Penpal

Dear God,

So lately I’ve been looking around at the world you created and I’ve got a bone to pick with you. What’s with all this poverty and death? Why did my grandfather get sick and die under your watch? Why do babies die in their mothers’ wombs? What’s up with accidents and global warming and wars where people who don’t even pick a side suffer? What about global catastrophes? Cyclone Idai? Haiti? If you’re so all-powerful and all-loving and ever-present and know the future why do you let this all happen? Are you just plain sadistic?

Yeah I’m pissed but most of all I want answers. Give them to me will you?

Thanks,

Joe


 

Dear Son,

Where do I even begin? My love for you and all the earth knows no bounds. I created you so that I could love you. I made the earth for you – everything I made was good. I AM good. Nothing outside of me is good. Therefore I designed you all for fellowship and relationship with me.

What do you think of slavery my son? You abhor it don’t you? So do I. Consider this, how can there be love without a choice? So I gave you and all mankind free will. With all my power and all my love I am faithful to my word and will not go against this one thing, your choice. I love you so much I give you a choice everyday, life or death, Me or death. “Choose life!” I shout from the heavens and to your heart, but I won’t force you, you get to choose. I gave you dominion over the earth. I won’t act without your say so, not because I have no power, power I have, but I have given you all the authority. I will not subvert it by acting without your permission. I AM faithful to my Word, how else would you trust Me? I even sent My most beloved Son, whom I love more than anything to die, for you! To restore the broken relationship between us. To usher in a better world than the corrupt one that exists now. He came with two instructions that let you know my heart:

  1. Love me with all your mind, soul, heart and strength.
  2. Love your neighbour as your love yourself.

Would you be complaining if this blueprint of living life my way were followed?

I made the earth and everything in it was good. When I made man it became very good. My plan is to make it even better. Lean on Me, trust not in your understanding and I will make your path straight. It’s ok to be mad but in due time you’ll see that no one loves you more than I do, and no one ever will. A life without Me was never my intention. Each day I call to you so that you choose life and life in abundance. That you choose Me.

PS If you find time please read the rest of my letters where I speak in depth of my love for you. I’ve compiled them in a book I’m sure you’ve heard of.

God.

Backwards

Backwards read be should too piece this perhaps.

Backwards move ourselves let we do why?

Progress make to try least at or forward-thinking be always to better it isn’t?

Future our brighten or them rectify to how not, mistakes past about think always we.

Backwards so nature human is why?

Backwards read be should too piece this perhaps.

Zea Mays Everta

Zea Mays Everta from ‘Bleeding Heart’

photo cred: 4USkY

Oh snap! This is it!

This is what we were made for.

We grew up whispering about this day,

Our sheaves touching as the wind blew south.

Surely it’s only upwards from here.

We deserve this treatment.

The thirst we felt as they starved us of water,

The pressure we felt as they packed us like sardines in the silo;

Crushing our relatives in the process…

This is what it was all for.

Now, like the kings of old, we bathe in olive oil, finally free as birds in the sky.

The very same birds that used to torment us and murder us at will.

Hah!

This metallic sky is far better than the one that they call home,

Offering us protection from them and the scorching sun as well.

The building too is ridiculously clean,

Shining like the finest silver as far as the eye can see.

I am clearly not the only one overwhelmed with joy,

I can overhear my cousins hissing with excitement!

It’s blissfully warm in here.

Some sections of the oil pool have become a jacuzzi.

The hissing elation escalates.

I’ve never seen such enthusiasm!

I too end up hissing uncontrollably.

Hahahahah! What is happening?

POP!

Building Confidence Is A Process!

The one last thing I would like to give you regarding building confidence is the knowledge that like most important things, it takes time. It is a process by which you improve daily. There will come a time when your confidence reaches optimal levels where your performance peaks. It is critical to continue doing whatever it is you have been doing up to that point or else one may end up erring to the side of overconfidence which hampers performance as much as having a low self-esteem.

Just because you aren’t instantly confident after the tools and information you have absorbed, don’t panic, you’ll make it, just keep at it. Building confidence is a work in progress!

giphy-6.gif

If you fall just make sure you get back up.

This concludes the Confidence series. As I continue to add more notes and research to my upcoming Positivity and Academic Excellence series I will use this time to share and hone some of my creative writing skills.

Self-Esteem Building Hacks

There are two tools that I have found to be incredibly effective when it comes to building self-esteem: I AM… and Mack On The Mirror.

