The Confidence to be Wrong

Last night, I talked a little about self-esteem issues. (You should probably just go read the post from yesterday.)

But since we all like to be lazy, I will provide a brief summary of what I said. Pretty much from the dawn of time we have been told that we need to love our (then caveman) selves. We need to walk into a room and shine. We need to puff our chest out, swing our hips, and smile our flashiest smile. We need to act like we are the best thing since snuggies and snapchat combined.

We falter sometimes. We have bad weather days. But often, when we put on our favorite shirt or shoes, when we apply a bright color of lipstick, when we get our hair just right, it’s not hard to convince the world that we’re the cat’s pajamas.

You see, instilling confidence in ourselves isn’t that hard when we are told that we need to believe that we’re special and kind. That we are fun to be around and that we matter. Doesn’t everyone want to think that about themselves? Doesn’t everyone hope that’s true?

Even though it can be a struggle, we all want to believe that we are the heroes of our own story, not the villain. We’re all fighting to believe that we are right in our lifestyle, interests, and beliefs.

But we’re so busy trying to keep ourselves afloat that we’re not sure how to cope when we sink a little. It’s the opposite of self-esteem: knowing how to be confident when we’re wrong.

When we’ve been fighting tooth and nail to assert ourselves, and then the rug gets tugged out from under us, it’s a sickening feeling. Oh, I made a mistake, you might say. You shrink to about an inch tall. And you’re vulnerable and pale and sweating. You pray that your deodorant is working. You start to think about all of the other things that you could have been wrong about in your life. Your career choice. Your significant other. Your choice of toothpaste. Suddenly, your confidence is gone, and you doubt yourself wholeheartedly. Being right and believing in yourself is easy. Being wrong? Not so much.

The truth is, confidence has been taught as a one-way street. Along with being taught to take pride in ourselves (in all the good) we need to be taught to take pride in our falls (in all the things we would prefer not to applaud.)

Come, say it with me, everyone makes mistakes. From Johnny Depp to Santa Claus, everyone has flaws. And the faster you can stand up and say that you accept yourself for who you are, every freckle and wrinkle in between, the more complete your confidence can be. The more you won’t crack under the pressure of scrutiny. The more you can be yourself.

So, with the same chest puffing and smiling you give when you stand up to say I’m right, do the same when you are wrong. There is really no difference between them; only that you learn a more valuable lesson from one of them. Neither can change who you are.

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We’re All a Little Like Tinkerbell

In the lore of Peter Pan, it is said that the small pixie Tinkerbell needs applause to live. If she is believed in, she continues to exist. Legend also says that when the story was adapted into a play, the audience were instructed to clap for Tinkerbell by Peter Pan. In case the audience wasn’t so inclined, the director made sure that the pit would fill in if needed. Luckily, that wasn’t required, as the audience applauded uproariously for Tink. It would seem that she would live to act another day.

Whether we like to admit it or not, we’re all a little Tinkerbell. We all want to feel loved or adored, and we want to know how much people love or adore us. In fact, we all like to be applauded into existence. What do you think the “like” button is? It’s just silent applause. What do you think a pat on the back is? It’s just a one handed clap. We’re all looking for acceptance in our life. We’re all pixie dust and self-esteem issues.

And so, I’m sure you won’t be surprised to know that sometimes we don’t always get the applause that we need to “survive.” Sometimes, we get the tomatoes. Sometimes, we get the “hook.” And sometimes, if we’re really lucky, we get crickets, the only thing that punctuates the silence that engulfs us.

The secret is that you are not a pixie, although you are a magical being, I’m sure. You won’t die if you aren’t approved of (even though it may feel like it when you are living on social media.) In fact, you will live in spite of not being accepted. How? You will continue on. In other words, you will keep going. We only begin to falter in our journeys, we only start to question our path, when we look around to see what everyone else is doing, when we try to compare ourselves. If Peter Pan is any testament, all we need is belief to be able to do anything we wish (even fly).

So, don’t stop just because you haven’t received your daily dose of applause. Rise up because there is still time left to earn it from yourself. With a little magic, you are possible.

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Life Is Voluntary

It’s easy to forget that you have to choose to live.

Gravity keeps you on the ground. Alarms go off when they’re told to. Green lights turn without a second thought. The world is set to auto-pilot, and you are a mere passenger.

