#1. You find it difficult to say no.

We have all at some point in our lives been people pleasers.  No one likes to feel like they have let down someone they love.  However, when taking on too many tasks or favors has drained your resources, time, and emotions it’s time to take a step back to re-evaluate your motives.  There are some people in our lives that take advantage of our willingness to help and to be kind. No one is saying not to help a friend in need or not to make sacrifices for the ones you love.  Be there for your family and friends but not at your own expense.  Take a look at their behavior the next time you have to say no.

#2. You make excuses and give reasons why you have to say “no”.

This is a carry over from number one and will tie into #3.  Sometimes you may find it difficult to say no or to speak up for what you need. Instead, you make up excuses to tell that needy friend or family member why you can’t help them out this time. Your lack of firm boundaries makes you feel responsible for their feelings and how they may respond to you saying no.  No you don’t have a flat tire, no you are not sick, no your dog did not pass away.  Stop speaking illness and misfortune on yourself because you don’t know how to say “not this time”.

#3. Guilt and Manipulation is often used to serve their emotional needs.

The use of guilt and manipulation can be subtle or bold and outright.  Sometimes this is characterized by excessive crying or anger, passive aggressive behavior, the silent treatment, and emotionally disconnecting.  Those that have trouble maintaining and respecting boundaries often have poor emotion regulation.  The situation is not congruent with their emotional response.  These people are often dramatic and know your weak spots and target them everytime.  Boundaries are seen as a threat.  If you are not careful, these types of people have a powerful way of making you believe you are the only person in the world that can meet their need.  The goal is to make you feel responsible for their feelings.   In the end, you serve them by remaining emotionally engaged.

#4. You can’t identify your own feelings, thoughts, and opinions independent of others.

Having a sense of independence and a strong sense of self is crucial.  Without those you find yourself living a life that is/was never your own.  All too often people go to the college their parents choose for them, follow career paths expected of them, or marries a spouse their family wanted them to. They never got to explore who they were and any steps moving toward independence are met with strong emotional responses.  These emotional responses are enough to cause the person to reconsider and second guess where their place is in the world should be.  Parents that foster these types of unhealthy relationships raise children that are sometimes stunted in their emotional growth and development.  These children grow into adults that constantly seek validation from others and question their own abilities. The expectation is now for these emotionally underdeveloped adults to be fully functioning and they simply just don’t know how.  Unhealthy cycles and patterns are perpetuated.  Unfortunately, patterns of poor boundary setting carry over into marriages and newly formed families and intervention is often needed.

#5. Your loyalty is often called into question.

This is a big one.  The biggest threat to a family with weak boundaries, is a family member that has somehow developed a healthy sense of self.  This family member is often known as the “black sheep” of the family.  They have not succumb to the “group think” mentality.

Every family has 1 of 2 types of people.  The first type is those that see when things are wrong but won’t speak up and defend what is right.  The other stands for what’s right and challenges wrong even if it means they stand alone.  Family therapy uses a term called differentiation.  To be fully differentiated one has achieved optimum emotional independence.  I don’t know that any one person has fully reached this level of emotional independence; but some are closer than others.  The term loyalty is often misapplied when speaking in terms of familial support.  Disturbing the unhealthy patterns of a family with enmeshed boundaries may mean you are being disloyal to the family’s dysfunction rather than the family itself.  It’s important to know the difference.

#6.  Your resources, emotional and mental bandwidth is depleted.

If you feel you are always coming away with the short end of the stick, it may be time to realign some boundaries.  Setting and maintaining boundaries is crucial for self-care.  The saying “you teach people how to treat you” is spot on.  You get what you permit.  It is not always easy to set boundaries especially with those you love; but remind yourself of all the ways you show up for them.  Those relationships that can not handle healthy boundaries will shed themselves from your life.  Those that respect you and your decisions will stand the test of time.

I had a wonderful childhood and upbringing.  I was born to and raised by 2 loving parents and a wonderful village.  My parents served in the church my mom a missionary and minister and my dad a deacon.  They loved to serve the people of God.  More than that they loved the God of the people.  I like to say I was given a fighting chance to make this Christian walk possible.  I was raised in a church where the gospel was being preached, uncompromised where there was a standard of holiness.  Here’s where I was privileged and didn’t know it.  What was taught at church was reinforced at home.  It was not unusual to walk through the living room and to hear my mom praying, or to hear my dad having intimate moments with God.  These people nurtured their relationship with God when it mattered most….when no one was looking.

