The Great 8 Challenge + 8 Years of Blogging!

 

See Something
 

February 14 marks eight years since I wrote my first blog post on Positively Present! It's been an amazing ride so far, and I can't wait to see where things go from here. In celebration, I'm going to be sharing eight great things that have happened since that day I wrote my first post. But first, I wanted to challenge you to do something this week. Don't worry -- it's easy, and it'll actually feel really great! 

 

THE GREAT 8 CHALLENGE

As I was writing this post in celebration of the past eight years and reflecting on how grateful I am to have this experience, I was reminded of my ultimate goal (as a writer and as a human): to somehow make the world a little bit better. I know I'm not alone in this. Most of us want to make the world better, but sometimes that task can feel daunting.

If I've learned one thing over the past eight years, it's that little things can make a big difference. This week, I encourage you to give the Great 8 Challenge a try. It's simple: all you have to do is give eight compliments. Yep, that's it! If you see someone wearing something you like, tell him/her. If you read something that inspires you, email the author. If you you spot a post on Instagram you love, write a comment. 

It might seem small, especially in a world where we need grand gestures of kindness and compassion, but a positive word has a ripple effect. After all, think about the last compliment you received. Didn't it just feel so great to hear someone say something nice to you? And think about the last time you gave a compliment. That felt pretty great too, didn't it? Those great feelings can multiply. A compliment might feel like a small thing, but it ultimately can have a great big impact. 

This week, if you see something beautiful / inspiring / amazing / cool, say something. Aim for eight compliments, but go for more if you can! 

 

POSITIVELY PRESENT'S GREAT 8

And, now, on to eight great things about Positively Present!

Now, this might seem like I'm tooting my own horn, writing about eight great things about my own blog, but here's the thing: a blog is bigger than the person that writes it. As much as I use this platform as a tool to share my words and art, it's been greatly influenced by the readers. When I'm writing, I'm thinking about you. In fact, when I'm living, I'm often thinking about you, imagining how I can turn my life into something more positive, more present, more self-loving to share with you. So, yes, there's an element of horn-tooting here, but none of these things would have happened without your engagement, interest, and input. 

Here are eight great things that've happened (and I've learned from) since February 14, 2009. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being with me and helping making these things happen. I hope that reading about them will inspire you, too! 

 

  1. PP GOT ME OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONE. 

    If you've been following since the beginning, you might recall how shy I was at first. It took me two months to even mention my first name! I'm not a shy person in real life (though I am incredibly introverted!), but online it took a lot of courage for me to come out of my little comfort zone and open about who I was. Since then, I've come a long way -- sharing more personal information, opening up about tough topics, and connecting with readers in real life. I still struggle with venturing out of my comfort zone at times, but Positively Present continues to inspire me to try new things. 


  2. PP PROVED ALL THE HATERS WRONG. 

    I don't have a lot of haters, but there are some people in my life (and even a little voice in my own head) who didn't think I could do what I'd always wanted to do -- be an independent writer not answering to a boss or going into an office every day. Through the power of the internet, I've been able to make my ideal work scenario a reality. I used to spend nights crying about going into the office, and I remember one guy in particular saying something along the lines of, "That's life. Get used to it." Because of this site, I didn't have to get used to living a life I hated. 


  3. PP MADE MY LIFE-LONG DREAM COME TRUE. 

    Not only did Positively Present give me the opportunity to live a work life outside of the box, but it also provided a platform on which I was able to make my life-long dream come true: publishing a book! Not only did I write and publish a book, but so far I've written six of them! If you want to check them out, here they are: Stay Positive: Daily Reminders from Positively Present, The Positively Present Guide to Life, Living in the Moment, Gratitude, Compassion, and Forgiveness. Plus, I'm working on a new one right now and I'm SO excited to share it soon! 


  4. PP TAUGHT ME TO FAIL + BE OKAY WITH IT. 

    As with any career path, I've had some major highs and lows. Because this isn't a traditional job, it's been a lot of trial and error (and it's still a work-in-progress!). I've spent hours and hours on e-books that no one bought. I've poured my heart and soul into blog posts that few people read. I've spent money on ideas and products that never quite gave me a return on my investment. Working for myself is hard. There are lots of failures that, thinking about now, make me cringe a bit. But I've learned to bounce back, to be resilient, and to learn from the failures. 


  5. PP INSPIRED ME TO LEARN NEW THINGS. 

    And, speaking of learning, one of the absolute greatest things that's happened as a result of this blog is the opportunity and desire I had to explore graphic design. It was something that had always interested me, but I never thought I could do it since I hadn't studied it in school. Because of Positively Present, I sought out online classes, spent countless hours learning, and now have my own little design business! If you want to work with me, check out DaniDiPirro.com for more info and my portfolio. 


  6. PP CONNECTED ME WITH AMAZING PEOPLE. 

    One thing almost every blogger can agree on is that blogging is an amazing opportunity to connect with people around the world. Whether it's someone from across the globe emailing me about a blog post I wrote or connecting in real life with people in my blogging industry, one of the most amazing things that's happened as a result of Positively Present is that I've created meaningful connections with so many wonderful, creative, soulful, inspiring people. I will be forever grateful for everyone I've met as a result of this site. 


