexually assaulted more than men. Women are forced into human trafficking more than men. Women are forced into underage marriage more than men. Women are forced to endure female mutilation. I can go on. The topic of bias relates to me both personally and professionally. I face huge biases – not just due to my gender but also my race, which is stereotypically associated with my tendency to speak up. From what I’ve experienced, there is an overt and obvious difference between me and my white, especially male, colleagues and friends. When I speak up firmly, I face resistance from certain people and am made to feel discounted as a nuisance. When my white friends and/or colleagues, male or female, behave in the same manner, often more frequently and more blatantly, they are taken so much more seriously, and their opinions are valued. It got to the point, where I found myself having to confront the dilemma of whether to lighten up or stop speaking up altogether. It felt to me as if I was never heard, and I didn’t want to be labeled as the so-called “Angry Black Woman,” (ABW). I didn’t want to be viewed as unintelligent or bitter either. Talking while black and female proved to be quite the double-hurdle for me. I have personally had other colleagues tell me they have had to face some form of negative labeling in their career. One woman was told by a manager that she “did not fit the corporate image” when she was being considered for an advancement opportunity. She asked for feedback regarding how she didn’t fit the corporate image but then asked for the interview anyway. She got the interview. It went well and she was offered the position.

Humans also have a natural inclination to form biases. I sincerely believe one must consciously will themselves to not behave in those undereducated, underdeveloped ways of thinking. How do you inspire humans to think for themselves?? To break away from their norms and their beliefs? In this climate and in what I see happening in this country, it seems virtually impossible. The answer for me is to live it. Show others in my own behavior and choices. If you want to see an improved environment, be an improved environment all the time – without exception.

In order to be compassionate and try to help others remove filters, my path lies in Christ. By showing others that they can look at the world through the lens of Christ,  they can free themselves of preconceived ideas, biases, and bigotry against others; they can, instead, open themselves up to love. And like so many others, I believe we must love as Christ loved.

 

Stripping Your Label: Going Beyond Stereotypes

Stripping Your Label: Going Beyond Stereotypes

When I was asked to do this blog my first thought was, I don’t want to strip my label. I don’t think labels are always bad.  I am a librarian, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a 29-year breast cancer survivor- all labels I am proud to have. Each one defines a part of my life.  Some labels I wouldn’t mind losing, like being a procrastinator, judgmental, or stubborn. I am working on those.

It is a normal human behavior to label things and people to help us understand them.  If you consider how a child learns to talk or read, the first things she learns are labels for people and things.  Mama, Dada, milk, cookie…. As children have more experience they get a more complete understanding of each thing. In some ways, it’s the same for adults.  When we meet someone new, we ask them for their labels. “What do you do for a living?” “Do you have any children?” “Where do you live?” We are looking for a connection or a way to know the person better.  The problem comes when we think if we know the label that is all there is to know.

We need to be willing to take the time to get to know the real person we have just met.  The labels we identify are just a starting point. Find out what other experiences or feelings have shaped the life of your new acquaintance.  You may find you have made a lifelong friend.

Many labels are rooted in stereotypes. I am proud to be “The Library Lady”. My license plate even says, “SHHH”.  As a librarian, many people think they know what kind of person I am just because of the profession I have. I am thought to be a quiet person who reads all day, and who is really interested if you have overdue books.  I can’t count the number of times when I mention I am a librarian that the first thing a person tells me is that they have overdue books or fines.

I can be a quiet person sometimes and I do like to read when I have time, but you might be surprised if you saw me at a party.  I am usually the first one on the dance floor and often the last one to leave. I am a country music fan, which surprises some people who know me. I love cars and often go to car shows with my husband. I prefer driving a car with a manual transmission, but they are hard to find anymore.  

Labels can be limiting, not only in our relationships but also in our own minds.  I am happy to be a breast cancer survivor, but when I was going through treatment I decided I wasn’t going to let this change my life any more than absolutely necessary.  I continued to work and care for my young children. I wore a wig cut to my regular hairstyle so it wasn’t obvious to those who didn’t know me well that I was undergoing cancer treatments. I did as much of my regular routine as I could, with a lot of help from my husband.  I didn’t want cancer to define me to others or myself.

