Is gratitude always the right attitude?

6697282591_f6a271f94a_bWith Thanksgiving just around the corner, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about gratitude and how it can be a powerful tool in our daily lives.  It can help turn a horrible day around, improve your relationship with others, and change your mood for the better.  But earlier today I started pondering the subject and I asked myself, is it possible to have too much gratitude?  Don’t get me wrong.  Expressing appreciation for things in your life is generally a good thing, but is there a point at which too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing?

For example, I’ve met my fair share of women trapped in toxic relationships and marriages.  They complain about things like a lack of quality time, communication, fidelity, and sometimes even equal respect from their partners.  As unsatisfied as they are with those very important things, they convince themselves to stay because despite all that, they tell me they’re “grateful” to have a husband who provides.  They’re “grateful” he’s reliable, a good father, and respected within the community.  They’re “grateful” for all that their husband has done for them in the past.  This kind of thinking has always been slightly unsettling to me because in this case, gratitude has blinded them and created an unhealthy sense of indebtedness.

Have you ever had a friend complain to you about a job they hate but are unfortunately stuck in?  As miserable as they are, they tell themselves “well, it could be worse.  I’m thankful to at least have a job.”  Having experience working in retail, I hear this kind of thinking quite a lot.  Yes, things could always be worse for you, but is that a reason not to leave a job where you feel unappreciated and underpaid?  At what point does positive thinking and excessive gratitude distract you from seeking relief from serious problems?

Thinking happy thoughts might make you feel better for a while, but depending on your situation, it might be more constructive to use your feelings of anger, resentment, and sadness as fuel to help you take the next steps to a better life.  Although we all strive for happiness, we still need to accept that all of our feelings are valid. Placing too much of an emphasis on the good feelings underestimates the value of other emotions that could be giving us important signals about how, when, and what we need to change in our lives.

I’ve noticed that people attempt to cancel out negative emotions about one thing, by focusing on positive emotions about another thing.  I’m guilty of this myself.  There have been times where I’ve been stressed out about something at work and I tell myself that I’m grateful to have a nice boyfriend, hilarious friends, and opportunities that others do not.  While all those things may be true and they certainly make me feel better momentarily, it does nothing to address the unhappiness I’m dealing with at work.  It shifts my focus for a while, but I’ll still have to deal with the same problems and feelings resurfacing again unless I take actual measures to remedy the situation.

And then there’s the guilt associated with wanting more in life.  As long as our desires are healthy and within reason, we shouldn’t be made to feel like awful people for wanting things that make us feel good and alive.  Whether it’s a new dress, a better body, or to have new, exciting experiences—they’re totally normal and don’t make you a selfish, ungrateful brat!  Life is too short not to live it to the fullest—whatever that may be for you.  Wanting to improve your situation can be a good thing that keeps you away from complacency and living in denial.

For the most part, we could all benefit from more gratitude in our lives.  The holidays are a perfect opportunity to do so and I’m looking forward to being with friends who bring so much joy to my life.  But I’m a realist at heart and I try my best to view the world with a healthy dose of skepticism.  I’ve never been a fan of denying the true nature of things by sugarcoating and covering them up with sprinkles and rainbows.  Life isn’t all good, but it isn’t all bad either.  Sometimes allowing yourself to feel anger, envy, resentment, and sadness is the kick in the butt you need to bring yourself one step closer to genuine happiness and self-improvement. 🙂

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“Honesty without tact is cruelty.”

 

When I first saw that quote floating around on social media it really resonated with me in a profound way.  It has been my personal philosophy for years without even realizing it.  The old adage “honesty is the best policy” means nothing if you can’t speak your mind in a graceful and respectful manner.  We live in a world that views “telling it like it is” and being obnoxious as some strong, admirable, tough-guy quality.  But any unsophisticated, blubbering fool can blurt out the first thing that comes to their mind without regard for anyone else’s feelings.  That really doesn’t take much effort and frankly, I don’t find it impressive.  What is, however, a lot harder to accomplish is communicating something negative without making the person feel angry or offended.  Bonus points if you can get them to genuinely appreciate your criticism and see that it comes from a place of love.

Today I witnessed first-hand the consequences of poorly executed communication.  Tempers were flaring and things were said in the heat of the moment that neither parties really meant.  And all because they both were trying to be honest with one another.  You ever hear the saying, the road to hell is paved with good intentions?  I learned a long time ago that good intentions mean diddly squat because newsflash:  people aren’t mind readers!  Just because you didn’t mean to hurt someone, doesn’t mean you didn’t.  Your good intentions need to be made crystal clear before offering criticism and even then, your choice of words still matter.  We can’t always control how people react but we can, however, control our actions to ensure that we are taking the necessary precautions to minimize conflict.  We are all partially responsible for how we make others feel.

