What To Do When Confronted By An Elephant

Every now and again you come across a situation in your life that blows your hair back, your skirt up or … just blows. For example: you find out the person you’re seriously considering spending the rest of your life with isn’t interested in a long term relationship with you.  Or you discover one evening, quite by accident, that your husband prefers blondes…who are hung like a horse. Or you learn that your new girlfriend is really a man, or that your movie star/Governor husband has impregnated your housekeeper and has been paying her hush money (out of your pocket) for the last decade.

While most of us have developed various coping mechanisms and strategies for dealing with such blustery situations, including confrontation, therapy, drinking heavily, freaking out, leaving and divorce, the pink elephant is quite a different animal! For those who aren’t so familiar with this unwelcome visitor, the pink elephant is commonly referred to as “… an obvious truth that is being ignored or goes unaddressed. The idiomatic expression also applies to an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss.” (Wikipedia) You see, in most cases when confronted with certain truths we know what to do, or at least have some vague idea and are compelled to take action because some line has been crossed and all people involved implicitly agree and act accordingly. Whereas when the pink elephant appears…it just hangs there like the house guest who never leaves.

Some examples might be: your roommate keeps eating all your food and never admits it or offers to pay, but you don’t say anything because you can’t afford to live there without them so you carry on as if nothing’s wrong, him shamelessly eating his way through your house and home and you cringing every time you see him secretly wanting to scream: “STOP EATING MY FOOD, YOU FOOD STEALER, LEECH, COUCH POTATO, MOOCHER!” Or maybe your boyfriend drinks too much, too often and embarrasses and scares you, but you don’t say anything because he says he can’t live without you and…you are financially dependent on him and afraid to be alone so you muddle through growing more and more emotionally distant, eventually having angry or passive obligatory sex because now you can’t stand when he touches you, yet you don’t have the courage or resources to say no, so you don’t.

Or maybe your closest relative, the one you have spent every birthday and holiday with for most of your life, has just embezzled money from his boss (who you know intimately) and neither one of you says anything to the other partly because you are in shock, you can’t believe they would ever do such a thing, and partly because you don’t even know what to say. Really…what does one say in such circumstances? Weeks and months pass while you tell yourself they will come around, make things right…right? Then after months of no one saying anything, a family function presents itself and out of what feels like the complete blue they send you an invitation as though nothing’s happened and sign the card “love and miss you”… and you think What the?

Or maybe someone owes you money and said they would pay you, yet every time you see them they don’t mention it and well, because you’re a polite person and don’t want to seem rude or desperate or (fill in the blank) you suck it up and tell yourself, if they don’t mention it next time you will say something except in between now and next time you realize this isn’t the first time this has happened and that this person always seems to borrow money and not pay you back, and further has some convenient, tear-jerking story about why they can’t. So naturally you, being the loving, understanding person you are, wouldn’t ask someone who is down and out to pay you back when they are going through hard times…except you notice when you see them next they tell you about the trip they just took or the new jacket they just bought or show you their new cell phone and you think…What the…?

So, what do you do when you don’t know what to do? When clearly something is amiss and no one is saying anything about it? The great thing about the pink elephant phenomenon is that it disappears almost completely as soon as one person has the courage to speak it. Literally poof…gone. The challenge is, more often than not as I illustrated, it feels like so much is at stake so we put it off. The problem in that scenario is obvious: the elephant remains or in some cases, grows proportionately. So before you buy a voodoo doll or go postal or, worse, try to make the elephant your pet, here are a few suggestions I recommend when you find yourself faced with the pink beast:

How important is it? What’s the relative importance of this issue on a scale of paper-cut to open-heart surgery? If it’s really an ego issue or a matter of pride or some other such nonsense, then you may want to deal with that rather than make a bigger issue out of something when there is no need. On the other hand, if you decide it’s a major deal at least you have taken the first step to putting the situation in some perspective.

