Self-concept

Who do you think you are? Who are you (really)? How do you think others see you? Your self-concept is likely a combination of all of these. It is, in essence, your identity. If you ask a Westerner (someone from North America, Europe or other whites in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) who they are, they will likely to tell you what they do for a living and what they like to do in their spare time. That is great, but fairly shallow. This of course if very different than non-Westerners (the rest of the world’s population) whose identity is much more tied to their group (ethnicity, tribe, region, etc.) yet sometimes lacking the specifics of an individual. Your self-concept is something that changes over your lifetime, or it should be if you are growing as a person. So your self-concept is obviously fluid. Who you think you are is a subjective view of yourself, including strengths, weaknesses, personality, abilities, talents, character and so on. And it may actually (unfortunately, too) be tied to who you used to be. It is also a subjective view of who you think others think you are. So if you think about it, your self-concept has nothing to do with who you really are. It’s the perception of who you are. We could break it down like this: Who you are Who you think you are Who others think you are Who you think others think you are Good grief! According to academics, your self-concept is influenced by personality, culture, biology, gender roles, and of course what we’ve already mentioned, self-reflected appraisal, and social comparison. It completely makes sense. I tell my students all the time that they have to figure out who they are and what...

Try This!

A moving car is much easier to steer than a parked one. So says the cliché about moving forward in life. But personally, I think it’s a good one. While some of us thrive on change, others of us would rather get a root canal. That said, it seems all of use can be resistant, closed or even defensive to opportunities for change. Our egos can get in the way. I firmly believe we all need outside influences to get us moving. On our own we get stuck. We resist. We balk. Oh how often we miss out because we remain in our comfortable lives. We hang out with the same people, eat the same foods, watch the same TV shows. I think the following from Franciscan priest, Richard Rohr, is worth sharing. “The Dalai Lama said it well: “Every change of mind is first of all a change of heart.” I would add: ‘Every change of heart is soon a change of mind.’ This is the urgently needed work of mature spirituality…Many folks over the years, even very good-willed people, have read and listened to my presentations of the Gospel yet have actually done very little–in terms of lifestyle changes, economic or political rearrangements, or naming their own ego or shadow selves. After all, “Isn’t church about believing ideas to be true or false? Isn’t religion about attending services?” Most people just listen to my ideas and judge them to be true or false. They either “like” or “don’t like” them. But thinking about ideas or making judgments about what is moral or immoral seldom leads to a radically new consciousness. Transformative education is not asking you to believe or disbelieve in any doctrines or dogmas. Rather it is challenging you to “Try...

What do you see?

What do you see when you see people? A problem with living in a world filled with judgments and classifications is that we don’t always look at others in positive ways. We have a tendency to not only compare, but stereotype and make strong conclusions about others. We don’t always deal well with different and messy. Most of us are socialized to have strong opinions about others. So it is often challenging to look upon others in the best light. We fail to see the Divine in them. We fail to celebrate the uniqueness. I recently read this quote by the mystic, Thomas Merton from his Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander: “In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness. The whole illusion of a separate holy existence is a dream. . . . This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud. . . . I have the immense joy of being [hu]man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now [that] I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this!”* This reminds me of a similar experience I had; I could have written Merton’s piece myself one day while visiting Kuala...

Excellence

Last week I went to an awesome concert. It was at one of the top venues in the world, the Red Rocks natural amphitheater in Colorado. The setting was almost perfect. The sun set as we watched distant showers over the Denver skyline. Our skin enjoyed a perfect temperature. And then we got to hear musicians who are the best of the best perform from their hearts. The bands? Eclectic Pink Martini from Portland, jazz pianist and vocalist, Diana Krall and her band, and the Colorado Symphony. Wow. The audience was treated to mind-blowing performances by exceptionally talented musicians. The genres played were diverse: jazz, bossa nova, opera, pop. I was on row 48 clapping to the beat, mouthing some of the lyrics and kept saying wow, wow, wow. Excellence has a way of blowing your mind and leaving your speechless. There is something special about being around people who are doing what they were made to do and have perfected their craft. Would anyone question whether John Lennon and Paul McCartney were meant to write songs, or Steve Jobs was to innovate technologies, or Michelangelo was to paint and sculpt? My 16-year old niece is visiting. She’s a competitive swimmer, so I asked her why she swims. She said being in the pool is not only a stress reliever, but also a place where she can be alone with just her and the water. She competes because it helps her work towards her goal of getting a college scholarship and maybe even going professional. She competes against others, but I think she mostly competes against herself. She is convinced she was made to swim. She’s got three things that are necessary: talent, motivation, and discipline. She’s probably still working on her 10,000 hours,...