I AM…

I AM

This is practically positive affirmations but in every area of life, where we attempt to weed out the phrases “I cannot” and “I am not” because they often lead to a negative answer that limits our vision and our capabilities. Instead we focus on saying “I AM…”

Fill in the missing space with what you believe you are and more importantly what you are working towards!

e.g. I AM Strong. I AM Intelligent. I AM Wise. I AM Confident. I AM Attractive. I AM Focussed…

Mack On The Mirror

My personal favourite. Mack is a slang term I and others used in high school and it means to court. Perhaps we don’t have anyone to speak positively in our lives or to affirm us. Worry not – all we need is a mirror and a mouth. This is effective in that as you use the I AM tool you also see an image speaking the same words back to you. It’s no longer just hearing the words but a visual representation of someone saying those same words back to you invokes a sense of agreement and support, making each of your statements more believable than the last time. The more you do it, the more you believe it. Look at this baby. I don’t know about you but I think she/he can conquer the world.

 

Mack On The Mirror

Physical Side Of Confidence

There are 5 areas that we can attend to by changing some of the things we do physically. Doing so will help us build our self-confidence overall. These five areas are:

  • Exercise
  • Dress
  • Smiling
  • Posture
  • Speech

Exercise

Pretty straightforward. I am sure you’ve heard it before. Recommended 20 min of exercise daily. Once you start it’s easy to maintain. The hard part is starting. Go with an enormous incentive for actually starting and you’ll find that you will.

Exercise will let you know the limits you can take your body and brings that sense of achievement once you reach a particular milestone. It helps shape your body and if done right can help you achieve the look you want.

I feel much more confident now than before I could run without stopping to walk after 5 min.

Dress

First impressions are often dependent on attire. If someone is dressed well the way people treat them reflects that. Same if someone is dressed poorly. Once someone steps on a stage for example you have an opinion of them even before they’ve said a word. Why?

Smiling

You can help fool yourself into feeling confident by doing this. It’s also a sign that you know what you are doing or are comfortable with the results. Try it more often and see it work wonders in your social interactions and your self-perception.

Posture

I was a tall kid. I tried desperately to fit in with those much shorter than me by hunching down for several years. I’ve had to work to recorrect my posture because I belatedly realised that I was tall and there was absolutely nothing wring with that. In fact if I was to define my self-worth using others’ opinion there is actually greater stock placed on being tall than on being short. Still – that’s not what we are aiming for here. Stand up straight. You’ll feel more powerful and confident by doing so.

Speech

Speaking to quickly is a sign of nervousness. It also makes it harder for those listening to process what you are saying. If you speak to slowly however it is easy for someone to then forget what the original point was about by the time you complete your sentence. Volume matters but too much volume can be just as bad – it makes it seem like you’re an attention-seeker aka unconfident.

Work on these 5 key areas and you will see massive positive change in your confidence.

Photo cred: telegraph.co.uk

 

Black Beauty

When I gave a talk on ‘Self-Esteem and Confidence’ to teens I showed them this image:

Khoudia Diop

I then gave them 5 seconds to think of one word to describe the lady in the image. I did this for two reasons: to evaluate the way they viewed things and to prove a point. They had to shout out the first word that came to mind. When I counted down to zero they all shouted a mixture of “dark” and “black”. I had expected this. I then let them know the truth – that the first word that I had thought of was “beautiful” but “dark” indeed followed close behind. The reason “beautiful” came up so quickly is because my outward perception is now driven by my new inward viewpoint. If you had asked me the same question a couple of years ago I would have definitely fallen into the former category. However because I now view all aspects of myself in a positive light, even the not so pretty things, I can now project that positivity on others and point out the things that make them unique and special with ease.

This young lady is called Khoudia Diop. Born in Senegal she moved to Italy to study. Obviously she was an outlier in that region and if you didn’t already know, being different makes you a target for hate, so hate her they did. There were those that could not accept the melanin clad beauty that was Khoudia and she was verbally attacked and called all sorts of names (as you would expect). Under such intense scrutiny (in that environment someone that dark will ALWAYS attract attention) it would have been easy for her to bow down under all the pressure and crumble. She was bullied constantly on every social platform and in person – enter Bullying: Make Or Break. Khoudia spoke out. She acknowledged her dark skin (dark it is – there is no denying it) and embraced her natural beauty. Bullies may have directed barbed words in her direction but she made sure they didn’t hook to her coffee coloured skin – instead she let them bounce off like it was a trampoline. She allowed the pressure to turn her coal to diamond, to ‘make her’ and eventually her mature responses as well as her uniqueness opened doors. This is her now:

Melanin Goddess

She’s an Instagram star with half a million followers and thousands of girls looking up to her as a role model. She is also a professional model even though she left for Italy without the prospect ever crossing her mind. Khoudia is now a symbol black girls and any girls that may have felt marginalised because of their appearance or some unique quality they possess look up to. She even hangs out with celebrities as shown by this pic of her with Lupita Nyong’o.

