Recently at a lunch to celebrate Black History Month, a choir sang a simple but powerful song by Israel Houghton "Going to Another Level".
The lyrics are minimalist: I'm going to another level. Don't stop reaching. Keep believing. Come on. We're going to another level. Don't stop pressing for your blessing. Come on. We're going to another level. Gotta keep pressing on.
It got me thinking...what if this was my response to life? What if I encouraged everyone, those for me and those against me, to take it to the next level?
The next level is subjective for everyone, but the point is that we can encourage one another to make progress towards positivity. This might require some work on our part...we may have to work hard to get to the next level. But sometimes, a little encouragement is exactly the boost we need. Sometimes a little constructive criticism is the boost we need.
It is about using WHATEVER you are given to advance yourself for the better. This is not a selfish act but rather a selfless act. No one may ever recognize your improvements but you have to keep pressing on, keep believing in yourself, and keep reaching. Say it and mean it - I am going to another level.
The pufferfish is the second most poisonous vertebrate in the world. Some organs of the fish, such as the liver, are extremely toxic, and can be deadly. The poison in the fish, known as tetrodotoxin, can cause numbness, high blood pressure, and muscle paralysis, which is what leads to death as the diaphragm muscles become paralyzed, disabling breathing.
Pufferfish cannot be found in the United States but many in Korea as well as Japan find some parts of the fish to be delicacies (as fugu).
Why am I writing about pufferfish?
Some people in our lives are pufferfish. No matter how we treat them, they will be toxic to us. They will numb us, paralyze us, and can even kill us. We simply lack the patience for processing them or cannot learn the proper technique.
Do not be afraid to let these people go. You may have caught them on accident but rest assured, there is someone in the world who will be happy to consume them - they will even consider that person to be a "delicacy", the "one", the "best". You do not have to keep struggling.
We do not all have the time to specially process the pufferfish. Let someone else exhaust themselves through the careful processing of the pufferfish and present them as the perfect delicacy.
No needs to point out how close to toxicity those are who deal with the pufferfish are on a daily basis. Everyone knows it. Even in its beautiful state below, the puffer fish is in the shape of a Chrysanthemum, otherwise known in Japanese culture as the symbol of death.
In 2008, Lance DeViney said to me "Bhakti...well, despite how things might have been going, you often had a great smile and were a breath of fresh air."
It is amazing how quickly the compliments of others can fade away. Life starts to happen and someone comes into life and chases away the memories that should sustain us forever. It is true. There are so many people whose memories have lasted with me and this was not one until I looked back at some early Facebook posts. One good thing social media can do for us is create a time capsule of memories - good and bad of what others said to us and what we said to others.
It has been over 8 years since I have seen or talked to Lance DeViney, a experienced and respected engineer in my professional career field. Looking back on his simple words made me smile. During a period of my life when I was stationed overseas for the first time, newly married, extremely far from home, a new mother, learning a new job, achieving a masters degree amongst other new and strange things, I learned many hard lessons and I still managed to thrive. I always believed in the possibility of today and tomorrow.
This same spirit has carried me through some tough times - some self imposed and others simply endured. It is the idea that we keep trying no matter what. Regardless of what is going on or what has happened or what is about to happen, find a way to always learn and be excellent. Harness your meraki and find a way to survive and to live to thrive in another moment. Never give up!
When life is off balance, it is hard to enjoy it. Sometimes just the smallest action can reset things. More often than not, we refuse to awaken and act and then wonder why things have generally stayed the same or gotten worse. Tipping the balance in a positive direction requires mindfulness, self analysis and ego dismissal. Begin your balancing act now. In this moment, be more awake, aware, and unafraid than you have ever been. Look around you and assess your surroundings with clarity. Recognize whether someone or something is part of the solution or part of the problem. Then act. Time is of the essence....victims are dismissed, warriors welcome!
In Chapter 3 of Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg discusses the levels of likeability experienced by successful women. Unfortunately for most women, achieving great success comes at a cost to likeability. But as Mark Zuckerberg told Sheryl Sandberg in her first review "If you do please everyone, you aren't making enough progress".
What is important to you? How do you define success? Will being liked hold you back?
Women temper their professional goals so they can be liked by others. They question abilities they have worked hard to develop and they doubt the achievements they have earned as a result of their abilities.
Can women be both nurturing and competent? I argue that the role of nurturing may be applicable in the home but in the professional realm, competency is what should really count. Our minds are not programmed to separate the two.
How do you perceive a successful woman? What does she wear? What does she say? What does she do at work? At home? Do you like her or resent her?
One thing is certain. To increase our chances of success, we must develop the requisite competency and we must do the job. We must use criticism to motivate and correct our path. We must be open to jumping, taking risks, seizing opportunities, and creating opportunities around ourselves.
In Chapter 2 of Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg discusses the most common reaction of women to praise: self-doubt. Self-doubt is a form of self-defense. We doubt ourselves so we can beat others to the punch and so we can increase the odds of being liked. We shy away from praise due to feelings of guilt about the accomplishments we have worked so hard to achieve.
The #NowBelieveIt video shows how to respond differently and confidently to praise. Instead of underestimating ourselves, we can choose to believe the praise being offered and use it to propel us even further.
As women, we tend to attribute failure to a lack of ability and credit success globally. We have to learn to assess our abilities in a realistic manner Credit women for their achievements instead of always looking for all the external contributing factors.
Guide yourself with an affirmation:
I believe in my skills and abilities. Although I face scenarios that may stretch my capabilities, I am not always headed in a negative trajectory. My success comes from hard work. It also comes from help from others. I am grateful to those who give me opportunities and support me. I believe in myself! I will welcome those who encourage, promote and champion me and I will demonstrate this behavior towards others.
