By the time she called me, my friend was desperate. As an avid gardener who loved to cultivate delicate, expensive blooms, she usually had no problem keeping her plants healthy and vibrant — but for some reason, she couldn’t keep her favorite flower from withering away. She had tried giving it more sunshine, food, and water, but to no avail.
It was dying, and she didn’t know how to save it.
I asked her to bring the plant for a visit. Once she arrived, I examined its discolored, undersized leaves and drooping stems. I heard her gasp as I began the slow process of stripping the earth away from its roots.
“Is it really that sick?” she asked.
“Sometimes,” I said, my fingers still gently working the too-soft, dark roots free, “the problem can’t be helped from the surface.”
The expensive plant was suffering from an infection in its roots. To fix it, I had to expose the problem to the air and remove the diseased parts before we could re-pot the plant and let it grow.
You can probably guess where I’m going to go with this. In some ways, we are all like that plant.
Often, the fears and insecurities that prevent us from flourishing have roots that we can’t see on the surface of our lives. And yet, all of us have beliefs about ourselves that trace back to nearly forgotten rejections, some of them so long past that we’re no longer aware how much a part they still play in our lives today. We might not sing because a childhood choir teacher told us we weren’t very good; we might not let ourselves try at something, because a family member told us we would look foolish in the attempt.
Everyone has endured hurtful criticism at one time or another, whether or not your childhood was a happy one. Regardless of your past, these negative ideas about ourselves are as damaging as that toxic bacteria, eating away at our confidence and willingness to reach beyond our comfort zone. Self-doubt can be crippling; it can prevent us from pursuing a dream, pushing for a promotion, or speaking up when it counts.
I’ve felt this kind of limiting belief firsthand. Growing up in a rural Korean village in the 1950s, I was always derided for being born a girl. My gender was considered a curse on my family, especially because I had no interest in becoming a homemaker. My true love was martial arts; a pursuit allowed only to men. I was constantly derided for my passions and told that I would fail; I was rejected, abused, and put down on a near-constant basis.
My experience is extreme, but it is in no way an isolated occurrence. Every person faces the challenge of other peoples’ expectations in their life; from childhood, other people always provide directions for who we should be and how we should act. Sadly, sometimes these instructions have little to do with who we really are. In fact, many people provide advice as a way to control or gain power, addressing some lack in their own life.
Yet, even knowing this, how often do we allow those around us to tell us who we are, and what we can expect from ourselves? How many times in a day do you defer to some belief about yourself, given to you by someone else from long ago?
You don’t need to allow others to define you. Despite the oppressive nature of my village, I managed to become the first female grandmaster in Korea and establish my own studio. You can clean that rot off of your psychological roots and bloom into the person you were always meant to be — but the process will take effort.
Here are the six truths you will need to accept as you heal your roots and reconnect with your true self.
You Are Unique
There is no one else in the world who is exactly like you. Don’t let another person’s opinions affect your self-image or motivations, because their perspective is incomplete. You may have good advisors, but at the end of the day, you are the one who knows yourself best. You get to decide who you want to be. No one else can tell you who you are.
You Have More Strength Than You Know
In life or death situations, you can accomplish anything. How many stories have you heard of desperate mothers lifting cars off of their trapped children, or of people pushing the odds of human survival? We are all linked into a universal life force — one that allows us to overcome our perceived physical and mental limitations. Most people aren’t aware of their connection to this underlying force. However, given training and focus, anyone can access it.
Don’t confuse feeling weak with being weak. You may have doubts, indeed, fear plays a part in any healthy person’s thoughts! But you don’t have to surrender to that fear, today. You can acknowledge its presence, and then move past, ultimately leaving it behind.
Your Thoughts Determine Your Reality
If you allow negative thoughts to dictate your self-image, you will always be bound by the limitations others impose upon you. Take a more deliberate approach to mental filtering; recognize intrusive, negative thoughts when they come and respond with positive affirmations. Say, “No, I can accomplish what I intend to do. If others can reach their goals, I too can make my dreams happen.”
Language is a powerful tool: in politics, in religion, in advertising, and in our daily lives. Don’t let your language about yourself limit your progress. Change the way you think and talk about yourself. It’s not always easy, but I guarantee the practice of positive thinking and speaking will yield a difference in what you are able to manifest.
You Embody Creative Energy
We all have creative energy; however, when we give up on creating, we pour that energy into a mold of helplessness, reinforcing our belief in our own inaction. Break the cycle; find the motivation you need to create something — a hobby, a friendship, a career — that brings you true fulfillment.