  7. PP HELPED ME BECOME MORE ME. 

    One of the most thrilling aspects of running a site that is 100% my own is that it's an on-going act of self-love and self-exploration. In sharing my words and work with you, I'm learning more about myself every day. Through Positively Present, I've been given a unique opportunity to help others improve their lives while also greatly improving my own. With every blog post, I learn something new. With every Instagram post, I discover a new kind of creativity. Every lesson learned is a gift I'll be forever thankful for. 


  8. PP CHANGE HOW I SEE THE WORLD. 

    Of course, most importantly, Positively Present has changed how I see every single aspect of my life. While, admittedly, I'm not positive and present every moment of every day, I strive for it constantly and I'm always asking myself, "What would I tell my readers?" This question is simple, but it's had a profound impact on my life. It's helped me enjoy and embrace life's highs, and it's helped me survive life's lows. The work I do impacts my mind (and life!) every single day, and that's certainly not something I expected when I started it eight years ago! 


This site has changed me for the better in so many ways, and I'm thankful for it every single day. More than that, though, I'm thankful for YOU. Thank you for reading, for engaging, for being with me today and in the past. I know how many options there are when it comes to reading online content, and every moment you spend on this site is kind of a miracle. Thank you for being here, for reading this, and for taking the time to make your life a more positive, present place. 

Now, get out there and spread that positivity with those eight great compliments! :) 

 

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Inspired Unfollowing : A Week of Conscious Content Choice

 

Inspired Unfollowing

 

Most of us spend a great deal of time online, in our in-boxes, and on apps. While I'm a huge fan of technology and the connectivity that comes with it (after all, I wouldn't be able to do what I do for a living if it weren't for the amazing power of blogging and social media!), sometimes it takes away from being positive and present. And, quite frequently, it takes away from the concept of self-love, my primary for focus for 2017 (and probably the rest of my life as well!).  

I've read countless articles about taking a social media break or limiting it to a certain amount of hours each day, but I believe those ideas are just putting a bandaid on the problem. If you need constant breaks from something or have to limit it because it's unhealthy for you, it's important to look at why you need to break/limit yourself. What is it that you feel when you're online or on apps? Are those feelings positive or negative? Do you want to keep feeling them? 

As I move through this year of self-love, I'm striving to get more in touch with how things make me feel. I tend to be very logic-oriented, and sometimes I forget that feelings are just as important as logic (even if they're not always as easy to identify!). When you have awareness of the feelings that come with certain experiences, people, things, etc., you can then make choices that help you to create a more positive, mindful, and self-loving life. Awareness is the first step toward change. 

This year, I'm striving to create more of that kind of awareness in my life (and make changes accordingly), and this week I'm turning my attention to social media, apps, and the places I spend time online. Specifically, I'm turning my attention to getting rid of those that don't create feelings of love, positivity, and inspiration.

 

WHAT IS INSPIRED UNFOLLOWING? 

What we surround ourselves with -- both in real life and online -- has a great impact on how we feel and live every single day. It's all too easy to fall into patterns, to do something you've always done simply because you've always done it, but I think it's a big mistake to be passive when it come to online consumption. There are a great many things we cannot control in this life, but one that we can is what we look at on our computers or phones. 

To create more self-love and positivity in our lives, we have to consume consciously (I know, that sounds like something Gwyneth Paltrow would say, but hear me out!), especially what we consume visually and electronically. Because I've come to realize how important this is, I came up with the idea of Inspired Unfollowing, a week of reflecting on what I've been consuming online so I can actively choose whether I want to continue doing so. I hope you'll join me this week in taking control of what you consume. 

As you do this, it's important to think critically. There are some things that fall obviously in the "unfollow" category -- the websites that drive you crazy with too many emails; the acquaintance on Facebook constantly ranting; the brand who posts negative memes on Instagram -- but there are many other, less obvious, reasons you might want to unfollow. Here are just a few example of less obvious aspects you might want to look out for: 

  • Unfollow unrealistic representations of beauty making you feel bad about your body
  • Unfollow memes or jokes that might be amusing but focus mostly on putting others down
  • Unfollow images of a "perfect" lives that cause you to feel overly envious or jealous
  • Unfollow brands promoting items you cannot afford that make you feel unsuccessful
  • Unfollow companies that don't support your personal beliefs (do your research!)
  • Unfollow people / brands that no longer interest or inspire you (we change and that's ok!)
  • Unfollow celebrities that don't inspire, uplift, or empower you in some way
  • Unfollow accounts you started following years and years ago but no longer enjoy

It all comes down to how something or someone makes you feel. The more you surround yourself with sites, apps, people, and accounts that uplift and inspire and inform, the more uplifted and inspired and informed you'll feel. And we only have so many hours in a day to look at social media, and there's soooo much out there, so it's up to you to choose consciously what you want to see. 

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: Surrounding yourself with positive, inspiring social media does not mean avoiding things that might evoke negative emotions (i.e., upsetting but important news stories) or people whose beliefs differ from yours. One of the worst things any of us could do at a time like this would be to avoid people who are different from us. In fact, I encourage you to find some accounts and websites that don't hold your views and visit them periodically to open your mind to a new perspective.  The world isn't all sunshine and rainbows, nor is it filled with people who believe exactly what you do, and avoiding all negativity is not good practice. There's a big difference between things that add value -- such as news, even if it's not positive news, or people who share opposing views, but who do so in a kind, thoughtful way -- and things that make you feel terrible without providing useful information.

Okay, now that that disclaimer is out of the way, let's jump into the plan for the week!  

