Building a healthy relationship with yourself and with others

As I continue on this journey called life, trying to figure it all out…connect the dots, I can actually see the number of times I was so close, but yet so far. So close to that actual breakthrough – that one thing that was going to catapult me into success (my own personal definition of what success looks like for me). It was so close that I could almost reach out and touch it, but… the very center of my blinking eye, it appeared so far away.

I’ve had the opportunity to share a stage or be interviewed with people I now see on Primetime TV or in magazines or with hundreds of thousands of followers on social media. I mean like we were, at some point in time, on equal playing fields, but then….when they pulled back on their slingshot, they landed in the RIGHT place at the Right time. I pulled back on my slingshot, and it’s as if it was broken.

Have you ever been so close to that ONE thing…you know THAT thing, but it seemed like the Universe was teasing you? You could visualize it. You could darn near taste it, but you just could never seem to be able to hold it in your hands. I have experienced this in various areas of my life: my career, my business, my romantic relationships, my finances. I would find myself saying, “This was almost it, so I know the next one will be It”, but ummm the next one wasn’t it.  It’s hard to not get discouraged, especially when you see other people thriving, but you seem to be standing still.

I want to share a few tips with you that will help you stay encouraged and make you unstoppable:

  • Don’t be motivated by something external (e.g., money, fancy things, prestige, etc.). There are people with money, big houses, fancy cars, etc., but they are still miserable on the inside. Yes, they keep pushing themselves to get the things society tells them they should have, but the light within them is dim. Stay true to who you are, and use the gifts and talents YOU were blessed with. Live life on YOUR terms.
  • Remember CONFIDENCE is your greatest strength. If you’re not confident, you will never put yourself out there in the first place. When you’re confident, you don’t care how many times you fail, you’re going to succeed. And it doesn’t matter how stacked the odds seem against you.
  • Always be prepared. Become a master of your craft.
  • Always work on your mental strength. “Mental resilience is arguably the most critical trait of a world-class performer. ~ Josh Waitzkin
  • Never be jealous or envious of someone else’s accomplishments. Being unstoppable means you genuinely want what’s best for everyone — even those you would consider your competitors. Jealousy and envy are the ego, which operates out of fear. You are in control of you and you are different from every other person. There is no one who can do exactly what you can do. You have your own superpower with your own unique ability to contribute, and that’s what you’re going to do.
  • Start before you’re ready. Most people wait. They believe they can start after they have enough time, money, connections and credentials. They wait until they feel “secure.” Not people who are unstoppable. Unstoppable people started last year. They started five years ago before they even knew what they were doing. They started before they had any money. They started before they had all the answers. They started when no one else believed in them. The only permission they needed was the voice inside them prompting them to move forward, and they moved.
  • Set goals that far exceed your current capabilities. If your goals are logical, they won’t force you to create luck. Being unstoppable means your goals challenge you to be someone more than you currently are. As Jim Rohn has said, “Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were better.” “You need to aim beyond what you are capable of. You need to develop a complete disregard for where your abilities end. If you think you’re unable to work for the best company in its sphere, make that your aim. If you think you’re unable to be on the cover of TIME magazine, make it your business to be there. Make your vision of where you want to be a reality. Nothing is impossible.” — Paul Arden
  • Respond immediately, rather than analyzing and stalling. Just do it. Train yourself to respond immediately when you feel you should do something. Stop questioning yourself. Don’t analyze it. Don’t question if it came from God or from yourself. Just act. You’ll figure out what to do after you’ve taken action. Until you take action, it will all be hypothetical. But once you act, it becomes practical. Richard Branson said it best, “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!”
  • Never stop learning. Ordinary people seek entertainment. Extraordinary people seek education and learning. When you want to become the best at what you do, you never stop learning. You never stop improving and honing your skills and knowledge.

