Facing Barriers, Stigmas, and Challenges in Life
By: Andre A. Amaro
Many of us have many goals and dreams that are important to us and provide us a sense of meaning or purpose in our lives. Most of us are working very hard to accomplish our goals and dreams, but the path to success is not always easy and does not come without having to overcome difficult challenges throughout life. It is no secret that life can be extremely hard and can sometimes be very painful and cruel to us, but I am also here to remind you that life can also be very beautiful and rewarding to us as well. It all depends on what we make out of our lives. Many of us want to accomplish many different things in life and maybe even obtain other things that we want such as a nice job, family, home, and earn a decent wage. This sometimes goes back to the idea of the American Dream, where many of us should strive for success through hard work and should have fair and equal opportunities to achieve all the things that we want out of life. However, the reality is that this is not always as easy as it sounds because we all have different circumstances and challenges that we have to face in order to get to where we want to be, which means many of us may not always have the same fair and equal opportunities as others. Sometimes we even fall victim to certain barriers, stigmas, and difficult challenges in life and as a result of this; some of us end up giving up on our hopes and dreams, or maybe we start to feel like they are impossible to accomplish or achieve because of these issues. I am here to remind you that regardless of what your circumstances are, to never lose hope on your goals and dreams and never give up on yourselves. My purpose in writing this blog is to help inspire and motivate anyone to never give up on themselves by falling victim to certain barriers, stigmas, and difficult challenges in life that you may be currently going through. I will share a little about my own personal experiences and provide suggestions on how to approach these issues based on what I learned over the years, and what I learned from the experiences of others who have taught me.
Barriers can be anything that can prevent you from making progress towards achieving your goals and dreams, and stigmas are unfair notions, discriminations, and shame and disproval of a particular person or group based on specific characteristics. When you allow yourself to fall victim to challenges such as these, this can then lead to more problems besides giving up on the things you hope to achieve in your lives. People can develop mental health issues as a result of allowing certain barriers and stigmas get to them, which can then negatively impact a person’s motivation, confidence, and courage to overcome them. Additionally, falling victim to barriers and stigmas bring about feelings of shame, guilt, hopelessness, doubt, and isolation. Difficult challenges in life such as these cause significant amount of stress and anxiety, which can then lead someone towards developing an anxiety or depressive disorder. As a way to cope with these issues, some people even start to engage in substance use and may put themselves at risk towards developing a drug addiction. From personal experience, I have been around others who fell victim to certain barriers and stigmas, including myself and I know how difficult and challenging facing these issues can be.
To share a little bit about myself, over the years I had to face many types of barriers, stigmas, and difficult challenges in life. I come from a lower socioeconomic status as my family came from the Southside of Chicago, within the Little Village community. Growing up we did not have much as my parents were both high school drop outs and we lived in a small basement home, and also lived within a rough neighborhood surrounded by gangs, drugs, and crime. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to have parents who were both very hard working and found a way to move our family into the suburbs heading into my teen years; however, over the years we struggled financially, had limited access to resources at times, and struggled regarding our safety because we were surrounded by gangs, drugs, violence, and crime. Additionally, many of my family members struggled severely surrounding their mental health and I had close friends who fell victim to gang related activities and drugs. A lot of these negative experiences impacted me in many ways and as someone who is Hispanic/Latino and came from the Southside of Chicago; I faced prejudice and discrimination on multiple occasions. Numerous times I was judged, people had made assumptions about me, and was excluded from many things because of my background. These things weighed in on me and had a negative impact regarding my mental health, which caused me to experience significant amount of stress and anxiety over the years. Another problem with this is that I did not know how to deal with my own emotions and mental struggles at the time, since my family’s culture is not very open when it comes to our mental health. I had pressure from my family and friends to toughen up and deal with my own struggles on my own. Additionally, not just because of my culture or background, but just because I was a male made things even harder because there is already a stigma surrounding men and mental health, as men in my culture are typically seen as weak for talking about their issues.
