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15 Shocking Stories of Hope to Supercharge Your Life

15 Shocking Stories of Hope to Supercharge Your Life

Ever feel like the weight of the world is crushing your soul? You’re not alone. Life throws unexpected hurdles at the worst times, but don’t let things beyond your control hold you down. Follow the lead of these fifteen shocking stories of hope. Discover just how possible it is to overcome any hardship and forge your own destiny.

1. Chart your own course

Millions of children have parents infected with HIV. I should know; I was one of them. My father lost his battle. Many people may assume this tragedy would ruin a child, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Take the story of Liz Murray, whose parents were addicts and whose HIV-infected mother sold their church-donated thanksgiving turkey to score a hit of coke.

Liz was bullied for being homeless, smelly, and lice-ridden. Humiliated, she dropped out of school. At age seventeen she returned more determined than ever. She set out to become a straight-A student, but she did more than that. She went from being homeless to being a Harvard graduate and bestselling author. Just imagine what you could do without those hardships.

2. Break free

Some stories are too horrific to detail. That summarizes Dave Pelzer, who suffered one of the worst documented cases of abuse in California history at the hands of his own mother. In spite of being locked up in his basement and forced to endure unspeakable crimes, Dave did more than just survive. He rose above the circumstances.

Dave told his story and became an advocate for the voiceless. He also shared the numerous accounts he received in letters each week from people who had similar experiences. That courage earned him the honor of the National Jefferson Award and designation of Outstanding Young Persons of the World. Learn from Dave. No matter what your struggle, no matter how bad your experience, there is still hope. You are not alone.

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3. Remember the forgotten

One untold story is the millions of newly-widowed men and women every year around the world. Their shared struggle goes ignored by the masses because it is so common. But that commonality is no less painful. That struggle is no less real. While some succumb to the terrible loss of a life partner who defined much of who they were, the vast majority overcome their grief. They honor the memory of those lost with a commitment to make the most of their lives. It’s a courage that should inspire you to remember the brave men and women who live next door. Who should you remember?

4. Define your day

You could be like most people–stuck in the middle–like Hal Elrod used to be. He wasn’t significant in his own mind, just an ordinary person with a normal life and decent job. One day, he chose to set a lofty goal. He achieved that goal and was on cloud nine until a drunk driver hit him head on, broke eleven bones, and left him in a coma for six days. He awoke with permanent brain damage. The doctors told him he would never walk again.

Hal made the decision to be grateful for what he had and to be purposeful in his actions. He didn’t let the doctors define his life. Instead, he defined his own day, every day. Not only did he walk again, he ran. Hal completed a 52 mile ultra-marathon and went on to pen the blockbuster book The Miracle Morning, which awoke the lives of millions. How will you define your day?

5. Set the world on fire

What would you do if burns covered 100% of your body and forced you to stay in the hospital for five months while you watched doctors amputate your fingers one by one?

John O’leary had the horrible misfortune of torching himself at the age of nine, leaving him near death and permanently scarred. Somehow, he survived. It’s not just his miraculous survival that inspires, but how his family and community came together to convince him why life was still worth living. The people he touched and what he did with his life after he left the hospital should convince anyone of the true value of a single life.

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6. Climb your mountain

Jill Kinmont Boothe thought she had everything. She taught herself to ski and became a national champion Olympic prospect. Those hopes were dashed with a near fatal accident that left her permanently paralyzed.

In spite of her rejection by UCLA’s school of education due to her paralysis, her determination led her to become a successful teacher, painter, and role-model to millions, a story that later aired in the movie The Other Side of the Mountain. She never gave up hope. Neither should you.

7. Harness the wind

Imagine living in the small town of Kasungu with no money and limited resources. That’s the story of William Kamkwamba, who at age fourteen read a library book that inspired him to build a windmill with spare parts and power his tiny African village. Stories of his initiative spread across globe, which enabled him to do even more for his community. What problems can you solve with even more resources?

