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.
Kara Mumea was born and raised in Mansfield and has always had an attachment to the downtown community. Having earned a Bachelors of Arts from Ashland University in Music Performance and Philosophy, Kara went on to pursue work in non-profit development and marketing as she furthered her love for her community and being a part of the revitalization process. She became a member of Mind Body Align last year, and in February joined the team as Marketing and Sales Director. She’s thrilled to be a part of this inspiring company and looks forward to continuing her involvement in the vibrant and growing community in Mansfield.
Many people see me as lively, animated, and energetic so writing on the topic of vibrant living seems a natural fit. Those adjectives are synonyms for vibrant, sure, and yet, I think sometimes the most accurate description of me is a Type A person who needs to learn how to relax! I think living vibrantly may be viewed differently by different people but to me, it is a practice in mindfulness; noticing what gives us joy, purpose and embracing those things with enthusiasm. Taking the time to truly feel what life gives us in the moment is key. And, for someone like me, a bit of forcing myself to slow down from time to time to smell the roses and see the joy in the slower pace.
I’ve always felt that life is too short to fit in all of the things I’d like to try, taste, and see; places to visit, people to meet, experiences to savor. I long ago realized the only possible way to approach my life would be to pay close attention to each opportunity that comes along and take full advantage. It’s a necessity for me. A few ideas to help with that:
Eat right and exercise. Vibrant Living isn’t possible if we’re overloaded with sugar and alcohol, sitting on a couch in front of the TV. Mindful eating and moving make it possible to better enjoy life’s opportunities. And yes, sometimes that enjoyment means a great dessert, an awesome cocktail, and a Netflix binge!
Stay positive. When we focus on what bugs us, especially if we give it voice, it becomes who we are. If you’re annoyed about the snow, you’re not noticing the opportunity to learn to ski.
Keep tabs on your spending. If a big house gives you joy, by all means, buy the biggest house you can afford. But if what you want is travel, you might rethink how you divide your disposable income. I don’t have the biggest house or best car by any stretch, but I have awesome photographs from my travels and interesting stories to tell about being in plays in New York or raising my children in France. It’s all about making the spending choices that are right for you.
Appreciate what you have. If you don’t count your blessings, you’ll be unhappy with your lot in life. It’s impossible to live a vibrant, meaningful life when focused on what you don’t have.
Keep a record of your experiences. Something as simple as taking a minute each evening to think back on your day; acknowledging what you enjoyed and, this is very important, what you did well can make a huge difference in your attitude toward life.
Recently, Yale University began offering a class on happiness called “Psychology and the Good Life”, a course teaching how to be happier; how to live a better life. Enrollment exploded with 1200 students signing up. They didn’t have a classroom large enough so the course was simulcast around campus. Their tips include spending less time on social media and more time on real experiences, expressing gratitude, performing random acts of kindness, etc. It sounds obvious yet it’s not how many of us live. While I’m not sure that happiness necessarily equates to vibrant living, the similarities outweigh the differences and we benefit.
Learning to retrain where I focus my energies is one of my more recent life lessons. I’m not from Richland County and my main focus upon moving here was my kids. The people I met were largely other parents. It was a lot of fun working with these parents on school-related projects; organizing a school party, sewing costumes for drama club and chaperoning kids on marching band trips. However, our interactions stopped there and I never gave it much thought. Now my kids are grown and I see I’ve neglected to form my own personal relationships over the years. Shifting my prior focus toward my own needs by better-recognizing opportunities to make friends through shared experiences and connecting in meaningful ways is helping me live my new, best, most vibrant life.
Jennifer Enskat is an Actor, Producer, Director and Award-Winning Filmmaker and Editor. Beginning her acting career at the ripe age of four, Jen worked for decades in film, TV, theatre, radio and television commercials everywhere from Los Angeles to New York, from the Pacific Northwest to the Navajo Nation, from Jamaica to Miami to France. Turning to the production side in 2012, Jen added the roles of director, producer and editor, working in short film, documentaries, commercials and web series, winning Best Editor at Long Island International Film Expo, Best Web Series at Austin Revolution Film Festival plus a nomination for Best Director at Austin. She is currently in pre-production on “The Bride Price”, a documentary about forced marriage in Malawi, Africa and as Executive Producer of TEDxMansfield, putting together Mansfield’s first ever TED Event, coming this November.
Choosing to be grateful is just a shift in thinking. For some, it is a significant shift. For others more subtle. To me, the key word in our topic for November is choice.
