An Honest Review: “The Voice Of Knowledge” by Don Miguel Ruiz

I caved. I’ll admit it.

I finally read the infamous series I heard so much about.

My family told me to read it, every lifestyle blogger alive told me to read it, my dog told me to read it, even my my neighbor yelled over the fence, “You have to read this book!!”

I may be exaggerating a bit- but the point is, I heard a lot about the series before I finally picked it up for myself. For some reason, my very stubborn personality works in strange ways. Sometimes the more I hear about a book, the less I want to read it.

Despite this, the main reason I was so reluctant to read it was because it’s common for the reputation to precede books in this genre, and I couldn’t help but convince myself that this would be the case.

When I got stuck on a five hour flight I decided I would give it a chance, and to my surprise I couldn’t put it down. I was pleased to discover that The Voice Of Knowledge lives up to all of the praise.

After reading it thoroughly, I felt enlightened and refreshed with a more positive perspective on life. On some days when I’m feeling particularly stressed or negative, I find myself reaching for the book again.

Reading The Voice Of Knowledge took me on a walk down memory lane, reminiscing over the joy I experienced as a child before I let the the opinions of others affect my self image.

Any young adult will thoroughly enjoy this book because I’m sure we can all relate to Don Miguel Ruiz’s experiences growing up in a fast paced world. As he mentions in the first book of the series, so many of us let the opinions of others define our worth.

At one point Ruiz remarks that you must read his book multiple times in order to catch some of the details you missed the first time, and this definitely holds true. Depending on what your current situation is, you can apply lessons learned in the book to your own life.

Ruiz’s work in The Voice Of Knowledge stands out to me for his ability to take such a complex topic, finding inner peace, and breaking it down into a way that any reader can understand. Ruiz draws inspiration from toltec wisdom and applies it to the modern world.

There is a certain simplicity to the book that makes the message even more powerful. Ruiz stands by the “one simple truth”, inspiring readers to stay their most authentic selves. Ruiz motivates readers by telling them to take control of their own happiness again and embrace every little thing that makes them different.

Anyone who reads the first book of this series will take away so much knowledge, and get a step closer to a peaceful mind.

Now if you haven’t read the book yet- I’m adding myself to the list of people who recommend it.

xx

Thank you for reading as always. Have you read any of Ruiz’s work? Let me know in the comments!

Using Poetry To Discuss Mental Illness

Today I’m returning to a more personal topic, or what I originally began this blog for: understanding and recovering from mental illness.

Too many of us shy away from the topic in fear that we won’t attract as many readers, however we should all learn to make it a priority. After all, one of the best ways to provide support for others online is to discuss mental illness and raise awareness. I wanted to take the time to share an outlet of expression I use as a writer that may help other people.

After I experiencing episodes of depersonalization, a side effect of anxiety, I found it difficult to describe how I was feeling. Writing helped me stay in touch with my emotions, even when I felt disconnected from myself.

I wrote the poem “Blue” to describe what it feels like to lose yourself due to uncontrollable forces.

As somber as the poem is, it was the only way I could put what I was going through into words. I know that others reading it will have their own opinions; but at the end of the day it’s honest and true to my experiences, and that’s always how writing should be. Being able to describe my feelings through writing is always therapeutic.

I didn’t know what depersonalization was at the time because I never knew that there was a term to describe it, nor do I hear it discussed nearly as often as the other symptoms are. At the time it helped me pinpoint what the true source of my worries was.

Not only is writing my feelings out a process of catharsis, but it helped me realize that what I was going through was more serious than I thought at the time. It encouraged me to find an explanation to the distressing periods of depersonalization I endured. This realization ultimately became the reason I was able to combat that feeling of helplessness and take control of myself again.

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, and naturally the changes in the poetry I write reflect that changes I go through in my life.

It took me a long time to decide whether or not I should share it before posting it online about a month ago. I feared that no one would relate to where I was coming from. It can be terrifying to post work, especially personal posts like this, because there is that fear in that back of your mind that you’ll be misunderstood. But sometimes it is necessary to let go of that fear.

To my surprise, I received feedback from various people who said they experienced the same feelings before. In fact, the more I found other writers, the more pieces I found that I truly resonated with. Writing proved to be a common outlet of expression for so many people.