You Already Have the Power to Make Your Dreams a Reality
Without determination, any good intentions will stall, lacking the energy necessary to make it a reality. Remember, procrastination is just another symptom of self-doubt. Even five minutes of action a day towards your goals can move you away from paralysis and into success. Set a timer if you have to, and begin.
The good news? Getting started is the hardest part. The more you do, the less likely it is that you’ll sink back into your comfortable, unfulfilling patterns. Take one step today. Two steps tomorrow.
You Need to Find What Brings You Joy
Do you know what makes you happy? I’m not talking about what makes your family happy, or earns you a paycheck, or the expectations you have set for yourself. No — I’m asking if you know what brings a smile to your face and makes you feel alive. What “thing” brings you joy?
Don’t allow doubt to poison your psychological “roots.” Don’t let the careless words of others from the past define your present, or your future. Make that “thing” be the primary driver for everything you do, and the top priority for how you structure your day.
No matter who you are, no matter what hardships you face, you alone have the power to determine how you will respond to the challenges you encounter, and by what values you will live. Your path is your own. Every successful person you will meet knows this to be true, and yet I am always so sad to meet so many people who don’t believe this, still.
The truth is that you are free to take action, starting right now, in this moment, towards making what is important to you a reality.
Let’s get started!
The minutes ticked on as I sat outside of the principal’s office, waiting for someone to ask me why I was there. I was prepared for the question; I had, in fact, placed a bookmark into my worn Korean-English dictionary and marked the page where I’d written my answer in careful letters.
Hello, my name is Tae Yun Kim. I want to teach your students martial arts.
But no one had asked. Every afternoon for the last several weeks, I had taken a seat and waited for an invitation to speak, to no avail. At just over twenty, I was tiny and thin — at a glance, I almost looked like one of the students walking through the schools’ halls. But aside from a few odd glances, no one spoke to me. Yet, day in and out, I returned with my dictionary in hand, preparing for the day that someone would invite me inside.
It took a month. Finally, a curious administrator asked me what I was doing, and I finally had a chance to explain.
The principal was skeptical, at first. He told me that the school couldn’t pay me, that they didn’t want students to hurt themselves, that there was no martial arts course in place.
“That’s okay,” I told him, “I’ll volunteer, and martial arts will teach your students discipline.”
After some time, he agreed.
Persistence, I’ve learned, is often the key to success. After the first few days of waiting, some might have given up or assumed the answer was no — but because I committed myself, I was able to achieve both acceptance and opportunities beyond measure.
Having the chance to teach brought me joy, because all I wanted to do was share my skills in martial arts. Back then, I was barely into my twenties and had just made the journey from my village in rural Korea to Vermont. Teaching was my dream — and I had struggled for years to study martial arts, facing abuse in a profoundly repressive patriarchal culture. I’d become Korea’s very first female grandmaster but was rejected as a teacher because of my gender. I wanted to teach, as I had been taught, and help others break free of their fears and circumstances — I just needed the chance.
That day, in that office, was my chance. It’s been decades since that day, but I still remember it. Since then, I’ve moved on to establish my own school, hundreds of miles away. I’ve taught thousands of students, built a tech company, and risen far above where my elders thought I would — all because of persistence.
Here’s what I’ve learned over the years.
If You Don’t Ask, You Guarantee Rejection
Many people abide by unnecessarily strict rules, so boxed in by their fears of seeming impolite or overly forward that they wall themselves off from opportunities. Another person might have been intimidated or embarrassed by the idea of sitting outside of a principal’s office for a month — but taking a risk on that embarrassment helped me make an enormous step forward in my career. I don’t regret it, and I wouldn’t even if the answer was a firm rejection.
You are only ever guaranteed to fail if you refuse to try in the first place. The worst that someone can say when you pursue an opportunity is “no” — and even then, you may be able to make connections or find information that will help you achieve your goals another way.
Don’t let fear keep you from pursuing your dreams.
Rejection Isn’t Always Permanent — Or Even Negative.
When I landed in Vermont, I had just $300 to my name and was living in a trailer park. There, it didn’t matter what I’d given to become a martial arts Grandmaster, or even that I was one. My only career option was to clean toilets for money. Some might have seen those circumstances as a low point, or become discouraged.
I’ll be honest — there were times that it was terrible. Some nights, I had little but bone broth to eat. But I viewed each hard night as a stepping stone for something greater. I was being paid to scrub toilets, which constituted a significant step up from doing it for free for family members. It was honorable work, and I knew that it would give me the financial platform I needed to move onto my next success.
Persistence doesn’t always mean reaching for your furthest goal after a few days — or even months — of effort. Instead, it means being thankful for small steps and maintaining a determined spirit against adversity.
