Jun 15

Read The Room

By Celeste DeCamps | General

"When we take the time to be present for the people we're with, we do away with feeling self-conscious."

One of the biggest lessons I learned when I was a professional bellydancer was how to read the room. For example, in the Middle Eastern restaurants that I performed in, it was traditional to go over to the tables, say hello, and invite the audience to come up and dance with me. It was also an opportunity to receive tips. Experience taught me to watch for expressions and body language when approaching the crowd. If someone isn't making eye contact with me, I leave that person alone. If I see a happy, smiling face, I know they want to join me on stage. I look for interactions between couples. If a woman is watching her significant other for any signs of interest in me, I purposely walk over to her. I smile and compliment her on her beautiful dress. I tell her I'm glad she's here and hope she's enjoying herself. I don't even glance at her partner. When I get a smile, I know I've put her at ease. The goal is to make the night a fun experience for everyone. This will give people a reason to return again and again.

Reading people also helped me when I sold wine and spirits. I remember walking into an account, and my buyer was obviously stressed out. I looked at her and said, "I have two options for you. I can open up this bottle of wine, and you can tell me what's upsetting you, or we can reschedule." She said, "How do you do that? You always seem to know what kind of mood I'm in before I say a word. Let's open the wine. You listen to me vent, and I'll place my order with you." This is how I was able to solidify my relationships with my clients. I let them know I cared about them as well as their business.

Whether it's a social or networking event, we tend to worry about how we're coming across, so much so that we're not paying attention to people in front of us. We're not picking up body language, and facial expressions that give us clues to how people feel. When I enter a room, I tend to take a quick scan and try to take in the energy of the place. Does the group seem to be in a good mood? Are they talking and laughing? If so, excellent. I know I'll have an enjoyable time.

On the other hand, is there a sense of a strained formality that has everyone feeling tense? Are they speaking low and reserved? I have to decide to keep myself upbeat and not get dragged down to having a miserable time.

I remember getting hired to do a show for a house party. I walked in, and it was quiet. People were sitting or standing against the wall, barely interacting with each other. The music was low, and I noticed the concern on the host's face. I reassured him that I was going to do my best. I made sure my music was loud and created excitement. By the end of my performance, I had everyone up and dancing. It felt great to be able to turn the party around and be successful.

Meeting someone for the first time in a group setting, I'm aware of eye contact. If they're glancing around the room while I'm speaking, I know they're looking for someone else. I tell them that it's fine with me to talk at a later time. I usually get a response like, "I apologize, but I need to speak with the person who just walked in. Thank you for understanding." I learned a long time ago not to take it personally. Everyone has an agenda and acknowledging that shows you're preceptive to others.

When I have someone's attention, I make sure the other person feels heard. First, I maintain eye contact and listen attentively. This helps build a natural rapport. Next, I watch for signs of understanding or misunderstanding by how the person raises or furrows their brows. Do they nod their head in agreement or disagree by slowly moving their head from side to side.

Communication encompasses more than what we say and how we say it. Our body language lets others know what we're thinking and how we're feeling. When we take the time to be present for the people we're with, we do away with feeling self-conscious. Instead, our focus is on others. As a result, we become more relatable and approachable.

Take a moment to read the room. Get a sense of the overall mood and radiate confidence with a smile. Decide that you're going to have an enjoyable time with everyone you meet. Stay present. Your fun energy may be just what the party needed.

Jun 08

My Friends Can Do No Wrong

By Celeste DeCamps | General

"Giving People the Benefit of the Doubt, Gives You More Benefits."

I'm on the subway, leaving the city and heading back to Queens. I'm reading a book to pass the time. The doors open to allow more passengers on, and I can feel someone bump up against me. I don't look up because I know not to make eye contact. Plus, someone is always going to touch you accidentally. A couple of minutes go by, and I feel the same nudge happen. I'm starting to think that it's being done on purpose, but I don't look up. Sure enough, another bump. I'm getting mad and trying to decide what to do. Now there's no mistaking as this man nudges me again. I look up, ready to tell him off. He's very tall, and he's got a big smile on his face. I start to laugh as I realize this imposing man is my husband, Eric.

