Be Yourself

The Value of Your Funk: Part One

Too many people attempt to bury their imperfections, disappointments, vexing past, professional and academic inadequacies, physical shortcomings, mental imbalances, low self-esteem, failures, utter unhappiness, and all of the other things unpleasing to them. Those aforementioned things are what I call “funk.” All human beings are funky because no one is perfect. We all, therefore, are funky because of our inability to be perfect. People have to face the reality that their funk will always be present—there’s no escaping it. What can I do about my funk? You should never try to mask, hide, replicate, and ignore your funk. A significant number of individuals fail to understand their funk is valuable.

When you never deal frankly, boldly, critically, and thoroughly with the things about yourself and your life that are unpleasing to you, then you’re not only missing a meaningful opportunity to capitalize on the value of those unpleasing phenomena, but also you’re preventing yourself from being truly whole and liberated. You cannot truly be a whole and liberated person when you’re carrying life’s funk with you that you refuse to deal with in such a serious way that your funk is no longer a liability but now an asset. More people are going to have to deal with their low self-esteem or the problems with their self-esteem. Self-esteem problems are at the root cause of many of the important problems people experience in America.

People who are overly sensitive about the most infinitesimal phenomena reveal the disadvantages of living a life without an appreciation of the funk. Their self-esteem quandaries cause them to see their funk in only a negative light. Many people are constantly trying to hide from who they really are because of the fear they have of what people in their environment will say about them if they elect to be themselves. You will never prosper when you run away from who you really are. Moreover, you will never know who you really are when you never give yourself a chance to be real with yourself.

People know you’re phony when you always attempt to present yourself as perfect—like there is nothing in your past and present that doesn’t stink.

Funk stinks—face it!

Too many people are overly focused on doing and saying the things pleasing to those around them. They neglect the precious time each day presents to move closer to understanding themselves more and to engage in the critical self-examination necessary to becoming the best human beings they can be. When people are doing better than you, don’t let envy and jealousy consume you. The time you’re investing in being envious and jealous can serve you better if you devote it to working on your own progression. When you’re concentrated on your own progression, you will not have time to hate on others. You might find that you will become a happier person when you’re happy for other people doing well.

For the things negative things in your life that you’re responsible for, it’s time for you to own those things. When you try to transfer your funk over to other people, it’s still your funk, although an attempt to transfer your funk may result in others having to share the burden on your funk. Please, therefore, don’t make efforts place the encumbrance of your funk on others. If you’re miserable, don’t go around attempting to make others miserable. You’re miserable because you want to be miserable. If you’re miserable, don’t deny it—do something about it! Recognize that who you really are is someone special. However, if you don’t know who you really are, or have intentionally made yourself a fusion of multiple personalities to appease society (and your family and friends), you’re not special. In order to be special, you have to be willing to be yourself.

What’s wrong with being yourself? Nothing!

Muster the courage to handle your funk and you will live a better, freer, and happier life.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Burn Some Bridges

It has often been passed down from one generation to the next the belief that one should not burn bridges because once you burn bridges you can no longer cross them.  While this is good advice in general, there are some bridges you need to burn.  As many of us know, the word bridges is often used metaphorically to refer to people who have and/or can benefit you.  If you’re a principled person, then you’re not going to stay beholden to a person who has done you wrong, even if that person offers you great benefits and has a strong network of connections to extend to you.  When someone, including a parent or grandparent, wants you stay on the good side of someone just because of the benefits he or she can and/or do offer you, then you need to let that person know that you’re not willing to sacrifice your principle and who you really are just to keep getting benefits from a person.  Your parents and grandparents are not important enough to allow them to sacrifice your principles and character.

While one should not feel like he or she cannot obtain good advice from people, this does not mean all “good advice” is right for you.  Sometimes “good advice” is right for many people but it may not be right for you.  People who are perceived to be good for everyone they are around may not be good for you.

Always do what’s best for you.  Always be willing to disassociate from anyone who does not inspire the best in you.

