30 Days of Personal Growth, Day 30: The Journey Continues

“When you change, everything will change for you.”  -Jim Rohn

Wow–I can’t believe 30 days have passed already! Our journey has come to an end now, and I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have. I’m so thankful for the new and old followers, likes, and comments. I hope I’ve inspired you to love yourself unconditionally, pursue your goals and dreams freely, think flexibly, and live fully. This has been a rewarding challenge for me, both in terms of learning about myself and posting daily.

I’m taking a week off from blogging, but before I go, I want to remind you that the journey toward personal growth never ends. As long as you’re alive, you’re constantly learning, growing, and evolving. Embrace it! Here are 10 tips summarized from this series to help you on your own unique path.

1. Love and accept yourself. You have a right to take care of your needs, appreciate yourself, and value yourself. Never forget your intrinsic human worth.

2. Be a flexible thinker. Allow for variation and change. You’ll win some, you’ll lose some. You’ll never be perfect. Be open to all of life’s possibilities, and know that whether you succeed or fail, you’re worthwhile.

3. Treat your body right. You only get one. Don’t get caught up on how it looks–focus on what it does for you, and feed it the nutrients it craves.

4. Take control of yourself. No one can make you feel, think, or do anything. It’s all up to you to decide what things mean for you. Take mastery over yourself.

5. Surround yourself with honest, real people. Real friends accept you for you and care about you. As much as they love you and want to see you succeed, they’ll also be honest with you when you’re not doing your best.

6. Connect to your external world. Our inner worlds can be exciting places, but there’s a lot to admire outside of ourselves, too. Put your feelers out into the world and savor its richness and diversity.

7. Respect others’ rights. We all have a right to our own unique existence, whether someone likes it or not. As long as what you do does not hurt you or infringe on someone else’s rights, live as you desire, and allow others to do the same.

8. Find your peace place. The world’s chaotic sometimes. Step back from draining relationships, work, and other sources of stress and tap into your own peace place–art, music, writing, nature, anything that uplifts you.

9. Be thankful. Be grateful for what you have. Somewhere, someone doesn’t have half as much as you do. Thank others as much as you can and appreciate what’s in front you right now.

10. Commit to personal growth. Finished products we are not. There’s always something for us to learn, to see, to experience. Commit to your personal growth through books, blogs, audiotapes, and more. And don’t just read or listen to them–try to apply them to your life. You always have room to grow. Be positive during the journey!

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30 Days of Personal Growth, Day 24: When It All Changed

“As I stopped feeling like I couldn’t do things, I began acting confident and successful, and I realized that the better I felt, the more opportunity was coming to me.” -Amy DuBois Barnett

I was waiting on something to happen. I was waiting to feel content, to feel as if I could accomplish something, to feel good about my life and about myself. As I hoped and prayed for my life to begin, I cried some nights and zoned out most days.

Why didn’t good things happen to me? I wondered. Why was everyone else so lucky, so fortunate? Where were my blessings? What had I done to deserve such a life?

I waited. And waited. And cried. Wasted time. Wasted money and energy. I wanted what others had and didn’t appreciate the things that were right in front of me, however small. I had nothing to be proud of, so I thought. I had nothing to show for myself. When was it going to be my turn?

Then something happened. Tired of wallowing in despair and blaming the universe and my elementary school teacher for my problems, I opened my eyes. I began to search for knowledge, for truth and wisdom. I devoured everything I could on being a better me. I took a deep, difficult look at myself and saw some things I didn’t like. But with information in hand, I was able to begin the long process of change. I was able to accept full responsibility for my life. I was able to change.

No longer could I blame others for anything I didn’t like in my life. I gained mastery over myself, over my thoughts and feelings, and over my actions. I became the woman I had always wanted to be, the woman I had not fathomed would be me. I made up my mind to accept myself and be bold, fearless, and strong. I became powerful, and that’s when my situation changed. I became confident, and that’s when my situation changed. No more bitterness. No more longing for the past. No more wasting the present. I changed, and everything around me changed.

Of course I still have more to learn, more ways in which to grow. But I’ve done what it takes many years to do: I’ve begun. I’ve realized that I want to live in peace and on purpose, and, with the support of family, friends, and mentors, I’ve made it happen. I decided to stop being a victim and start feeling empowered and confident. I didn’t wait my turn–I took it. When I made that decision, that’s when everything changed.

