How strength and gentleness are interchangeable.

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The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ‘strength’ as having the ‘capacity for exertion or endurance’, as well as the ‘power to resist force: solidity, toughness’.

The typical images and ideology evoked from the idea of strength is that of physically strong men and women, a steely demeanour, as well as a determined and confident approach. Indeed, in spite of it’s superficiality, many assess the strength and capacity of an individual on their physical fitness or body language. Of course, someone large, lean and muscular will be deemed as more capable than someone with a small frame and very little muscle tone.

Nevertheless, as with everything, appearances deceive, and there are multiple instances wherein someone slight is stronger than someone that seems so on the surface. It would seem that it is the deeper implications of a muscular figure that indicate the intangible quality of strength, or toughness. The near supernatural mental resilience demanded from successful athletes and sports people, facing, and recovering from, countless defeats, in order to reach the top, is an attitude to be revered. It is a level of perseverance that might cause many to assume the individual applies the same, aggressive determination in their interaction with, and approach to those around them. The same unshakeable passion and drive could, for instance, translate into domineering self assertion and leadership.

Even so, too often, the holistic set of qualities required to make up “strength” in its physical manifestation, are ignored. With strength, or toughness, being the antithesis of softness, we can’t help but see strength as synonymous with harshness and rigidity. Though, when examined closely, many would recognise the plethora of values that form it, including gentleness. 

‘Gentleness’, a ‘mildness of manners or disposition’, a soft approach without coarseness and abruptness, as well as compassion, can been as integral to strength, to having a ‘capacity for exertion or endurance’.

Complementing a steely determination, gentleness and compassion towards oneself and the people around you enables you to view yourself and the world around you with kind eyes. It grants the patience to persevere through stormy seasons, and a limitless acceptance of what is and what will be. With gentleness, or strength, we can all hope to see the pursuit of physical, intellectual and personal progress not as a marathon to endure, but rather, as a current to glide with.

What instances in your life have you had to harness gentleness to get yourself through a situation? Alternatively, do you believe it has ever led to some form of disappointment? Share below.

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What does it mean to live with grace?

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The Merriam Webster dictionary defines grace as both a physical and intangible quality, as an ’ease or suppleness or movement’, as well as a ‘disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy or clemency’.

According to the first definition then, to be graceful is to move fluidly, without any awkwardness or resistance. And according to the second definition, to be graceful is to assume a benevolent demeanour.

There are so many instances in life wherein we feel as though we are pushing against the tide, grace, being the furthest from our agenda. 

We relentlessly strive for perfection, taking our frustrations out on the people around us when we fall short. Envision and aspire to realities different to that which we have in the present, believing that, with that job, that partner or that job title, we will be happier, more comfortable, and more at peace. 

But the thing with grace, is that, it demands vain resistance to the circumstances in life to be relieved. The psychological guards and barriers held up in the face of anxiety, to be lowered. And the complete and utter surrender to what is and what will be. Just as a long distance runner succeeds in consistent smooth, short paces and breaths; a ballerina reaches prima after years’ perseverence, and a swimmer excels after learning to glide against the current, grace demands harnessing this commitment in all areas of your life. For instance, in your approach to others and the challenges you face throughout life.

Refraining from snapping at your sibling when they ask the same question multiple times, listening intently as your friend shares what’s on their mind, and doing the dishes on your day, even when you don’t feel like it, are small, yet significant ways in which you can nurture the grace, peace and love you want to see in your life. In order to reach true prosperity, grace is required on a social level, in applying empathy in interactions with colleagues and leaders whose behaviour you may not completely understand. Acting compassionately at every opportunity, and, consistently, staying true to your values. Maintaining self-discipline in the face of attractive, yet destructive temptations.

And indeed, living with this kind of grace is infectious, emanating into the lives of others. Ever spoken to someone with a calm, level, focused disposition and walked away feeling somewhat refreshed and unburdened? In a world so fraught with anxiety, depression, anger, fear, and confusion, there’s more than enough room and reason to embody the change we want to see. To be a peacemaker of your generation. 

Of course, while each of us as individuals may only have three or four meaningful interactions on a daily basis, if we applied grace in our lives collectively, the impact would be world changing.

