Back To School, Back To Kindness

As we head back to school, there’s no better time to spread kindness. For some, going back to school can be a daunting task – whether starting at a new school, or feeling anxiety, fear or concern based on past experiences. Whatever you’re feeling about school is, I encourage you to share one of the greatest and most fulfilling things in life … a simple smile. At the end of the day, you could change a person’s life.

But there is no way something so small can affect people in such a big way! Wrong, in fact, the effects of smiling date back to ancient China with a simple but powerful proverb, “A man without a smiling face should not open a shop”. The proverb teaches us that without a smile there is a great chance your shop (in this case, your life) will not prosper as much as it could, or it may not even prosper at all. Still not convinced? Let’s take a look at science.  So, how does smiling affect those around you? According to an article in Psychology Today called “There’s Magic in Your Smile” written by Ronald E Riggio Ph.D. smiles are actually contagious, so much so that when someone smiles the brain can’t help but return the favor and smile back. In a Swedish study, people were shown pictures of other people with different emotions, ranging from joy, sadness, and even anger. But when the picture of someone smiling came up the researchers asked the people to frown. To their amazement, the people struggle to frown and instead started to imitate the smile. A person can consciously choose not to smile, but unconsciously your brain will naturally imitate a smile. In fact, smiling actually can change a person’s entire day from a terrible one to a good one.

I’m going to move away from the technical aspect and factoids and look at an ordinary day. You have practiced and trained for a moment in your life, you finally believe you have made it, and that this is your time and chance. Only to find out it’s not your time and you need to work harder.  You internally start thinking of all the work you put in. Was it worth the effort and the pain you are going through now? In your mind, you believe nothing can stop you from feeling this way, until a friend, a stranger, a family member, a teacher walks up with a great and warm meaningful smile. They start talking to you, maybe they crack a joke, or ask about your day – creating that slight smile on your face, and slowly the negativity fades, and joy fills your body. You start thinking it may not be your time now, but it will be in the future. All of this came from something as simple and small as a smile. A second ago you were worried and contemplating where you wasted your time, and now you are building yourself up again.

Just Smile!

Now I want you to think about the effects of a smile and how contagious they can be, not to mention how powerful and mood altering they can be. When you head to school I challenge you to take 2 weeks and just smile. Smile at people you would have never smiled at before, that person that sits alone at lunch – flash a smile at them and see how it changes their mood. Be there for others, smile at your teachers as a way of showing you are grateful for having them in your life. Smile at your friends, family … smile at the world. Watch and see how a smile can not only change the world around you but more importantly watch and see how a smile can change you.

Contributed by Free2Luv Advocate Michael Scotten

Back To School, Back To Kindness 2018-08-27T15:53:31+00:00

3 Ways to Become Fearless

I’m afraid. Words I have often heard from people and always brushed off as insecurities. I often wondered why these insecurities manifested themselves because no one starts off having insecurities. I decided to do some research and found some interesting facts. Most people’s insecurities are projections of others in their life or social groups. There is a school of thought in the psychology field called Psychological Projection, which aims to show the human ego and how it defends itself by projecting insecurities onto others. Based on this theory so many people with fears, about failing may, in fact, be fears that other people projected on them.

So, what’s the significance of learning about Psychological Projection? Well, if we better understand why we are afraid to do something it may help us overcome it. Too many people have shunned away from something great because they were afraid of failing. I am not immune to this. I’m afraid of my art not being good enough; I’m scared to fail. Now is this me, or is this a projected insecurity from someone else? In game design that involves art, many people say only 2 out of every 10 people make it. Daunting numbers if you are one of the ten people. As an example, let’s say the person next to me leans over and says “Well I guess I won’t make it”; the person projects his/her insecurity onto me, and I start thinking, I’m not good enough to make that 20 percent. But what was I basing that off? A simple sentence some random person said to me that changes my mindset and crumbles my future because I allowed it to project insecurities that influence my life. The sad answer is yes, I allowed that person’s own insecurity to cripple me.