If someone constantly weighs you down, then this person is not good for you, even if this person has some positive benefits to offer you.  You have to understand that the people around you can offer you positive benefits, but you must seriously weigh and consider the costs of those benefits.  Are those benefits more costly than they are positive?

Do you continue to associate with some people just because you don’t think you can make it without them?  If so, how important is being a principled person to you?  You cannot be a truly principled person when you’re willing to do anything to stay on the “good side” of people to keep reaping benefits from them.

Are you willing to do anything to keep your employer happy?  Are you willing to deny who you are to keep your job?  If you are, never claim to be a leader and one who keeps it real.

Some “wisdom,” not all, that has been passed down from your parents and grandparents is not an apt fit for our postmodern epoch and, more importantly, it’s not wisdom at all for you and who you really are.

In no way does this piece assert that you need to walk around and pretend that you don’t need anyone.  This piece also does not contend that you should go around severing ties with people without a clearly defined purpose.  However, don’t let “good advice” and people own you.  This article seeks to communicate a great concern with the “wisdom” of “don’t burn bridges.”  If people don’t apply the wisdom of this concept appropriately, then it can turn them into slaves of ideas, people, and organizations.  If a bridge will easily collapse on you, then you don’t need to remain on and around that bridge anyway.  Surround yourself with bridges that will be there to support you even when things are going tough.

Burn those bridges that are not dependable and that are mere illusions of bridges.

Of course, don’t forget the bridges that brought you over.  This piece wants you not to forget them for a reason that is not traditionally passed down to you:  Don’t forget those bridges because you need to assess the past and present ones so that you know which ones to burn, which ones to keep, and which ones to never cross in the future.

Never let anything and anybody stand between you and your principles, even if it’s a “bridge.”

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Drop Out of Popularity Contests

Don’t waste your time in life trying to get everyone to like you.  Additionally, don’t worry about trying to keep those who like you now to remain liking you—just do you.  You will find that you will live a happier life when you’re more concerned with doing things that please you.  When you devote too much time to attempting to figure out what is going to satisfy every single person around you, then you will lose who you are in all of those efforts to please everyone.  You cannot be all things to everyone.  In no way does this piece advocate for you to be a selfish person, it just acknowledges you have to take time for yourself to enjoy the things you love to do.  You have to appreciate yourself.

When you periodically do things that are totally for yourself, this does not make you a selfish person—it makes you a person who understands that you cannot truly know how to be happy for someone else until you’ve made yourself happy.  Don’t depend on other people to make you happy.  You have the ability within yourself to make yourself happy.  When you depend on other people to be happy, then you’re going to face a significant number of disappoints in life.  You may never be truly happy when you wait on others to create true happiness within you.

True happiness originates within yourself.  Yes, others can and will help your happiness to mature but don’t let others be the foundation of your happiness.  If other people are the foundation of your happiness, it will inevitably crumble.

Too many people are far too focused on how they can get everyone to like them.  You must understand that everyone will not like you.  Some people will not like you without any rationale—don’t try to force them to like you because you won’t win them over.  It’s better to have one or two good or great friends than to hang around a thousand people who you’ve fooled yourself that they’re your friends just so you can tout you have such a large number of friends.  It certainly does not seem like you’re attempting to truly please yourself when you do this type of thing.

Participating in popularity contests will leave you exhausted, empty, disappointed, and unhappy.

Live in your own spotlight!

Have enough confidence in yourself to believe you can do whatever you desire to do.  When people tell you that you cannot do something, transfer their negativity into positive energy.  You don’t have to settle for doing the popular things that will gain you instant approval from people who are looking for microwave success.  You have to know that if the path to success you have carefully planned takes years and not days, that you’re going to reach your goals and you’re no lesser of a success story than those who were fortunate to achieve success in a shorter period of time.  For those who achieve success in a shorter period of time than you, please be sure that they’re truly successful and not putting on a visage of success.

Worry about yourself sometimes.  Stop looking for approval from other people.  People who win popularity contests really lose tremendously in the game of life.