 

THE WEEKLY PLAN

The plan is basically to go through the various accounts, sites, apps, etc. and decide which ones you benefit from and which ones you could do without. As you're working through each one, ask yourself: Does this account -- directly or indirectly -- make me feel worthy of love? That might sound a bit cheesy, but, really our lives come down to two very basic feelings: love and hate. Everything you encounter directly or indirectly promotes one of those two states of being. (If something feels neutral to you, dig deeper. One of those feelings is there!)

 

Monday / Email Subscriptions

First up, our in-boxes! How many emails do you get each day? How many of those are email subscriptions you signed up for but no longer want? (Or were signed up for but never wanted in the first place?) Even if you don't end up reading these emails, you have to spend time and energy deleting them each day. Set aside time today to go through your email and unsubscribe from those emails you no longer want to receive. If you don't want to do it manually, there's an awesome site call Unroll.Me that'll do it for you! 

 

Tuesday / Facebook

Facebook can be a tricky one because, for a lot of us, we're follow (aka, "friend") people we know. We might worry that it would be offensive to unfriend someone on Facebook (even if that person is just an acquaintance). The great thing about Facebook is that you can unfollow someone without unfriending him/her. (Read this article for specifics.) You can (and should!) choose what you see on Facebook without causing offense to friends, family, or acquaintances. 

 

Wednesday / Instagram

Instagram is often more of a mix of family/friends and brands/celebrities. Unlike Facebook, you can't unfollow someone politely without unfriending him/her, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't curate an Instagram feed that brings more positivity and self-love into your life. While sorting through your "following" list, ask yourself, "Does this person / brand make me feel less worthy, unhappy, or negative when I see their posts?" If the answer is yes, click that "Following" button so you no longer see those posts. 

 

Thursday / Twitter

Twitter is my go-to spot for staying up on the latest news. If you want to know what's happening right now, Twitter is the place to go. But, over the past few months, I've realized that it drains me and drags my emotional state down -- and that has a lot to do with the people I follow. I love comedy and follow a lot of comedians, but, unfortunately, a lot of comedy can be negative. This week I'm clearing out the negativity! 

 

Friday / Pinterest

Pinterest is one of my favorite online spots and, for the most part, I love the people I follow and feel inspired and uplifted when I spend time on Pinterest. But, I've been on Pinterest for a long time and there are some people I followed years ago that are no longer adding value to my life. They might not be especially negative, but they're not inspiring either. Because there's so much wonderful content out there, you've got to make room for the great by getting rid of the "eh." 

 

Weekend / Websites + Apps

What websites or apps do you open on a daily basis? And, more importantly, why do you open them? Sometimes we have great reasons for opening these, but often we do it just because we've always done it. It's habit; not choice. Over time, I've cut down on certain websites I visit (especially brands that made me long for items I hadn't even known existed before I'd opened the sites or YouTubers who made me feel I needed the latest lipstick shade), but I'm now also cutting down on the apps I keep on my phone as well.

Remember: just because you have a Twitter / Facebook / etc. account, doesn't mean you need instant access to it at all times. Taking an app off your phone can be a great way to be more conscious about your content consumption. It's often much more difficult to log-in to an account on your phone or to go to your computer than it is to click an app open, making it more likely that you'll think before doing it, rather than just absentmindedly clicking while bored! 

 

I've already started on Inspired Unfollowing, a little bit at a time, but I'm excited to see how I feel at the end of this week! If you're going to join in on this, but you're a bit unsure about unfollowing certain accounts, I recommend writing them down somewhere and then unfollowing. If you keep thinking about them or miss them, you can always go back to your list and re-follow. (But, believe me, I bet if there's any doubt in your mind whether or not you should be following an account, you probably don't really need it in your life.) As a bonus, you can take note of the accounts you're consciously choosing to follow and seek out more accounts like those! We have a certain amount of time for social media, and that time should be filled with consciously chosen content! 

  

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5 Tactics for Coping with a Meltdown

  Okay

 

Did anyone else have an existential crisis, freak-the-hell-out meltdown last week or was it just me? 

It was sure a rough week for me, personally and professionally, and, though I wanted to curl up on the couch and escape the world with a book (really loving The Animators right now!), I knew this was a perfect time to put the words I write each week into practice. I knew I had the tools to figure out a way to make the most of things, even though I was feeling pretty helpless, so decided to give them a shot. Here's what I did to cope this week. Hopefully these tips will help you if you're feeling meltdown-y, too. 

 

CRY IT OUT

Like most adults, I'm not a big crier. Crying is generally reserved for heartbreak or loss (or seeing roadkill on the side of the road -- if there's any sort of animal death/pain, I will cry), but this week I had a good ol' cry. I'm talking about the shoulder-shaking, sobbing-like-your-pet-just-died kind of cry, the snotty, ugly cry that necessitates more than one nose-blowing after you're done. It wasn't pretty, but it actually felt good.

Most of the problems I'm currently facing aren't new; I've just been avoiding them for so long that it felt good to acknowledge to myself (in the form of tears) that things aren't going well. It's unpleasant, but acknowledgment is the first a step on the path to making things better. I'm certainly not going to cry every time something goes wrong, but this week I really took note of how good to feels to physically feel your pain and release it in a way that, even though it hurts, ultimately feels good. 

 

TALK IT OUT

After I allowed myself that cry (and, yes, it was an allowance -- so many times I want to cry, but I don't because it tell myself it's a waste of time or insist to myself that I should strong), I decided to open up a bit and talk it out. Usually when things aren't going well -- especially professionally -- I tend not to talk about it with anyone else. One of the downsides of running your own business is that it's somewhat an extension of you in a way that doesn't happen with other jobs. If my business is failing, it feels like I'm failing as a person.

