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Posts tagged self acceptance
Helping the H U R T
Images by Abbey Armstrong Photography  Color edited by me

Images by Abbey Armstrong Photography

Color edited by me

Hurt people hurt people. That’s how pain patterns get passed on, generation after generation. Break the chain today. Meet anger with sympathy, contempt with compassion, cruelty with kindness. Greet grimaces with smiles. Forgive and forget about finding fault. Love is the weapon of the future.

In the Babemba tribe of South Africa, when a person acts irresponsibly or unjustly, he is placed in the center of the village, alone and unrestrained. All work stops, and every man, woman, and child in the village gathers in a large circle around this individual.

Next, each person in the tribe speaks to the individual, one at a time, each recalling the good things the person in the center of the circle has done in his/her lifetime. Every incident, every experience that can be recalled with any detail and accuracy, is recounted.  All his/her positive attributes, good deeds, strengths, and kindnesses are recited carefully and fully.  This tribal ceremony often lasts for several days.

At the end, the tribal circle is broken, a joyous celebration occurs, and the person is symbolically and literally welcomed back into the tribe.

HOW BEAUTIFUL IS THAT.

I’ll go ahead and answer my own question: phenomenally beautiful

We all know hurt people hurt people, right? If you didn’t realize that then, well, now you know. It’ll explain A LOT on why people do what they do.

If people are acting a fool and are being rude/unkind/inconsiderate/nasty/etc, it’s because they’re not right with themselves. They’re insecure/traumatized/etc. They’re so consumed by pain and negativity, they have little to no capacity for empathy and love. And since anger feels better than pain/shame, people lash out. Here are some examples of people masking their pain/insecurity with hatorade:

  • An employee vilifying their boss for not promoting them

  • A jealous person blaming the other woman/man for “seducing” their partner (“You homewrecker! You ruined my relationship!”)

  • A business owner demonizing a competitor

  • An individual reviling a provider of well-intentioned constructive feedback

We could go pretty deep here exploring the many elements to this, but suffice it to say: Hurt people hurt people.

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I’m grateful I realized this truth early on in my life. It’s softened the blow when I’ve had venom spit my way, or faced betrayal. Don’t get it twisted: it can still sting, but at least I understand the cause, and know not to take it personally. That’s crazy liberating. It’s like there’s an invisible bubble protecting your sense of self worth, deflecting the hate and doubt from permeating.

And just because you empathize with the causes of someone’s negative behavior doesn’t mean you condone it. That’s where boundaries come in. You can still love them while making it clear certain words/actions are unacceptable.

And also - and this can really bite the big one - be wise and humble enough to recognize the truth bombs in negative feedback. Sure, that person’s delivery could REALLY USE SOME FRIGGIN’ POLISHING, but try to remain open. Try not to shy away from reflection. View it as an opportunity to become even more of an allstar. If the feedback hit a nerve, that right there reveals an unhealed part of you. Lean into it. Figure out why.

And maybe the affected nerve is the one of caring too much of others’ opinions, and requiring external validation. The key to making it through the cleansing - but often brutal - fire of negativity-inspired self reflection is to operate on a solid foundation of self love. Knowing your shadows don’t define/control you, and neither do others’ opinions. Knowing you’re strong enough to brave the blows and use them to become even STRONGER and more self aware. Knowing you can directly face the negativity and extract what you need to evolve and get better, not bitter. This comes from loving yourself through ALL of your phases, even the ones where you feel beaten down or less than. You may not feel you’re quite there yet, but it is absolutely within your reach.

