Tag Archives: fears

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!

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!

Please, Live.

When I was in the eighth grade, I hated my chorus teacher. He was a very kind man who loved his job and possessed an acute sensitivity to the progress and success of his students. That wasn’t why I hated him. He was gay. His high pitch voice, the curl of his pinky fingers, and feminine gait assaulted my thirteen-year-old sensibilities of how a “real” man should behave. My religious upbringing taught me people like him were an abomination. So naturally I joined a band of vicious kids intent on torturing the poor man. I turned my lips up at him in disgust, refused to cooperate in class, and dismissed anything he had to say with a hard roll of my eyes. Even my father thought I was out of control when in a row of A’s, he saw a glaring C for chorus. I didn’t care. I saw my chorus teacher as unworthy of my time or effort. I moved up to the ninth grade, but stayed in the same building because the eighth graders shared the same space with the high school crowd. I didn’t take chorus in the ninth grade. Instead, I developed a hard crush on a girl and my whole world exploded in a perplexing mess.

I confused her for a boy at first. And switched to believing she was a girl. And back to thinking she was a boy again. The confusion elicited by her gender presentation delighted me in unexpected ways; I wanted to talk to her and hear her story. When I entered the girls’ bathroom and found her there, the logical part of my brain declared, “Well, there you have it. She’s a girl so you can’t like her anymore.” But knowing she was a girl made me fall harder. So I semi-stalked her because I didn’t have an ounce of courage to approach her. I don’t think she knew I existed. Or if she did, never acknowledged it. I found out she had a girlfriend; they were the only lesbian couple in the school. Whenever I saw them holding hands, pangs of jealously stabbed my chest, but I also loved seeing them together: the times they kissed, argued, and hugged. I ached for what they had. With a girl. My brows furrowed whenever these thoughts zipped across my head. What was wrong with me? I would ask over and over again. I should like boys not girls.

It hit me later in the year that I didn’t completely like boys. I wanted more to be their friends, to be part of their inner circle, to be them even. I envied their fucking freedom. I paid more attention to my choice of clothes and realized, horrified, that I dressed more like a guy: collar shirts, baggy pants, sneakers and army boots, and vests. I loved vests. I saw them as my armor against the big, bad world. I wore my hair in a ponytail most of the time, wearing it down only for picture days. And dresses and heels were for church. The thought of wearing such an outfit to school never crossed my mind, even something slightly feminine. I had to laugh at myself. Here I was, a homophobe who happened to be the most obvious queer in the school. But I wore make-up so maybe it wasn’t quite so plain to see. I wouldn’t know the word for how I presented until the end of college: tomboy femme.

I took chorus in the tenth grade and made a conscious effort to know my chorus teacher better. That’s why I know he was a kind man who cared deeply about his students. Such qualities about him flew over my head in the eighth grade because I refused to see his humanity, refused to see him beyond his sexuality. I laughed with him, talked to him about things in my life, listened to stories about his, and did my best to excel in class, paying close attention to his instructions to perform better in upcoming competitions. I can only imagine his confusion about the 180 in my behavior. But I never apologized for how I treated him two years ago. And that was a mistake because he left the school the year after. When I asked why, the answer broke my heart. The bullying had been too much for him so he quit. Moved to Provincetown. It was my first time hearing about this place that some students’ referred to as a gay Mecca. The sadness over not being able to apologize followed me through the rest of high school, the rest of life really, all while I secretly pined for a gorgeous, highly unavailable girl.

Whenever hateful conversations about gays and lesbians came up at home, I stayed quiet instead of joining in on the homophobic rant as I used to when my mind was different. My silence was a scream in the middle of it all. A scream for the hate to stop. A scream to let them know that I was gay too. That those conversations crushed the most delicate parts of my soul and fed my fear of coming out. Religion, Haitian culture, community and family ties, honor, keeping up appearances, and being normal–I was too afraid to stand up against such a superbly trained army of manufactured soldiers. I was only one person after all.

In grad school, after suffering from depression in college and nearly killing myself over my sexual orientation, I asked myself this one question: are you willing to destroy your world for the truth? I didn’t have an answer then, but I do now. With destruction comes the opportunity for rebirth. I will build a new world, a world supported by truth. I will continue loving myself and telling myself one thing: Please, live.

freedom

I Want to be a Farmer

I want to be a farmer. A temporary organic farmer to be exact through WWOOFUSA.  Usually, I’d search for something outside the U.S. but my limited funds are keeping my sights stuck on the homeland. However, the U.S. is a big a country, and I haven’t seen much of it, so why not explore it? Two places I’d like to go are Alaska and Hawaii. I don’t see what I can’t split my time between the states. I initially thought I had to commit to one, but now I want to go to both. I love mountains and the beach because they calm the rage and worry bouncing off the walls of my head. And I have too much of both.

farm in Hawaii

What spurned this on you might ask? Every minute I stay in Boston is another minute that a piece of my soul dies. I kid you not. This is not an exaggeration. I’m in purgatory right now, a horrible waiting period where I might have nothing to do for the next seven or eight months leading to school that starts in late August. I’ve applied to several PhD programs and who knows if I’ll get accepted, but I do hope so because I excel at only a few things and they are reading, writing, studying, and teaching. I don’t have much talent for anything else, but I still think I can make a pretty decent farmer, which is why I thought I should give it a go.

farm barn in Alaska

I need to get out of Boston.  This city is killing me because I’m letting it. I’ve lived here all my life, and it terrifies me that despite how many times I’ve tried to escape it (lived in New York and Seoul, Korea) that I keep returning back like some strange curse. I need a new scene, freedom, and independence. I desire control over my life. And I do have it, but I’m afraid to use it. Why? Because my parents. It’s time I take my own advice and confess to my parents that I have the ridiculous idea to leave home and become a farmer who makes no money for seven months.

Reason tell me not to go because I need a real job so that I can save some money for grad school while my heart say screw it, just go with your gut and have an adventure that creates wonderful memories and stories.  I’m confused. I don’t want to think. I just want to go. Go far far away as soon as possible. I have a choice to make and I have to make it fast. No thinking, no second-guessing, just pick and go and figure things from there. I wish I could be that person. I always thought I was that person. That’s the person I am in the future. I’m sure of it so why am I hesitating?

Jump!

How about you? Have you ever taken a big step without thinking it through properly? Would love to hear your responses.

Stay amazing,

Sammy