These negative experiences that I endured are actually what sparked my interest in the field of mental health and motivated me to pursue a career as a counselor, but even this was a challenge for me because there were times when I received little to no support from others. While I know some of my family and friends really loved and cared about me, very little of them supported my decision to pursue psychology and become a mental health counselor. Some of my family and friends even made fun of me for being a Latino male who was pursuing this field, saying that I would not become successful because I am a Latino male in a “women’s field”, or specifically a “white women’s field”. Being a first-generation college student, many of my family members did not understand what I had to go through when it came to my schooling and this played a huge part in their inability to understand and provide the support that I needed, which is why at times I tried to never take things personal. However, I heard these types of negative statements from others besides my family and friends as well. Whenever I had bumps in the road surrounding my schooling, finances, relationships, jobs, and other aspects of my life; sometimes the pressure would get to me and I would catch myself thinking that maybe everyone else was right about me and that I should give up on pursuing my goal and dream of becoming a counselor. I realized that my own negative self-talk and doubts came from my own experiences of having to face certain barriers, stigmas, and difficult challenges in life and these things would definitely weigh-in on me and would take a lot of my courage and motivation away from me because here I was getting judged, made assumptions about, and being counted out or excluded again just because of my background or how I look. Additionally, facing these challenges also caused me to experience some problems surrounding my own mental health and I remember at one point seeing myself as “weak” because I would just start to remember what the men in my own culture would tell me; that we need to be strong and should not talk about our problems and issues. A part of me was always reminding myself that the other men around me are perceiving me as weak for pursuing the field of mental health. Luckily, I found a way to push through these personal struggles and did not let the effects of certain barriers and stigmas get to me and prevent me from achieving my goal of becoming a professional counselor. However, this is why I wanted to share with many of you about my own struggles to let others who are facing certain barriers, stigmas, and difficult circumstances surrounding their lives that you are not alone. I thought what I can do is least share with some of you on what has helped me overcome some of these challenges, as I know that there are others who might be currently struggling with overcoming these obstacles as well.
Here are some things that I have learned from my own experiences and from the experiences of others, on how to appropriately approach certain barriers, stigmas, and difficult challenges in life so that you can find ways to overcome them.
1. Changing your thoughts, beliefs, and attitude towards difficult situations as positive thinking plays a huge role towards overcoming them. If you think more positively, then you are more likely to respond more positively towards many situations or challenges. This is something that is definitely not easy to do, which is why in order for this method to be effective it is important to practice positive thinking every day and make this a habit for yourself.
2. Educating yourself about the negative impacts of stigmas and barriers, while also educating others to spread awareness and advocating for people like yourself. The more people understand about the negative impacts surrounding stigmas and barriers, then the more likely we are to see a decrease of these issues so that they do not continue to have a negative impact on others.
3. Having a positive support system that involves people who truly support you and make you feel good about yourself. Having a good support system is essential towards overcoming difficult challenges in life, but not everyone is capable of providing the support that we need or may not have the best intentions during their attempts to provide us support. All I am saying is be careful who you go to for support, which is why I always recommended going to the family and friends who you know you can truly trust and genuinely care about you and want what is best for you.
4. Building connections with people who are on the same path as you and can relate to your goals, dreams, aspirations, or purpose. This can also involve joining a support group or club related to the things you like to do. Building connections strengthens your support system and you might even come across others who are facing the same challenges as you, which will make you feel not as alone and can help you connect with others so that you can help each other face some of these issues together.
5. Being open and learning from others as asking people who overcame certain barriers, stigmas, and difficult challenges in life can provide us some insight on how we can overcome them as well. This is actually something that has really helped me overcome many of my own personal issues, as I had mentors and coaches guide me and provide me insights on how they overcame certain challenges in their lives and were able to share with me what worked for them, and what things did not work from them. If you know anyone who had to face some of the challenges that you are currently facing, it is definitely a good idea to reach out to them and not be afraid to ask them questions on how they overcame certain challenges as you may learn something valuable from them, and may even establish a valuable connection that can help you along the way.
6. Noticing your behaviors and making sure you are engaging in positive and healthy ones, as facing things like barriers and stigmas may cause us to isolate from others and cope with things in negative and unhealthy ways. Facing difficult challenges in life can definitely be stressful and overwhelming, which may cause us to cope with things in unhealthy ways. Making sure you respond to stressful challenges by continuing to do the things that you love to do, or maybe even finding new and helpful ways to relieve some of the stress from these situations is going to be important towards overcoming these challenges. This can be something as simple as even making sure you are implementing some self-care activities and spending time with the people you love.
7. Going to therapy and seeking help from a mental health professional in order to work through your own personal issues and struggles in your life. This was the biggest piece for me when working trying to overcome certain barriers, stigmas, and challenges in my life and might be for you as well. Collaborating with a mental health professional on how I can overcome certain challenges in your lives may help you see things more rationally and can help you stay more attuned with yourself so many of these issues do not get in the way of living the life you want to live.
We all have different obstacles that we have to face in life and I am by no means comparing my own experiences to others; however, this is just a quick list of things that you can implement in yourselves moving forward if you are someone who is trying to overcome certain barriers, stigmas, and challenges in your lives and do not want these issues to get of the way of achieving your goals and dreams. I wanted to share with a little about these issues and about myself because I know how hard facing some of these issues can be. I hope that my blog may be useful to some of you, and if you or anybody you know are currently struggling with facing certain barriers and stigmas; please feel free to reach out and schedule an appointment with me so that I can collaborate with you and help you overcome these challenges. I want to thank anyone who took the time to read this blog and I wish everyone a happy Spring!