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The hardest thing in the entire world is to remain kind even when people aren’t. Remain honest even when you’re met with lies. Remain good even when things go terribly. And above all, understand the pain and heartbreak you feel isn’t a reflection of something you’ve done wrong or anything you lack. When people hurt you that means there is pain within them and something they lack that they haven’t figured out how to process or heal from. Hurt people hurt people. But don’t let them change you. Understand those are the people who need love the most.
— Kirsten Corley

So I was listening to a podcast with Marianne Williamson on Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations. Marianne introduced a novel perspective:

When people are physically injured, we typically react with compassion, and usually try to help. You’re bleeding, I’mma grab a bandage/tourniquet/etc. But if someone shows us (intentionally or - more often - unintentionally) their insecurities/traumas/etc, it’s easier for us to ignore/judge/dismiss. But they’re the people who need the most compassion!

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Sure, as I mentioned, boundaries are key. You can empathize with people and not condone certain behavior, and it can be tricky distinguishing between empathizing and enabling. But no matter what, you can always offer love and kindness. Sometimes this must be from afar, but love is always the answer. We all get “hurt” and all need love. Some are better at healing themselves than others, but we all have healing power within us we can apply to both ourselves and others.


xx,

-w-

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Ya F E E L me?

Now on to the second Great Untruth, as outlined in The Coddling of the American Mind (an amazing book I read and first mentioned in an earlier post):

Always trust your feelings.

[Note: This relates to your emotions, not your intuition.]

Don’t get me wrong, emotions are helpful. Emotions are valuable messengers, revealing what’s going on below the surface, in your subconscious. They illuminate unhealed/repressed/insecure/etc parts of your being.

However, it’s imperative you view them through the right mindset: tools to increase your self awareness and heal yourself. Means to make you even more of a BAMF (bad ass motha you know what). Doing so requires willingness and discipline. It can be all too easy to give in to your initial feelings of anger/envy/contempt/fear/etc. But nope - be stronger than that.

If someone says something says something that rubs you the wrong way, or triggers feelings as resentment or rage, ask yourself:

  • Could I possibly have misperceived their words/intent?

    • Maybe I misheard them, or misunderstood them. Maybe they misspoke, thereby concealing their true [pure!] intent. Did they offend you unintentionally? [Have come across the wrong way? I know I have!] Try not to assume!

  • What can you glean from your emotional reaction?

    • Why did it affect you so strongly, in that way? Did it hit a nerve with you based on some past slight, of which the person is unaware? If so, this is a great opportunity to resolve the issue(s) within yourself

Do yourself - and others - a favor by going that extra step to check your automatic emotional reaction. If you operate off pure [initial] emotion, you’re limiting your self/interactions/connections and dooming yourself to a life of victimization, hurt, anxiety, and ostracism - regardless if these emotions are justified.

And so what if they are justified?

What if the person actually was intending offense? By reacting hostilely and lashing out (as tempting as it can be), you only deepen the divide and nurture the status quo.

Again, try to avoid assumption. If something rubs you the wrong way, respectfully acknowledge your possible misperception. This allows them: 1. an opportunity to clarify; 2. an opportunity to learn and see how their words/reasoning could be misconstrued and negatively impact others. (Wouldn’t you appreciate the same opportunity, if roles were reversed?) This likely heightens their awareness, thereby hopefully bridging the gap, lessening those divisive lines, and decreasing the likelihood of it happening again, to you or someone else. And maybe they stand by their assertion and maintain their racist/sexist/homophobic/ etc intent and view. It is what it is.

At least by responding with love and respect you can rest assured you’re not contributing to the problem. You can hold your head high knowing that by choosing to respond with love, you’re doing your part to soften the divide. And don’t get me wrong - sometimes you need to show a little fire to emphasize your point; but if you’re all flame and fury, you’re only exacerbating the situation.

A great principle to live your life by is the principle of charity: interpret others’ statements in their best, most reasonable form, not in the worst or most offensive way possible. The ease with which you do this shows how solid within yourself you are. If it’s still challenging - time for some self reflection, amigo.

And while you’re self assessing, try not to label emotions as negative or positive - they’re just emotions! Like, I said, they’re tools to help you become happier, healthier, and stronger. Means by which to become S O L I D.