(Tips were extracted from the article, “30 Behaviors That Will Make You Unstoppable”)

We all have plans for our life – the type of career we are going to have, the type of mate we will marry, where we are going to live, how many kids we are going to have, etc., but sometimes life doesn’t pan out exactly the way we thought.

When I was in high school, I said I wanted to be a lawyer. I went to college, I majored in English. My last year of college, I took the LSAT (law school admissions test), got a pretty decent score, started applying to law school, and then something hit me – was this really what I wanted to do or was it what was expected of me. So needless, to say, I didn’t go to law school, but I had no idea what I wanted to do next. I worked a couple of jobs after college – none of which had the potential to lead to an actual career.

One day, I decided I was going to leave Mississippi. Mind you, I had no plan and no money. Just a desire. I went to Atlanta for about two weeks – wasn’t for me. Then I drove to the Washington, DC area – mind you, I had no plan, no money, no job, no family, no friends, and really no place to live. Funny, how the decisions we make in our mid 20s are very different from the decisions we would make 10, 15 years later.

I’m not going to go into a long story of how my life has unfolded as a result of me taking a totally different path from the one I had planned in high school. Oh, I must say this, I had ideas of what I thought my life would be once I got settled in the DC area, and let me tell ya, the reality doesn’t match the plan. Okay, now on to you. 😊

Sometimes you have a plan for your life, but God has a different plan for you. Yes, you may have mapped it all out, and could actually visualize it, but all it takes is ONE thing to completely change the trajectory of your life, but as you reflect back on the journey, you see how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.  The person you married is nothing like the person you thought you would marry, but he/she is the best person for you. The career you have is not the one you went to school for, but it fulfills you – it gives you joy. There are so many aspects of your life that may not have gone or may not go as YOU planned, but they worked out or are working out for YOUR good. It’s VERY important for you to be open to the fact that YOUR plan may not be HIS plan. You may not end up where you thought you were going, but you always end up where you were meant to be.

Have you experienced a moment in your life when you were going through something and you just couldn’t see your way out? Were you feeling discouraged? Was your faith fading? It’s at that moment when you should reflect back on past times in your life when you had that same feeling. Didn’t God make a way? When you felt like things were not going to change, didn’t they change?

There was a song the choir used to sing at my home church in Mississippi; it goes a little something like this, “As I look back over my life and I think things over, I can truly say that I’ve been blessed, I’ve got a testimony. Sometimes I couldn’t see my way through, but the Lord, He brought me out; right now I’m free, I’ve got the victory, I’ve got a testimony.”

God has a plan for your life.  Every door you wanted open that He closed was for your good.  Every relationship you wanted to work, but it failed, God knew you deserved better.  That job you thought was the job for you, but you weren’t selected, God is saying that job limits you. That house you wanted, but the contract fell through, God is saying I have a better house for you. That purchase you wanted to make, but something blocked it. That was God saying, “buying it now will put you in a worst situation later.” TRUST that when you don’t get what you think you want, God has something better and higher for you.  Every obstacle, stumbling block, disappointment…was preparing you for bigger and better. Don’t allow temporary situations keep you from stepping, leaping…jumping into your destiny. What God has for you is GREATER than you could ever imagine.

I read an article where Gabriel Union said, “A lot of times we have to get out of our own way. We have an idea of what our type is. If your type hasn’t worked for you in 40 years — guess what? Your type sucks! Time to change your type. Open it up a little bit. Think outside the box! Maybe they’re younger, maybe they’re older, maybe they don’t come in the shape or size or color that you assume they would come in. But there’s so many dope people out there that if you open yourself up and get out of your own way, you’re going to have a lot of options,” she added. “A lot more options than you think.”

I’ve shared on social media (more than once) a quote that said, “Maybe it’s your type that’s keeping you single.”  We spend so much time looking for our preferred type and wonder why we are not successful in finding and keeping love. It’s time to STOP dating for your type and start dating for your priority. What does that mean? I’m going to share an Essence magazine article from 2013 to answer that question.

