Am I honoring the calling of my life?
Updated: Oct 20
In this episode of the Impostor Syndrome Files, we talk about the power of storytelling to create greater connection and inclusion. But sharing our stories can be challenging, especially if we belong to marginalized groups. How do we stay true to what’s important to us when society tells us we’re not good enough? My guest this week, Mark Travis Rivera, is a Latinx, queer, disabled, gender non-conforming professional storyteller. Here he shares his own personal journey of using the power of stories to connect and fulfill his calling. We also talk about how we can all use vulnerability to empower ourselves and those around us.
We talk about the power of storytelling to create greater connection and inclusion. My guest shares his own personal journey of using the power of stories to connect and fulfill his calling. We also talk about how we can all use vulnerability to empower ourselves and those around us.
About My Guest
Telling stories is at the core of Mark Travis Rivera’s purpose in life. He is an award-winning creative entrepreneur and the Chief Executive Officer + Founder of The Professional Storyteller.
As a writer, Rivera’s bylines include The Bergen Record, Herald News, The Star-Ledger, Fox News Latino, and The Huffington Post. He was also a contributing author in the anthology, Crisis and Care: Queer Activist Responses to a Global Pandemic (PM Press, 2022), edited by Adrian Shanker. His debut collection, Drafts: An Imperfect Collection of Writing, was published in August 2017. He was also a contributing writer for Imagining: A Gibney Journal, where he shared his experience as a disabled choreographer and dancer.
As a stubborn and determined 17-year-old, Rivera founded marked dance project
(2009-2019), becoming the youngest person in the United States to create and lead an integrated dance company for disabled and non-disabled dancers. Inspired by his desire to dance as a person with cerebral palsy, he would go on to help disabled and non-disabled dancers alike find their voice as artists. As a Puerto Rican queer man, he was also one of just a handful of artistic directors of color in the disability dance field in the United States. As an independent disabled choreographer, Mark is determined to build a bridge between the main dance field and disability dance.
As a speaker, he has addressed audiences at various institutions of higher learning,
including Harvard, MIT, Rutgers, and NYU. As a diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant and facilitator, he has spoken to corporate audiences virtually in the UK, Canada, Mexico, Latin America, Israel, China, and India, just to name a few. His TEDx Talk, “Embracing Yourself, Embracing Your Potential,” was a smash in 2014 at Bergen Community College.
A first-generation high school and college graduate, Rivera earned his bachelor’s degree in women’s & gender studies with a minor in public relations from William Paterson University of New Jersey. In 2013, Rivera received the Student Government Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his commitment to the William Paterson community. That same year, he was honored with the Campus Pride National Voice & Action Award for his work with the LGBTQ community. More recently, he won the Audre Lorde Award for Social Justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Lavender Legacy Award from William Paterson.
Mark also serves as Board Secretary for the Board of Directors at AXIS Dance Company, the nation’s leading integrated dance company. He formerly served as the Community Engagement Manager and apprentice. He is represented as a speaker by Hummingbird Humanity and their Speaks Bureau and is a member of the WE CREATE SPACE global collective of LGBTQ+ leaders. He also serves as a Senior Consultant for Unlock Creative. He was raised a Jersey boy, lived in New York City and the Bay Area, but now calls Atlanta, GA, home.
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Welcome Mark, as we were talking about before I hit record, it is so wonderful to officially meet you. We've been trading messages for a while now. And I'm so glad to have a chance to have this conversation with you. And I would love to start by inviting you to introduce yourself.
Mark Travis Rivera
Yeah, so Kim is great to formally meet you virtually. Yes, it's been months and months of communication. So it's nice to finally meet put a face to the email. My name is Mark, Tris Rivera, I use he him pronouns. I am a Latinx, queer, disabled, gender non-conforming professional storyteller. And I am the founder of the professional storyteller, which is my brand moniker in business, for using the power of story to create a more inclusive world. And so at my core, I tell stories, and how I tell those stories varies. But why I tell the stories doesn't. I tell the stories because I believe that stories connect us, which is why I like to be on podcasts like yours, to share parts of my story and how I use that experience to help others navigate their own journey.
