Category Archives: In my opinion…

Purely observing people. i love to watch people go on with their daily lives, that’s when i realise more about myself and humanity itself.

Beyond beauty

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Beyond beauty

I had the pleasure of attending a diversity show at a local high school where my daughter was part of a dance act. The first performance of the night was a big band with belly dancers. When the women came on stage I couldn’t help noticing that their bellies were not flat. Indeed, they laid bare their jiggly bits and stretch marks. Needless to say, I was in awe.

The thing is, if you have an “imperfect” body, it’s not easy to step out in any outfit that brings attention to the “problem” areas. Society has deemed a certain body type as the only one deserving to be exposed and ogled. So, for these women to expose their midsection, in front of over a 100 folk, was brave. 

Unfortunately, most of us shudder at the possibility of such an act; preferring to hope and wait for when our bodies are just right for us to wear that dress, that bikini, those pants. In a sense, life and it’s valuable experiences pass us by as we wait on a moment that may never arrive. There is much to admire about women who may possibly not like the way their bodies look most of the time but still chose to do the thing they devoted their time and energy to, I wasn’t just watching women belly dancing and doing it well too; these women were in the arena, daring greatly (thank you Brené Brown). There is so much to our human experience that can be lost if our attention is limited to the exterior part of our being. 

“It is not my responsibility to be beautiful. I’m not alive for that purpose. My existence is not about how desirable you find me.”

– Warsan Shire 

With us having just celebrated International Women’s Day, it was great to witness a moment like this. What makes women beautiful is so commercialized that most of us cannot look in the mirror and confidently say we like what we see. Just weeks earlier, a photo of Aamito Lagum on MAC’s Instagram garnered some very racist and negative remarks. It’s like we’ve become one dimensional, choosing only to see things that fit this predetermined notion of beauty. Most of us do not fit these dimensions and struggle to contort and reshape ourselves to meet them. 

Faced with this potential judgement of who we are based on how we look, it is not surprising that our authentic selves remain hidden from the world. Who wants to put themselves out there when there’s trolls and “well meaning” friends and family with opinions to share? Having had a moment to reflect on this, it wasn’t lost on me that I am probably that friend or family member that offers unwarranted advice and opinions. It takes a concerted effort on our part to be aware of how we speak to others and what we project out in nuances. 

It is a difficult thing to ignore an instance that doesn’t live up to social norms. There is a need in us to address it and impose our egos; that includes an opinion which sometimes fails to acknowledge the strength and bravity it takes to own who we are. We’re all on a journey and that woman and her jiggly bits might be feeling great after dropping a dress size and what we say can either serve to inspire or demotivate her. We all know what energy we would prefer to receive. 

And to those women who with likely fear, still danced with beauty and grace, thank you for showing me that which I am relearning. 

“There’s more to sex appeal than just measurements. I don’t need a bedroom to prove my womanliness. I can convey just as much sex appeal picking apples off a tree or standing in the rain.”

– Audrey Hepburn

Frustration is self-pity by another name 

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Frustration is self-pity by another name 

I found this provoking line in the book I’m currently reading, Ghana must go, by Taiye Selasi; “Frustration is self pity by another name.” It peaked my interest.

Frustration noun

1. The feeling of being upset or annoyed as a result of being unable to do something.

2. A cause of dissatisfaction or annoyance.

3. The prevention of the progress, success or fulfilment of something

Self-pity noun 

Excessive concern with and unhappiness over one’s own troubles. 

Oxford English Dictionary

Feelings of frustration are fairly common in our day to day lives. We can encounter this emotion when things happen that are out of our control ( Traffic is slow due to an accident so you’re late for your meeting) or things we have control /influence over but did not adequately exercise ( You rushed through the prep for your presentation and your clients were not impressed by it). 

Our emotions are a great indicator of our current state of mind. Whist the feeling of frustration initially reveals a sense of powerlessness, a loss/lack of control over the situation, this can be temporary. How temporary it is, is a matter of choice. 

In his book, The 7 habits of highly effective people, Stephen Covey talks about Stimulus (what has happened to us) and Response and how, between the two we have a freedom to choose what our response will be. 

” Look at the word responsibility- “response-ability”- the ability to choose your response. Highly proactive people recognise that responsibility. They do not blame circumstances, conditions or conditioning for their behaviour. Their behaviour is a product of their own conscious choice, based on values, rather than a product of their conditions, based on feeling.” 

– Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. 

This is from the Habit 1, Be proactive, which I personally find the most challenging, simply because over the years I have built up habits that do not support a proactive state of being. 

Frustration can lead one to a state of acceptance, “it’s out of my hands, I’ll take on board whatever feedback comes.” or it could lead to worry and blame; ” Half of the people in the room aren’t even qualified for their jobs, they just don’t understand where I’m coming from!”