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly our attitude can change. Of course, I was relieved that it was Eric and not a strange man. Anyone that takes public transportation can tell you all kinds of weird and sometimes scary encounters. I've had my share. I find it funny how we'll instantly forgive unacceptable behavior when we know the person doing it. Not that Eric did anything wrong, it was hilarious. He said he was wondering how long it was going to take me to do or say something. I'm talking more about everyday encounters that would make us angry only to find out that it's a friend and not some unknown person.

For example, I'm standing in line when a person comes up behind me and gets in front of me. I say, "Excuse me, but I was here first." The person turns around, and it's my neighbor. Right away, she says, "I'm so sorry, Celeste. I'm in another world. I didn't see you." When I realize who it is, I'm instantly OK. I know my neighbor is a good person who's dealing with a lot of pressure from work. That's my point. If she was a stranger, I don't think I would be so forgiving. I would immediately believe this person to be self-entitled and oblivious to everyone around them.

We deal with slights like this regularly. Driving, even a short distance, is full of inconsiderate people that don't use a turn signal, slow down for no apparent reason or blow through stop signs. I want to sit on my high horse and criticize the whole lot until I make a blunder. Yes, it was a one-way street, and I was going only one way, the wrong way. It happens. Nobody's perfect.

Everyone makes mistakes, and it doesn't mean they were intentional. Instead of getting angry at a perceived disregard for my well-being, I pretend it was a friend of mine in a rush. She didn't mean to swerve into my lane. She's late picking up her kid. When I look at it from that viewpoint, I find myself a little more understanding. As long as nobody got hurt, there's no point in letting it ruin my day.

I like to believe we're all trying to do our best on this plane of existence. We may not always be our sunshiney selves, and we may show out because of undue stress. If we can forgive our friends, we can also give strangers the benefit of the doubt. I know I would like to be given a pass for inadvertently nudging a man on the subway because I thought he was my husband. That was a tough one to explain. 

Jun 01

I’ll Be There For You

By Celeste DeCamps | General

 "Maintain Your Friendships. You Never Know When You May Need an Alibi."

I watched the "Friends Reunion" on tv the other day. It was fun to see this group of actors together again as they reminisced about their years of making this much-loved sitcom. As the show looked back at its ten-year run, the program included clips of fan reactions from around the world. People from different cultures and age groups expressed their gratitude for the half-hour comedy. Some said the show was a welcome escape from their lives, and others said it made them feel less lonely. I think the appeal of this sitcom was watching people come together and supporting each other unconditionally. It's something we all look for and want from the people in our lives.

I've read articles that claim the friendships we make when we're younger are the strongest bonds we have. My friend Bessie and I have known each other since we're thirteen. When we get together, it feels like time stands still. We live in different cities now, but we stay in touch and try to visit at least once a year. We've already picked out the nursing home we'll be staying in. Of course, the older we get, the busier our lives are, the harder it is to make new friends. Our time is spent on careers, getting married, and having our own families. It leaves little room to develop new relationships.

I believe each chapter in our lives is focused on different goals. I think maintaining our friendships is essential at all the various phases we go through. Social media helps somewhat, but let's face it, it's not the same as picking up the phone and catching up. I can't in good conscience not call up a friend if they're going through a rough time. Call me old-fashioned, but sending a care hug emoji doesn't quite cut it when my friend posts about losing a loved one. It's the same when I see a post that celebrates a significant accomplishment. Sure the champagne emoji is fun, but I still want to let my friend know that I'm happy for her. Yes, I'm the person who will leave a voicemail if you don't pick up. Which reminds me, why do people not leave a message? I called a friend back, even though she didn't leave a message. I asked her, "Did you call me by mistake?"
She said, "No, I knew you'd see my missed call and get back to me." Well, she was right, so I can't argue that.