What have you really got to lose? There is an expression, “You can’t lose what you never had.” So why not take a real honest look and see what it is you’re really dealing with here. You may want to consult an expert, pray, see a therapist or talk openly with a friend. See if you can’t get some clarity and objective about the situation and see what’s truly at stake. Never underestimate the power of support nor the power of the Divine illumination!!

Take the high road! They call the high road the road less traveled for a reason; namely because it’s not always easy to say what needs to be said or do the right thing. Don’t let that stop you. As my mother always says, “This isn’t a dress rehearsal, bring you’re A game,” and in the end you will know in your heart you were true to yourself!

Trust yourself, above all…you know the answer. The truth is always right there inside you, sometimes it just takes a while to get our courage up to do what we know we have to! On that you can always rely!

Who Are You Without Your Stories?

Picture it: you’re in the eighth grade and someone you like is across the school yard. You want to approach them but don’t know if your approach would be welcome. You get a warm fuzzy feeling, but there’s also a panic that comes with it – after all, most kids that age would rather die than suffer rejection. The humiliation that would result would be unbearable, especially from the most gorgeous person in the entire school district – no, make that the entire city.

So no matter how much you want to go and talk to them, you wouldn’t just stroll over there and say hi, would you? You couldn’t risk it. As a girl especially, you certainly wouldn’t walk up to him when he’s talking to his male friends and blurt out, “Hi, I’m Maryanne – I think you’re really cute, and I’m looking for someone to go with to Karen’s party this weekend, and I was wondering if you’d be my date?”

I know, I know, I should have guessed this would be a disaster. But at the time, I felt like I had nothing to lose – sure, he was the hottest guy in the school, everyone was staring at me, and of course girls weren’t really “supposed” to do things like asking guys out. But I liked him, and my curiosity got the better of me in the end, so I just threw caution to the wind and went for it.

Naturally I was nervous – I was a kid, and this was my first limited foray into the world of romance. But my nervousness was more the exciting kind than the nauseating kind, and I was so focused on what might happen if he said yes, that I didn’t let myself think too much about the other option.

Until it happened. His face crinkled up into a mixture of annoyance and confusion, and he asked the question I’ll never forget: What’s wrong with you?! And I spent a lot of time and heartache trying to figure out the answer to that exact question – what was wrong with me? In order to put a stop to the pain and protect what was left of my ego, I wove a story for myself, and the moral of the story was this: I will never allow anyone to hurt me like that again for as long as I live. And that was it – I stuck to my story, and I never approach a boy directly ever again.

There are no other stories we enjoy better than our own. We love to spin our own tales, we love to tell them, and we love to hear them back again from others. We never get tired of them no matter how many times we’ve heard them before. And while it’s true that our stories are based on actual events (at least most of the time), why is it that we cling to certain ones and let others fade into obscurity? Certainly I have had other humiliating experiences in my life that eclipsed that particular schoolyard event, and yet that’s the story I keep coming back to. I think it has a lot to do with recognizing the moments when we separate from our Divine selves, and create an alter-self that we use to try to survive when we think our authentic self can’t hack it. These are moments where we consciously assign disproportionate meaning to events that wouldn’t need that meaning in a perfect world.

We create stories about ourselves for all kinds of reasons. We do it to shield ourselves from pain, to make people like us more, or to create a persona that acts as a protective shell for our real selves. So the question remains: who would we be without that shell, without those stories? Personally, though I have spent a great amount of time and effort examining my stories in order to try to understand who I am, it wasn’t until I released my grip on my stories and let them go that I truly found out the answer.

Stay Gold Forever: Lessons in Business and the State of Being

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When I was about fifteen, my father had this great idea that would turn me into the business prodigy that he had so desperately wanted me to be: To start a record label. I was very involved in music, and he had figured that it would have been perfect. I spent months reading business books and books specifically about one starting a record label, only to quit the project and head into an entirely new direction (one of the best descisions I have ever made in my entire life) months later.
Nonetheless, here are some things that I had learned whilst trying to get this independent music empire up and running, and I believe sincerely that these lessons can be applied to life in general and have a positive effect.

