Self-Reflection

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I learned self-reflection during Sunday School as a pre-teen.  I don’t remember exactly how, but I do know that the concept was introduced to me there.  I think it was when our teacher told us that when we pray, we should include prayers of thanks and praise and not just ask God for a bunch of things.  Aha!  Be less self-centred.  Think of things in a new context.

I know it doesn’t seem to relate exactly to self-reflection, but for me, this was the beginning of learning to really analyze my own thoughts and actions and to step outside of myself.

Self-reflection has come in very handy for me in marriage.  When I find that I am overwhelmed with anger or frustration and I am blaming my husband for it, I try to calm down and realize what it is about me that is causing me to have these emotions (and my usually loud, obnoxious reactions). It is almost never as easy as blaming my husband; it usually comes down to something bigger that’s bothering me and I am taking it out on him, or it’s stemming from something I don’t like about myself and it’s easier to blame my husband than face the fact that I could be my own problem.

If you haven’t self-reflected, you need to.  I do most of my thinking at night as I settle into bed.  Sometimes I bounce things off of my groggy husband and he will give me validation and honesty.  When I realize that there is something about myself that I need to change, I make a plan on how to change and work hard to put it into action.  For example, there was a time where I harped about someone for a few weeks and it seemed like the person was simply under my skin and too in my face.  However, upon further inspection of the situation, I realized that I was in a funk, revelling in negativity, and that the person was in my space because they were trying to be helpful and kind.  When I accepted that I was the problem, not the other person, it made it easier for me to enjoy the person being in my space and to get rid of the cloud of negative-thinking that has been following me.

It is imperative that everyone self-reflects.  I’m sure you have come across someone in your life that you feel just cannot see the real situation.  They are blaming you for their problem, and that is wrong.  You know it, I know it, and anyone outside of the situation can see it.  The only way for the person to see that they are, in fact, the problem (not the person to whom they are transferring) is for that person to self-reflect.  The first step is admitting you have been wrong to yourself, then you can go about righting those wrongs for others.

Remember: we can’t control other people, we can only control ourselves.  Do yourself a favour and make self-reflection a regular activity in your day.  You will feel better and you will improve all of your relationships.  If you learn this now, you will be so far ahead of the game as you get older.

Unconditional Love

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I had a thought today:

You know how parents can love their children unconditionally?  What if we use that model and love one another unconditionally?

I am going to try to remember that this week.  I want to take others for who they are.  I do not want to point out their faults or complain when they are not the person I want them to be.  I am going to simply love them for who they are and what they are trying to do.  I will see the good in them and the simplicity of their intentions.  This is what I hope others will do for me.  Too often I think we personalize others’ actions when really, it’s not about us at all.  This week I will try to be less self-centered and realize, it might not be about me.

I do not want to interrupt anyone, make snap judgments about anyone, or try to manipulate others’ actions.  Live and let live.  See the good.

Don’t you think this will bring peace and harmony to us all?  Especially with the little annoyances we let ourselves get so wrapped up in each day.  Let those annoyances go.  See the positive.  Change your point of view in different situations.

I am going to challenge myself this week to change my outlook.  Will you do the same?

The Beautiful Dilemma

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For women in our western culture, the concept of beauty is extremely prevalent.  Marketing is always geared toward improving it, and billions of dollars are spent every year trying to achieve it.  What happens when one is physically beautiful to our standards?  Is it all roses and rainbows?

I have amazingly gorgeous friends (outside AND IN, I must say), and I have seen how their beauty has affected them negatively at times.

If a beautiful woman who is very smart and dedicated gets a promotion, jealousy among her peers almost always stems from her physical appearance.  Hard work and qualifications will be looked over and some will believe she only got the job because the boss thinks she’s pretty.  Others may even insinuate that she’s flirting or worse with the boss to have achieved the position.  This is a form of misogyny (hatred or dislike of women or girls).  Instead of immediately attributing her promotion to her looks, let’s try to first think about what qualified her for the position.  Putting in lots of overtime?  Her degree?  Her ability to make tough decisions?  Challenge yourself.

What about the girl considered to be the most gorgeous girl in the whole school?  Do you think she had many female friends?  Other girls who got to know her loved her and saw that she was kind and funny.  Those who judged her by her appearance only labeled her a “bitch” and “slut” without even knowing any concrete information about her.  Have you ever done this to someone?  Think about why you assumed hateful things about someone you didn’t even really know.  These kind of misinformed conclusions contribute to setting women back every day.  As women, we need to help each other rise up and not play a part in this kind of misogyny.  If women put women down, who is there to make the changes that we need?