Choose not to be harmed - and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed - and you haven’t been.
— Marcus Aurelius

I’m a big fan of stoicism and Marcus Aurelius.

Don’t let others control your mind and cortisol levels. There will ALWAYS be offenses and offensive content (especially online!). Good news! It’s not up to you to right every [perceived] wrong, and school those with whom you disagree. (How easy would it be for them to change your mind? It’d likely be just as tough to change theirs.) As we strive to lessen hatred and heal divisions, we must all pick our battles and ignore some of what we see, and just carry on with our day - if only for your own sanity’s sake!

Shine on, babes.

xx,

-w-





L O V E yaself
Images shot by Abbey Armstrong Photography  Edited by Brooke Richardson Photography

Images shot by Abbey Armstrong Photography

Edited by Brooke Richardson Photography

The only cure I have ever known for fear and doubt and loneliness is an immense love of self.
— Alison Malee

I think I’m awesome.

Please don’t be put off by that. I want Y O U to feel the same about yourself.

And you can!

Do I think I’m awesome 100% of the time? Don’t get it twisted: I have my moments of discouragement/frustration/etc, but overall - I always LOVE myself, which is especially important during those moments of discouragement and frustration. I think I’m a rad chick.

You owe yourself the love you so freely give to other people.
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I had to work hard to get to that point. That unconditional self love.

BUT YOU CAN TOO!

You too can create an abiding self love, independent of your moods/feelings/triggers/experiences/environments.

It requires practice and awareness. It requires facing your shadows. Feeling - not repressing - your emotions. Reserving judgment and extending grace. Being honest and not feeding yourself stories just to make yourself feel better (this only feeds the ego and creates a faux, insecure self love). It also requires a touch of tough love, and calling yourself out when necessary, to live into your potential/cease the false narrative/incorporate the discipline.

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Comparison is an act of violence against the self.

It’s not easy at first, but once you get a taste of true self love - YOU SEE IT’S WORTH IT. You realize how powerful, necessary, liberating, and impactful it is.

Self love is imperative. Not like, “Gee, it’d be ideal if you loved yourself, but it’s whatevs.”

Nah. IT’S NOT WHATEVS.

It’s absolutely c r u c i a l not only to your ultimate wellbeing and happiness, but also to the wellbeing and happiness of your inner circle, of your outer circle, and of the whole entire world.

I know, I know, you’re likely thinking, “Okay, dramatic much?”

But it’s true. If you want to change the world, start with yourself. The ripple effect starts with you. Happy people radiate and perpetuate bliss and good vibes. It’s all about energy, man. It’s the currency of the universe. Your energy introduces you before you even speak. Once you get right with yourself and start riding those high vibes, you’ll be amazed how it affects the space/people around you (I discuss this in my latest episode with Izzy Ramirez). That’s not just Hippie Whitney talking. That’s science. Physics. Your thoughts/actions carry energy, and people/life around you responds according to the frequency you emit.

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Be the type of energy that no matter where you go, you always add value to the spaces and lives around you.

Don’t believe me? Think about a time you were feeling great/okay, and encountered someone in a less-than-stellar mood. Even if you manage to stay on that high vibe, you’re still affected to an extent by the negativity. And don’t even get me started with consistently toxic people.

Self love makes you happy. Happiness gives you energy, drive, stamina, compassion. (Plus, as Elle Woods rightfully noted, it fights crime and preserves marriages because “happy people just don’t shoot their husbands. They just don’t.”)

Shoutout to all the people out there trying to love themselves in a world that’s constantly telling them not to.

And ESPECIALLY if you have kids in your life, modeling self love yourself is key in developing their own. Particularly regarding body image. Society already demands they contort themselves to meet impossible and elusive ideals. Set your kids up for success and mitigate societal damage by expressing self love, especially during those impressionable younger years.

Daring to love yourself is an act of rebellion in this world. LET’S REBEL TOGETHER.

