Tag Archives: personal development

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

If you enjoyed this article or found it helpful, please share it on facebook, twitter, or wherever! Thanks in advance!

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.

If you enjoyed or found this article helpful, please share it. Thanks in advance!

How I Write and Keep Motivated in the Face of Deep Discouragement: Part II

Why is nothing going right? Sigh…

In my first post, I shared four things I do to keep writing and motivated in the midst of deep discouragement. We don’t choose the challenges that come our way, sometimes we do, but oftentimes we don’t. I learned a long time ago how letting the darkness weigh me down served no purpose other than to stop me from creating, and thus, living. Creating is my life; it’s how I interact with the world, make sense of it, navigate it, and survive, and ultimately thrive in it. Without the process of creation, I have nothing. I feel I am nothing. I am blind, deaf, mute, and brain dead. In other words, no better than a corpse. So whenever discouragement rears its ugly head to stop me from creating, I need to get over it ASAP. I need to keep going and I do so this way:

5. Come up with a plan that addresses my mistakes and creates solutions to be better

As I said before in my last post, sometimes I fall short of attaining my goals, and when I do, I try not to beat myself up over it. I reduce the whole guilt factor to prevent me from giving up on making goals altogether. Aside from not being too hard on myself, I create a plan to address the reasons why I failed to achieve specific goals. I’m basically learning from my mistakes in order to not repeat them the next time around. I attack my mistakes head on and create an appropriate fix for each of them. Whenever I feel myself sliding back into those same mistakes, I take a look at my solutions list, and it keeps me on track to getting things accomplished. Again, I use Evernote to get all of this done.

I can do anything I set my mind to! What? What’re you looking at?

6. Speak power to my life every day and repeat how I will achieve my goals and vision for my life

It’s time to get spiritual right now. The right actions are important, but without the right mindset, those actions won’t manifest. Every day I make sure to remind myself of the power I have in changing my life and making my dreams come true. I have a saying written on a board in my room. It says, “Whatever I can conceive in my mind, I will achieve. I am powerful. My mind is chaos.”

Conceive it; achieve it.
Conceive it; achieve it.

You’re probably getting all the lines except the last one about my mind being chaos. The thing is I need to have my mind untethered to the cold logical thinking part of my brain that says I can’t do this or that because I don’t have this or that. Saying my mind is chaos disconnects me from that restrictive, logical thinking that usually keeps people in mediocrity or in safe, unimaginative spaces. I want my mind to inhabit dangerous, wildly creative spaces.

7. Actively forget the past and the pain it carries.

Like every other human on this planet, I have past hurts, mistakes, failures, and disappointments. I used to dwell on all these low points in my past, and I kept trying to figure out how different my life would turn if I did this or that. Bad move. Thinking on past regrets is probably the most useless activity you could ever do. Seriously. It wastes time, depresses you, and keeps you away from the present. Anything that keeps you away from living in the present moment is worth abandoning. The present is all we’ve got before we say our adieus. My worth isn’t tied to who I was or what I did in the past. I recreate myself today and with each new day that follows.

8. Enjoy the process.

At the end of the day, when all is quiet in the dead of the night, the worlds I create with my writing all come down to this one feeling: joy. In the deepest caverns in my heart, I truly enjoy writing, and I sometimes need to actively remind myself of this fact. I enjoy beginnings and ends, but the middle is where it’s all at, where the magic is at its strongest. I can’t forget it even when I feel like crying all day or want to keep walking past my apartment building to someplace far away. Shutting out my external environment, I find beauty and joy in the creative process. This is where I live. In the process of creation.

How about you? How do stay motivated to do what you love in the midst of discouragement. Would love to hear your thoughts.

Stay amazing,

Sammy

If you enjoyed this article, please spread the love and share it on Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, or any other social media platform. Thanks in advance!

Check out:  How I Write and Keep Motivated in the Face of Deep Discouragement: Part I

Get Over the Small Stuff and Live Better: #4 Rude/Inconsiderate People

Snow! Please, stop.

If you’re mildly interested in weather news, you’ll know that Boston has endured the ire of Old Man Winter these past two months, especially February. Don’t know what the city did to deserve such an onslaught of snowstorms one after the other. Er, wait a minute, I take that back. This is Boston.