I love that so much. And I want to just start with a question of how did you get here, like what, what's your career path that led you to the storytelling? And in this venture that you have now.
Mark Travis Rivera
You know, I started writing at a very young age winning my first poetry contest in grammar school time, first place for the fourth-grade category of city-wide poetry contest for the DARE program, which is like the anti-drugs don't do drugs stuff. And I remember that feeling I felt when I was standing in front of a crowded room, reciting the poem, I wrote that when that's hired me for first place, and growing up as a disabled child, I was born premature, my mom gave birth to me a five and a half months, I weighed one pound. And due to sicknesses, my birth, I developed something called cerebral palsy. And it runs on a spectrum of severity. For me, it was a lot more severe growing up, affected me mostly from the hips down. And so do orthopedic surgery, braces, orthopedic shoes, physical therapy for over a decade, and eventually discovering dance later in high school. Writing and storytelling through my journal was how I dealt with the isolation of being othered. Because there's certain gym activity that couldn't do that would be forced to sit out, because of the liability to have a disabled child, you know, doing something in gym that they physically cannot manage to do by themselves. And this, you know, this is back in the, you know, mid to late 90s. And so I remember feeling really isolated, and others. And I found refuge in my marbled composition notebook. And I just started writing journals, entries and song lyrics and poetry, and it kind of just spiraled from there. And I always knew I wanted to be a storyteller. Like, there are some people who say, Oh, I didn't know I want to do that, or I didn't know how my life would turn out, you know, because that's kind of to be a writer is to, is to, to be okay with the ambiguity of what that career might look like. But it took me a long time to call myself a professional writer or storyteller. And so the irony is that 11 years after I started my speaking career, 14 years since I started my dance, career and professional writing career, I now wholeheartedly embrace the fact that I am professional storyteller, so much so that I call it my business, the professional storyteller. And on the onset, you know, that might be like, Oh, that's pretty pretentious or pompous. But for me, it was about claiming who I know I've always been. And not allowing impostor syndrome or the naysayers to track from who I am. At my core, I am a storyteller. And I believe that telling stories connects us. And I believe in the power of stories to create a more inclusive world.
One question that comes up immediately as you think about going from being with that child who feels isolated, feels alone, and is writing in your journal, to then share in your stories publicly, right? Because that is such an expression of your innermost feelings and thoughts. How did that feel for you to go from having this be your private journal to putting them out into the world because they love to recognize the connectivity that comes from that, but it's gotta be scary too.
Mark Travis Rivera
Oh, yeah, there's a lot of vulnerability, you know, my first collection of poetry and essays called draft and impressive collection of writing available on Amazon and soon it will be available for direct purchase for senator from my website was a compilation of stories I wrote when high school mostly so 14 through 27. So between high school college and a few years after college and started my professional career in higher ed, I put this compilation together. And this little book that could, you know, would open up doors for me. And what always surprises me, I always tell this story of a colleague, who is a former colleague, who's a dear friend, her father being in town from Jamaica, who's in his late 70s, visiting her, and he sees my book on her bookshelf. And the cover entices him, picks it up. And so my immediate reaction was, he told me that her father picked up my book was, oh, my gosh, this Caribbean, man, his 70s, is about to read this book about a queer, young Caribbean boy, who's Puerto