Invest in Yourself

Cleaning-Tub-2

Cleaning-Tub-2For the past several months, the bathroom in my apartment had been incredibly disgusting. Having two room mates with varying levels of both cleanliness – the bathroom seemed to be on the bottom of the list when it came to proper maintenance. Aside from the lights blowing out one weekend, not much attention was given to its overall functionality.

But as someone who has grown up with a junky parent, I’m very sensitive to dirt, grime and disorganization. Bathrooms already gross me out in general because they’re rarely kept clean by patrons as any college graduate can attest to. When there’s no cleaning staff over the weekend and your fellow classmates can’t be bothered to throw paper towels in the waste basket – I would typically went out of my way to avoid a filthy bathroom, and this was no different.

While I had mused about getting a new shower curtain and liner in the past, I regularly hesitated because it seemed unfair that I should financially obligate myself to something that my room mates should’ve been invested in. Shouldn’t my room mates also be grossed out by the shower liner being discolored and shriveled? Am I the only one bothered by the bath mat being slick with grime?

But something clicked over this past week, and it got to the point where I simply chose not to bathe if it meant having to enclose myself in what seemed like a ceramic filth trap. So after volunteering this weekend, I quickly headed to the dollar store and snatched up some inexpensive shower essentials, cleaner for the tiles and went to work. I switched on the boiling out water as I sprayed and scrubbed – my arms immediately beginning to ache from the sudden onslaught of manual labor.

Painfully I reached up in the corners of the shower, excited that the grime my room mate thought permanent easily wiped off. Although a bit grossed out from the stray hairs left sitting around, I reached all the corners, all the walls, and made sure I could get as much dirt as possible off of the tub floor. Finally, after thirty minutes, I had accomplished the task previously unimagined - I had cleaned the shower. 

For several hours afterward, I’d walk by the bathroom, deeply inhaling the intense scent of the vinyl from the shower curtain. Randomly, I’d pop in, admiring my handy work, pushing the curtain aside so I can gaze at newly white tile.

As soon as my room mate came home, I pointed her in the direction of the bathroom, hoping to get accolades for my work. She seemed amused, and commented on the color. Then went about her business.

But I can’t stop thinking about it. I did it. I CLEANED THE BATHROOM. 

At the core of it though, I invested in myself. There was something in my environment that wasn’t in alignment with how I viewed myself, with the big picture of how I saw my life. I didn’t want to have the type of life where I refused to bathe because the shower was so gross. And instead of being upset that my room mates didn’t seem as perturbed as me, I chose to take on that responsibility of having my inner world (one of cleanliness) reflected in my outer world (a clean bathroom).

To invest in yourself means that you take steps to create congruency – is there a disconnect between what you’re thinking, feeling and doing? What can you do (think or feel) to create an alignment between yourself and your environment?

Investing in yourself can be fun, but it requires that you get over certain blockages and internal narratives – like how I felt that it wasn’t fair to be the only one concerned about the bathroom. In the end, of course, I’m extremely happy I did it and am on the look-out for other ways to invest in myself.

What about you? How did you invest in yourself today? 

Realists Are Just Pessimists

Good Things

I found this really delicious, and admittedly mind-blowing, blog post via my Facebook earlier this week:

When things go terribly right by David at Raptitude

Good Things “There are no realists. Everyone thinks they’re being realistic. Nobody has an objective view of their thinking. Pessimistic thoughts feel realistic to a pessimist. Optimistic thoughts feel realistic to an optimist. If you think you’re a realist you’re probably a pessimist, because obviously you’ve found a reason to tone down expectations.

Expect things to go well. You don’t need a reason first.”

At first I thought I’d have this great examination of how this quote – specifically – meant to me. I’ve never called myself an optimist or a pessimist because I felt it was too binary, too either/or. Now, it’s so much more than that. It’s about how our thoughts influence our relationship to the world, ourselves and the people in our lives. It’s about how we don’t even realize we’re thinking about – even if it’s all the time – until someone points it out.

It feels rational to expect bad things to happen. Don’t go out at night. Don’t travel alone. The world is a dangerous world.  It feels almost normal to be so paranoid, fearful, unsure, living in hiding. Because that’s not just how lots of other people live, it’s how others expect you to live. So everyone is copying each other, not stopping to think that their thoughts aren’t really serving them, or helping them live more fulfilling lives. Because no one is objective about their thinking, and our thoughts change when we meet someone with a different mindset that I like better.

That’s what this quote makes me think of: the way it can be hard to pinpoint what’s wrong but then someone says it so succinctly, and you spot it instantly.

So am I afraid to expect the best?

And if so, why?