8. Make good art

The advice from British native and writing phenom Neil Gaiman is good enough, but now try it as a quadriplegic. Henry Fraser did just that after losing the use of his limbs from a diving accident that dislocated his neck. Six years later, he returned to art after his injuries forced him to live with his mother and rethink his life. His mouth became his instrument, and he took those paintings and drawings to social media where they garnered the interest of J.K. Rowling and others. His story continues to inspire. Yours can too.

9. Take flight

If an artistic quadriplegic doesn’t motivate you, how about an armless pilot? Jessica Cox was born without arms, but she didn’t let that slow her down. She drives, scuba dives, types on the keyboard, puts on her contacts, and does a lot more—all with her feet. That determination led her to become both the first armless pilot and American Taekwondo black belt without arms. She’s just getting started. How about you?

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10. Live without limits

The world is challenging enough, but what if you were forced to navigate that world without your limbs? Nick Vujicic, who suffers from the rare disorder of phocomelia, did just that and turned his obstacle into a limitless opportunity for outreach and exploration. He lives by the motto, “attitude determines your ability to succeed.” What’s your motto?

11. Realize your dream

Ever had a childhood dream you wish never died? After injuries sidelined his minor-league baseball career a decade earlier, high school science teacher and coach, Jim Morris, received encouragement from his students to pursue his dream and try out for the majors. That effort paid off, and he became the oldest rookie to ever pitch in the major leagues. Think twice before you kill your dream. Most are still within your reach.

12. Never give up

Children can be powerful motivators. San Francisco native Chris Gardner went beyond motivation and took action. He didn’t make excuses. He didn’t let his his mother’s imprisonment when he was a child or his failed sales career hold him back.

Persistence propelled him from being homeless to a millionaire stockbroker and amazing provider for his son. Persistence can do the same for you.

13. Shout your message

Imagine being born with a life-threatening illness, one that stigmatizes you in the eyes of everyone. Now add on fetal alcohol syndrome, cerebral palsy, and learning impairments. Would you have the courage to overcome those challenges and become a heroic communicator and advocate? Ashley Rose did all that and more. She climbed her personal mountain to become a Tedx speaker, shared her message around the globe, and taught youth about HIV in the hopes of one day achieving a world where no child is born with AIDS. What’s your message?

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14. Revolutionize your world

Stephen Hawking isn’t the only sufferer of a motor neuron disease to shape his field. Jon Morrow of Copyblogger and Smartblogger took the blogging world by storm a few short years ago. Most people never dream of soaring to such heights, but what makes Jon so special is that he was supposed to die of pneumonia before the age of two because of Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA).

Jon owes much of his miracle to his mother, who fought for him every step of the way and didn’t accept an early death as Jon’s only fate. It wasn’t easy. It was shockingly hard, but after languishing near destitution from medical bills, Jon’s commitment to his ideas led him to become the highest draw in his field, with millions of views. What ideas have you let fall by the wayside?

15. Create your legacy

Most people live life oblivious to their potential unless something disturbing jolts them from their uninspiring routine. That characterized Anthony Burgess right up until the doctors told him he would die of cancer in less than a year.

Anthony accepted his fate, but he didn’t do it gracefully. He wanted to leave a legacy, and so he chose to write a book. In that year he wrote five, including A Clock-work Orange. His cancer went into remission, and his year transformed into decades with over two dozen stories to his name. What would you do with your year?

It’s hard not to be motivated by people like these, but humongous things and heroic stories aren’t necessary to have a big impact. You don’t even need motivation or willpower. Big challenges are overcome and big dreams are realized by taking small but consistent actions, like the ones mentioned by Stephen Guise in his book Mini Habits. Over time, those small actions add up and come to define who you are. The only questions you need ask yourself are, “what do you want to accomplish, and what’s your first step?”

Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

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Roy Huff

Author, Scientist, Teacher

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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