I'm sure others feel this way about their work, too, but there's something about running the show (and being the sole performer in the show!) that makes the professional deeply personal. So I generally keep it to myself when there's trouble, and do my best to find a way to work it out. But this week I decided to open up a bit more, sharing my struggles with friends (and now with you, in a way!). None of the talking resulted in immediate solutions or major a-ha moments, but it felt good to open up, to get feedback, and to not keep everything in my own head. 

 

DANCE IT OUT

Okay, this one might be a personal preference, but when I'm feeling low, one of my go-to moves is to put on a great, upbeat song and have a little dance party by myself in my apartment. (Putting that in writing, I'm now wondering if that's an odd thing to do, but I'm pretty sure I can't be the only one who does that, right? Also, by "dancing," I mean "awkward flailing that usually scares my pup, ha!) If you don't like dancing or listening to uplifting music, I bet there's something that instantly puts you in a positive mood, no matter how low you're feeling. 

Post-cry-session, I decided I was going to flip the mood by turning on the songs I'm loving and getting moving. (Exercising probably does the same thing, getting those endorphins going!) Of course, this doesn't solve any of my problems, but it certainly improves my mood, putting me in a more level-headed state where I can make more positive decisions. I decided to make a little playlist for you, if you're feeling like you need to dance it out. Find Dani's Dance Party here on YouTube

 

LAUGH IT OUT

Laughter, for me, really is the best medicine. Watching something hilarious has always been one my best strategies for coping with pain, and this week it served me really well. I spent a lot of time seeking out things that made me laugh -- silly YouTube videos, comedy specials on Netflix, funny friends. Like dancing, laughing doesn't really fix anything, but it does shift your mindset from pain to pleasure, and in that more positive state, I feel like my thinking is clearer. 

Apparently, laughter decreases stress hormones, increases immune cells and triggers the release of endorphins, which promote an overall sense of well-being and even temporarily relieve pain. So, even though laughing might seem frivolous, it has some major physical and psychological benefits, all of which can help a great deal when it comes to having a mental meltdown. 

 

WORK IT OUT

Once I got through some of the emotional stages of my meltdown, it was time to get to work. If things aren't going well and they're within your control (unlike, say, the loss of a loved one -- though any sort of emotional reaction to that is more about the pain of loss than it is about meltdown), it's up to you to take action to make things better. Having a meltdown is cathartic and all, but if you don't use that emotional freakout as a catalyst for change, it won't be long before you find yourself again in Meltdown Town. 

So I got out my laptop and I got to work on planning how I'm going to fix the multiple messes I've found myself in. These aren't the kinds of things that'll be fixed over night, but they'll never be fixed if I don't start trying to repair them. It felt good to admit to the problems, to feel them, and to start taking positive steps to rectifying them. There's still pain and I know it goes deep because I'm currently shaking off a horrific nightmare that was so obviously, perfectly symbolic that I woke both scared of and impressed by my own mind. But I'm ready to make progress now. And, really, isn't that what a meltdown is for, to shake us up, to get us to pay attention to what's not working so we can transform it to something that is? 

 

As I was finalizing this post, I heard Shonda Rhimes' voice coming from my TV screen. She said, "The idea that there's suddenly no plan is breathtaking in its terror." That sentence so adequately describes how I'm feeling right now. It's a terrifying place to be, but terror is freeing in a way. When nothing is determined, anything can happen. It's tempting, when plan-less, to imagine the worst, but if anything can happen, then that means amazing things can happen, too. 

  

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5 Hang-in-There Holiday Tips

 

You Are Not Alone


I love the holiday season (if you couldn't tell, from all of my holiday-themed posts!), but with all of the joy, glitter, and fairy lights also comes a level of stress and pressure that's unprecedented during the rest of the year. Even if you're in a great place emotionally, financially, and mentally, the holiday season is bound to present some challenges that aren't present during the rest of the year. And, if we're honest, most of us aren't in that perfect emotional / financial / mental place so, around the holidays, whatever troubles we're currently facing are compounded by a number of factors:

 

  1. memories of past holidays (both good and bad),
  2. recollections of those no longer in our lives and a kind of re-mourning for them,
  3. increased financial expectations in the form of gifts and holiday-related obligations,
  4. stress related to trying to give (and hoping to receive) the perfect gifts, and
  5. societal pressure to suddenly have the most merry, festive, Instagrammable life ever.

 

Top all of that off with the end-of-the-year thoughts about what we did (or didn't...) do over the past year and the looming expectations to make the coming year the "best year yet!," and it's no wonder most of us have trouble staying positive during the holidays! Even for the most positively present person, these additional stressors can cause a lot of emotional challenges, and they can be even harder to cope with when it seems as if everyone around us is embracing the holiday spirit. 

The holidays can be -- and often are -- a really wonderful time of the year, but it's important to recognize the level of additional stress and pressure they bring to our lives, and make sure we're addressing it (rather than convincing ourselves that we should be enjoying every single moment). Here are some of the best ways to do just that. 

