Friendships reviewed

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Yes, I said it.  I used the “F” word, but it is not what you think. The word I am referring to is “friends”.  What is a Friend?  Why are we so quick to throw the word around as though everyone fits the bill. When we all know that not everyone we talk to is our friend.  Every relationship that you have can be classified into one of the undermentioned categories.  To be someone’s friend is a choice. 

A friend to me is someone you can trust;  someone who would be honest with you;  someone who would not judge you;  someone who would listen and spend time with you and someone who you feel comfortable being yourself around.

Most of us would agree that there are different degrees of ‘friendships‘. I believe that friendships could be broken down into four main categories: steel friendships, concrete  friendship, stick friendships and straw friendships with the steel friendships being the strongest and the straw friendships being the weakest.   All of these relationships have their purpose in our lives.  It is important to see these relationships for what they are so that we have the proper expectations, if any, for the people that exist within them.

Straw friendships are the weakest of the friendships.  These people do not exist in your typical circle of friends.  You do not socialize with each other and if you do see each other out in public you would probably only say “Hi” if, eye contact was made.  You have not spent any real-time getting to know each other and probably know each other through  a one-off event or through a mutual friend.   You probably would not remember his or her name. There is typically no physical contact with these interactions.  You know of each other but don’t know each other.  They are what I would call an ‘encounter.

Stick friendships tend to lend themselves to familiarity and thus are a little stronger than straw friendships.  These people have spent some time interacting with you and thus you would most likely say “Hello” and chat briefly when out in public.  They can be anyone you have positive frequent interactions with such as neighbours, favourite food vendors, etc.  In friendships like this, it is possible to build good rapport with each other and not know each others names. Facial recognition usually is enough to initiate a smile or a hello.  However, once you have learnt their names it is unlikely that you would forget it.  They are what I would call an ‘acquaintance.

Concrete friendship as the name suggest are strong relationships. They have known you for many years.  You have shared many secrets and have lots of stories to share.  Time, age and life circumstances have reduced the frequency of the time shared with each other.  You probably don’t talk as much as you used to but should you see each other in public there would most likely be a public display of affection – a warm embrace or kiss on the cheek.  If and when you do meet up for drinks, it is like old times again as you try to catch up on all the chapters of each others lives that you’ve missed. These are ‘friends’.

Steel friendship are the strongest of these friendships. They consists of those people who have chosen to stay apart of your life.  They have been there for the ups and downs in your life.   They have been in your life for many years.  You communicate regularly.  You support, encourage, console, counsel and trust each other with various aspects of your lives. When you meet up there is a public display of affection.  These people stand up for you and defend you  especially when aren’t there to defend yourself.  To the outside world, there is NO question about where their loyalty lies.  These people play crucial roles in your life and thus their well-being is important to you as much as yours is to them.  They are typically a family member, a childhood friend or someone who has known you at least five  years or more.  They are your ‘best friends’.

How significant a person’s role is in your life is determined by YOU.   The level of contribution they make in your life however, is up to THEM.    We meet people everyday but very few come in our lives to stay.   So if you have a friend or two that’s true, don’t be afraid to say, “I love and appreciate you.”

Who Am I?

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Who am I?  I am a mother, a daughter, a sister, an aunt and a friend.  Hmmm, maybe what I am is really a Customer Service Specialist turned Liaison Assistant who transformed into a Collections Officer and Supervisor reborn as a Business Analyst who explored what being a Monitoring Officer was all about.  A few obstacles and blessings later to resurface as Head Administrator and Teacher.  Now I am an aspiring writer and motivational speaker.

Do all these experiences define who I am?   I don’t believe they do.   All they tell you is who I am to the various people in my life and where I have been in terms of the jobs I’ve held but who am I really?   To answer this question, I think I have to look at who I was.

I was always trying to please everyone and spent little time focusing on the things I loved doing.  What that was exactly, I didn’t really know until recently.  I would try to improve various aspects of myself hoping to make others like me but I soon realized that the ONLY person I really needed to like me, was ME.