Labels do help others get to know us, but we have to get beyond the stereotypes to really get to know one another.  To make a true connection we have to have real conversations that explore our values, our feelings and how we see ourselves and each other.  We need to be willing to let others see us as we are.

It is difficult to be open with others, especially those who are new to us.  We feel vulnerable when we don’t know how someone will react to what we reveal of ourselves.  But we have to be brave enough to be vulnerable if we are to live authentically. We also need to examine our own values and live in accordance with them.  Do we act differently because we worry about what a certain person or group will think of us? If we try to live consciously, working toward the person we want to become, we can be open to others and let them see our real selves.  It isn’t easy and it takes time and work, just like any worthwhile endeavor.

 

You’re Already Living in Your Amazingness. Recognizing it is the Hard Part

You’re Already Living in Your Amazingness. Recognizing it is the Hard Part

I’ll admit it; this particular topic was difficult for me at this point in my life. You see, for the last several weeks I have felt more un-amazing than anything else. I dragged my feet on writing this knowing I’d have to fess up to the terrible way I’ve felt about myself recently. So… here it is: after losing my job I felt like a giant failure. I was certain everyone could see that failure on my face. But you know what? Now that I’ve said it out loud, I can see how awful it really is.

It’s ok to feel un-amazing for a while

Why did I let that statement make me so miserable for literally months?

We all go through these cycles of feeling bad and then getting better but we greatly undervalue a certain part of the process: the part where we dust ourselves off and try again. Why do we give such weight to the negative and yet, without blinking, completely undermine the strength and courage it takes to overcome our darkness?

That journey, the one that only you know, it’s special and there is amazingness in having lived it. So let me share with you some lessons I’ve learned along the way to help me get past these negative feelings and start again with sincerity towards my own amazingness.

Tell your story

In her 2015 publication, “Rising Strong”, Brene Brown says, “vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”

By owning your experience and sharing it with others, you become the narrator of your own history. It’s your story, so make sure you tell it with conviction. For example, leaving my former position was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. There are still days when I am not sure it was right but what I do know is that in the wake of that decision, I’ve pondered new ideas and pursued things that I never thought would be a reality for me.

I’ve become more attuned to my strengths, due in large part to my moments of weakness. I am more comfortable in my abilities than I might have ever realized had I stayed where I was. To me, this unexpected realization is pretty amazing.

Find your tribe

What’s cool about finding the right group of people is you really recognize their importance in your life when you feel the least awesome about yourself.

Moment of truth coming up: I haven’t always been a good friend.

I rarely make dates to get together and if I do, I often have to reschedule because of my job or kids or some other pressing issue. But let me hear that a friend is down on hard times and I’m there. No questions asked. This is what I’ve experienced recently but on the receiving end.

The women and men who I call my “tribe” really stepped up and helped me through the dark parts by saying all the nice things to me that I wasn’t able to say to myself at the time. You see, if you surround yourself with people who will jump in and be champions for you when you are unable to climb out of the pit, you’ve got yourself something seriously amazing there. Even better, when you have true and loyal supporters who lift you up, you’ll start to see yourself the way they see you and soon afterward, you may even start believing it, too.

Free your mind

If you come to my home and it is really, really clean, you’d be witnessing the aftermath of some mental tornado. Like so many others, I clean when I am stressed or depressed or need a moment to gather myself. The act of physically placing things in order can have tremendous metaphysical benefits for our internal journey.

As Albert Einstein, said, “Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

When we release the weight of things which no longer serve us, whether in our careers, our homes, or our hearts, we open up space to carry the things we didn’t have the strength for before. Sometimes, the simplest things can bring amazingness to the surface—you just have to prepare your mind to accept it—which you can’t do if it is filled with too much unnecessary junk.

For me, I found this in good old fashion exercise. Not only did I get the endorphin high from the physical activity but I also started to see results, which helped me let go of so much of the negativity I had toward myself about my appearance. Just physically feeling better helped clear my mind of the awful and hurtful things I would think about myself on the regular.

It’s OK to know you’re amazing!

When the time comes to let all that negativity and self-loathing go, you’ll know.

One day, suddenly, you’ll realize that you’re stronger than you were the day before. You’ll remember how hard you’ve worked and you may even get mad at yourself that you allowed this sad state to go on for so long. But don’t get distracted here. Now is the time to own your experience by sharing it with others and reaching out to your tribe. Soon you will begin to clear the clutter and start again.

