"We are very good lawyers for our own mistakes, but very good judges for the mistakes of others."
Judge your mother.
Yeah, you read that correctly. JUDGE. YOUR. MOTHER.
I’ve been working on this particular blog piece, well, since forever and couldn't figure out how to start it off. I was certain of the message I wanted to convey but felt that starting it off with such a sharp statement may not have been the best approach. After trying to find a softer approach for broaching this subject it finally hit me. DUH!! Just say what’s on your mind. I mean, that is the only way that people will know what you’re thinking right? So, yes, judge your mother. 😜
We live in a world so full of opinions and platforms for which those opinions can be shared that people now see expressing said opinions as a birth right. Even right now, in this very post, I am taking the time to merely provide you with my opinion about people and their opinions. How ironic right? Even worse than the available platforms is that this ability has turned so many of us into know-it-alls on subjects that we aren’t the least bit qualified to talk on. Our judgement of others is often done swiftly and harshly without any consideration given about how our conveyance of such opinions may impact the person on the receiving end of our unrequested thoughts. Pure facts are rarely given the value in this process that they deserve because, well who needs facts right? 🙄
We are born with an innate need to feel accepted and loved. We do things to make our parents happy because we need them to love us. We establish friendships based on our need to feel included and supported. If we are honest, and yes, honesty matters, even as adults being accepted matters. In building meaningful relationships we seek out people who affirm all of the good things that we see ourselves as. Sadly finding a high level of acceptance often means altering a part of our true identity in a effort to maintain these relationships. This is where I have chosen to exit stage left. I will not alter who I am at my core to be liked by someone else. Every aspect of who I am is worthy of being shared with those who will appreciate it. Asking me to present something other than who I am is requesting me to be a fraud and, nah, I’m not interested in that. Would you really want to be friends with someone who required that you hair be dyed a certain color. You would never ask someone to undergo medical procedures to alter their height for the sake of building a relationship. And God forbid somebody refuse your friendship unless you change your skin color. Why then do you think it necessary for me to cover up, delete or fake any aspect of who I am because it doesn’t measure up to your standard. Girl bye! 😏
Growing up the opinions of others meant everything to me and I mean EVERYTHANG!! Now, before you even start to tell the lie that you were not like that growing up, LET’S JUST NOT! I am certain that some may be able to say that what others thought of them only had a mild impact on their day to day living but that is definitely NOT my story. The opinions of others RULED my life. Seriously!! Being validated by family and friends was my only focus. There was a constant chasing of the affirmations of others and, to put it mildly, it was draining. Even worse was that I did not truly understand the effects that this constant quest for approval was having on me. Worrying about the opinions of others impacted everything from my health to my overall happiness. Thankfully I have grown to understand that this system of valuing how others judged me above all else was not what living life was all about . Life is about choices and I’m just at a point where I’m choosing my peace and sanity over seeking the approval of others in every decision that I make. I’d love to make EVERYONE happy with EVERY choice I make in life but I have come to accept that striving to please everyone is surely not Gods will for my life. Trust me, it’s not for yours either. Let me be clear, I am a firm believer in making sacrifices in life for the greater good. Goals and the path of achieving them require sacrifice. Me being embraced and appreciated by someone does not. While I think we all would love to be accepted and loved by everyone we encounter I’m just no longer interested in sacrificing my truest self for that love and acceptance. No person or thing is worth that to me.😎
I vividly remember preparing to enter middle school. By that time all of my friends had permed hair. I was still holding my ears down once a week while my grandmother pressed my hair out in her kitchen. I desperately wanted permed hair. My mother insisted that I didn’t need a perm. Eventually she gave in and I got the perm. My hair has never been the same since. I haven't had a perm in nearly 20 years and right now you could not pay me to get another one. I wanted the perm because “EVERYBODY” had one or so it seemed to my teenage mind. When I got to high school and reached the point of preparing for college I remember not having the same joy of heading off to college as many of my friends did because I wasn’t going far away. My collegiate experience would not include packing up my life and living on campus. I’d always known what I wanted to do in life and I was proud to tell anyone who inquired that I was going to school to be a funeral director. My pride would always diminish when I explained that I was going to the University of the District of Columbia because community college……. It didn’t matter that my career path involved learning a skill that most people can’t stomach because it also involved confessing that I would only be attaining and Associates Degree while all of my college bound friends (as if I weren’t going to college too) would be graduating with Bachelors Degrees. For me that equated to some level of failure. I was young and FOOLISH! In both situations I judged myself according to what everyone else was doing. I failed to acknowledge that what I had and what I was doing was enough for me and did not have to measure up to anyones expectations. I was so busy trying to put myself in a position to say “me too” that I destroyed my hair (I’m honestly grateful to still have my edges). In allowing myself to feel “less than” I couldn’t even appreciate that while my friends where racking up student loan debt I was obtaining a degree gaining licensure with very minimal debt. I am so grateful for growth and perspective.😃