I didn’t realize it until much later in life that a lot of my peers were not afforded this same experience.  For some the life portrayed at church was not always congruent with home life.  This can be one of the first damaging things a child can witness when talking about establishing and understanding one’s own spiritual identity.  Is living a life of holiness truly possible?  Is this God I am being taught about real, does he really exist?  If he does exist why does he only seem to work at church?

Thankfully for my brother and me, our parents were not overbearing.  While they believed wholeheartedly in living by a standard of Holiness they weren’t weirdo church people.  They always provided a healthy balance.  No we were not allowed to listen to secular music or attend school dances but a relationship with God was never forced on us.  Our walk with God was our own.  No one forced us to get baptized, bargained with us to join the usher board, or negotiated with us to sing on the choir.  These were all personal choices.   Our parents lead by example.  They were not perfect but their hearts were pure and it made me believe this life of holiness and upright living was possible and the walk could be sweet.

My foundation was a good one, a solid one. I had the best examples in front of me.  Why did I make this journey more difficult than it had to be?

Hey Church Girl! is my personal story in my own words of how I went from spiritually bound (and didn’t know it) to living a life of spiritual wellness. Living a life governed by rules and laws, do’s and dont’s made for a not so peaceful walk in my early life with God.

For most of my life I viewed God the way I viewed myself and other people.  Super critical and lacking mercy.  It was hard for me to accept grace and mercy.  I felt I had to work for God’s approval and I didn’t realize it but I was driving myself crazy.  Constantly questioning or wondering where I stood with God caused occasional bouts of anxiety.

It wasn’t until I gained more clarity on the origin of these thoughts and feelings that I realized I was governing myself.  I wasn’t trying to nurture a relationship with God as much as I was just trying to stay out of Hell.  Much of what I felt was the voice of or conviction from God was really me.  I was making my walk with him strained rather than sweet by setting unrealistic standards for myself.  That was ROUGH y’all!

I know I am not the only one that identifies with a story much like my own.  There are so many expectations of who a church girl is or what a church girl should be.  So many of us have walked away from our pursuit of a life with Christ due to poor examples and influence.  We feel or have felt we will never do enough to live up to what is required to be a “good” Christian.  I pray as I share my story you are able to begin redefining what your relationship with God looks like.  I also pray you are able to see achieving a balanced life of spiritual wellness is possible.

Being a conscious sophisticate means not neglecting all the things that make you, you.  This means exploring and even sometimes challenging beliefs that are tightly wound around our hearts.

Whether one calls themselves religious and not spiritual or spiritual and not religious; we all have a connection with something outside of ourselves that we can’t exactly explain or give a definitive identity to.

For me, growing up and into early adulthood I often struggled with if I was doing enough to get into heaven.  The basis, or foundation should I say of my relationship with God was mostly motivated and maintained by fear.  The extent of my knowledge of him was do everything right or you’re going to hell.  I could never pray enough; I could never read enough scriptures.  Being happy and enjoying life meant I was doing something wrong.  Sometimes these messages were implicitly sent by being told you can’t wear certain nail colors, or not to attend school dances, or even attending high school football games are not permitted. Granted many of these things have changed since I was a young girl; but the impression was made and was not so easy to undo.  This could easily lead to one subscribing to the notion, righteousness means misery.  I later in life found myself creating issues (mostly in my head) to ensure I wasn’t too happy.

It’s not until I went away to grad school these irrational beliefs were challenged.  Would I really go to hell for listening to and enjoying secular music?  If I went days without praying would I really be cut off from God?  Eventually I learned that much of what I thought about God contradicted the character the bible describes.  I got tired of walking on egg shells around myself.  Not allowing myself to explore this so called relationship with God I’d claimed to have.

 

Many of the attitudes I had toward sex were deeply rooted in my Christian upbringing.  In a way sex and sexuality was demonized.  Fornication seemed to be the only topic focused on.  I wanted no parts of the discussion of sex.  For I feared becoming too curious and bringing some sort of condemnation on myself for even thinking about it a second too long.

July 2009 I log on to La Salle University’s course registration Portal to sign up for my first semester of grad school.  As I glance over the required courses for the program I immediately begin freaking out as I see that Human Sexuality is not only required for the completion of the program but a prerequisite for a future course that would also be required.  I panicked and immediately called my mother.  There was nothing I could do.  I would have to get through this course to finish the program.

The first night of the course had finally come and I had no idea what to expect.  I can remember experiencing a sense of guilt and feeling like nothing good would come of this course.  Some say God has a sense of humor; and that seemed to be true in this instance as the course was being taught by a Catholic deacon.  Oh the irony!

