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We Are Made To Be Different

One of the best ways to make myself miserable is to start comparing myself to others. To start the ranking process to figure out who’s superior and who’s inferior. To look at someone else and feel bad because I don’t have their complexion, their body, their brains, their whatever. One of the best ways to make myself miserable is to start wanting to be someone else because I think they are better or superior to me.

U.S. culture really doesn’t help matters. It seems to me anyway, there is this overarching push to achieve, to be the best at something. And if you’re not the best then you’re just a loser. What’s that saying, “No one remembers who came in second?” And, “Second place is another name for first loser?” What lovely concepts!

This ranking thing has to go. I can’t speak for everyone but I can say for me it’s been detrimental. In high school I really wanted to be salutatorian of my class, mostly so I could give a speech at graduation. The day class rank came out I remember passing by the guidance counselor in the cafeteria and I said, “Well?” She held up three fingers. I had dropped from number two to number three. I went to my car in the parking lot and cried as I slumped over the steering wheel. I cried. Over class rank. Because I was one one-thousandth of a point lower than someone else. Really? What does it matter if I’m number two or number 200? It’s doesn’t mean I’m “worse” than anyone else.

I think partly, yes, in high school I used my class rank as a means to identify my self-worth, but I know now self-worth comes from within. Yet, I think at the root of this whole ranking, superiority/inferiority thing is a rejection of the self. Of wanting to be like someone else. To look like someone else. To have what someone else has.

One of my favorite authors Louise L. Hay says, “We are each made to be different.” It does me no good to try to be like anyone else because I end up demoralized and depressed. I am me. I am made by my creator specifically so I can be me. We are each made to be different. No one is superior or inferior to anyone. This whole rank and number one business is a human construct, which means it can be unconstructed.

We are made to be ourselves. We are made to be different. Billions of stars light up the night sky. Each is important. Each is valuable. I don’t look like Heidi Klum because I’m not supposed to look like Heidi Klum. I’m supposed to look like me. The more I love and approve and accept myself as I am the better. So I’m kicking inferiority and superiority out the door.

I dream of a world where we all love and approve and accept ourselves as we are. Where we recognize our magnificence, where we recognize our brightness. Where we know we are neither superior nor inferior to anyone else. Where we understand we are each made to be different. Where we revel in our differences and accept who we are as people. Where we come together as a bouquet of flowers, each flower beautiful in its own right, but not nearly as beautiful as when they’re bound together.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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Moving Beyond Limitation and Lack

I’ve been dancing around this issue for a while now. Related to my understanding I deserve to rejoice in life, I deserve all the pleasures life has to offer, there has been this layer of inferiority. What I mean is I ask myself, “Who am I to accomplish anything great? I’m just a girl from Kansas.” A part of me believes all I could ever hope for is to get married, raise two kids, live in the suburbs and have a dog named Sparky. Because I’m just a girl from Kansas.

I’ve been living in a gilded cage, accepting the subtle messages and indoctrination about what I can hope to accomplish in my life. “You’re not born into wealth or fame? The best you can hope for is a job that pays the bills, where you’ll work until your health starts to deteriorate, a faithful spouse, and good kids.” As my friend Mark from Australia says, “We’re like automatons. We go to school, graduate, get married, have kids, retire, have grandkids, and then die.” He’s right. The sad thing is that’s all a part of me ever expected, ever hoped to achieve.

Yet when I graduated from college I felt such despair because I wasn’t satisfied with that life. I wanted my life to be about more than just going to work and being social. And the good Lord answered.

My Creator sent me people to rattle my cage, to open my door. Last night I had a conversation with a friend of mine who is a little bit psychic. He started telling me all these things I will do and accomplish in my life. My first reaction was, “What? Are you serious? I’m just a girl from Kansas! Who am I to accomplish all that??” He told me about my future not so I can strut around with a puffed up ego but rather because I am at a crossroads. I can continue to believe in limitation and lack, that I am this small, insignificant person or not. I can continue to believe I am incapable of accomplishing great things or not. I am at the point where I can embrace my destiny or I can turn away from it. I choose to embrace it.

When I asked my friend how to let go of my fear and my limiting beliefs he said in his (typically) chill manner, “You just do.” I wanted to smack him because how can it be that easy? Of course he’s right but for those of us who are, shall we say, more stubborn, I think this is where EFT comes in. And affirmations. And meditation. And all the things that help us move beyond our limitations. Because while I may not be able to do back flips and round offs right now, I certainly won’t be able to do them if I think I never can.

So I am flying out of my gilded cage and soaring to new heights. Knowing I am fully capable of accomplishing amazing things. Knowing if I continue to follow the signs and my heart’s desires my life will be even more fulfilling, more exciting, and bigger than I could have ever planned.