The last snowstorm convinced me that I should indeed leave Massachusetts and seek warmer shores because my blood cannot do the cold, snow, and way below freezing wind chills any more. Neither can my sanity. The only time I enjoy living here is during the late spring and summer. Boston is pretty then. No, really, it is. Take a look.

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Boston Public Garden
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Ah, Spring in Boston. Come back soon!
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Oh flowers, how I miss you.
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I haven’t taken a stroll in the park since forever. 😦

But now it’s winter.

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Stare down into the white abyss!
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The white stuff is everywhere…

With all this snow comes an activity we Bostonians love: shoveling. Not. When faced with my car buried under mounds of snow, I stand and look at it for a moment to figure out what kind of work I’m expected to do. I wake up a little later to deal with the shoveling because I’m a teacher and get snow days. I use these wonderful days off to write my ass off because I have very little time to do so on a regular schedule.

When I stepped outside to shovel my car out for the millionth time, I noticed a huge huge pile of snow behind my car. It was snow created from my neighbor’s snow blower. My temper began bubbling up in my chest at this blatant, inconsiderate move from this woman. Not only did I have to shovel nature’s wintery treasure, but I also had to move a new mountain of snow courtesy of my neighbor. I wanted to swing my shovel against her car. A quick whack to front. Bam!

My car...sigh. Can you find it?
My car…sigh. Can you find it?

I took a deep breath and swallowed by anger.

I told myself two things: 1.) Blowing up at my neighbor would waste a lot of energy that I needed to conserve for snow shoveling. 2.) The world had enough darkness in the world without me adding more to it with my unnecessary rage.

Yeah, my neighbor pulled a jerk move by giving me more work to do, but I decided to let it go.

I went back inside my house to get my cell phone, put my headphones in, and listened to some rocking tunes as I shoveled out my car. And guess what? My neighbor stepped up and joined me. She helped me shovel away the large mound she created with her snow blower. She then helped me remove my car from the driveway.

We exchanged no words about what she had done earlier but it taught me something: one of the best ways to say you’re sorry is through action. And my neighbor apologized by helping me. Also, silence is more powerful than you realize when faced with anger inducing situations like rude or inconsiderate people. Sometimes people expect you to be angry or they want to get some sort of heated reaction out of you. Don’t give them that satisfaction. Hold on to your peace and pile coals on their heads by showing compassion; you’ll be surprised how differently people react to kindness or silence instead of horn blaring anger.

How about you? How do you deal successfully with rude or inconsiderate people? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Stay amazing,

Sammy

If you enjoyed this post, please spread the love and share it!

Also check out: Get Over the Small Stuff and Live Better: #3 Road Rage vs. Road Peace

From College to Today: How I Fought and Won Against Self-Doubt, Disappointment, and Negativity. Part III

My Stop!
My Stop!

I jumped into life in New York with my eyes closed and my faith and confidence level high. I relished the beauty of the present and looked forward to the promise of the future. Every day was new and guaranteed surprises and laughter.

I exuded a great beam of light wherever I went. My friends would sometimes comment on how my eyes shone bright or how I gave off a glow. The joy swelling in my chest simply overflowed.

My love for my new friends and desire to meet new people knew no boundaries. I sought them and made plans, something I hardly ever did back in Boston. I went out with friends for dinners, movies, Broadway shows, rooftop parties, social justice events, intimate gatherings, and seminars with keynote speakers. I experienced fun study sessions that lasted until 4 in the morning, bonding with my study buddies. I wanted people to be joyful and safe around me. My bubble was a no-judgment zone full acceptance and love.

And yet, despite all this positive energy, negativity held on to a portion of my mind, opening it up to fears of rejection and emotional pain. I knew I suffered from depression but dragged my feet on seeing a therapist. As a Haitian American, it wasn’t part of my culture growing up to seek mental health services. Praying was our therapy.

But sometimes prayer honestly isn’t enough and one needs physical medical attention or assistance.

My depression wasn’t crippling enough to stop me from attending classes and functioning in day-to-day activities. Therefore, I didn’t think it was necessary to seek help. I thought I could handle the pain myself and overcome the pressure behind my eyes, the creeping thoughts of loneliness, and occasional aches from unexplained sadness. I couldn’t visualize speaking to a person about my problems so I would write down my thoughts in a journal instead.

