give yourself straight a’s: emotional fulfillment 101

growing up in Detroit in the 70’s and coming of age in the 80’s, i have no memory of Detroit as a city of great commerce. i knew only the post-riot condition in which major commerce districts lay in varying stages of abandonment and decay.

yet it was with this background, often resembling a dystopian society straight from a sci-fi set, that i learned the importance of setting my own self-worth.

renaissance-cityyou see, although the world and much of the country made the decision to count Detroit out…in the city we recognized that the ashes in which we resided was the fertile ground we required for our rebirth.

in that spirit we nicknamed our city, against all odds, the Renaissance City.

growing up in this environment, i learned the valuable lesson of not allowing anyone outside of me to be the source for my own fulfillment.

i learned that in order to be happy, in order to experience true joy, i would have to search within and build the foundation for the life and experiences i wanted from the inside out.

i say emotional fulfillment, you hear…

many believe that emotional fulfillment only comes from their relationships with others. we want other people to fill us up…to make us whole.

a life that is lived #fearfree is a life founded on the radical principle that you were born whole. you were born complete.

even if your life is in a post-riot condition, dystopian background included, you are not an empty cup but an entire human being.

so if you desire emotional fulfillment…you have to start where you are as you are.

inside-jobemotional fulfillment is a human need. when achieved, it leaves you with a feeling of happiness and contentment.

you’ve seen the meme: happiness is an inside job. if happiness is an inside job, giving someone else the keys to ‘make you happy’ is not only unreasonable, it is foolish.

happiness may not be for most a constant state of being. it is fluid and can come in waves depending on your state of mind, circumstance, or stress management. but it is critical that you understand that no matter where you are, you have access to happiness.

happiness is a byproduct of emotional fulfillment. even if happiness is illusive understanding the components that make up emotional fulfillment is not.

there is a formula for emotional fulfillment to which we all have access. it is made up of 5 cornerstones: acceptance, affection, appreciation, approval, and attention.

cornerstone one: self-acceptance

i’m sure if you’ve ever had a pity party (my hand is already raised) and went so far as to invite others to the self-deprecation sideshow at some point some one who loved you said, “but do you accept yourself?”

to which, if you’re anything like me, you responded with, “wtf are you talking about? haven’t you heard anything i’ve said?”

i love this quote, bracket mine:

happiness can exist only in [self] acceptance.

we’re told that it’s important that we ‘accept others for who they are, and not try and make them who we want them to be.’ this especially comes at the end of any argument involving me trying to convince my son that his too little pajama bottoms should not be worn while guests are in the house (or ever).

we want to believe that we accept people for who they are. we want to believe that we don’t see the cowlick sticking up in the middle of someone’s hair. we want to believe that we don’t care about another person’s personal style (until we’re married to them and simply cannot accept the nasty and named recliner in our new shared home).

mental-high-fivethe thing is that the criticism we hold for others is fraction of the self-criticism we reserve for ourselves. the most important cornerstone to developing emotional fulfillment is self-acceptance.

to accept yourself means that you take action to receive yourself as suitable. see how i didn’t say perfect?

the moment i feel myself about to take a dig at me. i’ve learned to stop myself in my tracks and say instead, “girl, i love you.” this doesn’t mean that i stop working on bettering myself. it does mean that i don’t withhold acceptance or affection from myself while on the road to self-improvement.

cornerstone two: affection (self-love)

this quote is from the buddha:

you, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.

i don’t know who i was breaking up with or why…i just remember lying across my bed in full on teenage sob mode crying loudly into my pillow.

my mother walked in with some laundry looked at me sobbing and said in her very casual voice, ‘your first lesson in life is to love yourself. girl, get up off that bed. take your coat off. put these clothes away. the only somebody you should be crying over like that is somebody who loved you back enough to not hurt you. and the only person who’s gone love you like that is you!’

yep. that’s my mama. she’s got wisdom like that on lock for every occasion.

i had sense enough at the time to appreciate her wisdom. i listened to what she said, got up off my bed, took off my winter coat, cleaned up my face, and put those clothes away. i also started to study what is meant by ‘love yourself first.’

affection is a gentle feeling of fondness or liking (according the dictionary).

puppyyou can feel affection for a puppy. watch here’s a puppy.

see how you immediately went…awww.

that’s affection. that’s a gentle fondness. now if you can feel that for a picture of puppy you’ve never even held…why can’t you give that same feeling to yourself?

stop looking at the puppy. eyes over here.