Enjoy life.  Be stress free.  Live free!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

There’s Nothing Special About Phony People

When you are afraid to be who you are and never show people the real you, there’s nothing special about you.  Unfortunately, phony people try to pretend like they are living happy lives, and many of them want you to envy their false identities.  What’s to envy about living a phony life?  A life that’s not grounded in truth is a life that’s not worth living.  Phony people never have an opportunity to rest because they always have to put on a performance for an audience—that has to be an exhausting way to live.  What’s to envy about never being able to just relax and enjoy being yourself?  You shouldn’t count on people not discovering who you really are inevitably.

Although many people are fooled by the falsehoods of phony people, there are many people who can see right through those falsehoods.  What’s going to happen when there are moments that arrive in the future that don’t give you an opportunity to put on your falsehoods as quickly as one can put on makeup?  When you live a life that is a lie, you are not qualified and prepared to live the type of life you are currently trying to live.  When you are living a life that hides who you really are, the longer you live this type of life the deeper you move yourself into getting exposed in such an embarrassing way that you may never be able to recover from the shame associated with being exposed.

Far too often, individuals living a phony life assume that people who are living authentic lives are trying to expose them and hurt them intentionally.  Phony people will often assume that things people say and write are about them.  This results largely from the reality that phony people are never in a safe place, considering they always have to be concerned with being exposed.  What phony people need to realize is they shouldn’t feel shame about the things that they are attempting to cover up.  The things you are trying to conceal are things that are a part of you.  Have enough love for yourself to love all of the parts of your comprehensive composition.

In no way does this article advocate for people to tell everything about themselves to everyone—that would be unwise.  What this article does contend is you should not get up every morning having to plan out how you’re going to hide the aspects of your live you don’t want people to know about.  Phony people have to think about how they’re going to hide who they really are each morning even before they are able to think about taking a shower and brushing their teeth.  Now, why would someone want to be envious and jealous of this type of life that phony people live?

Dear phony people, you’re living a miserable life and no one wants to live a miserable life, so stop thinking that people are envious and jealous of you.  Envious and jealous of you for what reason or reasons?

Even when it may seem that you can gain a competitive edge by not being who you really are, resist this temptation.  Make up in your mind that you’re going to be yourself no matter what other people think.  You will have an easier life when you decide to be who you naturally are.  Live the life you want to live and not the life you feel you need to live to please other people.  When you resolve to be who you are, say what you want to say, and do what you want to do, you are going to receive some serious criticism and resistance.  Don’t let this criticism and resistance keep you from enjoying who you genuinely are.  Live free.  Be yourself.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Don’t Forget to Have Fun

Although many people across America have a significant amount of daily responsibilities, you must find some time to have fun.  Don’t get so busy that you forget that you have a life outside of those things that have you so busy and involved.  Make time each day to engage with something that’s totally unrelated to your daily responsibilities to just have fun—even if it’s just for a brief moment.  You will be amazed at what just a brief moment of fun each day can do for you to release some of the stress that accompanies being very busy.  While one can understand that the things that have you very busy can be things that you enjoy and allow you to have fun, you need to take some separate time away from those things to devote completely to having fun.

Some people have not allowed themselves to experience the fullness that life has to offer.  It’s okay to be adventurous sometimes.  Go out and experience life.  Do something that you’ve never done before.  Don’t get so consumed by your routine that you think that you’re truly living a full life through your routine.  You can be a serious and professional person and still have a significant amount of fun.

Never take yourself too seriously.

You don’t have to pretend to have fun.  Do you know people who will sit up and create lies about things they supposedly have done and/or are doing to make you think they are having fun?  Even when some people have told you that they did not have fun doing something, they will post messages on Facebook and Twitter about how they had and/or are having fun.  Why lie about something like this?  It seems that there are some deeper problems and challenges that people are struggling with that will cause them to resort to telling lies about something like this.