I know life can get hectic, and there's not always time in the day for yourself, let alone someone else. We've all been cooped up for a long time, and we're finally seeing the possibilities of meeting up with each other. I can't wait to have brunch again with my friends. It's not breakfast or lunch; it's pancakes with mimosas.

This a gentle reminder that friendships shouldn't go by the wayside. We all need a sounding board that'll allow us to vent, cry, or share a desperately needed laugh. It's a little extra work to maintain our relationships, but the reward of unconditional love and support is worth it. If you don't believe me, just ask Rachel, Ross, Monica, Joey, Phoebe, and Chandler. The best part, we all agree Rachel and Ross were on a break.

May 25

Flip The Switch From Negative to Positive

By Celeste DeCamps | General

 "I'm Sure the Reason the Apocalypse Hasn't Happened is Because I'm In Charge of Worrying About It."

Why is it so hard to imagine the best possible outcome instead of the worst? Why do we insist that behind every good turn of events, a bad one is waiting to jump out at us? Why are we so afraid of clowns?

The last question is obvious because, well, clowns. The other two are a little more complicated. I believe that our less-than-optimistic outlook is the result of our experiences in disappointment. Seeing a child's look of betrayal because you bought the wrong toy is a sad sight. (I didn't want the green doll. I wanted the pink one. Yes, it still bothers me. I don't know why.) Finding out for the first time that things can go wrong or not as expected makes us put our guard up. When we have a series of setbacks, it makes it even harder to believe that anything good will ever happen again.

We've all been told, "that's life: deal with it." By the way, I think being so flippant when someone is upset about a bad experience doesn't help. On top of already feeling sad, you're made to believe you're weak as well. Life does throw us curveballs, and looking back, we can see how our perceptions evolved and we learned important lessons. Finding the silver lining in some situations can be challenging.

How can we flip the switch and find a more positive outlook? Notice I said "more" and not absolute. I try to look at the sunny side of life, make lemonade out of lemons, and avoid scary clowns, but sometimes we need to embrace the possibility of failure. A friend of mine told me that he goes into stressful situations believing the worst will happen. He assumes the crowd he's speaking to will hate him, or the court case he's presenting will find him on the losing side. He said thinking this way motivates him to be as prepared as possible. He makes sure he knows his materials inside and out and can successfully deliver his knowledge to his audience. His supposed defeat is countered by having contingency plans in place. He enjoys more wins than losses in his field of expertise.

For me, visualization works. When I prepare for a presentation or a networking event, I picture it going well. I "see" the audience enjoying my talk or meeting interesting people to connect with. I set up my day the night before. I write down what I want to accomplish and decide that all will go as planned. For some reason, even when things don't work out the way I want, I still end up feeling good about my day.

When I need feedback on a new program I'm developing; I've learned to be open to constructive criticism. We can't direct ourselves. Improving our work with the help of others should be a positive experience. It's not a sign of deficiency or lack of talent. Creating your project to be the best you can make it and collaborating with others is fun. (It's a wonderful way to reduce the risk of failure, and this way, when it doesn't work out, you have others to blame for it.)

We have a choice in predicting the outcome of our future endeavors. Yes, we can picture it all crashing and burning and wonder why we even tried, or we can choose to see our goals and ideas come to fruition. When you find that your beliefs are heading toward the dark side, take a minute and ask yourself, "why." What can you do to be better prepared, or is there an action step you need to take? Before you go down the rabbit hole, call someone who can help you see the situation in a better light. Sometimes we need to hear some encouraging words or voice our concerns out loud to an understanding friend.

We do have power over our thoughts. You're welcome to believe all clowns are evil, or you can trust that all they want to do is make you smile. (I'm undecided on this one.)

May 18

Replaying the Past

By Celeste DeCamps | General

"Try to Look at Your Past With Softer Eyes."