Here are three ways to deflect projected insecurities from others:

–   Surround yourself with fearless people

The goal is to find people that have embraced the feeling of being challenged, who look at life as a challenge, not as an obstacle – filled with insecurities and doubt. Look for people that strive to own courage and take on titans. Bud Bilanich is a self-proclaimed career mentor. In an article he writes about “Surrounding Yourself with Positive People”, he points at a sales position as one example, and says the following: “To succeed in sales you must be self-confident, but by its very nature selling involves a lot of setbacks and rejection.” What Bilanich is saying is that in sales you are dealing with a lot more negativity than you do positivity so, by surrounding yourself with positive people you counter the negativity presented with rejection. Life is all about balance and maintaining a balance, of positive to negative to make life a lot simpler.

–   Change your mindset

A simple thing to say but how does one do it? Well, it turns out the best way to change your mindset is to think about the situation as you did when you were a child. Because a child has no biases or insecurities, children live in the moment and dare to dream. This will change your mindset and remind you why you chose to achieve this goal or dream. Myrko Thum is an author that helps entrepreneurs create and sell profitable information. In the article “What is a Mindset” Thum mentions the need to find your voice. The author uses a quote from Stephen Covey that asked fours questions people need to ask themselves to find their voice.

  1. What are you good at? (this is your mind)
  2. What do you love doing (this is your heart
  3. What need can you serve (this is your body)
  4. What is life asking of you? What gives your life meaning and purpose? (this is your spirit)

What Thum convey is patience and understanding in life. Think of yourself as a rubber band – if you’re quick to judge and express your opinions too fast, it would be like stretching a rubber band out to its max point, bringing it closer to its snapping point. But if you assess things in life, you start expanding slowly and through the slow, progressive nature, not only do you expand at a healthy rate, but you grow your mind, ultimately learning how to change your minds way of thinking.

–   Remember the journey is supposed to be fun

Remind yourself that you are supposed to enjoy the journey to the end goal not just enjoy the end goal. When you enjoy the journey and embrace it, your life fills up with positivity. By enjoying the journey, you will appreciate the end and always strive to be better. Gary Vaynerchuk is an entrepreneur, marketing specialist, and inspirational speaker. He runs his own marketing firm consisting of 700 employees. In an interview conducted by Erik Wahl, Vaynerchuk expresses the importance of enjoying the journey by saying the following, “I made a video that is recorded for when I buy the New York Jets, and it’s going to say ‘ This is the worst day of my life’.”  Vaynerchuk’s dream is to buy the New York Jets and when that finally happens and he has achieved his dream the journey that he enjoys so much will come to an end.  A mountain climber doesn’t just enjoy being at the top of a mountain; he/she enjoys the journey up to the top. So, always remember to enjoy the journey because that’s just as important as the end goal. Enjoy Life!

In the end, fear is nothing more than the power you give it. You can decide to be fearful and watch as others achieve your dreams, or you can take life by the horns and in strides to achieve your own dreams. I will leave you with a very powerful quote from a man who has struggled with fears and advertises in life “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but rather the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela

Contributed by Free2Luv Advocate Michael Scotten

3 Ways to Become Fearless 2018-08-22T18:51:02+00:00

The 3 Faces of School Bullying

School bullying 101. Imagine the following scenario: It’s the first day of school, shouting echoes through the school halls, as something attracts the attention of the students. A boy has thrown another against the wall and proceeds to physically hurt the other over and over again, followed by name-calling. The bystanders stand and watch the cruel events that take place. Eventually, a teacher gets to the scene and tells everyone to head back to class. The teacher then takes the person that committed the bullying to the office along with the person that was bullied.

For the sake of explanation, the person that is the aggressor will be named Jake, the person that is bullied, Carl, and lastly an innocent bystander, Andrew. Each person is a victim, each with the inability to communicate his thoughts properly. Each in need of help from one another.