Harsh Words Should Motivate, Not Deter, You
It wasn’t always easy being a Korean woman in 1960s America. Back in my village, I had been reviled for being female and uninterested in gender norms. In America, I was rejected for the color of my skin, my broken English, my poverty, and my gender. It was hard; I was constantly demeaned, faced slurs, and even risked physical abuse. When I finally scraped together the money to rent studio space for a martial arts school, arsonists burned it to the ground.
Each setback was demoralizing and frustrating; however, I knew that I had to reset my perspective. So, after someone demeaned me or my dreams, I would respond — “Okay, I see you. You motivate me. I will prove you wrong.”
And I did.
There are always going to be people who step on your dreams. You’ll hear it from your competitors, enemies, friends, family. Even well-meant advice can be hurtful. You can be put down, made to think that you won’t accomplish anything — but you need to bear through it. Let criticism inform and motivate your efforts, not crush them.
Persistence is key.
Your thoughts create reality. Sure, you say. This is not a new concept. Obviously, we are affected by the constant barrage of internal and external influences we endure on a daily basis. Marketing companies alone spend hours each day figuring out how to expose us to thoughts that drive us to purchasing their products.
If thoughts didn’t matter, these ads and their advertisers wouldn’t exist.
That’s why we all need to understand how truly powerful this idea is: Whatever we think about consciously and subconsciously manifests in our daily life.
In other words, what we focus on grows bigger in our daily lives, and what we ignore grows smaller.
This concept applies to everything, including all the negative, self-limiting, and doubting thoughts that hold us back, as well as the confident, determined, supportive thoughts that propel us into positive action.
While you may give thought to what you eat on a daily basis, making sure it’s healthy and good f or you, do you do the same with your thoughts?
Remember, it takes vigilance to examine and if necessary, to remove the thoughts that run through our minds. And yet, how successful could anyone be with an inner dialogue that repeats “you can’t do it.” Ask any successful person and they’ll tell you the same thing: while they may have had that voice in their head, they chose not to listen to it.
Next time you are standing in front of a mirror, take a few minutes to look at yourself. I mean really look at yourself. While you’re there, quiet your mind and listen to the thoughts that come next. Don’t be discouraged if you hear nothing, or have trouble quieting your mind. You may even find that you have a hard time looking at yourself. This is a form of meditation and it takes practice and patience.
The topic of Love encompasses many areas of our intricate lives. Love is more than loving another person; it includes loving ourselves, accepting faults, practicing gratitude and loving through difficult situations, among many other things.
Did you celebrate Mother’s Day or Father's Day recently? Like we do on that special holiday, it’s important to express gratitude for our mothers, fathers and parental figures in our lives, every day! Even if you weren’t close to your mom or dad, chances are there was some adult whose opinion of you mattered.
Why do we often wait to only once a year to tell someone how much they are appreciated or how much they’ve helped us?
Try some spontaneous kindness and see how it makes the recipient feel, and pay attention to the wonderful feelings that you’ll also participate in. Think of gratitude and kindness as like any other skill that you want to master in life – it just takes practice!
While you’re spreading some thoughtfulness to others, don’t forget about you! We can be our own worse critics, but there’s a lot we do really well. Determine each day to get to know yourself a little better and get to know what’s true for you – and have fun doing it!
Remember my question from the beginning of Seven Steps to Inner Power?
Asking this and seeking the answer is absolutely essential if you wish to express your fullest potential in life. Loving yourself is an important part of the answer.
When you set the right goal for yourself – a program of one year or three years or five years – and then you work toward your goal with discipline and commitment, I guarantee that you’ll find a way to make it happen.
Few people, however, know how to put together the desire to get somewhere with the means to make it happen.
Want is not enough. For example, many people want to be rich. Yet, are you willing do put in the work to make it happen? Be ready to commit to your goal when you set it, and you will not be disappointed.
Next, set a timeline to motivate yourself on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis towards that goal. Make a plan with steps to be accomplished, and dates by which to accomplish them. If there is an end in sight, with a map on how to get there, you’re far more likely to work towards that result.
In setting a calendar with specific challenges and tasks to be accomplished by a certain time, remember, that success often doesn’t come in the order in which we plan it. That’s okay. As long as you’re making progress towards your end result, you’re doing more than 99% of those around you. And you’re likely to get to your goal.
Remember, a delay does not mean you have to abandon your goal. After all, you may need to adjust plans along the way as new information comes to us. As long as you start with a firm concept of what you want to accomplish and by when, you will be in motion and moving toward the finish line.