It helped to be surrounded by a group of caring, wonderful people. Most of the time I wasn’t even aware of my negativity, only when I was alone. And then one day I had an interesting exchange of text messages with a very good friend, someone I would eventually fall in love with. She was a Buddhist and exposed me to Buddhist philosophy and teachings. I’ll never forget an analogy of life she gave me.

vis www.vizant.com
via http://www.vizant.com

She told me to imagine my mind as a tall building. If I wanted to turn all the lights in each floor, it would take a lot of time and effort. But if I brought out the sun, then the whole building would be illuminated all at once. She told me to bring out the sun. Back then I wasn’t exactly sure how to do that, but her words comforted me and helped pull me further out of my quicksand of negativity. She led me to become more aware of my thoughts and feelings, and to catch negativity at its root.

Little did she know, she was saving my life and shifting it towards a new, liberating direction. I would take this new perspective with me to my next destination after New York.

My graduation from Columbia was bittersweet. I knew I would miss my friends, the City, the great food, and the simple joy of walking down Riverside and Central Park. But I had to move on.

I made the wild decision of leaving the U.S. and spending a year in another country with a completely different culture.

I was going to Seoul, South Korea.

Oh Korea!
Oh Korea!

To be continued…

How about you? I’m sure we all have met someone how has helped change our lives for the better. How has that person helped you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Stay amazing,

Sammy

If you enjoyed reading this article, please spread the love and share it! Thanks in advance!

From College to Today: How I Fought and Won Against Self-Doubt, Disappointment, and Negativity. Part II

In college I walked in a haze of negativity and self-doubt obscuring my vision and crippling my hopes for a future. I longed to hang out with friends on weekends, laugh for no reason, and work hard on a dream motivated by passion. I desired these things because somewhere deep inside I knew that life couldn’t only be the flames and the aches. Although small and fragile, there was some awareness that I wasn’t meant to live this cramped, self-hating existence I was living. I was meant for something more fulfilling, rich, and beautiful. And that small hope pushed me to apply to graduate school in NYC, a city that stole my imagination and heart after a three-day visit with my family. I wanted to live in New York and the universe and God answered my prayers.

My face once I opened up my letter of acceptance to Columbia University

I didn’t know it back then, but I was slowly releasing myself from the throes of negative thinking before moving to New York for school. I was fed up with feeling down, fed up with feeling like I had zero control of my life and where I wanted it to go. Suddenly, it really didn’t matter so much what people thought of me or whether this or that person could perform this task better than I could. I had a desire to truly focus on me without taking the outside world into consideration.

It took going beyond the superficial desires manufactured by my upbringing and society to better understand and be in touch with who I really was and what I could do. I was approaching the edge of this new and liberating mindset, but doubt and negativity kept pulling me back. It would take some great friends to give me the shove I needed into a lake of healing and self-love.

Freedom begins in the mind

When I first stepped out of the moving van to head up to my room, I instantly felt the rhythm of the city humming beneath the soles of my feet and tingling my skin and senses. The beat matched the excitement of my heartbeat and never stopped drumming until I left two years later. The air had something contagious in it: possibility, hope, uniqueness, coolness, and discovery among many things. I couldn’t help but get caught up in the potential for what things in my life could be. It was a great feeling. Like I said before, I was riding on an amazing high. But I would soon find out that the best thing about living in the city was the people.

New York would have been nothing without the incredible bunch of individuals I met from different walks of life. For some strange reason, the shyness that held me hostage in college dissipated in the city. I was outgoing, confident, and supremely cheerful, and it attracted so many cool people my way. Something about being outside of my comfort zone energized me in a way I never thought possible. I wanted to forge new friendships and connections so I dove right in without an ounce of fear. Doing so allowed me to meet one special friend who helped me confront my negativity straight on and embark on a new path: affirmative thinking.

To be continued…

Stay Amazing,

Sammy

How about you? Have you ever moved someplace new and it changed you in some way or another? I’d love to hear about it!

If you found this article interesting or insightful in anyway, please spread the love and share it! Thank you!

From College to Today: How I Fought and Won against Self-Doubt, Disappointment, and Negativity. Part I

Life stopped holding my hand when I turned twelve. I developed antagonistic feelings toward life and decided it was an enemy I needed to conquer. I moved from a predominately Black and Hispanic urban Catholic school to a predominately white public school in a suburb of Boston. I started the eighth grade in this new middle school with great excitement and anticipation, but my excitement turned to dust in my mouth after the first several weeks.