Writing isn’t the only form of art that can be very effective in portraying and educating about mental illness. Take music, song writing, painting and many other forms of art for example- they are outlets in which people can express themselves better than they can through a typical conversation.

xx

Thank you for reading as always.

Staying Authentic as a New Writer

Sometimes when I read through my own unpublished writing I look back and think, “That doesn’t even sound like me.

That’s because my voice as a new writer wasn’t entirely mine. It’s so clear to me that in the process of writing some of my older, unpublished pieces that I was holding back from stating my truth. I focused too heavily on the opinions of others that made me doubt myself and it showed in my work. I lost my voice.

I like to think of myself as confident when it comes to my blogging. I strive to encourage honesty and vulnerability. I highly emphasize the importance of authenticity in everyday life, especially when it comes to mental health. I learned the importance of staying truthful because there are people out there who will not only relate to my story, but need to hear it.

That is a responsibility every writer holds whether we’re writing a best seller or a post online. If we share our work and we don’t stand behind our message, then we lose our integrity. We can not expect readers to believe in our message if it doesn’t even hold true to ourselves.

This loss of authenticity in anyone’s writing can be attributed to a few factors, but my main focus will be discussing how the pressure to create perfect and ‘acceptable’ work actually took away my authenticity.

I like to compare this to voices in a crowded room, similar to a writer in a world full of opinions. When the voices around you become too loud, yours is dulled down. When you allow the opinions of others to dictate yours, your writing becomes weak.

You might be wondering, what does that have to do with keeping my authenticity? Surely I can rise above the voices if i’m loud enough; of course other opinions don’t have to influence mine.

However when I was first introduced to blogging and the idea of sharing my work publicly, my mindset shifted. Comparing my own experiences to others made me seriously doubt myself.

I’m going to pause for a moment and rewind to writing as a child. Writing as a child, we write purposely for our own enjoyment. We write our most authentic ideas in this time, creating bizarre characters and stories with no doubt in our minds. We are proud of our work and we feel such a great sense of ease. Because we aren’t writing to please others; we don’t feel the pressures of our work being edited and reviewed. We write as children as a tool to express ourselves, so of course we’re proud of our work. It doesn’t matter whether it’s perfect or not. Because it’s our own.

This changes as we grow up and learn that our work isn’t always as flawless as we thought. The value of our work is defined by the grades we earn. We begin writing essays and discover that what we want to talk about is not always acceptable. We take our first creative writing classes and we’re told that our work isn’t interesting enough. We grow up reading all of these prestigious authors and we realize that we have a long way to come before we’re ever as accomplished as them. We show our friends and families are work, and once we’re old enough, we discover that not everyone likes our work. Those are the voices. When we want to be accepted as a writer, they start to influence us every time we sit down to write.

Eventually the biggest critic is no longer those outside voices. It is ourselves.

In my case, I internalized these voices and it affected the way I approached things when I first started to share my work publicly. Rather than appreciating the fact that my experience was different than others, I thought that I had to put up a better image in order to seem appealing to my readers. So, I didn’t share the work I used to be so eager too. I tried writing in a completely different style, which didn’t work out for me.

When I first started The Journey on WordPress, I found so many blogs with talented writers. I convinced myself that I could never amount to them. I told myself, “I’m too young! I don’t have enough credentials. I can’t write in the same style that them. How can I compare?” Instead of considering what I do have to offer as a writer, I focused on all of the things I did not. As a new writer, it became so tempting to follow those voices. I started to doubt my own story. I grew worried that people would not relate to the stories I had to share, or find them acceptable, so I held back from publishing them.

It took some time for me to realize that I don’t want to be perfect on my blog, nor do I to be perfect to be a better writer. I don’t have to prove myself, or criticize myself down to the core.

Because to be authentic isn’t to be perfect. It’s to be real. After all, how can anyone write about growth and learning if we don’t share share the lessons we learned for ourselves? I’m not afraid to share my own experiences, imperfections and all, if it means helping someone else in any way.

xx

Thank you for reading. Be sure to comment below if you have any additional thoughts, or have any posts to share.

