All Articles Tagged "self improvement"

Respect Your Body And 13 Other Ways To Have More Joy

September 16th, 2013 - By Julia Austin
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When you go to sleep at night, the way you feel about yourself isn’t determined by what happened that day — what other people said or did — but rather how you responded to the day’s events. Here are 14 little daily adjustments you can make to be a little prouder of who you are.

Are You Too Defensive?

July 24th, 2013 - By Kendra Koger
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“Hey, umm… can we talk?”

That one phrase (or the different variations of it) divides more people than Moses dividing the Red Sea.  Because at that moment, you know that you’re going to be the topic of conversation, and with the serious look on the speaker’s face you know that they’re not going to surprise you with a large novelty check or fruit basket.  You and this person, though usually close, feel like you’re miles away because how could anyone who knows you think ill of you or your actions?  They should know your intentions.  But you sit, you sigh and you try to prepare yourself for what you’re going to hear.

Let’s be honest here, most of the time when this scenario plays out, you don’t like what you hear.  You begin to feel attacked and one or two things can happen, you can either listen and get your feelings hurt, or you can become defensive to what they are saying to you.  To those who become defensive, this article is for you.

You’re right, it doesn’t feel good when someone criticizes you.  It can hurt and make you question yourself, and a lot of times, ignorance is bliss.  We like status quo, and it’s easy for our relationships to run the course that we would like them to.  But if there’s a bump in the road, or a pre-existing bump that people were too afraid to address until now, it’s as if it shakes us off course.  It takes those blinders off and we can see… us… who we are, and generally we don’t like it.  We like to pretend that we’re great and perfect but you just let me know that I’m not, and that makes me uncomfortable.

Now, defensive people, you might think that I’m going to be hard on you, but just know that it’s done out of love, and out of knowledge of where you’re coming from because I used to be one of you;  and it’s something that I fight from time to time.  So I know where your mind is, and if you’ll let me I can help.

First, let’s discuss the normal protocol of a defensive person in this situation.  Usually you might try to find a way to rationalize your behaviors.  Once again, honesty is king here, and if you wanted to, you can rationalize anything.  ”Yeah I punched that cat, it just scratched my leg!”  ”Officer, I was only driving fast to pick my child up from daycare!”  ”Your Honor, I was going through my neighbor’s trash because they weren’t recycling.  I was just trying to help the environment, so this restraining order is completely uncalled for.”

You can make a reason for anything to take the burden of responsibility off your back to change your ways.  Yes, you might have had a legit reason for your feelings, but that doesn’t validate reckless behavior.

Another move on the chess board that is often made is misdirection.  Now, some of y’all have studied under Houdini, because the quickness and ease that it takes for some of y’all to get the target off your back and back on another person is almost admirable… but odious at the same time.  Yes, no one is perfect, but if the moment someone addresses you about your behavior and you begin to immediately throw up their own bad behavior in their face, then that’s just ridiculous.

Listen to what the person is saying to you.  If what they’re saying is true, yeah it might hurt to have to acknowledge it about yourself, but it’s worth it to improve.

You all know that I’m an advocate for self-improvement, and I got there by trying to stop being defensive.  I didn’t want to be that person who was in the wrong, and happy being in the wrong.  For me, ignorance definitely isn’t bliss, and if you’re above reproach, then how are you growing?  But, that’s for people who would like to grow.  If you’re not one of those people, keep those walls up.  Just know that after that Red Sea comes down and you and the person who cared enough to confront you are on opposite shores, understand that you have the power to build that bridge by using those same bricks you built to reject the critique.  It’s possible, it’s hard work, but it’s definitely worth it.

Kendra Koger’s been tearing down walls since ’96, and on twitter @kkoger since ’09. 


How I Am Curing Myself Of A Lifetime Of Procrastination

June 5th, 2013 - By La Truly
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Notice that the title said, “AM CURING” meaning this is a CURRENT process not yet completed.

