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How Evander Faced Bullies and Racism by Focusing on Self-Improvement

“The next morning, my father woke me up at the crack of dawn and drove me to a kickboxing gym two hours away. As I stepped inside the gym, the sight of tattooed, muscular men punching each other to the sound of Eminem music made me feel intimidated.”

Hello! Who are you?

Hey, I’m Evander! I hail from The Hague in The Netherlands, and I am absolutely thrilled to say that I run my own business as a personal trainer. I am passionate about inspiring and supporting people to achieve their best possible health through personalized nutrition and exercise plans. 

On top of that, I also proudly serve in the Army Reserves, which gives me the opportunity to make a positive impact in my community and beyond.

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What is your struggle and when did it start?

I want to share my story about overcoming racism and facing bullies. While it’s never easy to talk about, I believe that by sharing my experiences, I can inspire others who may be going through the same thing.

I first experienced racism when I was around 10 or 11 years old, growing up in a small suburban town where being one of the only black kids meant standing out in a big way. It started with what seemed like harmless jokes and teasing, but over time, it became more hurtful and damaging to my self-esteem.

When my family moved to a new city, I went to an even more all-white community and unfortunately, the racism persisted. I was subjected to name-calling and even had gum put in my afro. It was tough, but I knew that I had to rise above it.

How did this struggle make you feel at your worst moments?

I felt completely alone and unhappy. I was dealing with the effects of racism, which made me feel like I was being judged and excluded simply because of the color of my skin. It was frustrating and disheartening, and even though I wasn’t being bullied as severely as others, the discrimination still had a significant impact on my happiness.

What made things even more challenging was that I didn’t have many friends, and I didn’t feel like I could talk to my father about what I was going through. It was a very isolating time for me, and I felt like I was on my own to try to figure things out.

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Was there a moment when you started to turn things around?

One day, some kids put a whole pack of gum in my afro hair, and my stepmother had to cut it out because it was too sticky.

I remember my father coming home from work and seeing all this happen, just to get super angry that I let it happen in the first place. Being the military man he is, he decided it was time I learned to stand up for myself.

The next morning, my father woke me up at the crack of dawn and drove me to a kickboxing gym two hours away. As I stepped inside the gym, the sight of tattooed, muscular men punching each other to the sound of Eminem music made me feel intimidated.

Even though I was skeptical, my dad signed me up for the gym. I spent an hour every weekend practicing kickboxing and another hour sparring with him in the attic. 

Though it was challenging and uncomfortable at first, I quickly learned that the sport was about more than just hitting your opponent. The gym was filled with respect, openness, and friendliness, and everyone was eager to help me improve while still pushing me forward.

As I continued to train, I began to feel more confident and happier. I even made new friends in the gym.

Now, at 12 years old and with a few years of kickboxing under my belt, I was relaxing on a swing in the playground in front of my house when I saw the same kids who had put gum in my hair. Their leader, Gale, approached me and wanted to fight.

My father watched from the kitchen window, but when I looked at him for help, he only shook his head. I knew I had to handle the situation myself.

The moment Gale walked up to me, he tried to kick me. It only took me 2 punches for him to give up and walk back toward his house with his head bent down.

I never saw him again after that day.

What steps did you take to overcome your struggle?

Don’t let racism and bullying isolate you from others. When I was faced with these challenges, my father taught me how to stand up for myself and without him, I probably would never have.

I found out that 99% of all bullies are trying to act like someone they are not. I’ve faced racism and bullying many times, but I always stood firm and the bullies always backed down. I never had to fight anyone (outside of the gym) because I was confident in my ability to defend myself if the need arose, and the bullies could sense it.

If you want to fend off bullies, start building your confidence.

In many cases, there may only be one or two bullies in a group, with the rest of the group simply following the leader. If you want to make a difference and improve the situation, it’s important to confront the leader, rather than focusing on the followers who may be too weak to stand up on their own.

When facing racism, it’s important to not fall into the role of a victim. Self-pity won’t help you overcome the situation.

Instead, think about what you need to do and who you need to become in order to change things. If you need to learn self-defense, then do it. If you need to confront the leader of the bullies, summon your inner strength and do it, even if it’s difficult. 

I can assure you that taking action will make you feel better.

Have you shared any of this with people around you in real life?

I’ve kept my story to myself for the most part. Apart from my father, I don’t think anyone truly knows the challenges I’ve faced.

And you know what? That’s perfectly fine. I don’t need others to pity me or understand my struggles in order to feel great.

If you could give a single piece of advice to someone else that struggles, what would that be?

Building a strong and healthy body can give you the confidence you need to stand up for yourself in any situation, whether it’s through sports or other physical activities. Not only does physical exercise benefit your physical health, but it also contributes to a strong mind and increased self-confidence. 

Even highly successful individuals like Mark Zuckerberg recognize the importance of physical training, as evidenced by his daily MMA practice

So, start investing in your physical health today and discover how it can empower you to take control of your life.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, YouTube channels, or other resources for you?

  • David Goggins helped me realize that if you want to take action the best day to do it was yesterday. The next best day is today. If you want to take action do not procrastinate.
  • David Goggins’ words have motivated me to embrace more challenges, and I am currently undertaking a self-imposed regimen known as monk mode. This involves 280 days of disciplined focus on my goals through diet, exercise, and meditation. Additionally, I came across the Welcyon blog, which has provided me with valuable workout tips and tricks that have further energized me to keep pushing forward.
  • Another technique that gave me a motivational boost was to begin journaling regularly. According to Jo Larsen, putting our thoughts into words can be more emotionally impactful than simply thinking about them, and can be a powerful tool for overcoming obstacles and moving forward.

Where can we go to learn more about you?

You can find more about me on my website or on my Twitter.

๐Ÿ’ก By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I’ve condensed the information of 100’s of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. ๐Ÿ‘‡

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Hugo Huijer AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Founder of Tracking Happiness, with over 100 interviews and a focus on practical advice, our content extends beyond happiness tracking. Hailing from the Netherlands, I’m a skateboarding enthusiast, marathon runner, and a dedicated data junkie, tracking my happiness for over a decade.

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