Challenge the notion that you are always headed in a negative trajectory. Be confident in taking risks and put yourself forward.
Sit at the table!
I am thankful to no longer be surrounded by chronic and destructive criticism. Looking back, constantly expending energy to protect my self esteem was exhausting over the years. Now I am free to pursue acts of compassion, happiness, self-love, and connections with positive friends and family. (2016 self realization)
Now how did I come to be in a place where I had to protect my self esteem and where negativity was a daily part of my life?
In my particular situation, I was romantically involved with an individual who was chronically critical and judgmental towards himself and others. I am not here to rehash all the ways he exhibited this behavior; generally it seemed that fault finding was his behavioral pattern. I am here to learn from this experience and share those lessons with you.
In order to sustain a happy life, you must establish and then protect your self esteem. I had to protect my self esteem during these difficult times. Everyone must protect their self esteem from the judgment that you and others impose provided they have established a sound and positive foundation of self.
At the time, I thought I had a healthy self esteem but upon further examination, I had some work to do to attain an optimal level of self love. Once I was no longer in this relationship, I felt free to be myself. Why did I stop being myself? In so many ways, I was trying to please someone else. While this can be an important mission, there is balance between pleasing someone and losing yourself.
In order to feel good about ourselves, we have to stop the habitual criticism of self and others. This can be difficult if we are closely involved with someone who exhibits this behavior. Incidentally, this guy also thought that others were always criticizing him or looking down on him. This is what he did to others and it was not true that everyone criticized him, or berated him, or wanted to somehow destroy him.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." But that is easier said than done. Some of us learned as children to reaffirm what people told us about ourselves. If our parents criticized us all the time, we then thought what they said was true and perhaps that habit has migrated to adulthood without you actually realizing it.
Make negative (nonconstructive criticism) irrelevant to your self-esteem. There is a reason it is called "self" "esteem". You must build yourself up! Every day, someone certainly can make us feel small but we must strive to stop the permanent endorsement of negative labels and judgments. Stop watching others and critiquing them! Stop enabling others to exhibit this behavior towards you. If you exhibit this behavior towards yourself, commit to changing. Insert a compliment for every criticism until you break the bad habit.
Certainly use constructive criticism and sound advice to become your best self. Surround yourself with people who drive you to be your very best. Don't be naive to the patterns in those you choose to surround yourself with. You can do this any number of ways but I recommend writing as an effective way to remember experiences and to connect the dots.
What happens when you are excited to embark on a journey and your family does not support you or even encourage you?
Your family and closest friends are the people you count on to be there for you no matter what. But sometimes, we have to take some personal steps and do things a little bit differently when we are embarking on a new and positive journey.
1) FIND A LIKE MIND. Seek out someone who is already doing what you want to do and ask them to be a mentor or adviser. At some point, this may turn into a friendship, but initially it just helps to talk to someone who knows what you are trying to do and can relate to it. They can be that positive sounding board you are looking for.
2) CHECK YOUR REACTION. Examine how you react to this lack of support and strengthen your inner core (your mind). Find a positive way to process the lack of support such as meditation, working out, etc. Remember you can't control their response but you can control yours! You will emerge a stronger person if you can negative inputs into positive outputs.
3) HONOR YOUR INTENTION. Write your thoughts down. By the time you are done writing, you will be in a better space to move forward. This also allows you to track the trends in someone's behavior towards you and your reaction to their behavior. Finally always write an intention for going forward at the end of each entry and try to keep this intention in mind for future interactions.
4) EMPOWER YOURSELF. Be decisive. Sometimes friends or family feel the need to help you make a decision and this can be confused with just supporting you. How many times have you told someone something and you just want them to listen instead of trying to always provide advice? Just make a decision and then discuss your decision. Make it abundantly clear what path you are on.
5) ELEVATE YOUR UNDERSTANDING. Try to understand why the person is behaving the way they are. It may have nothing to do with you and the sooner you understand that, the sooner you can frame their perspective as it relates to your journey. As a part of this, reflect on why you desire their support and if you really need it. Is a lack of self-love driving your need for support from others? Ask the hard questions. This understanding can help you change your approach to the important people in your life.
Have you ever felt a sense of guilt when you accomplished something? It is the feeling that people are going to look at you with jealousy or with some sort of disdain due to your recent success. This feeling is usually followed by the act of downplaying your success. The fear of failure is often discussed more than the fear of success. Let's ask the difficult questions.
Will success make me less likeable? Will I be unable to find someone to love me once I become too successful? Will the ones that love me now be intimidated by my success? Am I worthy of success? Do I fear the thing that I want? Will people want or expect more from me when I become successful?
First, success is relative to you. You define your success. The act of comparative thinking is never good. When we compare ourselves to others, we cannot help but be dissatisfied. I once dated a guy who was always comparing my accomplishments to his and other's accomplishments to his and as a result, he always felt inadequate. There was nothing I could do about it. Even when I tried to celebrate with him a success he had achieved, it was always overshadowed by a comparison to someone else. At the same time, every time I had an opportunity to achieve something that required his buy-in or support, this boyfriend was the first to find a reason why I should not take the first step. After a while, it became an exhausting exercise in ego boosting. As a victim of comparative thinking by yourself and by others, your success becomes downplayed or envied, not celebrated.
Yes, it is true that when you do achieve personal success, some of your relationships will change. But you worked hard for your success. If those around you are unhappy about your success, that is their problem. Be present in your success and enjoy it.
Even feel free to share your success with others guilt free. The right person will feel motivated by your accomplishments, not intimidated or inadequate.
Now and then it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy. - Guillaume Apollinaire
Ms. Bhakti Mary
I am an optimistic, positive, generous and driven author who is passionate about self-improvement.
The essence of who you are does not lie in the past. What matters is what you are willing to do NOW. You are the presence.