The biggest barrier I can think of is fear. Afraid that you’ll expect something that won’t arrive, or if it does, it’ll be awful. Afraid to want better things for yourself because you’re so used to how things are or used to be. I can understand that.

I know for me, I spent a lot of time fantasizing about worst case scenarios – almost daily. Oddly, it felt comforting since it had become so familiar. It’s what I knew. 

“I can’t believe how prominent imaginary bad outcomes were in my life. Most of my life was spent picturing every kind of disaster, from embarrassment to maiming, virtually of it habitual, draining and useless.”

And at the core of my Lent exercise this year is to switch up my thinking so that I can be open to serendipity, so that I’m not scared all the time and can start to view the [my] world with more positivity, with more openness.

That sums up the best advice I could give anyone: think a lot about what you want, and think only sparingly about what you don’t want.

Because, honestly, what do you have to lose?

 

Who Provides Customer Service ?

Who provides customer service?

Flickr Credit to: verticalpharmacy

My definition of customer service: if you’re interacting with other humans in any significant way, you’re providing customer service. If the way you treat your customers or guests influences their decision to come back or not, you’re providing customer service.
Even though I have experience in retail, I’m not one to say that the customer is always right, or without fault. BUT I’m well aware of the fact that many employees can be (and are) very rude, disrespectful or disinterested in your problems – no matter how sincere you may be. Recently I’ve had at least two experiences where the employees felt that because it wasn’t in their job description, providing compassionate and patient customer service wasn’t necessary. A woman told me it wasn’t in her job description to do a [simple] task, and another man criticized me over the phone while his manager co-signed his statements, saying that because they’re not customer service, the standards are different.

Perhaps they long to be mere flies on the wall, who just answer the phone or are only polite to people who don’t give them a hard time. Or more specifically, if your job security isn’t depended on how nice you are to someone, you’re more likely to take liberties with patrons. Additionally, if the management is more lax about your behavior toward guests, then you’re more likely to have an attitude problem. Or finally, you have people who really don’t care and feel justified in how they treat you. Or a combination of all three.

Part of the reason this really grinds my gears is because at its core, customer service is essentially an act of service; providing for another in a way that they can’t provide for themselves. In this way, we’re of service to one another via blogging, books, films, Twitter/Facebook, in the streets, working in businesses both big and small. The list goes on.

Did you hold the door open for someone today? Did you pay a friend a compliment or give them a hug? Were you polite and patient to the hurried barista as the line led out the door? Did you think twice before snapping at someone who irritated you today?

To be of service is to acknowledge another person.  For example: I often take the bus to get where I need to go, and will often say, “Thank you” to the bus driver on the way out. This created a chain of events in which everyone said “thank you”. He got us to where we needed to be safely and efficiently. To empower someone is to acknowledge them. To acknowledge someone is to empower them. 

When you criticize someone unnecessarily, or feel the need to put them down, or be cruel to another person – you’re dis-empowering them.

Customer service, at its core, is about giving another person the tools they need to go about the world. Sometimes that means being nice to someone, sometimes it means listening. At its core, it’s about helping people realize that there’s good in the world, that people care, and that they’re not alone.

This is why good customer service is so important!

 

 

 

How Atheism Enhanced My Goddess Worship

I’ve spent like an hour trying to figure out how to start this post. What way is the most interesting? Or the most controversial sounding?

But that’s really time consuming – and distractive. So I’m just going to tell you: I want to talk about god. Why? Mostly because as I learn more about atheism, I begin to re-evaluate what I believe in and why.

Essentially, I tell people I’m a pagan, but specifically, I consider myself a Goddess worshipper. It basically means I don’t acknowledge or identify with the male concept of deity. In Wicca (which is where I got my start), deity is divided into male and female: the God and Goddess. They’re equally important and one isn’t valued more than the other.

Unfortunately – I don’t connect well with male energy. I went to a single sex college, and a vast majority of my friends are female. Even in the blogging and twitter universe, a high percentage of the people I follow are women. So it seemed like a natural transgression to worship a female deity. When you worship, it’s about doing things to keep in touch with the Goddess. There’s prayer (which is basically conversation), performing rituals and altars that you can set up.

However, it can be extraordinarily difficult to find books relating to Wiccan spirituality. But I found an excellent one titled “The Circle Within” by Dianne Sylvan. The book breaks down how to create a spiritual relationship with the Lord and Lady, which I thoroughly appreciated. It’s the only book to date that I’ve found that relates closely to my own spiritual leanings.

So – how does the conversation about atheism enhance my relationship with my own faith?

The biggest question atheists asks is: how do you know? It can be difficult to answer this question without delving too into more spiritual jargon. I could say, “It resonates with my spirit” but that presupposes that the questioner believes in the human soul. I could say, “It just feels right or it makes sense to me” which is fluff – only a conversation rife with frustration can be conducted from this statement.

