6 Reasons to be a Rebel with a Cause

Monday, November 29, 2010 9:00 AM

photo credit

"The reward for conformity was that everyone liked you except yourself."
~Rita Mae Brown, Venus Envy

Have you ever felt misunderstood?  unaccepted?  uncool? Do you have ideas and philosophies that are outside of popular opinion?  Perhaps you've been teased and labeled when trying to express yourself?  Have you ever tried to change yourself for a man, a group, or a job?  Does your family disagree with how you live or decisions you've made?  Have you ever tried to be something for someone and forgotten who you really are?

For me, the answer is yes to all of the above.

Because I was afraid to doubt, to question and find my own way; I was unhappy for a long time.  Now, I understand the need for a healthy amount of rebellion.  Rebellion does not have to involve conflict.  My use of the word rebel in this context is simply the refusal to obey the constraints imposed by another.  By this definition, I am indeed a rebel.  And if I am a rebel, then my cause is peace.

Have you tried to allow some rebellion in your life?  Have you considered that the bossiest way to "fit in" is to be yourself in a huge way?  Don't worry about everyone understanding you.  Don't doubt yourself.  Take the power of your own individual energy and exploit it to the fullest.  Magically, you will garner more respect and acceptance this way; but most importantly you will feel good about yourself on your own terms.

This is your life, your experience, your vantage point.  Own it. Consider the following six attributes and corresponding quotes to sustain you and light the way to following your truth.

It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.
~Friedrich Nietzsche

Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive.  And then go and do that.  Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.  ~Attributed to Howard Thurman

Do not follow where the path may lead.  Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail. 
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it - even if I have said it - unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.

The strongest man in the world is he who stands alone.  ~Henrik Ibsen

What do you think about the following statement? It really resonated for me.  Indulge me and share your thoughts in the comments.  :)

We begin life with the world presenting itself to us as it is. Someone - our parents, teachers, analysts - hypnotizes us to "see" the world and construe it in the "right" way. These others label the world, attach names and give voices to the beings and events in it, so that thereafter, we cannot read the world in any other language or hear it saying other things to us. The task is to break the hypnotic spell, so that we become undeaf, unblind and multilingual, thereby letting the world speak to us in new voices and write all its possible meanings in the new book of our existence. 
~Sidney Jourard

When the Thanks Don't Come Easy

Thursday, November 25, 2010 8:00 AM

This evening I talked to my kids about gratitude and why it's so important to give thanks everyday and not just when things are going our way.  I told them that there will be times when the thanks don't come easy.   Lots of times.  This is when it's most important to count our blessings and dedicate some time to self-reflection. 

This Thanksgiving, I'm looking for meaning in the unpleasant and uncomfortable things.  I'm giving thanks for being so passionate about my own peace of mind, that I will relentlessly pursue anything that threatens it.

*Thanks for broken relationships.  This one's for the relationships that didn't last.  Sometimes I feel all the loss at once, and my heart aches.  It literally aches.  And I question myself.  What could I have done differently?   But if every relationship is about growth and development, then there are times that we just have to let go once we learn what we are meant to learn.  So, I'm thankful for finding a way to move beyond the emotion of it and look for the growth.  Well, I'm trying to find a way and that's a start. Somewhere beyond the grief and pain is an important lesson waiting to be learned.

*Thanks for disappointment.   I'm not only ready for it, I'm thankful for it.  Life is challenging.  There will be change, discomfort, betrayal, misunderstandings, obstacles, mysteries, highs and lows, wins and losses.  I'm thankful for all these things because I know that I have to get through them all in order to get where I'm going.  Maybe I can't avoid disappointment, but I can reframe how I think about it.

*Thanks for criticism.  I'm thankful for the critics in my life that pushed me around until I had no other choice but to figure out who I was.  I'm thankful for developing a thicker skin.  Thanks to criticism, I know that I want to live a "dance like no one is watching" life where I declare who I am and what I want in everything I do.  There's just no other way to do it.  I can't please everyone, so I might as well shine and be fulfilled in my own way. 

