Trigger warning: This post references childhood abuse, rape, domestic violence, suicide and depression.
What would you do if you had nothing left to lose?
Suzy Batiz is the founder, CEO and inventor of Poo-Pourri—the spray that has saved millions of people from the embarrassment of bathroom smells. As of October 2020, she was listed in Forbes’ Top 100 Richest Self-Made Women.
On the surface, Suzy’s life is as rosy as her product. But at 38, four years before founding Poo-Pourri, she had just declared bankruptcy for the second time. She was a survivor of childhood emotional, physical and sexual abuse, and rape. She had attempted suicide at 21, and exprienced long periods of depression. She had escaped an abusive marriage.
It was only when her second bankruptcy erased all her external successes that Suzy was forced to stop running and address not only her financial issues, but the trauma she had been carrying with her. She made understanding herself the focus of her life.
“Really for the past 18 years, I would bet you probably won’t find many people on the planet that have done more for internal personal development than I have,” she says. “It’s really been my full-time job: I happen to be an entrepreneur on the side.”
Don’t look to external factors for success.
Many of us grow up believing we can measure our progress in life by external achievements. We earn all the extracurricular certificates, chase promotion after promotion, and find partners and friends we believe will fulfill all our needs and desires.
Ultimately, however, clinging on to these external markers of success is a precarious way to find value. You can lose your money, your job, your friends and your partner. If you tie your self-worth to any of these things, you risk seeing it all taken away.
Instead, focus on your inner life. Are you the best version of yourself that you can be? Are you making the most of your life? Are you holding yourself accountable for your actions? Are you trying to make the world better for others?
People live more fully when we know what our personal reason to be here is. For Suzy, for example, it’s, “to be alive in every moment.” Spend the time you would otherwise use chasing more money or another promotion on finding that meaning for yourself.
You have the power in you to be successful. It might be hidden by your circumstances, but it’s in there. Look for that power inside yourself, not in other things.
There are not many bright sides to rock bottom. But knowing you have nothing left to lose also brings with it a reckless freedom that can represent opportunity—if you can just keep going.
Having been through multiple traumatic periods in her life, Suzy says that the second time she was forced to declare bankruptcy marked one of the lowest moments of her life. “I begged God to, ‘Take me… because I can’t do this anymore,’” she says.
However, she also says that it gave her the chance to reevaluate her life. “I went through a spiritual sabbatical: a re-emerging of my authentic self,” she says. “Sometimes life gives us those things to wake us up.”
It was at this time that she stopped trying to run from her trauma, and from her financial problems. She started seeing a therapist regularly, and cultivating relationships with mentors. She was able to recognize certain self-sabotaging patterns, and find ways to address them. She stopped prizing external achievements above inner happiness. “I found a place within myself where I was happy and at peace,” Suzy says.
That’s not to say you will wake up the day after the worst day of your life and immediately become a stronger, wiser person. Suzy went through a lot and did a lot of work on herself before she was able to see her lowest moments as opportunities for growth. If she can do it, with time, professional help and commitment, there is more than a chance that you can too.
Don’t be afraid to feel alive.
Is that flutter in your stomach nerves or excitement? Don’t let the fearful component lead you to miss out on the thrill. Suzy believes in fully expressing your aliveness. “Can I express it through my voice, through my actions, through my movement: through life in my fullest capacity?” she says.
Run toward the things that make you feel alive, even when they’re scary. For example, that new job you’ve always wanted, or a new love.
If something is blocking your path or holding you back, interrogate what that mental roadblock is made from. Whenever Suzy feels like she’s giving into fear, she consults her mentors and therapists for guidance in working out what she’s afraid of and how to overcome it.
The first thing she does is a reality check. Is there a genuine reason to be afraid? Sometimes your fear is justified, and you should respect what it’s trying to tell you. Other times, you’re building a non-existent threat into an obstacle that doesn’t need to be there. Once you’ve identified that tendency, it’s easier to knock that fear down to size.
One reason Suzy struggled for so long to differentiate between real and imagined threats was because she was, as one of her mentors put it, addicted to hope. When you hold on tight to hope, you refuse to accept reality.
Now, Suzy prefers to hold onto faith in a higher power, and trust in herself. “There’s got to be something controlling something somewhere, so that’s where I put my faith,” she says. “And I have trust in myself that I’ve been able to navigate very tough places and always find a way out.”