30 Days of Personal Growth, Day 22: 7 Tips for Building Real Confidence

I used to think that if I smoothed foundation over my face perfectly, showed enough of my curves, and delicately curled every strand of my long luxurious weave, I’d be confident. If you looked pretty, feeling confident had to be the next step, right?  So I buffed, flipped, and sculpted my face and hair. I did everything magazines and YouTube videos instructed me to. When I finished the heavy-duty labor, I took digital photos of myself to make sure everything looked natural. I had no choice but to be confident after that.

But I never felt it.

I wondered how I could make myself look like a model but still feel like hiding. Weren’t fly hair, makeup, and clothes an “upgrade”? I thought for sure that good looks made people bold. If I didn’t look pretty, I couldn’t imagine any other way of feeling confident. What’s more, all that attention to my looks without any focus on my intrinsic worth was making me pretty vacuous.

Then, after deep sessions with the book that changed my life—”Boosting Self-Esteem for Dummies” (yes, I know)—I had a revelation: If I had a strong sense of my worth as a human being, I could feel courageous regardless of whether my hair was done or I had impeccably cat-lined eyes. When I discovered I was worthwhile, I understood how confidence transcended physical appearance. Ask yourself how you’d act if you believed you were as valuable as anyone else, and do that. It’s a long process, but that’s what true confidence is all about. Here are just a few of my hallmarks for building healthy, sustainable confidence.

1. Maintain good eye contact. Nothing conveys confidence more than the ability to look someone squarely in the eye and speak. Eye contact shows that you value yourself and the person you’re speaking to. Shifting eyes express uncertainty, shame, or fear. It’s easy to look down or away when you don’t feel good about yourself. I made a habit of avoiding others’ eyes. Start looking—not staring—into people’s eyes and watch how they open up to you.

2. Smile. When I struggled with self-acceptance, people asked me if everything was ok because of the down-and-out expression I wore. It was terribly annoying to hear that question, and I’m sure it’s just as annoying for others to have to wonder. I always admired people who looked pleasant, eyes alert and mouth curled slightly upward, but I thought I’d look weird if I tried. After my revelation, though, I found smiling much easier. When you know you can’t control what other people think and you have a right to your own existence, you can smile as you please. It may feel funny at first, but it makes you feel good—and makes others comfortable, and more likely to approach you. I’ve gotten so many positive responses since I started smiling. And I do it everywhere—on the bus, at the grocery store, at work, in the mall. I sit alone and smile now because it makes me feel good. A warm, easy smile beats a frown any day.

3. Breath deeply, walk slowly. Have you ever held your breath in an uncomfortable situation? Doesn’t help much. I used to shrug my shoulders up tight and hold my breath when I felt nervous. Far better for your confidence is to take a few deep cleansing breaths. You’ll feel much more relaxed, and it’s also really good for your lungs. Don’t forget to walk slowly, too. Doing so gives you time to take in your surroundings and feel calm. Take a deep breath and walk like you belong—you do.

4. Speak in your natural voice. When I’m talking to good friends or siblings, my voice feels smooth, slightly mid-pitched, and comfortable. I noticed that when I’m in class or speaking to someone I don’t know, my voice gets really deep and growl-like. Pay attention to how your voice changes when you’re in different social situations. The voice you use when you’re with the people you’re most comfortable with is the voice you should aim to use all the time. Also, speaking slowly appears self-assured. It’s not easy, though. Sometimes my voice volleys between grumbling deep and airily high-pitched. I have to make a conscious effort to meet that mid-range tone, but with practice, it will get easier.

5. Accept that you’re not perfect. Confidence means rolling with your good, bad, and neutral points. It means you can go for things without worrying about how others perceive you because they’re just as human as you are. If you believed that, you’d take risks and feel fine about not getting things perfect. Mistakes are part of life. When you accept that you’ll never be perfect, you’ll feel more confident to try things.

6. Appreciate what you and others have without making comparisons. You may not like some of your facial features or body parts, but you’re better off accepting them. Be generous in complimenting yourself, knowing that your worth is on the inside. Likewise, appreciate and compliment others without comparing yourself to them. I used to wish I were taller or had smoother skin. But as many billions of people there are on Earth, we’re all unique, so don’t waste your time beating yourself up about what you think others have that you don’t. Accepting yourself, flaws and all, is very confident—and attractive.

7. Keep it positive. During my freshman year of college, I hung with a girl who was so down on herself that it was tiresome. She’d constantly complain about her how unruly her hair was, how much weight she’d gained, and how she couldn’t find a boyfriend. I found myself encouraging her more than just hanging out, and it got old fast. I was still struggling with myself at the time, but it was enlightening to see how low self-esteem comes off to others. No matter what, remember to be positive. It’s tiresome to hear someone constantly berate themselves. Lift yourself up—don’t wait for someone to tell you’re ok. You already are. Accept it, enjoy it, and keep it positive.