*Thanks for being alone.
  I've always been afraid of separation, being alone, being lonely.  With no confidence or love for myself, I always needed buffers to keep me from spending too much time with myself.  I'm thankful for learning to appreciate and cherish my alone time.   Sometimes we have to step out on our own and make a new way. Sometimes we have to spend time alone to discover that special thing that we love to do.  And sometimes, we don't necessarily welcome that alone time.  So, here's to loving myself enough to take time out to relate to my inner world, even when it's not easy to do so.

What challenging aspects of life are you thankful for?  Can you think back on difficult situations that you've faced and see the opportunity for growth and self-awareness all through it?  Tell me about it.

I hope you all have a peaceful holiday!  Talk to you next week ;-)

Me and My Hair - Always Becoming

Monday, November 22, 2010 3:45 PM

Ever since Ruby Dee stated it on the Black Girls Rock Awards, I've been repeating her sentiment: "I am always becoming."  This comforts me when I'm being hard on myself and it also gives me an excited anticipation of the me yet to come. 

"When you don't feel good about yourself, it is hard to feel good about anything or anyone else. You see everything with a jaundiced eye. You miss the value and worth of every experience. You limit yourself because you don't feel good about who you are or what you do. You hold yourself back because you don't believe what you want is worthwhile. You put yourself in situations that are abusive or unproductive. You feel bad about yourself because of what you've done. Self-hate is a vicious cycle that leads to self-destruction. It fills the world with hate and people with despair. The only way to get out of the cycle of self-hate is to allow yourself to believe the world is waiting for who you are becoming." ~Author unknown

I believe that whether we feel welcomed or not, whether we feel popular or not; we have to keep going.  We have to keep believing in ourselves and creating our own momentum.  I always save the positive feedback I get from readers because it gives me a boost when I'm not feeling inspired; but I also try to be my own cheerleader.  I know that I have something to say, and I know that it's my purpose to reach the people who need to hear it.  I know that what I learn about myself through this process is everything.

I was really happy with my big hair this weekend! It reminds me that patience and the proper attention can blossom any project into a rewarding experience and a testimony for others to keep trying!  Did you do anything special with your hair this weekend or try any new products? 

Also, how do you reboot when your energy and self-motivation times out?  I hope you have an inspired week, beautiful ones!

10 Things My Mother Never Taught Me

Thursday, November 18, 2010 5:04 PM

Sky baby - 4 months

1. Heartbreak is a rite of passage, not a death sentence.

2. God is Love. The devil is fear.

3. Getting a formal education is prudent. Education through self-discovery is paramount.

4. People are going to tell you No. Everyone won't like you. Stay true to yourself and keep pushing.

5. There's more than one way to find God.

6. People will not change for you. People change for themselves.

7. If you have a question, ask it.

8. You must teach people how you want to be treated.

9. Beware of people who will do anything for attention.

10. There's no finish line.

This post is not intended to point a critical finger at my mom in any way. I'm just reflecting on some things that I've had to learn the hard way. I will make every effort to teach my children, but I know that there are just some things that we have to learn on our own. How would we learn the meaning of hot if we never came close to a flame?

The Freedom of Less - There's More to Life than Having Things

Saturday, November 13, 2010 9:34 AM

The sky is falling.

Well maybe not, but there's too much distraction, too much clutter and too little meaning in the world; and our reverence for the simple things in life has fallen by the wayside. I need to get away from it all, if only in my own mind. I'm tired of my actions being driven by the standards of excess and consumerism. I'm changing lanes.

This change in perspective has been brewing in me for a long time. Lately I've been talking about my intention to simplify my life and develop a healthy detachment from external things. Embracing minimalism is a way to create more space for the things that give me real, sustainable joy. What is minimalism? Leo Babauta from Zen Habits describes minimalist living as getting rid of things you do not use or need, living without an obsession with material things or an obsession with doing everything and doing too much. It's a way to escape the excessiveness of the world around us, so we can focus on what gives our lives value and meaning.