A friend of mine posted a youtube video that fits in really nicely with this. It lists all these people like Thomas Edison who was told he was too stupid to learn anything and how he should go into a field where he might succeed by virtue of his pleasant personality. Or Abraham Lincoln, whose fiancée died, failed at business twice, had a nervous breakdown and was defeated in eight elections. Or even one of my personal heroes, Elizabeth Gilbert, who when she wrote, “Eat, Pray, Love,” had no idea it would turn into this runaway bestseller and become adapted into a movie starring Julia Roberts. It just goes to show we don’t know what’s ahead and we are capable of so much more than we and others give us credit for.

So when someone comes along to rattle your cage, and they will, I hope you too will choose to fly out. To push through the fear, the insecurity, and the limiting beliefs. Yes the cage is comfortable and familiar but it’s too small for a bird of our stature. We deserve to spread our wings fully and fly freely. We deserve and are capable of so much more than we dreamed.

I envision a world where we cast aside the dogma and indoctrination our lives should progress in a certain way. I dream of a world where we move beyond limitation and lack to a place where we know everything is possible and our capacity to achieve is infinite. Where we know the world is big and broad and expansive. Where we know as we think so we become. Thus we think of ourselves as magnificent and glorious and capable of anything.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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Spiraling Up

I’m the type of person who wants to learn a lesson and get it over with. Or if possible do it right the first time. This week I realized two things. One, life is not about “perfect.” (And what is perfect anyway?) And two, just because I’m confronted with an issue I’ve dealt with in the past doesn’t mean I’m in the same place I was before.

I don’t like making mistakes. Hate it actually. This week at work I made a mistake and had to fess up to it. My stomach roiled throughout the whole process because, “I should have known better! Why didn’t I do it right the first time?!?” In my mind if I could have come out of the womb knowing how to do everything perfectly that would be just dandy. Then I examined that, went a little deeper, and realized life is not about perfect. If I knew how to do everything already there would be no point to being alive. Seriously. If I already knew how to play Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” what would be the point in taking piano lessons? I think it’s the same thing with being alive. Life is a series of lessons, all with the purpose of turning us into maestros.

According to my spiritual beliefs once I reach the point of perfection I will be one with God. Until then I signed up for life, for this experience, for this human body, which means I can’t be perfect. It means I will make mistakes. Because I’m learning. And learning requires mishaps and misunderstandings. The sooner I accept that the better. So I release my need for perfectionism, knowing I am making progress and that’s what life is all about.

I also know progress means I will be confronted with some of my issues time and again, but I’m still growing.

This week I heard a sermon from Rev. Michael Beckwith about how it’s a fallacy opportunity only knocks once. Instead opportunity will beat your door down until you answer it. I love that. I think life lessons are the same way. They knock again and again until we invite them in and let them live with us. Sometimes all we can handle is a short visit, but they’ll be back. And so because my lessons come a knockin’ I may think I’m not making progress. But that’s not true.

Another metaphor I love is the image of spiraling up a mountain. Oftentimes I feel like I already surpassed an issue, I already worked it out and then bam, I’m facing it again. A friend of mine said she feels the same way but what she realized is she isn’t in the same place she was before. It only feels that way, but instead she has spiraled up. She’s in the same spot as before but she’s higher up the mountain. And pretty soon she’ll reach the peak. So yes, I’m in the same place but not exactly. I’m spiraling up, up, up.

I guess I want to give myself a break and I want others to do the same. I want us to realize life isn’t about perfection or “doing it right the first time.” That’s not the contract we signed. Instead, life is about learning, screwing up, getting messy because we’re like babies learning to walk. It takes a few stumbles before we find our stride. And I also want us to know we are each spiraling up a mountain, working through our issues and life lessons but we are indeed progressing and growing. And pretty soon we’ll reach the peak.

I dream of a world where we give ourselves a break, where we treat ourselves with unconditional love. Where we know not only is it ok to make mistakes but it’s expected. Where we know life is about fumbling until we find our balance. Where we realize we are constantly evolving even when it feels otherwise. Where we realize we are magnificent and loved just as we are because we are divine children of God.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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Cherishing The Self

“I deserve to rejoice in life, I deserve all the pleasures life has to offer.” This week I realized I don’t fully believe that affirmation. I don’t think I do deserve all the pleasures life has to offer. Because I’m not the president of the United States. Because I’m not famous. Because I’m not someone else. Who am I to get X? Who am I to have all these amazing things happen to me? And wrapped up in not thinking I deserve certain things is self-punishment. Since I’m not perfect, since I’m not someone else, I’m going to punish myself instead:

“Even though I sprained my ankle I think I’ll still walk to work. It’s not that bad.”

“It’s freezing outside, I have all these groceries to carry, but my hotel is only a mile away so I’ll just continue to walk. I need the exercise after all.”

I’ve done both these things (and more) – I’ve walked miles on a sprained ankle. For days. I decided to suffer in the Chicago cold instead of taking a taxi. In each of these experiences I decided something else was more important than me. I didn’t take care of myself because a part of me felt I wasn’t worth it. That I didn’t deserve it. I felt it to such a degree I decided to punish myself instead.

