By Michael Sani and Kildine de Saint Hilaire

“To each their own” is not just a saying, it’s a reality. We all have our own ways to find motivation and drive. Some find it within themselves, while others seek outward sources of inspiration. Michael Sani had his own way: identifying repressed emotions and transforming them into constructive energy. “I can use the pain to do good.” But to what extent? For how long? How sustainable is this process?

Growing up in a culture where addressing feelings was not welcome, Michael became alienated from his inner self. A cleavage grew between himself and the image of himself he portrayed. As he found his professional path, he put his all into it in order to make an impact. There were cycles of highs and lows, with serious questions regarding the worth of it all. Yet he continued, always. The fear of regret motivated him to push further. But at what cost? Over time, a result-focused mind makes one less proficient and blind to emotions from the surroundings and the inner self. “I wouldn’t even take in the moments of success, because it was next thing, next thing, next thing…”

There comes a time in life to address what has been subdued. Suppressed emotions are like weights that one carries around. They eventually take a toll on one’s journey by impeding our emotional movement and making development almost impossible. Acknowledging that problems and solutions are both present within all of us may be the beginning to all progress.

“I was very judgmental of myself.”

Michael joined The Wellbeing Project programme with one main intention: to learn how to love. Today, communication and vulnerability are at the center of his interactions with himself and others. It all comes from within. Being driven by love rather than hatred and giving himself the time to listen rather than sprinting aimlessly enabled him to find new sources of passion. “Now my work is from a place of love, which is a far greater energy.” The strength that Michael found from within allows him to start overcoming his personal issues and turning outward. From repression he has become vulnerable. And from vulnerability he has found a new clarity on life, his relationships with others and himself.

“Like many new or unknown things life, the start is often the scariest part. Allowing pre-conceptions to flow through my mind and in terms of my well being, to challenge everything I had ever known. I had grown up with the mantra ‘cry, cry alone. Smile and the world smile’s with you’. Most of my friends would associate therapy or wellbeing as airy-fairy or for those who are weak. But I knew it was the right time for me.

Having said that, two years into a remarkable journey I have moments, honestly where I wish I had never started it. I say that because once you allow yourself to become aware, it’s very difficult to go back to just ignoring your emotions and repressing your frustrations. You start to unpack things, go deeper and allow yourself to explore things in the past so they can no longer have a hold over you now or in your future. That comes with the acceptance that it will get harder before the work pays off and you are using consciously and unconsciously all the tools available to weather any storm. It takes commitment.

It’s not easy when it’s not something you are naturally accustomed too, if your family home wasn’t one of exploration and vulnerability and if school didn’t create that safe space to share and own your truth. At the same time, it has been one of the most worthwhile experiences of my whole life. I am stronger for becoming vulnerable. I am kinder to myself and have a greater understanding of others.

This work has empowered me and I hope to empower others to see the value in their own well-being journeys, not fearing what they might discover or have to revisit but just to start.”

Michael Sani is the social entrepreneur CEO of ‘Bite the Ballot’; he is revolutionising youth democratic participation in the political realm.

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