Changing The Way You Define Happiness

What does it mean for you to be happy?

For many of us, happiness is something we chase every day of our lives. Our own definitions of happiness are described by a list of achievements and assets we desire to call our own, and even after we reach these goals, the list seems to reach beyond infinity.

It means having the ideal body, obtained by endless hours of pushing ourselves to the limit in the gym, followed by scrutinizing our bodies in the mirror until we find something new to ‘fix’.

It means creating the perfect facade in our online profiles to convince our family and friends that we are living our absolute best lives. Sometimes we do this by posting pictures from last years spring break with the biggest smiles on our faces, or by flaunting how insanely in love we are with our significant other.

It means landing our dream jobs, often because they have higher salaries, and the feeling we get when we can finally say “Look, I made it!”.

We tell ourselves that it will not hurt to chase these goals and successes, certain that once we reach the next step we will finally be happy and content with ourselves. Just one more pound, just one more time, just one more day spent doing something we don’t want to do in hopes of creating a better future. Certainly there’s nothing wrong with pursuing any of these goals- in fact, a great sense of pride can be accomplished in working towards a better version of ourselves. This drive to better ourselves is what we need to keep ourselves moving.

The problem is that in constantly finding things to change about ourselves, our definition of happiness becomes perfection. By thinking that what we have in the moment is never enough, we are condition ourselves to think that we can never be happy in the present moment.

This is when it becomes necessary to draw the line between maintaining a healthy amount of motivation and chasing an unrealistic state of perfection. Because obsession with the distant future plants a seed in our mind that is difficult to uproot. It leaves us in a constant state of unease, trapped by the belief that we can never be happy by simply loving ourselves and our lives for the way we are now.

Sometimes it takes stepping back and assessing our current situation to realize what is worth pursuing, and why exactly we want to pursue these goals. Are we seeking change because of an intrinsic motives, or extrinsic motives? In other words, is it because it will bring us joy- or because we are seeking validation from others? Once we identify the true reasons we want to change, we can determine whether or not it will provide us with long lasting happiness.

The best way to find happiness is to stop associating it with perfection, and start associating it with peace of mind. The peace of mind that comes from knowing that it is okay for each of us to move at our own pace and choose the paths in life that we wish to take. Is is not until we learn to accept ourselves and our current condition, flaws and all, that we can finally be happy.

Good Things Takes Time

A reminder for anyone going through the process of recovery.

“People are always telling me that things will get better soon,” He said. “But I’m tired of waiting for change.”

That day, my friend confided in me that he had not been happy for a long time. He was growing impatient in watching others living their lives and making progress while he remained stuck in the same, endless cycle of self-doubt. Because no matter how hard he tried, he said, things just weren’t getting better. He thought that after he finally got past the hardship he had faced that it would be over. Yet the process of recovering itself proved to be much more difficult.

I know that feeling. Finally reaching a finish line, making it to the top of the mountain, only to find that there is still another mile left in the race. While I wish I had a simple answer for my friend that day, there is no simple solution. The advice I wish I could have given that day is something that you must take with a grain of salt. But the truth is, for anyone on the journey to recovery, it that you aren’t going to heal in a day.

Because healing isn’t always waking up and feeling the sun on your skin. It isn’t always a quick or simple process like we want it to be.

Sometimes healing is putting down the phone for the last time and accepting that you shouldn’t let that person back in, no matter how much the memories are pulling you back. Sometimes healing is pushing yourself to open the curtains and face the world despite the people who tell you that you aren’t good enough. Sometimes it is that aching feeling in our chest, the waves of uncertainty when we take a leap of faith.

Rather than feeling intimidated by this, you need to think of healing as growing pains. To truly adapt and learn from your past, you will need to make changes and learn. We must to let ourselves grow out of the pain from the past and close old wounds if we ever want to move on. Healing, similar to fighting, takes strength. It means having to push through that last mile no matter how much you want to turn back. As soon as you finally cross that line and reach the top, you will realize that it was worth it all along.

It might not happen in a week, or even a few months, and maybe you won’t be able to see how much you have truly grown because you are too busy working on yourself. Just don’t discredit yourself for not being able to see this in the mirror right away. Because good things take time, and can show up where we least expect it to.