I have a pile of VHS tapes living in a box on top of my closet. (Don't laugh, the tech you're enjoying now will be made fun of before you know it.) I decided to get them all digitized through a company a friend recommended. All the links came in today for me to download. I'm sitting here going down memory lane and feeling like I'm watching someone else's life. Friends I haven't seen in years, dance shows performed long ago, and wanting to know what happened to my flat belly.

The wonderful thing about watching old home movies is that they're of good times. Baby's first steps, birthday parties, and vacation trips are fun to relive. It's also bittersweet as I see loved ones that aren't with me anymore. I love seeing my mother's smile again, but there's an ache that reminds me of how much I miss her.

I find myself laughing out loud as I watch the toddler 'me' try to walk. I have a hoop skirt on, and it looks like a parachute that opens up every time I fall. My older brothers are encouraging me to keep trying. They're two to three years older than me, and they have the walking thing down. It's impressive the determination we have to keep getting up no matter how many times we fall. It doesn't even occur to us to quit. It does help to know others are there to help or at least laugh at our expense. Either way, it's nice to have the support.

It's funny watching my younger self. I always felt self-conscious, and yet, seeing myself with older eyes, I realize I wasn't as awkward as I thought. I do credit my feelings of inadequacy for motivating me to improve myself. It's easy to beat ourselves up, but we grow when we decide to put the work in. Self-improvement is a continuous process, and the feeling of being our best selves is worth the effort.

It feels a little surreal looking at another time and place that's a part of me but doesn't exist anymore. I don't believe in living in the past, but the past is always with me. It's with all of us. I don't buy into the idea of leaving our history behind. Yes, we should always be moving forward, but we should, at the same time, acknowledge how far we've come. Our experiences are our lessons, good and bad. We're the sum of all that we've been through and have come out stronger for it. As much as I want to change the things I regret, I know my life is better for meeting the challenges that came my way.

Try to look at your past with softer eyes. There are always going to be times when we land on our butts. It's how we handle the setbacks that make us grow stronger. It's not fun to fail, but some lessons aren't easy to learn until we do. We should have faith that when we need a helping hand, one will show up. We need each other and having the comfort of family and friends is what being grateful is all about. Our past events live within us, but it doesn't mean we have to dwell with them in the present. Our future holds endless possibilities of being better than ever before. We just have to remember to pack a parachute for ourselves and each other. 

May 10

A Little Lipstick, Powder, and Paint

By Celeste DeCamps | General

"How we make others feel is what makes us desirable."

My sister Lynette has an essential job. She makes people look and feel fabulous. Her makeup artistry is in high demand because she takes the time to listen to what people want and then delivers for them. A few days ago, Lynette posted on her FaceBook page a young woman's Sweet 16 photo. The makeup enhanced her natural beauty and was a lovely testament to my sister's work. I called Lynette to congratulate her, and she told me this heartfelt story.

The Facebook post garnered a lot of positive feedback, and Lynette was happy that her work was well received. She called her client to let her know how much she enjoyed working with her. She also let her know that she would like to use her as a model in the future. Unbeknownst to Lynette, the young woman had fallen into a deep depression. She didn't think she was pretty and began feeling miserable about herself. Her parents were unable to persuade her otherwise. When Lynette made that phone call, her mother confided that it made a world of difference for her daughter. Suddenly, the light was back on, and the sixteen-year-old felt better about herself. Lynette gave her a fantastic gift of self-esteem.

The irony in this story is that my sister worried all the time that she wasn't attractive. (By the way, she's beautiful inside and out.) I understand the concern. Growing up, we're all told that beauty is skin deep, but we all want to be attractive. We want others to be interested in us and feel special. We're bombarded with advertisements that show toned, perfect-looking people, and we believe we should look like that. What we really want is to be seen and loved.

A friend of mine, a hairstylist, once told me that the most insecure women she works on are models. She said some of them are so gorgeous that it hurts to look at them, yet all they see are their flaws. "You would think that their lives are magical and easy, but they never seem completely secure or happy." If supermodels aren't content, is there any chance for us mere mortals?