Pain Lessons

You can’t always get what you want. So said the great musical poet, Mick Jagger in the Rolling Stones classic song. How do you respond when you don’t get what you want? How do you respond to obstacles, or what best-selling author, Seth Godin, called “the dip?”* When you hit a roadblock (which could be an illness or any tough situation), you have choices. Do you ignore the problem, go around it, push through it, surrender to it? These past few weeks, I’ve had a health issue that has seriously cramped my style. And by style, I mean it has made it impossible for me to get much done. I am a doer and tend to judge the success of my day by how much I accomplish. At the beginning of the summer, I made a long list of tasks I wanted to accomplish during the warm weather and while I was less occupied with teaching. But time got away, and I’m not sure where the summer went. As a result, as the summer started to wind down, there were extra expectations I put on myself for one last push before school starts. And then I got a foot infection. Not only did it swell up, hurt and make me limp around. It also made me incredibly tired, and feeling like I had the flu. It’s been a real drag—for what seems like a long time. I realized I had a choice in my response. I could do the usual and stress about what I hadn’t accomplished. I could get angry at the illness. There were various emotional states and thoughts I could engage in. However, through this, I found myself mostly able to let expectations go and do what I could from my chair. After...

Stop Saying You’re Fine!...

According to motivational speaker, Mel Robbins, one of the worst words in the English language is, “fine!” We get stuck and fail to move forward because we tell ourselves (and others) we are fine. We fail to lose weight, make more money or all the other things we never achieve. The solution, says Robbins, is to stop screwing yourself over and activate your energy. It’s simple, she says, but not easy. Watch this very liberating and encouraging TED Talk video to help you get unstuck. Robbins principles? Force yourself: Out of your head Past your feelings Outside your comfort zone Practice the 5 second rule (act within 5 seconds of getting an idea)             You can purchase Mel Robbin’s book, Stop Saying You’re Fine here. Royalty-free Stop image by Pat Herman. Retrieved...

What took me so long?...

Did you ever do anything, and then wonder why it took you so long? I’ve lived near the Rocky Mountains for almost 20 years; I’ve wanted to go camping—real camping—for most of that time. This weekend I finally did it! Now that I’ve done it, I realized doing it the first time wasn’t such a big deal, and doing it again will be much easier! I’m over the first-time hurdle! It did take a few things to fall in place. I needed someone to go with. I could go camping with just my dogs, but going with a friend who also wanted to go was a real help in organizing and also feeling safe. Resources. There is all the camping gear you need. Another friend gave me her old camping cooking stuff (pots, dishes, etc.) plus a water container and lantern. This was a huge help; guess I didn’t even know where to start before that. After that, I picked up a very warm sleeping bag and tent on sale for really cheap. Watching for sales and bargains is key if your income is limited like mine. Learn from others. I got online to find camping packing lists to figure out all the stuff we needed to have on hand. Why reinvent the wheel when you can learn from others? My experience did have to have a convergence of several things. These are likely things you need to do what thing you’ve wanted to do for so long. Vision: Picture yourself doing it. Desire: Want it enough to put in the effort, including planning and putting together what you need. Resources: Get creative. Watch sales, borrow, think about how to re-purpose what you have. Time: Take time. You will need to carve out time to...