If I could go back to that conversation I had that day, there is one last piece of advice I would give. Because of of all of the things I am uncertain of, there is one thing that always holds true when it comes to healing.

I can promise you that one day, you will find yourself smiling once again because you’re finally living without the weight of the past holding you down. Because all of those promises you made to yourself will become a garden, a symbol of the growth you have made during the process of moving on. You will no longer feel the need to bury the past away, because it is there in that garden, a reflection of the strength you had in you all along.

And although it takes work, there is no better feeling than taking the challenges life as handed you and turning it into something beautiful.

xx



5 Warning Signs of a Manipulative Friend

No friendship is perfect. It’s unavoidable to encounter challenges in any relationship, even with the friends whom we feel closest to. Yet in the long run, our best friends should be the people we can trust and feel comfortable with.

When we share history with someone, we tend to overlook things they do that don’t feel right. This feeling of unease settles in us and we continue to ignore it because we’re convinced that our friendship can endure anything. We make excuses for toxic friends, telling ourselves that things will get better. Do they though? In the case of toxic friendships, we are led to believe that someone who is manipulating us is truly on our side. There is a point where you must admit that someone is not as genuine as you once thought they were, and decide how to salvage your friendship or if it is worth saving at all.

It is bittersweet to admit that you must let go of someone, but it is important to know that a manipulative friend isn’t what they pretend to be. Friendships with toxic people are one sided, and staying in these relationships becomes detrimental to your own mental health. If you feel that someone is repeatedly making you feel anxious, exhausted, or stressed, it’s vital to take a closer look at the situation and identify the signs that you may be in a toxic friendship. Some of these may appear to be clear signs, but are often masked underneath lies that manipulators tell. These behaviors may be subtle at first, but persist over time and take a toll on your own happiness.

Before reading, remember that manipulators are experts at hiding these behaviors behind lies. Sometimes, they may even place the blame on you.

1. They Are Overly Controlling or Protective

For many of us, friends are some of the first people we go to for advice. Whether we need someone to talk to about a new career move, a change taking place, or our personal relationships, we can always trust a close friend to be honest with us. However, toxic friends tend to cross the line between caring and controlling. Initially we may perceive this controlling behavior as them being invested in the friendship.

But over time, they will become too controlling and demanding when it comes to your personal life. It is common for a toxic friend to become too involved with your personal life. You may notice them trying to get passwords for your accounts. You might also notice that they need to know details about everyone you talk to. While it is completely normal for a friend to give welcomed, honest advice, it is never healthy for a them to overstep boundaries. A genuine friend will gladly help you make decisions, but will never forcefully make those choices for you. They will allow you to be an independent person, without making you feel poorly about it.

2. They Take Advantage of Your Generosity

A toxic friend will often trick you into providing for them. For money, food, clothes, or any other items that they may ask for.

Toxic friends will make you feel guilty for not giving in to their pleas. They will commonly make an excuses such as “I promise, this will be the last time I ask.” Or say something convincing alone the lines of, “But you’re my friend. Friends are supposed to help each other.” Another typical response is for them to turn the tables on you. If you deny their requests, they could respond with “But I would do this for you”, as another tactic to make you feel empathy for them. It goes without saying- someone who takes advantage of your kindness or generosity is not a true friend.

While stuck in a toxic friendship of my own, I remember my friend constantly scolding me when I did not help them pay for their food. They did not have a job at the time, and knew that I had been working and saving up my money for a long time. So whenever they asked me for some help and I declined their request, they would remind me that I had more saved and that I had a consistent flow on money. Over time I began to believe them, and it took a long time for me to realize that they were make me feel guilty the whole time. While I am always glad to help out a friend, I had to remind myself that it is not my responsibility to provide everything for them.

3. They Disappear When You Need Help For Once

As mentioned previously, these manipulators always seem to be around when they need something from others. They will suddenly start conversations with you or compliment you to lead you to believe they care. But the instant you need a small favor or emotional support in return, they vanish.