“The key to finding a love that will work for you is to understand that what you need in a mate is often more important than what you want.

Recently, I watched Arsenio Hall interview Niecy Nash about her hilarious new HBO show Getting On and they discussed Niecy’s status as a Hollywood matchmaker (the actress introduced Sherri Shepherd to her husband). Arsenio asked what the trick was and her response was that she told her that if she was serious she needed to start dating for her priorities and not her preferences. And, you know what, Niecy is right.

In my twenties, my list of criteria was as long as a child’s Christmas wish list. I don’t know whom I had imagined would walk in the door, but if it weren’t Jesus himself, then the person wasn’t going to live up to my standards. Older and after a long-term relationship, my list has changed and shortened. I haven’t settled myself in any way, but at 37, I do know perfection doesn’t exist nor am I perfect myself.

But, hearing Niecy discuss this truism and others from her relationship book It’s Hard to Fight Naked I began to unravel the dilemma – I didn’t know the difference between my priorities and my preferences. I certainly wasn’t resigned to give up everything I was looking for just to find a partner, but I was having a hard time differentiating between the two. So, I made a list.

Once down on paper, I was able to decipher what I could live with or without much easier. And, as I started being truly honest, my list ultimately came down to five things. I am looking for someone who is: 1) Intelligent; 2) Driven; 3) Loves God and Family 4) Has a Great Sense of Humor, and 5) Loves Me. The other stuff I had on the list (mostly superficial and material things) didn’t really seem to matter as much as those five things I certainly could not live without.

It was an eye opening exercise for me and I look back on my dating history since I have been single and guess what? Most of the people I dated didn’t meet those priorities. I guess it shouldn’t have been a surprise that none of those relationships worked out (although I dated some really great people and some not so great).  And, in that short period of time, I have been analyzing potential partners from that rubric of priorities versus preferences. Let me tell you so many people are instantly ruled out.

On the contrary, I recently met someone who meets those priorities and is not at all the package I thought I would find them inside. Go figure! Niecy Nash is brilliant and if it works out I am going to give her the credit for this match too. If you’re really serious about finding a life partner then, I suggest you do the exercise I did and take Niecy’s advice to start dating for your priorities and not your preferences.”

We don’t realize it, but more times than not, it’s our expectations that cause us our greatest pain. I once read somewhere that, “A good definition of expectation is planned disappointment. And expectations are directly correlated with happiness, or more aptly, unhappiness.”

We’ve all been there – we’ve had expectations of our boss, our mate, our family member, our friend, etc., and when they don’ meet our expectations, it makes us unhappy, or have feelings of disappointment. No, don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying you shouldn’t have any expectations, but it’s really about how you MANAGE your expectations.

The Harvard Business Review states, “High expectations can have a positive effect; people need a high bar to stretch towards. But I think many of us take it too far. We slip so easily into criticisms of ourselves and those around us — family, friends, coworkers, public figures — that we no longer expect people to be human beings. And when we shame ourselves and others for failing, we make things worse. We contribute to pain while nurturing impotence.”

When you have expectations of others, and those expectations don’t materialize, that’s when problems start to arise. When you have too high or unrealistic expectations of people, you place yourself at a high risk of getting disappointed and hurt. An unfortunate pitfall of having high expectations is that it prevents you from truly enjoying the experience. One of the biggest challenges in life is learning to accept people for who they truly are, but once you realize that your expectations cannot change people, the better off you will be.

As my Battle of the Sexes event approaches, many people have been sharing their dating and relationship issues with me. Of course, communication is one of the biggest complaints. Another one is the representative – the disconnect between who people “pretend” to be and who they really are. Another one is someone who pursues the other person for a relationship, but then they do the switch up – I call that the “switch up without the heads-up”. But the one that stood out to me is “trying to have a relationship without a resolution”.