 

  1. Take note of what's working out. When it comes to the holidays, it's tempting to think everything has to be just perfect. For some, there are annual traditions to adhere to. For others, holiday parties to look picture perfect for. And, as you're probably well aware, life doesn't always go according to plan. With so many expectations around the holiday season -- buy the perfect gift! wear the most festive outfit! kiss your partner in the snow! wake up to a Lexus in your driveway! -- some of them are bound to be unmet. And that's okay. Instead of focusing on what didn't go as planned, direct your attention to what is working. Maybe you weren't able to afford a new, sparkly dress for a party, but you were able to get your nephew that hard-to-find gift he really wanted. During the holidays (and in general!), it helps to keep expectations low and to celebrate the things that are going right. 

     
  2. Know you're not alone in how you feel. The holidays -- through advertising, celebrity culture, and social media -- make us feel like we should be happy 24/7 all throughout the month of December, but it's important to remember that what you see online (and even in real life) isn't the whole story. All of us go through bouts of stress or loneliness or sadness or discontent at some point during the holiday season, and that is completely normal. We're being sold picturesque images of the perfect holiday everywhere we look, and it's no wonder that we sometimes feel disappointed that our lives don't look like the ones we see online. Remember: not everyone is falling in love, unwrapping the most fabulous gift, surrounding themselves with laughing, happy friends, or joyfully riding in a horse-drawn sleigh. 


  3. Make the holiday what you want it to be. Think, for a moment, about what a "perfect" holiday would look like. What you're picturing is probably an amalgamation of images you've seen online, watched in films, or read in books sprinkled with a bit of your own unique holiday experiences. It's important to remember that your holiday is yours. It doesn't have to look like what you see everyone else doing. Most of us (myself included!) do what we're expected to do around the holiday season because it's what's socially expected. But don't forget that you don't have to do what everyone else is doing. If you're into the traditions, the events, the decking-of-the-halls, go for it. But don't feel like you have to do all of the expected holiday things just because everyone else is doing them. 


  4. Shift your focus away from consumerism. Gift-giving is one of my favorite things to do, and always has been. There are few things that thrill me more than finding the perfect gift for someone I love. But, in case you missed it, the holidays are extremely consumeristic. From the gifts to decorations to sparkly attire to hostess gifts to festive fare and more, there are so many things to purchase around this time of year, and, even if you're super into it all, it can be a lot. One of the best ways to combat the consumerism is to make time to give back. Whether it's a donation to a charity, time spent at a soup kitchen, or simply helping a neighbor hang lights, there are countless ways you can give back. Doing so will help remind you what the holiday season is supposed to be about: love, giving, kindness, and joy. 


  5. Pay attention to what's real. With the holiday season comes a great deal of fantasy -- images of reindeer flying overhead, two people falling in love beneath the mistletoe, unwrapping an amazing gift, having the most fabulous time at a party are a few that come to mind -- but it's important to remember that, as magical as the season feels sometimes, we're still living in real life. People are going to be imperfect; situations are going to be flawed. The more we focus on the fantasy, the harder it becomes to appreciate the little joys in reality. If you're focusing on what things should be, you're missing out on what they are, and that's almost certain to cause discontentment. (Read more about this in Why You Need Lower Expectations.) When it comes to the holidays, expect less and you'll enjoy so much more. 

 

As wonderful and festive as this time of year is, it can also be such a challenge because most of us expect so much. We want every holiday to be the best ever, which is a lovely goal to have, but that goal can also cause a lot of distress (especially if it's literally impossible, such as when you're facing the first holiday after the loss of a loved one or if you're going through a very difficult time emotionally). If you're struggling, remember that you're not alone. There are many, many people who are going through difficult situations and, while you cannot necessarily remove yourself from pain, here are some things I've written in the past that might help: 

 

  

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How to Share Your Beliefs (Even with People Who Don't Agree)

  Positively-Present-Beliefs
Like this list? Download the free PDF here.

 

Since the election, I’ve been writing and writing and writing. It’s what I do when I feel overwhelmed, when I feel like I have a lot to talk about but am not sure how to speak it aloud. I’ve been writing blog posts, then re-reading them and thinking, I don’t know if I should share this. I don’t want to offend people. And, even worse, I’ve been thinking, Maybe I shouldn’t share this because they might not like me after they read it. (Ugh, that ego!)

Like many people around the country (and the world), I’ve been torn between two sides of myself the one who wants to focus on the positive, keep the peace, and maintain my loyal following of readers, and the one who wants to use my blog for change, shake things up, and finally open up about controversial topics.

For the past two weeks, there’s been a war raging in my head between these two sides. Over the past few days, there’s been a new voice piping up, a slightly more rational, less-ego-driven voice, asking things like, Is there a way to be positive and share your beliefs? Is there a way to voice your opinion and still keep the peace? Is there a way to talk to people — especially those with opposing views — and not fight?

The answers to these questions are situational. If you’re dealing with someone who is violent, judgmental, or narrow-minded, you’re going to have a hard time discussing tough topics (politics, religion, sexuality, race, etc.) with him or her. However, if you can find people who are open-minded and willing to listen and talk about contentious issues, I do believe it’s possible to share your beliefs in positive ways. Will the peace always be kept? Probably not. Will conversations be completely fight-free? I can’t guarantee it.

What I can guarantee is that you’ll feel a lot better when you speak up for what you believe in. I know it’s hard. I know it’s scary. And I know that, if you’re surrounded by a lot of people who don’t share your beliefs, it can be intimidating. But, over the past few weeks, I’ve come to realize that one of the worst things you can do is be silent. You don’t have to agree with everyone  and not everyone has to agree with you but silencing yourself is an act of self-hate, shame, and fear. And you deserve better than that. We all do.