I felt as though I always needed the approval of others. Making a decision on my life sometimes seemed terrifying.  Some people profess to never care about what others think but that was a real problem for me.  I am certain that I’m not the only person out there who has felt like this at some time or another.

One day I realized that I was not really ‘living’ but rather just existing.  I was tired of doing the same things over and over that did not make me truly happy and more importantly it was time to fix it.   I told myself,”enough is enough“.  No more excuses, no more self-pity.     Fear of the unknown and criticism would not be allowed to hold me back.  It is my time now!  The reality was it could have been my time anytime I wanted, the problem was, I was not ready to claim it.

‘Living’ is a state of mind that requires us to take action. You see, knowing that you’re not happy or satisfied in any area of your life is one step but actually doing something positive about it is where the courage comes in.

I am smart, strong and determined.  I am pursuing my dream and loving every moment.  I know, who I am.

Now ask yourself, “Who am I?”

We Criticize because…

via Daily Prompt: Criticize

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We criticize because WE CAN!    We often do it more than we should and for some, this is a pass time that never gets old.  For many, it is just a matter of sharing their opinions on what is wrong with the world today.  For others, they are hopeful that their insight would be the catalyst for change and betterment.

To criticize is “to express disapproval of someone or something.”  My question is,  should we really care what people think?  The ‘people’ I am referring to here are the constantly negative elements in our lives that find it difficult to share uplifting and encouraging words.  It is almost as if they sit there, plotting and waiting to offload on us, all the things they were thinking about during the day.  They may try to label it as ‘constructive feedback’ but I highly doubt it!

We live in a world where criticism is the norm.  If you must share your thoughts and opinions with someone try to put yourself in their shoes.  If you plan on just being mean, then I suggest you hold that thought.  If however, your purpose is to genuinely help that person improve, then please strive to be respectful and thoughtful of their feelings in your delivery.

Too often messages meant for good get lost in translation because of poor delivery resulting in anger and hurt feelings.   No one likes to be criticized.  Some of us over the years have learnt to toughen up so the opinions of others does not negatively impact how we feel or see ourselves.  Unfortunately, not everyone can master that skill, after all,  this is something that is developed over time.

My suggestion is rather than criticize let us ’empathize’.  Our intentions should always be to uplift, encourage and educate NEVER to break others down.  Focus on what really needs fixing.  Think, if you were on the receiving end, would you action every criticism you were given? Chances are, No!  We need to interpret for ourselves what messages we can learn from and what messages to disregard.

More often than not the people closest to us find it hard to tell us the truth sometimes. I  believe they are afraid of potentially hurting our feelings.  Don’t dismiss anyone who is trying to be genuine, you might miss out on an opportunity to learn something new.  Nobody is perfect, and that’s okay.  No one has to be.

How we deliver the message is just as important as the message itself.

To be heard is to…

via Daily Prompt: Heard

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“Is anybody out there?  Is anyone hearing our cries for help?”  Who are those voices and where are they coming from?  The voices I am referring to belong to the children, women, families and individuals out there that go through life just existing rather than living because most of the people around them only hear rather than listen to their pain or unfortunate circumstances of either abuse, domestic violence, addiction or poverty. These people believe it or not are the lucky ones.

You see, there are many other voices out there that have been sworn to secrecy or terrorized to keep silent.  The feeling of not being heard can bring about anger, frustration, hopelessness, depression and resentment.  Who is hearing their faint cries for help?  We rely on our ears to hear and our mouths to speak and hopefully be heard.  However, our eyes sometimes catch glimpses of questionable behaviour and interactions that make us stop and think but then we dismiss it as if it never happened. Why? “It is not my business.”  “He or she is NO family or friend of mine.”