I have been a procrastinator for as long as I can remember. I put off school projects and papers, calling the guys I liked, getting a passport, getting my license (I was 24!), etc. I had no real solution for it and toward the end of my college career I chalked it up to “That’s just how I operate. I work well under pressure.”

While that really does seem to be true – I come up SO clutch when I’m against a pressing deadline – I have had a lot of time lately to explore WHY I procrastinate so much. I never questioned it before. I just went with it, occasionally kicking myself when I had to pull overnighters or throw things together last-minute.

Iyanla Vanzant recently tweeted something that stopped me in my tracks because I felt as though she was speaking directly to me about me:

In that exact moment I was putting off at least three different things in my life. I had notebooks and to do lists and papers and notes everywhere. I had ample time and ability but I wasn’t getting anything accomplished. Or I wasn’t doing as complete and awesome a job as I knew I could.

So, Iyanla’s tweet hit me in my chest and made me pause a moment. Indeed, I had a severe lack of focus. That was clearly evident from the debris of papers and lists scattered around me. What had not been so clear to me until that moment was that the lack of focus came from deep, years-old fears that I had yet to really ever face.

I copped out in college but proclaiming that I worked well under pressure but how did I feel every moment under that pressure? Scared. Nervous. Unsure. I was never quite sure if what I turned out would be good enough. I was never quite sure what I would be met with – criticism or praise. Criticism would become another shovel full of dirt over the coffin of my confidence. Praise would become another reason to question myself – Did I really deserve it? Could I now live up to the standard expected of me? I was fearful of failing and fearful of success at the same time. Talk about conflicted.

It was pretty amazing to me how one tweet could send me into a full self-revelation. Now that I knew what drove my procrastination, what could I do to change? How could I start?

I started looking up various articles about procrastination and maximizing time throughout the course of the day. And they all had a common theme:

1. START RIGHT NOW. No matter what the task, there is something you can do in this moment to get you closer to your goal than you were five minutes before. Whether you need create a to do list, call a vendor, write an outline, practice some scales, pitch the article… whatever it is, just start. Make it a point to do at least one thing to work your way toward an end product and set  a time frame for that accomplishment. Not only are you beating procrastination but you’re slowly but surely teaching yourself perseverance.

2. FACE THE FEAR. Whatever the fear is that is keeping you from seizing any and every opportunity to move forward – confront it. Whether you have to rant to a friend, vent in a journal, or have a conversation with someone who has hurt you – face it. There is very little else that will solve procrastination and lack of focus than standing up to the fear that started it all. In facing the fear, also understand that you are capable. Fear of failure and fear of success often stem from not believing you are capable.

3. ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR SUCCESS. One of the things we are often taught, as women, is to be very humble. Almost to a fault. We’re taught to play down our strengths and our accomplishments or else we’re called other things which I won’t mention here. It is so important to be aware of what makes you unique, what makes you great and how far you have come. When dealing with procrastination, be proud of each step you make toward your goal. Reward yourself, even! Sometimes just looking at success as a bunch of small accomplished steps is the push you need to keep moving forward.

I am not 100% cured of procrastination – I still take breaks to watch “R&B Divas” when I know I should be completing this or that – but I am moving forward, releasing myself of fears, priding myself in my success and looking forward to the next step.

La Truly’s writing is powered by a lifetime of anecdotal proof that awkward can transform to awesome and fear can cast its crown before courage. La seeks to encourage thought, discussion and change among young women through her writing. Follow her on Twitter: @AshleyLaTruly and AboutMe

Competing In A Competition You Didn’t Realize You Were In

April 5th, 2013 - By Kendra Koger
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There’s an upside of growing up in a predominately female household for a girl.  My father was the only male, while my three sisters, an aunt, my mother and myself dominated.  The upside is that at a young age I could battle all of my feelings of insecurity.  My sisters and I were constantly being compared to each other by family members, classmates, teachers and friends.  There were always comments of:  ”Well [insert sister name here] is better [insert character trait that you're lacking].  What happened with you?”  After a while and many failed attempts to try to become like your siblings you learn that you can only be yourself and you learn to embrace it.  You stop trying to be better than them, and you begin to try to be a better you, or that’s how it was for me.