Taking the time to realize that I was unhappy with me (or the me that I was projecting) and being honest enough to peel back the onion of why I felt the need to project an untrue version of myself was not an easy process but it was VERY necessary. Years of therapy helped me to understand my inability to consider my own thoughts about myself to the same degree that I considered the opinions of others. I failed to see the value in who I was because who I was had no real value if the people I love, respected and admired did not see the same value. I realized that my fear of being judged by others was so strong that I was instinctively doing whatever was necessary to convey what was seen as “acceptable” by the people I looked up to. It didn’t matter if the acceptable actions where contrary to my core beliefs. The only thing that mattered to me was fitting in and not being rejected. My sense of pride was rooted in making other people happy with no care given to allowing myself to be genuinely happy. Where is the joy in that? This process of better understanding myself also lead me down a path to realizing what made me happy and provided me an opportunity to find peace. Once I was able to clearly articulate what happiness and peace meant to me I had to develop a plan for maintaining this new found space because I was finally able to understand that I too had great value. I was finally at a point where the opinions of others were not able to rule me. Maintaining this new found peace required me to accept that my purpose in life is not to meet the expectations of others. My purpose, just like yours, is so much greater than that. I was not created simply to be validated by another person.🙃
As we age the difference is that we learn to navigate people a little better. We stop subjecting ourselves to the people who want a filtered version of who we are and open ourselves up to the people who will embrace us in our purest fashion. This doesn't mean that we are surrounded by people who are not telling us the harsh truths about ourselves. If the people closest to you aren't telling you when they don’t agree with you or correcting you when you’re out of line or strongly encouraging you to work a little harder at reaching your goals then let me suggest to you that these are not your friends and you should probably start interviewing new friends immediately. The difference is in the delivery. My friends and I don’t always see eye to eye. We ague different perspectives on an issue often and many of our daily habits involve drastic differences with problem solving. Our friendships remain solid because we don’t judge each other for our differences. We don’t discontinue friendships over trivial matters because we recognize that strong friendships are not built based on similarities in personality or forcing someone to mirror our every personality trait. True friendship is made strong when each person is able to be their no added flavors or preservatives, all natural selves. In this new phase of life I’m committed to not being caught up in the judgement of others. I am totally in love with the person that I am. It may not always fall in line with the opinions and expectations of others but so long as my heart is pure and I know that God is pleased with me I could not care less about what another human thinks about me. Sure, the judgmental people will always take time to make clear what their stance is on any given subject matter. That’s not something anyone should waste energy on. Whenever someone makes an attempt to be judgmental with me my response is simply, well, JUDGE YOUR MOTHER 😉
Valerie M. Grant
"Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better"
- Maya Angelou
We all want to be people who are free to do those things that set our souls on fire and allow us to make our permanent residences in our most happiest of places. But life, real life, doesn't always work like that. More often than not we do the things that must be done and find ways to push through when those things don't really tickle our fancy. The things that we are most passionate about get pushed to the side or worked on in the hours that we should be resting or spending quality time with family and friends. Sadly many people, myself included, spend so much of our time and energy working on things that we have zero passion about that we eventually find ourselves in a space where we stop giving any consideration to purposeful living. Enough is enough!!
A few years ago I decided to publish the children's books that I'd written. Let me first clarify that I never set out to be an author it just sort of happened. When it came time to sell the books the natural next step was to set up a website to make it easier for people to purchase the books at their leisure. When the website traffic slowed down I figured that the best way to keep people engaged was to blog and of course logic said if you're writing books for children draw in their parents by writing blogs about parenting children. Makes perfect sense right? WRONG!! While I enjoy writing, writing about the thing I am not (a parent) fundamentally makes no sense to me. I do firmly believe that it is possible to provide an alternative perspective on something that you have not experienced first hand but consistently giving advice to parents about how to raise their children just felt like trying to instruct the fish of the sea on how to swim. Attempting to figure out what to write about was DRAINING and no amount of will power made me eager to write. Eventually the website went without being properly cared for. Blog post were far and few in-between. I even started another blog site, The Day After Death, dedicated to helping people who are grieving but the burden of maintaining this website and the concern of posting too much there and not here, slowed down my posting there as well. At the heart of my struggle was that I didn't love what I was doing, there was no passion driving me to maintain the site and post on a consistent basis.