30 Days of Personal Growth, Day 14: What Are You Thankful For?

I am grateful for what I am and have.
My thanksgiving is perpetual…
O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches.
No run on my bank can drain it
for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.

-Henry David Thoreau

The past few days have been a drag for me. With temperatures near 100, buses and trains running ridiculously slow, and my commute busting my wallet, I’ve been eager to finish each day and climb in my bed.

This over-it attitude, however, is distracting me from what’s going well in my life. For one, I’m interning at a magazine, a medium I’ve been obsessed with since I picked up an issue of Reader’s Digest at age 6. I also scored a writing contract with a magazine for teen girls, and I’m about to renew my freelance writing contract with a popular online company. I got all the money I need to finish my degree this fall. Plus, I’m blogging every day! When I think about all these awesome things, a few minutes waiting for the bus in the blazing heat doesn’t seem so bad.

I’m making a mental note of everything I’m grateful for and happy about today, because even when one area of my life isn’t going the way I’d like, there’s always something else to smile about. Food, hot water, and clothing are a start. There’s always a reason to feel good, even if it’s “just” the fact that you woke up today or had a comfortable place to sleep last night. Not everyone did.

If you focus on the positive things in your life, you’ll find that you have many reasons to be grateful. Don’t forget to express your gratitude and joy to the people who’ve helped you in one way or another, too. Today and always, choose to take stock of the awesome things going on in your world–it’s sure to be a long list.

PS: Check out these fun, free gratitude worksheets from Feel Good Tribe!

30 Days of Personal Growth, Day 12: Meditate on Mantras

I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.

-Jimmy Dean

Yesterday I found out the convenient bus route I take from my internship every day had changed. Instead of walking two feet to catch the bus, I’d have to walk a little less than half a mile. I was already having a ho-hum day, so I rolled my eyes as I searched for a new way to get  home. Why did they have to change the route this summer? I wondered. It was a small inconvenience, yes, but an inconvenience nonetheless.

Then I remembered 30 Days of Personal Growth. I remembered that I had just written a post about maturity, about dealing with unexpected setbacks like an adult. And in that moment, I formulated a new mantra: I can deal with unfavorable circumstances. I still wasn’t happy with the bus route change, but I accepted the fact that I had no control over it. My mantra reminded me that I could handle that situation and any like it.

You don’t have to practice any particular religion to speak a word or phrase that transforms your mind. I used to picture a Buddhist monk sitting cross-legged in temple repeating Om” when I heard the word “mantra,” but all you need are a few phrases that are positive, short, and personal, phrases that you can repeat to yourself as much as you need to, anywhere you need to. For example, when I hear that someone dislikes me, I remind myself that I can live with anyone’s opinion of me or I can’t control what others think of me. When I’m tempted to do something I know I don’t need to, I say, Every time I refrain I grow stronger or I can do what’s best for me in the long run, even if it hurts right now. I keep a list of phrases in my phone that I can easily refer to in a pinch, and repeating them works for me.

I encourage you to read more about mantra meditation and write a few mantras of your own. A good one will help you stay positive, relaxed, and focused in any situation.

30 Days of Personal Growth, Day 9: Give Up the Drama

Relax. Give up the drama.

Drama can be exciting, especially when it’s not ours to deal with. But while we all have to face it at some point, we don’t have to embrace it. Today’s wisdom comes from Baggage Reclaim, British writer Natalie’s Lue’s insightful, funny blog on relationships. Enjoy!

1. Practice mindfulness in your relationships, especially in the early days, weeks, and months.

 This means not trying to anticipate what’s next or worrying about what isn’t happening yet. What you should be practicing is being right here in the present, in reality. If your mind drifts, pull it back – you don’t have to chase every thought, especially ones that take you out of reality.

2. Don’t run with an immediate response of blaming yourself.

Hold that thought and park it. I know you might want it to be you, because it may convince you that you’re “not good enough”, or give you what you think is a legitimate reason to go back for round 2 or even round 50, but unless you’re 100% in control of something, you can’t blame you. Own your part – owning someone else’s is like deleting them out of the picture. If you’re itching to blame yourself, brain dump and put it all on paper – don’t let it rattle around. Putting it on paper makes it real, especially if you challenge and prove the truth of what you write. Unless what you’ve put down is absolutely true, you’re lying to yourself.