You try reaching out to them, but are met with no response. This happens too often to be a coincidence. These friends will continue to bombard you with details about their life asking for support, but lack any empathy when you need a helping hand. They might apologize, but it’s always very insincere. Friendships aren’t about what you get in return. But when a friendship becomes completely one-sided, it’s important to acknowledge that you may be the only one putting in effort.

4. They are Competitive- And They Don’t Like to See You Succeed 

A toxic friend will become bitter if they see you doing well and constantly try to one-up your achievements. They may go about this in subtle ways. Many times it begins with small remarks. They may be lighthearted jokes at first, until their remarks become more and more serious. For example, they might try to downplay your achievements, while constantly drawing attention to their own. When you share something that you are proud of they may ignore your messages, or compare it to one of their own, making you feel like what you did was not an accomplishment.

Toxic friends don’t want to see you doing well, especially if it makes them feel insecure about themselves.

5. You’re Always the One at Fault

You find yourself falling into arguments with this kind of person more often than notThey aren’t playful arguments, nor are they civil discussions about your differences., either. A toxic person always seems to place the blame on you, even for things that are simply out of your control. These people are not capable of admitting then they are at fault for their own mistakes, and as a result they will continuously blame others for their unhappiness.

So, what can you do if you are in a toxic relationship?

The people we share our lives with affect us much more than we think. If someone consistently brings negativity into your life, it’s time to ask yourself the question: should I let go of this friendship?

It’s never easy to exit a friendship, especially when you have created so many memories with someone. However, it’s necessary to draw the line when a friendship begins to hinder your well being. If you sense that a friendship is beginning to cause you more stress than relief you may need to take some time to think about the situation.

It may be wise to confront the friend about the issue and have an honest conversation before jumping to any conclusions. But if this person continues to repeat the same toxic behaviors, you may need to take time away from them or end the friendship entirely.

At the end of the day it is key that we surround ourselves with positive, supportive friends. Friendships are about sharing life with the people who lift you up, not those who drag you down. If it becomes clear that someone is toxic to you, do not let them convince you other wise. Sometimes we must break ties with someone before the relationship takes more energy than it is worth. There’s no reason to feel guilty for taking time off from the things that cause our unhappiness.

Learning to Trust Yourself

From a young age we become accustomed to chasing recognition and approval- whether that may be from our classmates or our teachers. It’s not always easy to catch this habit. We rely on others in many forms. Sometimes, it’s asking someone whether or not you should post a photo. Other times it’s something much more serious, such as making a major career change. It happens slowly but surely, and soon enough we rely on the advice of others more than we trust ourselves. In the worst cases, can not even distinguish our true desires with our need to please others.

As comforting as it may be to always take the advice of others, there is a point where we must draw the line. Where we must take actions for ourselves and only ourselves; to make decisions without seeking validation from others. How does this all come back to trusting ourselves? When we make a habit of looking towards others for the green light we begin to feel as though our decisions must always be cleared by others.

Often times we ask our friends what we should wear to an event, or if we should apply to a job, or if they think we are making the right choice… the list goes on and on. Sometimes we need advice to assist us, go provide us with a solution, and sometimes advice from the people we trust can save our lives. This advice can be beneficial and lead us down great paths. Other times, though, we find ourselves asking advice because we want to hear someone to say that we are making the right decision. Although deep down we know that we want to make the choice that we are asking advice on. We are simply seeking validation.

The major problem with constantly seeking the opinions of others is that no one you ask is you. No matter how much you trust someone, their advice will not always fit you. The best compass we can find is in ourselves, guided by what will make us happy and what we feel is right.

What we must learn is that ultimately, no one has the same desires as us, goals as us, or the experience that we have had in life. Even if someone truly believes that they are giving amazing advice to us, it is coming from someone with a different perspective that will not always suit us. When we ask for someone’s advice on a major life decision, we are allowing someone to determine if we are capable of pursuing a goal or not. We must first have faith in ourselves that we know our own strengths, weaknesses, and above all what we want in life. Yet we still place what others say over what we already know.

If we everwish to trust ourselves we must place the value of our own opinions above anyone else. Learning how to make decisions entirely based on ourselves and our personal insight, we give ourselves the power to live with the mentality that we can trust ourselves and live confidently with the choices we make.