This is what I'm working towards, but it's not a simple process for me. You see, I have a moderate case of affluenza. According to The Fab Do Gooder, Bessie Winn-Afeku, affluenza is an unhappy condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more. Occasionally I'm able to get this affliction under control, but it flares back up very easily when my defenses are down and I'm exposed to certain triggers. Please note, the triggers are everywhere - television, magazines, internet, billboards - I'm bombarded with temptation everywhere I look. In order to develop a healthy resistance to the triggers, I must get to the root of what's causing the disease and heal it from the inside.

I realize that I'm a product of an excessive society, and I've been conditioned to associate abundance and satisfaction with acquiring things. It gives me such a rush to spend money. When I'm bored, I buy. When I'm not feeling pretty, I buy. When I'm sad, I buy. When I'm happy, I buy. You get it. Everytime I get money in my pocket, I've already spent it in my mind. The latest product on the market claiming to define my natural curls, check. The perfect brown boots for that outfit, check. You name it - it's checked off on my list and in my shopping cart. The media has conditioned me to buy things to stay relevant - to show my style, my fresh, my success. Of course, I'm not saying that it's always detrimental to buy things. However, I will say that my personal spending habits are a result of my fear of lack and this is undoubtedly detrimental. It is a fear that tells me that there is not enough to go around, so I better get mine now. This is the underlying emotional pattern I've identified within myself that truly needs attention. In my heart of hearts, I know that buying things is a vice that gives my ego the tangible evidence it wants in order to prove that I'm worthy. This is a deep rooted emotional pattern that can only be addressed through honest soul searching and a deeper look at the source.

In America, and particularly in the Black community, we chase shiny things just to show that we can have them. Even as children, we felt cooler and more accepted when we had the hottest new toys. Many of our families couldn't afford to give us the latest and greatest, so we overcompensate as adults. We buy cars we can't afford, clothes we may only wear once or twice and invest more of our earnings into our appearance than we do into building wealth. The idea of having less when we have the means (or not) for more, is entertained by few. Having less stuff requires more individual character. As an alternative, most of us prefer to live through our representative characters. That representative character wants to be admired and respected, preferably in designer clothes. We live in a competitive society, where our possessions and our appearance are a big part of determining our status. So, we often spend beyond our means and overindulge to maintain this representative and keep up with the insatiable, material world. As a result, we stay surrounded by trivialities and filled with a false sense of worth.

For years, I blindly spent myself into debt and stress because I didn't want to miss out, be found out, or cast out. My youthful insistence on immediate gratification became my adult financial and emotional burden that carried over into other aspects of my life. I've decided it's time for me to refocus my lens. If you know like I know, we are happening to the world; the world is not happening to us. With that in mind, I want my environment and my possessions to reflect love, meaning and purpose; because those are the things that are important to me. I'm tired of being surrounded by things, spending money on more things and never being satisfied. Nowadays, everytime I think about something I want to buy, I am making a conscious effort to redirect my thoughts to things I want to create - visions, networks, books, businesses - things that remind me that everything I need to be successful is inside of me. I don't need to wear my success or drive it, I can show it through my contributions to the world. I hope that this change in perspective will not only add to my peace of mind and sense of self, but also improve my financial stability and instill a foundation of modest abundance in my children.

Here are some of the previous posts I've written on simple living and minimalism:

Do you suffer from affluenza? If so, is this something you want to change? If not, why?

Celebrating Happy Black Girl Day in Pics

Wednesday, November 10, 2010 4:49 PM

In honor of Happy Black Girl Day,
I'm sharing some pics of some happy black girls that I know and love.

It's not a game when you're at one of your besties' wedding and the wine is flowing and Beyonce is crooning Get Me Bodied. It's just not a game, so let's not even pretend that it is. I'm always happy when I'm dancing.

Oh Happy Day at the park with some of my favorite girls.

Just two happy girls thinking about Peace, love and pretty things.

What the heck is Happy Black Girl Day? You oughta know.

Black Girls Rock!

Sunday, November 7, 2010 8:13 PM

If you missed the lovefest that was Black Girls Rock tonight, you missed a beautiful event! It was entertaining, inspiring, and enlightening- everything that we all wish to see more often in BET programming. I think I had a smile on my face and a knot in my throat throughout the whole show. Definitely check out BET's schedule so you can catch it when it replays.