Taking responsibility for the situation you’re in allows you to regain control and with that, a movement up the emotional scale. You can continue to find people and things to blame until you have an ill-catered party for One. While our feelings are always valid in themselves, our response to them may not be. After all, would you rather feel good or feel bad? How you continue to feel afterwards is up to you. No one else suffers as much as you do when you’re frustrated or wallowing in self-pity, not even the people you hold accountable for your current state of mind. And if it is yourself you blame, there are no gains from making the situation worse by beating yourself up about it. 

So, for me frustration is the gateway to self-pity and I’ll be using Taiye’s quote as a “warning to self”. Most of us are not well trained to quickly choose a response that puts us back in control. It might take a while to identify that our response is what’s causing our frustration, more than what has happened. But if our ultimate goal is to feel good about life and about ourselves we can apply some self-compassion which will empower us to find a solution. 

“There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way.” Thick Nhat Hanh

I embrace 36! 

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I embrace 36! 

Last thoughts as a 35 year old. 
We live in a highly scripted world, where what we truly believe and know to be true of ourselves lies heavily beneath paradigms. One of those scripts is on age. There is an illogical loathe for age , an anti ageing movement within our society. 

While I am not one to still proclaim to be forever 21 or 30, I did identify a mild resistance at the arrival of each birthday after I turned 30. I started thinking about turning 36 a few months ago and my true feelings over the years about ageing. The scripted lives we live have us thinking that there is something to fear or despise about ageing mostly because the physical dimension is more elevated in our society, than thee the social, spiritual and mental part of our humanity. But when I searched my soul I realised it was more about my turning a year older without feeling like I’ve accomplished certain things. 

I searched myself for these “things” and found that I was being held captive by another script. The script tells you what you need to have acquired by a certain age and when you fall short of the expectations in the script, turning an age older might not feel fantastic. The next question that came, was “do you want any of these things”, and for the most part it was a yes. But this question opened up an even more important question “what is most important to you?” And I realised, for the most part, I have a lot of these things. They don’t all take the shape and form in the script but they are there, ready to be cherished. 

This year’s birthday is “especially” special: I was diagnosed with cancer over 5 years ago and in the cancer universe, the five year mark is a big deal. I think it is a big deal. I am exceedingly grateful and I do acknowledge that maybe this gives me a little vantage point on the gifts of ageing: the gift of wisdom, the gift of insight, the gift of second, third , fourth chances; the gift of experience. Ageing means we have Life, we get to live out our hopes, dreams and sometimes unfortunately, our worries and fears. How blessed we are to be alive, older and hopefully wiser. We get to try again or move on to a new challenge. When we ask for more time to spend with our families , to achieve our dreams, we are asking for the grace of ageing. Long life, and ageing are two ends of the same stick. You cannot pick one end without the other. 

 

So as I sit in reflection on my last day as a 35 year old, I plead with myself, to be kinder to myself, to forgive myself of the stupidity of my youth; to embrace the ageing, the challenges and to be grateful for all that love me. I embrace the tough lessons, the difficult-to-get-over life lessons. I sit in quiet expectation of the unfolding of my being, careful not to be impatient and slowly stepping out of the shadows of fear. Love is all around me, in different shapes and forms! 
I embrace 36. 

Is it true?

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Is it true?

Last night I had a lovely dinner with my dearest friend. I’m often in trainers or flat shoes but thought I’d put on a little heel for my girly night out. 

When I woke up this morning my ankle was a sore which didn’t come as a surprise (I broke it a few years back). As I made my way to the gym the stories started; 

– Was  I going to be able to run on the treadmill today? 

– Maybe I would just do a walk for 30mins instead. 

– Maybe I should reduce my weight on the machine for the leg press today or just skip it all together. 

It was a mind jumble up there. I came so close to throwing out my workout plan to work around my “ankle”. But I soon identified that I was telling myself stories again. I reminded myself that there was nothing physically wrong with my ankle. This was nothing new and without actually trying this out I wouldn’t actually know whether something was wrong. After all, I was mature enough to know when something wasn’t right.

So, I stepped on that treadmill. And lo and behold I had a better session than I’ve ever had. I have been alternating between a run and walk and on two occasions I extended my run by 30 seconds. I was enjoying it so much that I lost track of that timer.  

Just how many things am I holding myself back from because these voices in my head have created a scenario that says “don’t do this, danger lurks!”? This journey has had many light bulb moments for me and it really has become an overhaul of who I am. If you are struggling with these self-limiting stories in your fitness and nutrition, there’s every chance they are there in many facets of your life. 

If your mind tells you something that causes you to rethink your strategy ask yourself: is it true? 
Stay blessed xIMG_6514-0

“You’re not what I expected”: Tolerance of Intolerance.