How many times have you been attracted to someone because they looked cute? You get up the nerve to speak with them, and you find them rude, dull, or unpleasant? Suddenly, you don't know why you thought they were good-looking at all. Their personality wasn't kind, and they weren't enjoyable to talk to. They may be nice to look at, but their demeanor didn't reflect that.

The truth is how we make others feel is what makes us desirable. Think about it. Who do you go to when you need a laugh or an understanding ear? For the most part, our friends and family are quite ordinary-looking. We're attracted to the people who make us feel good about ourselves—the people who encourage and cheer us on. The people who love us unconditionally are a phone call away and not the perfect image on an Instagram post.

I'm not saying forget about trying to be presentable. Let's do our best to look as good as possible by having a nice haircut and well-fitting clothes. Being groomed not only gives an excellent first impression but it makes us feel our best. When I take the time to fix myself up (it does take a while), I feel energized, and my confidence increases.

We imagine that being lovely would solve so many problems for us, but the reality is even the gene lottery winners struggle with feeling accepted.
Showing compassion, empathy, and being considerate to each other is what makes us likable. When we go that extra mile to compliment someone or lift them up with a smile, we draw people to us. Our self-assurance should come from how we can improve ourselves and help others in the process. Try it for yourself. Make someone feel good about themselves and see how great you end up feeling.

Shameless plug happening right now:
If you want help in the makeup department, contact Lynette Demar at: makeupbylynette@gmail.com or visit her website by clicking this link: Lynette Demar Artistry.

Lynette offers virtual tutorials in case you don't live in South Florida. She has a great talent for bringing out the best in you and having fun along the way. We can always use a little boost of self-esteem, and sometimes all it takes is a little lipstick, powder and paint. 

Apr 27

What is Growing in Your Garden?

By Celeste DeCamps | General

"Spring is the time for growth and possibilities."

Last weekend was the first time I got together with my girlfriends in over a year. We did our best to schedule Zoom meetings, but we all know it's not the same. We've all been vaccinated and decided to meet in Central Park for the Cherry Blossom Festival. We sat down on the grass and had a simple picnic. It was lovely to catch up in person and see how everyone fared these last several months.

Everyone looks at the New Year to set resolutions and goals. The truth is we start to see our ideas come to fruition in the springtime. Just like the Cherry Blossoms coming to life, we see our hard work evolve. One by one, my friends talked about significant changes coming their way. One woman bought a new apartment. One woman spoke about switching careers to become her own boss. Another friend was eyeing a promotion, and one was looking around for new challenges. A new young mother realized how demanding her job became and worked out a better schedule for herself. It was great to see them recognize their self-worth and potential.

The pandemic was brutal for everyone, but I believe it gave us a chance to really look at our lives. We began to see how precious our time is and that finding a higher purpose for ourselves became important. Many of us began to feel unsatisfied with the day-to-day pressures and want to know if any of them is worthwhile. Our health became paramount, and we saw the need to take care of ourselves better. Our priorities started to shift towards a more meaningful life.

For better or worse, we began to pay more attention to the world around us. We now had the time to understand the hurdles we all face. The planet came together as we try to help and protect each other. I believe we developed more empathy and compassion as we celebrated justice that was a long time coming. Enlightenment doesn't happen overnight, but it does happen.

Spring is the time for growth and possibilities. We all find ourselves at the crossroads at different times in our life. Trust that your path will reveal itself in time. We're constantly creating energy even when it feels like we're not moving. Once directed and focused, you'll find the help you need to get you to your next chapter in life. Keep turning the pages and embrace the challenges.

Now is the time to take stock of your life and envision what you want your future to be. Get out and enjoy the sunshine! We need the fresh air of nature. Trees are exploding with color, and everything feels alive. Breathe deeply and center yourself. Feel the love and gratitude all around you. We'll always need each other and this time apart made us realize just how much.