Committing the Act of Bullying (Jake) – This person is often seen as the aggressor who picks on a particular person or group of people. There are a lot of negative connotations associated with Jake, often called a tormenter, intimidator, oppressor, bully. All these are labels, but people are far too complex to simply be defined by labels. The reality is people who bully suffer in some way or another and it’s not always obvious.

The person being bullied (Carl) – This person is the target of bullying, often seen as the main and only person to suffer. This person suffers on a day-to-day basis because they are a target of an act caused by pain. This type of a person struggles to communicate because they are fearful of the consequences. They struggle in silence and often blame themselves for being a target.

Bystander (Andrew) – This person is the least thought about in this scenario. They experience a feeling of helplessness, the urge to want to help but, fearful of trading places with Carl. This type of person is a very silent one. A lot of internal thoughts happen; fear of being an outcast because they said something, fear of being shunned in their social status, fear of losing what they have but, frustrated because they want to intervene. They are conflicted on the inside, and it’s because of this conflicted nature that they start suffering; a consistent internal struggle.

So how can we help reduce school bullying?

There are loads and loads of websites that state helpful sets of tips and solutions to help with bullying. These include not to retaliate with aggression and fight back, stay in crowded areas don’t be alone, and tell a trusted adult so they can help with the situation. All of these solutions have merit and can be of help. But, what if you are too scared to approach an adult? There are parents out there that have written about their children’s traumatic bullying experiences at school and their children beg them “not to tell the teachers”. Why may you ask? The children are fearful of being called a tattletale, or a snitch. When it comes to not fighting back, “sometimes emotions get the best of us and we can’t hold back”. Staying in large groups may stop what you experience sometimes “but what happens if you are alone and no one else is around?” These are just some of the most common concerns seen online in comment sections.

So, does this mean we should give up? No! There are other things we can do we can teach our younger generation about awareness. “But, everybody already knows about bullying so what’s the point of awareness?” True, school bullying is not a new thing. It’s been around forever, but the act of bullying is new. Now I know what you are thinking, isn’t that the same thing? No, it’s very different because it separates the act from the person. By removing the label, we choose to address the problem, not the person.

Once the problem is out we can choose to address it in different ways. The problem, in this case, is the act of bullying. We can start asking questions like, what causes a person to act out and bully? How does this act affect all people considered? Can we address school bullying by doing certain things? What are the underlying causes of this problem? These questions all forget about a person bullying and rather focus on the act of bullying. We create awareness by getting people to talk about it, by showing the youth of today that they are not alone. Simple things can go a long way – creating events, or social gatherings that bring people together and create an atmosphere where children feel loved and safe to be who they are. To let the people like Jake know that there is another way to overcome this problem. To let the Carl’s of the world know that they are loved and are accepted for who they are. To all the Andrews, you’re not alone because others are there for you. We combat this problem by showing youth that they can empower one another, push back, and solve the problem. To preach love not hate, we can make this all happen with organizations like Free2Luv. Let us show our future generations that we have the capability to be more compassionate and empathetic. If anything, it will make us grow as a species.

Rock Luv … Not Hate Contributed by Free2Luv Advocate Michael Scotten

The 3 Faces of School Bullying 2018-08-09T22:37:35+00:00

The Power of Love

“What we see in others we are strengthening in ourselves.”

Hatred begets hatred. Period. There are no exceptions to this rule. By bullying someone who is bullying we have a world with MORE bullies, not less.

YOU CANNOT HATE AWAY HATE! ever.

Hatred can only be dissolved through love. Hate and love cannot reside in the same space. When you choose to hate, you activate the hatred inside yourself. Hatred lowers your immune system, raises blood pressure and floods your body with chemicals that harm your physical body.

Hatred is a choice.

If we want to heal the world, make it a better place for our children, ourselves and everyone else in it, we must operate through love.

Under anger is hurt and under hurt is where love resides. we must move THROUGH the anger, experience the vulnerability of the hurt and the pain and then into the love if we want anything to heal. and we must heal ourselves in order to heal the world. It’s always an inside job first. Then we can actually affect change in this world.