But you? Your body is a work of art, isn’t it? Controlled by your own volition?

Not exactly.

You blink and breathe automatically. You pull back when something burns you and hunch down when it is too cold. Everything is instinctual and such a part of the fabric of life that it is easy to forget that you have to choose to live. You have to decide, everyday, that you are going to make the most of it. You have to think about what kind of contribution you are going to make. But how are you going to do that when the Starbucks barista knows your order and has it ready for you when you get there? What happens when you actually start to memorize the license plates of the cars that participate in the same daily commute as you? What happens when trying to live goes against the grain of life itself?

Well, ironically, you have to focus on that which is unintentional to create a deliberateness in your life.

Huh?

Okay, let me put it this way. You know when someone tells you to take a deep breath? Well, usually when you breathe, it sort of just occurs. It’s like waves on the shore; they roll in, they roll out. But like the sea, your breath is not in control. You are. Likewise, the ocean is not in control. The moon tugs at the waves and creates the tides. So, when you focus on your breathing, you are actually taking back control of what you already do naturally. It puts you in the driver’s seat again, which is really helpful when everything seems like it is crashing down around you, and you aren’t in control of anything.

So, that brings up another great point: you feel most helpless and angry when you are not able to navigate, when someone else is doing that for you. But, if you focus again on the things that were once self-regulating, like your breathing, you can begin to seize control and start to believe that more of life can be shaped to your advantage, even things that seem to beyond your sphere of influence.

Really, this is all a really fancy way of saying that everything in life is about choices. And even when you feel like you have run out of them, they are still there because there are decisions to be made in what is perceived as truth. You simply have to believe that you have the power to change what has always been.

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How Do People Run Out of Gas?

The sight of brake lights is infuriating whether you are heading home or leaving it.

This was certainly the case when I took a right to jump on the fast-track this evening and saw that one lane was completely blocked. People were performing the typical shenanigans of driving as far as they could, where the lane was still open, and then quickly flicking on their indicator and pulling in front of the people who were already in the second lane. And, as usual, we all slowed down to have a look at what was causing the blockage. Would it be a grisly accident? A traffic violation?

None of the above, in fact. I saw a woman standing nervously next to her car, chewing her nails, while a man in a dark coat poured gas into her tank, her hazard lights blinking to a steady rhythm.

Okay, no problem. Just swerve around the scene and continue forward, I thought. 

Except, it got me thinking: who actually runs out of gas and has to stop in the middle of a busy intersection?

I mean, you have a dashboard meter and lights that warn you when you are low. And then lights and sounds to alert you when you are dangerously low. And it is not like we were in a rural area. My bet was this person had plenty of times to stop and get gas, passed at least a dozen gas stations. But that’s what she did: passed them by, only to land in the middle of a lane, choking rush hour traffic.

So, I ask again: who actually runs out of gas and has to stop in the middle of a busy intersection?

Well, anyone who didn’t know they were losing their job. Anyone who didn’t know their significant other was cheating on them. Anyone who didn’t know how out of shape they were until they joined a gym. So, this is to say: everyone. Everyone can run out of gas and stop in the middle of a busy intersection only to be helped by a complete stranger.

Why? Because people are terrible at reading the signs. We’ve completely turned off our instincts now that we don’t have to hunt for our own food. We rely on ignorance and are blissful.

But they are there. There are still signals that can help us to realize what is happening before it is right in front of us. In fact, some of these signs are so loud and annoying that they are like an empty gas tank alert. Yet, we keep going, keep driving. Hoping that we can make it before our time runs out.

The truth is we are never completely blindsided in this life. Whether we decide that we will deny the obvious or that we are truly oblivious, we miss the signs.

Oprah has this great quote that says essentially, “life will whisper to you. And if you don’t pay attention it, it gets louder until it’s like getting hit in the head. Then, if you don’t pay attention to that, you get smacked with a brick. And then, when you really aren’t getting it, an entire brick wall falls down.” And if you haven’t realized what life is trying to do before the brick wall, then you are going to have a hard time. Of course, it would be really great if our entire lives had dashboards like cars, where the lights would brighten when there was a problem or to tell us that we were low on something.

But we don’t have that. We only have our hearts, which are terrific compasses, when we allow them to be. Yet, it does not matter how good a sign, a piece of advice, or a set of directions is: it only matters how well we listen to it.