Why do I believe in some of the things that I do? Because I’ve experienced physical manifestations of my belief system. I’ve been around people who are able to confirm what has happened to me. I’ve been around people who are equally rational in their approach to paganism, and their own experiences.

Atheism allows me to take a step back and reassess, to make sure my spirituality isn’t just something that lives in my head. I need to live it everyday because I want to be able to explain to people what my faith is, and what it’s about.

I’m also an cerebral person, a lot of my process is in my mind. So although I know for a fact (mentally) that the Goddess is real, and I value other people’s experiences with Her, I don’t feel it in my body. There’s a strong disconnect that I need to address. I give praise to Her and acknowledge Her, but I need to work on the bond.

As I speak with atheists, I realize that the potential for me to just preach but not practice is still there – even though I’m part of a different ideology than Judeo-Christian Abrahamic faiths. I realize that it’s much easier to spend time in my mind, going over what I can or should do than actually doing it. That I keep waiting for other people to tell me how to practice.

Atheism isn’t my cup of tea, but in these past few days, I’ve learned a lot. Not just about other people, but myself as well.

What about you? Do you have a personal ideology or philosophy that you spend more time talking about than actually doing? Have you done anything to change or challenge that?

 

 

 

Ayn Rand and the Fight Against Beauty Ideals

Stop blaming society and the media for your low self-esteem dammit.

I love Ayn Rand because she speaks at length about self-esteem. The characters in her books are under constant assault; having their choices second guessed and being belittled because of their differences. Any other person may have crumbled under the scrutiny that Howard Roark and Dagny Taggart faced, but Rand’s characters have something that few people in real life do: a self sufficient ego.

Her characters are self-assuared in their decisions, and how they go through life. In The Fountainhead, many of the female characters didn’t find Howard attractive. Something about his overall demeanor repulsed women. Yet he doesn’t cry himself to sleep over it. In fact, he seems to pay very little attention to other’s opinions about him.

This is the approach I take in regards to women, media and self-esteem.

Who is to blame for your low self-esteem and self-hating beliefs?

You.

By resting all of the blame on an abstract entity like “society”, you become prey to the Victim archetype. It’s societiy’s fault that I am miserable and society will pay for this infraction! 

But -that’s a half truth. The full truth is that you allow these messages into your subconscious. You accept these illusions and fantasies as reality, instead of acknowledging them for what they are. Falsehoods.

But instead of re-directing the attention inward, and re-shifting the focus, the obsession is directed even more powerfully to destroying the illusion. The things we see daily are merely projections- our own thoughts, feelings and ideas for others to consume. The magazines and billboard ads are projections of the world their creators live in.

We live in a world where oppression, violence and privilege run rampant. Many of the individuals who enforce these illusions are products of this: white males who hold sexist ideas. Women who buy into patriarchy while becoming female chauvinist pigs.

Magazine covers, billboard ads, commercials – all of these are a reflection of deeply held beliefs in our culture. By attempting to destroy these images, you’re attempting to force these illusions to change their opinions about you instead of simply re-adjusting your opinion about the illusion.

For example: whenever I see a magazine cover I dislike, I simply ignore it. I don’t spend an inordinate amount of time complaining about it, or buy it to show to my friends so we can complain about it together. When conversations come up about body bashing, I don’t participate or give in to their self-destruction. I keep a reminder that the people in TV aren’t reflections of who I am or what I believe. And that I will only support media that aligns to my own personal belief system about myself and the world.

 

So instead of trying to fight an enemy that has no name, why not take it upon yourself to be more like Randian characters; self-sufficient ego bearers. Rejecting fantasies – not through dismantlement, but by shifting our own individual relationship to ourselves. For as long as women, men and children continue to have low self-esteem (an ideology that is passed down from generation to generation), nothing will abate the insatiable thirst for self-hatred.

You must take your battle within, first by looking in the mirror. And so the image in the mirror will change.

The battle for self-esteem can only be won within, not outside of ourselves.

It starts here – with you. 

 

What about you? What personal opinions and ideas would you need to change to make yourself less susceptible to external pressure to look a specific way?

Having Faith isn’t just about believing in Diety

“It’s hard to fill a cup that is already full.”

- Avatar

I recently sumbled upon this blog post about being a freak, by Jonathan Fields. It’s about being different, not “fitting in” – a subject I know all too well. It surprised me to see all the comments from other self-proclaimed freaks. I had never truly considered my own freakdom something to champion, it’s right on par with why I never call myself a non-conformist; I just don’t think like that. But, I probably should because I’m all about authenticity. Or at least I’m trying to be.

