One Step at a Time

I managed to survive the first week of the LJ IDOL writing competition! This week’s prompt is “The Missing Stair”. Below is my interpretation. If you enjoy, please consider checking back on Tuesday when I post a link to vote for me in the comment section. Thank you for reading!  – M

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In my, not so humble, opinion I feel that society is on a steady decline. We are a society of judgments, hateful remarks, ‘brutal honesty”, and the neverending need to be ‘better’ than someone else. We laugh at others mistakes, we extort others faults and the term ‘bullying’ is as prevalent in our vocabulary as the word potato (probably even more so). We tend to let others opinions on politics, religion, lifestyle that are different than ours to dictate the type of person that they are in our minds and determine whether or not we’d like to allow them into our lives. People are no longer thought of as human beings…they are labels created by very small stereotypical parts of their personalities.

If you are like me, you want no part in being a part of a society of that nature.

Self-reflection can be one of the most difficult and life-changing experiences that we can/will go through. At times, it is unavoidable but it is the times that we choose to become more aware that we will truly see the benefit. It’s also the first step in finding true happiness and contentment in your life.

“I know who I am.”

“I know what I like.”

“I don’t need to reflect to know about myself, I’m who I am and that’s that!”

“I’m not being judgmental or hateful… it’s just my opinion. So what?”

I certainly was (and still, on occasion, am) someone who thought I knew myself inside and out. I liked what I liked. I had opinions/judgments on topics and people that came naturally so why would I even consider researching where these ideas came from?

The reason is that I started to see how I wasn’t much different from the societal norm. I couldn’t figure out why I felt the need to remark on someone’s appearance or behavior when it was less than a positive response. I couldn’t understand why I was letting other’s choices create negativity, stress, disdain and anger in my life when their choices honestly had no effect on me personally. It was then that I realized, if you are not part of the ‘solution’ then you are most likely part of the problem. I don’t want to be the societal norm..and I certainly don’t want to be a problem, do you?

It was around this time that I began to study Buddhism. I submerged myself in books about finding true happiness and understanding the workings of the mind. I listened to Eckhardt Tolle describe the ego. I took in teachings from the local Kadampa temple. I learned so much about self-reflection and understanding why my thoughts were going in the direction that they were.  It is quite a liberating experience to be able to step back and look at your thoughts as impermanent rather than defining fact.

Stepping out of your comfort zone is difficult. Considering the idea that you may be on equal ground with others that are different than you, may make you feel vulnerable. Is feeling vulnerable for a short time a worse feeling than the feelings of stress, anger, resentment or critical judgments? I don’t think so. We all have felt these emotions at one point or another… and some of us feel them on a daily basis. The natural and easiest response is for us to blame others for these feelings being stirred up within ourselves. Is it really another person’s fault that you feel a certain way? Truth be told, no. This is where self-reflection can change your life. It certainly has mine.

For example, we all know someone who will take a photo or post a meme of a stranger who they feel is not dressed appropriately for their body type. This sets off a long “discussion” of insults… each person trying to come up with a better insult for the person in the image. As a poster or participant in the conversation… what could the tangible reason be for saying or posting hate-fueled material? What has the stranger in this image done that was so deserving of your negative reaction. YOU do not know the stranger’s circumstances. YOU assume he/she chose their attire because he/she felt it was attractive. YOU do not find it attractive. It would seem the person with the actual problem in the matter is YOU.

Anytime that you realize you are feeling a negative emotion toward someone else for ANY reason, step back and consider why you are feeling that emotion. More often than not, you will find that you have no real tangible reason to feel the negativity toward the other person.

Can you imagine how many of today’s societal problems could be solved if more people examined themselves before acting upon their instinctual emotions?

I am far from perfect and I still have my moments when I forget to stop and reflect before acting but they have become much less frequent. Social media (Facebook in particular for me) is a breeding ground for negativity. It is easy to get sucked into a conversation about a current event, celebrity, “friend’s” behavior, etc. and find yourself expressing judgments, hateful insults, self-righteous banter, etc.  If you notice that you often find yourself in the middle of a debate, feeling frustrated with other people, especially people you don’t know personally, it may be time to ask yourself why you are putting yourself through those emotions. A few things that I’ve found helped me on Facebook are:

– Blocking certain people from my News Feed. I do not necessarily want to not be friends with them but their posts often leave me feeling less than happy.

– Removing Celebrity Gossip pages

– Removing local and national News pages (you can still be in the know by watching the news or reading the newspaper online. Avoid the comment threads!)

– Removing pages created solely to mock or evoke negativity. A perfect example of this is People of Walmart. Some pages are harder to recognize as negativity breeding grounds. Gawker, for example, is a ‘news’ site, however it is put together as editorial matter based on opinion. I found the writers to be very negative in their views..even when I tended to agree with their basic points. Basically, if a page makes you laugh at someone (who isn’t a comedian), feel angry, frustrated, irritated, etc. remove it. Learn your tolerance points!

