All posts by C.S. Severe

Having My Bike Stolen Renewed My Hope

Can you spot my missing bike?
Can you spot my missing bike?

My bike got stolen last night in a bike yard next to Ushikubo Station. It’s my fault for not locking it in place, but I honestly didn’t believe it would ever get stolen. I live in Japan, a place known for returned lost wallets and purses. My trust in such a stereotype cost me my bike, and now I have to buy a new one.

I searched through the bike yard exactly three times because I refused to believe someone took and rode it away. I thought maybe I had forgotten where I had left it. While going through every single bicycle, I noticed about 90% were unlocked just like mine. 90% of other bikers believed their bikes were safe from thieves because why would anyone take what wasn’t theirs here? It’s almost inconceivable.

Maybe life wanted to teach me a lesson that no matter where I go, I need to be careful and not lower my guard so much. It’s tiring sometimes to always be on alert and cautious. I wanted to trust everything would be all right, but that’s not how reality works.

Walking home to my apartment, I asked why me out of all those bikes in the yard?

I found myself taking a positive angle to answer the question. Maybe I would’ve been hit by a car or truck if I rode my bike that night. I’m still a bit skittish on the road, so maybe I would’ve made a wrong move and bye bye life. Maybe the universe was answering a wish of mine to get a new bike soon, but why take the bike out of my life in such an inconvenient time? I really didn’t want to spend money right now with a tight budget hovering over my head. However, a bike fulfills my basic transportation needs, so I have to get a new one.

I wanted to get angry, but I didn’t have the energy or room in my heart for it. I simply let out a frustrated sigh that night and forced my tired legs to walk home. It wasn’t so bad. Just a thirty-minute walk that I’d complete in ten if I had my bike.

On the way home, in addition to taking a positive angle, I thought about how my situation here is pretty good. I live in a peaceful town with a lovely river bank for running; people are friendly; I get more writing done than ever before; I don’t work more than five hours a day; and my pace is chill.

This one negative incident couldn’t dare match up to the positives of my life here. Sometimes I forget the loud noises in life: flashy tech, hip clothes, stress over other people’s opinions, unhealthy comparisons, chasing the golden goose, and so on.

I live with more attention to each present action I make. Taking a shower, chopping vegetables, making coffee, feeling the pavement hit the soles of my feet as I walk, acknowledging strangers with a smile and a nod, savoring each bite of good food and desserts, and even something simple as locking my door before I leave.

Every action has taken a life of its own, amplifying living in ways I didn’t know was possible. Instead of looking for the big, amazing events to happen, I appreciate the million little activities and take delight in being able to do such things, take delight in living with full awareness.

A long time ago, I would’ve lost my temper at having my bike stolen. I would’ve probably huffed and puffed about it all the way home instead of experiencing a cool night stroll. I would’ve felt sorry for myself for being so unlucky. (This is the second time I’ve had a bike stolen.) I would’ve been a bomb of negative energy waiting to explode, putting life on pause for one bad incident out of a million awesome events.

But life kept going. My mind focused and fingers typing, I pumped out six hundred words in my new novel that night in addition to 1200 words earlier in the day. An 1800 WC for the day is a great accomplishment for this writer.

I don’t need to let the bad poison my life and cripple me. I can choose to keep going, believing everything will work out in the end. And even if more negatives pop up one after the other, I’ll handle them, looking at each through a positive perspective, and help lift myself up to keep going, to keep experiencing the million little gifts given to me each day.

I guess this how I know I’m where I need to be right now. I’ve made a decision to help my growth by moving here, and I can see the real effects of doing so. I’m truly at peace. For a misfit soul as mine who shrivels up from not being able to pursue her dreams, I’ve found a place where I can achieve the creative heights I’ve set for myself, something I strangely couldn’t do back home.

I enjoy good runs here.
I enjoy good runs here.

I’m not saying we should move halfway around the world to find what we need. Simply, we should take time to know ourselves as much as possible and be brave enough to give ourselves what we need whether it be peace or the fuel to keep a passion or dream going.

Why waste time doing anything else? We might just find that elusive blessing in whatever has been lost.

What have you lost that has unexpectedly given something to you?

Stay Amazing,

Sammy

Am I Making a Mistake? What Life Wants You to Know

Howdy Folks,

I’ve been on a hiatus, but now I’m back to share some of the happenings in my life. Hopefully, this post can encourage you in your own journey in this confusing as hell thing called life.

Image courtesy of Stuart Mills at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Mills at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I thought the middle of 2015 would be much more successful, but it’s actually been a struggle. I’ve been trying to add more accomplishments to my repertoire this year, but I’ve only been racking up failures. Nevertheless I’m thankful for the failures because they’ve taught me some important lessons that I plan to apply for the rest of this year and beyond.