The moment when you decide to live with our un-amazingness and keep going anyway, this is the most amazing part that we often overlook. So next time you find yourself in this place, where you have to choose to stay the same or to live in your un-amazingness, recognize that what you’ve done, what you have, and where you are going is actually pure, golden amazingness. Let this be the part of you that shines.

You’re More Amazing Than You Think

You’re More Amazing Than You Think

Once upon a time, there was a woman who thought only the best things about herself. She embraced who she was, valued herself, and knew that she could accomplish anything she set her mind to.

Here’s where you might think to yourself: Okay! Okay! Cut the crap… this is CLEARLY a fairy tale.

I mean, who really thinks the best of themselves? Especially when you are behind closed doors and the makeup is off, you didn’t finish a project on time, you burnt your dinner and forgot to buy milk again.

It’s true: you are your own worst critic

Maybe you’re like me, who, upon hearing “you are more amazing than you think”, instead hears that little voice inside your head that scoffs and whispers “No I’m not!”

We argue with our best friends when they doubt themselves…“Yes, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL”, and “you ARE SMART, don’t say that about yourself!” But, do we give ourselves the same chance?

Too often, when someone compliments us we blush and deny it, thinking they’re “just saying that to be nice”, or maybe we don’t speak up for fear that someone else will think what we have to say is silly.

On many days I catch myself playing the comparison game. I compare myself against the accomplishments of others. “That fit mom with the stock-photo-posed children on Instagram surely has her life together! And, “wow that person over there is so successful and talented, I could never compare to that.”

We make running lists in our head of our shortcomings, and things we aren’t, without acknowledging the good in ourselves and what we do!

Own Your Successes

I’m not saying we should become super prideful and arrogant but we should own our successes, no matter how small. We should own our flaws and our attributes. I may not be the concert pianist I decided I would be when I was nine years old (long story!), and I know I certainly am not the tidiest or most orderly person in the world (condolences to my very organized husband…). I may feel silly for my lack of knowledge in conversation about politics, law or history, and God forbid you ask me to do a math problem on the spot. But I know I am strong. I endured a painful pregnancy and gave birth to a beautiful daughter. I’ve moved across the country twice. I earned a Bachelor’s degree with honors. Oh, and I can bake a terrific loaf of bread. Now please understand that I am not trying to brag. In fact, it really makes me squirm to type all that.

Which makes me ask, why is that? I think it’s because I forget these things, or I choose to dismiss them to look the other direction. I look at myself and see someone who I wish wasn’t as messy, was more educated, would procrastinate less, looked better (whatever that even means!) and was bits and pieces of other people more successful than myself. But I am ME. Not someone else. And I want to be more than okay with that.

You are amazing

Your value isn’t assigned by the approval of others, but it also isn’t determined by your own negative self-judgment. We are lying to ourselves! You are amazing, no matter what that little negative voice – or anyone else – says. Today as you stand in front of your reflection, or pause for a moment of introspection, I encourage you to think of your accomplishments, skills, and strengths. Then look inward and say, “you are amazing”. It might be difficult, but my hope for each and every one of you is that you’ll believe those words. You are more amazing than you could possibly know.

Happiness is Found Beyond the Box

Happiness is Found Beyond the Box

In 2014, I experienced something that changed my life forever. I had a sleeve gastrectomy (weight loss surgery.) Before the surgery I had no confidence, often felt depressed, and my body hurt.  I couldn’t even tie my shoes! I knew I needed to make a change in my life. I decided, after researching and talking with patients who had received the procedure, to go ahead with the surgery.

I lost 140 lbs. The first year! As my confidence increased, I knew I made the right decision. My body felt great, and I could move. I was able to reach my feet and fit in a restaurant booth. In 2015 I met Mark. Mark was the next big thing to happen in my life. We knew after the first date that we were meant for each other.

Newfound Confidence

I was fired up about the changes that were occurring and realized that positive things happen with a positive attitude. I once read the quote, “If it doesn’t scare you, you are not growing,” so I decided to scare myself, A LOT. I decided that if I step outside of the box exciting things might happen.

I began speaking at seminars for the surgeon that did my procedure, and as a guest speaker at a local college graduation. Mark wanted to give me a scare too and sent a video of me singing to America’s Got Talent. Shortly after, they invited me to audition. They emailed us tickets, and in November I stood before a judge and sang my heart out.

