How to Build a More Positive You

green eyes

People who know me now might never believe it, but there was a time when I wanted nothing better than to kick the bucket. From age 13 to 17, I made several attempts against my own life.

My reasons were many, and mostly centered around living with an abusive father who also did all he could to disrupt my education. Coupled with teenage hormones, it was a recipe for disaster.

The Negative

Most teenagers would have acted out under those conditions. My worst offence was some black nail polish, and dyeing my once reddish-brownish-blondish hair, jet black.

I spent my days buried in books — anything to escape my everyday reality. Then, I spent my nights lying awake, courting death. I just wanted my nightmare to end. 

Somehow I managed to stay on honour roll through my school years — part miracle, and part ruthless perseverance on my part.

Keeping Secrets

I had always been the odd but sociable teenager on campus with great grades, an ever-growing group of friends, and even a fan base for my writing.

A lot of people called me “lucky”. Some called me “talented”. And everyone believed I had nothing to worry about. For a long time, even my best friend was fooled.

Investigation

That was, however, until the day she grabbed me and yanked up the sleeve of a black jacket I refused to take off.

I kept pulling back every time she had tried to grab my arm that day — a customary habit of hers, as she dragged me from Point A to Point B.

Realising that something was wrong, she turned to force to find her answers. What she found were cuts and bruises on  my arm, and one hell of an explanation.

Unloading Burdens

For the many years that followed, she carried the brunt of that burden, and more than once, kept me out of trouble. Of course, she’s still a big part of my life today.

In fact, Alyssa is the Senior Designer at my firm. One day, some months before I launched Alexis Chateau PR, she asked me:

How did you you stop? How did you just decide you don’t want to kill yourself anymore?

The Positive

The easy answer is that I risked running afoul of the law in Jamaica, by moving out on my own at 16. I chose relative poverty for two years, for peace of mind, and survived on US$200 per month — eating crackers and sardines for dinner in a house I shared with rats and roaches.

The long answer is that it was an endless and tedious process, of making the choice to be a more positive version of myself day after day, year after year. Here’s how I made it happen — and likely why I’m still alive today.

Upgrade the Posse

While luck has evidently not been a major player in my life and my success, there is one thing I’ve always been lucky in. I always have amazing friends, no matter where I go, and where I live.

That’s a pretty ambitious statement for a young woman who moved about 20 times in her 27 years. In all those places, I had friends I can count on, and still do today.

If you don’t, then it’s time to upgrade your posse. Find people who are doing much better than yourself, and who are doing well in life. Their success will humble you, and teach you a lot about yourself, your life, and your ambitions.

If their success makes you jealous, then you know who the problem is. Having identified that, don’t dwell on the negativity. Aim to fix that insecurity, rather than disguise or bury it. Suppressed feelings have never made anyone healthy in the history of mankind.

Not one time. Not ever.

Find the Reasonable Good in People

Despite my usual ability to attract amazing people in my life, I’ve also come across the “jaded kind” and had the misfortune of dating a few — the kind of guys who suspect dishonesty around every bend, complains about everything under the sun, and believes everyone is out to get him.

If it’s one thing I’ve learned about relationships in 27 years it’s that if you meet anyone who complains about all their partners, their partners aren’t the problem. They are. As my mom puts it:

Look to the common denominator.

That said, I’ve learned to find the good in people, but never at the expense of my safety and peace of mind. It’s one thing to find a rose amongst the thorns, and another thing entirely to keep pricking your own fingers, because the rose is beautiful.

Monitor your Negative Inputs

An obvious way to build a more positive you is to monitor — and limit — your negative inputs. If you put negativity in, you’ll get negativity out. This can come in the form of books, music, TV shows, and video games.

A lot of people view entertainment as a form of release, but the more you see behavior patterns playing over and over again, the more your mind begins to normalise it. Our brains don’t do a very good job at subconsciously separating fact from fiction when it comes to leaving a marked impression.

In fact, anyone who’s done even an introductory course in psychology knows that memory is a fickle thing. And since our behavior is based on memory, good luck trying to convince your brain that what you feed it, is false.

For this reason, I try to keep my negative inputs low. What is “negative” may depend on what your triggers are, and how you generally spend your time. The negative inputs I mostly pay attention to are people.

After all, if you want to be a better and more positive you, surrounding yourself with jaded people, won’t get you very far. If you’re the jaded one, then at least you know where to start your fixing.

Until I was 18, that was definitely me — albeit, with good reason. After all, a young girl who cannot trust her father is unlikely to trust anyone else.

Become Better at What you Do

Have you ever noticed how great you feel when you accomplish something after hard work and dedication? That first time you get an A in math? The first time your website traffic unexpectedly soars to new heights? It’s amazing!

I loved that feeling, and that is essentially what turned me into the semi-retired academic I am today. I got a thrill from breezing through school with honor roll grades, and I wanted to keep that high. So day after day, I worked at it.

There were other things that made me happy. I learned to make photo-manipulations, and practiced my writing. At the height of my fiction-writing skills, I could finish a novel in just three weeks. For you, it might be something else. Maybe you’re really good at sports, or have a musical talent.

But whatever you do, try not to make a talent of video games. Being great at video games is fun. But unless you mean to make a career in that field, it won’t contribute anything meaningful to your life.

Take it from the woman who just bought a Sims 4 expansion pack, and played The Sims 3 all through college. Virtual successes are great, but actual  success is even better. The problem lies in the fact that spending time on one takes away from the other.

Prioritise.

Volunteer

Even after graduating college, and crawling out of poverty, I was far from financially sound in Jamaica. My payroll job paid me a whopping US$7,000 annually, while I did taxes for executives, banking upwards of US$250,000 every quarter.

