We’ve been trying to grow a tomato plant but the weather in Georgia is not warm enough to put it into the ground so it’s still in the original package. The plant is dying as you can tell. It needs to be transplanted to a bigger environment. Either we will attempt to put it into the ground or my husband will put it into a large Styrofoam cup temporarily. (He’s done it before. Brilliant he is with plants.) Just as long as it is removed from its current place to a bigger place, it can survive long enough for us to put it into the ground. This had me thinking about life. Funny how inspiration can come from something as seemingly insignificant as a plant.
There’s a common misconception that fish only grow to the size of the fish tank it’s in. This is not necessarily true. Not statistically anyway. It’s not about the fish tank. The fish will continue to grow just as the plant will continue to grow. However, if the environment the fish or the plant is in does not accommodate it’s growth, both will die. Just as the plant needs to be transplanted to a bigger environment, the fish needs to be moved into a bigger tank as well.
The moral of this story is that, as humans, we are not much different. We do not stop growing but if we are not in an environment that encourages growth, we will be stagnant and, like this plant, can wither away. We wither in various ways. We get sad. We get depressed and, sadly, some of us even commit suicide. Just like plants die and fish die, we die too when we cannot fulfill our purpose. When we cannot grow as we need to, we die. When we do not feel that we have anything to offer the world, we die. This may not be a physical death but it could also be an emotional and psychological one. This can also be a spiritual one.
There’s a quote floating around that says you cannot grow in the same environment that broke you. I don’t know who said it originally but whoever it was, you’re right. Our environments and the people we surround ourselves with must begin, at some point, to take a more important role in our lives. It’s not just about us individually, but also who we surround ourselves with. If you are growing but you have not removed yourself from an environment that does not support that growth, does not nurture that growth, it might stop you from reaching your true potential. The point is this, our environment is not an insignificant part of our lives. It is essential.
This is the time of the year where we step back and analyze where we are and where we want to be. The time where we consider if the goals, we set at the beginning of the year have been realized and if there are any changes or improvements that need to be made. This is also the time of the year when I share with you the lessons I’ve learned from the year. Usually, I do this closer to the end of the month but my family is moving so things are busy around these parts. Last year, I had an entire list of lessons learned. This year, I only have one.
December is when I do a lot of reflection. An entire year has passed. What changed? What remained? What needs to be added onto or removed? 2018 has been filled with amazing growth for me personally as well as professionally. At the end of 2017, I was celebrating my move to Georgia and one of my books in a brick and mortar bookstore. At the end of 2018, four of my twelve books are in three bookstores and I’ve just purchased my first home. I attribute this to learning one valuable lesson. A lesson that I do not think we ever stop learning but that gets easier the more we love ourselves, a lesson that I’ve learned and that I will keep learning, a lesson that has changed my mentality and thus also, the way I do things. To further illustrate this point, let me first tell you about an experiment.
The Asch Conformity Experiment
Named after Solomon Asch, the Asch Conformity Study was meant to study conformity in people (how we behave according to other people’s desires and standards) and was conducted in the 1950s. The participants were shown three lines on a piece of paper and a fourth line. The participants had to simply match one of the three lines with the fourth line. Most of the people were accomplices in on the study with only one or two real participants. According to the study, 76% of participants picked the wrong line after the majority of the room picked the wrong line. The study was groundbreaking in studying conformity in groups and has been repeated many times throughout the years. (You can find examples of the study on YouTube.)
As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to fall into conformity by doing what everyone else is doing in an effort to achieve success. The problem is, entrepreneurship is about authenticity and there is nothing authentic about conformity. Everyone wants to be an influencer. The only question is, what are you influencing people to do? Who are you influencing people to be?
We talk about embracing being unique and different but at the same time, we secretly want a seat at the table. At the same time, we don’t really want to be different. We want to be like everyone else because not being like everyone else comes at a cost that we are not courageous enough to pay. It is the cost of standing out instead of standing in. It is the cost of rejection and being misunderstood. It is a beautiful sacrifice that many of us, despite what we say, are not willing to make.
But you can’t want to be like the world and be different from the world at the same time. Either stand for something or fall for anything.
In the midst of the Kevin Hart situation, I think it’s important for us to all remember how important it is to be ourselves and to stand on our own integrity. And if we must influence, I hope it is to influence others to be undeniably and unapologetically themselves.
I. The biggest lesson I learned 2018 is to be fully myself even when who I am is not accepted by others. There are people who will think I’m foolish about certain decisions but it is my decision to make and my lesson to learn. I’ve learned to trust Yah more and to trust his will for my life. To make decisions without explaining myself or feeling the need to defend my position.
…and I hope the same for you.
What I enjoy most about being an Independent artist is the freedom to produce work that speaks to who I am, to not have to pull back, slow down, or sugarcoat my beliefs because of someone else standard. The right and the freedom to live freely in every sense of the word. To be true to myself, to my authenticity and do not have to apologize for it. I don’t have to tap dance around the truth for a check, I don’t have to scratch my hair unless it itches, and I don’t have to laugh unless something is actually funny. I’ve never been part of the “cool kids table” and I am not about to start now. This is freedom.