It’s always a little awkward when you find out that someone is competing against you when you’re not in an actual competition.  Competition can be a good thing, and very healthy.  It can increase your drive and make you want to be a better person.  However, it concerns me when I find out that people are competing against me over something completely insignificant.

I remember my very first time having this realization.

I was in first grade and I had just moved from Alabama and was living in East St. Louis.  People are interested in “new” things, and that was true for me when I first started attending my elementary school.  I don’t know if other kids did this, but we had this thing called “Play Mamas.”  Where an older girl would kind of “adopt” you and get you things, like candy, toys, and if you had a problem with someone else, you tell your “Play Mama” and she’ll handle it for you.

Before East St. Louis I had never heard of such a thing, so when a girl came up to me and asked me to be her play daughter she had to explain to me to just accept the invitation because it was an honor.  Being the young people pleaser that I was, I accepted.  I also accepted the six other invitations from other random older girls.  My role was to allow them to play in my hair and buy me candy, so I did that.

It wasn’t until a month or two later that a saw a girl in my class crying.  I went over to her to see what was wrong and she told me she was certain that after getting her new braids and outfit that she would have more “Play Mamas” than me, but she didn’t and she was mad.  I was caught off guard, because, what did I have to do with the number of “Play Mamas” you had?  But after my “Play Mamas” realized that I was cheating on them (I didn’t know you could only have one), they dumped me.  A week or two after I remember girls bragging to me about their superiority of keeping the older girls happy over me.  Way to stay classy, first graders.

This type of behavior is expected in children, but it persisted in high school over the dumbest things.  Everything was a competition.  Who could get to class faster, who had the smallest waist, and who would guys like better when they got their weave.  The thing was, I was always caught off guard whenever someone brought it to my attention that they were competing with me, or couldn’t wait until someone else beat me in this unknown competition.  I even lost friendships when I won a competition I didn’t realize I was in.

I realized then that this type of competition could be a scary thing.  Now, don’t think that I don’t suffer from it too occasionally.  I think everyone has at one point of time, saw something that someone possessed, and as childish as it was, wanted to win out over them, even if they don’t know who you are.  I’m not opposed to competing with people, but I more so compete with myself.  I want to do better for me.

The thing is, there will always be someone more pretty, smarter, or more successful than you, and comparing yourself to them is only going to make you more insecure about your own potential greatness.  Try to make yourself better, but also be aware that people will try to compete with you, no matter if you expect them to or not.  But as long as you’re being the best you that you can be, then don’t let it bother you.

Kendra Koger has gotten rid of her Play Mama philandering ways and got herself on twitter @kkoger.

Self-Improvement Spring: 9 Apps to Help You Grow

March 11th, 2013 - By Kimberly Maul
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As we slowly crawl toward spring, you can turn to technology to help you get in shape, get organized, clean the house, and more. Half of all African-American cell phone owners have downloaded a mobile phone app, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, and as far back as November 2011, mobile app usage surpassed mobile browser usage. So here are nine apps and websites that can help you do a bit of self-improvement this spring.

Step Your Game Up: 9 Ways To Improve All Year Long

January 4th, 2013 - By C. Cleveland
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With New Year’s still fresh in our minds, self-improvement is important to everyone. But, it’s easy to be dedicated in January. The true test is honoring those resolutions for 365 days. That’s 52 weeks of discipline! Dropping the cash to lock yourself into a year-long commitment and making good habits a part of your daily routine are two easy ways to preserve that “new you” you told all of social media would debut in 2013. Here are nine ideas, some for free and others with a cost incentive, to keep you on track.