– Following pages that post motivational and inspirational stories, news, etc. 
A GREAT one is The Optimism Revolution!

– Remembering that each and every one of us wants the same thing in life… to be happy! We are on this journey together, though on different paths and at different distances. No one received a rulebook straight out of the womb and each one of us has to make the rules for ourselves as we go. Show compassion to those who seem to have run into a roadblock… don’t worsen their conditions with negativity.

Becoming fully aware of oneself is like climbing a seemingly neverending staircase toward the well lit “PURE HAPPINESS” door at the top. Each day offers you an opportunity for a new stair to take one step closer to the door. Have you taken your first step or are you still missing the stair?

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Express Your Self(ie)

I had been waiting to find the perfect ‘blog’ topic to write about for my first post here. Thanks to a wonderfully written blog at www.KristenDuvall.com, I think I’ve found it.

You can’t be on any social media website without seeing your peers, friends or family posting a selfie. For me, selfies started back in the heyday of Myspace. It seemed every week (sometimes every day) the popular thing to do was to post a photo of yourself. Typically the photos were taken at an awkward angle that is meant to give the impression that you are ‘artistic’ or ‘thinner’ than you are but in actually just make you look like a bobble head doll.

When I originally started taking selfies it was more because it was the ‘popular’ thing to do moreso than looking for validation or to stroke my ego. At first I thought nothing of it but the older that I got the more I started noticing that some of my friends would post multiple photos that looked exactly the same. It started to become a nuisance on my Facebook feed, so much so to the point where I would even block people from my newsfeed. I started to realize that if I was becoming tired of seeing my friends’ faces then surely people out there were becoming tired of seeing MY mug. At that point I decided that I would back off from the daily ‘selfies’ and only post them if there was something really important that I wanted to share with everyone or if I was feeling particularly good about myself.

When the idea of looking back at your old selfies and showing a progression of where you’ve been came up, I was very thankful that I hadn’t completely cut out the selfie habit! I had a great trip down memory lane this morning as I looked through all of my old profile pics. I encourage everyone to do the same! If you’re anything like me, you’ll run though a gamut of emotions (hopefully mostly good)!

Here’s my journey from 2008 to present…
2008
Aug 2008
August 2008 – I had just gotten my first flat iron and was starting to come into myself. I had just split up from a relationship that I had believed would be my last.
Dec 2008
December 2008 – I chopped off all of my hair and finally ditched my glasses for contacts. I had also joined a gym and was feeling pretty darn snazzy 🙂

2009
Oct 2009
October 2009 – I was having a great time enjoying my singlehood!

2010
Feb 2010.jpgJan 2010
January and February 2010 – I had been going to the gym for a little over a year and was feeling really great with myself. I was very much into the outdoors, still single and going adventuring almost every weekend. Wishing I had someone to adventure with though.

March2010.jpg
March 2010 – I started hanging out with this guy. Brian was one of the first guys I had met in almost 2 years of singlehood that I felt a real connection with.  And now he’s my fiance 🙂

March2010 (2).jpg
March 2010 – This photo is probably more important to me now than it was at the time. Looking back I  notice how silly I was to be taking photos of myself in a movie theater bathroom..but at the same time knowing why I was since (imo) my body looks pretty darn good after that year + of gym 🙂

July 2010
July 2010 – This photo was taken the weekend that I told Brian I loved him for the first time 🙂

2011
Jan 2011 (2).jpg July 2011
January and July 2011 – It would seem that a lot of my self confidence comes in how my hair looks. These are probably two of my favorite selfies.

2012
March 2012November 2012
March and November 2012 – late in November I had to go back to wearing glasses because my contacts were annoying me…I also started losing interest in “doing” my hair. I know this doesn’t seem of utmost importance but these days I have a lot of self confidence issues and I feel like I can almost pinpoint late 2012 as being a point when I started to ‘let myself go’. I had a lot of stress at that time with buying a new home and I think I just lost my way. There were a lot less selfies in 2012 than any other year up to this point.

2013
May 2013
May 2013 – This year there were very few pictures of me unless they were sweaty after an exercise class. These are the times I felt/feel best about myself.

I notice a trend in looking at these photos. It is when I feel the best about myself that I truly feeling like sharing ‘me’ with the world. That has fallen to the wayside over the last year but hopefully 2014 will bring a more confident Mindy with a lot more selfies 🙂

What does your journey look like in selfies? Please consider commenting with a link to your “Selfie” blog, I’d love to see it!

Thanks for reading! Also, if you are to know any more about me I also have a website dedicated to my “journey to health”… check out mindygetshealthy.wordpress.com if you are interested!