this cornerstone in the emotional fulfillment foundation can be the most difficult hurdle for some of us. it’s difficult because we have the misguided notion that self-love is conceit. when it’s really just being gentle with yourself. one day at a time.

so the next time you pass your reflection…say hey there! wink and smile. then ask you out on a date you’ll appreciate the time alone with you.

cornerstone three: self-appreciation

oprah winfrey, media guru, once said

be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. if you concentrate on what you don’t have you will never ever have enough.

this cornerstone wouldn’t be so difficult if we were taught from an early age to be so self-critical. i’m not a perfect woman. nor am i a patient woman.

a friend of mine took a picture of me the other day that was…let’s just say less than flattering. i saw the picture, that happened to go up on social media, and gasped.

i was like, ‘who is dat woman!?’

now i love me. i accept me. but i could not appreciate that rendition of me. at all. i wanted to immediately ask them to take the picture down and do a retake from a more flattering angle.

15170956_10209660397999932_329303712432681290_nthen i read the comment they had attached to the picture, it said: “thank you for sharing a very motivational speech.” they were showing me appreciation. they were giving me something which at the moment i wasn’t giving myself.

i had to take a step back and recognize my good qualities. i had to take a step back and allow myself to enjoy the memory i’d just made with a group of very supportive and loving friends.

i had to take a step back from my self-criticize so that i could see what they see and in that appreciate me.

cornerstone three is the shakiest for me because i often forget to appreciate myself. i spend more time thinking on the things i don’t have or need to do without considering who i am and what i already have.

to counter this…i set time aside in the day to affirm myself. i recommend this quick affirmation for when the self-criticism gets to be too much:

i am enough.

there are times when you will find me in my space surrounded by my personal chaos, taking in a few deep breaths and repeating this to myself. it works. try it.

cornerstone four: self-approval

louise hay is an author, publisher, self-help trailblazer. she once said

you’ve been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. try approving of yourself and see what happens.

now doesn’t that just knock your socks off?! her work is filled with that type of straight forward wisdom. she reminds me a lot of my mother actually.

if you want to live an emotionally fulfilled life, regardless as to where you are on the happiness meter, you have to approve of yourself.

self-approval means you take action and officially agree that you are acceptable.

radical thought right?

you see how self-acceptance is embedded in self-approval. it’s just like loan approval. first the bank has to accept the facts of your financial past. then they approve you for additional credit.

to lay this cornerstone, you have to first accept who you are so that you can finally agree that who you are is enough. what unfolds in your life after you’ve lain this foundation is boundless.

seriously, boundless.

you’ve got dreams, ideas, hopes, right? why haven’t you acted to put them to work? what’s missing? what’s holding you back?

is it your physical circumstance? or is it the limitations you’ve placed on you because you haven’t laid your cornerstones properly?

if you felt better about you would you back you more? would you believe more in your ability to make your ideas work?

cornerstone five: attention

i once drove across country with my son in midst of a health crises. unbeknownst to myself, i got in a car, drove 800 miles from my home while nursing a kidney stone and pneumonia.

you read that right. a kidney stone and pneumonia.

i knew i was in pain. i knew i had a persistent cough. but i wasn’t paying attention. not to myself. not to my body.

did you know that coronary heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States? read more about it here.

but heart disease and type ii diabetes can be prevented and/or successfully treated when you know your body. when you are paying attention to you you don’t succumb to these ailments. the same is true for kidney stones and pneumonia.

i don’t know what was happening that i forgot to listen to me. i don’t know why that cross country trip took precedence over my health and well-being.

but once i recognized how ill i actually was, all the breaks came on. my son got packed up to stay with his dad, and i went about the business of caring for me.

13613474_10210268660497557_6708166663037859463_oto pay attention to you means that you take notice of yourself. it means that you regard yourself as important and worthy. when we are busy taking care of the busy-ness of our lives we often place ourselves on the back burner.

i placed myself in the throes of a medical emergency because i wasn’t paying attention to me. i can’t blame anyone else for that, i’m my responsibility. but once i recognize that i’ve taken my eyes off me…because i love me, i forgive me and set about the work to make sure that something like that doesn’t happen again.

so now i do daily check in’s with myself. when i wake up, i do a body scan. i notice how i feel in each part of my body. i pay attention to what aches, and what is feeling better. and during the day i take a few moments to scan again, checking not only my physical status but also my temperament and stress level.

i’ve found that paying attention to me, prevents migraines, stress aches, and meltdowns from lack of a lunch-break. try it. tell me what you think.

March is Women’s History Month

Join us as we take a trek down memory lane in honor of a few great women who blazed the trail for a life lived fearfree.


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