That’s My Story, and I’m Sticking To It

When I tell people how something happened (ex. How did you and your boyfriend meet? Is an easy example) , I want to feel good about it. I don’t want to have to feel like I have to paint a different picture to get the approval of who I’m telling, there shouldn’t be a detail to hide. You have to live a story that you’ll be proud to tell in the future.

Don’t Lose Yourself

It’s human nature. When you factor things down to their purest form, the only thing you really have, to hold on to forever and no one can ever take it, is what you think about yourself. Who you know yourself to be. And you must maintain your sense of yourself at all costs. Because your self-image is always going to be what you base your descisions off of, and if you compromise that, you’ve lost.

At the end of the day, don’t only ask:
How much money did I make?
How much work did I get done?
but also ask yourself:
What did I get out of it?
because in everything you do, there’s an image of yourself and the feeling associated with what you’re trying to achieve.

Avoid the Trap

Define who you know yourself to be.
Define who it is that you would like to be.
And define what it is you wish to be known for.

Those three things are your own personal rules of thumb. And it’s rather difficult, but beneficial, not to contradict them.

I do sincerely feel that by applying these little bits of knowledge to your life, you’ll come to a full understanding of why you want to do what you want to do, and therefore take a huge step forward on your everlasting journey to self discovery.

Just Say No to Negativity

In order to focus on the positive aspects of my life, one of my main goals (and a tough one to tackle most of the time) is to get rid of the negativity in my life. As you know, negative can come in many, many forms and a lot of these forms are out of your control. Negative thoughts are sneaky little devils, creeping into our minds and trying with great persistence to lead us away from the positive. And, unfortunately, once we open the door to one negative thought, a bunch of others seem to sneak in.

So how can you stop the negativity from taking over? Here are some things I try to remember when I’m tempted to embrace negative thoughts:

monsterNegativity is boring. For most people, it is easier to be negative than it is to be positive. Most people give into (and, in fact, often embrace) negativity, and end up giving up negativevibes. Their attitudes and actions become negative. If you are thinking negatively, you are like so many other people — taking the easy path. The easy path is not only uninteresting, but it is also detrimental to your well-being (even though, at the time, it may feel satisfying to giveinto that negative emotion or thought).

Negativity is unattractive. People like happy people; it’s a fact. Would you rather be around someone who is grumpy and moping and complaining or would you rather spend time with someone who is uplifting and always looking for the good in a situation? Exactly. People don’t want to be around negative people so you will be a lot more popular (with others and with yourself) if you keep a positive attitude.

Negativity is pointless. Being negative does not get you anywhere. There is absolutely nothing to be gained from looking at the negative side of things. While the positive may, at times, be idealistic, it forces your brain to think about happiness and increases the positivity in your emotions and actions. Thinking negatively does not. It does absolutely nothing for you, so why do it?

Negativity is tiring. Think about about happy thought. Now think about a sad one. Which thought was more draining? Emotionally and physically, thinking negatively can take it’s toll on our minds and bodies. While it sometimes feels like the easier thought to embrace, the more negative thought will ultimately cause more harm than good because it will allow your mind to be open to other negative thoughts. One negative thought can lead to another and before you know it, you are emotionally drained from thinking thoughts that make you upset, sad, or angry.

Negativity is time-consuming. Even though a lot of the time it is a negative thought jumps to the forefront of our minds, it actually takes a lot more time to think about things from a negative perspective. For example, if you allow yourself to think about what might go wrong in a situation, it’s very likely that your mind will wander to all of the other possible scenarios in which something could go wrong. You will then begin to worry about those scenarios and attempt to think about ways to solve potential problems. You will have spent time stressing about situations that may or may not happen — all because you let in one negative thought. Not only will you be wasting time and emotional energy, but you are also allowing yourself to live too much in the future, a place that is completely unknown and completely unworthy of your worrying thoughts.