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A friend of mine works as a Companion. This involves spending time with mainly older men and women who need someone to sit and chat with and on occasion, cook for them. On one of these visits she came across a client who, upon setting eyes on my dear friend, remarked that she was not what the client had expected. My friend, whom I shall call Kate, asked her what she could help with and the old lady responded that she would prefer that she leave.

Naturally, Kate felt very uncomfortable and called her office to inform her of the situation. The office instructed her to leave and that she would still be paid, rightly so. My dear friend however felt that her office should probably warn people ahead of her visit that she is …..Black!! Now I know exactly where she was coming from. She’s been through this before and in most cases the clients have been too “polite” or in greater need of company to ask her to leave. It’s an awkward and distressing situation that she would prefer to not go through again. What I don’t agree with is her or anybody else taking on the burden of someone else’s prejudices. A high melanin production is not an affliction that others need advance warning of.

Often we say that racism from the old is to be expected due to the era in which they come from . While I will agree that each generation has its prejudices and challenges I think we need to examine our response to and tolerance for this. Why do we give old people a pass when it comes to social prejudices? Would we accept this lady’s attitude had my friend been disabled for example? While this lady has every right to decide who sets foot in her home, she and others like her have to bear the burden of their discrimination. They should not be spared the opportunity to reflect on their narrow-mindedness.

Old age is a gift: the opportunity to continue to experience life and grow in mind and spirit. This unfortunate woman , with her intolerance of reality has done a disservice to herself. My friend is a beautiful human being and a brilliant cook and this lady will never know this. She may not care but I hope to reach the minds of those that do. So that as we age we don’t dig into our faults and allow them to limit our experiences. I am not advocating some sort of intervention for the elderly but I firmly believe that when we normalise such behaviour we give it room to thrive.

What disservice we do ourselves by denying ourselves the company of people because they are not like us or do not think like us. I believe that this journey we are on largely involves learning through experiences with other souls. Granted, part of living a healthy life is about identifying people who may be harmful to us. But if this profiling is based purely on appearance, generational hate and ignorance we have no right to be spared the embarrassment of our bias.

It’s never too late to change our way of thinking. Muhammad Ali had it spot on!

“A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted 30 years of his life.”

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Image courtesy of Dynamite Imagery at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Dabbling in Kindness!

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I’m constantly finding myself struggling with trying to find time for acts of of kindness and focusing on my own personal growth and issues.

There was a time I feel like the two weren’t mutually exclusive and in doing one – being mindful of the existence and needs of others- one found themselves in a state of constant growth. Lately it has been a great challenge to balance the two. I constantly find myself between periods of feelings of selfless abandon and selfish introspection. Personal growth has become more academic and prescriptive and less practical and engaging. The world on the other hand, has gotten bigger and our exposure to the number of people we need to spare a thought for has increased tremendously. The strangers with illnesses who’s pictures we are asked to “like” in order to cheer them on or to praise them for their clean bill of health occupy our newsfeed. We are now even asked to prove our faith by sharing a picture of Jesus.

I have made a conscious decision not to like any picture for which I haven’t the time or presence of mind to really spare a thought for. I feel our efforts sometimes really amount to nothing more than a guilt ridding act. We don’t really have the time or compassion to care, but that click and seeing the update in our newsfeed gives us comfort. But even that very decision feels uneasy; am I being overly analytical of what simply is a small act of kindness? Maybe it is better to have a minuscule effort than none at all?

What I do know is that today, I stopped to think about something; how I got this job initially on the basis of someone being on long term sick leave, and how they are still battling their illness. I thought about how many times, I probably moaned about waking up and how on very few occasions I spared much thought to the person who’s health situation afforded me this opportunity. And even as I did, I realised that the thought alone had no compelling effect. I don’t feel any guilt about the initial circumstances of my employment, as one knows life has an awkward sense of humour. But it did lead to me think that sparing a thought isn’t sufficient for my well being. My caring for others has been diminished to mere “spared moments” which at some point were sufficient to mask my guilt but over time has also contributed to my lack of tangible growth. While I may spare kind thoughts and engage in philosophical discussions on the grand issues of poverty, healthcare, I’m lacking on the acting part of it.

Its’s not that we spend a large amount of time on things that have little or no impact on the real life we live. Somehow social media has become the real life and the physical world we inhabit,a mere inconvenience and so we engage in little or no charitable efforts ; after all we liked and shed a few tears on the post of a dog that died saving a child.

Im hoping to do something I can be proud of this 2014.

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Lesson learned

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Some people will settle for a pound as long as they don’t have to work for it.
never mind , if they got up each morning they could make a £100 more!
It all depends what angle you’re coming from, what your objective is .
That determines how high you’ll climb or how low you’ll stoop.
Everyone has a price, yes.
But not everyone is of value!