Real Steel

Hey. So I’ve decided to take a leaf out of James Clear’s life and update this blog biweekly, on Mondays and Thursdays. This will give me the opportunity to read more and add invaluable, researched content and not just opinions on this blog. It will also give you the opportunity to reflect and apply anything that impresses you. Till Monday, stay awesome.


‘There could be a freak accident
There could be a fatal disease
I know we hate to think about it
But it’s as real as you and me
It’s as real as you and me’

-Prophetess Rihanna

I’ll give props where they’re due, I heard the prophet Riri joke from Michael Todd first. However, the joke isn’t the focus but the lyrics. Can we sing those without any hypocrisy? When I ask this question I have to zoom in on “as real as you and me.” How real are you? Are you like the machine from Real Steel where actual props were created computer graphics served only as an embellishment?

To cap off the discussion we’ve had about being vulnerable I’d like to urge you to take a look at yourself… and then make a change!

-MJ

No, that’s not it. I mean to take a deep, introspective look at yourself. Go on a self date. Sounds mad odd but with quarantine in place that should be easy right? Find out what you really like, what your pet peeves are. What shows do you enjoy watching? What would you do when no one was there to pressure you or shame you into doing something else. When I was 10 I had the immense privilege of sharing 2 hours a day on a bus ride with someone I looked up to. I guess it was just pure awe at how well they adapted to the environment and at the way popularity appeared to wrap around them like a second skin. This person had an annoying habit though. (Insert petty Ayanda here.) They always seemed to know every lyric of every song that came out that week. That’s perfectly fine. What was irritating was the apparent, irresistible compulsion to ask me if I had heard the songs in question. I wasn’t one to keep up to date with music. I have no idea what spirit would possess them whenever I said this, which was perhaps 97% of the time, but it drove them to do that undoubtedly annoying thing that’s probably happened to you at least once.

“Don’t you know this song?” they would ask.

“Nope,” I’d respond, candid and more than a little uninterested.

“But surely, you know it?” they would ask again.

This is when I would think to myself, How bad am I at communicating? I’m sure I was straightforward in my acknowledgement of not knowing the song.

“Never heard of it. Don’t know a single word.”

“HoW cOUld yOu NOt kNOW thIs SoNG?” they’d conclude and then go on to recite the whole thing splendidly.

In retrospect, I find myself truly hoping that they enjoyed listening to music in their spare time and didn’t spend countless hours watching TRACE with a notebook in hand to impress others by their knowledge of lyrics. I truly hope that this was a manifestation of their authentic self (even though it was more than slightly annoying at the time), and not a try-hard imitation.

Does this story have a point? Uhm… sure. I hope so! Oh yes, it’s come back to me now.

I was so firm in my identity as a non-music lover that for three years on the same bus, Mr Music finally stopped badgering me perhaps after one too many occasions where the stunt didn’t have the desired effect. I assume he relented when it finally dawned on him that I was significantly more passionate about Animorphs, Goosebumps or any other work of fiction I had in hand every single day.

I had the option to change from my real self to fit in with the purveyor of swag (in the form of lyrics) but even then, as a 10-year-old boy, I knew that such a change would be inauthentic and therefore, not worth it.

That was one instance. My goal is to make that ubiquitous throughout my life.

In the words of popular comedian Andrew Schulz, renowned for his ability to tell jokes with hard punchlines while flying in the face of being politically correct:

By being truly authentic you do not need to gravitate to the world, the world will gravitate to you.

Check out the last 5 minutes of his TedX talk here: Andrew Schulz On Authenticity

Image source: WallpaperAccess

Thanks for reading! See you on Monday.

Power Of A Smile

Approx 2 min read

“Imagine resolving to be consistent then failing to live up to that resolve a mere couple of days afterwards. That’s me,” I smile. “Sorry.”

And with that I am instantly forgiven. In part it’s because you all have such generous hearts; hearts that dispense kindness in equal proportion to how the world dispenses cruelty. Whoa there! Let’s not get dark. (That wasn’t a complexion joke by the way that was… Ayanda proceeds to bin himself.)

Let’s try this again, shall we?


Hey there you wonderful human being you! It’s me and we’re back at it! Communication, words and all. Today I am going to introduce someone to you that you really need no introduction to. Her name is ‘Smile’ and she’s absolutely gorgeous.

I’ve been told never to tell a woman to smile, unless I’m behind a camera and she’s asked me to take a picture of her. It’s rude. I get it, no one likes being told what to do especially when they are capable of making rational decisions themselves. Yet that does not diminish the power of the thing being requested. A smile can melt hearts, it can make someone reach into their wallet unconsciously, it can make people give way and it can make someone smile in turn. A smile can communicate strength. Sometimes your smile will say, “What you’ve said didn’t hurt my feelings at all, try again sucker!” It can ward off people who sought to bully you.

With a smile you already attain the most vital component of diplomacy, which if perfected (and we will touch on this topic in episodes to come) will have you telling someone to, “Go to hell,” in such a way that they will desire to do so – gladly.

But that’s a topic for a different day.

There is a connection between internal feelings and external expressions.

Ever tried the other way round? Smiling on purpose to help you with your internal mood? No? Do you think it’s worth a crack? (Get it? Oh man… I need to stop reading all these dad jokes.)

The smile is so powerful it can leave a lasting impression on someone for years to come.

Don’t believe me?

Well…

joker-smile-white-400x400

I for one will never forget that smile.

See ya tomorrow! (hopefully XD)

Stay awesome.

 

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.

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.

What Confidence IS NOT

I could have made this whole series one long post but I know not everyone has the time to invest in such a thing and because I want to impact as many lives positively as I possibly can I’ve split it into several chunks that are easy to swallow.

The things I will touch on this week actually work. I’ve seen them in action. I recently gave a 25 min presentation on Confidence and Self-esteem to a group of teens. On the first day the smallest one from this group, this tiny little girl, could not look anyone in the eye and would waffle or even remain mute when put on the spot. On the 3rd day this same girl, boldly said something in a presentation I will remember for a very long time. 

Confidently she declared, “I am who am I am. I am me.”

That’s what I want everyone who reads this blog this week to come away feeling.

“Low self-esteem is like driving through life with your hand brake on.” — Maxwell Maltz

“Everybody is a genius but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree , it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.” — Albert Einstein

There are some things confidence is not, namely:

  • presumptuous
  • proud
  • disrespectful
  • beating oneself up
  • feeling unlovable, incompetent or awkward
  • something that fluctuates day by day
  • something that you CANNOT build (yes that is indeed a double negative)

If you tick any of these boxes, this series is for you.

 

Importance Of Confidence

Confidence:
●Helps prevent or protect against depression
●Able to take risks, increasing opportunities
●Rejection disappoints you less
●Reduces anxiety
●You can feel good when you are alone
●Better social interactions
●Eliminates jealousy
●Makes you more attractive
Sold yet?
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