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!
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.
While you’re reading through this, try to think about times when you may have felt critical of others or yourself. Did holding those feelings help the situation or did they make it worse?
As you become more aware of the energy and emotions you want to purge from your environment, try your best not to get caught up in criticizing yourself for the attribute you want to be rid of. Please don’t be too hard on yourself for having apprehension or being restless or annoyed. The fact that you’re taking notice of these tendencies means that you’re doing something – you’re starting taking first steps to take control of your life. As I mentioned earlier, try to analyze these shortcomings with a very close eye.
When you’re driving down an old road on a hot day and your car gets covered in dust, you wouldn’t think of it as right or wrong. You understand that this is something that just happens, and you make a mental note to get the car washed the next time you’re in town. Let’s pretend you’re in a car and it begins to rain, naturally your front window begins to get wetter and wetter so you turn on the windshield wipers to see better. You’re not going to blame the rain for messing with you and say, “Why is this stupid water getting on my windshield and all over my car, and on a Monday of all days!?”
It doesn’t really matter how you feel about the rain, partially because the rain doesn’t care about you either. Maybe you have been experiencing a major drought where you live and you welcome the downpour with open arms, or maybe you’ve had drenching floods lately and you don’t want to see another drop of rain for the rest of your life. Regardless of how you feel, you have to deal with what’s happening in the moment. Getting worked up and allowing emotions to negatively influence you won’t help. In order to move forward, you have to establish a balance, be positive, and take appropriate measures.
Life is like sailing across an ocean, and in the same way that you experience rough and turbulent weather at times, so too will you experience fear or doubt or jealousy and you’ll want to have your umbrella with you. That’s perfectly natural. Observe these attitudes for what they really are and, becauseyou’re being consciously aware just know that they’re holding you back, set your sights on removing them and replacing them with belief in yourself as your own unique person, gratitude for what you already have, and excitement to be alive with a new day of opportunity ripe for the takinIf 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.
Last month, I had the opportunity to celebrate my 73rd birthday with my family and so many close friends!
In my life, this is only the 3rd time I’ve celebrated my birthday. Being considered a curse and bad luck as I grew up, no one wanted to celebrate that! As I started my life in America, I didn’t pay any attention to my birthday coming and going.
My students would always approach me to suggest we throw a big birthday party. I usually would tell them no. Some years, we would hold dinners at homeless and recovery shelters. I’d rather spend the time helping others. My life has been so richly blessed by God, my desire is to only help others.
Thank you to all my friends who flew in from overseas! It was wonderful catching up with everyone! I look forward to seeing everyone again soon!
Time is going by so fast! Take a moment to tell your family, your significant other – anyone you appreciate – tell them you love them. Don’t be stingy with your love! Love is one benefit that isn’t taxed!
May God Bless You All!
Copyright © 2020 Tae Yun Kim by Inbound AV . All rights reserved