I agree. They are not members of our family nor are they our friends.  Some people are of the belief that they should only care about people and situations that directly affect them.  These people tend to reserve kind and uplifting words and good deeds only for persons near and dear to them.  Whereas there are those people who are always giving of themselves to help others.  They seem drawn to people or situations that need an intervention. They are usually positive in their attitude and genuine about their purpose.   They don’t just hear, they listen and show their audience that they have indeed heard them.

I have no doubt that we hear the stories of others and say, “Wow, that is tough!” I know, I have. How many of us use what we’ve heard and take action or try to make someone’s life better even if in a small way.   I recognise that every situation is different but the commonality of all the situations is the same and that is help is needed.

For me, to be heard means that I can see by the actions and behaviours of my audience whether they have not only heard me but more importantly if they understood the message I was communicating.

To be heard for me, brings a feeling of joy and accomplishment.  For someone else, to be heard could mean they are no longer hungry, no longer being abused,  they have a voice that would be acknowledged and listened to.  It can mean many things for different people.  When we’ve been heard we are really looking for a positive response.

Today look around in your community and see if there is anything you can do to make someone’s life a little better.  Sometimes we just need to listen, really listen to gain a better understanding of a situation.

Before I close, I would like to take this opportunity to say a special thank you to those of you who answer the calls for help in whatever way you can.  You are awesome and this world is truly blessed to have you in it.

Let us try to make a greater effort to listen not only with our ears but with our eyes and hearts. It is not too late.  Show someone that you’ve heard them and make today a great day.

15 Signs of a Toxic Relationship

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What is a ‘toxic’ relationship?  For me, a toxic relationship can be described as any relationship that is constantly filled with negativity that makes you question or play down your self worth.  Any relationship where you feel like you have no voice or say in your own life.  One where your thoughts and needs are not up for consideration.  This type of relationship is often a breathing ground for constant anger, sadness, depression and resentment.  If there is any joy or happiness it is often short lived and for some reason can never really last for any meaningful length of time. It is not gender specific as there are some good men out there in toxic relationships too. This is an article for anyone out there in a toxic relationship.

I have been there and I’ve seen more toxic relationships than I care to count.  Looking back on my own experience I can honestly say, that I never thought my relationship was bad or ‘toxic’, just that we had some issues to work on.  I did not realize the damage I was causing myself psychologically and emotionally.

Here are some of the observations I made looking back not only on my own experience but some other relationships I saw around me.

1. Always made to feel as though you are never good enough.

2. Sometimes discouraged from spending time with friends and family.

3. Always made to feel paranoid about any negative observations –  even when your  suspicions turn out to be true.

4. Always made to feel as though any problems the relationship has is your fault.

5. Your partner may be very secretive and not forthcoming about his or her affairs but would inquire about every detail in your life.

6. Your partner frequently apologizes for hurting your feelings but would do the same stuff over and over.  This applies to physical, emotional and psychological abuse.

7. Try to numb yourself emotionally. Trying to not let the things he or she does affect how you feel but we both know that does not really work because now you’re just beating up yourself internally rather than externally making a scene.

8. Withdraw from your friends and family because they sometimes share things about your relationship that you just don’t want to hear.

9.   Make tons of excuses for their  behaviour.

10. Blame yourself.  “Maybe if I didn’t do this or say that…” ; “Maybe if I would dress more like this …” ; “Maybe I am too sensitive or making too much of a deal about it.”

11. Always looking for ways to make them happy even though they aren’t reciprocating.

12. You are always the person making the comprises.

13. Often try to use your insecurities to control you or even create insecurities.    Example: “A woman like you, should feel lucky to be with someone like me.” or “A man like you, should feel blessed to be with a woman like me.”   People who truly care about you would always try to lift you up not break you down.

14. Extra moody and snapping at other people for little things rather than dealing with the real issue that is bothering you.

15. You feel drained emotionally and physically sometimes. This is because the work of constantly trying to fix yourself or the relationship is always on your mind.

I have only listed 15 signs of a toxic relationship but please note that there are other signs that the relationship you may be in, is unhealthy for you.   I honestly believe that deep down we know that the situation we find ourselves in may be hurting rather than helping us.