Khoudia x Lupita

All because she didn’t let bullying break her.

Let’s get this right Khoudia is dark! Khoudia was attacked for it!

But Khoudia didn’t let bullies define how she views herself!

Will you?

Sticks And Stones

My name is Ayanda Joe Munikwa. I love my name, all of it, but that wasn’t always the case. If you’ve been here awhile you would know that this was once titled “Joe’s Blog”. There’s a reason for that.

I attended one of the most hyper-masculine high schools in my country. My Christian name, ‘Ayanda’, Zulu in its origin, isn’t native thus is relatively unknown to the Shona-speaking people that dominated the college. As a result by association people would often link it to the more popular ‘Amanda’. (By the way I just Googled the definition of the name Amanda and there is an article claiming the name is documented in a birth record from 1212 somewhere in England! That’s absolutely nuts.) Where was I…? Right.

So Ayanda was considered feminine and in that toxic environment there was a lot of ridicule directed towards it. The most popular guy in the year above made this painfully clear one afternoon. “Ayanda?!” he exclaimed with his posse sniggering all around him. “That’s the name of a girl I made out with a whiiiile back. She was ugly as sin!”

When you think about it afterwards it’s utterly ridiculous that he would call a girl he kissed in the past ugly as sin. But I wasn’t sharp enough to see the ruse for what it was and I allowed my feeble self-esteem defences to crumble. Immediately my name became a trigger point for self-defence so much so that when I left to study in London I intentionally introduced myself as Joe under the guise that it was easier to pronounce than my first name – and forbid anyone getting my first name wrong! Therefore to save them from righteous judgement I allowed them to use the single-syllabic name ‘Joe’ instead.

This went on for a while and probably would have done even longer were I not corrected one day by one of my parents.

“Why Joe? Why not Ayanda?” they asked.

“They can’t pronounce it right,” I lied.

“Well… then you teach them.”

I couldn’t come up with a suitable response to that.

Still, as stubborn as I was I needed a little bit extra. That bit extra came in the form of my Thermodynamics lecturer.

“It’s impossible for me to know everyone’s names,” he complained. “It’s all Alexs and Johns and Michaels and there are so many of you. See?” He went on to read the names of people in the register and they seemed to all prove his point until he came to mine – ‘Ayanda’. He asked who that was, I raised my hand. Ever since then he would refer to me as Ayanda but everyone else was just “you over there” or “the guy in the pink”. That’s when it hit me. In trying to hide my insecurity I had taken away a vital part of my identity. I thought I was shielding myself from ridicule but in actual fact I had shielded myself from prominence and significance. In taking the mantle of ‘regular Joe’ I had allowed myself to fade in the background, fitting in instead of standing out.

It needed to sink in. My name is my name. It is mine. Because it is mine – I should cherish it. I needed to increase in understanding, to increase in wisdom, to increase in the self-esteem I’d robbed myself of just because of childish ridicule. I needed to increase in a lot of things… which would probably have happened sooner had I embraced my name which means just that.

Next time you bump into me – call me Ayanda.

photo cred: CrossFit Odyssey

Bullying: Make Or Break

Photo cred: Talkspace

One of the major contributing factors to a lack of confidence is bullying, which makes a lot of sense when you think about it. I am sure we’ve heard that old childhood saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”

Wrong.

Our brains are a collection of all of the information we “download” throughout our lives. Therefore it is not an astronomical leap of logic to assume that the words that others say (or their behaviour towards us) affect us in some way. It can in fact affect us massively.

Bullying is repeated aggressive behaviour towards someone

In the UK 1.5 million young people bullied in 2016

145 000 bullied everyday

14% consider suicide – 7% attempt it

Source: www.bullying.co.uk

You’d think that those that engage in bullying suffer tremendous lack, therefore they need this sense of superiority to make up for what they don’t have. Maybe they do suffer lack in one area of their life (emotional, social, etc) but I chose these statistics to point out that even a first world environment like the UK can still breed people who seek to harm others. Monetary lack may have nothing to do with it. Therefore if you are experiencing bullying – don’t allow yourself to sink deeper into self-pity by believing you are alone. You are NOT alone. And one other thing – yes the words and actions performed by a bully may hurt you… but guess what? They don’t need to define you. In fact – they can be the very springboard you need to flourish more than you’ve ever done before. It’s all in the attitude.

Intrigued? Get ready for two case studies coming up tomorrow.