Some would ask, exactly when did I grow out of poverty. But technically, poverty calls for living on much less. Needless to say, there were still days in adulthood when I budgeted my meals, decided I could only eat twice, and went to bed with a rumbling tummy.

I learned a nice, neat trick thanks to this. Sleeping cures hunger almost immediately. If you’re starving, go to sleep. Really. Your body enters hibernation mode and slows down metabolism.

In this situation, it’s easy to get dragged into a selfish way of thinking: my problems, my issues, my food, my money. But the first time I volunteered, I was hooked.

I started off volunteering at the Montego Bay Animal Haven, and then participated in charity runs supporting everything from mental health awareness to funding college degrees for poor students.

Giving back even when I was struggling to make ends meet was a great reminder that the world did not revolve around me, and my problems. And it was an amazing feeling, knowing I was injecting some good back into the world.

The truth is, life isn’t always easy. In fact, it never is. So if you’re going through a difficult time, take heart. Many of us have been there, and lived to tell the tale.

Mine continues week after week at alexischateau.com. Hopefully my tales of turning trials into triumphs help to inject a bit of good into your world, as well.

What were the biggest trials you turned into triumphs? Tell me about them in the comments below.

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74 thoughts on “How to Build a More Positive You

  1. I love how you always offer practical advice for people seeking.
    And your post also got me thinking; when you see someone, you never know what past and experiences are behind them. Often, people as strong as you have the toughest paths behind them. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks Kristina.

      When people tell me how “lucky” I am to have the life I do, I manage the polite smile. But in my mind, I always think “you have no idea..”

      It’s definitely been a long hard road, but I wouldn’t change those teenage and going adult years for anything.

      Thanks again!

  2. Stumbling across this post just made a sleepless night a little bit better! Reading the “Monitor your Negative Inputs” section describes exactly the process I have been focused on the last month or so. I would be a liar if I said it was as simple as killing a few social media accounts and avoiding people. I have had to isolate myself from a lot of comfort zones, and even more difficult was the task of being comfortable with that! Despite the major transitions I am currently in, and the wreckage I need to clear; these last few days I have been more relaxed and happy, and for the first time in as long as I can remember sleep is uninterrupted and restful. Great article as a quick handbook for a more serene life!

    1. Hi Joe. It looks like I published the post just in time for you, then!

      Monitoring the negative inputs is really one of the most important steps, because it affects our mindset and how we approach everything else.

      As long as you don’t find yourself too isolated, you’ll be okay. At the worst points in our life is when we need real connections for support, connections like what I had with my best friend.

      Being too isolated can cause our own negative thoughts to seep in and take over, over time.

      All the best!

  3. Alexis, I have enjoyed following you for a while now, yet I was surprised to hear about your traumatic adolescence and early adulthood. I too have danced with depression and suicide. While no two stories are the same, I recognize the enormity of your accomplishments in light of these overwhelming odds.

    And I love that you took this opportunity to focus not on a horrific past, but on the tools and strategies you used to overcome it. Rather than an “about me” story (which is fascinating in its own right), this is a hopeful guide for others.

    You are good people.

    1. Hi Gabe! Always a pleasure to hear from you. Did you end up staying in Romania with the wife?

      I’m glad you’ve enjoyed my posts, and this one especially. I do try not to dwell on the past, but I also don’t sweep it under a rug. We can’t move forward without accepting where we’ve been, and applying the lessons now, to take us where we want to go. At least, that’s what I believe.

      Thanks again Gabe, and all the best!

      1. I hear there are a lot of protests going on there, so stay safe! I know you two will have a great time though. You’re quite the adventurous couple, and I bet she’s happy to be home for the moment. 🙂

      2. yes, I took part in the protests recently, but I have to say it was not what I’d expected. Families, children with banners, very peaceful. AND productive. Love seeing civic responsibility in action with meaningful results.

      3. There are a lot of protests taking place here too, with the same theme. Women, children, peaceful.

        In fact, there’s been some jokes that the Women’s March was impossibly peaceful for its size, but hey… it’s women. Haha.

  4. Alexis I have been a fan every since I stumbled across your blog some months ago. Obviously, I don’t know you, but just reading your blog caused me to be impressed that you are a remarkable young woman. Your story that you share in this installment makes me feel that way, even more so, and exponentially.

    Without exception, every remarkable person I’ve ever encountered didn’t get that way without having lived through something and they all have stories to tell. Your journey is poignant and touches my humanity at its core.

    Thank you for being vulnerable and transparent and for sharing. You are a walking blessing and miracle. I so admire your courage, adventurous spirit, and armored, warrior heart. I’m sending positive vibes, thoughts and prayers your way so that your SWAT Team of Soldier Angels continue watching over your every step and strengthen you along your path. You are a Treasured, Precious Gift.

    Blessings, Peace and Power …

    1. Thanks so much. It definitely wasn’t an easy road to travel, but I think I managed to do pretty well for myself.

      I’m really glad you discovered my blog, and I hope I can continue to touch and inspire you. If you know someone out there who could use a bit of encouragement, feel free to share my story with them. We should send around all the good karma we can.

      Thanks for all the well wishes as well. Sending them back tenfold, your way!

  5. My biggest challenge came when I had to leave my daughter’s father because of his addiction. I had no money. None. But I was due salary for my summer school teaching. With that little bit of money and a promise of part-time teaching in the fall, I found an apartment which rented for almost all of my salary. I had no money for heating. But amazingly, the apartment unit was over the boiler that supplied hot water for the complex, and our apartment stayed warm. We walked everywhere and did ok. It took many years to find myself in a solid marriage, a full time job and a home of my own again, but it happened. Little step by little step.Peace to all those struggling.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story Elizabeth. My! – look how far you’ve come since then, and all the success you’ve had. Sometimes we just have to cross our fingers, and take that leap.

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