Monday, April 27, 2015

5 Ways to Stop Worrying About What Everyone Thinks of You

1. Remind yourself that most people are NOT thinking about you anyway.
Ethel Barrett once said, “We would worry far less about what others think of us if we realized how seldom they do.” Nothing could be closer to the truth.

Forget what everyone else thinks of you today; chances are, they aren’t thinking about you anyway. If you feel like they always are, understand that this perception of them watching you and critiquing your every move is a complete figment of your imagination. It’s your own inner fears and insecurities that are creating this illusion.

It’s you judging yourself that’s the real problem.

2. Acknowledge that external validation is only getting in your way.
Spend time clearly and consciously articulating to yourself how your thoughts about what others are (potentially) thinking plays out in your life. Think of situations where it gets in your way, and identify the triggers and the regrettable responses it causes in your life. Then identify a new behavior that creates a more beneficial response.

Tell yourself, “Instead of responding in the same old way based on what I think others are thinking, I will respond in this new way based on my new way of thinking about myself.” Every time you interrupt your automatic response and respond differently, you are re-wiring your brain to think more effectively.

The ultimate goal is to never let someone’s opinion become your reality. To never sacrifice who you are, or who you aspire to be, because someone else has a problem with it. To love who you are inside and out as you push forward. And to realize once and for all that no one else has the power to make you feel small unless you give them that power.

3. Get comfortable with not knowing what other people think.
When I first started writing on this blog, I’d agonize over whether people would think what I was writing was good enough. I desperately hoped they’d like it, and oftentimes I’d catch myself imagining they didn’t. Then one day I realized how much energy I was wasting worrying about it. So I’ve gradually learned to relax with simply not knowing.

Some problems in life, such as not knowing what others think of you, are not really meant to be resolved. As I’ve mentioned, how people perceive you may have more to do with them than you anyway. They may even like or dislike you simply because you’ve triggered an association in their minds by reminding them of someone they liked or disliked from their past, which has absolutely nothing to do with you.

So here’s a new mantra for you – say it, and then say it again: “This is my life, my choices, my mistakes and my lessons. As long as I’m not hurting people, I need not worry what they think of me.”

4. Refocus your attention on what DOES matter.
People will think what they want to think. You can’t control them. No matter how carefully you choose your words and mannerisms, there’s always a good chance they’ll be misinterpreted and twisted upside down by someone. Does this really matter in the grand scheme of things? No, it doesn’t.

What DOES matter is how you see yourself.

So when you’re making big decisions, make a habit of staying 100% true to your values and convictions. Never be ashamed of doing what feels right.

To help you implement this positive habit, start by listing out 5-10 things that are important to you when it comes to building your character and living your life honorably. For example:

Having a list like this to reference will give you an opportunity to consciously invoke your handpicked traits/behaviors in place of doing something random simply for the purpose of external validation. While it may sound overly simplistic, most people never take the time to actually decide what is important to them when it comes to their self-image – they let others decide for them.

5. Let go of your ‘end of the world’ thinking.
All variations of worrying, including worrying about rejection, thrive on ‘end of the world’ thinking. In other words, our emotions convince us that an undesirable outcome results in annihilation.

What if they don’t like me?
What if he rejects me?
What if I don’t fit in and I’m left sitting alone at the party? etc.

None of these things result in the end of the world, but if we convince ourselves that they do, we will irrationally fear these outcomes and give our fears control over us. The truth is, we – human beings – are inefficient at accurately predicting how future misfortune will make us feel. In fact, most of the time we avoid consciously thinking about it all together, which only perpetuates our subconscious fears.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Lingering Question of National Unity