Professional athletes, for example, dedicate themselves to practicing, training and striving to meet specific markers along the way to their end goal. Just like that, we need to be specific and consistent.
Keep in mind that none of us know when the sun will go down in our lives. All we have is today, to work our hardest, to move forward doing the very best we can with the tools and circumstances in front of us. If you live each day in service to your goals and values, working towards making them happen, I guarantee you will find satisfaction and success!
Read along and examine some of the most inspirational quotes we’ve collected from Tae Yun Kim over the years. We've written some thoughts reflecting on these quotes. Feel free to reflect on these quotes in your own ways.
#1 - “Self-Discovery means learning to live free”
This quote comes from Tae Yun Kim’s book The Silent Master: Awakening the Power Within. Many people live their entire lives never finding who they really are. Learning about yourself and intentionally examining who you truly are, allows you to become more free than you ever felt possible.
Find and ask yourself the important questions you want to be answered and then answer them yourself.
Believing in yourself first will grant you the inner power you’ve been searching for.
Our thoughts are raw forms of energy that manifest themselves in ways that aren’t always apparent to us.
This tells us that negative thoughts and doubting ourselves can be very self-limiting.
Your attitude towards certain thoughts or actions is one of your strongest tools to hold in mind when looking internally for answers.
#2 - “Your own thoughts can be your worst enemy”
This one we put second because it picks right up where our number one selection left off.
This quote also comes from one of Tae Yun Kim's primary publications The Silent Master: Awakening the Power Within originally released in 1994.
All too often we neglect to think about ourselves in a spiritual sense and instead focus on physical pursuits.
Everyone has their own one of a kind power within them.
It’s important to consciously think about what it is we want to give power too.
Going through life in a stagnant manner can lead to feelings of hopelessness and loss of purpose.
Being proactive about opportunities that we take for granted can affect the way we move through the world and effect all of the decisions we make.
Next time you’re worried about how stressed you are about your job, your marriage, politics, try to become more aware of what your true inner values are.
#3- “When you express purity which is the truth about yourself, you feel a love for yourself that is expressed by self-respect, self-esteem, and self-confidence”
We found this one in Tae Yun Kim’s work on Seven Steps to Inner Power: How to Break Through to Awesome.
If you haven’t put it together yet, one of Tae Yun Kim’s biggest messages is that of self-love.
Knowing yourself and loving yourself are very closely intertwined.
Tae Yun Kim found out early in her life that martial arts was something she genuinely loved.
Being able to recognize and fully understand what she loved about martial arts allowed her to experience a form of purity and genuine self-confidence that she hadn’t come across before.
Finding this “purity” doesn’t come easy. It requires actively searching out by yourself and digging deep to find out what makes you who you are.
Becoming a grandmaster doesn’t come easily. It requires an intense understanding of one's self, as well as understanding the difference between physical power and inner power.
#4 - “To make a change, you must be: willing to commit, willing to change, willing to have an open mind, and willing to take action!”
It’s important to understand that things won’t simply come to you in life.
It’s up to you to seek out change in order to improve your environment.
It’s also important to understand that bringing this type of change requires a strong commitment.
The path to living a happier and successful life comes with many hardships and struggles.
Without a serious commitment, these changes may never come to fruition.
You also have to be willing to accept things about yourself that may be challenging or unpleasant to accept.
Accepting something about yourself is different from giving it power. Living in lies about yourself can lead to negative outcomes that don’t reflect your true self, but instead reflects the part of you that represents fear.
#5 - “Realize that I Can't usually means I won't”
Another important message we found in The Silent Master: Awakening the Power Within.
What good does “I Can’t” ever give to us when we think about our goals or where we want to be in life.
How do you even know you can’t if you’ve never tried something before, which often times is the case when we tell ourselves “I Can’t”.
By saying “I Can’t” you decide to take yourself out of the equation.
Even if you get the wrong answer at the end of the equation at least you still have an answer.
Next time you have a similar equation you might be able to solve it drawing from your past experience.
Learning about your own true inner power will give you a better ability to discern what you truly can and cannot do.
#6 - “Before you can express love, you must find love. You must know love within yourself before you can give it to another. When you recognize or experience the truth about yourself you automatically feel love, because love is a quality of your true consciousness and true ideas.”
Love really is a word that means many things. It also can mean different things to different people.
Self-love is often thought of as self-discipline.
Taking time out of your day full of physical pursuits in order to self better yourself isn’t always the most fun task in the moment.
Most people would, very understandably, love to simply sit back and relax the day away if they had the choice.
By getting up and telling yourself that you're going to do something to better yourself and actually doing it, you feel an immense sense of self-worth and self-love by the end of it.