Rican, who's talking about mental health and sex, and queerness, and suicide, and all these other things. And he read it in a matter of days. He, he, he told her, You have to read this book, I cannot believe you have not yet fully read this book. He was captivated by it. And it's, it's one of the best examples I have, how stories that connect us, and how, you know, on the surface, he and I could not be more different, right? He is heterosexual I am queer, he is in his 70s, I'm in my 30s We're both Caribbean men used to make a descent, I'm Puerto Rican descent. And despite that, right, despite the obvious differences between us, there are parts of my story that deeply resonate with him, and allowed him to see the world through a different gaze to a different lived experience. And I think, you know, that is the power of storytelling. And what I remind myself is, whenever I get too scared, to tell certain parts of my story, I do what I call strategic filters, which is, Have I processed the story properly with my therapist and my coach? Have I healed from this particular experience? Am I ready for it to be known to the world? Have I beta-tested it with a smaller group of people who I trust? Right? And so those are some of the things that I do before deciding what gets published. What gets told on a podcast? What gets shared in a book or journal? What kind of work are talkbacks? I do and things I share in my, in my speaking engagements. And so that's kind of how I do that strategic filter around navigating, who owns the right to hear that story? What parts of the story can they hear what parts can they not hear? There's not that I'm being authentic is that I am recognizing that first and foremost, my story is mine. Right? And no one else gets to decide how and when I share it parts of my story. But I also have to recognize that if I'm just sharing for the sake of oversharing, that, that puts me in a very difficult place in my mental health journey. And also, it means that I because there are things out there that I've said that I regret saying things I wish I hadn't said. Right? And so now I know that when I speak, I speak from a space of Am I ready to share this will parse Am I ready to share? How am I ready to share it? When will I share it. And those are the ways in which I decide what parts of my story I use to inframe or to serve as a vehicle for the work that I'm trying to teach someone. Whether it's about mental health, whether it's about queerness, whether it's about disability in the arts, whether it's about intersectionality, or holistic inclusion in the workplace. My story command motivational speaker, I think people feel motivated and empowered when they hear me speak, which is a byproduct. But I am at my core, someone who educates someone who believes in theories and frameworks to make the world better. And so no shade to those who are motivational speakers who just simply share their life story. I simply use parts of my story as a vehicle to frame the larger point I'm trying to make.
And what this is making me think is that you're describing strategic vulnerability, right? And it sounds funny to say it that way. But, and don't let me put words in your mouth. But what I'm thinking about is that if you go through the vetting process that you've described, it must be easier to handle any potential criticism or backlash, right, because I'm just thinking about this in, in the context of everyday workplaces to one of the things that I often say is, like know your core values and what you stand for, so that when you are faced with the choice of do I speak, do I share? Do I challenge or do I stay quiet on the sidelines that you can ask yourself which of these actions is in greatest alignment with who I want to be and what I stand for? And once you know that, you can handle any objections or, you know, any kind of negative feedback that might come from that more easily. It's not something we all ever want, right? We all want people don't love us and our ideas, but, but it's just making me think that once you've gone through that process of really recognizing, Yes, I'm ready to share and I've gone through these filters, that you're probably in a much more empowered place at that point.