I hope everyone takes the time to reconnect with their loved ones. I'm looking forward to seeing my family and celebrating events we had to put on hold. I can't wait to be in front of a live audience again. I will not take for granted the time I have with friends and meeting new people. I'm happy that we can finally stop and smell the flowers. Please stay safe and healthy out there. 

Apr 20

Why We Need to Take A Break

By Celeste DeCamps | General

"Sometimes Zoning Out Can Help You Zone In."

One night, years ago, I'm on stage belly dancing in a Greek restaurant with an incredible group of musicians. It's my second show of the evening, and it's past midnight. The place is packed, full of smoke and laughter. I'm enjoying the music when I feel myself go somewhere else. It wasn't an out-of-body experience, more of a meditative state. I felt timeless, relaxed, and peaceful. I was inside the music, and when it stopped, I was snapped back into reality. I stood in the center of the dance floor, striking a pose as the audience applauded. All I could think was, I hope I was dancing this whole time and not staring into space.

That surreal moment stayed with me. It was the first time I could honestly say I was in the present. I wasn't worried about how my costume was fitting or how my hair looked. I let all of it go. I've been chasing that sense of freedom ever since. I've been close with meditation, but my thoughts still wander. I easily go from dwelling on the past or get anxious about the future. It's fun.

I'm sure you're asking yourself, "Well, if dancing can put you in a meditative state, even in front of an audience, why aren't you doing that all the time?" Great question! I don't know. I think I look at dancing as a luxury that I can only do when I've got other more important work done, which is crazy. I don't have a boss. I'm the boss. Granted, running your own business takes time and effort, but that doesn't mean I'll get fired if I take some time for myself. When I was working for a company, I made sure I gave myself some downtime. I still performed in nightclubs every once in a while.

When I decided to become an entrepreneur, my mindset changed to a do-or-die one. There was to be no playing until I've answered every email, phone call, or text. Articles need to be written, interviews need to be set up, and presentations have to be ready. In other words, there was always something more urgent to do. It dawned on me that I have to give myself permission to step away from the computer and turn on music.

When I dance, I don't think about anything else. The best part, when I sit back down to work, my energy level is up. My creativity gets a much-needed boost, and I can get into a new type of zone. The present moment is filled with hope, and my stress level goes way down. I believe the body-mind connection helps give me a renewed sense of productivity.

Everyone should make time for any activity that will take you out of your head and be creative. I give you all permission to walk outside or get on your bike. Finish that painting you started or write in your journal. We can't take ourselves for granted. Being in the present, away from everyday worries, is a vacation we can go on anytime. It gives us a break in the day to focus on our breathing and find our center. You may be surprised by slowing down; you'll find inspiration where you least expected.

Of course, if you're dancing on stage for a large group of people, and you find yourself floating away, relax and enjoy the ride. It turns out you'll still get paid. 

Apr 14

How Was Your Day?

By Celeste DeCamps | General

"The Simple Question of 'How Was Your Day?' Is A Beautiful Expression of Love."

My brother, Stan, and I were talking about how great a conversationalist his young son is. He said, "The only thing that concerns me is that he gets quiet and shy when he first meets people." I explained, "It's uncomfortable for a child to meet someone new and know what to say. You can prepare him ahead of time with the questions he'll be asked so that he can have his answers ready. For example, "What grade are you in?" "How do you like school?" "What's your favorite subject?" This will give your son a chance to know his answers beforehand. He'll feel more confident interacting when he knows what to say."

A few days later, Stan told me that my advice worked well. He also explained to his son that he should let the person he's talking to answer a question. He said, "You should ask, "How was your day?" Stan told me that people were impressed with how articulate his son is and pleasantly surprised that he asked about their day.

Social and business situations can be stressful, even for adults. We don't always think about how we're going to respond when asked to speak about ourselves. Suddenly, we get tongue-tied, trying to remember the name of our favorite book or talk about the last movie we watched. It's easy to feel nervous when you don't know what to expect, but a little preparation goes a long way.

Take a moment and think about the people you're going to be meeting. Is it a networking event, a party, or a first date? If you're discussing your business, have a clear and concise message prepared. The last thing you want to do is 'um' and 'ah' your way through a conversation about your work. You don't have to memorize verbatim a written speech, but you should practice what you want to say so that it comes across naturally. You'll find yourself feeling polished and self-assured. Remember to take the time to listen to others and follow up with your new connections.

A social event is a fun way to be introduced to different people. It's a more casual and relaxed environment. Still, it helps to relieve any anxiety you may have by visualizing the party and imagining what types of questions you may receive. Think about what interests and hobbies you have and how you'd describe them. Walk into the room with your shoulders back, your head lifted, and smile. Your body language will convey an openness that will attract people to you and put your mind at ease.

Listening to others as they communicate their thoughts on different subjects allows you to be mindful. Your focus is not on yourself anymore but on them. When we intentionally listen and not formulating what we're going to say next, we create a relationship with that person. We all appreciate being heard and not talked over while we're sharing our opinions. We develop mutual respect and have an enjoyable conversation.

It's easy to ask, "How are you?" and expect a simple answer, "I'm fine, and you?" The question, "How was your day?" and genuinely wanting to know is a beautiful expression of love and compassion. It means you're taking a moment to listen, and lets that person know they're valued. When my nephew asked me, "Aunt Celeste, how was your day?" I said, "It was perfect. Thank you for asking." He said, "Tell me why it was perfect."  Our conversation made my day.

Apr 06

I Want You To Like Me

By Celeste DeCamps | General

"We Need Validation of Our Existence."

"Why do you care what people think of you?" "Be yourself." "Real friends like you for who you are."

I've said the above quotes, been told the above quotes, and I've read the above quotes on lots of FaceBook memes. I agree that we shouldn't live our lives trying to be something we're not. We should strive to be our authentic selves and love who we are. Yet, we have an innate need to be accepted by everyone we meet. When we're not, we feel inadequate and worry that there's something wrong with us.

I've stayed up nights, going over conversations that I had with others throughout the day. Did I say the right thing at the right time? Did I listen closely enough? Did I come across confident or arrogant? It's incredible that I ever allow myself to be around people. I've had to learn to quiet the voice that constantly wants to second guess myself to death. I take a step back and ask myself, "Did you hurt anyone's feelings and say something rude or offensive?" If the answer is yes, then I make sure I apologize. If the answer is no, then I need to go back to sleep.

Growing up, we learn what behavior is appropriate and acceptable. I remember being in the store with my mother when I was four years old. There was a woman in line with us. I looked at her and said, "You're fat." The woman started to cry. My mother was furious. "Why would you say something so hurtful?" I didn't mean to. I was making an observation, but here I am, a half-century later, and I still feel bad I made that woman cry. It was a big lesson I learned that day of how harmful words can be. I may not always say everything right, but I know I would never intentionally insult anyone again.

I believe we all care about how others perceive us. We want to know that our contribution to society and to our family is valued and appreciated. We may not always say and do everything perfectly, but we try. The challenges we overcome and the accomplishments we make, happen because of the people in our world. We want to love and be loved. We want our life to have purpose and be meaningful.

We shouldn't conform to what someone else thinks we should be. We instinctively know what sides of our personality we share depending on who we're with. The professional mindset and attitude are for my business associates. The silly, playful side of me is for my young nephew. The 'take no prisoners' philosophy is reserved for my friends and family. It's all still me. I know it would be inappropriate to ask a client to go Zombie hunting with me. I'm pretty sure she wouldn't even know where to look.

Not everyone will like or acknowledge our gifts, that's okay. Some people are not meant to be part of our lives. They may show up to teach but are not going to overstay their welcome. We're the only ones that can decide how we want to improve and better ourselves.

I want you to believe in your strengths and abilities. Know that every day is a chance to learn and grow. Be grateful for the beautiful people in your life who love you for you. I know I do. 

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