Some might think this makes me weak for tip-toeing around people’s feelings but I personally see it as a combination of kindness and practicality.  People are more likely to respond favorably if they don’t feel personally attacked by you.  Common sense, right?  Unfortunately, I’ve come across people decades my senior who have yet to figure that out.  The best results aren’t always going to be easy and yes, it’ll be frustrating at times. But from my experience, the outcomes are usually worth it.  Caring about people even when they make it challenging is a strength I will never apologize for 😉

Earlier today, someone at work mentioned they thought I was an assertive person.  It caught me off guard because that’s not how I see myself at all.  Independent, yes.  But assertive?  That was new to me.  She said that I was always honest about what I wanted to do, who I wanted to do it with, and that I was always nice about it too.  This was coming from someone known for her bluntness so it was even more of a surprise.    It was a great confidence boost to know that being upfront (but still kind) was paying off and affecting the way some people see me.  I may not be perfect, but I know I’m on the right track of my personal development if I’m getting those kinds of reactions. It has always been a goal of mine to be seen as someone genuine.

Today pretty much confirmed what I’ve known all along:

  1. Words matter.
  2. People’s feelings matter.
  3. Your needs/wants matter.
  4. You can live by all 3 of those and still find balance in your life with enough effort.

 

 

 

 

 

Unapologetically You.

It seems like only yesterday I was entering my first year of high school, full of teenage angst and insecurities.  My self-esteem was at an all time low; no matter how much I straightened my hair, counted my calories, and strived for A’s I was never truly comfortable in my own skin.  Looking back at things, it wasn’t my fault I was so obsessed with what people thought about me.  If you grew up with my parents, you’d know just how important it was to be perceived as smart and attractive.  In fact,  it was the only way to earn their respect sometimes.  But that’s another story.

I felt so much pressure at home and from society to be a certain way, that it took a toll on my mental health.  I had anxiety through the roof and I skipped out on so many school functions because my self-esteem was practically nonexistent.  I struggled with an eating disorder for many years (which I kept a secret from everyone). My teenage years were some of the worst times of my life and I’m eternally grateful those days have passed.  Adulthood has been so much better to me, despite the new set of challenges that go along with it.

People used to tell me that I’d be more confident with time, but I never truly understood that statement until now.  With age came wisdom and a whole new outlook on life.  For starters, I stopped caring so darn much about my looks.  Yes, I still take pride in being somewhat stylish and feminine, but back in high school I would have never dared to show my bare face or even my legs!  I remember feeling so insecure about how pale my legs were that it was literally a struggle convincing myself to wear shorts or dresses.  These days, my fair skin is something I’m no longer ashamed of because it is a reflection of my Asian heritage.  And let’s be honest, Asians are awesome!

The Spanish bloodline that runs through me also gave way to some curly-haired cuties in the family–myself included.  But I didn’t always think curly hair was so cute.  In fact, I used to hate my hair and vowed to always straighten it out because I thought my curls were a frizzy mess!  But with age also comes experience and I slowly learned how to properly care for my wavy tresses to a point where strangers and hair stylists compliment them.  I still wear my hair straight from time to time, but going natural was never something I dreamed was possible for me.  But look at me now!

I overcame my disordered eating habits, reached a healthier weight, and have slowly been learning to love my curvier frame. I’m not perfect by any means, but it’s a step towards the right direction and I’m thankful to now have a better relationship with food. I feel like an anchor has been lifted from my chest and I can finally breathe again.

Anyone that follows me on social media knows I’m no stranger to the #ShamelessSelfie but you know what?  It took me a long time to get to a point where I actually feel love for myself, so I think I’ve earned the right to flaunt what my mama gave me. For years I’ve had people tell me that I needed to be more confident in myself, and now that I’m here, I’ll be damned if anyone has a problem it.

In addition to accepting the physical features I was born with, I also developed a sense of appreciation for some of the personality traits I once deemed unworthy of respect.  I went through a phase where I tried to be super outdoorsy, tanned, and all about the beach life.  I wanted to be like everyone else in Hawaii and fit in with the culture but deep down inside, that was never me.  In fact, I hate going to the beach.  I’ve always been more drawn to the comfort of coffee shops, bookstores, shops, museums, and theatres.  Basically, I love the indoor life.  I used to look at that with such negativity but only because I hadn’t yet accepted that there was nothing wrong with it.  Now that I’ve found a group of friends who enjoy the same things I do,  I’ve learned to accept my preferences and that of those around me.  After all, it takes all kinds  of people to make the world go ’round.