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You’re Invited

I think people are still waiting for the weekend. I think people are still counting down the days until it’s vacation. I think people are still waiting until they have more time. I think people are still waiting for their sign. I think people are still accepting advice from their horoscope. I think people are still waiting to be told they are good enough.

I don’t think people understand that there isn’t a green light for them. There isn’t a white checkered flag. There isn’t a pit crew waiting to change their tires. Everything is set into motion the minute we are born, and if we are lucky, the clock will still be wound when we are long gone.

But for whatever reason, people don’t think that this is their life right now. They are told  that they need to be adults before their opinion matters. They need to be taller to ride this ride. They need to be older to make this phone call. Then, as adults, they watch their dreams die, and it feels like nothing ever mattered at all.

The truth is you are the Captain Oh! Captain of your life, and no one can tell you what you should or shouldn’t do with it. The entire world is your oyster and—okay, so you think, I’ve acknowledged this. I know I should be embracing the world. So, what happens next? Where is the giant novelty check with my name on it?

I think we have all been a tad mislead in this department. Everyone tells you that opportunity knocks. But that’s not altogether true. Opportunity only knocks when your doorbell is broken. And you break or disconnect your doorbell when  you expect people to just walk in because you’ve been waiting for them to arrive. Opportunity knocks when you’ve made that the only option.

But people don’t do this. Instead, people wait for their fairy godmother to give them a lottery ticket to catapult them into their dream life. People expect to be escorted to their carriage so that it can take them down the smoothest path of most happiness and least resistance.

Believe me, I’ve been waiting, too. Waiting for words to spill out on a page. Waiting for my abs to show up (they’re always late to the party). Waiting for my life to be what I want it to be.

So, just in case you have been waiting like me:

You’re Invited!

What: The rest of your life

When: Right now

Where: Wherever you please

Here it is. Here is the invitation to get out there and make a difference. To show the world that you aren’t good at accepting the status quo. To transform yourself into the person that you’ve always wanted to be while keeping your roots firmly in place. To finally look forward to each new day, instead of looking back.

I love the saying: “Life is what gets in the way when you are making plans.” Because that’s just it. Everyone is so concerned about living that they forget to actually, well, live. It’s like taking pictures at a party of everyone smiling and having fun so that you can look back at the photos in a few years and then forgetting to actually smile and have fun at the party when you are there.

This is it, people. This is your life. The curtain is open, and the audience is waiting for you to do something besides stand and breathe. They’re ready for your solo or monologue, and you are most certainly ready to give it. So, what are you waiting for? I can tell you what you aren’t waiting for now: an invitation. You have one. So, get out there and shine.

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Why I Was Not as Impressed with Lady Gaga Last Night

I told my dad to shut up tonight. This is not something I do often. This is not something I want to do often. But I think it was warranted, at least for a moment. Why don’t I tell you what happened, and you can decide? (As if you have a choice…)

We were watching a recap of the Oscars on the nightly news when Lady Gaga’s performance of the Sound of Music came on. In her flowing white gown and her equally white hair, she belted out the songs formally made famous by Julie Andrews and countless others. No one could deny that she did the Sound of Music franchise justice (after Carrie Underwood almost buried it completely).

Then, after her last note rang out, my father said the following: “If only she didn’t have a trumpet tattooed on her arm…”

And so, I said the offending remark because I am sick of people judging others for what they choose to do with their lives and their bodies. But then I thought about it. And I realized that my dad had only said what so many people had written in articles all over the Internet about the performance (so, sorry, Dad).

Everyone could not stop talking about how great she looked. But what they were really saying was how normal she looked.

You see, everyone liked Lady Gaga’s performance last night because everyone understood it. Because for once in her career, she wasn’t wrapped in meat, she didn’t have a mask on, she didn’t look strange. She looked like us, and she sang like she was “supposed” to sing. And everyone was shocked at how good she was! And yet Lady Gaga fans were saying, “uh, duh? Where have you been since ‘Poker Face’? She is tremendously talented! Not everyone has to sing opera to be considered a good singer!”

Now, as a Lady Gaga fan, I understand this reaction from the world, to a point. I definitely fell off the bandwagon when ArtPop came out. It was too politically charged with far too much symbolism (I know, coming from an English major that’s a bold claim.) After her latest album, I felt that she was trying way too hard, drawing inspiration from her fans instead of from the wonderful person she is, creating a vacuum where we drew on her and she drew on us.