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How sad is it that society has taught us to view people’s expression of self love as arrogance. Self absorption. Narcissism. When we see someone celebrate their win, or acknowledge their skill, or comment, “Hey, I look smokin’!” we tend to dismiss them is “sooo into themselves.”

SAD.

That should be our baseline. We should allow ourselves and others the space to embrace our awesomeness. Our beauty and smarts. Our talent and skill. Sure, we don’t want to get obnoxious about it and go on and on about how ahhhmaaaze we are.

There’s a distinction between self love and insecurity. When you’re solid in yourself and truly love yourself, you’re secure - and have the mental and emotional bandwidth to love and care about others. When you’re insecure, you tend to overcompensate. You feel compelled to seek validation externally. When you love yourself, you internally validate yourself.

So DECIDE RIGHT NOW to win yourself over. Commit to falling in love with yourself and watch your life absolutely TRANSFORM.

xx,

-w-

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B O U N D A R I E S
Images by Whitney Richardson Photography  Models Chelsie Conger (@xochelsieco) and Todd Conger (@toddvanclair)

Images by Whitney Richardson Photography

Models Chelsie Conger (@xochelsieco) and Todd Conger (@toddvanclair)

“Compassion does not exist without boundaries.”

When I first heard this statement from the incredible Brene Brown, I remember feeling surprised and incredulous. Say what? What did boundaries have to do with compassion? It seemed like the most compassionate and empathetic people were “boundless” with their compassion and empathy.

Upon hearing Brene out, I was in full agreement with her assertion. Sing it, sister.

Brene notes she was also shocked to discover her research revealed the most compassionate people were the most boundaried. She defines boundaries as parameters for what is and is not okay.

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According to Brene, establishing solid, defined, firm boundaries allows us to be compassionate and empathetic but not resentful. This is key! Having those boundaries prevents us from feeling drained, taken advantage of, and unappreciated.

Think about it! Tell me if the following scenario sounds similar to something you’ve experienced:

Someone asks you for a favor. Maybe it’s baby-sitting their kids, or lending your tool. You agree, only to have them stay out two hours past their expected return time, or totally trash your tool.

NOT OKAY.

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If you’re not straightforward about your boundaries, including acknowledging when someone crosses them, this will affect your capacity for compassion in the moment. Whether you realize it or not, it affects you. Even by justifying their actions (“Oh, they’re just stressed - they needed some extra time” or “That’s okay, things are just things”) you repress your true emotions that naturally arise from having boundaries crossed. And repressed emotions don’t just magically melt away. No, that shiz stays with you and manifests itself eventually, and never in a good way. If you repeatedly repress emotions, they just fester and snowball. Notttt a good situation. You’ll likely experience physical AND mental AND emotional symptoms as a result.

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So do both yourself and others a favor by speaking your truth. Define your boundaries. Let others know what is and is not okay. There’s no need to be abrasive and aggressive about it; you can be gentle yet firm.

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Brene also offers the question: What if rather than trying to anger you/hurt you/use you/etc, people are doing the best they can? She shares her husband’s beautiful response powerful response to the question:

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I’ll never know whether people are doing the best they can or not, but when I assume people are, it makes my life better.

Brene avers now she is not as sweet as she used to be, but she is far more loving. She states her question is B I G: What boundaries need to be in place for me to stay in my integrity to make the most generous assumptions about you?

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Brene declares generosity can’t exist without boundaries, but acknowledges boundaries are not easy. We want people to like us/we don’t to disappoint people/etc. Brene asserts boundaries are the key not only to self love, but to treating others with loving kindness.