Fanciful? Perhaps. But possible nonetheless. What does living with grace look like to you? Comment your thoughts below.

Why you need to know (and show you know) your worth.

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It’s always tiring coming across someone particularly arrogant, whether that’s in the workplace, in your personal life, or at friend and family gatherings. 

Those that believe that they are set apart from the rest, or that act entitled, tend to be considerably narcissistic. Obtaining delusional ideas about their abilities, qualities and superiority. Although projecting a sense of unwavering self-confidence which, on many levels, is incredibly admirable, it has always been a disposition that, conscientiously, I’ve evaded. And my naive and continual hope that others will share in my set of values, including the antithesis of pride, that of humility, has proven both beneficial and detrimental throughout my life.

Many believe that in remaining grounded, and keeping a certain level of humility, they will be better orientated towards serving others. In not having an elevated opinion of oneself, those with humility are meant to have better discipline in their work, be more committed partners and better respected as leaders. It is something that I have seen brought to light in the lives of friends, the stories of respectable politicians, and in my own experiences.

Kathy Caprino indicated in Forbes that many individuals are raised with “an over-sized sense of entitlement and superiority, yet are deprived of real love and unconditional support”, leading to a “lack of true self-awareness and of a healthy level of self-esteem and confidence”. It’s a truth so clearly reflected in the attitudes of many around us. And it’s interesting to see how, in spite of it’s toxicity, it’s prevalence has led to it becoming, to a certain degree, a desirable trait.

With this in mind, it’s important to understand that, with societies idealisations of self-confidence being so diverse, being overly humble and submissive can result in one being overlooked, undermined and disrespected.

Character, so to speak, is not always assessed on what is done in private, but the ability to display one’s achievements and abilities loud and proud. So, while it is great to be quietly confident and possess healthy levels of self-esteem, making one not inclined to justify, seek praise or gain validation for their every action, things may need to be spelled out to those that only look to the surface. Applying humility, a ‘freedom from pride or arrogance’, in every area of your life, is not something that should be turned from, providing your self worth is in tact, but it is an application that can be controlled. A healthy self-esteem and self-assurance should be brought to the forefront, made external in instances wherein others lack the perception and discernment to notice it.

So, while, by no means does projecting an image of superiority and self-confidence reflect innate confidence and significant ability, knowing when this air must come through is a form of emotional intelligence. Speaking out on your accomplishments will not be you adopting the insecurities of others, but rather, knowing your worth, in seizing the opportunities in which you must actively and justly defend it.

Do you have a healthy self-esteem, and faith in your abilities, yet feel as though you constantly have to prove this to others? How did you deal with this? Let me know in the comments section.

Why escapism is integral in times of need.

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The Oxford English Dictionary defines escapism as “the tendency to seek, or the practice of seeking, distraction from what normally has to be endured.”

Thus far in my life, I have deemed escapism as two-sided, as both delusional and a necessity for maintaining higher perspective, a broader vision. Indeed, escapism, in its multiple forms , such as music, film and dance, grants one the ability to transcend their reality.

Nevertheless, reason is placed above passion in today’s education system. 

Of course, not fundamental to the functioning of society, the arts are never pushed, and the logic and rationality of the academics: maths, science and English, take precedence, and so it was English, the most creative of the three subjects, that I pursued. 

However, isn’t it ironic, that the creative subjects, music, film and dance, integral pieces to a wholesome culture, are undervalued, when various studies, and the experiences of so many, indicate them as forming the societal backbone? A psychological crux? Many take full advantage of music throughout their education, using uplifting and classical genres throughout essay and exam season, to offer the emotional zest that’s craved.

Many point to obsessive video gaming, TV addiction and manipulative music as causing people to neglect their responsibilities. And yes, obviously, immersing oneself in a fictional reality to the point where it feels more true than true circumstances, can be destructive to your own life, as well as the lives of others.

Even so, we cannot deny the incredible healing capacity of mental escapism. Psychological transcendence from the mundane, with alternate situations, mentalities and emotions can facilitate real change. Indeed, say, if pursuing escapism, through movie immersion, a Spotify playlist or Instagram feed is the only natural means through which a cancer patient can escape emotional trauma, besides physical pain, then does escapism become essential? Of course it does. And if a struggling medical student did not have access to, say, uplifting music, words of encouragement and self-expression, would they be as self-motivated and emotionally charged to change their situation? It seems unlikely. And, is it a coincidence that top-performing athletes accredit their success to, besides physical training, their ability to imagine a circumstance, perception and feeling different from their own? Not really.