Mark Travis Rivera
Absolutely. And you know, furthermore, the goal for me isn't to be perfect. And the goal isn't to be liked by everyone. The goal is to be authentic. And I believe that authenticity is a daily choice. Every day, I choose to be myself. When I'm depressed that day, when I'm low energy, when I'm super energized, super productive, whether I'm crushing my goals for the quarter, or whether I'm getting my To-Do Lists done in a timely manner. With I'm being intentional about carving out personal time and wellness time, and friends and family time. You know, I value that as an entrepreneur, as a creative entrepreneur, I have control over my schedule. And entrepreneurship might be the hardest thing I've ever done in my life, who probably the hardest thing I ever do in my life, except becoming a parent or ever decide to become a dad, I think that would be the most difficult thing to be a parent. But besides that, yeah, it is a point of empowerment. And you know what, I can't control what the critic says, especially as a choreographer and a writer, like I'm putting out art in the world. And art is always subjective, right? Someone may say that their speech was terrible. Or someone may say that essay was trash. It was like an eighth grader wrote it, that's actual comment that someone wrote in one of my articles. Still, trust me, I don't read the comments anymore. But also, what I tell myself is, did I stay true to the story I was trying to tell? Am I honoring the calling of my life? Because if I'm honoring the calling of my life, it becomes less and less important what other people think, how they perceive me, or how they received my art. Now, we all want to be liked, we all want to be appreciated, and have our art means something. And trust me, my art resonates with people. But it doesn't resonate with everyone. And you know, I have this, I said, this, this one thing once, tongue in cheek, Lee, I said, you know, if I'm not your cup of tea, don't take a sip. Because you won't be everyone's cup of tea, you won't, not everyone's gonna like you, and everyone's gonna understand you. But also, you know, we're more than the work that we produce are more than the things we curate create. And what I often struggle with as a young person, especially if I was really young, when I started my career, is that people just want to see me professionally. And they forget that there's a whole person behind the work or, you know, behind the scenes doing the work, that that person is messy, and that person is imperfect. And that person is a queer, young, 32-year-old, navigating life in the South as a brown person who is dumb enough in forming and disabled and all the things and, you know, there is no blueprint for me. You know, I'm the first one my kind of graduate high school freshman in graduate college. First one to be a creative entrepreneur, there is no safety net, and polls that hold that net together. I am the net and the poll for myself. And so I have to remind myself that when impostor syndrome, and shame really rubs up on my head, I have to remind myself that I've gotten myself this far, that from the moment I was born, I had to fight to survive. They often say that premature babies are the most resilient type of people, because of the circumstances they had to endure in order to survive, to breathe, to live to thrive. And you know, I think about that term failure to thrive. And I often think that's awesome. What, what they often say about premature babies thrive? And what I realized is that I didn't fail to thrive. I had to go from being a victim of my circumstances. And being a survivor of my circumstances, to being someone who thrive despite my circumstances. I think that's the key difference for me, is that I am proud of where I come from, I'm proud of the lineage I come from. And despite the hardships, I would never go back and wish I wasn't disabled. I would never go back and wish I wasn't Latino or wish I wasn't queer or non-conforming. And while those isn't always easy to embrace, right, it's not easy to love all of who you are all the time. Right. Sometimes my weight fluctuates sometimes have acne sometimes, you know, my nails are perfectly shaped, sometimes they're not right. And so it's like, how do we learn to embrace all of ourselves? So we don't have until stories within us?
Yeah. And, and I wonder, too, and this is probably a lot deeper than imposter syndrome even but I feel like there's so much pressure just because of the way that we're sort of evolutionarily wired and we're so afraid of being rejected or not feeling a sense of belonging. We're so afraid to be true to our authentic selves because of the fear of rejection, right? And so That pushes us towards conformity. And that keeps us safe in some sense. But it also keeps us from being who we truly are. And I wonder as you have navigated your life, with the various identities that that you've shared? Have there been times when you have felt like you had to hide who you were to fit in? And like, do you have advice for people right now who are in workplaces that are holding back that aren't sharing who they are? Because of that fear?
