Monthly Archives: February 2014

Beauty: A Matter of Mind Over Matter

This post is for the 3rd annual Beauty Of A Woman blogfest, sponsored each year by my beautiful friend, August McLaughlin. The BOAW festivities officially begin on Thursday, so make a note to pop over to August’s site then for a whole list of great posts about what really makes women beautiful. The posts range from serious to light-hearted and they are always fabulous! (Oh, and did I mention there’s a contest and prizes? Well, there is. YAY!)

BOAW logo 2014

So what is the main ingredient that makes a woman beautiful? Good genes that bless her with smooth skin, good teeth and glossy hair?

Well, those certainly don’t hurt. But in my experience, they’re not the main ingredient in beauty.

Dentists, cosmetic surgeons, expensive make-up and hair products to create dazzling teeth, glowing skin and glossy hair?

close-up of woman putting on eye make-up

(photo by Manuel Marin, CC-BY license 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Not really, in my humble opinion.

So what is the main ingredient? It’s confidence!

When I was a young teenager, I was a mess–dorky-looking and totally lacking in self-confidence. Not a day went by in middle school (the purgatory of the earth plane, IMHO) that I wasn’t teased by one of the mean girls, or sometimes by one of the guys, most often about my appearance. “Pimple face” and “ironing board” (I was flat-chested) are the taunts that stand out the most in my memory.

me in 8th grade

My 8th grade school picture (told ya I looked dorky)

During the summer between middle and high school, my mother sat me down and gave me a fake-it-til-ya-make-it pep talk. She asked me if I thought a friend of hers (we’ll call her Mrs. H) was attractive. Now what fourteen-year-old gives a moment’s thought to her mother’s friends’ appearance?

I just shrugged. My mother pointed out just how homely Mrs. H was. Now that Mom was mentioning it, I realized that the woman did kind of resemble those drawings of witches you see at Halloween, complete with a large mole on her chin. Mom went on and on detailing all the flaws in Mrs. H’s appearance. I was beginning to wonder what evil spirit had taken over my mother’s body, when she pointed out that Mrs. H was married to one of the handsomest men in their circle of friends. I had to admit, now that I thought about it, Mr. H wasn’t bad looking, for an old guy (he was probably 40). Then Mom said that when Mrs. H walked into a room, every man and most of the women would turn to greet her with a big smile.

“Why is that?” Mom asked. Another shrug from me.

Because Mrs. H carried herself with confidence and was always smiling and friendly was my mother’s answer. “Kass, you’ve got the smiling and friendly down. They’re part of your natural personality. Now all you need is the confidence.” That’s when she told me to fake it ’til I made it.

Well, it took several years of faking it, but gradually I did become more confident. Then in college, I got some counseling to dig my remaining insecurities out by the roots.

I’m still not the best-looking gal in any crowd, but I don’t worry much about what I look like. Oh, I’m not saying I don’t do the best I can with what the good Lord gave me. I do. But once I’ve put on my make-up and fixed my hair (my best feature, despite it’s tendency to frizz), I walk out the door and don’t give my appearance another thought. I go about the world with confidence, and the world treats me well.

I’ll bet if you asked my friends and acquaintances whether or not I’m pretty, they’d shrug, like I did when my mom asked about Mrs. H. And then they’d say, “Oh, she looks fine. She’s so______.” (Fill in the blank with friendly, nice, smart, vivacious)

A healthy dose of confidence compensates quite well for my lack of outer beauty, and it let’s me relax and be me wherever I am. And frankly I’d rather be remembered for being smart and nice than for being pretty!

Have you ever known anyone who was naturally beautiful and yet so lacking in self-confidence that it marred their appearance? How about someone who was quite average but could light up a room with their smile?

And we’re excited to announce a new release by bestseller Stacy Green.

Speaking of confidence growing, check out what her character, Jaymee Ballard, is up to in this last book in the Delta Crossroads trilogy, Ashes and Bone:

cover of Ashes and BoneJust when Jaymee Ballard’s life seems to be on track, a massive derecho attacks the Delta Crossroads sowing destruction in its path. Her boyfriend, investigative journalist Nick Samuels, comes up missing, and she fears the worst.

Nick’s abandoned car contains evidence of his involvement uncovering a controversial case mired in political power and greed. While her friend and local detective, Cage Foster, heads up the inquiry into Nick’s kidnapping, Jaymee finds it impossible to sit back and do nothing.

Enlisting the help of her best friend, Dani Evans, Jaymee discovers a trail leading to the dangerous and secretive Dixie Mafia. Facing a fraudulent Confederate artifact scheme, dark local history, and a powerful enemy lurking in the shadows, the two friends find themselves holding the key to not only Nick’s disappearance, but a shameful town secret someone will kill to protect.

ASHES and BONE is an action packed thriller with a shocking twist.

Check it out, then talk to me about how you see beauty influenced by confidence and vice versa. (And don’t forget to visit the BOAW blogfest on Thursday)

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not harvest, lend, sell or otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses.)

Roots of Anger

Howdy folks. Today’s post is sort of an “I think” topic. I’m going to tell y’all what I’ve learned about anger over the course of my life.

headshot of Catie RhodesDisclaimer

I’m not a therapist or a psychologist. Hell, I’ve never even been to one. I learned this stuff through reading and thinking and living life. What I say here is not intended as medical advice…or anything close. If you need a mental health professional, go see one!

(Note from Kass Lamb, mp’s resident psychologist: Ditto what Catie says about seeking professional help if you struggle with anger issues. But I gotta tell you, she is spot on with this post; sometimes the school of hard knocks is better than any graduate school program!)

The Roots of Anger

In my experience, most anger is rooted in fear or hurt. I know that sounds simplistic, but fear and hurt are both broad terms.

Fear can be related to:

  • fear of rejection
  • fear of humiliation
  • loss of income
  • loss of possessions
  • fear of loneliness
  • fear of losing control (of others, of self, of events)
  • relationships (loss of OR committing to)
  • a million other things

Hurt can be related to:

  • social isolation
  • abuse
  • powerlessness
  • victimization
  • rejection
  • loss of loved ones
  • feeling ostracized over personal appearance or some other difference
  • a million other things

Much fear and hurt can be traced back to baggage. I use the term baggage to refer to previous hurts and wrongs. Most of us lug this crap around like that heavy old Sampsonite luggage.

I’ve found, if I analyze carefully, I can find the root of my anger…and it’s usually fear or hurt.

How I Use This Information

The information here is stuff I use both in my real life and in my writing.

In my real life:

Analyzing the roots of my anger and figuring out why I feel the way I do gives me a chance to calm down and think things through before I lash out. And, believe me, my lash-outs are nothing anybody wants to see. I’m downright nasty.

Learning to analyze my anger has given me a great deal of peace. I can untangle the way I feel and understand what, if anything, I can do to feel better.

Sometimes, the answer is nothing more–or less–than removing myself from a situation or person. Other times, it’s a matter of attempting to change the way I allow myself to feel about something.

Responsibility for my Feelings

Notice I said “allow myself to feel.” One of the biggest and best life lessons I’ve learned is that I am responsible for how I feel. Even if somebody else did me wrong, I am still responsible for my feelings (and what I do about them).

Here’s why: my anger, my outrage, and my angst have more power to make me miserable than anybody else. They have more power to get me into trouble than anybody else.

But That’s Not Fair!

Nope. It ain’t. But life is not fair. Trust me on this. Often, it sucks.

Some of the suckage is stuff I can control. But the large majority of it is stuff I cannot control, no matter how I wiggle and dance. No matter how pissed off I get.

Sometimes–no, oftentimes–I have to say “just forget it” and walk away. That never, ever means I let people run over me. But I’m training myself to know which battles are winnable and which ones are not.

I suspect we each come to a point where we analyze our lives the same way as the narrator of this song:

It’s good to know how we got to where we ended up and why. And to know how we want to handle the next onslaught of crap.

In my writing…

I use what I’ve talked about here to analyze what my characters are about, especially the things that piss them off. I ask myself “Where is the root of this anger?”

Doing this helps me:

  • write deeper characterizations
  • develop fatal flaws
  • figure out upcoming plot points
  • put my characters in greater peril
  • make my characters hurt worse emotionally

Now it’s your turn. How do you handle anger? OR What’s one of the greatest life lessons you’ve learned?

Posted by Catie Rhodes. Catie is the gal your mama warned you about, the one who cusses a lot and never washes her hands after petting the dog. She’s the author of the Peri Jean Mace paranormal mystery series. Peri Jean sees ghosts, a talent she often wishes she did NOT possess.

In Sickness and In Health

How blithely we say those vows when we are young and healthy and starry-eyed in love!

bride and groom axchanging rings
My husband and I have been blessed with better than average health. I have my share of chronic older-woman issues but the only time I’ve ever been in the hospital was when my son was born. My husband has an incredible resistance. He’s been lying-down sick with a cold or the flu, at most, three times in the 38 years I’ve known him. And the last time he was in the hospital (before this time) was at age 5 to have his tonsils out.

We are also both fairly independent types. We are “folks who like to do for themselves” as my grandmother used to say.

All this has made it a bit tough for hubs this past two weeks, as he’s started the long journey of recovery from hip replacement surgery. He’s been a good patient so far, but it’s been tough having to rely on me to even fetch him a cup of tea or help him into the shower.

hubs with his walker

Hubs taking his first walk outside. He has to use the walker for another two weeks.

He keeps saying that I’m a saint. I’m not.

But I think he’s realizing for the first time just what that vow meant, 37 years ago.

I’ve known what it meant for 34 of those years, ever since our son’s birth. Hubs was there for me through 21 hours of labor, toward the end rubbing my back to ease the pain until his hands were literally raw. He never complained, never hesitated to do whatever I needed.

Somewhere during that time–through the haze of pain, fatigue and eventually the drugs I begged allowed them to give me once the little bugger decided to get serious about making an appearance–I realized on a much deeper level that this man was meant for me. That he was the finest, most reliable man on earth!

Now the roles are reversed. He has to rely on me to take care of him, and he thinks I’m a saint for doing it.

I’m not. I’m a spouse.

Happy Valentine’s Day!!

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not harvest, lend, sell or otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses.)

Magic, Mysticism and the Paranormal

Magic, mysticism, and the paranormal. Figuring out what they are is confusing enough. But what’s the difference between the three?

As a paranormal mystery writer, these are questions I get to ask on a fairly regular basis. To smarten myself up, I’ve been taking a class on mysticism and modern psychology. And it’s getting me a bit closer to answering the above question.

So get ready to dazzle your friends at cocktail parties, because here we go:

1.    Magic is all about changing the world around you, ala Harry Potter. Well, maybe not quite so dramatically. But just check the Internet – people are buying magical assistance every day such as love charms, spells for wealth, etc. And at heart, the goal is to make something we want happen in the real world.

2.    Mysticism, on the other hand, is about changing our perception of the world. Mystics will try and change the way they experience reality. In turn, when we start seeing the world differently, we tend to start interacting with it differently.

And in case you’re wondering where the psychology comes in, this is it. In common with mysticism, psychology tries to change the way we interact with the world, perceive the world, and hold ourselves in the world. Like mysticism, psychology attempts to change our internal space.

3.    Paranormal abilities seem to almost combine magic and mysticism. Mystics believe that the mind transformed by mystical practice has different abilities than the ordinary mind, and this can grant them paranormal powers. But don’t call it magic. Mystical paranormal abilities are based on how the mystic has changed his or herself.

Of course, there’s another “magical” theory for paranormal abilities as well. Many modern day magical practitioners believe that amulets and spells and incantations are simply a method to… change the way they perceive and act in the world. And this in turn changes their world.

Because if you’re behaving differently, it’s a good bet that those around you are reacting differently.

I can’t get enough of this idea. In fact, it’s threaded through my Riga Hayworth series of paranormal mystery novels, including my latest, The Elemental Detective.

To sum it all up, magic and mysticism may simply be two sides of the same coin. What do you think?

If you haven’t already done so, check out Kassandra Lamb’s post over at The Dark Side of Love, on why some women are attracted to abusive men. Talk about needing to change something on the inside in order to change what is happening in the world!

Posted by Kirsten Weiss. Kirsten works part-time as a writer and part-time as an international development consultant. She writes the Riga Hayworth urban fantasy/paranormal mystery novels. (Riga is a Metaphysical Detective.) Kirsten is currently working on Book 6, The Hoodoo Detective.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not harvest, lend, sell or otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses.)

The Dark Side of Love: Why Some Women Are Attracted to Abusers

Hey everyone! I’m over at Bianca Sloane’s blog today. She has guest posts all this month from a variety of folks talking about different aspects of The Dark Side of Love. Plus a contest with great prizes!

header for Dark Side of Love

Today, I’m talking about why women are attracted to abusive men and so often stay with them.

Abused Women: Why Does She Love Him?

Abusive relationships definitely fall into the category of the Dark Side of Love. As a psychotherapist, I worked with quite a few women who had been in such relationships, often repeatedly picking out one abusive man after another.

Many people, on the outside looking in, wonder why battered women stay with these men. Indeed, why are they attracted to such brutes to begin with? These sound like simple enough questions but… Read more

 

 

 

Happiness Part 2: Self-Esteem

A few weeks ago I posted on the subject of happiness and how it is an inside job. That post focused on stopping periodically to make sure you are doing the things that make you happy, but there’s another aspect to happiness that also comes from within. Our self-esteem–how we feel about ourselves–has a huge impact on our happiness.

I’ve talked about self-esteem here before in the context of other things, from weight-management to dealing with shame and guilt. It’s really quite central to so much of our emotional life. How we esteem ourselves relates to two things–our general feeling about our beings (self-worth) and our belief in our ability to do things, to handle life (self-confidence).

Today I’m going to focus on self-worth. This can best be defined as our acceptance of ourselves as imperfect but nonetheless worthwhile human beings.

painting of a woman looking in the mirror

When you look in the mirror, do you like WHO you see? (“The Green Mirror” by Guy Rose, public domain)

If we don’t have good self-worth then happiness is going to be a fleeting thing. We have to believe we are worthy of being happy in order to actually feel happy on a regular basis. But what goes in to believing we are worthy?

Before I answer that question, let me ask another one. Is there any newborn baby on the face of this planet who is NOT worthy of taking up space and breathing air?

blakc and white photo of a babyIf your answer to that question is a resounding “Of course not!” then you must agree that all of us start out as worthy beings.

Whether or not we will feel worthy, however, will depend on several factors.

The first of these is whether or not we perceived ourselves as being loved unconditionally as children by our families. The key word here is “perceived.” Very few parents don’t love their children. But their ability to convey the message that they love their kids, and that this love is unconditional, that’s another story.

So perhaps you did not receive the message sufficiently as a kid that you were loved unconditionally, and thus grew up feeling less than worthy. If you can look at your parents now, through the filter of an adult’s mind, and know that they do indeed love you, that’s a great first step. But emotionally-charged beliefs from the past don’t let go inside of us just because we “know better’” intellectually now. It may take much more than this for your psyche to truly believe you are worthy. More on this in a minute.

If you had the misfortune of being born to people who are not capable of unconditional love (often because they never received it themselves), then we come back to that innocent babe who, like all other babies born into this world, was inherently worthy. The fact that this child (you) had parents who could not see his/her worthiness, well that’s not his/her (your) fault, now is it?

Another factor is the level of unconditional acceptance you receive as an adult. We can have pretty decent self-worth to start with, but if someone important to us–spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, close friend, etc.–is telling us we are not good enough unless we change in some way, then our self-worth may begin to suffer. Even a constantly negative boss or co-worker may eventually wear us down.

Yet another factor has to do with feeling bad about one’s being when one’s behavior is out of line. I have talked about this before in my posts on guilt and shame. When we have done something we are not proud of, it is okay, useful even, to feel guilty. The guilt is our motivation to change that behavior. But if we start beating up on ourselves in a shaming way, then we are undermining our self-worth.

So what exactly can you do about self-worth? Here are several things that can help improve your self-worth and your level of happiness.

1) One of the most important things we can do to bolster/maintain self-worth is to separate behavior from being. No matter how despicable our behavior, we are still good people if we are owning up to that behavior and trying to do something about it.

Ironically, having good self-esteem makes it easier to take responsibility for our bad behavior. Someone who feels bad about themselves is more likely to become defensive about their behavior. They are struggling to hang onto the few shreds of self-esteem they may have left. But someone who is solid in their belief that they are a good person can more readily say, “Boy, I really made a mistake here,” without fearing that their entire ego is going to fall apart. (Trust me, I recently had this tested when I royally screwed something up!) See my guilt post for more on how to do this.

2) Use affirmations and positive self-talk to bolster your sense of your worthiness.  I know this sounds like a simplistic cliché from the 1980’s, but it works. Tell yourself every day, throughout the day, that you are a good person. And pay attention to how you talk to yourself in your head (we all talk to ourselves internally a good bit of the time; it’s normal). If you notice that your self-talk is mostly negative, make a conscious effort to stop and rephrase your self-talk to positive messages. Turn “I’m a screw-up” into “I’m a good person even if I don’t always get everything right.”

3) Cultivate a nurturing relationship with the “child within.” Yeah, I know, another 80’s cliché. But again, it works! One way to do this is to carry around a picture of yourself as a kid. When you catch yourself beating up on yourself, take out that picture and tell that little kid that s/he is okay and loveable.

small child in old car

My all-time favorite picture of myself as a kid. I look like I’m ready to take on the world, don’t I?

4) Stop letting people put you down. This is easier said than done, and is a bit of a vicious cycle re: self-worth. When you don’t feel all that worthy, it’s hard to stand up for yourself and demand that you be treated right. But letting others dump on you will continue to keep your self-worth in the toilet.

Some role-playing with a trusted friend (or in front of a mirror) may help you practice politely telling people how you want to be treated. And there may be some people in your life that you need to get out of your life. Remember: No one has the right to put another human being down!

5) Cultivate the people in your life who do care about you unconditionally!

one cat licking another's face

(photo by Takashi Hososhima from Tokyo Japan, CC-BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

When we don’t feel good about ourselves, sometimes we dismiss those who care the most about us. If we aren’t worthy of love, then they must be crazy or stupid to love us, or maybe they don’t really know us like they think they do. These are the things we unconsciously believe about those folks who esteem us more than we do ourselves. Stop holding those people at arm’s length; instead accept that they see something worthy in you and let their love into your heart.

Nothing is more important than your sense of self-worth. Because without it, you will not be happy in life!

 

How’s your self-worth? Do you think it’s in good shape, or does it need some work?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not harvest, lend, sell or otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses.)