The High Standard Dilemma: Part 1

Over the years, women all around the world, especially those sisters in church, have been encouraged by friends, ministers, public figures and people of influence (usually happily married or unhappily divorced), to keep their standards of self and the requirements for a ‘good enough’ bae high. Very high! It sounds a lot like this:

“Men are chasers. You can’t make it easy for them. You have to give them something to pursue”,“Be a woman of value”, or “Keep your standards high so he will have something to aspire to.”

However, many women who have attempted to establish these high standards in their dating lives have quickly found out the reality of those standards… Ain’t no reasonable man be trying to slide up in their dms EVER! These women now face a new dilemma – stiff criticism from the same men, friends and whoever else telling them flatly – Your standards are way too high! It sounds like this:

“You’re intimidating men”, “You come across too high-maintenance”, “You will never find a man that meets all the points on your checklist”, “Don’t ask about his convictions on sex-before-marriage on the first date, you’ll scare him off!”, “Ever thought about maybe lowering your standards alittle?”

Oh, the irony!

So what is a self-respecting, purpose- driven, ‘don’t want no mess in my life but really would love a good relationship’ kind-of woman supposed to do? What is she to make of this apparent lose-lose predicament of having high standards for potential boyfriends but no real prospects willing to take her on?

She says: High standards only work for some women but it won’t work for me.
Some women have given up completely on this notion of standards, let alone high standards, convinced that the era of noble gentlemen has long passed with the idyllic fields of Jane Austen novels.

She says: Since the situation is hopeless, the least I can do is have alittle fun, right?
The result is women having subconsciously surrendered themselves to the depths of settling, willing to aggressively capture their career but passively allow the next cute guy that smiles at them to get some goodies*.
(Goodies could mean sex or the emotional benefits of a relationship without actually being in one.)

She says: This is the real world. 21st century men are only looking to have a good time at the expense of my heart and resources while nimbly dodging the slightest hint of ‘commitment’.
The prospects for marriage have become so ‘grim’ that more and more women are investing in freezing their eggs and checking out donor clinics as an act of preserving any opportunity to have children if they are not wed or in serious relationship by the age of 35. Others make sure to have their trustee sex toys near to hand, to relieve themselves when there is no lover who can. Many beat themselves up emotionally, gorging on so-called self-help and quack ‘3 steps to get a man’ advice columns that tend to suggest the onus is largely on the woman to make herself into a real life, sexually experimental, male-fantasy in hopes of getting the relationship she wants because everyone knows that if you don’t want to have sex with yourself then no one else will want to either!  *eyes rolling*

I hear you ladies. It is tough out-in-these-single-streets but maybe I can offer another perspective on those standards. Before you order a new ‘personal toy’, give over to a life of meaningless-flings or a reckless ‘rat-boxy’, hear me out.

High standards won’t get you a man! Period! Yea, I  said it!

If they did, more of us would be booed-up by now. No matter how ‘noble’ they are, if your standards are not your convictions (the things you personally feel strongly about) then there is no-way you or anyone else will take those standards seriously. High standards are important but they are a means to an end. The end is the woman who carries herself as a standard bearer for what she believes in and is willing to safe-guard her heart at all costs. Which, when we think about it, is much more significant. The purpose of a standard is not to be the bait on the end of a fishing line, helping you hook a man. Rather, a good standard will help you establish your own worth to yourself and others; i.e. less for drawing him in and more for setting you apart. Seeing yourself as valuable can determine what kind of situations (or misters) you allow into your heart and that puts the ball squarely in your court for choosing who can approach you.

Didn’t see that one coming right? Neither did I.

When I was growing up, my Mathematics lessons teacher often gave life lessons in the middle of class. It was a welcomed break from the rigors of trigonometry but this time he got caught on a tangent that literally stuck with me to this day.

“Young ladies, guard your hearts.”

Ofcourse, his mini lecture carried more details but that one sentence branded me. I had never heard that before.  A part of me always felt that that was a man’s job. I mean, that’s what fairy tales propagated anyway. “Man is the protector,” isn’t that what society says? So why was he telling me to guard my own heart?

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)

Oh… right!

Contrary to popular belief, your heart is your business. No one else. The only person more interested in your heart than you, is God. This is because our hearts hold ideas, opinions, emotions and free will. From our hearts we act out how we feel about ourselves, people, and the world around us. And what we do, says alot about what we got going on in our hearts. So if you think there is no hope for you romantically, then that’s exactly how you will act and that’s exactly the kind of bitter results you will get. It’s only when I got older that I truly understood how important it is for a woman (and men) to actively guard her heart like her quality of life depended on it; because in a lot of ways, it does!

A big part of guarding your heart is addressing what is already in it. Some people call this soul-searching or heart-checking, which is the process one takes to unpack and examine the things that are currently stumbling blocks or cornerstones in the walls of their heart. Investing time to gain clarity about why we function the way we do and then experience real healing from the wounds in our past can assist in laying a stable foundation for Love to rest on.

Have you ever asked yourself any of these questions:
What is my concept of love and relationship and where did I get it from?
Why do I want a relationship?
Do I even know what I want out of a relationship?
Do I possess the qualities I value most?
Am I emotionally, mentally and physically ready to engage in a romantic relationship? Why yes or why no?
Is it a relationship that I want or is it a better me that I want?

If not, definitely take the time to do so! This is not an exhaustive list and the questions can touch ever aspect of life to ensure a better grasp of self. I’d encourage you to seek out a good counselor who can help you through this exercise.

Starting with YOU is a good way to identify what really matters and what you feel most strongly about. Once you come to a place where you are clear and comfortable with who you are and what you want, then the option to settle will drift into the background. Your standards will become a part of you.

Being honest with yourself first allows you to be authentic in the presence of others without feeling like you have to hide or change to capture his heart. A happy, balanced ‘you’ is IMPORTANT and beautiful. If his eyes can’t see that, then keep moving.

Acting out in frustration is one way to deal with the dilemma but you do have choices. One is the chance to improve your concept of ‘you’ from a holistic perspective. You won’t guard what you don’t think is important and maybe that is why so many of us ladies have allowed despair to set in and skew our idea of relationships and men.We have lost sight of how valuable we actually are.

I know we all would love to find the perfect guy but he really doesn’t exist pass the ink on our checklist. We’ve gone as far as trying to make a guy into what we want or putting up with who he is because we see potential. Both of those attempts are futile! But the good news is that you can receive a different result if you pay attention to one variable… YOU! Before you drop the standard, try being the standard for your own sake. #JCMD

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Picture it.

Does any one remember that scene in Runaway Bride when Coach Bob, Maggie’s fiance is trying to help her overcome her ‘flight response’ by using sports psychology? It’s a comical scene when Coach Bob practically carries Maggie down the isle; holding her like a puppeteer and telling her to visualize herself as the football traveling through the air towards the end zone. Geez… talk about speaking your own love language! It worked though. A few footsteps later while repeating a rehearsed mantra, Maggie, played by Julia Roberts, made it down that isle on her own alright! But walked into the arms of New York journalist Ike Graham, played by the ever-charming Richard Gere. Maybe Coach Bob should have been more careful of what he asked her to visualize. Tee hee.

Visualization is creating a mental picture of something. Jennifer Baumgartner Psy.D. from Psychology Today puts it a slightly different way:

Visualization is a cognitive tool accessing imagination to realize all aspects of an object, action or outcome. This may include recreating a mental sensory experience of sound, sight, smell, taste, and touch.

We visualize all the time. That moment he proposes to your favourite song and you scream ‘yes’ or sinking that ball into the net for the winning goal with the roar of a crowd cheering you on… all of that is visualizing. Apparently, this same visualization can have profound effects on our fears and traumatic memories. The process of painting a mental picture where we are overcoming the fear, pain, issue or obstacle can help us actualize those same positive results in our real lives.

I remember the very first time someone told me to visualize (insert creepy psychiatrist voice). I was preparing to go and speak with someone and was completely petrified at the thought of yet another session where I would be misunderstood. I did not like being misunderstood especially when I was honestly baring my heart. My stepmother was the one receiving an ear-full of my whining but after a while, she stopped me and gave me the best advice.

“Visualize how you want this meeting to go. Write down the things you want to say and imagine yourself saying them with clarity and confidence. See yourself being understood and coming out of that meeting feeling confident and with a clear conscience.”

I’m paraphrasing here ofcourse. I’m sure she said something like this. Immediately, I took her at her word and was diligent about visualizing the outcome I wanted to see by the end of the meeting. I visualized the entire time I walked over to the office and by Jove…it worked! I wasn’t a nervous shaky mess, ‘too afraid to be honest because of what this person might say to me’ person. I felt confident, brave and cock-sure that today was going to be a great meeting. The events of that meeting played out almost exactly as I had visualized. And that’s when I became a believer!

I still use visualization to this day as a way to help me plan positive responses to situations I may carry some feelings of negativity or anxiety toward… and trust me, I got a few! Managing your responses, or better still, planning your positive responses, helps you to lessen or avoid all together, the chances of re-occurring realities. What I mean by that is the ‘I hate feeling this way’ guilt- trip we experience after we react the way we always do. Especially when we desperately desire to change that reaction. If we want to change our reactions, we can visualize a new reality where a positive response takes place by giving our brains a new scheme or story to role play in. The more we visualize positively, the more likely that response is what we will manifest.

It doesn’t take an neurologist to know our brain is a beautiful organ capable of some awesome things including patterns. We learn through repetition of any action or thought and it etches a pattern that the brain saves, allowing us to do things on a switched-on auto-pilot. For example, the order in which we clean body parts in the shower. The good news is that the brain can re-learn and change patterns, even after years of the original pattern being established. Which means that regardless of age, a healthy brain can remain teachable. However, none of that is possible without some work, work, work, work work, WORK! See what I did there. Changing any pattern requires an intentional decision to do something different until it sticks and one good activity to try is visualization.

Mentally practice a positive response – that’s what visualization means for me. Practice being the operative word here; meaning more than once. If an interesting thought crosses my mind, I don’t just let it go by. I capture it and ask myself ‘Danie…how would you respond if this actually happened’. From there, I begin to develop the likely positive responses I could have in that particular situation.

Get the jump on potentially uncomfortable situations by visualizing things like your happy response when bumping into your ex and their soon-to-be-spouse in the supermarket. Or having to stand up for yourself the next time a co-worker tries to humiliate you infront of your boss. Or even overcoming the urge to run every time you are asked to speak to a room full of people or say a prayer over the microphone. The more positive thoughts we construct, the more positive responses we are likely to give from jump-street.

If you don’t know where to start, there are tons of great resources online and or you can find a good counselor to help you practice in a safe space. It helped me and maybe it can help you. #JCMD

A Lottabody Tale

Ok… Lottabody’s recent upload of a new campaign video #alottalove is perfectly romantic in every way. The documentary style social experiment captures the vlog entries of five to seven women sharing their thoughts and expectations on kissing a complete stranger for the first time. Between the music score, varied depictions of natural hair types, beautiful women and extremely GAWGUS men, it’s no wonder by the end of watching it, we feel all warm (hot rather) and fuzzy on the inside. Our hearts left to ponder on whether we would be so bold as to participate in such a publicly ‘intimate’ commercial.

Click to watch:  Kiss A Stranger – #alottalove

An interesting spin indeed for a hair product line and naturally it begs the question ‘why’? Why use this social experiment to sell their product and it’s not even Valentine’s Day? The end of the video answers that question but to be honest, I am not sold on the answer.

“Hair & Kisses have one thing in common… They’re unforgettable when done right.”

Can you hear my mind stretching to correlate these two things? Is it suggesting that much like falling in love at first sight (or first kiss in this case), we too will fall blissfully in love at our first experience with Lottabody products? That’s one hell of a sales pitch if you ask me. But why would that pitch subconsciously motivate me to buy and use their product? Let’s take a closer look to see.

Disclaimer: This commentary in no way seeks to defame the Lottabody natural hair product line. I have very little experience with Lottabody myself, but some of my besties swear by it. Therefore, I can count on Lottabody being an excellent product that naturals should try. However, what is under close examination is the concept and messaging behind their new commercial. Frankly, I’m no expert at advertising psycho-analysis but what could offering my own opinion hurt?

Set and Match!
The fact that each couple looks perfectly matched, even in height, suggests the makers of this video took the time profile the candidates and pair them with likely partners. From the jump, everyone looks like a couple and that immediately reads well on camera. The attraction is immediate and the sparks fly. If we look hard enough, we can already see how cute their kids would be if they ever procreate. Not much was left to chance there. However, the likelihood of our day-to-day interactions beginning with a near perfect match without Match.com is rather slim for us, I’d say. Sorry about the rain on that parade.

Sexy sells and first impressions count!
We all love to see good-looking people with other good-looking people in a good-looking relationship to make us feel hopeful about our ‘not so good-looking’ prospects (#relationshipgoals). Each lady is nicely slaying for a good first impression and ofcourse the focus of their makeover, their lovely tresses, was styled by a knowledgeable and tentative Lottabody hairstylist. Girls y’all know we dish like crazy when we sit in that salon chair! Not to be overlooked is the level of ‘rip-ness’ each male has. I mean, in terms of female fantasy, those men score full 10s on the ‘baby got body’ score-card. This video does carry quite a few saucy bits as eye-candy for the ladies watching on. Who wouldn’t want to be kissed by a gorgeous, well-dressed gentlemen bursting with muscles and personality?

Black Love sells too.
I can only assume that while Lottabody is showing the wide range of hair types their products facilitate, they are also endorsing the male-female love relationships between the many complexions of Black people. I can’t argue with that. It is a beautiful example.

Finding True Love sells EVEN MORE!
After the awkwardness, the couples politely jump right into the good stuff. Some cute peaks are exchanged and also longer ones. Giggles and laughter ensue… everyone passes! But the real kicker is that by the end of the first round of kisses, some women already know ‘THIS IS IT!’ and are more than willing to try that second- first kiss out for size. One woman in particular exclaims ‘I think I’ve found my true love!’. I can only assume that this is what some of the female candidates were looking for from this experiment… To find true love in a kiss?! I guess it was a successful social experiment after all and Lottabody helped to make it happen, right?

For years, movies, music, commercials and society have gone full ham on this notion of love at first sight as a beautiful, reckless, uninhibited means of finding true love. Whether it’s the first time you lock eyes with the person, first conversation, first kiss or the first time you have sex, love is made out to be that initial zing of endorphins released in our bodies when our eyes fixate on another person. This idea is only reinforced in this video. And what do we have? A society full of love-starved or love-sick millennials addicted to ‘the instant’, who are very open to the idea that true love can be as easy as a good hairstyle and kiss. But can it really be so simple? While our initial response to anything can be good, matters of the heart require more careful thought and action.

Don’t fall for it…again!
Just when we have encountered enough reality in our lives about relationships and unpacking the depths of love, here comes yet another set of social programming that takes us into a head spin. True love’s kiss saves the day! We’ve seen in it every fairy-tale. Only difference is that the kiss doesn’t come at the end of a gallant rescue but at the beginning of a relationship between two strangers. No need for any evidence of intent, your smile and muscles are enough, let’s just kiss and happily-ever-after begins. Eager to jump to the good stuff. At least in the cartoons the men had to show some guts before they were rewarded with a kiss.

One of the trustiest things about love is that it is a decision and a feeling. Our chemical responses to physical attraction cannot be the sole building blocks we lay as the foundation of our relationships. ‘Sole’ being the operative word here. With time, many of us experience feelings of no longer loving something the way we used to and find ourselves looking on the shelf for another hair product. If you catch my drift. That’s because feelings, including love, are subject to change by many different factors but a decision, to love, carries longer lasting results and responsibilities. Decisions have a  tendency to keep our feelings in check which is necessary, especially when it comes to romantic relationships. But who needs commitment and stick-ability when you have ‘chemistry in the right moment’? I guess we can wait to make a serious decision about a relationship after we’ve had good sex with them. When it all feels right, then it’s real, right? Feelings alone do not determine if love is real, decisions do. Thus, it takes careful consideration, thought and examination to help us arrive at a good relationship decision. I’m sure Lottabody meant to include that aspect as well but maybe the clips didn’t make the cut.

Most of us would never throw caution to wind when it comes to what we put in our hair, so why would we throw reason to the winds of hot emotion when we kiss a complete stranger? Truthfully, a part of me still feels like the ‘stranger’ part was staged but hey!

If those guys were Lottabody products, these are a few questions I think one should ask before  tripping falling in love with them because you had a good kiss:

Why not take some time to read the label and some reviews?
Yes, the product looks good on the outside but what else is in the bottle?
Outside of being a good experience, what other health benefits do they offer?
Can you see yourself using only this product for the rest of your life?

This is my offering in essence:

  • A good kisser is not the equivalent of a good lover; i.e. someone who knows how to love well outside of the sexual context.
  • Magic is not a synonymous term for true love.
  • A relationship with a human being is not the same as a relationship with a product line and
  •  The action of kissing someone is not a stable determining factor for the merit of love and happiness in a potential relationship. No matter how good the kiss is!

Some things in life require more thought and love happens to be one of them. I’m always wary of messaging that promotes true love as a feeling occurring during any first time interaction with people. It is true that we can figure a few things about someone when we meet them but love, I hope, would mean searching deeper than a good kiss.

So what are they really selling? Lottabody hair products or a fantasy? #JCMD