Here is some personal experience that I have been encountering lately.  I work as a social worker with women.  I work out in the community and at times attend things where there are men and women present.  I feel silly even having to say this – but because of the lines we have drawn for women in society I will add this disclaimer – I do not dress provocatively in any way, I wear minimal makeup and often times wear a ponytail when I am at work.  In fact, I layer my clothing often wearing sweaters that drape past my bum and I never show cleavage.  While working, as a clearly marked professional in the community (I wear a brightly colored lanyard with my ID card and carry a giant folder), these are some things I have been told by men or I have heard men say as I walk by/sit in the room.

“Where are you going?” (This has been said to me as I walk by men on different occasions, in a tone that let’s me know I may not be capable to making my own decision to leave.)

“It’s a good thing when the pretty girl is here.  Get’s the men’s motors running on a cold day.”

“Has anyone ever told you you have amazing eyelashes?” (Flattered…BUT I AM WORKING!  Would you say that to your doctor?….if she’s a woman, they actually might say that to their doctor!)

“I wanna work with her.”  (Said in a suggestive tone.)

These are the things spoken.  There are also things unspoken that make me uncomfortable, like unsolicited stares or awkward closeness.  While waiting in a room the other day, the woman I was with got up for a smoke, and a man came and sat right next to me when there were plenty of other chairs.  I politely said, “Oh, she’s coming right back.” He replied, “Well when she comes back I’ll move.”  Then he proceeded to try to pick me up with a cocky attitude.  I was slightly backed into a corner because I was working and had to maintain a professional attitude that would not reflect back poorly on my employer, but I also needed to assert myself to let this man know it was inappropriate to be acting like that.  I think there is a better way to handle this situation, but I always feel intimidated when things like this happen so I maintained appropriate conversation while being abrupt and a bit standoffish.  I did not give him eye contact, either.  Unfortunately, this probably conveyed to him that he had power over me, but I was also not trying to excite/escalate this already bold individual.  One day, I hope that I am able to state confidently, “I am working.  It’s inappropriate for us to be conversing.  I would appreciate you sitting somewhere else.”  I think part of the reason I didn’t do this is because I knew that he would have a cocky response and it may have made the situation worse, or drawn attention to it, which is exactly what I wanted to avoid as an employee.

Another side to the beauty dilemma that is often overlooked, is when we compliment other women on something physical.  It feels good when a friend notices a new haircut or weight-loss we’ve worked hard for, but I can’t help but feel this contributes to putting too much emphasis on women’s appearances.  If a friend notices weight loss, she also probably notices weight gain.  The pressure on women to achieve positive comments from others about our appearances is always there.  Think about another way to compliment your friend.  A friend who lost weight: The phrase, “You look healthy,” (which is better than “You look like you lost weight”) could be improved by changing the word “look” which implies appearance.  Instead, say “You seem happy,” or, “Wow.  You have a light about you today. Whats’ new?”  Let your friend begin the conversation about her weight if that is what she wants.  The important thing is that you are saying you notice something positive about her but you are letting her steer the conversation.

It’s a touchy subject.  My goal with this post is to create awareness.  Be conscious of what you say to others and how you phrase it.  Words are so powerful; use them for good, not evil.

Caught Between a Vegetable and a Hard Place

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vegetarianI have wrestled with the idea of vegetarianism for so many years.  My reasoning, at times, was that it grossed me out to think of a live pig while I was downing bacon, or seeing a feather fried into the side of my chicken wing (that was the last time I ever ate a chicken wing).  Mostly though, it hurts my heart to think of animals dying because I need to satisfy a food craving.  In July 2012 I finally made a commitment longer than my past three-week-max tries and gave up eating pork and beef.  Other than a beef cutlet at Christmas Eve dinner and a slice of ham on my eggs benedict Christmas morning (both of which extremely upset my stomach), I have not touched either meat since July.  I added on beginning January 1, 2013 and took poultry out of my diet, as well.  Currently, I am eating a vegetarian diet (with fish now and then).  I think it will stick this time because when my body says, “order a steak,” my heart says, “no.”  The thought has become stronger than the physical impulse, which is huge for me and I am quite happy to be at that point.  Also, don’t ask me to tell you about my improved BM’s, because I will talk openly about it – fair warning.