Our thoughts naturally seem to turn to thankfulness and gratitude as we approach Thanksgiving. We are inundated with commercials meant to tug at both our heart and purse strings to remind us to appreciate the little things, not to mention those Hallmark movies that I love so much.
Social media is full of folks proclaiming their gratitude for things both big and small. Recently I even jumped into the pool. I committed to posting three things each day for which I’m grateful. I was going to make a conscious effort and demonstrate it for the whole world to see. Do you want to know how many times I did this? Once. Let me repeat: I did it once.
I set the intention wholeheartedly. I put it out there and dropped the proverbial ball. I publicly said that I was going to do this every day for November. It happened once!
Beating myself up
The reason I’m sharing this with you is that I want to focus for a minute on choosing gratitude and self-compassion.
One of the benefits of the mindfulness practice is that one learns to experience life in the present moment. Recognizing it for what it is, not resisting and then making a choice – rather than reacting.
Before I started practicing mindfulness, the dialog in my head would have been something like this:
What are people going to think? I only posted once. Am I a truly selfish person?
Couldn’t I even list three things a day?
Am I so important or busy that I couldn’t take time out of my day to post?
Does any of this sound familiar to you?
Letting myself off the hook
Luckily, along with living mindfully and choosing gratitude comes a little thing called compassion. As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, it took me years to learn about compassion. I could be overly compassionate toward others but rarely toward myself. This current situation was a time when I needed to choose to pull out the self-compassion card.
Does anyone remember my announcement on Facebook? Answer: Most likely, no. Technically, I could go into my timeline and delete it (going there now. click, delete and gone). Does it mean that I am ungrateful because I didn’t send a press release to Richland Source every time I had a moment of gratitude? NO. I needed to let myself off of the hook. It doesn’t even matter what the reasons were for not sticking to my plan. I felt guilt and shame.
By writing this post, I have the opportunity to reflect on this recent situation. The truth is that I feel gratitude in a million little moments in every single day. Just like most of you. We need to choose to recognize those times, but it doesn’t always require demonstrating through a grand gesture. A quiet acknowledgment does the job.
Recognize the good
As usual, I’ve taken the long road, but my point is that we can choose to appreciate things around us that are good. In Hebrew, it is called “Hakarat ha’Tov.” (pronounced HA-car-ott, HA-tove)
The literal translation is recognizing the good. When we are not experiencing gratitude, and we suddenly recognize it, we can choose to show compassion to ourselves. Choosing gratitude can be just this little shift in our thinking and remembering this short phrase: Hakarat ha’Tov.
So here it is ladies. It’s another thing that we can add to our list of things to not over-think. Gratitude. It’s not about forcing a feeling, keeping to a schedule of Facebook posts or feeling obligated to do something. It is a simple thing, Hakarat ha’Tov, or recognizing the good.
Thanksgiving is on Thursday so my call to action for each of you, a “no pressure” call to action, is to recognize the good.
Jennifer Blue is the Operations Director for Mind Body Align having joined the team in August of 2017. She studied political science at Otterbein College and the University of Louisville. She returned to Mansfield in 2005 and is excited to be a part of the positive changes occuring in our community.
Recently, my husband and I discovered what it’s like to have an empty nest. My youngest is away at college, and my oldest is “adulting”. Our parents health has stabilized and life is good. It’s just me and the ‘ole Goat. (Said with love and affection, FYI – my hubs name is Todd.) We’ve recently celebrated our birthdays: Donna v5.2, and Todd v5.6. We enjoy being alone together more. It’s almost as if we’ve rediscovered each other. We text more often, plan supper for two, watch Jeopardy and an episode of Game of Thrones every night – because we love it.
I looked at him the other day and said, “Dude, where have we been the last 24 years?” It was so nice to just be in the moment, together. We had nowhere to be, no crisis, no drama, and the house was STAYING clean! Suddenly, the realization of infinite possibilities came upon us. Wintering in Tucson, traveling, and being more artsy came to mind.
Soon after, I found myself freely volunteering my time, working more, and playing more. It felt glorious to jump in my car and go anywhere I wanted, anytime I wanted, and not be responsible for anyone but me. As Annamarie wrote in her blog post, her dream was a real possibility. All I had to do was show up for mine.
Becoming reacquainted with change and chaos
A month later, my oldest called to tell me great news – she was transferring back to Mansfield with her company.
“That’s Great news, Honey!”, I said.
