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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

There's No Room in a Minimalist Life for Unhealthy Competition & Negative Self-Thoughts

Over my lifetime, I've read scores of self-help, organizing, minimalist, simplifying, housecleaning & other books promoted to help one get better at living. Without fail, every one of them, from the bad books to the superb, had at least one original idea in it. And each author, even if they weren't a particularly great writer, had a story to tell about their own life- and no two people's lives ever look quite the same. Nor do any two people share the exact same perspective on every single subject. Everyone has something fresh to give to the reader. Even people who go through the exact same situation together end up with slightly different takes on the whole event (at the very least). Undoubtedly, certain authors are far better writers than others, both in a please-an-English-teacher way, and in sheer entertainment value. Other authors may not be spectacular writers, but they nonetheless bring loads of experience and/or creativity to the plate, and that can make up for some other errors. There are hoards of people with a master's degree in English who simply don't possess enough imagination, originality & pizazz to write a book worth reading cover to cover. And yet, some of our finest songwriters, comedy writers, screenwriters, playwrights & novelists barely got past the fifth grade. Woody Allen, Dolly Parton, George Burns, Jack Benny...the list goes on & on of people without much formal education and/or who despised it, yet turned out to be utterly brilliant all on their own. Beyond learning to do basic arithmetic, read & write, they needed school for very little help in worldly success. These same brilliant people, while they may joke around otherwise, also knew (or know, if they're still alive) something else- there's room on the boat for more brilliance all the time. There's enough work to go around. Everyone will have a heyday, sometimes more than once. And everyone will have dry years. This is true no matter what business you're in, no matter how talented or intelligent or good-looking you are. So, to me, getting an education just to prove your better than someone else, or in the belief that you'll gain some advantage on a competitor, is a poor reason to seek out a college degree.

A little healthy competition, especially in jest, is good for the soul. Unhealthy competition- displayed in cruel Hollywood gossip, plastic surgeon offices, country clubs, high school cliques, many sports & most large businesses day- can be soul-destroying. I, for one, believe that we each have something special to contribute to the world. And that gift, whatever it may be, is so special that no power on earth could ever keep you from sharing it, and from achieving your goals, no matter what the naysayers believe. There's room for everyone onboard. Maybe that's not true, according to some people in the "natural world", but I'm here to tell you that they're wrong. We can choose to build each other up or tear each down, but we can't do both. We live by faith, or we live by fear- again, you'd better decide now which way you're going to go. Fear will set fire to the path of joy & burn it right up. Even if life does disappoint you sometimes, isn't it still better to live happily & believe that good things await you, beyond even what your wildest imagination can come up with? Of course you'll still have to work for things, but you can choose to believe that the magic will come even when you don't see a logical way of something turning out okay in the end.

Intention can draw many things into our lives. We can choose to believe just about anything about ourselves that we want to. We might as well pick the very best to believe in. Now, some things in life- your natural eye color, the set of parents you were born to, the ancestry you come from- you can't believe those things away. (Well, you could, but you'd be believing in a delusion, and I'm a stickler for self-honesty.) You can certainly, though, decide on how much you are going to let those things affect you, and I mean in both a good & in a bad way. I happen to have some pretty spectacular ancestors, no one famous, just good people who lived clean & did right by everyone they knew. I have no doubt that their good choices, many made on purpose, have given me the great advantages that I experience today. The old saying of "the sins of the fathers will be visited upon the children" may be true, but the saintly things have a way of paying back dividends, as well. Call it karma, call it luck, call it anything you want- but live long enough, and you'll get to see that in action for yourself, if you look closely.

Anyone who knows me personally knows that I'm a big girl. However, despite my culture's general preference for small women, I still made a conscious choice many years ago that I was going to believe that I was beautiful. After all, it made me happy to believe it. There were things about me, both on the inside & the outside, that make me beautiful, so I didn't think I was being delusional. So I chose to focus on & magnify those things which were beautiful about me, and minimize those that weren't so flawless. Would I prefer to be a size six? Of course- being thin's easier than being fat in quite a few practical ways. But will it make me love myself more to get to that size? Nope. I made a decision that I would love myself & enjoy every inch of who I am even when the world stood against me & said I was wrong to do so. Soon enough, the world around me got the point, though, and I've had many people giving compliments over various beauty-related things for years. If I didn't have this belief, and many women don't, I probably wouldn't take the time & care that I do to wear my hair nicely, put on lovely makeup, manicure & pedicure my nails, choose good jewelry & always make sure my clothes & shoes fit well, are comfortable & flattering. I'm worth looking & feeling good. It's why I eat healthy, exercise, don't smoke, don't sunbathe & don't drink alcohol. Not out of a sense of self-deprivation, but because I want to look as good as I feel I do now for years to come. I deserve to look & feel healthy. And healthy doesn't automatically equate with muscular, thin or cellulite-free, not for everyone, anyway. Many women gave up on all of these pampering things years ago because they felt they weren't worth any self-love, which is a terrible shame. Sure, you can go through your life believing that you're unlovable, ugly or too fat, but why would you, when you consciously can make another choice?

One of the most touching moments of my life came when a group of girls I went to high school with finally felt comfortable enough to uncover to their bathing suits when we were all at a water park together. Some of them had been feeling self-conscious, afraid of being teased, etc. (They were all beautiful girls, all much thinner than me, and most of their fears were probably ungrounded- but were nonetheless quite real  them.) But when they saw me, in my typical fashion, hightail it off the bus with beach towel & sunglasses in hand, get down to my one-piece & enjoy the gorgeous day, they were all liberated to do the same. After all, if I could do it even at my size, why shouldn't they? We all relaxed & had a good time. If you think that happiness means posessing the exact size, shape, skin tone, eye color & haircolor that you dream of, you're simply incorrect. Those things are temporary, and bring only temporary happiness. The world won't fall apart because you challenge a few beliefs here & there, either. Who said the writers of the womens' magazines are right? These same people that said a hundred years ago that women shouldn't vote because it wasn't "proper" now are the same proponents of "Rock the Vote!" They'll tell you your favorite shirt is out-of-style, your most comfortable shoes are too dowdy, and your haircolor is too dark, only to ten years later say the exact opposite. Their ways are fickle, to say the least. Don't lead your life trying to play a game with an ever-changing set of instructions that aren't even logical when you attempt to decipher them.

Believe me, your life will simplify itself automatically in many ways when you start thinking the best about every situation, and the best about yourself. I'm not telling you to ignore your intuition- there are definitely times when you get a bad feeling about someone or something, and you should heed that at all times. But when there's no need for negativity, let it go. I'm also not telling you that your days of self-improvement are over; far from it. But you can't be a minimalist & expect the worst all the time. You cannot be a simplicity hound & feel bad about yourself. You can't hate yourself & then expect others to love you. You can't be consistently critical of others & feel peace. When your own cup's empty, how can you pour anything into anyone else's cup? You can choose to set the tone for your life, and when you set an inspiring tone, expect to see others following your example.

-Liz

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