When I was recently at the drug store looking to replace some old makeup items, my thoughts went to animal testing.  I was considering kindness to animals with my what I put in my body, but what about the things I put on my body?  I post-poned my purchase and was shocked when my research turned up that almost none of the products I currently used were cruelty-free.  I printed a list (you can find one at peta.org or leapingbunny.org) of cruelty-free products and headed back to the store.  I chose to update my shower products, makeup products, and lotions first.  I feel much better having purchased cruelty-free products (and seeing the cute little bunny logo makes me smile).

cruelty freeI would like to eventually have an animal-friendly home but I know that it will take time.  It is difficult to find all products that I use that are free of animal testing (ie: nail polish remover, deodorant – other than the crystal kind because this girl can get ripe, etc.) but I am making a commitment to change what I can.  I was pleased to find out that I already was using cleaning products that do not test on animals – Method products.  I think what I learned today – after spending over an hour on something that normally takes me 10 minutes – is that with some effort I can make basic changes that I can feel good about.  I also learned not to google images of animal testing when looking for photos for this blog post because that really made me sad – DON’T DO IT, TRUST ME.  The way I explained it to some friends last night was that I do not need to know specifics about how animals are mistreated – I don’t need to read about it or see pictures of it.  I will believe people when they say bad things happen – no elaboration needed.  I am a vegetarian-work in progress, but I will get there.  Thanks for those who always have open conversations with me about this lifestyle change.  And to the animals – sorry for the way humans have treated you.  Hopefully change will come.

Do you want to create social change?

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Check out Girls For A Change.  I just came across this website and this program rocks.  Click on the Where We Are tab to see if there is a program in your state!

When I was at the University of Arizona, I was part of a group of high school and college students who were able to help make a social change.  We chose to combat discrimination in our area.  The foundation we were a part of gave us $50,000 to help fund any programs that we thought lined up with our mission to combat discrimination.  We ended up helping five different programs by giving them each $10,000.  It was so rewarding to be a part of something positive for my community.

If Girls For A Change isn’t in your area, look for other programs that promote positive social change.  Think on your own personal level, what can I do to create social change?  First, think of a social issue around you.  What injustices do you witness?  Is there something that a friend or family member has gone through that bothered you?  Next, think of why that issue exists.  How can you change it?  Do you need to start at a small level or can you do something big?  Look for groups at your school or programs for youth in your area.  See if you can join up with others who support your cause and get going!  Remember, just standing up for something that you believe in can create change.  Good luck!

…I would tell her to work with other girls and not against them.

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Why do we try to cut each other down?  I don’t know why we do it, but I know that we do.  I’ve seen it and I’ve been guilty of it.  Whether it’s the girl who starts the rumor, tells someone else the rumor, or allows someone to tell her the rumor and doesn’t stand up and say that it’s false, that girl is part of the problem.  Talking behind someone’s back, whether it’s the truth or not, is cutting someone down.  The purpose of gossip is to make the person you’re talking about look worse in the eyes of the person you’re telling.

We live in a time where, as girls, we are already fighting against outside forces that want to bring us down.  Television shows like “the Hills” portray us as catty, reality television shows like “Jersey Shore” portray us as shameless, and even the news channels like to play up the missteps of women in power to make them look simple-minded.  It hurts me to see us hurt each other.  We are smart, motivated, and caring.  We should be standing by one another and helping to lift each other up.  Think of all the wasted time and energy we put into disliking the girl that is different from us or the girl that wants the same boyfriend that we do or the girl who is going for the same spot in Student Council as we are.  If we could refocus that energy into seeing the beauty of another’s uniqueness or enjoying that the girl who is the best fit to be Student Council President gets elected, we would be in such a better place.  It hurts when I hear someone say something negative about me, so why would I do that to another girl?  I don’t want to be the cause of hurt for another human being.  I want to be the reason that someone smiled!

There are enough people trying to make life difficult for girls.  Let’s not help them!  We all just have a human desire to be liked by other people.  Is it really so hard to just be nice?  Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little.  Together we can do so much.”  If we work together, we can change the world.

What is a way that you’ve supported another girl?

What is a situation you’ve had where you wished another girl had helped you?