Now that we’ve looked at some of the reasons not to be negative, let’s think about some ways to avoid negativity. One way is to concentrate on your thoughts and emotions and take control of them. Focus on remaining positive and living in the present moment. For more on these, see my post on mindfulness. Another way to avoid negativity is to communicate with others. As I have mentioned, clear communication often avoids conflicts and avoiding conflicts can avoid reasons to stray into negative territory. In addition, negativity can be avoided by having something positive to focus on other than your thoughts. If you like to walk, take a walk. If you have a favorite TV show, watch it. If you have a friend who always cheers you up, call him or her. Sometimes the easiest way to avoid the negativity creeping into your life is to distract yourself from it. There is a fine line between distracting yourself and ignoring a problem, but if you are certain the negative thoughts will not lead to a productive understanding of a situation, person, or problem (which is most often the case), it is best to avoid the thoughts altogether.

Negativity can be hard to escape. Not only do we have our own minds to contend with, but we must deal with those around us who can be negative, we must tackle negative environments or situations, and we must deal with negative images in the media. However, there are many ways to avoid negativity. Whether it is removing yourself from a situation or taking the time to think about your own viewpoint, removing (or, at the very least, lessening) negativity is an essential step to embracing a positive life.

Finding Wisdom in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland is my favorite movie. Yes, I prefer the Disney version, but I do love all things Alice. While many little kids were scared of the film, I sat watching intently, in awe of the oddness of it. I wondered what it would be like to fall down a rabbit hole into a world where everything made no sense. As I got older, I realized that this world had quite a bit of nonsense in it and I wondered if, perhaps, I was already down the rabbit hole. Everything about the world — both Alice’s and my own — fascinated me. As I grew up, I focused less on trying to understand her world and more on trying to understand my own. However, there are a few good lessons in Lewis Carroll’s fictitious work that I think can apply to us, here in the real world.

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For Christmas, my friend Christina gave me a beautiful Alice in Wonderland journal that she picked up, I believe, at Alice’s Tea Cup in New York City. (Thanks, Christina!) It’s filled with wonderful quotes from the book and I absolutely love it. When I cracked it open recently and flipped through it’s pages, I came across five particularly wonderful quotes that I realize had a great deal to do with living our lives in a positive way. Reading them gave me five great ideas about life and I thought to myself, “Hey! I better share these tips!” So here they are…

Decide where you want to be going.

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to go,” said the Cat. “I don’t much care where–” said Alice. “Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go,” said the Cat. “–so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation. “Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, ” if you only walk long enough.”

Do you know where you want to go in life? I have an idea, but not a certain, definite path. As the Cat says, if you don’t know exactly where you want to go, you could end up just about anywhere. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if you do have some sort of direction you want to be headed in, you should probably start going that way, rather than just trying to get anywhere. No one but you can point you in the direction or path that is right for you. Figure out what your path is and get on it! No one can do it but you.

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Stop doing things that get you nowhere.

“It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.” – The Red Queen

What do you do that keeps you in the same place? Do you want your life to change but you keep doing the same things over and over again? I know that happens to me. I complain about things that I can control. For example, I feel sick when I eat ice cream. I know this, but I eat it anyway and then I complain. It’s a lot of working to feel sick, but I keep it up. Why? I’m not quite sure, but I do know the Queen is right. Sometimes it feels easier to keep doing what you’ve been doing because it’s comfortable, but it’s actually a lot of work. Are you in an unhappy relationship? Think about how much time and effort and mental energy that takes just to stay where you are. It seems like it would be hard to leave, but, really, it’s harder to stay. Don’t settle for less than what you deserve in life.

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Believe in what seems impossible.