It appears that a thriving society would look like one wherein the invisible divide and hierarchical structure in place between logic and emotion is relinquished. A society wherein logic is taken from it’s pedestal and recognised as most effective when in harmony with feeling. The intellect valued would be, not only rationale forming the framework for medical, engineering and operational industries, but the creative, transcendent expression, that offers the glue.

Do you perceive escapism as integral to enhancing your daily experiences? When has it eased, improved or changed your situation for the better? Comment your thoughts below.

What does it mean to value your time?

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We have all heard the saying that ‘time is precious’, but what does it look like when the ideology is manifested in one’s reality? The majority of people know the obvious forms of time management. Going to bed at a reasonable hour so that they can wake up early for work; planning their days in their diaries or their heads so that it is extra productive, and planning activities and events in advance for memorable and stress-free experiences.

Following the basic principles is great, as they will determine, to a certain extent, a successful and joyful life.

However, can you imagine the control and command you would have over your life if you, near literally, did not let a minute go to waste? Of course, you have to be realistic and allow for a certain degree of spontaneity. Nevertheless, with more effective time management than is standard, you can ensure that each area of your life is nurtured, and, you will allow yourself to get within better reach of true fulfilment and balance.

Valuing your time in the workplace could look like keeping your phone switched off, so that you can fully focus. It looks like listening to, and fully taking on board, feedback, rather than letting your mind wander. Looking at what appears to be setbacks or failures, from an outside eye, as a learning experience, a moment that facilitated growth. It can look like using your reflections to propel you into making more informed, aware, steps, instead of moping and dwelling on the negatives.

In relationships it could mean not staying in, nor tolerating, situations in which you are being disrespected, unappreciated or that do not help you to grow. If you are single, valuing your time could mean being thoughtful in your approach to finding a partner. Having enough self-awareness to assess if another person would be a good fit for your values, personality and lifestyle. As many people know, early signs of incompatibility could lead to conflict later down the line.

In terms of your health, it could mean maintaining discipline in your fitness and your diet. Making it a priority to go running, dancing or maybe spinning, week-in and week-out. Dedication to packing a healthy lunch the night before, time and time again.

And what is the end product of sustaining awareness towards each area of your life? The equivalent in success, surely. While you do not need to plan your life down to the T, it is good to know that, usually, in making conscientious choices, you can truly steer, take the reigns, of your life. 

Taking ownership of, and making the most of, your time, then, seems to be what it means to value it.

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Why you need to be an optimist regardless of your life situation.

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Perhaps this seems like quite an oversubscribed piece of advice.

We’re all told by friends and family to “be positive” when the pessimism sets in when times get tough. It’s not as simple as that, we think to ourselves. Adopting a new mind-set is not going to remove me from these physical circumstances. Because it’s true, in certain ways.

We can change the way we perceive a situation. Maybe a better attitude will even help us to become more motivated to identify more solutions to change our situation. But it can’t be denied that, in life, we can find ourselves in a position that renders us powerless.

Say, for instance, you lose your job, have to move out of your flat, and move back in with your parents. Or you find out that you have an illness that’s incurable.

You can wake up at 7 am every morning, write dozens of job applications each day and reach out to hundreds of hiring managers, but does that mean you’re guaranteed to land the sort of role you want within a couple of months? Not at all. And maybe you can take a certain medication that will subdue the illness’ side effects, pursue activities and goals that will distract you from the illness, or surround yourself with people that will uplift and support you, but do any of those things actually make the illness disappear? Nope.

Positivity will help you to take actions that’ll place you in better stead for improving or changing your circumstances, but it can’t promise to deliver.

But in spite of this, in spite of the fact that it does not always have the capacity to immediately transform your physical situation, you need to realise the trans-formative spiritual and psychological role that optimism can play in your life.