During a conversation with a few magical entrepreneurs I finally allowed my true feelings an opportunity to be heard and was immediately asked the question "WHY??". Why was I doing something that did not provide a single spark for my soul? Why did it take so long to admit it? In that moment I couldn't figure out if I was more embarrassed that I was doing something that I lacked passion for or that I had no real answer for any of the "why's" that my peers were asking. IMMEDIATELY I stopped! I stopped pretending that I was ok with what I had been doing in this space. I stopped making any attempt at writing anymore blog posts. It no longer mattered to me if people frequently visited the site or not. I NEEDED, in this space, to figure out what I was passionate about and what sharing that passion with others would look like.
The interesting part about taking time to ask yourself why about one area of your life is that, if you are doing sincere introspection, you begin to ask yourself why about other areas of your life. For me it got to a point where I started to evaluate EVERYTHING about how I was currently living my life and I needed answers! Why had I set certain goals for myself, why was I unable to be consistent in some areas of my life, why was I allowing fear to hold me back and why had I allowed myself to settle into the place of simply living instead of fulfilling purpose? While taking a seat in this space of introspection was not the most comfortable it has been the most necessary seat that I have ever taken. Not only was I able to see just how much I was doing without any real reason for doing it, I was also able to understand what I needed to do in order to get back to living in and on purpose.
Getting to this place is not an easy task and you have to be willing to put in the work. For me the first thing that I had to do was get over the frustration of acknowledging just how much time and energy I had been wasting on things that had nothing to do with my purpose. There is nothing more annoying for me than having to admit that I could have made better use of my time. I'm sure that we all wish that we could find a way to make what happened in Back To The Future possible in real life and I'm even more certain that I am not the only one with things that I would change if given the time to do them over but neither are possible. What is possible is making the necessary corrections so that no additional time is wasted. The challenge for me personally was finding that sweet spot of both being productive and taking time to enjoy the moment. Yes, I want to be my most productive self but I also want to be able to enjoy the fruits of my labor.
Once I was able to move on from my frustrations the next step was to take time to fully understand where I was. Sure, physically I knew exactly where I was so no worries there. At the time I was completing a degree while working as an independent funeral director. Despite not putting in the proper amount of time and energy into we websites sales were still pretty good. I had the flexibility of my time to basically do what I felt was most important at any given moment. If I needed to take care of personal things like doctors appointments or grocery shopping I didn't have to worry about submitting a leave slip for anyones approval. If I needed to take a nap in the middle of day I didn't have to search for a hiding space where my boss wouldn't find me (don't act like you haven't done it before). I simply determined where I wanted to take the nap and lay down there. Based on the control I seemed to have over my schedule day to day there was no reason for me to feel as frustrated as I did about my life and yet I did! The reality was that in the midst of all of this assumed freedom I was simply allowing life to happen. Ironically during the times where I had no control of the majority of my time I found the energy to maximize every moment in the quest to have more control but once I reach a point of control it was as if I had given up on the desire to truly maximize it. How did I get here?
Now that I am over the frustrations and am fully aware of where I am and the role I played in getting there I have taken the time to map out realistic short and long term goals for myself. Do I always meet them 100%? Of course not but I am discouraged. I am clear on what my purpose is both in general and within this specific place. I understand the work that is required to grow from where I am currently to where I am now and I am willing to put in the work. I know that over the course of my life I will find it necessary to take a seat in this space SEVERAL times because, well, life happens but I am also confident that by taking time to ask myself why instead of simply running on autopilot I will avoid wasting valuable time on things that have nothing to do with my purpose. I encourage you all to take time to make similar assessments from time to time. We each have a purpose and we have to be willing to love ourselves enough to do what ever is necessary to walk in it.
So what is my purpose within this space? So glad you asked. My purpose is to encourage others as I encourage myself. If you follow me on Instagram you know that I post a "Note To Self" on both my personal and business pages. They started as a way to encourage myself through a variety of situations. Over the course of time I have received numerous messages from friends and people that I have never met telling me how much they were encouraged by the posts. This blog space will be an extension of those social media post. Hopefully through this space you will be encouraged that you are not alone and that whatever the challenge is it can be overcome.
Valerie M. Grant
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