9 Steps To Get Focused For 2013

December 28th, 2012 - By C. Cleveland
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Don’t you love that quiet lull the office falls into between Christmas and New Year’s Day? With clients and coworkers traveling for the holidays, the workplace can feel like an adult version of Home Alone. But, there are better things to do with your downtime than playing Facebook games or building towers out of office supplies with your cubicle mates. This is the perfect time of year to gain perspective on 2012, and get focused for the New Year. Follow these steps to make sure your mind is right for 2013.

What Happens When You Lose Weight But Don’t Gain Confidence?

August 23rd, 2012 - By Mame Kwayie
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Working Out

I’d been hesitant to tell my friends. I’d cajoled myself into doing so as a means of accountability that doubled as a warning for those who may see me in six months and say, “I thought she lost the weight. What happened?”
Starting a new weight loss program is exciting for many people, I’m sure. But there was a part of me that wanted to offer a rebuttal at the hint of a positive remark about my changing body, at any comment that I deemed overly congratulatory: “Just don’t judge me if I gain the weight back.” That phrase covered me, I thought, if I failed to keep the weight off. Because I’d already accepted that I probably wouldn’t be able to keep it off.

I know. There are many things wrong with that thinking.

There’s a picture of Jordin Sparks’ Shape Magazine cover saved on my computer desktop. “One day, you’ll flaunt it like this,” I said when I started to shed the pounds. I imagined myself behind an Instagram filter infiltrating folks’ social media timelines, completely aloof and wearing a two-piece bathing suit. Probably jumping off a trampoline or something. Flexing something fierce mid-air all Gabby Douglas-like. And then, because I was too embarrassed to say it aloud, I thought this: No, you can’t flaunt it. Because once you gain the weight back, you’ll be ashamed of what you used to be.

I figured it would be better to keep the body-flaunting at a minimum. Better to let old high school friends serendipitously spot me at the grocery store than in a comb-through of my Facebook timeline, a visual reminder of my ups-and-downs and then up-agains.

Again, so many things wrong with that thinking.

Who accomplishes anything with the belief that it won’t work out? Why get in the game if I thought that I’d somehow regress to where I started? Weight, you see, was the one thing I’d internalized as the thing I couldn’t get right. But now that I’ve started to get right and stay right, now that I’m understanding that managing my weight doesn’t have to be a permanent struggle, I’ve had to recalibrate my internal voice.

I wondered if other people who’d struggled with weight also had to grapple with the fact that self-confidence and self-belief doesn’t automatically come with each stride on the treadmill. It is, at once, a separate and entangled journey to lose weight, love yourself, and trust yourself at the same damn time.

I found an article about phantom fat and how some dieters are “waiting for the other shoe to drop… People who’ve gained and lost and gained again may be less likely to embrace a new image that they worry won’t last.”

And then I read what one of the quoted experts said: “We become numb to how mean we’re being to ourselves.”

Yikes. I realized that this doubtful voice could have belonged to an unsupportive phantom friend. One who lived with me every minute of the day and whose voice taunted me the second I’d get excited about my physical future. The thing is, I long would have banished this homegirl for her negativity, however, I spoke to myself with her voice and I didn’t recognize it. It just was. As much as I exercised, I knew that this voice would need to be exorcised too.

The “love yourself” rhetoric was cute and all, but I needed to know what loving myself looked like in action, in deed, and in conversation.

Marianne Williamson’s oft-recited “Our Deepest Fear” was once taped to my bathroom mirror, office wall and refrigerator. Meant to carry me through professional and spiritual journeys, I reread it as I decided that shift my perspective on weight watching.

We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?

After reading it, I rewrote it. Out loud.

Who am I to be gorgeous, desirable, and hot? Who am I not to be? Why am I not all of these things right now? My insides are pretty dope too, my personality, my smarts. Those things never yo-yo.

Tell me I’m slimming down and all I’ll say is thank you. Ask me what my workout routine is or how I’m eating and I won’t deflect. If I’m up a pound after a rough week, I won’t resign my entire svelte strategy to complete failure.