Okay, so, you’ve got some beliefs. You’re feeling brave (and safe) enough to share them. How do you go about doing it without putting other people off? How do you do it in a way that might actually make a difference? I’ve been thinking (and reading) a lot about this and practicing it my own life (many people close to me voted for the candidate I vehemently opposed and I’ve had many productive, positive conversations with them since the election) and here are some of the best ideas I’ve found for talking about your beliefs with people who don’t share them.

 

KNOW WHAT YOU BELIEVE.

It might sound obvious, but a lot people aren’t actually certain about what they believe. Many people flip-flop on certain issues, have beliefs based on one-off op-ed pieces (rather than real facts), or base their beliefs on those held by the people surrounding them. Before getting into any serious discussion (especially with people with opposing views), do your research  both the fact checking and the soul-searching kind. Carefully consider the issue, taking stock of what you know and what you might not know.

Just as importantly, consider how you feel really about it. It's incredibly tempting to jump onto the bandwagons, to join groups, and to identify with the labels, but remember: you are complex human being with unique experiences, insights, and ideas. We all want to belong, but think carefully about what beliefs you align yourself with. Before declaring, “I’m a _______________________,” or “I believe in _______________________,” ask yourself if that’s 100% true. It may very well be true, but it’s important to check in with yourself and make sure that you not your peers, not your family, not a portion of society you aspire to be like  do, in fact, hold these beliefs.

Also, it’s important to keep checking in with yourself periodically to see if you still hold the beliefs. We are ever evolving, changing creatures and what you believe at one point in your life will not be what you believe later. Because sometimes we get lazy, we might cling to beliefs we’ve had for a long time because we think we still believe them, not because we actually do.

 

SCRUTINIZE YOUR SOURCES.

It is so very, very important to check your sources, and then check them again. So many people hold — and speak about  beliefs not based on facts. With the incredible rise of the Internet, you’re able to read this article and countless other things that literally anyone can post online. Sometimes this is amazing — different viewpoints!  unique perspectives! — and sometimes this is just insane — fake news sites created just to get clicks, opinion pieces skewed with untrue claims, etc.

Not only is important to make sure the facts you have are, indeed, facts, but it’s important to be aware of how greatly biased the Internet is. A recent Fast Company article made me see this more clearly than ever. The Internet, as the article states, helps us take sides. We’re encouraged — by the sheer nature of how the Internet is set up — to cultivate either/or mindsets.

Every day we are given a choice to pick one thing or the other: like or dislike this post, agree or disagree with that article. Social media, while it does allow for comments and more lengthy explorations into "gray" territories, often encourages us to choose one thing over the other, usually in a yes-or-no, black-or-white dichotomy.

And here’s the scariest part: what we choose is constantly reinforced with algorithms designed to personalize our content. We are given more content that aligns with what we like, less that showcases what we don’t like. Most of us don’t actively realize this, so it starts to seem like everyone and everything supports our views.

Unlike in the old days, when people all saw the same images on TV and then disagreed or agreed with those images, we’re now shown images that support the ideas we’ve told the Internet we like. What we see online is meant to appeal to us — which can definitely be nice sometimes — but, as the Fast Company article argues, this is creating little individual bubbles where we’re all seeing the things we want to see, having our beliefs and preferences reinforced (often without even seeing information from the other side).

When you pause and think about this for a moment, it’s pretty crazy how much power the Internet has over what we see and think — and it’s pretty important to keep in mind as you’re gathering data and information to support your beliefs (or counter someone else’s). Do your best to go out of your way to find new sources, to find unbiased articles, to even reach out to those who hold opposing views and ask them for their thoughts.

Bonus Tip: When discussing tough topics (or having hard conversations in general), it’s useful to focus more on “I” than “you.” For example, “Based on what I’ve read, I believe…” or “What I’m hearing you say is…”

 

CHANNEL YOUR COURAGE.

Speaking up about the things you believe in can be extremely challenging sometimes, particularly if you’re speaking to someone who doesn’t share your perspective, but having courage is so important. It’s something I’ve personally struggled with a great deal, especially here on Positively Present. Because what I do and say must reflect my brand, I often feel restricted in what I can and cannot write about, and it pains me to have to withhold some of my beliefs and insights.

I have been afraid to talk about a lot of things because I’ve been afraid of people disliking what I have to say. I’ve been afraid of alienating readers. I’ve been afraid of, pathetic as this is to say, people being mean to me.

Here are some topics that matter a great deal to me, but that I never write about because I’m scared people will judge me, stop reading my work, or be hostile to me: feminism, agnostic atheism, sexuality, choosing not to marry or have children, money, and the list goes on. Most of these are things we're taught, from a young age, not to talk about because it's rude, which makes it more difficult to speak up about them as an adult. In addition, because what I write about is directly tied to my income, it’s even more difficult for me to write about things that might offend readers. My livelihood literally depends on the words I write. 

But here’s the thing: if you believe in something, you should talk about it.

There’s obviously a right and wrong way to do this. The initial post-election articles I wrote for myself —  filled with quite a bit of sadness, pain, and some pretty aggressive feminism that I’m pretty sure the average reader would be overwhelmed by — were not the best way to go about it. Some people might have responded well to those articles, but the negativity, anger, and in-your-face language used to evoke strong emotions would likely have shocked many people.