Being authentic is actually really, really hard because it’s about being aligned with our core beliefs in a very consistent and real way. It means quitting a job that you don’t like even if it means not having money. It means rejecting the friendship of a person who doesn’t appreciate you at the risk of being alone. Being authentic is about loss, because you can’t live the same sort of life as other people.   

My view of authenticity is basically spiritual. It means looking at a situation, or a person and wondering; Does this serve me? Am I living authentically by making this decision? It’s hard, because there’s no consistent or correct answer. It also means being connected to Spirit and knowing what makes your particular Spirit happy. A task that requires a large dose of introspection.

For example: my Spirit really, really loves cats. I’ve had an intense love for cats (and animals in general) since childhood. And when I went to the SPCA today, I wanted to get my “cat fix” and see all the adoptable kittens.

Living in Spirit means being authentic, and being able and willing to recognize a situation that isn’t in your best interest. This could even be as simple as not cleaning your room, leaving your house in shambles. Before I do any spiritual work, I at least make my bed.

This has certainly been weighing on my mind the past few days as I struggle to figure out what makes me happy, what I want to do. It’s been a struggle as I deal with my insecurities; like how I wanted to major in Biology in college but got a gigantic C in my first bio class. It scarred me, and I definitely regret getting caught up in my fear instead of just tackling it head on. I took the safe, fear-induced route -by taking classes I knew I would do alright in, instead of venturing out and taking classes in subjects I had no experience in. Even though I’ve been out of school for nearly a year now, I resent never having taken more political science or history courses. Or attending more school productions – which were actually really good! I hated not fitting in, even though I desperately wanted to. All my regrets about college make me despise the entire experience, making me wish I had never attended in the first place.

Maybe if I had been living authentically, I could’ve made friends (or found the gusto to transfer, despite it being my second time). Maybe I could’ve discovered a class or a professor who would’ve revolutionized my entire collegiate experience. But I played it safe, and scared – and I resent that. My biggest regret to date is not having taken the opportunity to live my life as me.

So as the Avatar quote suggests, how can I learn more if I’m unable or unwilling to empty out what I think I know about myself and the world that I live in? So I want to live as authentically as possible, even if that means living as a freak.

Communion

Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?

And who do I now choose to be? (p. 129)

- Communion with God by Neale Donald Walsch

The search for identity is something that seems to plague most people in the worst possible way. People chase after ideas, hoping to find fulfillment in these pursuits. You move to discover yourself. You dress a different way to attempt to forge an identity through clothing. The paths to identity are so numerous, it’s almost impossible to truly fathom what they all could be. In fact, I moved to “discover” myself, as if I were a lost kitten, mewing for her absent mother. But in my readings, particularly those by Neale Donald Walsch, I am slowly coming to terms with a much different idea.

You see, in most new age texts (if not all of them), the teachings suggest that life is a school, and that we’re here to learn. That everything has meaning, and that it is our task to uncover them. Trials and tribulations are tests, and if you “fail”, you merely repeat the lesson until you grasp it. This way of thinking have definitely sat well with a lot of people, and for myself, I gravitated toward that idea. I mean, I spent 22 years of my life in school, so the fact that life is a giant classroom, with quizzes and graded papers, isn’t far from my normal experience.

But – I’ve started to examine a different sort of truth. A truth that suggests that I have much more power than I originally suspected. There’s this infinitely famous idea of destiny, life purpose and fate. In fact, the idea is insanely romantic to think that we’re put on this Earth to accomplish one single goal. And it’s also incredibly overwhelming. To me, it’s created this intense desperation to find out who I am, what my talents and skills are so that I can accomplish this single task. Who am I meant to be?

It’s a question that has been burning in my skull for ages. I poured over my natal chart, took countless personality tests, and compared notes to others (albeit internally). How was I progressing? Was I further along, or getting left behind? It seems like everyone knows what they’re doing except me!  Cue the freak out, the self-consciousness, the poor sense of self. How was it that everyone else seemed to have such a greater grasp on LIFE?

Now, though, slowly I’m deciding that life isn’t a school, but it’s about Who I Am (or, Who You Are). By picking, deliberately, certain experiences, I am coming closer to my Spirit, and to figuring out what makes me who I am. Sometimes it’s difficult because I forget about choice, and instead feel more like a victim or someone who gets way too caught up in what other people are doing. A lot of the time I feel powerless, like I can’t really make the changes I want, despite how much I want them. It just requires a lot of faith.

But I’m learning, and trying in very small doses because I have to believe in myself. At least in some capacity. I’m the one who has to live my life, so I definitely want to have as much fun as possible.