Mark Travis Rivera
Yeah, no, that's real. You know, I remember being a teenager working. One of the last jobs I had before I started my dad's company at 17, was working as a summer counselor for my church, the church I used to go to, and I came out to them. And they were like, oh, we can't have a career counselor at a Christian gate camp for children, we have to fire you. And I remember feeling so ashamed cuz I had grown up in the church, actually, one of my, one of the career paths to take was to become a youth pastor. And obviously, I ended up doing that. But, you know, I think it's really interesting, you know, because my faith is a big part of who I am. But I spend most of my 20s running from it. And now my 30s, I'm reconnected in a more intentional way with my face. Because I recognize that there's no separating the spiritual, faithful, queer, Latino, a disabled man that I am from each other. And that I am all those things in totality. And, you know, there's a couple things that we think about, right? When I decide do I wear a dress to this event, do I wear sneakers or wear heels? If safety, right, we all need to be psychologically physically safe. We're living at a time in our country, especially. But even around the world where being queer or trans is, can be a death penalty, or it can lead to serious harm. And so there's real-life implications. But also in the workplace, where you should assume that you have some kind of safety, physical safety. You know, you find the people you can trust, sometimes being fully authentic doesn't mean you sell all of yourself to everyone. But it means you have that one co-worker that you really trust. You know, I have a co-worker who, before she got married to her wife, and you know, came out as a queer woman, she would have a lot of conversation with me about how her seeing me in the workplace, gave her the courage to come out, gave her permission to be more herself. And I always say authenticity has a ripple effect. When we see someone being all themselves wholeheartedly, it empowers them to be the same way. And next thing, you know, everyone's just showing the person full selves. And you know, like, showing us your full self also means like, I'm having this conversation with you today about being confident who I am and being proud of who I am. While just last night, I was like in my head overthinking this prospect of this guy that I like, that is super handsome and super smart and super accomplished in his career and me thinking, I'm not enough, I'm not good enough for him. I'm too feminine for him. I'm to XYZ, right? And we had just had a lovely evening together with a group of our friends. It was amazing. And so I had no reason to be so in my head. But I'm human. And I think that you know, what, we cannot forget it. No matter what we do for a living or the impact we have or the calling of our lives, we will never not feel insecure, we will never not feel like an impostor. But it's not our fault. Right? We live in a world that is simply bombarding us with messages telling us why we're never enough. You're not skinny enough. You're not smart enough. You're not talented enough, you're not making enough money, you're not educated enough, you're not, you know. cool enough, you're not XYZ enough, right? And so, when you're constantly being bombarded with messages, I am not enough. It is hard to look at yourself in the mirror or sit across from someone in a workplace or other places setting and feel like you belong there.
Yeah, and as you say that about being bombarded with all of those messages that occurs to me to, to think about, what did they gain from making you feel that way?
Mark Travis Rivera
Oh, I mean, I mean, we really go there. Can we go there, Kim? I think that white supremacy, from its inception, has required us to police each other to dehumanize one another. So we can maintain this white hetero-patriarchal structure, right? And so I often joke with my friends give me the confidence of a mediocre white man. That's right. There is nothing that a mediocre white man won't try to do. He will inflate his assets. He will say how wealthy he is. He was educated that he's healthy. They say For, right? He will say all those things because he's a mediocre white man who has been told that regardless his deficits, he wasn't enough. But at the top of the chain, the he was worthy of the highest office simply because he was a white man who wants it. Yeah, right, right. And so when you have women, people of color disabled folks, LGBT folks and those who exist at the intersections of those identities, it is like, hard to imagine that we would have the audacity to even try to be, or live or engage or lead or work the way a mediocre white man does.
Or so right. And maybe this is a good time to bring in what you and I started to talk about too, before hitting record. And that's the power of community. Because I think that there's so much focus on the inner work that we can all do. And I think there's a lot of benefit to doing that. But I also think that and you've touched on this through some of the stories that you've shared, just really finding people that you can trust is so important.
