How strength and gentleness are interchangeable.

Gentlenessss

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 will 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?

grace

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.

Should distance be an issue in a friendship or a relationship?

Distance

“Platonic love” is defined by the urban dictionary as ‘[a] romantic bond between a couple that involves no lust or carnality; often a deep pure love.’

This kind of love then, really, is the ideal kind, because it is unconditional and not based on a shallow foundation. In it’s spirituality and intangibility, it is unwavering and it is steadfast. It’s a reason why so many of us hold the deepest of admirations for the relationships that start with the couple having a best friendship. Initially drawn and kept together by their values and personalities, it’s acknowledged that any romance that blossoms is derived from an intrinsic, rather than a superficial and surface-level, attraction.

Surely then, a steady couple that possessed a depth of love that was “platonic”, in their relationship, would be able to maintain their bond irregardless of physical distance?

In spite of what our popular Western and oversexualized culture might suggest, to love one another spiritually and purely means that, while sustained verbal or written communication may be integral for the couple’s longevity, their physical presence isn’t needed for the relationship to survive.

So what does this mean? It means that in order to keep a long-distance relationship alive, you should focus on continually nurturing it’s spiritual strength.

We all know the sadness that coincides with being apart from a loved one. There has been many days that I’ve spent wishing myself away from my present surroundings, to wherever my friend is and whatever they’re doing. But now I think about it, my dissatisfaction was not caused by the lack of the person’s physical presence, but by a sense of disconnection that arose from the knowledge that they were having different experiences, with different people.

But of course, this is ridiculous. And if you both have an awareness that wishing yourself out of your physical circumstances is all but futile, you will both be able to reach a place of contentment in the present moment.

Your impalpable connection unaffected, your relationship, unchanged.

As long as you feel like you’re on the same page, the distance, or the time, you are apart, should not wear your relationship thin. Communicate. Tell them about the hilarious conversation you had with that colleague the other day, what’s been upsetting you recently, or what’s been giving you life.

Have any of you struggled with a long-distance relationship? Share how, if so, you managed to work through it. Were there other challenges that you faced, in spite of feeling deeply connected on a spiritual level? Comment your thoughts below.

Why you shouldn’t be afraid of vulnerability.

Vulnerability

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.

Becoming captivated by Michelle Obama

 

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Ever read a biography and felt as though you were reading your own words? Or maybe, talking to your best friend? I definitely felt like I had that experience when reading Michelle Obama’s latest book, Becoming. There’s so many moments in her recollections that strike a nerve. So many comments that aptly tap into the way I, and, I’m sure, many others among you, view the world. Perhaps one of my favourite recurring themes throughout the book, is her continual desire to grow herself, to push her limits, to keep getting better.

Self-Growth

Making revelations about he growth mind-set from her youth to date, in ‘Becoming Me’, Michelle poignantly questions her own past perceptions that she would, quite finitely, become a lawyer after her Ivy League education.

As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you becoming something and then that’s the end.”

It’s common knowledge that Michelle had practised as a lawyer in her early adult life. Only that now she has disclosed her true perceptions towards the esteemed profession. Her determination to move forward in the world, to be held, socially, in high regard, maintained her loyalty to a career that she was beginning to resent for it’s indirect approach to instigating mass change.

This, most certainly, comes as a breath of fresh air, to individuals tired of hearing idealisations of institutional, by-the-book success.

Her message rings clear. The established path, the traditional routes to success, will not necessarily lead to personal fulfilment. An important reminder for us all.
Of course, leaving behind her piled desk at the law firm, Michelle went on to pursue a career in community work and politics.

It’s helped me, and it should help you, take away the sense that, whilst a certain path might appear attractively clear-cut, there’s no guarantee that it will lead you to the ideal destination. Life, so to speak, is a journey wherein, sometimes, you have to venture down a path just to know that it’s the wrong way.

Friendships and early influences.

I found myself inwardly smiling at the description of Michelle’s best friend in College, Suzanne. A track runner and avid dance class attendee, Suzanne, according to Michelle, was the kind of girl that based the majority of her decisions on how fun they were likely to be, and swiftly changed direction when they “messed with her joy“. This is something that I have tended, and still tend to do.

Barack’s apparent contradictory nature, “serious without being self-serious” and “breezy in his manner but powerful in his mind“, brought to mind certain fond friends of mine that have this lethal trait combination. A laid-back manner and steely focus. Demonstrative of her genuine character, is Michelle’s exposure of her cravings for authenticity in her friendships. It’s a terrible feeling, suspecting that someone in your inner circle is only there to gain something, rather than out of genuine affection for you.

Michelle touches on this issue of fake friends that were beginning to plague her life as first lady. Down-to-earth, “thirsty” is the word she and Barack uses to describe the people blatantly attempting to claw their way into her inner circle as an effort to boost their own status.

Growing real friendships, it would seem, and by Michelle’s standards, resides in identifying those that truly care about you and holding them close.

Barack

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In ‘Becoming Us’, the picture Michelle paints of Barack unearths the deep-seated respect underpinning their relationship. Barack is illustrated as having always been aspirational, envisioning the world as what it could become, what it should be. One story she reminisces of Barack near-preaching to a group of elderly women, raising spirits and instilling hope, in the basement of a church is intimate and heart-warming. A recollection that disintegrates the stereo-typically distant, impersonal image of a politician on a far off platform, to an accessible, close-to-home, community spirit.