We all have our “must haves” or “needs” in a relationship. When our partner isn’t meeting those needs or “must haves”, we express it. Let me back it up a little here. If you are in a relationship with someone and you feel like you can’t express your feelings to them because they will accuse you of nagging or arguing, that in itself is a BIG problem. Why should one person walk around miserable and unhappy just so the other person can have peace? If you can’t talk to your mate, share with your mate, be expressive with you mate about how you feel and what you want, then you aren’t being true to yourself.

Now back to the subject at hand.  If you express to your mate what you need or must have in the relationship and he or she continues to do just the opposite, it sends a loud message (even if that’s not their intention) and that message says, “How you feel and what you want isn’t important to me.” And guess what happens next – it’s going to continue to come up until one of you decide that enough is enough. Quite naturally, no one wants their partner to feel like, “Oh, here we go again. Talking about the same ole same ole”, but at the same time, you are even more tired than they are – tired of being in a situation where you HAVE to talk about the same ole same ole.  The relationship cannot move forward until you reach a resolution, and perhaps, in some situations, the relationship isn’t supposed to move forward – it’s supposed to come to an end.

NEVER EVER diminish your needs and your wants just so you can keep the peace in your relationship. Eventually resentment, unhappiness, feeling emotionally abandoned, and sadness are going to start to creep in.  The RIGHT mate will want to meet your needs. And yes, NO ONE can meet all of your needs, but a person who genuinely loves you and cares about you and wants to be with you will at least try.

Many people find themselves asking the question, “Why does a relationship that is over still influence me so much? When you allow yourself to be mentally and emotionally vulnerable to another human being, there is a greater risk of being hurt. I once read somewhere that vulnerability is emotional exposure. It’s human nature to be afraid to “expose” yourself to another, but once you do, you are able to really experience the relationship.  That’s a BIG deal.

So now you are vulnerable, exposed, and immersed (experiencing) the relationship, and BAM! things take a turn, one that you weren’t quite ready for, and everything you feared becomes reality, the relationship has fallen apart. You find yourself trying to navigate your way through, and it’s through this navigation that you become reflective – reflective on not just what went wrong in the current relationship, but what also went wrong in past relationships, and what you find is that you are still carrying the residuals from past lovers. It is time to break the grip of past lovers.

Here are some tips to help you break the grip of past relationships:

  • Take the time you need to heal. Don’t jump from one relationship to another. Do what I call, an after relationship assessment. This assessment requires you to be completely honest with yourself. What role did you play? Were there red flags? Did your past baggage or his/her past baggage weigh down the relationship? What “demons” are you fighting? Allow me to elaborate a little on the “demons”. Webster defines a demon as a source or agent of evil, harm, distress, or ruin. Some of you are carrying around childhood “demons”, past relationship “demons”, destructive behavioral patterns demons, etc.
  • Visualize yourself in an open, healthy, loving relationship. Yes, believe it or not, there are a lot of people in relationships who are expecting the relationship to bring them heartache, disappointment, betrayal, etc. They visualize something OPPOSITE of what they really want, and that’s exactly what they end up with. So I ENCOURAGE you to EXPECT to be in a relationship that brings you joy, not one that brings you pain. EXPECT your mate to be your best friend. EXPECT honesty, loyalty, and respect. Don’t dwell on the bad of past relationships. Don’t allow the relationships that didn’t work out hold you hostage. Break the chains.
  • Stop reliving the bad. When a relationship falls apart, you may find yourself replaying what went wrong over and over and over. You can’t move on if you keep reliving it. You need to make the commitment to “let it go.” If you don’t make this conscious choice up-front, you could end up self-sabotaging any effort to move on from this past hurt.
  • Focus on the here and now. Live in the present, not the past.  “If we crowd our brains and lives with hurt feelings, there’s little room for anything positive”.
  • Drop the victim mentality. You need to take responsibility for your own happiness, and not put such power into the hands of another person. Why would you let the person who hurt you in the past have such power, right here, right now?