Mark Travis Rivera
Absolutely. So every year, Kim, to lead to the point I was telling you before the interview, is every year I pick a word. And so last fall, before getting laid off. Before I knew I was gonna get laid off. I was asking the universe God to like what is gonna be the word for 2023. And I was leaving my doctor's office going into the Uber to head home. And I was talking to the Uber driver, which I often do when I have to energy for the driver. We're having conversation about our lives. And she was like, you know, I'm going through a divorce, my children are already grown. I'm entering this later phase of my life. And for the first time, all I have to worry about is me. And so that I don't know what to do. And I thought to myself, Oh my God, that's the word me. What would be 2021 2220 20? Would he be like, if I truly believed in myself, if I knew that I was worthy of building the life I wanted to live, so I can maximize my potential and actually honor the quality of my life without fragmenting myself? And then shortly after I found out I got laid off. And then I was like, oh, yeah, just a year of me time, I'm gonna launch my business professional storyteller, I'm going to be a full-time creative entrepreneur. And I'm going to struggle to build my business. Because I don't want to be my late, later half of my life, and wondering, what could have been what should have been? Right? I don't want to get to the end of my life and regret never truly living it. I want perfectly. Right? And also, you know, part of the year of me and recognizing that there would be there is no me without the we, you know, my, my former roommate in California, who's a dear friend of mine, shy, who is from India. She was a boarding school kid, she's lived in Dubai, she was all over the world. She went to college in the States. And she said to me, you know, Mark, most people are lucky to have the one to two good friends that are really there for them. She was like you have a whole day a wall full of people and to clear the audience. Clearly, you can't see it. I have people I admire hashtag people I admire wall, where I have selfies and pictures of people throughout my life, family, friends, colleagues, teachers, mentors. Some well-known folks like Oprah and I and me Brene Brown and news journalist Joanne Reid, of the readout, I'm so busy. And so, you know, I look at that wall every single day when I wake up. And I am reminded that I am loved that I had some of the best people in my life, that when I am at my lowest when I feel the most insecure when I feel like I'm the biggest impostor. I look at that wall in the morning, and I'm reminded that I am surrounded by community that when I can't love myself, I will always have communal love. But I think that we've become so individualistic in our healing journeys, especially people of color that we forget that culturally, we always believe in a village we always believe they took a village to raise a child and somewhere along the way, whether it's individualism, capitalism, you know, the results of white supremacy culture, we forgot that we're not meant to live this life alone. There's a reason why from the moment we are conceived, we are connected to another human being by the umbilical cord, that our very development and existence depends on the umbilical cord connection. So why do we as a community as a society believe that the moment a person is brought into this world, that they're suddenly have to be left alone, which is why we're having an epidemic of loneliness in this country, which is why mental health is becoming so As your major issue, which is why the pandemic simply revealed what so many people were afraid to say out loud because suddenly so many more people were experiencing it. Right? The truth is, we are human species. We need human connection. We all want to feel a sense of love, and belonging, we all want to be seen and heard for exactly who we are and be accepted for it. Now, I don't want to be tolerated, I don't tolerate the mediocre white man, I accept this new accuracy. And I accept that he is privileged and that he has had an easier life because of that white privilege. And because that male privilege, I accept, that's the reality, right? I don't want to be tolerated as a brown person who's queer and disabled, I want to be accepted. I want my work to speak for itself. And I want them to recognize that they don't have to do it all alone because we were never meant to. And so who you surround yourself with the people you surround yourself with, become voices, when the inner critic when the inner voice is too mean, too dehumanizing, and too critical of oneself.
You said so many important things there. And I think what I'm thinking about first is the tendency, that's almost like a self-perpetuating cycle, right? If you focus so much on yourself, and perhaps because you're afraid to be vulnerable, and there may well be legitimate reasons for that in certain contexts as you talk about safety. But if we close ourselves in and shut ourselves off from the people around us, we perpetuate the systemic effects of the loneliness of us not feeling that sense of community. And so it feels like the, the fix, so to speak, is to do the really uncomfortable thing, which is in those moments when we would rather not be seen because we're feeling doubtful about ourselves shame or something, to actually take that step and reach out to somebody else. Yeah.
Mark Travis Rivera
Yeah, I'm often the friend that reaches out to, to check in on people, I am often the friend that is checked on. But my friends know that if I'm going to do something, I have the skills and coping mechanisms to reach out for help. All my friends don't have that. Right. This is what your 13 of therapy for me, I don't know, therapists kick mass lately. So I've been doing the hard work but about emotional regulation, and interpersonal communication and all that. And, you know, I really want to just stress, you know, it's not easy, and there are days that are easier than others. There are days when I can get out of bed, there are days when I'm excited to go out into the world and be on those stages and be premiering new works and, you know, reading or writing an article and you know, doing these podcast interviews and there are days when I'm just like, can I disappear? Can I stay in bed and pretend that the blankets are an armor. But when we disconnect ourselves from the difficulties of being human, aka the suffering that comes with being human, we also disconnect ourselves from the experiences of joy, of love of laughter of gratitude. And so there is no you know, Brene Brown says there is no numbing the best stuff without numbing the good stuff, the good emotions, right? And so, you know, Renee Brown, I have to give her a lot of credit because her work in 2013 I first got her in 2013 The Oprah Super Soul Sunday, and I'm showing audience that they can't see it. But there's a tattoo on my arm that says Daring Greatly in the, in the typewriter font, which is I'm notorious for having typewriter font tattoos, and daring greatly with the first Brene Brown book I read, how the courage to be vulnerable changes the way we live, lead and love or parents or something like that. And it changed my life and the fact I got to meet her twice the better she has a copy of my book in her office baffle could I give her a signed copy FSR saw her on one the other events. And you know, it's such a reminder for me that we all have stories that we want to tell we all have dreams and desires. And some of us are very privileged that we get to live out those dreams, desires. Some of us don't have the luxury that some of us have. And not because some of us worked harder than others. Some of it's just circumstantial, right? Now think about my brother who was murdered at 22 You know, so when I turned 23 I officially outlive my brother. And next year I'm turning 33 which will be you know, 11 years older than he would have been you know, like since he was murdered. And I think to myself, what were the chances that he happened to be caught up in the hood lifestyle or what we call the hood right our urban inner city lifestyle and even lifestyle right like he had to do to survive to provide for his family because we live in In a world where an Afro Latino without a college degree wasn't given many chance at the time, right? And you have someone like me, the one who chose to go the academic and creative route, the one who chose not to hang out on the street, the one who chose to figure out things differently, to go on and have this career that many people didn't think was possible. You know, I was never I'm not. You know, I give Jennifer Lopez credit for this. I am not the most talented choreographer, speaker, writer, right? But or dancer. But what I am is very dedicated to my craft, and I work really freaking hard. And so what I lack in talent, I make a foreign craftsmanship. There are many talented people who don't have successful careers. That's true. Yeah. Because talent is not enough. Right?
Yeah. Yeah. And I feel like if I pull this all together with the themes that you've been sharing, it's not letting your inner critic or imposter syndrome or self-doubt, whatever it is dictate your life, how far you go, surrounding yourself with people who will lift you up or support you in those moments. And just really being passionate about living the life that you are meant to live. And I think so often we make choices based on short-term gain on long-term gain, and the short-term gain is immediate. A feeling of safety, it's easier not to share than it is to share. It's easier not to rock the boat than it is to speak. And but then to your point at the end of our lives, when we look back is that the life we will have been proud to have lived. And so you know, everything you say is so true that being human is really hard. For sure, yeah. [Right] For so many different reasons. Everyone has…
Mark Travis Rivera
There's not, there's not one person in my life who has not had some kind of suffering or struggle. The needs are continuous, pervasive, or quite frequent, right? And the difference between those who go from being a victim, survivor to thriver are those who are unwilling to stop living. Simply because being human is so difficult. They take advantage of their privilege have access to mental health care, to their good support systems, their spiritual faith, right? They do exercise and yoga, they use different things, they work on their diet, they do all these other things to cope with being human because being human is really freaking hard, especially when we're going barded again with messages that says you are not enough. Right? And is that script, you are not enough that feeds the imposter syndrome. And while oftentimes to your point earlier, impostor syndrome is seen as a very individualistic thing. It is not I and you do not choose to choose that we are imposters we don't choose to doubt our ability, their skill sets or ability to do things. But we live in a society that says we are not enough. And so imposter syndrome isn't an individualistic thing. It's a societal problem that we do not talk enough about at the collective. So often it says you haven't positivism, you got to overcome it. This is how you overcome it. Well, why is it not me to overcome something when I'm not the one who's creating those barriers in the first place? When I'm the, I'm not the one writing the script that says I am not enough student because I'm queer or disabled or not conforming or Latino? Right? Or, you know, whatever the case may be, right? And so what we need to recognize them, I think what we need to do to deepen the conversation around impostor syndrome is to recognize how are we dealing with the societal conditions that allow impostor syndrome to be running rampant. Especially because it often only impacts the most marginalized people. [Yes.] Never seems to impact the mediocre white man.
