We are often asked, what do you focus on when you encounter bad situations in life? How do you react to devastating events or traumatic experiences? Over time I have learned that every mishap in our lives leave us with two things. Two things that go hand in hand to keep us grounded and make us stronger.
The first thing any bad situation you encounter in life will leave you with is a scar. It may not be a physical scar; most often and as we all know, comes in the form of mental or emotional trauma that could stay with you for life. I’ll tell you about an experience I had when I was a child that left me the first gift every adversity does – the scar.
Around the age of seven, my mother sent me and my little sister to live with an old lady who had volunteered to take us in, cater to our needs, and educate us. The old lady, Mrs. Cleofas, was a very cruel, angry and eccentric but we were only about to discover that.
Everyday, she taught me and my sister lessons. There were slaps, pokes, sharp sticks, and other painful methods of punishment used. The more terrified and stiffer we got, the more creative with her wickedness she became, and soon enough she discovered my crippling fear of cockroaches.
Armed with this knowledge she immediately came up with an even worse form of punishment for me. Behind her house was an Indian style toilet, which was barely as big as a phone booth. It was filthy and damp with a smell that brought tears to my eyes but worse than this however, it was crawling with those large flying cockroaches I was so terrified of.
Despite my pleas and desperate tears Mrs. Cleofas shoved me in there, locked the door, and switched off the lights leaving me in pitch darkness with about a hundred frenzied roaches frantically flying around the tiny space in the toilet. I remember panicking to a point of hyperventilation as their wings fluttered on my skin, as they landed on my face and crawled up my legs.
She went on to do this every evening and never failed to come up with a good reason to do so. We were cautioned on every one of my mother’s visits and this continued happened until the day my mother came visiting once again andnoticed something was wrong when I wet myself and told Mrs. Cleofas that she had come to take my sister and me home, under the stairs. How does this story relate to my point? This experience left me with an emotional scar that stuck with me and affected my person as a whole for a long time to come.
I resolved within me that I didn’t want that to happen to anybody else; not if I could help it. I took the silver lining from that traumatic experience and made a promise to myself to help as many people as possible to fight such fear and not to allow it to “find a home”; but instead to use it as a hidden power that could propel you to do great things. I promised also to help as many families out of such situations that could potentially expose their children to this kind of thing.
I had to first help myself and it was a battle for a very long time, but I chose to do the toughest of all things when it comes to fighting your fear – I chose to find my voice and become a Motivational Speaker. Yes, to expose myself to every possible critique (good or bad). I knew it wasn’t going to be easy since people were not aware of my background or past experiences and the world was not going to give me any goody points or wrap me in cotton wool because of all that I had been through.However, I also knew that there was something inside that was super strong. This took resilience of a very different kind but when the Chairman of the PSA (Professional Speaking Association) said to me Jillian 10 out of 10 after a 20 minute talk on the subject, I felt as though I was a bottle of champaign that was locked away in a cellar for years on end and that had suddenly been opened on a very special occasion.
Whether it’s a lesson you learned or a form of realization of self or an awakening to the reality you live in, every negative situation will leave you with golden nuggets to help you become a stronger person. They say that everyone of us are born with a unique gift, and that we all unwrap them at different times in life. What you’ve got to remember though is what Picasso put only too well - “The meaning of life is to find your gift,the purpose of life though is to give it away”