“There’s no use in trying,” Alice said, “one can’t believe impossible things.” “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always it it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

How many of us are like Alice, so certain that something is impossible that we don’t even give it a try? People who succeed in life do so because they try and because they have a good attitude. They make an effort. They do, rather than just think about doing. This is hard though. Trust me, I know. I want to be a writer. I want to write magazine articles about topics I’m interested in. I want to write novels that people love and relate to. While I’ve drafted some articles and even written a novel, have I really done anything to pursue my dream? I often sit back and say to myself, “Oh, that probably won’t happen so I guess I’ll just stay where I am.” I’m doing some writing so it’s fine. Nope. This is not fine. My dreams — though they may be grand — are not impossible. And neither are yours so do something about it!

Know who you are.

“Dear, dear! How queer everything is today! And yesterday things went on just as usual. I wonder if I’ve changed in the night? Let me think: was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is ‘Who in the world am I?’ Ah, that’s the great puzzle!” – Alice

Who are you? Ah, the great and mind-boggling question. Do you really know who you are? I’m not sure anyone really 100% knows who they are, though some of us have a better idea than others. If you’re reading this blog (and weren’t already turned off by the crazy Alice in Wonderland nonsense I’m spewing here), you’re most likely a thinker, a soul-searcher. You want to know who you are which puts you a HUGE step ahead of most people, who just move through life not knowing and not caring who they are. Keep exploring yourself and trying to learn more about you. Everything you learn about yourself can help you in life. It helps in your job, your relationships, your health, and your happiness.

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Learn how to communicate with others.

“You should say what you mean,” the March Hare went on. “I do,” Alice hastily replied. “At least I mean what I say. That’s the same thing you know.”

Is saying what you mean and meaning what you say the same thing? I’m pretty sure it’s not. You should think about this: do you really say what you mean? do you really mean what you say? Communication, for me, is tough. I don’t always say what I mean either because I am afraid to or because I’m not sure exactly what I mean. This always leads to confusion and problems. It’s much better to take some time to figure out what you mean than to just say things that may be the opposite of, or not even related to, what you mean to say. On the other hand, it’s important to mean what you say. When you tell someone something, mean it. Don’t just speak to speak.

As you can see, there’s a lot to be learned from Alice and her adventures in Wonderland. If you haven’t already read the book and seen the movie, you should definitely do so. It’s pretty interesting and thought-provoking. I guess this is another example of how we can learn from the world around us. Not only can we learn from the people in our lives and our own experiences, but we can learn a lot from books and music and quotes and films. Pay attention. There’s a lot out there that can teach us if we just take the time to be aware of it.

One suggestion I have for you is to think about your favorite book or film or even quote. Why does that mean so much to you? What about that book/film/etc. do you really like? You would be surprised how much you can learn about yourself when you take the time to think about the things that you like in your life. We are all so different and we all really enjoy different things, and there are reasons for this. There is a reason that you like what you do so think about it and you may be surprised how much you can learn about yourself.

How Well Do You Know Yourself?

Your relationship with yourself defines so many aspects of your life. So how is it? Do you know what you want and who you are? Do you have a strong sense of self? How do you know?

Think about your morals and values. Where are your limits and boundaries in life? What do you cherish or hold valuable?

What about your personal relationships? Who do you hold close to you and why? What traits do you value in a person? How do you interact in these relationships?

Picture your ideal life. What’s in it? Who’s there with you?

Think about your past, especially focusing on crucial events. How did you react then? How would you react now? How have you evolved as a person? Are you still hung up on something that happened in the past? Why? How will you get past it?

What goals do you have in life? Where do you want them to and what do you hope to learn?

What influences you in your life? The opinions of others or your own? Who inspires you? Why?

Think about your childhood and how you’ve been shaped as a person. How were you influenced as a child?

Where do your passions lie? What do you love doing? How can you do that for the rest of your life?

What should you do if you can’t answer these questions?

It’s time to do some soul searching and self analysis. One thing I find helpful is to make yourself a “Self Exploration Notebook” where you can write down all these questions and start to answer them as you think about them. Think of it as making a map of yourself. You can even go further and start to ask yourself different questions that really make you think. Try to take time to write in it every day and see what you come up with.