I felt isolated, different, and incredibly unhappy. I missed my old friends and making new friends was harder than I thought. Sometimes, I locked myself in a bathroom stall to cry or find some escape from my present reality. I despised my situation and cursed life for it, unable to find the kernels of joys placed all around me. I saw only demons dancing in hell, pointing at my sadness and laughing at my supposed helplessness.

The years moved along and I went to the high school of that same town. High school was only slightly better and I longed to reach the end. I graduated sixth in my class of about 200 students with honors and scholarships. Tufts University was my destination.

This was a good school.

College was hell. And this surprised me because I had hoped it would be worlds better than high school. I couldn’t believe it turned out to be worse than my childhood nightmares.

I blamed myself because I was painfully shy and more self-isolating than I was in high school. I suffered from a bad form of introversion. The result? I experienced the minimum of college life and my social circle never reached beyond 3 members. And forget romantic interests. A unicorn had a higher chance of existence than my love life. I didn’t think I was desirable in any way so I never took a chance to step out or reach out.

However, I was supremely thankful to the handful of people who chose to hang out and talk with me, especially since I was convinced that I wasn’t as interesting or captivating as my fellow classmates. I made little impact at Tufts and it took a lot of work to scrape off that big piece of profound regret from my mind.

Writing was my savior during that time. I majored in English. And then majored in Biology because my parents and I already decided that I would become a doctor when I was in middle school. When you’re the child of Haitian parents, you have three career paths to choose from: doctor, nurse, or lawyer.

The sciences at Tufts kicked my ass and dragged me down into the worst depression of my life. I would fail again and again in my exams. Insecurities chained my every limb, self-hatred multiplied, and negativity was my home and prison. I saw no way out, so I contemplated suicide often, especially during my third year. It was on my mind every day. But my faith in God stopped me from going through with it. I found solace in the Bible and in the love I felt from Jesus. I never sought a therapist, which was one of my biggest mistakes. I probably would have been able to unpack a whole lot of stuff weighing me down.

College graduation came, and it was the happiest day of my life because I was finally leaving hell. I had mustered enough courage to tell my parents that I no longer desired to be a doctor and that I wanted to study education. Best part: I had been accepted to a Masters Program at Columbia University’s Teachers College. I was going to live in New York freaking City. I floated higher than I ever thought possible and let a roaring loud wave of relief, excitement, and happiness wash over me.

My two years living in New York would be the best two years of my life.

teachers college
Teachers College, Columbia University

To be continued…

Stay Amazing,

Sammy

Five Things to Help Escape the Hell that is a Hot Temper

I hate losing my temper. When I blow my top, I feel upset at myself because I’ve just wasted precious energy for little to no reason. And I don’t like wasting energy. I’m tired enough as it is. So, without further waiting, here are five things I do to help diffuse my hot temper.

Calm down. Take a deep breath. That’s it.

1.) Be aware. Very aware.

I wouldn’t be able to see how pointless and silly losing my temper was unless I looked at it carefully in terms of its source. Breaking my pen, seeing someone make a mistake, and driving behind a slow driver are not the REAL reasons why I want to chomp someone’s head off. It’s much deeper than that. I’ve become so angry at my PhD rejections and myself for making mistakes in the admission process that I’ve transformed the whole thing into a raging beast. I haven’t let this beast go so it roars and snarls at the slightest annoyance. This is the real problem and the sooner I deal with it, the better. It’s an ongoing process. However, being aware about the genuine source helps me win half the battle. Winning the war comes very soon after. I believe it.

2.) Do absolutely nothing the second the blood starts to boil. NOTHING.

I don’t know about other people, but I know exactly when I feel about ready to pounce and lose my temper. My heart beats quickly, and I clench my teeth and fists. My mouth is just itching to throw up some verbal vomit. During this seething moment, I remain absolutely still. I don’t say anything and let time pass. As time goes on, I realize I’m getting angry for no reason at all, and the bomb diffuses. Poof. Whew! Apocalypse averted.

3.) Take the time while doing absolutely nothing to think.

