I’m one of those people who give advice relentlessly and yet don’t take my own advice. Then I wonder why I don’t influence others enough to become better people.
Some say it’s normal: we all have given advice that we never take.
Others say it’s hypocritical: take the splinter out of your eye first, before taking any action about another’s splinter.
But Gandhi explains it best:
If you want there to be a change in your environment, whether it be in the family, among your friends, at the workplace, in your class(es), or with society as a whole, you have to begin with yourself. You have to show others why they should adopt your values. You have to persuade them that it is the right thing to do without the need to explain it to them with words. Influence them with “who you are, how you show up, how you act, live, and represent yourself” (Darren Hardy).
I love Darren Hardy’s story on Influence and Persuasion.
A loving mother showers her children with praises, care, affection, and affirmations. But she does not do the same for herself; her self-esteem is low and she believes that she’s not good enough. So what do the children pick up from her? They see themselves unworthy in spite of all the wonderful things their mother tells them. How could they believe her words when her actions come across differently? Their mother’s influence encompasses her own identity, not just her interactions with the children.
“When it comes to influence, it has very little to do with what you say, and mostly with who you are.”
Don’t think about what you can change about others; work on developing yourself to the best you can be.
Heal your own wounds and move on by taking care of yourself. All your friends will admire you for your strength and resilience. They will come to you, not because you have smart things to say, but because you take smart actions in regards to your situation. Your influence will touch others’ lives organically. And even in the smallest encounters, others pick up a lot from you.
Growing up, I’ve always wanted to be a positive influence in others’ lives.
I have dreamed to be a doctor and a lawyer so I can help the less-fortunate and the underdog without looking for huge payments in return. I have said that I will never discriminate against my future patients and clients.
Unfortunately, I was never really interested in biology or in civics. My passion was to help others better their lives, not to study body systems and law systems. Besides, I reasoned, I can’t be both; it had to be either/or. And that meant I wouldn’t be able to help as many people as I wanted. (I was very idealistic.)
In the years to follow, I realized that I could go into teaching and touch the lives of many, hoping to create a ripple effect in their lives as they move forward to their chosen careers/lifestyles.
I was so excited about this prospect that I neglected my own needs. I put too much pressure and stress on myself.
In the midst of my undergraduate career, my first episode of depression occurred and I was diagnosed with dysthymia. I did not falter in my desires to finish my 5-year concurrent teacher education program. I knew that I could do it. I knew that my predicament is an inspiring story to tell my future students, a learning experience I can apply to my teaching, and an example that can positively influence their lives as I come out on top despite the illness.
But it’s not as easy as I made it out to be in my head. I pushed myself to finish my readings, reports, and essays. I pushed too hard that I couldn’t do them at all. I was stubborn and stayed with my program for another couple years. And then the couple years turned to five.
I thought to myself, “At this rate, I will never graduate.” What of the positive influence I was dreaming about?
I was tunnel-visioned that I forgot the most important thing: the influence I have on myself.
How will I help young people if I cannot even help myself?
How will I help others who struggle with mental health illnesses if I do not work on myself first?
How will I influence everyone I meet if I do not believe in myself and influence myself to be a better person?
And so we go back to Gandhi:
Be the change you wish to see.
Words aren’t enough. We have to take action to bring about change. We have to be proactive in our healing to see results.
For years I drove myself deeper into my depression, so focused on the end-goal of earning my undergraduate degree and entering teacher’s college that I forgot the “now”. I forgot the importance of being mindful, being in the present, and being aware of my current needs. I compared myself to others in my age group, to friends who were graduating, moving on to the next steps in their careers, and starting their own families. I compared myself to them even when I knew we were apples and oranges, even when I knew I see only the highlights of their lives.
Only when I lost everything did I realize how much I needed to stop looking at others and start looking within myself.
I cannot persuade and influence others to take control of their emotions when I can’t do the same. I can’t influence them not to overthink when I torture myself with thoughts of the past, no matter how insignificant they may be. I can’t influence them to connect with me and have a good conversation when I don’t socialize properly. I can’t influence them not to tiptoe around me when I am volatile and fragile.
And so, recently, I’ve been working really hard on focusing on my own healing before grabbing onto various projects that may not end well because of my lack of reliability.
I made sure I didn’t miss my doctor’s appointments so I could try a new medication plan. And it has been worth it—my body/mind responds well to my new antidepressants, much better than to my former meds.
I made it a point to visit family as often as I can to strengthen my relationships with them, even if it simply entailed watching movies with my parents or playing video games with my siblings.
I went outside for walks and did not postpone it when the mood strikes. It didn’t matter if it happened rarely; what’s important was that I got to go out the apartment and didn’t stay cooped up in my room.
I fought off the anxiety to go out with friends, and went out anyway. I ended up having a great time and enjoying the company of others.
I’ve also been reading non-fiction books (self-help, self-improvement, business, personal development, etc.), and enjoying them! I do my best to apply in my life what I have learned from what I’ve read. My favourite book so far is Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Konmari’s book has influenced me greatly as I read about her lessons tied with anecdotes from her own tidying experiences and from her experiences as a cleaning consultant.
I’m thinking of writing a whole entry on my experience with the KonMari Method (we’ll see), but the take-away is this: after I’ve decluttered my space and got rid of the things that don’t give me joy, I feel so much lighter and happier.
Lastly, I’ve been slowly gaining more energy and more motivation to attend yoga classes regularly. It’s unfortunate that my free 6-month yoga pass from Blu Matter Project has expired just a few days ago, when I am determined more than ever to go out and take a class. But I’m not deterred—lucky to have a nearby yoga studio offer unlimited yoga classes to volunteer helpers. I’m just waiting on the application form at this time.
Here’s to believing that influence comes from within.