Consider yourself as the world views you. Think about what kind of an impact you’re making and how those closest to you view you. Think about how a complete stranger views you. Is it how you view yourself? If not, what’s different?

Take time to evaluate all of your relationships. Think about family ties, romantic relationships, and close friends. Are these healthy relationships? How do they impact your life?

Consider the endless possibilities that you are faced with in your life. You can do anything and with all those options you’ve got to sit down and think about them. Think about your happiness and the path that leads toward it.

Continue to get to know yourself better every day. Think about your actions and the drive behind them. Think about your choices and the reasons you make them. Think about your daily interactions and how they affect you. It’s never time to stop exploring. Your map is constantly changing.

Don’t give up. Even if you’re a stranger to yourself the benefits of finding who you are as a person are endless. It’s one of the most important things you’ll ever do.

Learning to Love You

smile on the outside

I’m totally new at this and I’m not going to try to be something I’m not. Instead I’m going to put myself out there and hope to inspire you to do amazing things for yourself. Although I’ve always tried to put myself out there I’ve also always held back.. and only those closest to me know why.

I have struggled with merely liking myself my entire life — it is my problem and my vice. I know that it’s important for me to get this under control, to find love for myself in order to improve my quality of life, succeed at the goals I work towards and continue to be inspired — but how?

Well it IS hard, but once you begin on the road to self-love you will notice your life and appreciation for life looking brighter and brighter. You get what you put out in a sense, so start focusing on positive things and treating others as you would like to be treated. You’ll see a change. It’s always hard at first — anxiety, change, fear — it’s scary. You’ll begin to notice that when you force yourself to do the things you used avoid they become easier to do.

In my quest for self-improvement I have come across the most wonderful, inspirational girl, website and podcast. Her name is Gala Darling and she has a blog devoted to crowning your beautiful life and an amazing self-improvement podcast.

“You cannot be lonely if you like the person you are alone with.”
– Wayne Dyer

Does comparing yourself to others create negative feelings which cause you to feel bad about yourself? This happens to everyone, everyone is improving themselves in someway. Comparison is the all purpose killer, everyone is absolutely different in every way and has their own story, life, dna, experiences, etc. This is your only life, make it worth your while and don’t let others, who may not even really know you, define you.

You have to reprogram your thinking and start to take notice of the things you enjoy about yourself and about life. Sure everyone has something about them that may cause you to clash with others, but what things attract others to you? What things are important to the person that you are? If you feel you are working towards bettering yourself and achieving your goals you will feel more satisfied and confident.

Remember you cannot change the way that people treat you, if they like you or even if they want to give you the time of day. You have to show them why they should give you the time of day and if they respond negatively, change the way you react to it. You cannot change anyone or make everyone like you so someday you’re going to have to reprogram the way criticism makes you feel.

Making a Change

Don’t worry. Worrying changes nothing.
Make a list of and focus on your good qualities and attributes; don’t focus on negative ones.
Be kind to others, see yourself in them.
Find your passion and set achievable goals daily.
Choose a role model; their good qualities can inspire you to be a better person.
Accept compliments.
Know that you are a valuable person. Your time is valuable.
Take care of yourself.
Celebrate your differences.
Smile.
Make eye contact with others when interacting.
Act confident even if you aren’t, if you don’t feel it now you’ll start to.
Consider adopting a cat for responsibility, a routine, comfort and unconditional love.
Take action.

“Many people appreciate the power of positive thinking. But we believe that positive thinking alone is of limited value. Simply repeating positive affirmations such as “I am a wonderful person with much to offer the world” will NOT change your life unless you actively DO something to reinforce that you ARE a wonderful person with much to offer the world!” , Self-Esteem for Women.

“I have an everyday religion that works for me. Love yourself first, and everything else falls into line.”
– Lucille Ball

.. and remember, if we’re new at this we need to take it one day at a time.

“Keep looking at the bright-side and someday you’ll see yourself there.”
– Benjamin Amick aka Mistereducated

Resources

How to Love Yourself in 17 Ways