I had always wanted to audition for a national talent show, and I realized I just marked something off my bucket list.  Although I didn’t make it to the next round, I did it!!! I was pumped. I stepped out of the box and received a reward; it was the reward of newfound confidence.

Beyond the box

Since then, Kelby King of our local television station WMFD, contacted me and invited me to be on her first episode of “Sitting Down with Kelby King.” It was a great experience and led to being asked to speak at a Kiwanis event, booked to sing at Kingwood center for their summer concert series in July, and singing at several locations around the area. And, I met the wonderful ladies at Mind Body Align who asked me to do this fun blog.

My pursuit of happiness all began with finding and uncovering my true self. I learned to love myself again and now realize I have more to offer than I was allowing myself to see. It could be any small or big change that makes the difference, be willing to step out of the box and become a better you!!!

Getting Unstuck – Pushing Through The Fear

Getting Unstuck – Pushing Through The Fear

Afraid of everything… that was me growing up. I was always scared of the monster under the bed or in my closet. I never wanted to be out in the dark… fraidy cat.

As I began to think about my life and ponder how to approach the topic of “Getting Unstuck-What is Holding You Back,” I discovered that I have addressed this issue many times and have come a long way!

I was divorced and on my own for the first time at 41 years old. Surrounded by memories and not sure how I was going to move forward, I made the monumental decision that I was going to leave Mansfield, my best friends, my home, and my parents to create a new life for myself. Excited, petrified and determined, I found a job and an apartment and began a new life in Columbus not knowing anyone but determined that I would make it. So, my puppy dog, Jasper, and I moved on April Fools Day to begin our new life!! Many people told me I was crazy to do this, but the fear of “Being Stuck” was more significant than fear of failure!

Adapt and succeed

Being the only person I could count on to keep a roof over our head was frightening at times but also pushed me to work harder and succeed. My first position was with the Placement Service I enlisted as a means of securing a job in this new city. It was fascinating and I met a lot of really nice people. About 18 months in, the company announced that we would no longer be using paper files. We would have everything on a computer for easy access. Panic set in! I had never used a computer and had no idea how to do so. My dilemma was to either learn how to use the computer or get a new job. I learned so that I could continue with this company. I never realized that this knowledge would open up a whole new world for me!

I was at my first position in Columbus for almost three years, when introduced to the General Manager of a company where a wonderful new friend worked. They were looking for an Administrative Assistant. I got the job and proceeded to work my way up. As our division grew, my responsibilities changed. When downsizing closed our division, I was the Divisional Office Manager and the “right hand” to the Division President. I loved my job, and at eight years, I would have stayed forever! So… here I go again. Terrified but determined, I decided to try something totally out of my comfort zone (which seems to be the place that I find myself in most often). I was hired as the Showroom Manager for a blind and drapery company. What was I thinking?

I had no experience, no idea what I was doing, but was determined not to allow fear to hold me back. (Noticing a Theme in My Life?) Four years into this position, a wonderful old friend called me to ask that I come and work with her. I became the Assistant General Manager for a Co-Working Company. When she left the company, I took over the helm which was way out of my comfort zone, but, with support from my boss and clients, we moved ahead.

Fear was weighing me down

Let me share a secret; I had this enormous fear of walking into a room full of people and not knowing anyone. I wasn’t much better when I knew I had someone waiting for me. My dad always encouraged me to go into sales, but I knew that would never happen. Fear is a powerful deterrent.

Six months into my position as General Manager, the company decided that I would be required to go out into the community to make our company name known to all! I was determined that I could not allow fear to hold me back. So, I walked into the Hilton Polaris; a networking event with 500+ people, not knowing if I would recognize anyone. The moment I pulled open that door and stepped through changed my life. I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. A weight, I carried most of my life.

20 years later, I moved back to Mansfield and became involved in the downtown area and all the exciting growth taking place.

Confidence overcomes fear!

As my life continues, I still have to walk through doors not knowing what I will encounter, but now I have the confidence to handle anything that comes my way!

So… Getting Unstuck, What is holding you back? Mine was fear of the unknown. What is yours? Once you face that fear and realize that it does not control you any longer, there is not going to be anything you cannot do. Believe in the Power of You!