An ugly duckling.
Diana (pronounced DeeAnna) was told as a young girl by her mother that she was ugly, and lacked the beauty her younger sister possessed. First of all, I can’t imagine a mother saying such a thing, and repeatedly reminding her daughter of her wretched opinion, but what Diana Vreeland did with her mother’s lack of love and support (emotionally) is what is inspiring. She created a life that was uniquely her own. She created her own unique signature style and became respected for being authentically herself. Now I’d say, she redefined the definition of beauty.
Over the past weekend I had the opportunity to sit down and watch two documentaries I have been eager to see: The Eye Has to Travel which spotlights the inspiring life and talent of Harper’s Bazaar columnist and former Vogue Editor-in-Chief Diana Vreeland and Makers which I spoke about a few weeks ago regarding women in America and their fight for equality.
Both were inspiring and a dutiful reminder of the responsibility we each have to create the life we wish to live, rather than become an effect driven by someone else’s expectations or assumptions of how our lives should move along.
It’s hard to dream of a life that may never have seen modeled for us. How we are nurtured as we grow up, the media we are exposed to and the world and times we live in have a profound influence on what we believe we can achieve for ourselves. But once we realize that so much of what we already believe was instilled in us through nurture, not nature, we become aware that we hold the key to creating the life we desire from that moment forward.
Much like the brave women who refused to be treated as second-class citizens or denied the same rights already afforded men, it is our responsibility to stand up and become willing to work for a life that can materialize if we refuse to live silently in somebody else’s idea of a fairy tale.
Here are eleven must-have inner tools that one must find within themselves in order to create a life that creates a feeling of tranquility, fulfillment and true contentment.
1. Be brave. A life without bumps is a life spent following the dictates of those around us (spouses, parents, friends, the world, etc) as to not disappoint, disrupt or anger anyone. But in doing so, one loses themselves and tosses aside the gifts that the world can only discover from one such unique individual – you. (Click here to learn 8 ways on how to be brave.)
2. Be willing to let go. I’ve spoken quite a lot about the importance of being able to let go (thoughts, stereotypes, people, the past, etc), but in order to create the life you want, you have to let go of what is holding you back. And the only way to do that is to be honest with yourself. Are you wrapped up so tightly with the rules your friends have engrained in you regarding how you should spend your evenings/weekends/etc? So much so that to dare to do something they may laugh at or tease you about causes you anxiety? Part of any similar anxiety is not accepting what you’d rather do as absolutely acceptable. Who cares if they laugh? You’re creating a life that you enjoy living, not one your friends enjoy being a part of. Whose life is it anyway?
3. Speak up for yourself with intelligence and composure. The key to speaking up is knowing what you are speaking up against, having a sound solution and being able to keep your emotions intact. The last necessary key is often the most difficult because often we are speaking up about something that we value greatly or have great passion for. However, similar to the success of the American Revolution, the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Suffrage Movement, and endless other long-fought successful battles, those who chose to speak up and keep speaking up until a wrong was corrected relied on understanding their opponent and becoming clear about all of the tools that were at their disposal.
4. Use fear to your advantage. Fear of taking a path that few others have traveled, if any, can be very daunting. And even just the thought of stepping down such a road can stop us in our tracks. However, find strength in feeling the fear in this situation because it is telling you that you are indeed on the right track. Your fear is actually built-up excitement anxiously wanting what you desire to come true, and fearful that it won’t. If you weren’t a bit fearful, it would signify that you didn’t have the passion within you to put forth the effort to make it your reality.
5. Become savvy to others’ attempts to manipulate, guilt or cajole you away from what you know is the right path for yourself. It may be a parent who refuses to support you, a sibling who inflicts a tone of voice when you say “no” to their requests of babysitting their children that you’ve elected not to have for yourself or a friend who keeps nagging you to head out every Friday night when you’d rather go to bed at a decent hour so you can get up bright and early and keep puttering away on your project – slowly, but certainly making progress. Once you are able to recognize what they are doing (whether they consciously realize it or not), let their attempt to deflate, derail or cause you to doubt your direction roll right off your back. Do not expend energy toward someone who doesn’t truly wish to see you happy, but instead wants you to fit inside a box that makes sense for their life and their limited understanding and perspective.
6. Seek knowledge and become able to distinguish propaganda from truth. Propaganda has been around as long as there have people wanting to gain something from other people – power, money, control. The key to successfully navigating the many different messages our minds are bombarded with in any given day is to know what the truth is and what is fiction disguised as truth. Keep educating yourself.
7. Show gratitude. No matter how rich or poor you may define yourself to be, you have something to be thankful for every single day. We all do. After all, we are here – on this planet earth with an opportunity to leave it better than when we found it in whatever way we are capable.
8. Refuse to accept limits. Limits are for people without vision, determination, and creativity. On your way toward your dream, there will be barriers to push through, obstacles to climb and lessons to learn. Often we are the ones putting the limits on ourselves based on what we believe we should do or cannot do. Remove the blinders, broaden your horizons and stop saying you can’t . . . because whatever you think you are capable of doing, you’re right.
9. Find regular moments of stillness and choose to listen to what you hear from within. With constant access to news, the internet and other people’s social networking pages, it seems even when we are alone, we’re not truly alone. While there are many benefits to technology, the ability to be still with our thoughts is free therapy. A moment to help us evaluate, assess how to move forward or get back on track. Take it. More is not always better and faster is not always better either.
10. Remove yourself from situations and people who can’t, or refuse, to accept you as you are or are striving to become. The aesthetics of your life help to create the life you wish to live. If someone causes you to feel uncomfortable, inferior, less confident, remove yourself. If, on the other hand, you are inspired, supported and loved for exactly as you are and applauded for the improvement you wish to make, foster these relationships and environments.
11. Trust yourself. As a young girl, one of the many quotes I was drawn to and have since kept with me to this day is “Trust yourself, and then you will know how to live.” I didn’t always know what this meant or what “trusting yourself” would look like, but what I’ve come to discover is that we each have an inner compass. However, often it is drowned out by the exterior noise that we place ourselves in trying to fit into someone else’s vision of what a “good life” looks like, or we ignore it because we realize that it is pushing us to do something many people around us aren’t, and that can be frightening.
The good news, based on my experience, is that even though it may be frightening, the results surpass following anyone else’s definition of true fulfillment. Recognize that even when you trust yourself, you will have moments of fear, but then revert back to the advice given in #4. And always keep in mind, the life you wish you could be living is waiting for you to begin living it.
“Whoever you are, whatever your dream, you have to be strong in your head and strong in your heart. Be strong. There’s no quitting in the person who wants it bad enough.“– Carly Patterson (gymnast, 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist)
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