Messy part 2

In the last article, I discussed something we all know: life is messy. We sometimes don’t want to face people or problems we can’t relate to, and we are likely to RUN Forrest RUN! This time I want to write about internal messy. Yea, sometimes we want to run from that also! We all have stuff, baggage, issues, shit, whatever you want to call it. It’s the ugly part of our human experience, brought on by personal failures, warped views of reality, skewed perceptions, hurts from others, the dark side of our cultures, and a lot of other factors. It’s so easy to go through life and just coast…to not really deal with our “stuff.” It seems we tend to grow and transcend in two ways: Experiencing profound, unconditional love Suffering–facing and working through our pain (facing it head on and dealing with it!) It is the later we address here. It takes much courage to engage in deep self-evaluation. We might be afraid of what we will find. Or we are tempted to run away from the pain. Who likes pain? Given the choice between an ice cream and a root canal, healthy people will usually choose the ice cream, unless of course they have a lot of tooth pain and are desperate to get help. I was talking with someone recently who discussed his experience with addiction and dysfunction. He moved to get away from his pain, but of course, the pain came with him. He tried avoiding his issues, going around them and getting in front of him, but he finally realize he had to go THROUGH them. It’s what I heard Father Richard Rohr describes as: Construction – how you develop our life, only to realize some of it wasn’t working...

Messy part 1

How comfortable are you with “messy?” I’m not referring to your desk or house, but rather people, life and society. I attended a worship service on Sunday that was full of “messy” people. Some clearly had mental illness. Others were homeless. Still others dressed funny. And (OMG!) some were gay. Most of us were raised to think with clear distinctions and a sense of who is acceptable and part of our “IN” group and who is “OUT.” (We usually define acceptable and “in” the same.) We divide people by race, economics, social status, religion, sexual orientation, and a million other categories. The in/out, us/them mentality is surely a fitting descriptor of our fallen world. We can learn from the great mystics and spiritual leaders of history. Jesus, Gandhi, Desmond Tutu, the Dali Lama (and so many others) were transformed from the inside out and filled with compassionate love; they let go of judgment and were freed TO LOVE. In fact, they were very comfortable with “messy” on a very regular basis. How could Mother Theresa have served the poor like she did if she was constantly grossed out? We may not like tattoos, people of irregular size, other religions, or folks who do things we consider vile and outside the norm. However, life is messy. People are messy. And what seems to matter is our response. After the church service I attended with “messy” people, I ate lunch downstairs where even more “messy” showed up. They were homeless, coming on Sundays to eat a weekly meal they can always count on. I was surrounded by people who smelled bad, engaged in strange conversations, and even held their pets while they ate. A lady at my table had her less-than-sterile, “Homeless, please help” sign laying right...

Identity & Cultural Bridges...

Dr. MelindaJoy Mingo was a guest on the Get Control Of Your Life podcast. It’s #25 on the topic of identity. (Click here if you missed it!) We recorded the podcast around a time that I asked MJ a dreaded question, one that is a ‘bit tiring’ to women of color. After being taken aback and laughing, she had a gracious response. Then she wrote this article: My friend Deb asked me the ultimate question that most Black women will understand…”Is that your real hair?”  My unspoken thought was “Here we go again with the ‘hair thing’ and  did she just reach over and touch my hair without asking for my permission!’ Now I must tell you that Deb and I have been friends for years but…,the ‘hair question’ – well, it touched a nerve. Yes, the proverbial question about Black hair. While it is a bit funny that a simple question can ignite such intense emotions, I learned a lot about myself from my response, and what God was teaching me. (not Deb) I was polite after I swallowed hard and said “Girl, if I was going to wear extensions, weaves, braids, wigs, clip ons, snap ons, sew ons, etc., it would look better than this mess! This IS my hair.” My friend looked at me with all the sincerity and innocence of a little lamb and said, “Should I not have asked you that question?” As I think back over my intense response,  I realize that it wasn’t really the question of hair. If I am honest, it is a deeper issue of my journey in the area of embracing my identity and coming to a place of valuing who I really am – not the perception that I want people to have about...