A man that never aspired to fame, or to fortune, but, rather, just wanted to make a difference. Sounds almost like a fantasy, right?

Depth of character and honesty, qualities that Michelle admires in Barack, are juxtaposed with the shallow qualities that some of her friends looked for in a partner. Assets like financial prospects and looks being placed higher on the scale than intangible wholesomeness.

Money never drove us, yet look where we are, Michelle seems to be whispering.

Education

Before reading her biography, I never really knew too much about the initiatives Michelle introduced whilst in the White house. I was surprised to learn that Arts & Culture is something that she wanted to give more ground in education.
In the UK at least, for as long as I can remember, creative subjects including music, art, dance and drama have always been overshadowed by the academic subjects.

Of course, the incredible value of academia cannot be denied. The intellectual skills that academia cultivates will always be essential for the functioning of society. Nevertheless, it’s an unhealthy approach to place it entirely in the spotlight and leave the arts to cower in the shadows. The cultural enrichment that the arts has to offer should not be overlooked.

Remarking on how she’d been raised on Jazz, piano recitals, Operatta Workshops and museum trips, she expresses the importance of arts and culture in developing children:

it’s not a luxury but a necessity to their overall educational experience.

I relished the sight of high schoolers mingling with contemporary artists like John Legend, Justin Timberlake, and Alison Krauss as well as legends like Smokey Robinson and Patti LaBelle.

Honesty

Finally, other than Michelle’s perpetual praise of optimism, ambition and growth throughout the entirety of this book, what really hooked me from the very first page was Michelle’s commitment to integrity. How can anyone not admire someone with an innate purpose of telling “the truth“, using their voice to “lift up the voiceless” when they can and not disappear “on people in need“?

For a long time, I’m sure, these closing words in her story will resonate with me,

There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. And there’s grace in being willing to know and hear others. This, for me, is how we become.”

They’ve given me a sense of empowerment. To be unafraid in taking ownership of even the grittier, imperfect fragments of my life. Indeed, every life can be used to inspire and raise up others.

Gentleness as strength: 3 ways to be highly effective.

 

Gentleness

There is very little strength in the person that swiftly loses their cool when faced with a difficult situation and turns to brashness in their actions, tone and spirit. In spite of how it might appear, this is actually a display of someone with little self-control and, therefore, someone really quite weak.

Gentle-natured individuals are not to be overlooked or undermined, but, rather, revered.

They tend to be consistent in character, dependable, and sensitive towards the feelings of others. Maintaining a peaceful aura, even amidst chaotic social settings, gentle people draw others to them like flies. Their calm temperament enables them to stay level-headed and remain a positive influence for everyone they interact with.

Do you aspire to develop, or strengthen, this personality trait? Whilst gentleness is, to an extent, a genetic trait, or a consequence of the environment you were raised in and the people that raised you; by being conscientious of our attitude, there’s most certainly strides we can take ourselves to help this element of our characters to flourish.

Gentleness, in this growingly brash and temperamental culture, is, paradoxically, what I believe to be a very necessary upheaval. So, here’s how to support this change in attitude, and help create this change we need to see in the world.

  1. Linger in that moment between Trigger and Response.

Gentle souls aren’t quick to act. They’re far too conscientious for that. Instead of behaving impulsively, retorting angrily or doing something in spite, for instance, they’ll take a pause for thought, to contemplate the consequences of their actions or words. In order to wholly embrace this integral characteristic, here’s a couple behaviours you need to say goodbye to.

  • Letting your sudden emotions drive your actions.
  • Not exercising mental-resilience – letting yourself give in to unhealthy desires.

Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People backs me up in this.

  1. Love whole-heartedly.

In a cold and ruthless world, it can be oh-so easy to, metaphorically, bring out our hedgehog prickles to stop anyone and anything hurting us. We put up this icy, protective mask that, ironically, pushes away others in a way that we wouldn’t want to be pushed away ourselves. It’s a toxic cycle, though of course, sometimes past disappointments, failures and relationships will naturally leave us in a state in which we are afraid of investing more emotional, and physical energy, into something that may or may not work out. Nevertheless, indeed, with gentle being synonymous with kind, a gentle person will acknowledge this risk, and yet gracefully persevere in loving anyway. Without investing oneself in life, you can’t expect to bring your dreams and hopes to fruition.

  1. Listen to your gut.

Here it needs to be clarified. There’s a huge difference between being led by your emotions and simply considering the way you feel about a situation. The first expression is a negative one in that it suggests that to be dictated to by your feelings is to be out of control. To be somewhat irrational. Acknowledging and listening to your gut feeling about a situation can actually be a very sensible idea. A gentle spirit, sincerely and honestly, recognises their emotions as truth, and does not try to smother them beneath a steely guise. If you feel hurt then you feel hurt. Contrary to popular belief, that following your heart is a risky game to play, it’s a positive sign of emotional-intelligence that will, in a lot of instances, lead to an outcome which is better aligned with who you are. Your true calling.