(Published - 9 December 2019)
“Everybody has a story to tell. We are always speaking or writing ourselves into existence and we need to do so in a manner that is beneficial for our mental health and in line with the goals for our future. That’s why we need to carefully consider what we put after the words ‘I am’ - and remind ourselves that we can overcome our past and build a better future.”
Dr Amiena Peck understands the power of language and the role it plays in shaping our lives. She leads a team of postgraduate students that mentors and teaches soft skills to post-graduate students at UWC, guiding them through workshops, a Facebook page and YouTube channel, Amiena Inspired. The team focuses on emotional intelligence (EQ) techniques for students who find it difficult to cope with all the emotional upheavals and challenges of university life.
“I wish to help create emotionally intelligent graduates - graduates who not only have the academic knowledge needed to work at a high level, but also the interpersonal and self-management skills required to navigate difficult environments,” Dr Peck shares. “These types of graduates are able to work at a high level because they are not bogged down by negative self-talk, doubt and self-destructive behaviours.”
Her team is living proof of the benefits of developing EQ.
“We are a group of about seven people (who like to think of ourselves as emotional intelligence coaches) and we offer various support systems, coaching, and mentorship sessions to other students on campus,” says founding AI team member (and Class of 2019 MA graduate), Zaib Toyer, who has started a joint PhD at Ghent University, Belgium.
The AI team prepares videos tackling a range of tough topics - from dealing with body issues, getting out of our comfort zones and upping our EQs, to dealing with personal setbacks and dealing with success, for that matter.
“We want students to realise that life doesn’t always go according to plan - and that’s okay,” says fellow founding AI team member (and Class of 2019 graduate Amy Hiss. “We’re steering them away from constantly focusing on the negative, and helping them learn to take charge of their studies, inspiring them to live the life they dream of.”
Dr Peck also sends out daily inspirational messages, from Monday to Friday.
“This is a daily reminder that a conscious effort is required to ensure that outdated neural pathways (old ways of thinking/habits) don't resurface,” she says. “I have found this mode of communication to be quite helpful in the journey of self-healing and self-love.”
Monthly Emotional Intelligence workshops help first-years and postgrads deal with academic stress management and goal setting. The team even created an EQ book which serves as a nifty handbook which facilitates becoming an Emotionally Intelligent student.
“Success requires self-belief - but we know that self-belief is no easy feat: many students believe the negative/critical voice in their heads which constantly reaffirms their deepest insecurities,” she says. “We don't believe in simply surviving campus, but thriving - there is a huge difference!”
Amiena, Inspired: A Personal History
Born in Athlone, one of six children, Dr Peck went on to earn a PhD in Linguistics from the University of the Western Cape, where she currently lectures and conducts research into Linguistic Landscapes - the study of signs in the physical environment.
“Communication is key for me as I always understood that this is one way I could rebuild our fractured country,” she says. “Prof Christopher Stroud and I put forward that the body itself is also an important element of the Linguistic Landscape, and we contend that it is in fact a corporeal linguistic landscape.”
But it was only after a year long battle with post-natal depression after her second child was born that she truly learned the power of language and neuroscience.
“I began studiously learning as much as I could about self-management and stress management, both of which I would later place under the umbrella of 'Emotional Intelligence'.”
At the time, she was in the third year cycle of a Thuthuka post-doc research grant focusing on Virtual Linguistic Landscapes - that is, language and semiotics on social media. In order to engage fully with virtual platforms, she created a working group called Vir.turl X-scape with Linguistic postgraduates.
What began as an academic project, actually became a platform to help improve the lives of others.
“It is my life's purpose to uplift and heal others, and I will do so until they are strong enough to uplift their communities and families and rebuild our beautiful nation,” she notes. “This is the ripple effect that I'm after.”
Dr Peck will complete her Neuroscience in Mentoring and Coaching course with the Psychology department at UWC, and the Neuroscience Institute for Business at the University of Cape Town in March 2020.
“UWC students have the potential to be so much more that just good employees - by becoming emotionally intelligent, they can become fearless pioneers in whatever field they choose,” Dr Peck says. “Together, we can change this world for the better - one exceptional UWC alumnus at a time.”
Want to know more? Get involved with Amiena Inspired on any of the platforms below:
@amienainspired on Instagram
@Amiena Peck on Twitter
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