While I’m trying to keep my temper under control by doing nothing, I think about the awful things I want to say and do and how those things would hurt the person on the receiving end and myself.

4.) Laugh. Or Smile. Or do both.

No, seriously. Laugh. Even if it’s the last thing I want to do, I smile and then laugh. It’s true what they say about smiling. Moving all those facial muscles to grin sends a small wave of happiness over me and I’m able to breathe out air instead of fire.

5.) If the top still blows, apologize right away and explain.

Sometimes, try as I might, I lose my temper anyway and drop the guillotine. I know the person receiving my wrath isn’t at fault. So I apologize and do something nice: like buy flowers, pay for gas, get a coffee, or anything to show that I’m genuinely sorry. I also let the person know that I’m not angry with them and I’m trying to work out some personal issues. I don’t like apologizing much, so knowing that I have to apologize when I lose it helps me to avoid losing it all together.

And there you have it. My five step program in choosing peace and leaving hell. How about you? What do you do to avoid losing your temper? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Stay amazing,

Sammy

And don’t forget to eat a lot of ice cream!

Be Your Own Cheerleader: Write Letters of Encouragement to Yourself

Sometimes we have these days where everything that can go wrong, goes wrong, or where every thought that flutters around in our brain is this onslaught after onslaught of negativity that makes us feel like screaming or at least trying to run away from ourselves—I’ve tried it and surprise surprise, it doesn’t work.

I’ve discovered that I’ve been wasting a lot of time trying to find people who can support or encourage me.  The problem is that I don’t like telling people my problems because I don’t want to come off as someone who unloads on others and thus annoys them. People are really busy and the least of my intentions is to annoy people. This may not be a healthy way of thinking because I should be able to talk to my friends when things are dark and gloomy. Maybe it’s that fierce independent streak in me.

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At an ancient grave site in Seoul, Korea

What do I do instead? I social media the hell out of my social networks through posting interesting articles, liking other people’s posts, commenting, and so on in hopes that I might get attention from someone, but it never goes according to plan because being indirect doesn’t always work. The best approach is the direct approach, but as I said, I don’t feel comfortable enough bothering people with my problems. I have this thing where I don’t really believe it when people say that I can talk to them about anything. Although I want people to believe me when I say they can talk to me about anything. Weird. I know. And something I need to work on. So, sometimes I do social media with askew intentions, but other times I do it because I genuinely like sharing and reading other people’s information. I’m an information hoarder.

Anyway, I’ve found one outlet for when I have these darks days and need to get out of my mud of despair that actually works (and is less time consuming). It worked so well that I was able to finish the last 2500 words of my book in one sitting, which hardly ever happens. Usually I squeeze out 1000-1300 words because I’m one of those edit-as-she-writes writers, and two or three hours later I become exhausted writing and editing just 1300 words. Trust me, don’t be one of those writers if you write. Just write and edit later. This is another thing I’m working on. I’m actually editing right now as I write this post. Hopeless.

SO, what is this thing that I did that worked? Well, one night the frustrations of life weighed upon me—you know, the usual culprits reminding me of everything I lack in life for someone my age. Well, I sorta mentally slapped myself and opened a new document on Word. I then proceeded to write a letter of encouragement to myself.  I wrote about all the things that were right in my life, along with all the things that I had, which many people didn’t have. I also told myself to buck up because a great future waited for me. I was a woman with a mission, goals, dreams, and enough determination and inner motivation to get through the muck and mire of whatever is trying to stop me.

I may be a slow moving train, but I’m a train nonetheless so watch out obstacles, negativity, and excuses because you’re all about to be run over.

I read this letter to myself twice (and edited it even though it was for my eyes only) and felt so much better. Not just so much better for that night only, but for today too and I wrote the letter several nights ago. I don’t know why but maybe there’s something radical in making ourselves feel better. Being our own cheerleader, encouraging ourselves, and slapping out the stupid (mentally of course). We’re always being told that humans are social beings, and we need people to fulfill this or that, but as a single gal with a dash of lone wolf syndrome, it’s encouraging to know that I can help myself. I’m not saying that this should be a substitute for real people, but rather another thing we can add to help pick ourselves up.

So, whenever you’re in a deep slump, try writing a letter of encouragement to yourself. I’m curious to hear if this helps others too!

Stay amazing,

Sammy