I hope you walk into 2019 not afraid to shine or to fail, understanding that both experiences shape you. It can be liberating to choose yourself, armed with the power to move forward without guilt, without arrogance, and without pride but with a deep love for yourself that is so strong that you can quickly realize when anyone or anything devalues you, even if that someone is your own self. The biggest challenge is not the war we fight with others but the war we fight with ourselves. To quote the African proverb, “when there is no enemy within, the enemy outside cannot hurt you.” Kill the enemy within. Slay your demons, silence the doubt, and walk free.
Be mindful of how you make people feel because that is what they remember most. Whenever sharing negative experiences be sure there is a lesson to be learned or something to be taught from it. Make sure there is something that you can give back as a result of having shared it. Remember that energy you feed gets stronger. If you feed vengeance, complaints, hatred, and strife, these emotions will get stronger and you will unknowingly begin to project these feelings on others and the feelings you don’t feed like love, compassion, forgiveness, and encouragement get choked out.
Listen to Be Mindful of Negative Feelings now on Soundcloud for more and be sure to subscribe for notification of new episodes.
I’ve learned to establish boundaries. To understand that if I don’t feel good about something, it’s OK to say no, turn it down or cancel a commitment and not feel guilty about it. Establishing boundaries is a form of self-respect. You are honoring your integrity and taking responsibility for who you are. And when you allow people to treat you in ways that disrespect your boundaries, you are not being true to yourself.
Although having boundaries is not a bad thing, it may feel like rejection to other people. You will still lose those who feel you are no longer for them and that’s OK. We cannot continue on with relationships that no longer serve a purpose. But because we may lose people, it is our responsibility to be clear on what our boundaries are, to tell people when they have crossed it or when we can’t cross it ourselves, and to have patience with those who forget and need to be reminded. Although you will lose people, if you are clear and consistent the people who are meant to stick around will and they will understand that there are lines that you simply cannot cross and places you simply cannot go and that it really has nothing to do with them. They will understand that you are capable of loving them and staying true to yourself at the same time.
Growth is painful, uncomfortable, and frustrating. It reveals the raw and aching part of us and demands our masks to fall so that we may accept who we truly are and what truly is. This is unpleasant and frightening but necessary because, without this kind of mental and physical suffering, we cannot grow.
Deceit lies, and lack of proper communication can destroy any relationship. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve known a person, how many secrets you’ve shared, how many deep conversations you’ve engaged in or how many tears you’ve shed, deception is a rotten fruit that contaminates weak foundations. No matter how embarrassing or silly, be upfront with the people you say that you love.
There is, sadly, a thing as being too nice. Energy is precious and we cannot risk being vulnerable to the first smile or positive comment that is thrown in our direction. Not in this world. While we can be positive examples, we must also accept that for some people it’s too late. They have been too far corrupted and will only trample our kindness and gossip about our weaknesses. Like the saying says, “Not everyone deserves a seat at the table of your life.” Discernment is key.
Let go of people who have let go of you. Do this without feeling ashamed, embarrassed or like you’ve done something wrong. Let go courageously. Without the need to explain yourself or to apologize for being misunderstood. People who have lied and betrayed you and left you out to rot will always make it seem that you are the person who is possessed and that you are the one who has done wrong. These are lies. In the words of Najwa Zebian, “shame lies on the person who takes advantage of a good heart.”
Laugh often and cry when necessary. Scream if you have to. Do not be ashamed. This is healing. Let the tears cleanse you.
It’s OK to be hurt, we’ve all been at some point, but don’t play the victim. Self-victimization paralyzes so that we have an excuse not to take responsibility for the lives that we live. We are always looking back on childhood, on past relationships and on failed circumstances as a crutch for why we are not the people we know that we should be. In the words of Pierre Jeanty, “When are you going to stop complaining about who you are now, because of who they were to you? You speak as an activist, yet live as a slave without a voice.” The past is our lesson. It is not our cage.
Do not work so hard to prove your sincerity. It will only come across as fake. There will always be people who do not accept you and to them, it does not matter how hard you try, you will never be enough. Forcing these people to understand you will do more harm than good. Don’t overdo it. Just be you.
Stop misinterpreting silence for whatever your imagination has made up. You don’t know what’s going on in people’s lives, why they have chosen not to respond or what circumstance held them up. Sometimes silence means people aren’t interested and that they don’t care but not all the time (though our doubt would have us to believe so.) Other times, silence means they don’t know how to respond or have not gotten around to it yet. Stop stressing over made-up mental scenarios.
Do not force locked doors to open. Sometimes it is just not the right time. If you break the door down, it will never be the same again. Remember the butterfly: If you force it out of its cocoon, it will never fly. It is not that this isn’t your door, it’s just not your time.
Do your own research and try things out for yourself. Experiment so that you know intimately what works and what does not work. Take risks and see what is legit and what is fabricated for yourself. Do this and you will not bend to every new opinion that surfaces.
Follow your own advice and show yourself the same love you so desperately seek from others. Give it to yourself first and then pour into the cups of those whose hearts are worthy. You are special so not everyone can receive what you have to give. Your love is not a game. Your love is a gift. Give it that distinction.
Never sacrifice your personal integrity for the sake of being “liked”. Don’t let people censor and edit your voice. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s not right. Walk away. Turn down whatever does not feel and taste and smell, like you.