This new conversation, I think, is the beginning of confidence, the signs of self-belief. They don’t come on a treadmill, but in the things you tell yourself. The physical is fleeting, and even greater than the privilege of wearing a bathing suit, we all deserve a sense of wholeness, one that we prescribe to ourselves and for only ourselves.

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Today Is Not Forever: How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Things That May Never Happen

July 12th, 2012 - By Alissa Henry
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"black woman thinking"


When I was a teenager, I couldn’t wait to have my own apartment. I loved my parents, but I also loved the show “Friends” and they made living on your own look like it meant having the time of your life.

The university I attended was about an hour away from home, so I lived in the dorms. Senior year I lived in an apartment with four roommates, but that didn’t quench my desire to have my own place.

Unfortunately, I knew that my Senior year was closest I was ever going to get to living on my own before my 28th birthday.

Early on, my dad made clear to me that I was to move back home after college and live with him for five years. He wasn’t going to charge me anything and just wanted me to work and save up $10,000 before venturing out on my own. He believed that would be enough money to furnish a nice apartment, pay my rent a few months in advance and place the rest in an emergency fund. No financial struggle necessary.

I suspected that he also wanted me to have enough money in savings to allow him to cut me off financially without guilt.

His pragmatism appealed to logic I inherited from him, but I wanted my own apartment right then. Well, not right then because I was still in high school when we initially had this conversation. But, I didn’t want him to even verbally stand in the way of my dreams of living with my best friend in a cute little apartment in my hometown post-college.

He would often say, “Why would you live in this city and pay rent when you can live at home for free?”

I was devastated.

I knew that only two things would get me out of having to celebrate my 26th birthday while living at home: Marriage or an out-of-state job. Considering my love life at the time, I figured the marriage thing was a long shot. However, I knew I could definitely apply for jobs somewhere, anywhere that would move me out of Columbus and make living at home impractical.

During my Senior year of college, I informed my dad that I would be looking for a job in a different state. I said that successful journalism careers are rarely launched in big cities and I needed to move to a small town to put my degree to work.

He told me to focus on graduation and then come live at home for the summer without working or looking for a job. He said that I would be working for the rest of my life and needed to take advantage of one more lazy summer financed by dad.


Still, I was bummed about going back home and I was afraid that I wouldn’t find a job out of state and thus be forced to fulfill his plan of living at home for five years. I would tell any listening ear about how my dad was controlling my life and how being financially tethered to your parents meant not being able to make your own choices and how much I wanted my own place.

After graduation, I moved back in with my dad…and he died ten days later. Devastated, I moved out of his house and into my own apartment. The irony.

Every time I think about that situation and how I spent four years worrying about something that eventually turned out to be a non-issue, I wonder who taught us that just because something is one way now means it will be that way forever?

We see this when people complain to whoever will listen about being single, and then turned up married within the year.  Same with people who spend their days dreading a job they hate only to be suddenly laid off. Or, in my case, someone who resents living at home with her dad only to get a phone call that he was killed in a murder-suicide.

There is a quote by Epicurus that I love: “Don’t spoil what you have by desiring what you have not, but remember that which you have now was once among the things you only hoped for.”

That’s not to say we can’t affect change in our own lives and take charge of less-than-ideal situations, but sometimes we need to just relax instead of worrying about something that may or may not even happen.

I don’t really have any regrets about my relationship with my dad, but sometimes I wish I wouldn’t have made such a big deal about living in my own apartment.  Living rent-free is certainly not the worst thing in the world and, in fact, I ended up married before my 26th birthday anyway. I wish I would have just been grateful that my dad desired to take care of me when so many (now, myself included) don’t have a dad at all.

I don’t wallow in regret though. Instead, I chose to learn the valuable lesson that life can change in a literal blink of an eye and, therefore, some things just aren’t worth worrying about prematurely. We don’t know what a day could bring. Before we go to sleep tonight, any one of us could get that job or meet that guy or find a money bag or some other random event that life chooses to mix up the daily routine. So, instead of feeling like today is forever. I just thank God for today and continue to count my blessings because I know that, good or bad, it may not be this way tomorrow.