By the end of the course I was a little traumatized; but had a sense of freedom.  I saw an erect penis for the first time and the world didn’t come caving in.  The Lord didn’t come down on a white horse with horns blaring coming to bring damnation to my soul.  It was as if any attitudes I had toward or about sex and sexuality were challenged which in turn caused me to challenge my beliefs of my own spirituality.  My little mind and world that I had created had to be shaken to its foundation for me to begin seeing the true character of the God I claimed to believe in and live for.  The thing I feared the most bought me the most freedom in my spiritual walk.

So many times preaching fire and brimstone is used as a way to fear people into a relationship with God.  How effective is this really?  How deep can this type of relationship be?  Who really benefits from this type of relationship?  Shouldn’t religion be merely a way to maintain one’s spirituality rather than a means to try to control one’s behavior or even their will?freedom-to-fly

workplace     Have you ever had to have a tough conversation with your leadership at your place of work?  These types of conversations can often be uncomfortable or awkward but very much necessary.  Often times as women we find it difficult to stand up for ourselves in the work place when it comes to talking salary, promotion, or reporting an “overly friendly” coworker or boss to HR.  Difficult conversations can cause one to feel they are putting themselves on the chopping block or making themselves a target for unfair treatment  Whether we like it or not ladies there comes a time when these conversations must be had.  Here are some ways to maintain your sophisticate demeanor while having uncomfortable conversations at work.

-Don’t be afraid to take ownership

Before we go any further it’s important that this step is digested and followed through as best you can.  It can be easy to point fingers and highlight what others have done to cause us to be upset and ineffective in the workplace.  However a great deal of the outcome we judge as undesirable may be in direct relation to our own behavior. it’s important that we first understand how valuable feedback loops can be.  In short, a feedback loop is when data (your behavior/action) is put in a system (work space) and the outcome (impression left on leadership/action taken by leadership) lets you know or gives you feedback on the quality of the data given.  As much as we hate to admit it some of the problems we encounter at work are direct responses to our own behavior and attitudes .  Be sure you are not a contributor to making the workplace a challenging place to be productive .  Consider your attitude, influence on morale, how you handle challenges, and yes even your performance.  In many cases ownership is the name of the game.

-Always respect protocol

Imagine getting called in to an impromptu meeting by a superior at work based on hearsay from a coworker.  Wouldn’t it be better if you heard the grievance from your coworker first.  Often times people underestimate how smoothly a conversation can go when a person is approached with respect and when genuine concern is being shown.  Exhaust each level in your organization before shooting straight for the top with your issue.  Give people the benefit of the doubt and allow them the opportunity to fix the problem.  This will also give you what I like to call a “paper trail” which shows you respect the chain of command and you are committed to exhausting all avenues at every level.

-Be intentional with what you have to say.

Assuming you have taken the step to confront the powers that be from the bottom up.  You have taken an introspective look to ensure you have done all you can to be apart of the solution it may be time to have the tough conversation you’ve been avoiding.  If it comes to this it is very important that you stand flat footed and intentional with what you have to say.  Being firm with your point in no way challenges your femininity but rather demonstrates strength.  It sends the message that you respect the other’s position and authority but you too have an opinion and understand your value.  Being intentional with your word means that you mean what you say, and say what you mean.  This is not a time to give a version of how you feel but being direct about how you feel while maintaining professionalism and decorum.

I’ve been in tough situations where I’ve wrestled with myself about speaking up when it came to bringing issues to leadership.  Fearing I would be black balled or a dubbed a trouble maker I was hesitant to have necessary conversations.  In the end, by following the above points I found I was well received, my concerns were heard clearly and the discussion allowed me to respectfully communicate my expectations moving forward in my organization/department.  The highest compliment I received was that while my concerns were legitimate I presented them in a way that was professional.  Of course I could have been emotional and my demeanor uncouth; but I could not take the chance in tarnishing my brand.  Your brand is all you have, be sure you are intentional and conscious about maintaining a clean image.  People don’t have to like what you say; and chances are most won’t when difficult topics are discussed.  You can not be held accountable for how your message is received; but you are responsible for how your message is sent.  Be conscious, be aware, be intentional.

sexual revolution

As a millennial sometimes feeling like I was born in the wrong era, there is often a liberal attitude that I find disturbing.  In particular the attitudes and behaviors toward sex and sexuality that are held and displayed by today’s generation makes me wonder where we as a people are headed when it comes to modesty and discretion.  It seems these days our tanks are running low on these 2 things.  Please don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with embracing one’s femininity and celebrating our continued journey to liberation and equality.  However the children coming up now have few examples to follow.  No one seems interested in demonstrating how and when to express femininity so that self respect is maintained and so they may be taken seriously in a male dominated world.  In order to understand where we’re going we should understand how we arrived to where we are on this issue.

