Eye-Opening Moments are real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives intertwined. In this episode you will hear about From Powerless to Powerful and The Money Judges.
Comments or questions are welcomed on Twitter @emilykaytan OR on https://inspiremereads.com.
Hello and welcome to episode #58 of Eye-Opening Moments where you’ll hear real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives intertwined. They are moments that can lift your spirits, give you some food for thought, or move you. For the introspective mind that likes to reflect, discover, and find solutions or meaning in a complex life, this is for you. I’m your host Emily Kay Tan. In this episode, you will hear about From Powerless to Powerful and The Money Judges.
From Powerless to Powerful
Many people are afraid of me. They would say that I was a scary person or that they were scared of me behind my back. It made me feel like there was something wrong with me. It made me not feel good about myself. I didn't know what to do about it. I was powerless. Then one day, I read a short story that I could use as a script for one of my student's speeches. The short story gave me an insight, and suddenly I went from feeling powerless for decades to feeling powerful instantly. And it was from a children's story!
As a teacher, parents told me their children were afraid of me. Children told other kids that they were frightened of me. It did not feel good to hear it. I didn't know what to do about it since I was born looking the way I do. My only solace was that because I was scary-looking to children, they behaved in my classes for the most part. I became known as the teacher with the most well-behaved children. My colleagues would often ask what I did to get such disciplined kids. My rationale was that I was well organized and made clear my expectations. Plus, I followed through with what I said; if I said it, I did it. In other words, I said what I meant, and I meant what I said.
I am a person that does not smile every day or often. I appear to have a frown on my face most of the time. Some children mistake it to mean that I am a mean person. Other students mistake it to mean that I am unhappy or angry. It saddens me to be so misunderstood. On the bright side, when students get to know me, they quickly come to love me, but they are still a bit scared. I say it is because I am an authority figure. Sometimes I would comfort myself that my scary or mean look helped me discipline students with less effort than some other teachers.
It took many years to realize that even adults were scared of me. Perhaps I had been teaching kids for a few decades and was too busy interacting with them to notice that I also scared adults. Maybe, it was from a conversation I had over the phone with a friend only a few years ago. Everett and I discussed our experience as a manager in one of our jobs. He shared about being reprimanded or lectured by his superiors and asked me to share some experiences. I couldn't think of any superior who ever yelled at me. I said I was just not a person that bosses yelled at. "Maybe they were scared to yell at me," I said. I chuckled, and Everett laughed too. However, after I said it, I had the sneaky feeling that my bosses were afraid to yell at me. I had seen some bosses scream at other adults, but they did not do it to me. Everett was most intrigued by this, and I became amused by it. I teased and said I looked scary or was frightening, so beware, I told him. I concluded that I scared children and adults alike. How or why was a mystery to me.
Why do I keep scaring people? Why do I look scary to others? Asking myself those questions was disheartening. It was always nagging questions with no answers. As I recall, a children's short story I read finally gave me the answer. I couldn't believe I discovered the answer to the mystery through a children's story!
The story explains why the lion was the king of the jungle. It said the lion was a big cat but not a huge animal. It was not the most intelligent animal nor the strongest, tallest, or heaviest. Yet, all the animals would run away when the lion showed up. Hyenas, giraffes, and elephants respected the lion. Interesting, I thought. Even more intriguing to me were some facts about the elephant. The elephant is bigger, stronger, heavier, and more intelligent than the lion. Yet not all animals would run away when they saw the elephant. The question is, why? And why did many animals run away when they saw the lion? The answer told me why I scared people. Aha! I am like the lion!
The jungle king looks at other animals and sees LUNCH in his mind. Other animals run away because they do not want to be eaten. The lion surveys his surroundings and stands with an attitude. He looks, and he is on the prowl for prey. His attitude is that he will get what he wants because he believes it. You better run.
How am I like the lion?! Of course, I do not look at others and see prey. However, like the lion, I have an attitude. My attitude says, "Don't mess with me, or you will be sorry. I will take my revenge on you, one way or another." As for my students, my attitude is that they better behave or they will have consequences. Realizing my attitude, especially the one that says: Don't mess with me, I discovered deeper origins.
Tossed over to live with Grandma at the age of five, I felt like I was left to fend for myself. Since I felt unwanted, I wanted to prove that I didn't need anybody. I wanted to show that I could care for myself and was out to protect myself. Therein came my attitude. I will fend for myself, and you better not hurt me, or I will fight back and show I can care and protect myself.
Now I recall my first boyfriend saying, "You are a fighter, a fighter, a fighter. I also remember another boyfriend saying, "You are like a volcano that will erupt and change everything before anyone realizes it." This leads me to think of the lion that could quietly move about and attack before the prey has time to defend itself. Suddenly, I feel powerful, like the lion.
I used to feel bad knowing that others were afraid of me. I thought it was my ugly face or something in my behavior. I couldn't figure it out, and I felt hopeless about doing anything about it. I've lived with it for so many years with no clue! At last, I found the answer. Not only do I know it now, but it has made me feel proud, powerful, and amused.
I am proud that I have such power to scare people so they won't try to mess with me. It has undoubtedly kept me safe and given me self-protection throughout my life. The stance I emitted was my way of protecting myself as a five-year-old; somehow, it has stayed with me to keep me protected. It amuses me to see people scared not to do what I wish them to do. It makes me feel powerful in a positive way.