Practicing inner power meditation is a key to finding love for yourself, and therefore love for the rest of your surroundings.
#7 - “Let go of self-condemnation and guilt”
Learning from our mistakes is a very good quality one can learn.
However, learning from our mistakes is far different from self-condemnation and guilt.
When you encroach on the toxic aspects of self-condemnation you will only lead yourself down a darker path.
Accept that you’ve made a mistake, learn, and move forward.
All too often we find our selves living in the past which by nature prevents us from looking to the future.
While equally living in the future can lead to a negative outcome, what's important is finding the proper balance through experiences and learning about yourself.
What’s important is that we truly are always doing our best and not kidding ourselves pretending that we are.
#8 - “Maintain a forgiving attitude”
Taking again from The Silent Master: Awakening the Power Within we find a very simple, yet one of the most powerful messages.
Everyone makes mistakes, likely many mistakes a day.
We are always growing and becoming closer to the person we truly are.
While it can be challenging to forgive others who have wronged us, it’s important to remember to forgive.
Being able to forgive others will help you to free yourself from negative thoughts and feelings of hopelessness.
Remember that this doesn’t just apply to external sources.
Just as important as it is to forgive others, we must learn to forgive ourselves.
#9 - “Use your will to conquer fears and weaknesses”
Beating fear and overcoming weaknesses is one of the hardest things we will ever attempt in our lives.
Fear comes naturally, it’s one of our base instincts that allows us to survive.
Allowing that fear to have too much power however can’t extremely hinder our own self-growth, and can even control our lives.
It’s solely up to us to tap into our will power to overcome what comes naturally to us.
This is what Tae Yun Kim talks about when she speaks about inner power.
Finding your inner power to take control of your own life.
The more you’re able to tap into this power the more you’ll be able to dictate what happens in your life, instead of letting life control you.
#10 - “Physical training is mental warfare”
Tae Yun Kim often talks about physical training being closely tied to mental training and conditioning in her book Seven Steps to Inner Power: How to Break Through to Awesome.
Pushing ourselves physically is just as mental as putting a strain on our bodies.
After all, our mind is apart of our body. The most important part of our body at that.
Physically training your body is an amazing resource for self-discipline.
You will often find that after physically exerting your body past its limits will fill you with an immense sense of satisfaction.
Pushing yourself in this way is a physical representation of breaking past boundaries into new uncharted growth territory.
Next time you’re out on a jog, try pushing yourself a little farther just to see if you can do it. Then do it again.
Being patient is such an important trait that often gets overlooked in our day to day lives. True patience means keeping your power turned on as you consciously wait for whatever it is you are working toward to appear at the appropriate time. Patience is knowing the truth and expecting the truth to manifest. This idea of knowing and expecting is all a part of being your own Silent Master. Thus, when you genuinely express true patience, you’re thinking as your Silent Master thinks.
For example, say you’ve been trying to become pregnant for a long time and are elated that it finally happened. You experience some morning sickness but you quickly get over that. After three months, do you say, “Where is my baby? I’m ready to get this over with. Let’s go.” What about after five months? How about eight month or even longer than that? You must stay patient until your baby’s development is complete.
Let’s take an entirely different scenario. Let’s pretend your home was destroyed in a flood and has to be rebuilt. After the builders have begun working on it for a few weeks, is it sensible to ask the builder, “Where is my home? Where’s the kitchen? Where’s the completed living room? When can I move in?” Of course you wouldn’t do that because you understand how much time it takes to build a new home. You’ve already done your planning, you’ve pushed to make it happen and stayed loyal to the goals you’ve set. Now you’re patiently waiting for the conclusion of the project. When you’re manufacturing a new product, you know that you’ll have to go through stages one, two, and three before moving on to stages four, five, and six. To avoid a lot of anxiety and future frustration about the project and instead replace it with patience, you can carefully chart out where you are in the process.
Your life is also a constant work in progress. It takes everyone time to grow and mature. Everything has a time frame for completion. Even though we may not be aware of the timing and processes of our life, these stages still exist for us and we’re constantly moving through them. Granted this is a very far-reaching view of patience than what we typically think about. Normally patience is when you have to wait in a long line at a grocery store. What I’m talking about here is a whole different level of patience. Sometimes it can take years to achieve certain life goals. When you’re in middle of this process, it can be easy to allow yourself to get disappointed with each delay and use that as an excuse to give up all together.
If you connect with what you’ve read here you might enjoy the book I wrote SEVEN STEPS TO INNER POWER, where I talk about other life experiences and what I’ve learned in the process.
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