First, I tried buying a house with my parents, and it ended up pretty badly because we made first-time buyer mistakes and had the worst lenders on the planet. We lost the house, lost a ton of money, and I almost lost my mind. I’ve been trying to block out those three horrible months, and I think I’m succeeding. At least that’s one thing going right.

Image courtesy of Stuart Mills at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Mills at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Second, I tried getting a full-time job in Atlanta, the place where I thought I would be living, but I’ve only gone deaf from the silence of these potential employers. I switched my job-hunting to Boston, but I got only crickets too. I have undergraduate and graduate degrees from Tufts University and Columbia, great references, and amazing cover letters. However, because I decided to go to Korea to teach English right after graduate school, I found myself teaching English for the past two years because I enjoyed it and, also, couldn’t find work in anything else. When I tried making the switch to getting jobs tied closely to my graduate degree, I got no invites for interviews because my resume lacked the experience.

Image courtesy of pakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of pakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net / I’m one of those X’s 😦

So, warning to those out there hoping to teach English abroad: make sure you have great connections to get a job in something different when you’re done and don’t spend too much time teaching English if your heart not’s really into it.

Thankfully, I don’t mind teaching English, but of course I don’t want to spend the rest of my life doing it. I want to make a living as a writer: write books, articles, and personal essays. Teaching English is just a fun way to pay the bills before I make it big as a writer or whatever that means. But I’ll know it when it happens.

Despite all of this, I’m currently enrolled in a Master’s program in Law and Public Policy. Why? Well, when I failed to get into a PhD program, I thought getting a second Master’s would be my way there. Don’t ever do this, by the way.

I also wasn’t doing anything spectacular with my life, and my father still clung to his dream of me becoming a badass lawyer. As a result, I made the BIG mistake of getting into this program. I got A’s, but I was incredibly unhappy and uninterested in the subjects my classes covered. Notice I’m speaking in the past tense here because I plan to drop out. I’ve never done this before and it sorta scares the hell out of me.

Now, I’m back where I started: lost, adrift, confused, miserable, and unfulfilled. The realization hit me that if I didn’t do something drastic, I would give up on life, not kill myself per say, but be a walking zombie who just did what was expected of her because it was easy and required no confrontation and risks.

Now, I’m not one to be concerned about the stars, but I’m an Aries and my claws came out at the thought of having my life controlled by the expectations and dreams of others.

I needed to do something crazy, something to shake me out of the three-year funk. Look, I tried. I really did. I tried being a normal functioning member of American society, but I failed. Others might say I gave up to early. All I know for sure is that I’m sick of forcing my self to be a person I’m not.

So, what did I do?

I applied for a teaching job in Aichi, Japan.

Toyokawa Inari Temple
Toyokawa Inari Temple

The specific town, Toyokawa-shi, where I’ll be living is about three hours south of Tokyo and possesses castles and gorgeous flora. I got the job because my teaching credentials were hard to beat. Competition didn’t have a chance.

The job is a perfect fit for me because I’ll be working 4pm-9pm, which gives me plenty of time to work on my writing in the mornings. I’ve already lived abroad before so I know what to expect and what not to expect.

Look, I’m not going to Japan to solve my problems or to run away from them. I’m going to Japan because I want to experience something completely new every single day. My soul needs wonder to shock it out of its sleep and slow decline toward death. Furthermore, I have no romantic partner nor children, so I have no responsibilities there. My parents are young and thankfully healthy and don’t really need me around.

At 28, I’m free so you bet I’m taking this opportunity.

However, it’s not all sunshine and unicorns. My parents will be furious when I tell them. My family will talk. People will think whatever they need to think about my decision and will most likely believe that I’m making a big mistake, committing career suicide. I know.

But I don’t want to be a lawyer, a policymaker, or office worker. I want to do two things: teach and write. In another country. And travel. I want to explore new places and write about my adventures. I want to meet new people and listen to their stories. I want to inspire other people to take the chance to travel when it’s given to them. I want to live a life that’s under my control.

I’m tired of trying to be someone I’m not just to satisfy other people, especially my parents, family, colleagues, and society. I want to be true to myself no matter the risks, no matter the number of shaking heads, no matter the disapproval.

Am I making a mistake? Maybe I am. Maybe I’m not. At the end, I’ll live with my decision. But one thing for sure, the ride definitely won’t be boring.

How about you? Have you ever taken a decision that you thought was a mistake, but went through with it anyway? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Stay Amazing,

Sammy

Is it Wrong to Follow Your Passion?

“Define success in your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live.” – Anne Sweeney

Graduations evoke a myriad of emotions such as joy, relief, pride, triumph, completion, and anticipation for the next phase in life. Thousands of fresh bloods are and will be listening to speeches inspiring and encouraging them to make the world a better place, to build something of value, or to be aware of their true selves and that of the people around them and beyond among many other pieces of counsel.