“But wait, there’s more!” She said.
I’m moving back home! “Sure, no problem!, I said.”
…and, my fiance is coming too! “Oh? Ok, that’s cool…”
…and our dog! “I’M ALLERGIC TO DOGS!”
…AND, you’re going to be a grandma!
And here is where I imagine a cloudy speech bubble above my head go :::: KA-BOOM! :::
The above may seem like no big deal to some, or that I’m whining or complaining – but really, I’m not. I was just startled my dream of infinite possibilities shifted in thirty seconds. I fully understand now how my own mother feels about her dreams of retirement and travel because her dream has shifted too.
Come to see how perfect your life is today, even if it doesn’t look or feel that way
So, now I’m posting nursery and mobility stuff on my Pinterest board. The mini-van has been well maintained for transporting parents and grand babies to doctor appointments. Carpet and flooring have been replaced for wheelchair access. I am grateful for flexibility and that I can care for aging parents, and new grandchildren.
Stepping back, I am so grateful for my life, health, and family. I now understand my gifts are to build on my strengths, which include loving and caring for people. And, now that I’ve spent time with my thoughts, perhaps my “me” time was in my twenties? My life’s time-line is flip-flopped… maybe? I didn’t have my first child until I was twenty-nine. I am grateful I survived my twenties.
Thank you for listening while I pondered this. Sometimes, writing your thoughts down evokes a new perspective. My life is happy. I want for nothing. I need nothing. I am able to love. I am able to serve with joyful abundance. The time is now, and the possibilities are still endless.
I’m a wife and mother, free thinker, digital evangelist, entrepreneur, author, and equal rights advocate. In that order ❤ For a living I help businesses connect with their tribe. Websites, newsletters and Facebook are my expertise. #RichlandRocks
In this moment, I am contemplating the task of writing about living at the edge of my comfort zone which is the Mind Body Align topic for August. As my mind is revving up; touching on words, topics, and memories, I begin to feel overwhelmed. Where do I begin? Which of these words, phrases, and memories feel essential to my own experience; what is my message?
Mindfulness is the practice of being present in this moment with a deep awareness of sights, sounds, tastes, smells, felt sensations, thoughts, intuitions, with acceptance and no resistance. In this moment…
Tuning-in and noticing sights, sounds, smells, and the felt sensations in the body
I am contemplating the task of writing about living at the edge of my comfort zone… My eyes are focused out my window and I notice a group of turkey vultures riding the air currents above the field and woods in front of me. The vultures are not flapping their wings, they are simply dipping and turning, circling in and out of each other, seemingly riding the air as they gently ascend and descend, turn and circle creating a rhythmic dance that is hypnotic.
Noticing thoughts and being curious
Then I remember, I had a dream last night that I was flying. I recall the feeling of my body being cradled by the wind and the air; the sensation of my outstretched arms and the whole width of my body tipping slightly left and then right as my body glides above the landscape. The memory that remains is the felt sensation of flying. The ease. The weightlessness. The joy!
I ask myself, “how does this action playing out before me, the gentle gliding dance of the birds and the felt sensation of flying, relate to living at the edge of my comfort zone? How does ease, weightlessness and joy relate to the topic?”
My mind immediately visits my current challenge. This fall I am scheduled to do a 5 week, 500 plus mile hike through France and Spain. It’s a commitment to walk 15 miles a day for 35 days on many different types of terrain.
Noticing how thoughts give rise to emotions
I notice a sense of apprehension and fear. I hear my mind talk about my “bad” feet, blisters, and permanent foot problems, concerns about Mind Body Align and The Butterfly House, questions about the reasoning behind booking this adventure, self-criticisms that I don’t have the strength and stamina to complete this walk, and ultimately the sense that I will fail.
AND, I notice a sense of spaciousness, excitement, and curiosity. I hear my mind talk about my love of meeting new people and visiting new places, curiosity about my potential to walk the distances every day, desire to “let go” at The Butterfly House giving others in the community the opportunity to challenge themselves, and allowing for the company of Mind Body Align to grow and develop organically with the community.
Noticing judgments, beliefs and habits
I remember a conversation I had a few days ago with my sister-in-law as we were hiking a challenging uphill trail in the mountains of North Carolina. My words, “I want to be mentally and physically prepared for the worst that can happen.” Susan’s words, (paraphrased, and based on memory) “There is nothing wrong with knowing where your anxieties lie and moving to calm them.”
Living at the Edge of my comfort Zone
And finally, my mind shifts to the question, “How does ease and joy relate to the topic?”
Mindfulness is the practice of being present in this moment, with a deep awareness of physical sensations, emotional reactions, thoughts, intuitions, and with acceptance or no resistance. What I attempted to illustrate above is how mindfulness works as a practice.
This practice gives me the ability to notice the full scope of my experience in any given moment; an experience of fear- helplessness- doubt, AND, curiosity- excitement- joy. My noticing is that both the challenging and the joyous emotions and thoughts coexist.
Discovering new truths
The mindfulness practice is about embracing the whole self. It is about noticing and accepting the experience as it is. It is the practice to accept, without resistance, challenging emotions. And if you notice resistance, you accept that as well. When I use the word “challenging” in this context, I am pointing to emotions that we typically push away or wish to avoid. It is not intended to be good vs. bad or positive vs. negative. Challenging emotions have a lot to tell us and much to teach us. For me, it is reminding me to purchase good quality gear and make sure my body and shoes are trail tested with lots of hours hiking on varied terrain.
“How does ease and joy relate to the topic?” If I pause long enough to notice their presence, ease and joy become part of the experience. When I think about living at the edge of my comfort zone, it is inevitably an internal conversation about fear and self-doubt. I’m realizing that my habit is to go through fear and self-doubt first. Is that your habit?
Cultivating a balanced perspective
So, which will it be; Ease and joy, or fear and self-doubt? There is an old native American saying, “It’s the one you feed.” Here is a great animated video that tells the native American story of the wolf that you feed. It’s only 2 minutes long, and I hope you will consider watching it.
In mindfulness, the practice is to embrace and allow all that is happening. For some, this video may be viewed as suggesting that you suppress what you don’t want, and encourage what you want. This is not my point. For me, it’s about noticing the variety of emotions that are present so that I have a choice to feed both; to encourage a balanced perspective and to gather the knowledge I need from all the emotions in order that I may live authentically and fully alive.
Finally, I’ll leave you with a poem, The Summer Day, by Mary Oliver.
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
I’m sending you love and a huge hug!!!
When the MBA team gave me the topic of “Nourish” it seemed like a logical fit for someone in the restaurant business. But the longer I thought about the topic, the less I felt qualified to write about it!
What does “Nourish” really mean? Synonyms include: feed, provide for, sustain, maintain, enhance, cherish, nurture, foster, harbor, etc.
So, OK, I feed people; I provide food for people; I give the opportunity to people to enhance their diets with healthy food options. Those are the obvious reasons for me to write on this topic. But to me, Nourish has a more spiritual meaning.
Humans nourish themselves not only by feeding their bodies, but also through doing the things that they are passionate about and that make them happy. Which is precisely why I wasn’t sure that I was qualified to write about this topic. Being a business owner is hard work, and while I am happy doing it I find that I have ignored myself in the process. The things that I used to be passionate about have been pushed aside.
I was not nourishing myself. Or, so I thought.
While pondering these revelations, I kept being reminded of a profound experience that happened to me at the restaurant one day.
It was a very busy day and we had a full dining room plus many delivery orders to fill. I was feeling pretty stressed when all of a sudden I stopped and listened to the sounds of happy people talking and laughing in the dining room, and I had an overwhelming feeling that my Italian Grandma would be so proud if she could see what I have accomplished (and yes, tears are streaming down my face while I write this.)
My Grandma would invite all the nuns and the priest and anyone else who didn’t have somewhere to go for holiday meals… she loved to feed a crowd. Feeding people in a warm, loving environment nourished her soul. That profound experience nourished my soul.
With loving nourishment
Maybe one day I can get back to those things that I used to be passionate about. For now, I will nourish my soul by helping others find nourishment… not only through offering the healthy food options, but also by providing a place where they will always be greeted with a welcome, a smile, and a warm, loving place to meet friends.
I hope that you have/take time to nourish whatever you are passionate about. Feed your soul! And if, like me, you feel that you’ve had to push aside the things you are passionate about, I hope you can find nourishment being exactly where you are. Your soul will thank you.
Susan is the owner of Doc’s Deli, celebrating 10 years of nourishing people with healthy food options. She is a graduate of Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute, Wooster, with a degree in Greenhouse Management and Floral Design, and a graduate of the Master Gardener program. While life has taken a lot of twists and turns along the way, gardening is a passion that Susan hopes to find more time for in the near future!