How boring would it be if we were all exactly the same?  We’d never learn a thing from one another or try new experiences because we’d never be exposed to anything different! We’d all want the same jobs, the same hobbies, and we’d be surrounded by people who never challenge our way of thinking.  As comforting as that may be, you’ll never grow as a person if you don’t make an effort to be around those who are different and celebrate their uniqueness.

It took me a while to get here, but I’m proud to have finally reached a point where I’m much happier with who I am.  Life is way too short to be concerned about how other people see me, so from here on out, I’m going to make more of an effort to live authentically and unapologetically.  Those who matter won’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter anyway. 😉

“There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me, that is the true essence of beauty.”
Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience   

“I find the best way to love someone is not to change them, but instead, help them reveal the greatest version of themselves.”
Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience   

 

 

 

Introverts.

As a child growing up in the United States, I learned quickly that society catered to those who were outspoken, assertive, and thrived on social interaction.  We are a nation that values leadership and standing out from the crowd above all else.  But what about the quiet, reflective types like myself?  Where do we fit in in all of this?

Knowing that I didn’t have the ideal American personality type was a blow to my self-esteem as a teenager.  I didn’t like crowds, socializing for extended periods of time, speaking in front of audiences, and I just couldn’t seem to project my voice loudly enough for people to take me seriously.  In fact, I spent most of my time listening and observing those around me as opposed to speaking.  It was my preferred method of interpreting what was going on around me, so why did I feel like some freak show struggling to be like everyone else?

I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t come to terms with who I am until only a few years ago.  I began reading up on introversion vs. extroversion and that’s when it all started to make sense to me.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being an introvert!  In fact, there are so many wonderful things about it that I hadn’t even realized.

For example…

We often think before we speak.  Even more so than our extroverted counterparts because we spend more time in our heads analyzing every minuscule detail .  Everything we say is carefully chosen to meet the needs of those around us so we have less cases of embarrassing “word vomit.”  Unless, of course, we’ve had a few too much to drink (but that’s another story).

We are masters of concentration. Introverts spend a lot of time alone and need less outside stimulation to feel their best, which makes us great at locking ourselves in our rooms and focusing on something for extended periods of time.  As a student of accounting, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to stay focused on a project/assignment for up to 6 hours or more without missing a beat.

People love to talk to us.  The one benefit to being naturally quiet and soft-spoken is that we’ve had an entire lifetime to refine our listening skills!  Have you ever met someone that constantly talked over you and made you feel like you could barely get your two-cents in?  Well, introverts love to observe and process information, which makes us some of the easiest people to spill your guts to.  I used to love playing therapist with my friends growing up because it satisfied my need to learn about my environment and made people trust me almost instantly. ‘Til this day, I can get people to open up to me because of my natural inclination to absorb information and listen to what others have to say.

We exude calm.  Introverts often seem composed because they’re able to retreat safely into the stability of their inner world.  No matter what’s happening on the outside, our minds are our refuge from chaos.  Thanks to the unique mechanics of our brains, we also have a tendency to be more risk averse than our outgoing counterparts, which means we are always prepared.  And we all know preparation is key to avoiding stressful situations.

We’re quiet.  We may not show up to every neighborhood barbecue, but you can definitely count on us to keep the peace.  There’s nothing worse than living next to loud, party animals (trust me, I know).  Let’s be real, who wants to come home from a long day and hear the people next door causing a ruckus?

As you can see, being an introvert has its perks and I’m learning to appreciate them more each day.  Our extroverted friends have their own special place in this world thanks to their natural talents, so why shouldn’t we?   For every leader out there, the world needs just as many (if not more) people working quietly (and diligently) behind the scenes to plan out the logistics and make things happen.   It takes all kinds of people to make this world go ’round so if you’re a fellow introvert, wear that badge with pride because you are awesome in your own special way. 🙂

 

 

 

 

Frustrations & Expectations

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After learning that something I’ve been looking forward to for months might not pan out for me, I was overcome with a sense of sadness and disappointment. I wanted to have that opportunity so badly because I knew it was not only going to make me a stronger student, but a more kind and competent person overall. The opportunity frightened me a bit because I doubted my ability to teach others, but a part of me was looking forward to an exciting new challenge. Unfortunately, due to unexpected timing issues, the position will have to be given to someone else.

So what do you do when your hopes are crushed and you can’t help but feel like things are stacked against you?

For me, I write. I write until my emotions start to make sense and I get an idea of how to work through them.

I won’t tell myself some useless cliche like “everything happens for a reason” or “it will all work out in the end.”  I simply don’t believe the universe operates in a way that revolves around me and frankly, I don’t find those words helpful in the least. If you find comfort in such things, more power to you.  However, it’s not for me.

The way I see it, certain events take place regardless of my desires, and some of them are just out of my control. Will another opportunity like that come my way again in the future? Maybe, maybe not. That’s not something I can logically predict but I’m hopeful it will.