Counsel is needed because real world out there isn’t a pretty place, a truth that can sometimes be forgotten in the insular walls of academia. Our world is a tough, ugly reality where dishonest and ruthless people prey on the vulnerable and amass exorbitant riches by stepping on the necks of the exploited and oppressed, using their backs as stairs for selfish and greedy ambition. It’s a world where we continue to be deaf to the cries of those in the desert advocating for our environment, the poor, the abused, the conquered, and the violated. It’s a world with much darkness, but also with countless potential for light if we look carefully enough.

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“There is a crack in everything.That’s how the light gets in.” ― Leonard Cohen

Sooner or later in this life, for those of us who are lucky enough to have options, we have to make a choice about the kind of life we wish to live on this Earth. Will we be the bolts keeping the Machine alive and running as we live from paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet? Will we pursue lucrative careers to be financially set and secure for the rest of our days and maybe even until our grandchildren’s days? Or will we be different and be among the few who make the bold, oftentimes risky decision to forgo the status quo and societal conventions to pursue our passions?

Pursuing a passion is serious business. It’s not a romance or a fantasy of instantly making millions or living a blissful life on a private island somewhere in the Pacific. Passion involves deeply strong feelings, brutal honesty, fire, sweat, grit, and whole lot of work, along with shouldering the ridicule and doubt that may come from family, friends, and yes, even from ourselves.

So, is it wrong to follow after our passion and let it lead our lives? In Part I of this two-part article, we’ll go through the first four questions below to help us get closer to the answer.

  1. Am I willing to endure suffering for a period of time for my passion?

First of all, what is passion? The Merriam Webster dictionary describes it as a strong feeling or excitement for something or about doing something. The word passion originates from the Latin word passio, meaning suffering, along with the Latin word pati, meaning to suffer.

sailing_ship
Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved. — Helen Keller

When we’ve made the choice to pursue our passion, it’s guaranteed we will endure discomfort of varying degrees in more ways than one whether it’s emotional, physical, or financial. Our relationships might also hurt if we’re surrounded by loved ones and mentors who don’t support our decisions to pursue our passions because in their eyes our pursuits appear misguided, risky, or, every critic’s favorite word, unrealistic.

How many times have I heard that one and its other variations?

Get your head out of the clouds

Come down to earth.

Put your feet on the ground.

Countless times, but I’m receiving a lot less of these sayings lately because it’s become apparent to the people close to me that I’m not giving up on doing what I love and can never let go of despite failing on numerous occasions: writing.

If we make an honest self-evaluation of ourselves and realize we’re not made to enduring any particular type of suffering for a period of time, which could be long or short term depending on a lot of factors like our mindset or work ethic, then pursuing our passion may not be the best way to go in our lives.

  1. Do I have a strong purpose guiding my life?
Planet
“Your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it.” ― Gautama Buddha

Moving away from cold dictionary definitions, passion has other meanings, especially when it’s intertwined with business, art, technology, social work, or any other endeavor stirring within a person’s mind. I like John Hagel’s description of passion as a force orienting us in a specific direction, giving us focus. Suzanne Fetting describes it as the alignment of our actions with our authentic selves. I say passion is obsession—a crazy energy within us desperately needing to manifest itself through our work, or else it will consume us. The source of this energy is one’s purpose.

Some use this energy from an early start, others get to it later, but it’s definitely within each person whether awake or dormant. Where does this purpose come from? From knowing the authentic self. What is the authentic self? It is awareness of the thoughts occupying our minds most of the time, the ideas making us excited about life and its potential, and the vision we have for how the world could be if we had all the resources available at our disposal. It’s filtering out the voices of our parents, family, friends, teachers, experts, and society until we’re left with the kernels of our own voices, our own desires, hopes, and dreams. It’s knowledge of who we really are when we’re alone.

By understanding our authentic selves, we can tailor our purpose precisely to our passions. Celestine Chua provides a series of questions worth answering if we’re serious about understanding who we are.

If we’re thinking about pursuing our passions without a clear idea of who we are, or if we’re unwilling to do the work of self-introspection, then we might as well be signing up for a journey of wasted hours and endless frustration.

  1. Am I willing to put faith and trust into the unknown?
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“Only in the darkness can you see the stars.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.

Some people get stuck on evidence, and won’t invest in anything unless they can see real results right away. This makes perfect sense. Who wants to waste money, time, and energy on a project yielding little to no real results? It’s one of the reasons why many of us work for reliable jobs that give us paychecks: real money dispensed into our accounts at specific times. This is comfort. This is security. This is stability. Therefore, it’s easy to believe in what is known and predictable. All power to people who desire predictable lives. No judgment here whatsoever. One of my favorite sayings is you do you.

However…

Following our passion is the opposite of this. If our passion is to create something that will change the world, how the world thinks or uses something, or how the world consumes knowledge or entertainment, or offer the world new stories, art, technology, or give whatever it is we have cooking up in our minds to benefit people, AND make a living from it, then we must embrace uncertainty.

We don’t know how it will happen; we just believe it will happen. We have faith in ourselves and in the universe to deliver whatever is we want to see happen, all while working on hard on our endeavors, of course.

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“You never know what’s around the corner. It could be everything. Or it could be nothing. You keep putting one foot in front of the other, and then one day you look back and you’ve climbed a mountain.” ― Tom Hiddleston

If we’re unable to trust in the unknown and believe that things will end up being more than okay, then we should look to other more predictable and safe paths.

  1. Does perseverance flow in my blood?
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“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.” ― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

More than in any other time, our present world pays homage to instant gratification and access. The precipitous rise of technology continues to cut down the time for receiving items and getting services done. Who has time to wait anymore? With our phones already becoming extensions of our bodies, we have quick access to anyone and anything, and get upset over simple things like late text replies.

Patience, persistence, and perseverance are dying, and experts are concerned that school children are lacking grit. These three Ps must make up the internal vocabulary of any soul pursuing a passion. Passion cannot live without perseverance; I’d go as far to say that passion doesn’t exist without perseverance. When pursuing passions, we’re in it for the long haul and patience grows and becomes a fiber of our being.

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“Dripping water hollows out stone, not through force but through persistence.” ― Ovid

That’s not to say we keep doing the same things over and over with no results forever and ever. No, because we are passionate, we are willing to learn from mistakes and others and change courses to get to our destinations and beyond. Hagel describes this type of passion as the passion of the explorers. People with this sort of passion are not focused on the particulars of how something will be done, but rather the big picture, knowing many paths exist toward the vision in their minds.

If we can’t imagine ourselves sticking to something for the long-term and developing the mental fortitude it takes to keep at our passion while ignoring side-eyes and whispers from people who think you’re crazy or obsessed, then we should opt for a career where patience and perseverance can take a seat.

Following your passion is a serious decision.

Many times we hear people throw out expressions like “Follow your heart!” or “Do something you’re passionate about!” or “Go after your dreams!”

To the naïve mind, these phrases sound sweet and enticing, possibly conjuring up images of an easy life without much work. ‘Easy’ is a foreign word to those following their passions. Short-cuts, cheat codes, and other quick schemes to produce the fruits of passion almost always lead to disappointments, lost, frustrations, and desires to give up right away.

This isn’t meant to turn people away from going after what makes their hearts sing early in the morning. We need an honest picture from time to time of how life is before we make a big decision affecting our lives in so many different ways.

I will end with this, however. You’ll never know until you try.

“Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, 'It might have been.”  ― John Greenleaf Whittier
“Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.” ― John Greenleaf Whittier

How about you? What other questions should we ask before we decide to follow our passion? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Stay amazing,

Sammy

If you found this article interesting or helpful in any way, please share it by using the share buttons below. Thanks!

Be sure to look out for my e-book, The Passionate Dreamer’s Notebook: For Those Who Refuse to Quit, coming out in Jun

How to Win Against and Be Free From Your Worst Enemy: Your Inner Critic. Part II

Image courtesy of criminalatt at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of criminalatt at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Howdy Folks

Hope you all had a great weekend and had fun celebrating Mother’s Day with your lovely Mamas. I know I had a wonderful time with mine. 🙂

In part one of this series, I talked about how I was able to shut down my inner critic by identifying the fears giving my saboteur the ammo it needed to tear me down and keep me down. To quickly recap, the first two fears were fear of disappointing my parents and fear of rejection.

Today, I want to talk about the next fear supplying my inner critic: fear of others perceiving me as a failure. I’m taking time to talk about these fears because they are the root causes of most of the negativity in life.

By shifting the focus of our minds away from our fears and their illusions, we can adopt more self-affirming mindsets, ones that will help us move forward to achieving our goals, dreams, and ultimately, the visions we have for our lives.

3. Fear of others perceiving me as failure.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I never liked being the sort of person who cared heavily about what others thought of her, but growing up, I was taught to be mindful of how others perceived me and making sure people had a highly favorable view of me in terms of my academics, manners, attitude, and work ethic.

It’s one of the reasons why I place a very high value on kindness. I easily fall for kind people. No, seriously. If you’re a kind person, I will love you. Guaranteed. Notice I said kind, not nice. Nice people scare me because I can’t shake off that they’re hiding some sinister secret or plan to hurt me some in way. But that’s another topic for next time.

Also, I can’t stand rudeness, and being around rude people makes me physically sick. It’s obvious in the lines on my forehead and the way my nose twitches as if I’ve just smelled rotten eggs and the way I blink repeatedly. If you’re a rude person, you’ll most likely never see me unless you change. If I sorta like you, I’ll let you know whether something you did was rude. If I don’t like you at all and you make an ass of yourself, I’ll just quickly make my exit because you should know better, especially if you’re an adult.

I’m also big on manners and proper etiquette for dining, meeting new people, working, navigating public spaces, and so on. I’m more relaxed when I’m around family and close friends, but I can be a bit of stiff and standoffish around strangers. That’s just part of my character as an introvert who needs to know a person better before trusting her or him or them. But I’m hoping I can learn to be more open to new people. Again, that’s another topic.

Now, all of this seems harmless and common sense even. Don’t be rude. Be kind. Work hard. Choose peace, not violence. However, as a kid growing up with very high expectations from family to succeed academically and career-wise, I warped this thinking into an incredibly unhealthy level.

I didn’t just want people to perceive me as good kid, but rather as the kid who was perfect in every way.

Photo cred: RYAN MCGUIRE
Photo cred: Ryan McGuire

Trying my hardest to be this perfect kid throughout middle, high school, and most of college really hurt me in emotional and mental ways, possibly triggering my depression and occasional thoughts of suicide. If people saw me as a failure, then, in my head, I wasn’t worthy in any way.

This fear of others perceiving me as a failure created an onslaught of negative images, thoughts, and dialogues in my mind; these destructive thoughts crippled me most of the time and made me feel worthless from time to time. These feelings of worthlessness stopped me from performing at my best and stunted my spiritual and emotional growth.

The truth was that my worth was not tied to how well I performed academically or professionally, or how well I pleased people with my behavior. Worth comes from within not from without. Until I realized my worth and the worth of my dreams and vision for my life, then I wouldn’t be free from the hell of living for other people’s approval. That was not how I wanted to live my one life here on this Earth.

So, in the face of all my failures trying to get my book published, not getting that high paying job I thought my impressive educational credentials would bring, and not getting into the PhD program I so desperately wanted, I’ve decided to keep fighting. To never give up working to achieve my dreams for a more stable, but predictable life or give in to the lies of my fears and my inner critic.

I absolutely refuse to follow a script prepared for me. I cannot. I have to go where I believe my instincts want me to go. It makes for a rather difficult, but satisfying life. Of course I have regrets, but I’m still pretty young and want to focus on moving forward. The process is where I want to be, not the past, and not even the future. This moment right now is what matters the most, writing this article and revealing one of my deepest fears.

I don’t believe I was put on this earth to blindly follow instructions made from another or from a previous time. I believe I have to create my own instructions with ingredients borrowed from my parents, siblings, extended family, friends, experiences, teachers, books, religions, philosophies, and even strangers I have met along the way.

Cause in the end, I'm just a bunny following her heart. Photo cred: Ryan McGuire
Cause in the end, I’m just a bunny following her heart. Photo cred: Ryan McGuire

This is how I live.

How about you? Have you ever had to deal with the fear of other people’s perceptions? Don’t be afraid and go ahead and share. I would love to hear your thoughts!

Stay amazing,

Sammy

If you found this article interesting or helpful, please share it with your family and friends!

Also, be sure to look out for my new e-book coming out soon: The Passionate Dreamer’s Notebook: For Those Who Refuse to Quit!

Let Me Live Near the Beach

beach fron paradise

Let me live near the beach
Where I can cleanse away my sorrows
Let me live near the beach
So I can always hear the song of the waters
Let me live near the beach
Where I can heal all of my pain
Let me live near the beach
So I can behold majestic beauty
Let me live near the beach
And I will forever be happy, grateful, and at peace.

beach front living room 1

bflr2

my condo in san diego 1

sd condo 2

sd condo 3

sd condo 4

seaside living room

How to Win Against and Be Free From Your Worst Enemy: Your Inner Critic. Part I

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The inner critic. The voice of negativity. The saboteur. Many names describe the self-defeating person inside our heads. It attempts with one rushing thought after another to tear us apart, tear our dreams and hopes apart, and leave us in tatters.

Just when we begin to feel good about a project we’re working on, the inner critic strikes with a sneak attack, dampening our mood and making us question everything. When we stop creating to question every little detail, we make our project appear more complicated than it should be, and this may prompt us to stop working altogether.

We try to be positive, but the inner critic still looms over our heads, sometimes powerful and ominous, squashing our feeble attempts to silence it right away.

As a writer, I’ve experienced the voice of negativity on multiple occasions:

“You’re a terrible writer.”

“Why can’t you describe this better?”

“You’re such a slow writer.”

“No one would read this. What’s wrong with you?”

“You’ll never succeed as a writer.”

These thoughts come cascading one after the other, sometimes freezing my fingers from typing anything new on the keyboard. I almost lose my desire to write and search to direct my energies into some other outlet. What if my inner critic was right? What if I was wasting my time writing? What if nobody would ever read my works?

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The saboteur doesn’t just strike at my writing. It harasses me about other aspects in my life: family, work, relationships, and my dreams to travel the world, start organizations to help vulnerable youth, and someday create my own media company. With all these ambitious dreams, my inner critic works overtime to make me feel unworthy, unprepared, and unequipped to find success in my endeavors and my life overall.

After months of meditation and self-introspection, I’ve come to realize what’s keeping in the claws of my saboteur; what stops me from being consistent in working toward my lifelong goals and dreams. My inner critic reflects and gives voice to the deep subconscious fears resting in the darkest caverns of my mind. According to psychologists, painful experiences in childhood such as trauma or experiences with hurtful attitudes toward us help form the inner critic. Without taking the time to pinpoint and separate ourselves from this inner critic, we may allow it to sabotage different areas in our lives.

I found that by identifying my fears, I could shut up my inner critic once and for all and replace it with a more self-affirming voice. My inner critic can no longer swallow me whole and trap me in despair and zombie living.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Here are the first two fears out of four that I’ve confronted:

1. Fear in disappointing my parents.

Being careless with our mental care can allow parents to mess us up. A lot.

Sometimes most of the things holding us back from achieving what we are made to achieve is fear of our parents. We fear letting them down. We fear upsetting them. We fear making their worst nightmares about us come true. We fear their disapproval. We fear losing their support, maybe even their love. We have these great fears because our great love for them.

For some, our parents are a huge part of our lives, especially if we’re the children of immigrants or come from a culture with very strong family ties. This fear, however, can potentially be mentally unhealthy and constricting, and can stop us from taking the risks and steps necessary to achieve the goals, dreams, and vision we have for our lives.

In my life, for example, my parents don’t regard writing as valuable unless it’s tied to a more prestigious profession such as law or public policy. I respect these sectors but for now I want to write fiction, personal essays, and uplifting words that can help others in mental, emotional, and spiritual ways. To me, it’s not always about the income, but about the freedom of self-expression.

Overcoming the fear of disappointing my parents and what they think of me isn’t always easy. It takes hard work and practice in the form of deep introspection, revisiting hurtful past events, and seeing my parents as humans with their own fears, dreams, weaknesses, and strengths.

Parents are not perfect gods. They’re imperfect people who sometimes fear for us in ways that may feel more overbearing to some than others. We know they love us, but some parents have a hard time letting go, and it’s so important they know how to do that.

For us with parents unable to let go, we need to take the first step and jump out to the road waiting before us. This takes bravery, but we all have the courage to do so.

Image courtesy of Vlado at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Vlado at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

To wrap this one up, the inner critic can manifest itself as the imagined voice of my parents telling me I can’t do this or do that because I may end up hurting their dreams for me. However, by better understanding this one fear supplying the material for my saboteur, I can shut it down right away without taking the time to dwell on what it has to say to me.

I can say, “I know where I’m going, and I’m going to make it. And when I do, I’ll find ways to make my parents happier than they’ve ever been.”

2. Fear of rejection.

This one is a real doozy. I fear rejection. One more time. I. Fear. Rejection. It’s embarrassing having to admit this but unless we admit our fears, we won’t be able to tackle them. I fear rejection from friends, people I like and admire, readers of my writing, and so on.

Fear of rejection sometimes stops me from engaging with people I find really interesting because I’m afraid they won’t accept me or my quirks. I’m horribly sarcastic, introverted, and extremely mellow, unless I’m excited about something, and then I’m hyperactive. I have this tendency of thinking people won’t get me so my inner critic pops up with these expressions to paralyze me:

“People think you’re weird.”

“You’re boring.”

“Why don’t you have anything interesting to say?”

“Why would anyone like someone like you?”

“You’re a terrible person and should stay away from people.”

The results of listening to this inner critic? I isolate myself and spend long swaths of time alone, which hurts my chest and head because the loneliness is real.

Image courtesy of khunaspix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of khunaspix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Studies show that loneliness does serious damage to your physical health: lonely people are twice as likely to catch colds; four times more likely to have a heart attack, and four times more likely to die from it. Loneliness negatively impacts your immune system and bolsters genetic activity tied to inflammation, a risk factor for heart disease and cancer! This refers to loneliness alone, not depression. Furthermore, loneliness should not be confused with being alone which is perfectly all right.

I have moments where I’m more than comfortable with being alone, immersed in my work, meditating, or walking around, people watching. However, the saboteur emerges at times when I feel lonely to make sure I stay that way. It also stops me from working on a project because I’m supposedly the worst writer in the world and people will hate my writing.

Knowing my inner critic gets its juice from my fear of rejection helps me find counterattacks to the five negative statements above:

  • Who cares if people think I’m weird. Some people don’t think so and others don’t care. They’re the ones who matter to me. Also, I like being weird.
  • I’m not a clown. I was not made to entertain people all the time.
  • I like breaks in conversation. As an introvert, I value breaks in conversation because too much talking can become overwhelming. I like time to process. It’s who I am.
  • Why would anyone not like me? Next.
  • Yeah, I mess up, but I know I am a compassionate being and seek to do no harm to others.

The inner critic may appear innocent at first, but without proper supervision, it can grow into a beast ruining our lives. As with anything negative thought pattern or behavior we see ourselves succumbing to, it’s always important to dig deeper to find the roots. Without doing so, we may only have surface level solutions that work only for the short term.

How about you? How do you deal with your inner critic? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Stay amazing,

Sammy

If you found this article interesting or helpful, please share it with your family and friends!

Also, be sure to look out for my new e-book coming out soon: The Passionate Dreamer’s Notebook: For Those Who Refuse to Quit!

Be Better and Live Better: #1 Stop Making Plans You Won’t Keep

You finish having a wonderful chat with a long lost friend, and she suggests you both meet up for coffee or tea. Feeling kind, you say yes and set up a date. The date of your appointment arrives and you don’t think you can commit to your promise. A ton of work comes up to swamp you, other social obligations call, or you work it over in your mind that you really don’t want to see this person after all. Feeling shitty, you cancel on her. But she’s not the only person you’ve cancelled on for one reason or another. You find yourself doing this to people over again and again and again. You are a chronic plan-breaker.

via http://www.someecards.com

I am a chronic plan-breaker, and it makes me feel like the lowest scum on the earth when I have to make up an excuse for why I can’t make this or that appointment. This is more than just being a heartless jerk, however. With some deep digging, I’ve come to realize the real reasons why I keep making plans and then breaking them:

 

1. I like to say yes to please people.

Whenever a friend or anyone else asks me to do something, I instantly jump in and reply with a yes. I don’t think things through honestly in terms of my availability or mood. I receive pleasure from making people feel good so I try to do so whenever I can.

OMAHGOSH, LET’S DO IT! via http://www.newgrounds.com

However, this dangerous habit of saying yes is hurtful and disrespectful to people. I want to live by the mantra of doing no harm to anyone, but I fail in this regard when I use people to give myself a small boost of happiness to cover up real dark issues concerning my mental state.

2. I act with my emotions and not my head.

I’m a very emotional person and if I’m not careful, I find myself acting according to my emotions and not my head. This reflects immaturity on my part and a low mental state. I get angrily easily, fall in love too quickly, get too excited and enthusiastic about good things, and feel other people’s pain and sadness too broadly.

My emotions drive my mind crazy

It’s not that I’m not supposed to feel. Of course not. However, when my emotions get in the way of being a better person or end up hurting or disrespecting others, I need to keep them under control.

3. My mood constantly changes

I’m pretty much convinced I suffer from cyclothymic disorder. Cyclothymic disorder is a mild form of bipolar disorder with low-grade high periods (mania) and fleeting periods (less than two weeks) of depression as seen in a major depressive episode (WebMd).

via insta20.com

One week I’m happy and invincible, the next I’m depressed and suicidal, and so on like some terrible cycle. When I’m in my hypomania days, I love making as much plans as possible because I want to feel even better about making other people feel good. However, if my appointments fall on days when I’m depressed and unmotivated, I don’t want to go out. As a result, I cancel my plans because I’d much rather be alone. Sometimes the thought of being with other people on these days makes me want to roll in a ball under my covers and never come out. If my dates fall on days when I’m upbeat and feeling like I can take over the world, I keep my appointments. Therefore, I cancel and keep my plans according to my mood. Not good.

Whenever you find yourself doing things you’re not proud of, it helps to take some time to think through exactly why you’re behaving this way instead of telling yourself not to do it. Unless you dig deeper into yourself and get to the root of the problem, you’ll eventually keep repeating this awful or hurtful habit. You’ll then end up feeling pretty shitty about yourself and reinforce negative thinking, which makes life miserable. The goal is to be a better person so you can live a better life and make the world a better place overall for everybody else.

So, what can we do about our awful plan-breaking habit since now that we know its root causes?

Here are three things we can do to help us stop making plans we won’t keep.

1. Don’t instantly answer questions about making plans.

This should be a simple one, but with instant messaging and impatience flying around everywhere, it can be easy to respond quickly because we believe that’s what’s expected of us: to act fast. However, resist the urge.

If you’re making plans through text messaging, you can pause to check your calendar and check your motivation. If you’re on the phone or talking to someone in person, be honest and tell them you’ll let them know within a day or two. Also, make sure you do let them know; don’t just leave things up in the air because doing so is rude and disrespectful.

2. Ask yourself these two questions.

First, can you do this? Make sure nothing within your control will come up to interfere like work or domestic duties. Don’t underestimate your workload or overestimate your ability to get things done. Again, be honest with yourself.

Second, do you really want to do this? Check to see if your heart is in it. If you’re feeling half-hearted about the plans, don’t make them because eventually you’ll not want to follow through. You’ll feel like you’ve been asked to climb Mt. Everest. Just honestly tell the person you don’t feel like doing this or that. A simple, “Thanks for the invite, but I’m good or I’ll pass.” Or “I’m good but let’s do something else next time.”

Doing so will give the other person a chance to better know your likes and dislikes and to stop inviting you or making plans for things you’re not interested in.

