Succeed to Survive
Earlier this year, I was attacked for the work that I was doing, and I was sold as a predator doing all the work I do to get ahead for myself. This was not the first time my work had been questioned, but this was the first time I had dealt with a systemic attack impacting every aspect of my life, or so I thought. Since then, I have learned that this started years earlier, from November 2016, but no one had told me that certain individuals were spreading lies about me. Dealing with this, like with most forms of gas-lighting, I stopped knowing the truth from the lies, and forgot the purpose I had held onto so dearly for 6 years: to build a world where no one felt alone throughout their challenges like I was. Today, I have a slightly different vision, to support the transformation of anyone, walking side by side with them as they become all they are meant to be.
I was called a narcissist, a chameleon, and dozens of other names, referencing my confidence in my work, and my determination to push through and make the work happen. I had been attacked multiple times prior to this for my self-care, self-esteem, and everything recovery oriented within my life. The reality is that most people are not happy for you when you reach new heights in your recovery.
By that point I had been attacked for my yoga, mindfulness, boxing, my travel, social media support, my sleep, my food, my friendships, my chosen family, and even my biological family. I had been doing this long enough that I had heard it all, but this was different. This was following a hospitalization last year due to 18 months of immense psychological abuse within a work and personal domestic relationship. At the time I could not tell what’s real from a fraud, and after the hospitalization my therapist literally said “I would never say this to someone who just got out of the hospital, but you need to pack your things and drive. The best thing for you right now is to leave and get as far away from here as possible.”
So, when this came up again, from the same individual who had caused irreparable harm within my life, I fell back into the chaos of the aftereffects of gaslighting.
This was in May, and during these past few weeks as I worked on developing a new curriculum for Life in My Days, I finally have some answers to how I grew to become the way I am today.
Now, finally, I know why I have the confidence I do in my work, and the determination and resilience to push through anything, giving up everything along the way to make it happen.
It comes down to a simple instinct: survival. If I was not determined, confident, and resilient in my work, and successful I would not be alive today.
At 17, one evening, I met with a friend and told him that I was going store to store to get a job. He was shocked, at the time I was the individual who rarely spoke two words in a gathering, and here I was walking into stores, asking if they needed any help and selling myself as the best possible candidate. I had never had most of these jobs, but I knew that if I did not have a job things would not end well. Within twenty minutes I had a job at a small clothing store. I showed up the next day and was fired eighteen minutes later for cleaning windows and folding pants the ‘wrong way’, something that affected me greatly. I left, and things did not end well. I became homeless two weeks later when I ran out of money and remained so for nearly a year.
A year after the window and pants incident I started college in the US, and it was the same way. If I did not have a job within the first two months I would become homeless, get deported, and die. It was a matter of survival. So, I got a job, and a second, and a third, and a fourth, and then moved things around and for four years had nearly a dozen different jobs, four a year. My survival was tied to each and every single one, every on campus job, every internship and co-op, everything.
I never had time to think about whether I’m truly the best for a given position because I knew I could be dead if I didn’t get the job. So, I sold everything that I am. And I thrived in these positions, it wasn’t like I was a terrible candidate, but this confidence, this drive, was so foreign to the rest of my life, something that was so evident to anyone who knew me at all, and I was often asked why that was, and to this day I am told that when I am ‘at work’, whether on the phone or in a meeting I am a completely different person.
Three years ago, as I landed my full-time job at a fortune 500 things did not change. I needed to be the best I possibly could be, because if I am fired then I am deported, and if I am deported I am most likely dead. At the time I had also decided to invest in non-profits and build a world where I am able to pursue that someday. But my reality did not and could not change. I had to maintain my engineering job, and at the same time excel beyond belief and make things happen within the non-profit field to survive.
For so many things I was robbed of the ability to want it for the sake of wanting it without any consequences if I did not get it. Throughout, it had always been about survival. Unknowingly, I had found confidence in my strengths and pushed through adversity wholeheartedly. Consciously, I was a wreck, second guessing everything, but when it came to work my survival instincts took over and I prevailed.
As I have worked on my recovery over the years, bridging the gap between my conscious and sub-conscious and becoming the individual my sub-conscious always knew I was, I learned that the world is not very kind to those who own their strengths and are determined to make their visions a reality. Of course, this is not everyone, but unfortunately, we have not built communities centered on self-actualization and wellness. Pay attention the next time someone says that someone is a narcissist around you, and you may notice that many times we use that word for individuals who honor themselves and are choosing their wellbeing. If I take selfies everyday because I love the way I look I am called self-centered. If I go to yoga everyday afterwork, as my friends overwork themselves then I am selfish and not considerate. If I am not awake 20 hours a day, then I am not committed. If I have different boundaries with different individuals, then I am a Chameleon. If I demand support and to be treated humanely by those around me then I am narcissistic and entitled. I heard ALL of these things over the years.
We have a long way to go, and I hold hope that we will get to where we need to go.
Knowing this, I am even more enamored by my strengths and abilities to not only survive but to thrive during the most difficult of situations. I am bathed in humility, seeing myself as the greatest version of me that I can be, an Awesome version, something everyone is able to be. Because true humility is not denying our strengths and devaluing ourselves, true humility is celebrating our awesomeness and believing that awesomeness exists within everyone.
So, call me a narcissist, call me a chameleon, call me self-absorbed and self-centered, call me anything you can come up with because all I hear is that I am unique, I am resilient, I am determined, and I am resourceful, the fact that you can’t see that in everyone is representative of you, not me. So, whether you’re like me and you found your path due to a need to survive, or because of the work you’ve done on yourself, or the support you’ve accepted, be you, be awesome, no matter what THEY say!