Have you ever worried about something that ended up being a non-issue?

Follow Alissa on Twitter @AlissaInPink

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What, You Don’t Trust Me? What I Learned From ALMOST Being Pressured Into Unprotected Sex

July 12th, 2012 - By MN Editor
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By La Truly 

The other day, I had a conversation with my sister that opened my eyes to my own blaring stupidity which could have cost me my life. I was telling her about a guy I once met randomly, had absolutely nothing in common with – except purely animated physical attraction, but clung to him because he was fun and I didn’t want to be lonely. Our values didn’t parallel one another and our goals were… well, I knew mine… I never really got around to asking (or really caring) what his were. Things were light, fun and great. Then, this one particular day he decided to press the issue of unprotected sex. His argument for it included the following quotables:

“Well, you know I stopped messin’ with other people for you.”

“I get tested.”

“If you’re saying you want to be with me but you don’t want to have sex with me without a condom I feel like you’re saying there’s something wrong with me.”

“It just feels better without a condom.”

“I feel like you’re saying you don’t trust me.”

How did I tell him that HECK NO, I really didn’t trust him but I wanted him around? Should I just go ahead and take him at his word? He said he was clean and he wouldn’t lie to me…would he?

I knew that I never really trusted him because of the ladies’ man I knew him to be and his absolute love of sex. I knew that he lied to me constantly about other women, whether by omission or not. I knew that he was incapable of being completely faithful. I knew that he was trying to turn the whole situation around on me, as if my forethought for my own health was totally absurd and a slap in the face to him.

He ended up leaving promptly after I simply refused to answer him. My being speechless was more a product of bewilderment than defiance. And I have to admit, after he left I felt lonely, glad and stupid all at once. Lonely, obviously because he had left me alone and I knew that we would never recover our carefree relationship. Glad, because I had not allowed his incessant pressure to make me do something that very well could have changed my life for the worst. And I felt stupid because although I refused unprotected sex, I did so without assertively telling him exactly what I thought of him and his lowdown tactics. I despised the way he tried to make me feel guilty, totally disregarding my concerns. No, I didn’t trust him but I felt horrible even THINKING to tell him that. Why was I so worried about his feelings? If he had stayed another moment, would I have given in? How strong a woman was I really? My mind was reeling with thoughts, questions and ‘What ifs?’

In reflectively discussing the situation with my sister many months later, she said something deep about it all:

“Men make decisions about women all the time without one thought for their feelings. They’ll end a relationship for any reason when they get ready and move on without caring. Why do we, as women, tiptoe around, trying to be careful and spare men’s feelings when they don’t care to do the same for us?”

That hit me with such force. I had dodged a bullet through ‘just enough’ willpower, not through assertive ‘protect-myself-by-any-means-necessary’ force. I didn’t lay out the facts for him: That I knew he couldn’t possibly ‘settle down,’ that he was a liar and a manipulator and that I had so foolishly tried to override all of those facts for fear of losing his carefree companionship. I had been a fool. I had been a fool blessed that he left when he did. Blessed that the “relationship” ended where it did. Blessed that I could see my obvious weaknesses and begin to apply strength in those areas.

Since then I’ve been a whole lot less concerned with being alone. Self-improvement has occupied that time and space and I’ve learned one valuable lesson:

Say what you mean and mean what you say. Never put up with being bullied or ‘guilted’ into a relationship decision because you’re afraid of being alone. Those moments of weakness will chip away at your self-worth, your ability to make clear choices and even at your health.

If a man cannot respect my timing, my decisions and my values when it comes to MY body, he is not the man for me. I didn’t value myself enough to assert those points back then, but now… Honey, listen… they know from the gate so they can never say that I didn’t make it clear.

AIDS and other STDs are real and they are singlehandedly one of the biggest killers of our community. I have no desire to be a careless victim. In my opinion, it’s better to be safe, lonely and living than to be sorry, lied-to and dying. And I’ve got so much to live for.

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