Youth motivational speaker Derek Clark shares some of his success tips on how he overcame the odds as an at-risk teenager in foster care.
As a teenager in foster care and feeling like a reject, my identity must have been one of the toughest things to find. Think about this for a second – do you know who you are? Besides just being a body going through life, surviving, really think about it for a minute. When nobody else is around, and you look at yourself in the mirror, do you really know who it is looking back at you? What makes you unique? Your parents, teachers, friends and everybody else might have formed an identity for you, or given you a label – but is it really accurate? When all the noise in your head is gone, who are you? Or even better, Who do you want to be?
As a teenager in foster care, I was fearless, a bit crazy, funny and had ruthless anger issues. There were many times where I would unleash my rage and became out of control. I was an angry foster youth. My foster parents, teachers, church leaders and boy scout leaders all witnessed my rage. Who would have ever thought that I would eventually grow up to become an international motivational speaker, author of six books, father of four children and still rap? LOL In high school, my identity was a fighter, a skater, a rapper, and a class clown. But I totally wished that my identity was a lady’s man, a massive chick-magnet! Even though I had girlfriends, I wanted more, more, more! I wanted the world to love me. I yearned for love and affection. If I wasn’t getting any, I would find another way to get some. Generally, that meant doing a bunch of bad stuff from vandalism, fighting and goofing off to get the wrong kind of attention.
Instead, I could have first given love, and been the example of what I needed back. I didn’t do that. I was into keeping my walls up, making everyone else prove their loyalty to me before I would let them in. Sometimes you just have to let the walls you’ve built around yourself fall down. Let people in, and let them take a look around to see if they like what they see! If they don’t, no biggie, just move on. Someone will eventually like what they see. In the meantime, you are evolving and forcing yourself to grow every time you get to know someone and let them get to know you.
I want you to know right now, that whatever identity you’ve been labeled with doesn’t have to be correct. Even if you have accepted other people’s labels, or have given yourself a negative one, it is now time to change it. I am a firm believer in changing your identity status and making your heart tell your body what you want to be. So what if you have made mistakes and your identity is all rolled up and confused with those mistakes? Change is always good if they are positive changes.
For example, let’s say you’ve used drugs and alcohol. Your friends and family might say that you’re a druggie, a dope head, user or an addict, but I am here to tell you that it doesn’t matter if you’ve made some poor choices! Your past mistakes don’t have to define who you are now, or who you’ll be tomorrow. The past does not have to equal the future. Give yourself permission to have a great future. Don’t fall into the trap that you are a nothing because of the mistakes that you have made. How can you start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one. You are not your past mistakes. You are not a worthless person with no value! You are not a loser! You are special. You can change your life at a moments notice…all it takes is being committed to making the right choice.
When you look in the mirror, do you pick yourself apart? Point out all the flaws, zits, and scars? Do you focus on how big your nose is, or how big your ears are? Or focus on if you are overweight or too skinny? Maybe you don’t like the color of your eyes or your hair. This could be a huge problem! We all have things about ourselves we’d like to change. But picking yourself apart brings negative energy into your heart and mind. Soon, you start to identify with the negative, with what you don’t like about yourself. Don’t let your inner weakness destroy the greatness within you.
Imagine if you looked in the mirror and said to yourself, “You know what?
I ROCK! I am beautiful and I like myself and I look great!” If you were to totally focus on the things that you like about yourself, like your looks, talents, generosity, niceness, selflessness and willing to help others, you attract even greater and more positive things to yourself. Positivity breeds positive outcomes, and negativity breeds the negative. How can you ever expect to live a positive life when you’re always thinking negatively about yourself? You cannot possibly speak and think negatively and attract positivity. Focus on your great points!
It all starts with what is inside your heart. Make your identity work in tune with your behavior. It is now time to see yourself in a more positive manner, one that correlates more closely with the vision of yourself that you hold in your heart. Changing your identity on the fly all the time doesn’t really do anything. You need something deeper and more lasting. You need to change your beliefs before you change your outward appearance.
Let’s say that one day you are a rocker, then the next day you’re a rapper, and the next you’re a cowboy, but secretly you’ve always been a Mozart concerto admirer. You are leading a double-life to fit in with others. My advice is to be true to yourself and your own passions. It’s alright to try new things, but if you want to make new things a part of your identity, do it in a way that you still remain true to yourself. That means when the lights go out and it’s just You, having a conversation with You, You aren’t going to try and lie to yourself right? You may be able to fool the world, but in the end you can’t fool yourself.
I have come to realize that life is most rewarding when you’re moving forward instead of backwards. You may have taken on some of these identities and felt like you had to live with them, but you don’t. In a second, you can change your outlook on life and change who you are. The thing is, you have to make a change first in your heart and then don’t forget to tell your face about it, so that it mirrors the attitude of your heart.
Reserve youth motivational speaker Derek Clark now and have him deliver a powerful message of hope, determination and courage at your next youth conference, high school assembly or youth leadership conference.