 

A WOMAN SCORNED

About 50 or 60 years ago (not that long ago) society began to see gender roles come in to question and even challenged.  We began seeing women that were in unhealthy abusive relationships, tired of a male dominated society which resulted in marginalization, and objectification  want to be free from these ideals or mores.  These women were well within their rights to have these feelings and to desire  more balanced expectations.  However many of the attitudes toward sexuality were rooted in anger and displayed in aggression.  In turn we found more women using their  bodies to do what they wanted, with whom they wanted, when they wanted. Traditional ways of thinking about modesty (such as saving one’s self for one man and waiting until marriage) received a TKO.  Anything that so much as mimicked or suggested sexual suppression was greatly rejected.

IS SEXUAL LIBERATION REALLY…LIBERATING?

When you think about the implications behind being liberated and free in one’s mind and  body as these women sought to do, we should consider the way in which they raised this awareness.  Are you really demonstrating you are in control of your own body and sexuality because you have “redefined” your virtue by being more liberal in your attitude to ward sexuality.  Nowadays it’s almost a crime for one to say they are waiting until marriage before having sex without being called a “prude” or gay”.  The actions taken by these women to redefine how society viewed sexuality may have been demonstrating that they were still very much bound by their experiences.  Someone who is really liberated may not have to go to such extreme behaviors to exude freedom.  Now sure some things are done in an effort to make a socio political statement.  With that being said we know sometimes extreme measures are taken to raise awareness on issues that are often marginalized.  However maintaining this type of behavior does not necessarily exude liberation.

WHAT DID THE SEXUAL REVOLUTION GIVE US?

The sexual revolution empowered woman to consider that they were more than just wives and mothers.  Many women began pursuing their own endeavors even if it meant spending more time outside of the home.   “Girl power” caused the world to pay attention to the contributions of women and the impact they left on the world thanks to the revolution.  The advancement of women’s liberation through the sexual revolution inadvertently joined forces in the fight with other marginalized groups in society striving for civil rights.

What do you think? Has the sexual revolution helped to advance oppressed groups of people?  Or was the revolution the gateway to an oversexualized society?

 

6 Reasons Your New Year Should Start Now!

Today is the official launch of my blog.  If I were to be honest I was ready to quit before I even got started! I went through all the motions of “no one is going to read it anyway” and “I have nothing to talk about”.  After the kind of year I’ve had I obviously have plenty to talk about.   With that being said I’d like to share with you why your New Year doesn’t have to and shouldn’t wait for midnight Jan. 1.    Here are 6 reasons why my New Year Hardly ever starts on Jan 1.

1.  Too much time leads to 0 productivity.

It’s important (especially for me) that I start projects while they are fresh on my mind; otherwise I will have talked myself out of doing it, gotten discouraged, or will have become downright LAZY.

2.  Your new mindset isn’t time conscious.

Most times my New Year Starts when my perspective on certain aspects of my life have changed due to  circumstances .  Unfortunately, I don’t always get some big epiphany or revelation that sums up my year on December 31st   like the rest of the world.  For me, the aforementioned epiphany may come in June or July.  It would not be wise to wait until the new year to start embracing this.

3.  Don’t fall victim to “New Year, New Me” Statuses

Admit it, we’ve all seen them or written them ourselves.  Waiting for the new year to be a new you unfortunately sets you up to go where the rest of your resolutions go after the first 30 days, into some black abyss where resolutions from the last 20 years are housed.  Choose to be a new you now.  Defy the temptation to begin evolving into this new person in the new year.  Start now.

Please don’t find yourself on the tail end of the New Year New Me meme bandwagon!

4.  Mankind hasn’t always been on a time schedule.

If you remember in Eden, the first man and woman didn’t always operate in a realm of time.  Sometimes the comfort of knowing you have lot of time to get things done can work against you.  Today everything now has an expiration date. That window of inspiration and motivation (to start a new business or lose weight) may only be open for a short time.

5.  You have an opportunity to cheat death.

Okay so you really may not be able to peak into your future and cheat your own death.  However, you can cheat the death of a fresh new idea coming into fruition, or the death of a peaceful home and family life, or the death of peace of mind.  So many things threaten to assassinate our goals and dreams.  Don’t let a day on the calendar dictate when you can start living the life you’ve always wanted.

6.  You put yourself ahead of the game.

Imagine you started your new year today? You would put yourself ahead of the timeline you laid out before the new year.  Starting early also allows for a cushion for any setbacks the new year may bring.  This time next year, you may be much further than you ever imagined.

Consider your journey this year.  How many times has your new year had a chance to begin?