Now that a little time has passed, I’m able to think a bit more clearly and realize that what we need now is not more anger and negativity. What we need now is someone who is brave enough to speak her mind, but thoughtful enough to do it in a way that (hopefully) won’t offend or alienate her audience.

In the future, I do plan to tackle some of these topics that I’ve been afraid to touch —  especially those related to feminism and gender, which I studied in graduate school and feel particularly passionate aboute —  but I’m hoping to find a way to do this bravely but gently. I know longer want to place arbitrary restrictions on what topics I will or won’t tackle, but, unlike the day-after-election Dani, I know it’s not right to take this site —  a curated place of positivity, awareness, and self-love  and turn it into my personal feminist soapbox…

 

BE CLEAR AND HONEST.

…which leads me to my next point! When it comes to talking about difficult topics or beliefs, one thing most of us don’t do often enough is begin the conversation by being clear and honest. Too often, we are driven by strong emotions and triggered by the words of someone else rather that striving to be levelheaded and thoughtful in what we say and do. I know this is much easier said than done, but imagine what it would be like if you opened up a conversation like this:

“Hey, I know we have totally different views on this issue, but I’d really like to talk about it. I’m going to do my best to share my point of view calmly, and to listen and keep an open mind to what you have to say. I know neither of us will probably change our minds on this issue, but I think it’s important enough that we should talk about it.”

When starting a conversation with someone of a different political background or belief, it can be helpful to make it clear that you’re not necessarily trying to change his or her mind. One of the reasons we have such heated debates about politics is because it often feels like the opposing side is saying, “You’re wrong. Here’s why.”

Or, if you are trying to change someone’s mind, what if you were honest about it? You could say something like, “You know I feel really passionately about this topic. It’s very important to me, and I’d really love it if I could change your mind about it so that you could see it the way I do. I know that might not be possible, but would you be willing to listen to what I have to say? After I share my thoughts, I’ll be more than happy to listen to your point of view too.”

The key takeaway from this point is this: you’re never going to transform someone else’s mindset through trickery, bullying, or manipulation. (Okay, you might be able to, but is that the kind “win” you want?) You’ll get a lot farther —  and probably have a more positive conversation —  if you’re honest and clear about what you want to talk about and what your end goal for the conversation is.

 

SPEAK WITH COMPASSION.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote Campaigning for Compassion: 8 Essential Tips We Need Now, which is a must-read if you’re going to be talking about any tough topics with people who have opposing viewpoints. Compassion is a word we hear often, but its actual definition isn’t always clear. Compassion is about recognizing another's pain and desiring to alleviate it in some way (regardless of whether or not you agree with that person's beliefs).

When you’re passionate about a topic, it can be hard to channel compassion in the way you speak and react, but it’s important to do so  not only for the other person’s benefit, but for your own mental state as well.

For the most part, I see a lot of compassion from the people I follow online (and from the people who follow me), but the day after the election, I saw a lack of compassion that was, quite frankly, astounding to me. On Instagram, someone wrote to me, “Your positivity sickens me.” The person who wrote this was a young girl. It broke my heart to read that comment, to see how society taught her that, in order for progress to occur, we must be negative.

On the contrary, we need optimism. And, just as importantly, we need compassion  especially for those who display aggressive, angry, and hateful behavior. Without compassion, we’ll never be able to find our way in this shadowy, complex jungle of political discourse. Compassion is our flashlight in the dark. It, alone, is not going to get us from point A to point B, but it sure as hell is going to make the path easier to see.

As I wrote in my article on compassion, defending what you believe and having compassion for those who think differently are not mutually exclusive. You can be passionate and compassionate. Remember this when you’re speaking with someone who has completely different views and you’re struggling with compassion. (Also, try your best to go into the conversation with a compassionate mindset!)

 

LISTEN – REALLY LISTEN.

Listening isn’t just about opening your ears to the sounds coming from someone else’s mouth. It’s also about paying attention to body language, tone, facial expression. It’s also about looking past the words and considering what someone might actually mean, instead of just focusing on what they’re saying. Often, below the surface, it's clear that "I voted for ______________" really means "______________ is really important to me and that candidate really seems to represent that."

Will it be challenging to listen to other people talk passionately about what they believe in when it’s completely different from what you believe? You bet. But, if you want people to be tolerant and accepting of your views, you have to show others the same courteousness. If you want people to listen to you, you must listen to them. And when I say really listen, I mean it. It’s so tempting to assume you know what someone is going to say or to take a stand on it before it’s even been said, but don't allow yourself to make assumptions. Listen with your ears, watch with your eyes, and pay attention with your mind. 

Also, even if others' beliefs might sound crazy to you, don’t punish them for their honesty. Never forget that listening isn’t just about opening your ears — it’s about opening your mind as well. The point of talking about difficult issues with someone of differing beliefs is to open the lines of communication. 

 

RESPECT BOUNDARIES.

Not everyone is going to want to have passionate discussions with you, and that’s okay. It may be frustrating not to be able to talk to people about what you want to talk about, but it’s important to respect others’ boundaries. If someone makes it clear that s/he doesn’t want to talk to you about an issue, respect that. (Also, consider finding some people who do want to talk to you.)

