Loving Ourselves Completely...

Last week, while meeting with several college students who are all interested in becoming educators, I found myself laughing a bit when one guest asked me how I dealt with "bad" students during my time in the classroom. Three years ago, I probably would have responded by talking about behavior management systems and understanding the personal interests and triggers of students, but today I'm often amused by the attempts we make to categorize children as good or bad based on their actions and our personal or institutional standards. In education, religion, politics and daily life, we are taught to take in information about the beliefs and actions of others and depending on our personal values we paint pictures of those we assess as good or bad people. Interestingly enough, as I continue to grow and evaluate the deep internal workings of my own mind and heart, I've discovered that the person we often judge most harshly is the one we see in the mirror.

I have been guilty of allowing external standards to influence the way I see myself. I have a pretty clear understanding of who I am when I am operating at my highest level of self, but there are clear inconsistencies between my actions and my ideals at times. I hate being late but I'm no stranger to being tardy or showing up to an event just in time. I'm often perceived as calm and even-tempered, but there are times when I become angry and have to find my way back to peace.

In those moments when my actions haven't been aligned with my personal standards, I've come to realize just how incredibly multifaceted I am. I've come to understand that there are many little parts and contradictory pieces that make me who I am. When I'm making tough decisions, I can hear conflicting thoughts and I know that all of the voices that speak belong to me and I've learned to appreciate them all.

It is true, that as we become wiser, we learn to listen more carefully to those voices that align best with who we aspire to be, but it doesn't mean we are immune to jealousy, insecurity, greed, anger, sadness, depression, fear and all of the other emotions that come with a full human experience.

I've learned not to punish myself when I identify the "bad" within me, but simply to hear it or touch it where it is, recognizing its presence before deciding to return to a path toward healing, inner peace and success. Even when I make a decision I ultimately consider to be a poor one, I now understand that failing does not make me a failure.

Five weeks from now I will be 26 years old and I know that I have made many mistakes and I'll likely make more, but I also know that each and every year I learn to love me more and that means loving all of me, just as I am.

We are not meant to live in fear or pain because of our imperfections. In many ways, we are designed to be imperfect beings. The task isn't to suppress the "bad" as we ultimately see it and hide it under the carpet pretending it doesn't exist, the task is to see the "bad" and the "good" as both authentic components of the human experience and to love ourselves completely regardless.

Letting Go of Failing Love and Friendships

Over the past few months, I've taken a step back to really think about how I prioritize my time and attention. Outside of work, I spend a significant amount of time forming and sustaining friendships, writing and reading. I love my friends. They're a hilarious group of people with similar interests and philosophies of life. What separates some of them though is the lack of attention and time they reciprocate. In some of these relationships, I've been the one reaching out and checking in. I've found that there are a few people I've been concerned about who quite frankly are not concerned with me. To some extent they've been walking out of my life, and I've been playing catch up attempting to keep them around. I once told a friend who was experiencing similar issues with her friends, that realizing who they ultimately revealed themselves to be was not aligned to who she thought she befriended. When she considered cutting them off and expressing some of her frustrations with them, I told her that sometimes in life we don't have to put any effort into reevaluating our relationships and distancing ourselves from those who are not worthy of our friendship.

Sometimes all we have to do is stand and let them continue walking. We can write our next chapters and let their actions and decisions leave them on previous pages. We can let the seasons change and let nature take its course, blowing weak leaves and branches from our strong limbs and roots. We don't have to do anything but stand.

In a powerful video clip I saw a few months ago, Bishop T.D. Jakes preached "when people can walk away from you, let them walk." If you value your time, attention, love and friendship, why waste it on the undeserving? Why spend time trying to hold onto things and people who don't want to be held? The only thing you end up doing is holding your destiny, your light, hostage for the sake of breathing air and life into something that's already dead.

When we let go of friendships that aren't true friendships and love that is not reciprocated, all we are losing is the weight of broken promises and unfulfilled expectations that can, if we continue to hold onto them, cause us to ignore the abundant love and friendship we can find in those who are and can become roots in our tree and permanent characters in our stories. When people can walk away from you, let them walk!

The Role Humility Could Play in Your Relationships

In the past few months, I've seen several friends go through some serious challenges in their romantics lives. I myself wrestled with the end of my own relationship back in April and have since tried to reflect on what went wrong in my previous attempt at long-term love. I wanted to dig deep into myself to understand all of the many lessons that experience could possibly offer, and having turned 25 since, I've also thrown myself into a constant state of reflecting on who I am and who I want to be. I was thinking about several relationships this past weekend, not just relationships with romantic partners, but also friends, colleagues, and family members. In asking myself some of the tougher questions I've probably ignored in the past, I discovered that many of the problems I've experienced in my own relationships have a common root cause, the absence of humility.

Several of my friends who have experienced troubles in their own love lives over the past year point to communication, intimacy, and unequal care and attention in their relationships as some of the primary causes of turmoil. But when I ask them questions that force them to reflect on their own actions and mindsets, I've noticed this overwhelming presence of arrogance in how they see their role in their relationships.

In one conversation, a friend of mine shared that her partner doesn't "share the same level of affection." I asked her to explain further and she said, "I'm very romantic, affectionate and I feel like I'm the one always expressing that and he likes it but won't do the same in return." It was also disclosed that her partner in general has a difficult time expressing his feelings. Although this was a problem for my friend's lover, her ego told her that she was  "worth the effort" and that he needed to just "change" for her.

She is beautiful, brilliant and possesses many of the attributes that any single man with his head screwed on properly would desire, but the truth is if our lovers enter relationships with barriers that they've never been respectfully pushed to address and given the time and space to do so intentionally, we would be incredibly arrogant to assume that they'd just change overnight for us.

What was even more of an issue here is that my dear friend never bothered to really tell her lover how she truly felt about how the relationship was progressing on the basis that "he should just know..." Should he? A part of me wanted to ask my friend, who in the hell she thought she was to believe that someone should just know how to meet and cater to her needs when she had not explicitly shared those needs or disclosed where her heart and mind were with respect to the relationship.

It's not her fault though and it also isn't her fault that her partner's arrogance hinders him from seeing that while he also brings many great things to the table that his own work in making my friend both happy and satisfied is far from being done. In addition, he's arrogant to assume that just because he has some difficulty meeting my friend's emotional needs that she was just going to have to compromise while continuing to meet his needs. Both of them, like many of us, were lacking the kind of humility that could really take their relationship to greater heights.

When I think about this concept of humility, I think about the shear arrogance and ego that I see consistently interrupting the trajectory of our most sacred and meaningful bonds.  If I really think about the root cause of problems I've seen in many forms of relationships, often it's our inability to set our ego aside or arrogance that leads us to believe someone should change for us, that we should only be TRUE lovers and friends when WE are in the mood, or others should just know how we truly feel without being told explicitly.

I also think of the arrogance that forces us to believe others should give us more than what they are capable of giving and how deeply humility could inspire us to fully accept our realities in relationships, stopping us from thinking we could bend reality to fit our own needs and desires.

I want to be more humble in my relationships. I want to recognize, own and display my weaknesses, my fears, my concerns and set my ego aside to open up my mouth and be able to allow the words that rest at the deepest parts of my heart to flow honestly and freely. I want to love, and care, and listen, and walk in humility next to those with whom I am in relationships, acknowledging my small place in this world and the potential humility has in making a massive difference in the lives of others.