If you are reading this and find that you can relate to any or all of these feelings or experiences, then my friend it is time to say, “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH”.  This situation that you have called “home” all these years or months is not what a healthy and loving relationship should be like.  I know and understand how scary the thought of having to find someone else seems, but that’s the problem – don’t focus on finding a replacement,  focus on finding YOURSELF.  Only then would you be truly ready for a real relationship.

I pray that you find the courage and strength to TAKE ACTION and TAKE BACK CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE.    YOU are AWESOME and YOU DESERVE BETTER!!   The only happiness you should be concerned with at this point is YOUR OWN.

The choice and power to fix this lies within YOU.

 

12 Signs You are ‘Living’ and not just ‘Existing’

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‘Living’ versus ‘existing’, is there a difference?  Is it important?  How does this apply to my life?  First, let me say that, there is a difference.  Yes, it is important, only if happiness is something you want for your life.  As for how it applies to your life, you would have to read on to find out.

Living for me, goes beyond the typical definition that is, “possessing or exhibiting life”.  It is taking the life you have and making the best and most use of it.  When you are living you are constantly moving, improving and learning. Existing on the other hand, means “having existence or being or actuality”.  My version, just sustaining life.  We do this when we go through our daily routines day after day with no real drive or sense of purpose other than to get through the day and hopefully not die while we do it.  Our lives should be so much more than that.

Here are my Top 12 Signs you are ‘Living’ and not just ‘Existing’.  

  1. You make time to treat yourself ever so often rather than list excuses as to why you should not.
  2. You make time to do fun things with your family and friends. It is not just about work, work, work.
  3. You do not allow the challenges that life brings your way to keep you down or depressed.  
  4. You are always seeking knowledge and wisdom in various areas of your life.
  5. You are willing to explore new things and places. Start small by doing simple things example, try new foods, go to a dance class whatever excites you.
  6. You are resourceful at solving difficult situations.  You are not afraid to go after what you want. You do not allow the word “No” to discourage you instead you use it as a motivator to find a solution.
  7. You do not let negativity of any form keep you from enjoying your life.  You know that life is too short to waste it on negative thinking or negative people.
  8. You strive to be positive and not negative. You choose to enjoy the good moments; learn from the bad and move forward.
  9. You recognize that you don’t exist in this world by yourself and thus you try to help others less fortunate than yourself whenever you can.
  10. You recognize and accept that no one is perfect.
  11. Your focus is on striving to be your best self and living your best life.
  12. You do not leave your happiness to chance.  You recognize that true happiness comes from within and thus do not depend on others to make you happy.

Living versus existing is therefore a state of mind.  Someone who is ‘living‘ makes the decision to do more with the life they have and often push themselves to do more because they expect more.  Whereas a person who is ‘existing’ often chooses not to “rock the boat” opting to do no more than they have to as they go through the motions of their daily life.

Ask yourself, am I existing or living? What is more important though is, what are you going to do about it?

 

 

The Power of Limits

Why do we need limits?  Limits are the things that directly and indirectly affect our lives either positively or negatively. They encompass your values, attitudes, behaviours and thoughts.  They provide guidance as to what you will and will not accept or put up with as it relates to yourself and others. In this article, I will …

The brain and tongue are more than just organs in the human body.  They have the power to make you feel like a million dollars or make you feel invisible.  Together they are lethal weapons for either positivity  or negativity.   These organs create  what I call ‘limits’ in our lives.

Some limits we learn from our parents growing up; others we tell ourselves based on experiences we’ve had and the rest come from people who we consider to be near and dear to us like family, friends and a spouse. These ‘limits’ encompass our values, attitudes, behaviours and thoughts.  They are the seeds that are planted by us as well as others that can directly and indirectly affect our lives either positively or negatively.