I bring this up because I think a lot of self-punishment masquerades as something else: “I’m being environmental by walking!” “I’m being economical by not taking a taxi!” I ask you, why is money the most important thing? Isn’t my health and well-being more important than money? Don’t I deserve to hail a taxi when it’s cold, to rest my ankle when it’s sprained, and to otherwise treat myself with love?

I haven’t treated myself with love, haven’t cherished myself as much as I could because I’ve been comparing myself to other people. I’ve been saying, “Who am I to have X? I’m nobody special.” And then I worry if I do say I deserve X, it will come across as conceited.

I think about the EFT video I posted a few months ago, “You are magnificent.” In it Brad Yates says discusses this very subject:

“But if I say I’m magnificent, isn’t that conceited? But in fact, isn’t that one of the greatest ways to honor my Creator? What does God really want to hear? ‘I’m sorry God apparently you screwed up with me because I’m not so great.’ Or doesn’t it honor God more to say, ‘I am magnificent. Nice job Creator. You done good.’ And the more I recognize my magnificence the more good I can do. The more good I want to do. My playing small doesn’t serve the world. Part of me thinks that to be a really good person I should think less of myself. I should think less of what I have to offer. That I’m not good enough, that what I have to offer isn’t good enough. And yet I’m grateful for all those magnificent people that didn’t feel that way. Thank God for Gandhi, for Mozart, for Da Vinci, for Martin Luther King Jr., for David Bowie, for all these people who shared their magnificence. I choose to share my magnificence. I am who I am by God’s grace. And I choose to use that grace to great effect. I am magnificent.”

There’s a difference between thinking I am magnificent, that I deserve to rejoice in all the pleasures life has to offer, and being arrogant. I think arrogance hinges on judgment, on ranking, on superiority. There’s a difference between saying, “I am magnificent,” and “I am better than you.” I can think I’m magnificent without declaring any superiority or inferiority.

What I’m learning right now is I can have all the pleasures life has to offer without coming across as conceited. I can treat myself with love, dream big, and achieve my goals without cutting down others. I can accept my good without comparing myself to anyone else. I can accept my good without ranking myself. I can accept my magnificence and let that be completely self-contained.

I dream of a world where we see our magnificence without feeling superior or inferior. Where we allow ourselves to be graced with gifts from God, knowing we completely deserve them. Knowing we are worthy of them. I dream of a world where we treat ourselves with love. Where we cherish ourselves as the divine children of God that we are.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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I have hope for the future. . .

The president of one of the charities I support, UrbanPromise, a charity that helps kids in Camden, N.J., sent me a letter this week showing me there is hope for the future:

For the six weeks of summer, 16 teens, each having grown up in our programs, were hired to work as camp counselors and mentors for our younger camp kids…we call them StreetLeaders.

They helped interns lead recreation and Bible classes, taught our camp kids songs and skits and shepherded hundreds of Camden’s children to stimulating and just plain fun events.

And they earned money to do it! Like all teenagers, they could have done anything with that money. They could have blown all their money on video games, junk food, going out to the movies with friends…and who would have blamed them?

They worked hard for that money. They earned it. But, what they did still chokes me up. You see, they decided to give it away.

Immediately after summer camp finished, a time when most teens would have relaxed and enjoyed their humble paychecks, our StreetLeaders packed into two vans, and with their chaperones, drove non-stop to Biloxi, Mississippi to give back to those whose lives had been devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

They painted walls, cut and laid floor tiles, fixed floors, decontaminated mold, and cleaned up debris. Our enthusiastic kids even paid for their own meals and made contributions for gas. But most importantly, they worked non-stop for five days in blistering 100 degree bayou heat and never complained. And they wanted to keep working, especially on 55-year-old Miss Jeanine’s house.

Miss Jeanine and her family had their home destroyed and repaired in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, to only have it damaged again when severe storms came through Biloxi earlier this spring.

“My granddaughter and I have been sleeping on mattresses on the living room floor ’cause the bedroom floors were so badly damaged,” Miss Jeanine said.

Miss Jeanine’s story did not deter our wide-eyed teens. “These were the hardest-working kids I’ve ever seen,” she commented. “They’ve given me hope.”

Hope? Our kids gave her hope? Our kids, from one of the poorest, most dangerous cities in America…our kids, who most of America has forgotten…gave Miss Jeanine hope!

“Camden’s not the only place that needs help,” said 17 year old Miles, a kid that grew up in our UrbanPromise programs. “We wanted to give to another community as others have given to us.”

I think that’s the sweetest thing I’ve heard all week. These kids who’ve grown up in one of the most impoverished, dangerous places in the U.S., wanted to give back. Instead of keeping the money to themselves they used it to help others. They dedicated not only their money but their time. Their dedication to service and to others shows me another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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