On a spiritual level, the determination, joy and peace that will emanate from you in the midst of your endeavours will have more of an influential capacity than you’d expect. Your decision to keep going regardless of the challenges and obstacles that you’re facing will not only strengthen your faith, but inspire others to adopt a similar outlook. Have you heard the bible verse, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”? In the biblical context, it means to trust in God and the plans that he has for us, to trust the process, and not be disheartened by any temporal, physical, life situation.

It takes a great deal of spiritual strength to sustain a blinkered perspective that disregards the physical reality, and looks to the light. And it’s always refreshing to meet others that view the world this way. They tend to be the kind of person that lights up a room. That dances in the rain. In a sea of negativity and gloom, they form a raft of hope.

In a psychological sense, the feeling of empowerment that you’ll receive as a result of your continual optimism, your intrinsic decision to never give up, will strengthen the faith you have in yourself, your self-confidence, and your self-esteem. Moreover, you’ll develop mental grit, mental toughness. Invaluable in a world that just loves to throw us hurdles to clear and mountains to climb in every direction.

So, before resorting to throwing in the towel, taking your head out of the game, or refusing to join in with the rat race, know that your choice to be optimistic is a choice that you’re making regardless of the end destination. A positive outcome, as a consequence of your positive thinking, is obviously desirable, but, in the meantime, you’re doing it for the sense of morale it will bring to others, as well as yourself. Never forget that.

Do you remember a time when your optimism got you through a situation, or, uplifted and encouraged others along the way? Tell me about your experience by commenting below!

Why you shouldn’t be afraid of vulnerability.

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All of us have faced disappointment at some point in our lives.

And this disappointment has arisen in multiple forms.

Some of us got picked on in the playground. Some of us didn’t get our expected grades in that exam that we worked so hard towards. And some of us got pushed away after confessing our affections for someone.

What do these accumulated experiences add up to? You know it. A series of memories that transport us back to that feeling of raw, emotional pain. We try our best to move past them. We tell ourselves that this hurt is history, until a similar situation arises, and that scar becomes an open-wound.

A lot of us are really good at guarding ourselves in scenarios that resemble a past, painful memory. We stop trying to make new friends because, what’s the point? It’s really hard to meet people that you can truly connect and click with. So-and-so probably already has a load of friends, why would they want to be friends with me. We stay in that we job that we hate because it pays pretty well and we don’t believe we’ll finding anything better. We’ve done so many applications in the past, for no, or few, interviews and very little success. We’re just not good enough, we tell ourselves. And we don’t ask out that guy/girl we like because, let’s be honest, they’re probably not going to be interested in us.

So we can go about life this way, with our armour strapped on and our shields at the ready, and we’ll probably do okay. We’ll probably be just fine.

But that’s all you’ll ever be. Just fine.

You’ll settle for just texting and calling up your old friend, Sue, from college, who never seems to genuinely care about what you have to say. You’ll resort to spending your weekends with Jenny from work, who you can never have a stimulating conversation with. But it’s fine, at least you have company.

You’ll do the safe thing. You’ll stay in that job and maintain that steady income. You’ll have stability, the thing that, as humans, we so naturally crave. For months or years of your life, you’ll spend most days feeling bored, stuck or, even, miserable. But it’s alright, that’s why we have fun on the weekends right?

You won’t get to pick, you’ll be picked by someone that was brave enough to go after what they wanted, and you’ll stay with someone that’s not right for you, because, hey, they could be worse, and it’s better than ending up alone.

It’s terrifying to put yourself in a position of vulnerability.

It can make you feel anxious, stressed and nauseous, even.

But the paradox here is that, it is only when you are no longer afraid of vulnerability, that you can make truly empowered decisions. Whilst you may be plagued with feelings of insecurity, of weakness, the move will be one of inner-strength, self-belief.

These are decisions, leaps of faith, that could result in social, career, economic and romantic disappointment, and yet you make them because you know deep down that you can’t settle with fine.

Don’t expect to lead a passionate life by constantly playing in defence, you’ll have very few victories. Lower your guard and go for it. You have to fight for what you want, which means facing short-term discomfort for the sake of long-term happiness.

You may get bruised, cut and beaten along the way but, in spite of it all, you’ll be on the cusp of a wholesome and fulfilling life.

So, that leap that you’ve been thinking of making? Make it.

Take the most integrous route for you, not the most established, and you’ll lead a life that’s truly whole-hearted.