3. Hold that ‘bankruptcy’ thought.

 If you write yourself off every time something doesn’t go as you’d like, then yeah, you’re going to have a lot of drama in your life. You can’t keep making it the end of the world, simply because it’s not.

4. Know and stick to your deal breakers.

Much of the drama in unhealthy relationships comes from hanging around long past the sell-by-date. The most successful and creative people know how to fail fast – recognising when something isn’t working, addressing and moving forward, which in the end is anything but failure and actually paves the way to success. Recognising crucial signs that your relationship is critically unwell, can help you differentiate between teething problems and needing to practically transplant another person into the relationship for it to work.

5. Don’t try to convince, convert and bargain.

You’re not supposed to be liked by everyone, not every person can be ‘The One’ and not every relationship is meant to last. Drama will be a constant companion if you fritter away your life trying to convince someone to value you or want you in the way that you want them, or you try to change them, or you keep haggling like a used car salesperson that’s desperate to do a deal at all costs.

6. Listen with your ears, not with your ego or your overactive imagination.

One of the most drama riddled people I know told me a story recently where most of what they said happened, didn’t actually happen in the way she said. It’s not necessarily because she was telling porkies – it’s because from the moment she sensed conflict, it reminded her of some previous experiences and she wasn’t really ‘there’ anymore. Make sure you can distinguish clearly between what was said and done, and what you think they think of you or even previous experiences. Make sure you’re actually relating to the person in front of you, not people from your past.

7. Learn some more emotional descriptors that extend beyond the word ‘hurt’.

Of course sometimes you are hurt, but if your default emotion when things don’t go your way is hurt, you’re actually causing yourself unnecessary grief by misleading yourself about what you truly feel and may be shutting off opportunities. Hurt is about mental pain and distress – if you frequently claim hurt, it’s time to ask yourself “Am I truly experiencing mental pain and distress and if I am, is it proportionate to what I’ve actually experienced?” Speaking from personal experience and observation, having hurt as a default emotion is what you do when you don’t express anger and struggle with conflict and criticism. Truth is, sometimes you’re seriously pissed off. Or disappointed, irritated, confused, infuriated, vulnerable, tired, frustrated, unheard, excluded, or whatever – be descriptive because it will help you to explore what and why you feel it.

8. Get angry.

Acting like you don’t ‘do’ anger, will just repress what you truly feel and work itself out in other ways, not least because you end up trying to influence people to do what you want, often to rectify previous slights either done by them or others that you’ve kept it zipped about, only to then end up compromising yourself further, coming up against more drama and of course feeling pissed off but not saying so. Exhausting. You’re human and this means you’re entitled to get angry because it’s a healthy emotion. If you stop trying to censor your anger, you will find that it passes far quicker.

9. Only seek to control you, not others.

 Trying to control the uncontrollable is a major route to drama. What can you do about you? If you’re thinking about changing someone, what can you do? If the success of a situation rests on them spontaneously combusting into being someone different to who they are now, you’re rendering yourself powerless and leaving yourself at the mercy of external factors. If you’re with someone or participating in a situation where you have little or no power, you shouldn’t be in it.

10. Choose to let it go.

If you think you’re just going to let something go of your own accord, think again. Letting go takes conscious, repeated effort. It’s the choice between grabbing back onto something, or reminding yourself that you’re done. A lot of drama comes from us tricking ourselves into believing that if it comes into our head, that weobviously are not ready to let go yet. It’s you that has to decide and keep deciding to let go.

You also don’t have to make the other person think that you’re ‘right’ or keep going back to let them know “just one more thing”. Work it out with yourself – you need to be on your own side and get your own head straight.

If someone gets on my wick, my brain can go into overdrive having conversations or thinking about what to do next time. I’ve actually found that drawing a conclusion, getting behind my decision, and refocusing every time I try to choose not to let it go, actually helps to let it go. The more I say “Let it go” and even physically push my arms out from me, is the more it dissipates. Sometimes I ask “What’s changed?” because really, what’s the point in grabbing onto it again if all that’s changed is that your ego is having an off day and you’re scared of change? 9 times out of 10, nothing material has changed, it’s just that I felt like revisiting it and busting my proverbial balls.

Drama is very much governed by choice. When you curb your own drama tendencies, you will find that drama in your life will reduce dramatically, because you are calm and rational enough to have the perspective not to make yourself responsible for other people’s behaviour and won’t invest energy in changing others.