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Nothing is sustainable without boundaries.
— Brene Brown
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If you’ve done your work and set your boundaries, your empathy is infinite.



xx,

-w-

Compassion minus boundaries is not genuine.
— Brene Brown
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PERSONAL * E V O L U T I O N
Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

You are being presented with a choice: evolve or remain. If you choose to remain unchanged, you will be presented with the same challenges, the same routine, the same storms, the same situations, until you learn from them, until you love yourself enough to say “no more” until you choose change.
If you choose to evolve, you will connect with the strength within you, you will explore what lies outside the comfort zone, you will awaken to love, you will become, you will be. You have everything you need. Choose to evolve. Choose love.
— Creig Crippen

A friend asked me the other day if I've always been the way I am. (generally speaking). My response was no, I haven't been. Sure, I've always been independent and driven and disciplined. I've always been creative, I've always loved reading, and I've always adored fashion.

But I've definitely evolved. 

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Though I've always had a fire and open mind, I've learned to soften one and strengthen the other. (You should've met me when I was a walking paradox of a kid: extremely polite and sweet, yet a total and complete spitfire!) I learned to tame the fire (not extinguish - gotta have some!!!) but not be so hard on myself and others. I polished the rough edges, so to speak.

I learned to channel that fire more constructively. I learned to allow myself and others more grace, and realized all you can do is your best. In the words of the legendary Tony Horton, "Do your best and forget the rest." I learned to catch my breath every once in awhile, to celebrate victories and high five myself and others. 

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A key element to lasting happiness and success is our capacity to evolve. To not only recognize our areas for growth, but to act on them. It's not enough to just acknowledge where you could use some work. You must actually step up and do something about it. It's seductively easy to just cop out by saying, "That's just the way I am." Don't confuse self indulgence with self acceptance. You're doing yourself - and others - a disservice by robbing the world of your potential. Not only that, you're preventing your level-up and all the bliss and amplified success that brings!

To clarify: You should absolutely accept yourself where you are. You must love - not hate - yourself to improvement and happiness. It's much easier and more enduring and effective this way, TRUST ME. 

But please don't just fall back on a mistaken "self acceptance" crutch. "I have a bad temper - that's just the way I am." "I'm a jealous person because of XYZ." "I lash out when I'm stressed." "I'm pessimistic - I've always been that way." First of all, snaps for acknowledging that. Second of all...whatchu gonna do about it??? In the nicest way possible, so what?! Why are you not doing something about it? What's keeping you from working on it? It's not about the hand you're dealt (we all have crappy cards in our stack - some more than others) it's how you play it.

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As I discussed in an earlier post, we all have shadow sides. All of us have aspects about ourselves we and others may find less than desirable. What sets the truly happy and successful people apart from the unhappy and struggling people is simply the shadow work. Being willing and able to be honest with yourself and not let yourself off the hook. Being gentle and honest with yourself is a fantastic start, but it doesn't stop there. Why not take yourself as far as you can go?!

One of the attributes I like most about myself is my inclination to not only recognize my flaws, but to strive to eliminate/strengthen them. Very rarely do I have bad days or lasting bad moods, and I attribute this to my commitment to my personal evolution. I dig deeply to uncover why I have the struggles I do. I determine cause and effect, and reflect on ways I can mitigate/improve/eliminate these struggles.

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In every moment ask yourself: ‘What is the lesson being offered to me?’

In the past, I was less than nice to myself during this process. My inner voice could be pretty scathing. What helped me transform it into an enjoyable (no, really!) process was to re-frame it! I simply accepted I'm a perpetual work in progress, so I might as well have fun on the ride. I praise my commitment to be my best self, and express gratitude for opportunities (disguised as frustrations/"failures"/annoyances) which highlight areas needing attention and allow me to become better. It's not always fun - there are discouraging moments, sure - but overall, knowing that I've come a long way excites, reassures, and invigorates me. I get pumped knowing my efforts are helping me become even better, happier, and more successful. They're allowing me to become my best me. 

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Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
— [Possibly] Plato

This doesn't mean I totally condemn the Whitney of the past. I know she was doing her best with what she had. We all have to start somewhere, and we don't all have the same struggles. What's easy for you may challenge me, and vice versa, so don't get all judgy with yourself or others. All that matters is you're moving forward. 

Happy evolving!

xx,

-w-

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