Shush… Don’t Call Me Daddy

“You look like you would do well with the toddlers.”

“Huh?” was all I managed. The door shut behind me and I was immediately swept away by the pervasive odour of soiled diapers in a room full of fragile little 1 and 2 year olds. Toddlers with snot running down their noses playing in some sort of organised chaos on a custard yellow tarpaulin. Right. Where to begin?

“Uhm… excuse me?” I had approached the older gentleman who had assisted me in my first diaper change. “I’m new here and I’ve just been deployed to the toddler section. Would you let me know what it is I should do?” I thought I had been clear enough but the man looked perplexed. Before his evident worry became my own he seemed to calm down and nodded.

“In this room I am not the authority, she is,” the man led me to the young woman who had taught me how to register babies in the first place.

“It’s you!” I remarked excitedly. “Well, seems like I am at your service. What should I do?”

She smiled at me. I guess my enthusiasm wasn’t misplaced. “Pick a kid and play with ’em.”

I returned the smile and went to town!

“Hey there you cute lil goo goo ga ga! What’s up? What your name?” As I asked all these essential questions my voice’s pitch only went higher and higher. Eventually I was just an unintelligible as the kids I was trying to communicate with which bizarrely made me more approachable to them. I guess somehow we ended up speaking the same language. I knew in that instant I had found my place of service.

If it wasn’t evident then it became even more so when in trying to escape my ghastly “I’m coming to get you” face a young man fell on an even younger, smaller girl. Now you have to understand that a kid under 2’s motor functions aren’t enviable. In trying to get up the boy continuously pressed down and squashed the little girl until he could get on his feet. This led to tears and someone needed to bring peace back. I picked up the little girl and did the only thing I knew to do in that situation. I rocked her in my arms and recited the little bit of Proverbs 31 I knew. “You are a strong woman of noble character. You are a virtuous woman. It’s ok to cry honey but you’ll be ok, everything will be fine.” Just like that she stopped crying. I felt an immense sense of victory. “Can I wipe your tears? Let me wipe your tears, ok?” All this was done with minimal fuss and we became the best of friends, praise be to God!

It would be great if the story ended here but it didn’t. After playing together for a while yet she reached for the hem of my shirt and said, “Daddy!”

“Shush…” I said, rather hurriedly, “Don’t call me Daddy.” I don’t think she got the memo.

“Daddy,” she repeated.

“It’s Ayanda,” I said exasperated. “Aya.”

I became Daddy for the rest of the day. Those around me sensing my discomfort tried to cheer me up, “Maybe Daddy is the only word she knows,” they said. Right. Makes sense. Relief flooded my veins. That’s not so bad then, I thought.

When it was time to go a lady approached us with a smile on her face. The girl turned and ran away from me like I had transformed into a ghost. She gave the woman a huge hug as she screamed exuberantly, “MOMMY!”

Embarassed GIF

Self-Confidence Vs Self-Esteem

photo cred: T C North

Worry not, this will not devolve into a war of words or transform into an ultimate rap battle between the words self-confidence and self-esteem. Instead I would just like to add some clarity on what we will be discussing and how I plan to move forward with this series. Let’s dive into a definition, shall we?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes self-confidence as:

a feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities and judgement

The same source sites self-esteem as:

a confidence and satisfaction in oneself

I always used to believe that self-confidence and self-esteem were synonymous. They are indeed similar, but not identical. Self-confidence has to do with perception based on what one can do whereas self-esteem has to do with one’s perception on who one is. Clear enough?

This wonderful graphic should help make things even clearer:

Self-esteem vs confidence

They are different but one thing is certain, to function to the very best of your ability and to enjoy your life to the fullest: YOU NEED BOTH!

For the purposes of future posts not becoming too wordy I will refer to both self-esteem and self-confidence simply as confidence from this moment on. This is to prevent confusion by interchanging the terms and to avoid the mental block that comes with associating the word esteem with the more negative low self-esteem.

Tomorrow we will discuss the Importance of Confidence.

Creativity: The Day Dream

photo cred: Daniel Coyle

Do you ever feel like you lack imagination? Not me hahaha. No this isn’t a post where I gloat about it. It is a post for me to justshare something that helped me in this aspect, especially regarding stories. It got to the point the that my IGCSE English teacher was forced to air her thoughts to my parents one consultation.

“Ayanda’s stories are too fantastic!” she yelled apparently.

Before you accuse me for providing pseudo-genuine information I vow it is all true. How can one’s story be too fantastic? Well, she didn’t mean it in it’s most positive connotation. My stories were so creative they were totally irrational and required a complete suspension of belief for anyone to thoroughly enjoy them. Not everyone could appreciate that, my teacher being one of them, so for me to start attaining A*s in the subject I humbled myself and reduced the imagination I used in my stories. How did I get to that stage in the first place? As a young boy I didn’t revel in time spent with those my age. This coincided with the time before my sibling could have fruitful, non-goobledygook conversations with me so I needed a way to entertain myself when I felt lonely. Often I would stand beside the house and dream up entire worlds, inserting myself in these dynamic stories as the protagonist, white-haired and dubbed Alex (my favourite name before I appreciated my own). My favourite time  of day was when my head hit the pillow. I would spend an hour or so every night reimagining whatever tv shows I would have watched that day with this fictional white-haired character that was simultaneously myself and someone else kicking ass and winning over the main female character. Kid me had game before he knew what attraction was! In the bath I’d close my eyes and picture things. In the car I would imagine a laser chopping all the long grass within view. I would then close my eyes when I encountered a person or vehicle – after all, I’m no murderer.

The brain works similar to a muscle in this, the more you use it the more capable it becomes in that area. Actively use your imagination as you day-dream and you’ll reap in creativity!

See you tomorrow for Creativity: Fullstop.

Creativity

photo cred: Mark Schaefer

Creativity is often attributed to being within the same class as talent.

“Some people have to work hard and try to be creative” is how most people think.

I wholly agree. But that is the silver lining, creativity can truly be worked at – it can be developed.

Back in the day my tiny little sister would draw pictures of her favourite female cartoon characters. Without fail she produced truly awful drawings. On a scale of 1-10 they were probably a 3 and this is coming from her biased, loving older brother. They were a 3 out of 10 not in general but compared to those just in her age group. She was around 6 years old. Kim would draw ‘cars’ and they would look like random shapes smooshed together. As her doting older brother I would never tell her that her drawings were an eyesore (and they were). In fact I affirmed her and lied saying they were beautiful every time. I didn’t know at the time what was happening when I did so or the importance of praise in the confidence of a child in her formative years but the comments spurred her on to draw even more, and that in turn drew even more deceitful comments out of me…

One day my sister approached me years older than she was when she’d done her first drawing. “What do you think?” she asked. I glanced up from my work expecting to see a wonky car that looked like a block of lego. I was astonished to find that her drawing was not unsightly, it was downright impressive. “Did you draw this?” I asked incredulously. She simply nodded. Her artistic ability had flourished over time due to the practise she had put in. She then went on to tell me that she was grateful that I had affirmed her when she was young and incapable of drawing simple things well. She confessed that my praise had been the catapult to her drive to continue art. Today I am absolutely certain her art will adorn many a famous wall somewhere soon.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a post highlighting how awesome of a brother I am (even though I’m pretty dope as a brother LOL) but serves as an illustration that something that I always attributed as a talent, art, (which I was terrible at in high school), can be worked at. This sort of creativity can be practised! 

Time to get to work!

See you tomorrow for Creativity: The Day Dream.

 

Lying Is Good For You: Building Habits

Starting a habit isn’t always easy. The proof is in the number of people who say they want to start a new habit who don’t actually end up doing so. Or maybe they’ll start but stop before it’s really become a habit.

Habit – a regular tendency that is hard to give up.

Lally’s study claims that it takes anywhere between 18 days to 254 days to form a new habit.

How can one actually achieve such a feat that requires an incredible amount of discipline? First of all we have to acknowledge that it is difficult to maintain something just because we see the benefit of it in the future. If you are one of those people that can do it by just intentionally making the decision, kudos to you! If you are like me then you have to use a different way. The good news is it works just as well. Here it is… it’s time to lie again!

There’s this story about a mouse that’s put in a cage. Scientists would ring a bell at a certain time and then put cheese in the cage. Over time the mouse associated the sound of the shrill bell with cheese and would come out of its little house when the bell was rung and wait, even if the cheese wasn’t forthcoming. The bell didn’t sound attractive but the cheese was attractive. Over time the mouse would come out for the bell because to it the bell = cheese. We’re not mice though so what can we do? We use the horse and carrot stick method.

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Looks ridiculous right? The carrot is the reward after you’ve done the hard work of doing whatever the new habit requires you to do. This way we associate the reward with the work. For example, I love movies! When we got back from a service on Sunday that’s the first thing that I wanted to do. Unfortunately for me, I lived with very wise, orderly parents who would have me do the dishes first (after we’d made and eaten breakfast) before watching any film. Doing the dishes was work. Watching the movie was the carrot. My love for movies was so strong that I would speed through the dishes to have my carrot – ahem – I mean watch my movie. You couldn’t motivate me to do the dishes because it wasn’t something I looked forward to, but because I looked forward to watching movies, the labour of doing the dishes was no longer as hard as it seemed initially. Over time I stopped doing it as an inconvenience and started viewing it as a sort of key, a key to me watching the movies that I wanted to watch on a Sunday afternoon. I’ve used this same trick to exercise daily, write more consistently and to drink enough water each day – all things I never used to do.

So what are the practical bits you can use for you. The only thing you need to do is to make a list of the things you love. Lie to yourself until you believe that you can’t do one of those things until you’ve actioned out the habit you’re trying to build, then reward yourself with the thing you love at the end – and repeat. Make sense?

A short real-life illustration of the effectiveness of this technique:

Mom: Where are you?

Me: I’m in the kitchen. I’ve just started doing the dishes.

Mom: We’ve started watching a movie, come watch with us – you can do the dishes after.

Me: I don’t like doing dishes well after we’ve eaten. I’ll finish up fast then come watch when I’m done.

True story.

I’m a dish dog now!

See you tomorrow for Lying Is Good For You: Trumping Fear.

 

 

Lying Is Good For You

Lying is good for you! Yup you heard that right. So what does that even mean? I’m not telling you to practise perjury if you’re a lawyer or to hide evidence if you’re a cop. I’m not advising you to commit fraud or not pay taxes. I am saying you have got to lie, every single day of your life. That’s going to set you free from mental prisons, transforming you from the chicken you’ve been told you are to the eagle you were always meant to be.

Let me elaborate on what I mean. The world has given us a series of truths that have already seeped into the recesses of our minds and in most cases have shaped our view of self. You may have been branded as unintelligent, unwise, ugly, terrible at communicating and relegated to a place or position you think (or formerly thought) you don’t belong to. Allow these words to build up and be the only thing you listen to then you’ll believe them to be truth. Do you know why the words hurt you so? It’s because you’ve believed them to be the truth. If you know you are intelligent even your professor can’t make you think otherwise. If you know you are a success you won’t entertain being told you are a disappointment. If you know you are beautiful even Ms. Universe can’t put you down. But how do you know something when it isn’t ‘the truth’ based on what you hear? Simple. You lie… everyday. Tell a lie enough times – you’ll eventually believe it.

Unfortunately your way of thinking is an ensemble of the information you receive. You are bound to hear negative things daily – social media is the bullhorn of negativity. I know not everyone can extricate themselves from it like I’ve done. But you need to come up with a way to hear the ‘lie’ you want more than you hear ‘the truth’ of the world. Enter affirmations and confessions.

Daily speak the things you want. ‘Lie’ and affirm yourself with the traits you desire that you are told you don’t have. Say these things often enough to overshadow ‘the truth’ of this world.

If you can’t switch off or drown out the outside noise, pump up the volume of what you say to yourself within.

If you don’t think you can do that, find a good friend of yours to do it on your behalf. If you can’t even ask them to do that for you maybe check your friendships. I’ll talk about how to pinpoint the right friends on Friday in ‘We Are Not In This Together’.

Below are some confessions you can try out that may change your life:

I am intelligent, wise, focussed, driven, patient, creative, organised and a solution provider – I am mentally strong.

I am confident, outspoken, friendly, honest, great at listening and open-minded – I am a great communicator.

I am beautiful, handsome, kind, healthy, composed, courageous, humble, loving and loved – I am enough.

I am strong, enthusiastic, charismatic, patient, trustworthy, a role model, authentic, a visionary – I am a leader.

Add whatever you need to that list and ‘lie’ till that’s all you know!

I challenge you to test the contents of this post to see if they work or not.

See you tomorrow for part 2 of Lying Is Good For You:  Building Habits.

Singleness Is Underrated

Am I going to be endorsing debauchery in this post? Not one bit. However if you are looking for encouragement and advice in the single phase of your life, carry on, you are most welcome.

Before I enter into why the phase of singleness can be a crucially beneficial time of your life I would like to quash some world notions on the ‘benefits’ of being single. Yes I’m going to sound like a preacher when I denounce couldn’t-care-less relationships, casual sex and nights spent bent over ceramic chambers, but if you are honest with yourself you’ll realise that the aforementioned activities don’t do your physical wellbeing or mental health any favours. Are all these activities fun? They wouldn’t be temptations if they weren’t… but they are bad for you and most likely you don’t need to look deep down to know it. The good news is I’m not here to condemn you but to affirm you! We all have the gift of free will. You aren’t bound to certain actions or habits forever. Today I would like to introduce two terms that will help and will pop up a lot in this ‘Individuality’ series:

  1. Intentionality – living a life of deliberation, without constantly stumbling into things
  2. Plasticine brain – the ability of the brain to change throughout life

Life has prime stages for explosive growth. Singleness is one of them. Another stage is called ‘the Pit’ which I’ll refer to later this week.

When you’re single and intentional in your singleness, you’re in the best time to learn about yourself, the best time to figure out what you enjoy and what you are good at. Often in this chapter of your life you have one major responsibility, yourself, meaning you have more time as you have less people to be responsible over. What can you use this time for? More learning and setting yourself up for whatever your metric of success is. This is achieved first of all by coming up with a metric of success. This is vital. How can you hit the target when you don’t know what you are supposed to be aiming for? In this period explore by reading books, learning languages, travelling, building healthy habits, working to delete bad habits, learning organisation, studying people and coming up with the traits of the person you would want to be with once the phase is over.

I’d like to challenge a fallacy that we let ourselves be deceived by far too often. How many people have you heard say these words, “I wish I had known this when I was younger?” Or “I wish I had known this before I got into the relationship?”. We lie and say we’ll pick up the behaviours we need when we need them. Learning all the above once this singleness phase has passed is possible; it’s much more difficult but it’s possible, it’s why we have plasticine brains – but why would you want to grow a plant in the dry season when you can do so in the rainy season? The friction of embarking on a discovery of self when you have several more responsibilities is incredibly grating.

Lastly we have plasticine brains, which means the old ways of thinking don’t need to be the ways of thinking forever. It means we can learn new things. However it takes significantly more effort to unlearn things than it does to build new habits. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking I’ll do these things now then stop when I’m in a serious relationship or when I reach 30, 40 or 50. You’re setting yourself up to fail and to eventually drown in depression.

Conflict rises when expectations and reality don’t align. Internal conflict leads to stress and prolonged stress may lead to depression. So I’ll help you out a bit and be a bit harsh when I say:

Don’t expect the bad habits you’re cultivating now to instantly disappear when you want them to. Instead be intentional today about what habits you want to build in this crucial period of your time.

Cherish your singleness and grow baby, grow! It may be hard, that’s cool, I’ve got tips to help you do just that starting with tomorrow’s post: ‘Lying Is Good For You’.

P.S. Thank you all for helping this blog reach 100 followers! Onwards and upwards. Be blessed.