Historical realists have often dismissed the entity called Nigeria as a mere expression with no core, while the detractors of secession will tell you that in our differences reside our strength and that the quest to attaining national unity is always a work in progress. The debate on the holistic implications of the 1914 amalgamation will continue to linger. However, one thing we all agree to is that we have to incessantly nurture our fragile national unity.
Events over the past few weeks have led to a reawakening of the unity puzzle and forced us to question and redefine the brotherhood we profess as a people. While it is true that our democracy is still teething, the obvious steer from the electoral votes across the country especially at the presidential elections leaves a lot to be desired. The votes were sharply divided across ethnic lines. It is true that part of the reason for this could be the political scheming of the gladiators but it insults reason to think that the votes were absolutely an expression of everyone’s choice on the sheer basis of meritocracy. It is not in anyone’s place to probe the rationale behind the vote of an electorate, but it requires no stretch of the imagination to see that many voted solely on ethnic sentiments. That the PDP couldn't wrestle a single state from the core north, and same for the APC in the South South/South East, tells you all you need to know. There is no denying of the fact that we are all prejudiced, and try as you may, some of our sentiments will always kick in. However, if we must progress this thing called Nigeria, then we must begin to tell ourselves some home truth.
The diatribe from the Oba of Lagos some weeks ago before the Lagos governorship election has already received its fair share of condemnation. Going forward however, one must seek to annihilate the seat of thought, from which the Oba conceived such nonsense. Many have tried to dismiss the Oba’s threat to the Igbo as mere ranting of one man, but I chose to differ. As Chimamanda Adiche noted ‘The Oba is not an ordinary citizen. The Oba’s words matter. He is not a singular voice; he represents traditional authority.’ Thus, anyone that dare suggest that the Igbo people took the issue too far, questions the right of an individual to feel aggrieved and further ‘commonize’ a sensitive subject. We must kill that thought that any group of people by default of which part of the country they come from, are most entitled, or less privileged.
Too often than not, some will rather prefer that we ignore the ‘citizenship’ and ‘identity’ question and move on. But therein lays the problem. As a country we have often pretended to ‘move on’ with too many things while in actual sense, we have only just prolonged the evil day. Ethnicity, as expressed in our country still thrives on primordial sentiments. For many, they are first Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa etc. before they are Nigerian. This fundamental point should not be lost on anyone. The truth remains that we can never dismiss this part of our identity, especially in a turf where language and culture are very polarized. However, one thing we can begin to do is drop the ethnic identity at times of national need or urgency and quit making ethnicity the primary lens with which we view what is to be considered as the ‘National good.’ We have to continually insist that all Nigerians matter equally, irrespective of their ethnic group.
In mending the disparities that currently exist, we must begin to redefine citizenship and what it entails to be called a Nigerian. To pass pre-conceived judgment on any individual in the country based on hear-say, antecedents or a notion about his ethnic group is to further stretch the ties of disunity. Nigeria’s democracy is by no means a finished article but we the people must make a choice to gain traction in our journey of national unity. Particularly, our history is foisted with cases of ethnic sentiments that have degenerated into several instances of violence, chaos and chief of all, a 30 months bloody civil war. It’s time to learn the lessons of the past to avoid the mistakes of the same past. For the new president-elect, his early actions and inactions will do a lot to either keep our unity fledgling or further strengthen it.

Friday, April 10, 2015

3 Beliefs That May Be Holding You Back

1. "Those haters are right about me."

Don’t let rude people ruin you. No matter how much negativity is thrown at you by others, there is absolutely no need for you to stay put and partake in the decay they choose for their own lives. YOU decide how your soul grows.

Because the truth is, what people say and do to you is much more about them, than you. People’s reactions to you are about their perspectives, wounds and experiences. Whether people think you’re amazing, or believe you’re the worst, again, is more about them. I’m not suggesting we should be narcissists and ignore all feedback. I am saying that so much hurt, disappointment and sadness in our lives comes from our taking things personally. In most cases it’s far more productive and healthy to let go of other people’s good or bad opinion of you, and to operate with your own intuition and wisdom as your guide.

So stay out of other people’s drama and don’t needlessly create your own. Instead, imagine what would happen if you spent this entire day, and every day hereafter, with all your energy directed toward your most positive possibilities. Rather than being annoyed, be amused. Instead of getting angry, get away. Life is too short to argue, fight or be negative in any way. Count your blessings and move on from the drama with your head held high.

2. "It’s important that all my family and friends approve of my goals."

Most of us are not raised to actively seek our calling. We may not even know that we have one. As kids, we are seldom told we have a place in life that is uniquely ours alone. Instead, we are encouraged to believe that our life should somehow fulfill the expectations of others – that we should find our happiness exactly as they have found theirs.

Rather than being taught to ask ourselves who we are, we are trained to ask others for permission. We are, in effect, schooled to live other people’s versions of our lives. Every day is designed and developed as told to us by someone else. And then one day when we break free to survey our dreams, seeking to fulfill ourselves, we see that most of our dreams have gone unfulfilled because we believed, and those around us believed, that what we wanted for ourselves was somehow beyond our reach.

It’s time to unlearn these lies and make changes. It takes courage to grow wiser and become who you really are. And today is the first day of the rest of your life.

3. "They can do it, but that doesn’t apply to me."

Just because someone else can, doesn’t mean you can, right? Because you’re not good enough, or you’ve missed your chance, etc. You look for reasons they can do it but you can’t – maybe he’s an internet entrepreneur or freelance writer because he has no kids. Maybe she’s way fitter than I am, so she can run a marathon. Maybe she doesn’t have all the work and family obligations I have, or has a supportive spouse, or doesn’t have bad knees.

OK, fine, it’s easy to find excuses: but look at all the other people who also have considerable obstacles and have done it anyway. Angel and I have a family, and have dealt with significant loss in our lives, and still managed to succeed on many fronts. And just as we’ve turned things around for ourselves, we know hundreds of other people who’ve done the same. Stories abound of people with disabilities or illnesses who overcame their obstacles to achieve great things.

Feeling stuck is a FEELING, not a fact. So never assume that you’re stuck with the way things are. Life changes, and so can you. It’s never too late to live a life that makes you proud. If you don’t learn anything else from this post, learn that. There’s no age limit on changing your course in life


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Early Lessons from Buhari’s Emergence!

As the dust settles upon days of political horse-trading, diatribes and pyrrhic campaigning, Nigeria has emerged as the most novel democracy, once nascent and teething, has taken a leap towards it consolidation. It's no more news that for the first time in our democratic narrative, an incumbent president has been deposed by the opposition party. It's a watershed of great propositions and a narrative that posterity will forever study. While it is true that President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari has a daunting task ahead of him in his bid to deliver the change that his party so professed before us, the first lessons from this landmark event can be deduced now.

First, Professor Attahiru Jega deserves enormous praise for the role he has played in sanitizing our electoral process. One must remember vividly that Jega inherited an electoral system from Maurice Iwu that was foisted and bedeviled with untold malpractices and uncommon irregularities. In 2011, the journey began to return sanity to the process. It is still public debate how credible the 2011 polls were, but one thing we got a consensus on is that it was a massive improvement from the trend. From that milestone, 2015 was always going to be the true litmus test, especially with a more robust opposition and a citizenry that become better politically aware. The full story of the 2015 elections will yet be told, but the early snippet is that it was a truly remarkable election. Make no mistakes about it, the elections had its own issues, challenges and cases of irregularities but it was another quantum leap in our electoral journey. Jega is certainly not the finished article in the quest for integrity but he is bloody close. In very tough and peculiar circumstances he remained a beacon of strength, composure, integrity and uprightness. With a background in the academia, he might well have debunked the myth that intellectuals cannot thrive in our chequered system. History will be kind to Professor Attahiru Jega and the narrative will end this way: This was a man who stood up to the enemies of democracy and won, albeit bruised.

Then, there is another early hero from this process. President Goodluck Jonathan might have become unpopular for various reasons too numerous to rehash, but he will be remembered in a revered place in history. Without mincing words, he provided the platform to sanitize our electoral process. I have always maintained that one of the anomalies of our current democratic set-up is the excessive power at the center, and to think that President Jonathan didn’t exploit this to his advantage to ensure victory is truly remarkable. In addition, the victory was still yet to be announced when news filtered in of the incumbent congratulating the General on his victory. This singular act of camaraderie displayed by the President helped to avert any potential violent knee-jerk reaction from his loyalists. This action followed a seemingly new trend by this generation of political gladiators who have learnt to take defeat magnanimously, for the collective good. Last year, when Ayo Fayose defeated the sitting governor in Ekiti state, Kayode Fayemi, the latter was the first to call and congratulate him for the win. It is almost a certainty that the PDP will head for the tribunal almost immediately, but the action by President Jonathan was sterling. In truth, that was not weakness by any stretch of analysis.

And finally, in the trio of early heroes from the elections, is the man of the moment, Muhammadu Buhari, the dogged political fighter per excellence of modern day Nigerian history. They say there is something lucky about the number four, but this is not a victory that should be associated with luck. It’s a story of a man who has been reinventing himself in the public eye for the past two decades, while remaining true to the principles he believes in. There is an avalanche of punditry on the factors that aided the General’s victory, but none surpass the courage of Buhari to keep fighting, believing and hoping. There is a new buzz in town, a cloud of expectations that hovers round the nation at the moment, and when the euphoria all fizzles away, that will be the hard part. An economy in comatose in the face of the dwindling oil price, millions of under-employed and unemployed youths, a decayed power sector, the daunting task of insecurity, the challenge of corruption and the horror of poor infrastructure are among the headline issues facing the General and his team, and there will be no time for too many fanfare. One thing is clear, Nigerians will not be patient with this new government and he must now articulate in reality the change he so preached during his campaign days. However, one vital early task before the General is to heal the obvious differences that still exist among the people. There is no denying of the fact that the trend of the votes showed that a vast majority of people voted across ethnic lines, and this is not in any way drawing generalizations. Since the dark days of the 30 months civil war, we have not fully been united. Dichotomies still exist and so much of the General’s early actions will either help to heal or aggravate the wounds of disunity.

Having said that, the biggest heroes from this presidential election is the People. This was the year when the people regained their voice and recovered the power of the majority. Democracy has its own encumbers, but it is still regarded as best practice for good governance. In the heart of democracy, is the power of the people. It might mean beating a dead horse to say that we the people have been restored to our rightful place in the Rule of Law, but nothing can be truer. The biggest takeaway from the Presidential election is that message that has been sent by the people: We will reward performance with our votes and we will kick out underperformance with our votes. In this new era, there are no sentiments. One should end by saying that Buhari and his cohorts should not be deluded, the same people that sang ‘Hosanna’ in 2015 will sing ‘Crucify’ them in 2019 if they don’t get result. It is also a good reminder to the new ruling party that there is a new opposition in the wings who will be looking to recapture what was once their ‘birthright’ sooner rather than later. Performance is the only currency we will accept!