No, you're absolutely right. And that is why the power of community and the collective is so important because if we all buy into the narrative that we are injured individually, not good enough, we stop trying. [Yes.] We stop putting ourselves out there. But…
Mark Travis Rivera
Why? You know, my tagline for my company? Is that my story, your story, our story? Right? Because by hearing my story that you have to tell your story, and when you share your story becomes then we've done we start to tell our stories, right? Because me too. You too are all of us telling our stories, makes people realize they're not alone. Or they're not wild for like having the feelings even though they're successful or done starting thinking their careers. Right. And that imposter syndrome isn't their fault. [Yes.] You know, the societal condition that we have to decondition ourselves from being a part of. [Yeah, you're absolutely right.] We're not, we're not responsible for the condition that we're surrounded with. We are responsible for the way we heal from it.
Yes, yeah. Although so beautifully said, I, I am so grateful to you for this conversation. I feel like you know, I'm just so inspired, I could keep going. But I want to, I definitely want to ask you how others who are feeling similarly and want to stay connected to you can do so what's the best place for people to find you.
Mark Travis Rivera
So LinkedIn is words on and poppin for professional folks. And then if you want some more of my personal slash professional life, Instagram, but we're going to include my link tree link on the show notes. And so that has ways you can sign up for my, my biweekly newsletter, you can schedule a engagement chat with me, if you want to book me for a coaching session, or speaking engagement, you can connect with me on social media, tick tock, Instagram, LinkedIn. And there's other things you can see like my TEDx talk, you can have links to other interviews, I've done some of my dance work. So yeah, that's a great way to stay connected with me. And you know, if you are someone who is listening to this podcast, and you reach out to me on LinkedIn, feel free to send me a message. You can email me when you send the link tree as well. I would love to hear how this message or our conversation with my conversation with Kim resonate with the audience. It's always great to hear how this work impacts people. And I want to thank you, Kim, you know, it's always kind of weird reaching out to folks like, Hey, I think that'd be great for your podcast. And sometimes people have told me, No, you're not or they begrudgingly let me on? And I was just like, okay, and like, you were like, yes, of course, I would love to have you on my podcast. And it was, it was great to kind of feel like it is hard, it is vulnerable to like, put yourself out there. And recognize that, yes, this work is meaningful, but it also requires you to be vulnerable and reach out to people and say, Hey, I think my story might be great for your podcast audience. And sometimes the podcast hosts will say, I disagree. Or they'll say, Oh, absolutely, it's heavy on right. And so I always remind myself that it's, um, it's a great privilege to be able to live the life that I live. My mother still does understand what my career is. She's like, they do what? They're again, why are you traveling so much? Why are they paying you? How is it your full-time job? What I know, my mother is the unpublished storyteller of my life. You know, I got my writing talent and my storytelling talent from her. But she never had the opportunities that I had. Yeah, drama, made her defer her dreams. And the suffering of that deferment made her dreams denied. And so I recognize that every single day, I get up to my own home, my own space, a roof over my head, a quiet space, a cozy space, a safe space, a brace space, and I get to live up my calling each and every day. Some days when getting up is too hard. Simply getting up with enough.
That's so well said thank you so much. And thank you for the work that you're doing. It's so important. I'm so grateful.
Mark Travis Rivera
Thank you, Kim.