Although it’s vital to find time to have fun, you must understand that you shouldn’t dedicate so much of your time to having fun that you don’t take care of serious responsibilities.  For example, you should not spend so much of your money having fun that you end up not having enough money to pay your rent or car note.  Be responsible about how you have fun.  Some people are always having fun and not doing the important things that they should be doing.

Just because you devote most of your time to having fun does not mean that your life is any better than the person who is only able to invest a more modest amount of time to having fun.  Many people use Facebook to post pictures and location notifications to try to present themselves as people who are “living the life”—when in actuality they are not as happy and not as financially stable as they are attempting to advertise.  Now, in no way does the previous statement try to suggest that all people who post pictures and location notifications about the places they go to and the things they do are posturing—the previous statement just offers an assertion that many people are guilty of doing this.

You can live a fun and responsible life.  If you’re living a fun and responsible life, continue to enjoy your life.  If you’re not living a fun and responsible life, do yourself a favor by starting to live a fun and responsible life.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Why Are You Not More Transparent Like Don Lemon?

Too many gay Black men hide behind relationships with women—even have sex with them—to avoid shame. They don’t want their family, friends, co-workers, and associates to know that at their core they are gay. I’m not talking about men who are truly bisexual. Authentically bisexual men exist and they men should tell their partners they are bisexual. However, my problem lies with those Black men who know they are gay and would desire nothing more to just be gay, but don’t have the courage to simply be gay, so they just hide their homosexuality behind public facades and dishonest relationships with women. Okay, even if these men are truly bisexual, why won’t they tell these women they are bisexual? Many gay Black men will get married and/or have babies with women just to attempt to conceal their homosexuality.  Don’t the women who are they are having sex with have a right to know they are sleeping with men?

Don Lemon, an African-American male Emmy award-winning news anchor for CNN, recently disclosed on CNN and in his new book, Transparent, that he is gay. He also promulgated that he had been molested as a young child. Although there are many narratives available about men being molested as children and living a homosexual life as adults, what I appreciated most about Don Lemon publically divulging that he is gay is how casual he revealed it and how it’s not such a big deal to him. The comfortable way in which Lemon communicated that he is gay has the potential to unsettle some aspects of the ways in which homosexuality is discussed in the Black community. His verbal and non-verbal communication expressed a powerful message that what he was publically unveiling about his sexuality and sexual orientation is just as common as heterosexuality, and that homosexuality is not something novel, considering you know people who are family members and friends who are gay—if you are not gay yourself.

He considered all of the other aspects of his book to be far more important than the fact that he is gay. He even talked about the fact that he could have taken out revealing that he was gay at any point, but it was recent developments concerning young people and homosexuality that caused him to leave his story about his own sexual abuse and gay identity in the book. You will, therefore, have to give me some stronger arguments and rationales that he just penned this book to publicly disclose that he’s gay to get money.  Even though he didn’t just compose this book to express that he’s gay to get money and/or attention, do you have the courage to do the same?

Speaking of courage, it’s the lack of courage that prevents gay Black men from telling their family, friends, and others that they are gay. While I’m fully aware that there are consequences for promulgating that you are gay to your family, friends, and others, you must remove the veil that you put on about your sexuality if you truly want to be a transparent person at your core. The target audience for my previous two sentences is really those Black men who are involved in relationships with women just to cover up their homosexuality. If you are accomplished and/or successful like Don Lemon, what would keep you from living a life where you are free to enjoy the freedom to live out your sexuality as publically as you live out other aspects about who you are?

Many Black married men are having sex with gay men and are not telling their wives. This lack of transparency threatens the lives of these women. It’s unfair to hide your homosexual affairs from the woman you are married to because she didn’t marry you for you to be loving up on some other man.

I find it quite interesting that supposedly heterosexual men will have sex with gay men and do things after they have sex to try to prove to the gay men that they are not gay. What? Really? Were you not gay when you were having sex with the gay men? You’re gay—face it! If you have sexual intercourse where you penetrate a man in his anus and/or you let a man penetrate you in the anus, you are gay. If you gave and/or received oral sex from a man, you are gay. If you have had sexual intercourse of any kind with a man, you are gay. If you are thinking about doing these things, then you are gay too. Face it!