Of course, I think we can all understand where Lady Gaga is coming from with her past appearances, even if we wouldn’t also wear shoulder pads that are the size of our own head. At one of her concerts, she talked extensively about how she was bullied as a kid. And you don’t need a psych degree to know that most of those costumes are her armor. She also said that she was told that she was too “broadway for pop, and too pop for broadway,” and so it is obvious that Lady Gaga has spent a lot of her time trying to fit in somewhere.

But along the way, has she lost herself?

We see it time and time again. Sometimes, the “persona” in Hollywood is really a shtick. Sometimes, when celebs get to be famous enough, they shake off the excess and turn into what the rest of the world wants them to be because they’ve made it, and they don’t need to draw attention to themselves anymore. And sometimes, that’s okay. I get it, anyway you can make it, you should. But I thought that Gaga’s creativity was a part of her, and not a complete front.

I don’t think the Internet is right to applaud for her not looking “crazy.” It sends the message that she shouldn’t be who she is because if she isn’t that person, more people can appreciate her talent. If she was more mainstream, she could make a real “comeback.” If she did what we expected her to do, she would be more successful.

In the end, I don’t care how Lady Gaga dresses. I don’t care how well Lady Gaga sings. I just hope that she stays true to herself because so few free spirits do, especially under the glaring eye of the media.

So, Lady Gaga, if that was just a quick dip into the normal gene pool, then I hope you don’t listen to anyone about how much “better” you look. I hope you continue to be yourself. And, if this is who you have been all along, then, welcome to the rest of the world. You will truly be at home here.

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I Don’t Like to Be Picked Up

They say you can’t help people who don’t help themselves. They say you have to pick yourself up by your own bootstraps. And, most importantly, they say when you get knocked down, you should get up again (because they’re never going to keep you down).

So, why do people insist on trying to pick you up themselves?

Have you ever had someone tell you to calm down when you’re really angry? It is the most frustrating, infuriating thing in the world, right? Almost as bad as stepping on a Lego. And how many times have you heard “there are plenty of more fish in the sea” when you’ve had troubles of a romantic nature? Yeah, okay, but what happens when you want that fish, who has not only swam away, but is moving up the stream? It’s all so horribly futile.

Well, it’s the same when someone says that it’s going to be “A OK” when everything seems like it has just blown up in a large mushroom cloud that used to resemble your life. I mean, when it feels like your house is crashing down around your ears, it is really not helpful to have someone tap you on the shoulder and make a joke about not having to pay rent anymore. Okay, call it petty or childish that I’m not able to look directly at the cloud with the silver lining when something bad happens, but when the gloom and doom has arrived, the bright side is a little blinding.

Which is why I don’t like to be picked up. I don’t like to be told that things will be alright. I don’t like to be told that I should be more optimistic and grateful. In the end, I like to discover these things on my own, and only then, do they have true meaning in my life. When I realize that my own situation isn’t as bad as it seems, well, that’s a lot more freeing than being told that time heals all wounds by someone else. Plus, your comment is like putting a band aid on a bullet wound: it does nothing for the immediate woe.

Here’s an example. Today, I suffered a generic loss. On a scale of 1 to Maroon 5’s latest album, I was about a 6 on the disappointment scale. So, I sought my typical creature comforts, food, warmth, and finally music. You see, no one was going to be able to bring me out of that slump but me.

Sure, the condolences from my family and friends helped, but they didn’t take away the pain. Do you know what did? Just Around the Riverbend by Disney’s Pocahontas, on repeat. After the 5th time I heard her ask if she should marry Kocoum or if her dreaming was at an end, I realized that everyone questions their decisions and choices, and that this is a universal feeling, even in the Disney universe. I didn’t tell myself to get over it, but I was able to ease myself over it anyway, like slipping into a tub of hot water, one toe at a time.

Sure, humans are gregarious creatures in that we like to be social, not that we travel in packs (although, if you go to a mall on a Friday night, you may see that some teenagers in dark clothing will band together like water buffaloes). However, when it comes to healing, we already have everything that we need. We already have the peace and solace inside us that we can use to scab over our wounds. While sentiments from others are nice, it is up to us to take action.

In the end, seek support from your friends, but don’t ask them to do all of the heavy lifting when it comes to picking you up when you’re down.

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