The only thing that has ever healed anything is LOVE. healing is the act of applying love to hurt. It takes true strength to find compassion for someone who doesn’t appear to deserve it. If we stand for love and in love, we cannot condone bullying of any sort.

When we attack others, we attack ourselves. Compassion activates more compassion.

Every person bullying was once bullied by someone else. That’s how they learned it. Perpetuating the cycle of bullying is ineffective in resolving the problem.

The problem and the solution are not found in the same vibrational space. All solutions come quicker when compassion is in the mix.

Today, I challenge everyone to lay down one grievance. Just let it go. …and then replace it with compassion. Each of us was once a small, innocent child that just wanted to be loved. With love, we can minimize bullying.

This I know for sure. If every person on the planet decided to spend 10 minutes sending someone love instead of hate today, they would behave differently tomorrow.

Contributed by child development specialist, Angelina Hart.

The Power of Love 2018-07-16T23:51:33+00:00

Team Paws Stands Up to Bullying with Free2Luv

Find out how one third grade class promotes kindness and aims to prevent bullying every day.

These third graders along with their caring teacher are changing the everyday dialogue to focus on positivity and eliminate bullying inside this Michigan classroom. Known as Team Paws, this inspirational group is getting high marks for their mission to stop bullying one day at a time.

Here is what their teacher said.

I explained to the kids that I was excited to begin our day because our Free2Luv swag had arrived. It was the perfect opportunity for us to recite the kindness pledge and make a promise to each other and ourselves to be good friends, use our words for good, to take a stand against bullying, and to not be a bystander if bullying was happening.

Every morning we begin our day with a class meeting which involves reciting positive self-affirmations. That’s because one of our classroom rules is we only say kind words to ourselves, even the words we say inside our brains, because self-love matters.

These affirmations go like this; I am kind, I am a good friend, people like me, my teacher loves me, I love me, I matter, I am smart, I’m good at math, I do my best, and so on.

With this, I request the kids to set a daily goal before they return to their seats to start their morning work. That goal might be to sit by someone who’s alone at lunch, to give a compliment to someone, or smile at someone in the hallway.

This has made a difference in our classroom climate. I have made it my goal to create a classroom climate that focuses on the importance of social and emotional learning. My kids are learning how to manage their emotions, rather than how to cope with them.

It’s my goal for all my kids to feel safe, seen, heard, and celebrated every day.

I can do this because I know my kids. My kids are different and unique from each other, but there is something about every one of them that I love and admire.

When Free2Luv reached out to me to participate in their initiative, I knew it was perfect for Team Paws. During a discussion one of my kids made a great point; he said he was happy to take this pledge because as a member of Team Paws, he believes he and his classmates have grown in kindness this past school year. Continuing, he said we hardly ever argue, and we care about each other. Team Paws changed the way he feels about kindness in general.

The kids wanted to talk about the importance of being a good friend and standing up for victims of bullying. It was their idea to create posters to hang around the school and on our classroom door to educate the other kids in the school.

Want to join Team Paws? Take Free2Luv’s kindness pledge and be an advocate for kindness. Change begins with each of us.

Team Paws Stands Up to Bullying with Free2Luv 2018-03-05T23:43:26+00:00

Bullied to Brave … The Story of Youth Empowerment Nonprofit Free2Luv

Have you ever had a life-defining moment? Mine came in 2011 with the sudden passing of my young mother from pancreatic cancer. I was faced with how short life can be and questioned whether I was fulfilling my life purpose. I kept hearing about youth feeling like they had nowhere to turn, hurting themselves, and even taking their own lives. My dream I had acquired at a very young age of being an advocate for youth, resurfaced.