Stop using these women as trophies to attempt to hide your homosexuality. If you want to be a homosexual, just be a homosexual. No, you don’t have to reveal your sexuality to everyone, but you should disclose it to the women you are involved with, married to, or considering getting involved with or marrying. Do you have the courage to tell them?

If you are transparent with the right people in your life about your sexuality, then you might just find out life is more free and enjoyable. Before just recently, Don Lemon had not told the world that he is gay, but he had let his co-workers and the people close to him know that he is gay. While you may not be gay, are there other aspects about you that you don’t have the courage to unveil to the people close to you? What factors, if any, keep you from living a more transparent life?

To Don Lemon, I salute you for having the courage to “be yourself.” I have been championing the message of “be yourself” all of my life. Don, you have given America an opportunity to wrestle with the importance of being transparent and have given us an opportunity to explore what being transparent really means. Thank you, Don Lemon!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Put Praise in Its Proper Context to Avoid Delusions

When people are not accustomed to receiving praise, they can become prime candidates to allow praise to fool them into “acting brand new.” Okay, a person can be excused for “acting brand new” for as long as two weeks, but any longer than that he or she starts to drift into a delusional state. Let’s admit it—we all love praise. Praise makes us all feel good and gives us assurance that we’re doing something right. There’s nothing wrong with embracing, receiving, and enjoying praise. However, don’t let praise change who you are. Don’t let praise fool you!

Now, just because a small group of people have told you that you do something well, and you have never received any larger praise from outside of this small group about what they claim you do well, then you certainly shouldn’t let what they say go to your head. You don’t become an expert or a star in a certain area just because a small group of people give you high praise. Sorry to tell you. The initial praise you receive for something should cause you to work passionately on ameliorating and progressing in this area. You should not think that a small amount of praise you get should ascend you to stardom.

Unfortunately, some people will take praise from a small group of people and become super arrogant and actually fool themselves that they are even greater than the praise they received. Stop for one moment. Think about the people who gave you the praise. Look at them. What are their qualifications to give you praise in the area they did? Are there any discernable motivations for granting the praise that is really not about the praise, but more about serving their own selfish interests? Before you go ahead and act like you are great in the area you received high praise in, you should at least wait until you have gained praise from a much large number of people. This piece is not trying to argue that you need to seek other people’s approval, but if you have truly mastered something, you will earn more praise than from a small group of people.

Some people will take praise from a small group of people and start living a lifestyle that they know is not true—they just know that the small group of people they hang around will continue to feed into this false lifestyle by continuing to validate them with praise.

When you know you have much more things to work on in the area that you are praised in, don’t let praise keep you from improving in this area. Just because you have never been the center of attention before, and you finally meet a small group of people who give you high praise, don’t think that this high praise you get represents truth. Praise is not always truth. Praise is often encouragement, encouragement for you to keep trying, improving, and progressing.

People with low self-esteem will hide behind the high praise of a small group of people and will never want to encounter a larger group of people to be examined by it. Some people know that the high praise that they are receiving from a small group of people is not true, but they still keep acting like it’s not true. Is this the type of praise you need to continue to endure life? Hope not. This type of praise can cause you to live a lie. Praise that is not grounded in truth will not benefit you in the end.

Praise is good when you know what to do with it. Although you may be receiving praise from a small group of people or even a large number of people, you need to link that praise to an internal truth. If you know that the praise people are giving you is not true, work on improving in this area. Don’t fake it until you make it. Faking it until you make it is living a lie–that’s not truly being yourself!

Using praise from a small group of people to create a false reality about yourself is not simply “acting brand new,” it means you are consumed with delusions—a psychological illness. Don’t rush praise into something that it’s not.

Some people will take praise from a small group of people and think they are better than everybody else. For those who intentionally do this, may God help you soon—you are simply delusional. Don’t let people and praise fool you. Know thyself. Be thyself .

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison