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.

 

Embracing Positivity Through Digital Media

Embracing Positivity Through Digital Media

Hey there! I’m Emily Parsons, a digital marketing guru and lifestyle blogger. I believe that everyone has influence and the power of consciously influencing those for the better. It wasn’t that long ago that I left Atlanta, Georgia and moved back to Ohio. I had worked in Corporate America for long enough and needed a fresh start.

I realized pretty fast that the hustle and grind of Atlanta wasn’t what I wanted long-term. I moved back to Ohio, without a set job and two months worth of savings to get me by. Fast forward two years and I’m now living my dream, helping small businesses and women entrepreneurs lead consciously through this fast-paced digital marketing world. I started sharing tips & tricks for blogging, social media and creating an authentic brand. I had no idea that these topics would lead to such amazing changes in companies and myself.

Social Media has completely changed the way we perform, how we run a business and can take your circle of influence from 2 people to 200,000 overnight. It might sound cheesy but my current life and career are exactly where I want to be. I am able to live out my passion for helping people, growing businesses and positively influencing individuals on a daily basis. What more could I ever ask for! If I could effective one aspect of our society, it would be that everyone allows themselves time for daily personal development. Taking time to invest in ourselves, opens us up to a whole new world of opportunity.

You might be asking why you should embrace the new digital marketing millennium? Well, 97% of US adults under 65 are on social media at least once a month. The vast majority are on it every day. 57% of Millennials say that social media has made the ads they see more relevant to them. 48% of people say they made their last online purchase as the direct result of a Facebook ad.

Digital marketing allows small businesses to compete with a much smaller advertising budget. When managed effectively, it gives them laser-focused control over where and how they spend their money. When you have this kind of control and the data to support decisions, you make smarter ones. How amazing is that?!

My goal through digital marketing and social media is to reach as many people as possible in a positive way. If I’m able to spark a sense of joy and excitement for life with one person then I am living out my passion. Social Media gives us the ability to influence so many people, let’s make it a consciously positive one!

Creating Your Sanctuary

Creating Your Sanctuary

My first thought when approached with the subject of Creating Your Sanctuary was “easy peasy, I’m a designer at McCready Interiors, I do that for clients and customers every day”. I ask many questions to find what they want their environment to reflect, then select styles and fabrics or leathers that will be successful in creating that feeling.

A sanctuary is a place of refuge, a place of safety, a place to retreat, it should reflect whatever brings you a sense of peace and tranquility.

In reflecting and researching for my blog, I considered that my personal sanctuary actually changes quite often. My home is obviously a sanctuary where I retreat at the end of the day, but I soon realized I have many opportunities for a sanctuary; a walk in the woods, my gardens, a yoga class, even a visit to the home of my best friend since high school to enjoy the hot tub and catch up.

Your sanctuary may be the beach, an exercise class, a girls night out, or a space in your home you can make your own. It could be those moments when you have the opportunity for “no boys (or kids) allowed”, a big comfy reading chair or a place you can have quiet time to reflect, meditate, or just slow down to recharge.

As women, many of our lives are centered around taking care of others;  we are nurturers, caregivers, helpmates. We tend to do for others before taking care of ourselves. When we give our all to everyone else, there is little left for ourselves.  The importance of self-care is critical to our well-being. We must take the time to regard ourselves highly enough to carve out time and space to enjoy a sanctuary of our own.

Creating your sanctuary is simply making a space that gives you the opportunity to surround yourself with an area to take a breath and unwind.

If you are able to start with a blank slate space, select a wall color that reflects calm to you. Select pieces that avoid clutter and chaos, keep the space simple. This is an area you want to be able to completely relax in.

Carefully edit what you place in your sacred space, less is usually more when you are looking for a place for quiet or meditation. If nature brings you calm and joy, place greenery or nature-inspired artwork there. Position your comfy reading chair facing a window so you can enjoy the view. If the beach is your sanctum, use colors that reflect the sand, sea, and sky. Surround yourself with beauty and an atmosphere of calm. Turn off the TV and turn on your favorite music if you don’t want silence. I have many Pandora stations I can select from to enhance whatever mood or feeling I want to focus on. I choose Motown if I want to escape and maybe dance a little (when no one is watching), Glenn Miller if I’m feeling nostalgic, Eric Clapton or the Beatles for a variety of reasons, and slow smooth jazz or classical choices to for a quieter environment.

Candles whether real or the real-looking battery powered styles can set the mood with soft lighting. Many of us have essential oils and diffusers to provide soothing scents to help create the perfect environment.

When we make time to devote to ourselves and nurture ourselves, we become our better selves. A sacred space is a perfect place to let our best selves shine through. Creating a sanctuary isn’t difficult. Just remember to keep it reflective of who you are and what kind of energy you want it to invoke.

The Courage to Create

The Courage to Create

I’m a sucker for talent competition auditions. America’s Got Talent, Britain’s Got Talent, X-Factor, The Voice, American Idol – I love them all. It melts me when some shy, half-panicked, visibly shaking unknown takes the stage, and pours their heart and soul out for the judges and the audience. What a vulnerable moment! What courage that must take! The best of these auditions are never flawless, but that’s the point. It’s easy to share yourself and your gifts with the world if they are “perfect”. If you know exactly how the audience will respond, you’re not really taking a risk at all. Courage and bravery entail uncertainty, insecurity, and self-doubt. And perhaps that’s why courage and bravery are my favorite human traits.

We humans are so deliciously imperfect. Most of us stick to our comfort zones where we at least feel competent. Places and spaces where we know the ropes, and generally know what kinds of reactions to expect. But life is too short and too full to spend all your time in the shallow end of the pool. And not just life, but you yourself are too full of possibilities. To paraphrase Walt Whitman, “you are large, you contain multitudes”. Who knows what potential you truly encompass? Could you compose a song? Paint a picture? Write a novel? Direct a movie? Act in a play? Entertain a crowd with juggling and jokes? Sing an opera? Run a marathon? Raise a child? Build a house from scratch? Fall in love? Become a better version of yourself? Yes — you could do all of these things. Every single one. But you cannot and will not do any of these things if you require perfection.

Imagine what the world would have lost if the Beatles refused to release an album until it was perfect. If Da Vinci burned the Mona Lisa because he couldn’t get the smile just right. If Dostoevsky gave up writing because, hey, why compete with the likes of Tolstoy? Now you may be thinking, “If those weren’t examples of perfection, they were pretty damn close. There’s nothing that I do that falls into that category.” But don’t forget, just as acts and even thoughts of destruction karmically scar the soul, so too do acts of creation have a redemptive effect on the creator.

When you create and express your essence, you have brought something brand new into the universe. How better to express and experience your innate divinity? I believe that every act of creation is a prayer. And prayers do not need to be perfect, but merely heartfelt. Prayers also don’t need to be public. Likewise, even if you never share your creations with the world, they will nevertheless enrich your life immeasurably. But, selfishly, I’m hoping you will share your gifts with the rest of us. Our various creations help to unite us, and the experience of communion, I believe, is also divine.

So DO. Let us inspire each other with both our successes and our failures. Life is for living, and we best all get busy – there’s so much to try! Take faith and have courage and don’t let unobtainable perfection stand in your way. If you stumble, we’ve got your back, and we can’t wait to see what you come up with next!

Recognize the good – Hakarat ha’Tov

Recognize the good – Hakarat ha’Tov

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.