With my mother’s loss of life and young people taking their lives because of not feeling accepted, I felt driven to reach as many young people as possible. Furthermore, to let them know their life matters and is worth living and to empower them to know others’ words or actions don’t define them. I have since made it my life’s mission to help kids feel safe, heard, and valued, regardless of their ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. I rolled up my sleeves and armed with love, passion, and determination, my family and I founded Free2Luv®. Free2Luv is a youth empowerment nonprofit inspiring hope in youth who are often marginalized, bullied, and afforded little opportunity to thrive and prosper, including LGBTQ youth.

Behind every issue, whether it’s bullying, self-harm or self-loathing, are low self-esteem and a lack of self-love. We wanted our organization name to be a word of empowerment. The name Free2Luv encompasses loving yourself first, loving others and being free to love whoever you desire.

From personal experience, I know the value of having one other person in your corner, fighting your fight with you and supporting you fully. It can be the thing that pulls you out of your circumstance and makes the difference for a prosperous life. Sometimes that difference is between living and dying. Other times it’s standing up for a stranger who you see being bullied instead of turning away in apathy. In addition to using our own voices to impact others, we mentor youth to raise their voices in compassion and love. That’s what truly sets us apart.

One of the cornerstones of our organization and one we are incredibly proud of is our youth advocacy/mentorship program. We assist youth in finding their authentic voice and expression, which in turn builds their self-esteem and confidence. What happens from there is magic. Advocates inspire other youth in their community as they share the importance of bullying prevention, spread kindness, and celebrate individuality. By providing youth continual support, we are growing leaders and game changers who are making a powerful and positive impact in their communities, inspiring, encouraging, and uplifting their peers. It’s a dynamic ripple effect of empowerment and connection.

There’s nothing like holding hands with young people who build confidence and engage in inclusive conversations. When youth learn to express themselves more fully, they share their hearts and are open-minded with their peers. It is the most rewarding and profound work we have done in our lives, and it is a gift to witness the growth of these beautiful individuals who are our future. Teaching leadership, innovation, and compassion is critical to our society’s future. When we raise authentic, confident, and empowered individuals, we are building a strong future for all youth. Therefore, we will continue to make this our life’s work and mission. Above all, we aspire to be leaders who inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more.

Bullied to Brave … The Story of Youth Empowerment Nonprofit Free2Luv 2018-01-29T15:52:33+00:00

Uniting for Good On and Off the Field

We’re super proud to be standing with the Kent Meridian Royals, beautiful young gamechangers, to ROCK LUV and stand up to bullying. This is our 3rd annual bullying prevention campaign with this amazing high school and this year, the Tahoma Bears Cheer and Football team joined forces to unite for GOOD on and off the field, showing true sportsmanship. And the good doesn’t stop here – they’ve brought kindness to the campus where they’re having conversations, participating in the Free2BeME art project, and fundraising to spread more LUV. Together, we are stronger.

Uniting for Good On and Off the Field 2018-02-22T21:11:25+00:00

October is Bullying Prevention Month and We’re Uniting in LUV

Words hurt. We know firsthand the scarring and lasting impact bullying can have. It’s time for us to unite and take a stand. We invite you to TAKE THE PLEDGE and advocate for kindness.

If you or someone you know is being bullied, reach out. There is help. GET SUPPORT HERE.

Don’t let bullying define you. Let it be a vehicle to start a conversation and use your voice to create change in your community. One voice can spark a revolution of kindness. We’re here to support your efforts. Be an advocate for change and GET INVOLVED. We look forward to hearing from you!

October is Bullying Prevention Month and We’re Uniting in LUV 2018-10-24T01:30:33+00:00

Musician Maddy Vance Writes Anti-bullying Anthem for Free2Luv

With over 50 songs under her belt, meet our amazing Youth Advocate, Maddy Vance, 15 year old musician, singer and prolific songwriter.  After experiencing bullying and the feeling of isolation, Maddy wrote ‘Crashing Down’, a beautiful anti-bullying empowerment anthem, and donated the song to Free2LUV and our beautiful community to inspire and empower youth! We’re super proud to be standing with her to make a difference.

Musician Maddy Vance Writes Anti-bullying Anthem for Free2Luv 2018-03-05T17:02:14+00:00