However, if you’re feeling genuinely and fully committed to the plans, then go ahead and make them.

Now this can be a tricky one for someone like me who suffers from a mood disorder. As I said before, I can feel totally excited and motivated about making plans, and then feel like death when the times comes to following through with them. To get around this, I need to follow rule number one: Don’t act quickly and let my hypomania die down until I’m levelheaded.

If my plans do fall on a day when I’m experiencing depression, I need to be out of the house at least a few hours or more before the meeting time. During a depressive episode, I find it’s a lot harder to leave my room an hour or so before an appointment. Instead, I can be at the park, library, or a café getting some writing done on my laptop before it’s time to meet whomever.

3. Remember the awful feelings you felt and inflicted when you broke previous plans.

Don’t neglect one of the most important functions of the mind: memory. Use your memories to help you become a better person. When you broke plans with a loved one, someone important, a new friend or date, you felt bad because you’re a human being. You also hurt the person on the receiving end of your negligent actions. You don’t want to repeat feeling these negative emotions or cause pain to someone else.

And that’s it! We’ll find that with some people, it’s easier to meet them or keep promises to them as opposed to others.

The key thing is we want to become people who keep their word. Since we’re all adults here and everything.

How about you? How do you stop making plans you don’t plan to keep? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Stay amazing,

Sammy

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How to Find the Light in the Persistent Darkness of Your Soul

Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’m a dark person. It’s not that I’m depressed or mostly negative. I’m simply dark. I don’t like to smile a lot. I think too deeply about things. My mind finds comfort in getting wrapped around my untold stories. The sadness and pain of this world deeply pierces my soul and thinking. I’m the kind of person who dislikes being told to be happy or to smile. I live in a reality shrouded in darkness, but I’m not unhappy. I’m actually quite hopeful and optimistic. I believe in miracles and magic. I trust love prevails over all things.

I don’t like connecting with everyone I meet. It takes energy. Sometimes too much for me to handle. I take solace and pleasure in time spent alone. Being with people for far too long drains me unlike anything I know. I’m a loner. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. This doesn’t mean I don’t want and need human contact. I do. Just not all the time. If I want to function for the next several days, I need to have my alone time.

Explaining this darkness to myself has never been easy, so I feel it’s almost impossible to explain it here without sounding like I’m suffering from sort of severe depression. I’m not. However, in this dark world of mine, it’s necessary to find some light because I do stand on a thin line where I can teeter into soul-sucking, depression-filled darkness. To stop myself from overstepping that boundary, I search for the light inside my persistent darkness.

But finding the light takes work.

The first thing I do is talk kindly to myself.

I tell myself a lot of self-affirming statements to keep exaggerated negativity at bay. I tell my self I’m strong, I’m powerful, I’m incredible, I’m amazing. I can achieve anything I conceive in my mind. I just need to act. And not be afraid of the results.

The result isn’t the most important thing. The process is.

Focusing on the process helps a lot. I focus on the joy and bliss that comes from creating words. I dive in the pleasure that comes from making people do what I desire. My mind explodes with energy from this creative process. Energy from my creative spirit.

Image courtesy of taoty at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of taoty at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I tap into the light of my creative spirit.

This light keeps me from sinking into the bad darkness, the darkness that rips souls apart and infests the mind with hope-eating bacteria. The darkness that makes death beautiful, appealing, and even necessary. The light from the creative spirit chases away the bad darkness and provides the oil for burning my passion for one more day. For one more month. For one more lifetime.

I create even when I don’t want to.

Sometimes I don’t want to create anything in the physical world. I don’t want to write because the darkness is too deep. I prefer to create in my mind. The worlds arise and people move inside these worlds, talking, walking, alive within a story. It’s perfect in my mind, and I want to stay up there. Sometimes for a long time. But the mind is not enough. The real world is waiting on the outside. I need to bring the mind and reality together, and that takes work.

So I create even when I don’t want to. I start and once I do, everything comes together.

Revel in the creation.

I love what I create even when I know it stills needs work. I revel in what I’ve brought forth with my mind. Nothing makes me feel more human. More alive then knowing my work is talking, interacting, making decisions, dreaming, experiencing failure and lost, and healing from wounds.

Remember, it’s okay to feel.

One thing I tell myself to do is to feel whatever dark emotions are swirling inside me. I let them run their course. I don’t suppress them. It’s when they’re out in the open that I can attack them, deconstruct them, minimize them, and make them as insignificant as dust. And then, I blow them away and keep on going.

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I am what I think in my mind.

The future isn’t far off. The future is now. I am now. The most important thing to remember is the present moment is everything. Whatever I say I am in my mind is who I am. I am alive. I am incredible. I am powerful. I am capable of being healed. I am capable of healing others. I am learning, growing, and becoming a better version of me because I want to. I am who I say I am.

How do you find the light in your darkness? Would love to hear your thoughts.

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