When I was in undergrad, I took a psychology course that ignited a passion – but not in the way that you might think.
One week we were all asked to share a difficult event from our past. I shared a rather violent event from my childhood. This event was just one of many that I could have chosen to talk about.
When I finished my story, there was stunned silence. I looked around the room and I noticed that most people had tears in their eyes and some were outright crying. My professor remained silent for a moment and then she said, “You know, that is considered abuse, don’t you?”
Frankly, I’d never thought about it that way. It was just another event from my childhood that was pretty similar to many others that I’d experienced.
The following week, when I arrived, my professor said, “I have something for you.” She handed me a page that had all sorts of statistics about how people who had suffered abuse were broken, which would lead to all sorts of bad outcomes: addiction, low levels of success, broken marriages, prostitution, etc. It wasn’t an encouraging list.
I remember looking at the list and then I looked at her and I asked, “Why are you giving me this?” And she replied, “So that you can see what you are up against. You may never be able to be happy or successful and this is why.”
I know that she was doing that out of a place of kindness and compassion but it made me angry – to my very soul. I handed her back the list and I said, “First, I want to thank you for caring. Second, I am more than numbers on a page. This page might indicate the obstacles that I might face, and it might indicate the type of work that I have to do. And, yes, maybe it’s daunting. But, my heart and my spirit and my capacity is not measured on this page.”
I was lucky. I had a fabulous therapist, Maria, who helped me in my journey.
I’ll never forget a moment when Maria said to me: “You have a choice before you: What happened in your childhood is not your fault nor is it your responsibility. What you do with your future is your responsibility.” I’m so grateful that she had the courage to challenge me to rise instead of colluding with me to stay stuck with where I was. Was it easy? Absolutely NOT. It was painful, hard, agonizing work but that allowed me to turn my life around and be in a place where I love my life. I believe that we can all have that. And I will use my time on earth showing others that it is possible for them.
To this day, I hate it when we try to limit the potential of another person. I will fight – to my dying day – to unleash the potential of others, because I believe it is infinite. I will not be defined by my limitations and I don’t want others to be. I will never, ever stop seeking to empower others and for them to hear that they are powerful beyond their wildest imaginations. I believe this. In my soul.