That’s honestly all I can do.

I’ll let myself experience the full extent of my disappointment, write it all out, move forward with my day, and wish for the best.

Life still has many surprises in store for me and that I know for sure.

I’m thankful to have been highly recommended for the job. I’m thankful to have gotten the chance to job shadow, and I’m thankful that so many people believed in me.  Knowing people think highly of me is a great confidence boost that I can carry with me for years to come.

It’s unfortunate that timing would not have allowed me to drop my current obligations just yet, but I’m thankful that the position will be given to someone I also have the utmost confidence in–and on short notice too.  I care about the people in the program and would have worked hard to make it a success, but there’s no doubt in my mind it will be in good hands.

For now, I still have shorter term goals to tackle so I will immerse myself in those things until life throws me another curveball.

Alternative care in a drugged-up world.

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About a month ago, I found myself suddenly awoken in the middle of the night by a slew of unpleasant physical symptoms.  Nausea, vomiting, cold-sweats, a headache, arm numbness, and back pain were among the most noticeable.  Later that night, my hands started clamping up uncontrollably which really freaked me out and made me think I had some kind of neurological problem.  Needless to say I was very alarmed by the experience and immediately made an appointment with my healthcare provider the following morning.

After being examined thoroughly by a PA, she came to the conclusion that I was having two unrelated reactions at the same time.   She suspected the nausea, vomiting, and cold-sweats were due to the shrimp I had eaten for lunch, and that the other symptoms were a result of anxiety and insomnia.  I had my doubts about her diagnoses but I didn’t go to medical school so I gave her the benefit of the doubt.  I was, however, relieved to hear that my heart, lungs, and blood pressure appeared to be in good shape.   Not gonna lie, I thought there was a possibility of a heart attack with the arm numbness and all but I’m glad it hadn’t come to that.  She suggested I eat bland meals for the rest of the day, take some melatonin to help with my stress-induced insomnia, and sent me on my way.

But the arm numbness seemed to get progressively worse following my appointment and in a matter of days the back pain started to shoot up towards my neck.  I found myself waking up to these symptoms in the morning and that’s when I decided this wasn’t stress.  There was something physically wrong with me.

The discomfort started to take an emotional toll on me so I figured it was time to pay my very first visit to a chiropractor.  Before my symptoms appeared, I knew very little about the world of chiropractic care.  I thought they were just like any other branch of medical treatment and had no idea there was so much controversy around its legitimacy.  At the very least I figured they’d be more credible than acupuncturists but after reading numerous articles on the matter, I can see that many people view them as frauds.

I’ve always been a skeptic by nature, so I read up on a few scientific research articles and anecdotal evidence before forming an opinion.  After my first visit, I can confidently say that the muscle work and spine adjustments not only helped reduce my symptoms, but gave me a better understanding of how to take care of my body.  Being a student often leads to bad posture (just imagine me hunched over a computer screen for hours at a time and carrying a back-pack stuffed with books) which contributed to all the aches and pains I was experiencing.  Consistently bad posture and awkward sleeping positions can lead to pinched nerves that trigger back/neck/arm pain like the ones I had.

With that new knowledge in mind, I was able to adjust my behavior in the following days and noticed great improvement.  I would say there was about a 90% reduction in back pain, 70% in neck pain, and almost 100% of my arm numbness was gone.  I also felt less stiff after getting my back cracked which I’ve never done before.  I’m actually looking forward to my follow-up appointment in a few days so I can get more muscle work done and share my success with the D.C.

Overall the experience was a pleasant and informative one, and also got me thinking about why it is that people are so against natural ways of treating ourselves.  America, especially, is the most drugged-up country in the world.  I could have popped some pain-killers and hoped for the best, but I wanted to get to the root of the problem and not just numb my senses with potentially harmful OTC drugs.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those anti-pharmaceutical nuts that believe in the power of wishful thinking.  Couldn’t be further from the truth. But if there’s a natural, more affordable, and less risky way to treat myself, you bet I’ll be all over that. It’s really all about weighing your options and assessing the pros and cons of each method. One of the things that I like about getting to the root of a health problem is the long-term benefits.  Merely treating symptoms for the rest of your life is costly!

This is why I don’t completely dismiss all forms of alternative care. I’d much rather look at evidence and make an informed decision rather than make sweeping generalizations. I think we owe it to ourselves to approach our health issues with an open mind and not simply reach for the easiest treatment. And lets be honest. It’s often prescription or OTC drugs.

I think my upcoming new year’s resolution should be something along the lines of putting less artificial substances in my body and paying attention to the everyday stressors in my life that cause problems.  We only get one body and before I know it, I’ll be out of my twenties and experiencing a whole new level health problems I’ve never even heard of.  Yikes!