In this article, I will try to show you the pros and cons of limits so that you can use them to improve your life.   I believe that limits can be classified into two main types that is, the one we set for ourselves and the other, is the one set for us by others.  Both have their advantages and disadvantages since both have positive and negative limits within them.

Some examples of positive and negative limits we set for ourselves are:

POSITIVE

  • “I will strive to be positive in my thoughts and behaviour.”
  • “I will not be excessive in my shopping buying things I do not need.”

NEGATIVE

  • Using the words “I can’t …” as a justification for not doing something.
  • Negatively stereotyping yourself.  “I’m too old.” or “I’m not pretty enough.”

Advantages of Positive Limits (set by ourselves)

  • They can provide guidance for various situations such as what you will and will not tolerate from yourself and others – for example, negativity, abuse and self- pity just to name a few.
  • They give a sense of power and control over our lives.  We ideally determine what, who and how we feed and nurture our mind, body and spirit.
  • They tend to attract similar minded people to you.

Disadvantage of Negative Limits (set by ourselves)

  • They can damage your self-esteem.
  • They can leave us feeling broken and helpless, open to all the negative energies of the world.  Note, I use ‘feeling’, not because you feel a certain way means that you’re stuck that way.  You can choose to ‘feel’ differently.
  • Unforgiveness of yourself or others.  This can stunt your mental and spiritual growth and healing.  Practicing forgiveness will break the shackles that have been holding you down for so long.  This process is for YOUR betterment no one else.
  • They negatively affect how we see and treat others.

Such negative limits only encourage negativity.  They tend to shut people out and act as a barrier to attracting positivity in your life.  I suggest reviewing your thinking and behaviour to ensure that it is fair and objective in how you see yourself and others.

Some examples of positive and negative limits set for us by others are:

POSITIVE                                                                            NEGATIVE

  • “You are an amazing friend.”                              “You will never aspire to anything.”
  • “You are a good parent.”                                       “You can’t do anything right.”
  • “You are an excellent lover.”                                “You are such a failure.”

Advantages of Positive Limits (set for us by others) – positive people

  • They tend to be positive and uplifting often encouraging us to be better.
  • They are motivating and thought provoking.  They make us stop and think about how we are behaving.
  • They tend to strengthen and reinforce a positive self-image.

If you have people like this in your life keep them close.  Let them know how much you appreciate and value having them in your life.  They are true assets to have and cherish.  Try to reciprocate in their lives as well.  Be an asset in someone’s life today. Don’t always make everything about you. Be a giver and not a taker.  Try and strike a balance.

Disadvantages of Limits (set for us by others) – Negative People

  • They tend to create or maintain a false picture of who you really are and often label you as weak, foolish and unworthy.
  • These people want to hurt you by their words and actions and tend to be consistent in their efforts to break you down every opportunity they get.
  • They use these limits as a way to control various aspects of your life – relationships, finances, emotions and how you feel and see yourself.

Many of us often underestimate the power of the spoken word.   Hopefully, if not before, now you do see that words have the power to not only build and strengthen but also damage and destroy  your self-esteem, self-worth and self-image, if you let it.  The power that the spoken word has comes from the meaning and value we put in the words and the person or persons using them.

Do not allow yourself to be anyone’s punching bag emotionally or physically.  They have their own issues to fix.    If you are guilty of this, it is not too late.  You need to reclaim the reigns of your life.  For too long, you have relinquished control to negativity.

I want to encourage you to take corrective action immediately.  If you are guilty of  negativity within yourself, then be quiet! Look for positive things such as inspirational and motivational books, uplifting music, talk to someone about it and surround yourself with positive people. This process requires a reconditioning of the mind, body and spirit and thus it would not be done overnight.

Start by identifying what and where your problem areas are and TAKE ACTION to improve and in some instances remove them. YOU are in CONTROL.  BE CAREFUL of WHO and WHAT you are listening to.  What you ultimately BELIEVE about YOURSELF is what will MAKE or BREAK YOU.

I hope that this article was useful. Thanks for reading.