I am often quiet, but when I speak, I am heard. I don't ask much of others, but when I do, they comply. I don't ask for respect because I think it needs to be earned, but I get it when I exude an attitude. And it seems I have been carrying an attitude since I was five. It is embedded within me.
Once powerless with my head down and full of heaviness, I belittled and tormented myself in misery that I scared others. Breaking the chains, I feel powerful. I recognize the attitude that I exude. Though it was initially a way for the five-year-old me to protect myself, it has served me well many times throughout life. It wasn't until I had that conversation with Everett that I discovered it was a power (and not a weakness) I had. For the first time, I was able to acknowledge my power and ability to survey my surroundings and walk like a lion. I want to hug the five-year-old me and thank her for protecting me all this time. Thank you, little one.
The Money Judges
Mom was in town, and Grandma Sandy and I had dinner with her and a friend of hers at a restaurant. I proudly shared that I had become a teacher, and Mom turned to her friend and said, “She is working with a bunch of monkeys.” I wasn’t sure what she meant by that, but from her tone, I knew she was displeased. Grandma proudly said, “Emily is teaching children, and that is a good job.” Mom replied, “Being a teacher doesn’t make much money.” I concluded that her comment meant that my job was not worthy because teachers are not known to make a substantial income.
Mom’s disapproving look and statements pained me, and throughout the few comments said about my job, I was silent. That was typical of me. Say nothing because I was not going to be heard. Say nothing because nobody in the family cared about my feelings anyway. Mom was never pleased with anything about me since the day I was born anyway.
It hurt. It hurt. But it didn’t stop me from continuing to be a teacher. I still thought I was doing something significant to help children. At least they would be loved by me. They won’t have a mom like mine. Mom judged my career based on my salary. She was my first money judge.
More than ten years later, I decided to dabble in the financial industry to be an entrepreneur. The business was all about money. How much did each person make this month? How many recruits did everyone get this month? That would determine potential income because the more recruits we had, the more chances of growing money exponentially in a network marketing structure or system. I made little to no money, so I was a nobody in the company. In my career as a teacher, I was known to be an exemplary teacher; I was a somebody. And then, I got into the business part-time and was treated like a nobody because I didn’t make much money. How did I put myself in a place to be reduced to a nobody?
The money judges were apparent when it came to annual national conventions. Those who were making millions were well recognized for their achievements on stage. The winners deserved the awards and a chance to speak on stage. I envied those who spoke on stage. They inspired all the wannabes, and I was one of them. I wanted to earn millions to be on stage to inspire others.
I wasn’t money-motivated, so what was I doing in the financial industry? I suppose I was in a world where people were judged by the amount of money they earned or had. If you made a lot of money, then you were successful, and I wanted to be successful. I bought the idea that having loads of money meant success in life. So, I strived to make money.
I worked hard, but for years I did not make money. The money judges deemed me unsuccessful; I was a nobody. I felt like a nobody and I was feeling like an unworthy person. It was like being a child again, where anything I did was not good enough in Mom’s eyes. Struggling to be good enough seemed like an endless road where the end was not in sight.
After five years in the industry, I finally started making enough money to be recognized for it. The money judges deemed me worthy. I earned the right to be on stage to give a speech. While others may be gratified by earning money, I was most satisfied by earning the right to go on stage because it gave me a chance to inspire others. I struggled for five long years; surely, the wannabes identified with me, and I wanted to give them hope to keep pressing on.
After winning, I began not to enjoy the recognition. Worse, the insides of me wanted to vomit. The nauseating feeling was unexpected. I shook my head in distaste and disgust. Everybody seemed to be a money judge, including myself. Everyone judged everybody by how much money they had in their bank account. I didn’t particularly appreciate being judged. I didn’t like the recognition for what it gave me.
People in the company who had never talked to me before were suddenly talking to me. People who treated me like trash before were now smiling at me. Others who treated me like I was invisible now shook my hand. They treated me like a nobody when I didn’t make money. I wanted to vomit the disgust I had with human beings. I was not happy with the new treatment. It showed me the face of vain people. They never wanted to be my friends before, and now suddenly, they wanted to be my friend or seek advice from me. I knew they were artificial and insincere.
I, too, believed the money judges determined my worthiness. However, after experiencing the side effects, I no longer wanted to listen to the money judges. I no longer wanted to be reduced to how much money was in my bank account. Surely there had to be more substance and meaning to my life than just money.
Giving hope to others and inspiring others was more fulfilling than the paychecks. Of course, I needed the dough to buy what I needed or wanted, but that could not be all that there was to life. Giving the speech, expressing my struggles, and helping others see a glimmer of light gave me all the happiness I needed to have a restful and peaceful sleep. Though I am also one of the money judges, I know better to put it into perspective. It is not all that determines our worth. We get to choose how much space we want it to occupy. And we must remember that other things combine to determine our success. It is that which makes us happy and content.
Key Takeaways: Though I felt powerless that people feared me, it helped me discipline students and stopped adults from yelling at me. When I realized my eyes and behavior protected me and emitted an attitude that said don’t mess with me, I discovered the power I exuded.
Though I didn’t like the money judges, I realized that money does not single-handedly determine success in life.
Next week, you will hear two new real-life stories called Life on Auction and Getting Audited. If you enjoyed this episode of Eye-Opening Moments, please share it with others, subscribe, support the show by clicking on the link in the description, or go to www.inspiremereads.com and leave a message. Thank you for listening!