Here are some other times you might want to respect boundaries — your own and those of the people around you — and not bring up, or keep talking about, tough topics:

 

  • When the other person is emotionally unready or unwilling to hear what you have to say. You’ve probably seen lots of pictures of people around the country in tears post-election. If you encounter a Hillary supporter curled in a ball sobbing, that’s probably not the time to bring up your list of reasons why Trump deserved to win. This isn’t to say you can’t talk about it at some point, but assess the emotional state of others and determine if it might be better to choose a different time to talk. Also, on a less dramatic scale, consider the general emotional state of yourself and the other person. If you (or s/he) had a terrible, long day at work, maybe it’s not the best time to get into a heated political debate.

 

  • When violent acts might be committed against you. This is not a reason for a whole group to be quiet (if it were, we’d still have horrific institutions like slavery), but in one-on-one situations where you would be in great physical or emotional danger if you were to speak your mind about a certain topic, it’s best to remain quiet until you can find a way to communicate without harm coming to you or someone else. Please be safe when it comes to speaking up.

 

  • When you’ve honestly, openly stated your beliefs with kindness and compassion, and you’re receiving only hatred, judgment, and accusations in return. Some people are just not open to listening and talking. This is sad and it can be painful, but it’s just the way it goes. Once you’ve said what you wanted to say, repeating it over and over (however nicely!) will no longer be productive.

 

  • When a large group of people is ganging up on you. Again, this isn’t to say you shouldn’t speak your mind —  I used to do it all the time in college, boldly stating my feminist thoughts in roomfuls of hyper-masculine athletes who, for the most part, had zero interest in feminism, resulting in the lovely nickname "Beliefs" — but sometimes it’s better to speak up when you either (a) have at least one person on your side or (b) can have a one-on-one with individuals of the group, instead of speaking to the group as a whole.

 

Regardless of what you’re talking about — or who you’re speaking to  it’s very important not only to respect others’ boundaries, but to take care of your own boundaries as well. If you’re unsure about whether or not to keep talking, ask, “Would you like to keep talking about this topic?” If you’ve gotten to a point where your own boundaries are being threatened, say, “I’m glad we were able to start this conversation, but I feel it is no longer productive, and I think we should stop talking about it for now.” 

 

TAKE POSITIVE ACTION.

Actions speak louder than words, they say, and it really is true. You can talk yourself blue in the face about what you believe in, but if you don’t support those words with actions, it’s going to be much less likely that people will take you, and your beliefs, seriously. Here a few ideas for how you can take positive action on your beliefs:

 

  • Donate to a cause that supports what you believe in
  • Volunteer for an organization you support
  • Share (legitimate, fact-based) information on social media
  • Offer to organize an event or fundraiser for a cause
  • Watch a film about the topic with someone who opposes it
  • Research the issue and consider new ways to offer help
  • Give (well-researched) books on issues you support to skeptics
  • Vote for the people who support what you believe
  • Call Senators / people in Congress and ask for change
  • Ask experts on the issues for ideas for how to help
  • Join local (or online) groups who share your beliefs
  • Read up on what others are saying (and gather facts!)
  • Shop at stores that uphold your beliefs (don't know? ask!)

 

It may seem like this action-taking isn’t a necessary step to talking about what you believe in, but it’s actually essential. Anyone can say they believe in anything, but to really have those beliefs heard (and have them matter), action is necessary. You might also want to see if you can have someone with opposing views take part in the action in some way. Sometimes people don’t realize what they believe until they see a situation for themselves.

 

FIND A CREATIVE OUTLET.

Finally, one of the best ways I can think of to share your beliefs is to find a creative outlet. This, of course, might not be for everyone (though I do think we all have the power to be creative and share that creativity, even if you don’t consider yourself a creative type!).

Talking about what you believe in is great, but sometimes it can be really useful to share your ideas through some other medium. Ideally, you want to share your creativity with others —  to encourage those who think the same way you do and to provide a new perspective for those who think differently —  but you can also just use this step as a way to cope with your own internal thoughts on the topic, which will ultimately make you better at sharing your beliefs with others.

For me, the creative outlet I’ve been channeling is a new Instagram account, This Uncommon Life. For weeks, I’ve been working on this little secret project —  a creative way to explore some of my thoughts around living what I consider to be a pretty uncommon life as an unmarried, child-free, sober, agnostic atheist, INTJ feminist. I know I’m not alone in living this life, but sometimes it feels lonely.

I started the Instagram account as a way to explore these feelings, to share some of my beliefs. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever actually make it public, but, for me, it’s important not just to have a creative outlet for my beliefs, but to share it as well. (Even though I'm honestly kind of scared about how people will react to it!)

If curious about what this little project is all about, go check out This Uncommon Life on Instagram. (Warning: it's not always positive and it's not always family friendly.) I basically take words I've found in old magazines and arrange them, ransom-note-like, into what I hope are thought-provoking phrases. It's been really fun, therapeutic, and inspiring for me, and, even if you don't care for that kind of thing, I hope seeing how I've channelled my beliefs into an outlet will inspire you to do the same. 

Whether you share your creativity or just keep it to yourself, Having a place to channel your thoughts and openly write, draw, paint, sculpt, etc. about your ideas and beliefs can be hugely beneficial when it comes to sharing those beliefs with others. And if you’ve found a creative outlet for your own beliefs, or plan to create on now, I’d love to see or hear about it!

 

Phew. That was quite the long post. If you’ve made it all the way down here, thanks for reading!! I hope these tips and tactics will help you feel confident in sharing your beliefs with those who don’t share them. And don't forget to download the free PDF here to keep these tips in mind as you share your beliefs. I know it’s scary, but if I can do it, you can do! Now, go out there and be brave!

  

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