In this post, I've captured some of my favorite quotes from the show:

"Being a shot caller is less about calling the shots for others and more about calling the shots for yourself."
~ Teresa Clarke

"Black girls rock because we have no other choice."
~Iyanla Vanzant

"I've been told No more than I've been told Yes. I love being told No. I always say - You're obviously not the person I should be talking to."

"Success is not about money, it's not about power. Success is about achieving peace with who you are as a person and knowing that you made a difference in someone else's life."
~ Teresa Clarke

"The best way to stand out is to be yourself."
~Ciara (talking about Missy Elliott)

"I'm still standing."
~Monica (the whole song is a beautiful testimony)

"Life may knock you down, but you have to choose to get up."
~ Major General Marcelite J. Harris

"Black girls need to be motivated to remember the truth of who they are from the inside out because the world will tell them that they can't rock, that they don't rock, but a-ha - we know the truth."
~Iyanla Vanzant (can I just quote her whole speech?!?)

"Don't TRY to be a special person. You ARE a special person."
~ Major General Marcelite J. Harris

"That's what we're supposed to do as human beings is make it better for those who come after us."
~Ruby Dee

"Let your light shine, be who you are and don't be afraid to be smart, to be beautiful, to be amazing - embrace who you are."
~Keke Palmer

"When you grow up feeling less than special, you sometimes act less than special. Our girls are not being told how amazing they really are or how amazing they really can be. It's time that we start telling them."
~Beverly Bond

"I rock because sometimes I'm scared and that's alright. I rock because I'm not afraid to cry. I rock because I'm loved and I'm able to love. I rock...I rock."
~Anika Noni-Rose

"What you are is part of what you do, and vice versa."
~Ruby Dee

"I know enough to know that I'm not yet where I'm going to be... I'm always becoming."
~Ruby Dee

This is why I rock:

I rock because there's more to me than meets the eye. I rock because now that I'm awake, I will never ever go back to sleep. I rock because I've been up and I've been down and through it all my light has not dimmed. I rock because I believe that I rock.

Your turn. Why do you rock?!?!?

The Love Affair - Still Going Strong

Monday, November 1, 2010 5:22 PM

Originally posted on Peace Love and Pretty Things on 7/15/2009:

I must confess. I have taken a lover. We are still in the honeymoon phase of our affair, so forgive me if I gush about my lover shamelessly. Just indulge me for a moment. I have fallen head over heels for my hair. Yes, I’m talking about my hair, and I am so serious.

I stopped getting relaxers three years ago as an experiment. I always wanted thicker hair…BIG hair to be specific. But I could never achieve the volume I wanted with a relaxer in my hair. As the relaxer grew out, I developed a crush on my new growth. I could tell I was falling hard for it, but as we so often do in new relationships, I still doubted that things would work out between us. As it continued to grow, and the more we saw each other, I just fell deeper in love. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, touching it and envisioning our future together. I knew I was hooked when we would have a disagreement and I no longer felt that our relationship was being threatened. On the contrary, bad hair days brought us closer because I was learning, by trial and error, how to bring the best out of my hair. One day, I threw away the perm box in the closet that I had kept on standby…just in case. Finally, I knew that no matter what came our way, we could work it out and be strong together.

We have been loving and learning each other ever since. It’s all I ever wanted…it’s strong, healthy, quirky, confident and free. Most importantly, it’s BIG. My hair makes me feel true to myself. It reminds me that there is inspiration for every challenge because I know who I am, my identity is clear, and my mind is calm. I’m sure you can guess that this affair is about more than just hair for me. My decision to grow out my relaxer came at a time when my soul was begging for a voice. I’d hidden myself for such a long time, and as my new growth took over my hair, a new attitude and a new perspective took over my life. I mark the three year anniversary of my love affair as a turning point in my life and a celebration of self-love and authenticity.

Celebrate with me. Today, think about one small thing you can do to express more of who you are.