Turning Pain Into Power

When you ask people what it takes to make it, most say, “Follow your dreams and never give up.” But they don’t tell you how to not give up.

Adversity comes so often, it’s like a neighbor. How you deal with that adversity and turn your pain into power is what matters. Every test I have been given has become my testimony. Each time, I felt like what I was going through would break me, yet little did I know it was making me stronger.

Here are the things that helped me get through adversities and push on for success:

Prayer is the root to getting through whatever I’m going through. I have faith that everything will be fine, because although I’ve had a hard life I’ve had a blessed life, too. After every breakdown was a breakthrough of some kind: Spiritually, financially or emotionally things got better for me. Although my prayers were not always answered how I expected them to be, they were answered.

Working through adversity — the everyday human experiences we all encounter — also requires pushing through. The pain will come, the hurt will come, but you are going to have to push through it. Most of the time you will find yourself alone. I was running from being alone but not anymore.

Being hurt by people I love really hurt me, losing my loved ones really crushed me, but losing myself was the thing that hurt me the most. There were times I was crying right before a performance and still had to wipe my eyes, get up and do what I’ve got to do to reach that goal. Did this mean I wasn’t hurting? No! I just had to accept the fact that I’m hurt but I’ve still got to get up and support myself because that’s whose life I’m in control of. I can’t lose myself. That’s how I pushed through.

I share this because you don’t need friends or family to feel good about life. Yes, the right friends can help make life fun but as for the ones that come and go, don’t sweat it because they’re just creating room for the people who deserve to be there. As Keith Johnson of the L.A.-based RightWay Foundation, says, “God gives us friends to make up for the family he gave us. That’s why we choose our friends wisely — because we can’t choose our family.”

This last tip I want to share with you for how to never give up is: Be true to yourself. People who have pushed through adversity are often asked to share their story. Don’t be scared to share yours, and when you do, be authentic about it. You don’t have to create a life you didn’t live. Own your narrative and use it to make a positive impact on others. I’ve been through a lot, and I’ve found a way to take that pain and turn it into power through performing spoken word on stage and in making films.

When you begin to accept your life and talk about it, people understand you and where you are coming from, as long as you’re true to you. When I wasn’t sure about who I was I would pretend but that put me in a depression. The moment I stopped caring about what other people thought and began to believe in myself, that changed.

I still face adversity and I still have my breakdowns. I just get back up faster than I could before because I now know who I am.



Johna Rivers
is a 24-year-old activist who rose above her circumstances as a foster youth and beat the statistics. She is co-founder of the first-ever film festival for young people, creating a platform for young kids to highlight issues plaguing their communities locally or globally. 

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