A couple of years ago, I had a very intense friendship with someone. It was someone who really pushed me to take a serious look at many aspects of my life. We came in contact through business. He is an incredibly successful person by anyone’s standards. We came to know each other as individuals. Not prejudging the other in any shape or form.
During one of our exchanges, the subject of personal happiness came up as it would often again in the future. In spite of having more money than one could spend in a lifetime, he was really an unhappy person when it came down to it. I asked him why. He told me it was simple: he wanted the same thing that everyone wants and it was something that no amount of money could buy. I asked him what he thought that was. His response: someone to believe in him.
This was a pivotal moment for me. You see, as I mentioned in my last blog post, I had ongoing issues with my mother. But I never really could figure out what it was. I just knew that it felt like she did her damnedest to make my life miserable in so many ways. After this discussion with my friend, upon reflection, I realized that the biggest thing a parent can do for a child is to believe in them. To show confidence in who they are and who they could become.
It dawned on me that what was wrong – the breakdown in communications with my mother and I – came down to a continual lack of faith in me. No matter how good anything I did was, it simply wasn’t good enough. This caused a lot of damage – both to me as an individual and to our relationship. It made me afraid to share even the good stuff with her because I felt that she’d still find something bad in it.
Although our family didn’t have much when I was younger, during my last few years of high school and CEGEP (junior college), my mother’s small business was doing well and our standard of living improved a bit. When I was about to start university, my mother decided it was time to retire. My father had already retired a few years previously. I had always expected that I’d take over the business. I had worked for her off and on during school. It wasn’t complicated to do. It would have helped me get my adult life on a good track. Something inside her didn’t think I was capable of doing it. Instead of even giving me a chance, she simply closed the business down.
Around the same time, I was involved with the first person I was truly in love with. He was from a very wealthy family. I hadn’t even known who he was never mind how much he was worth when we had first met. It was irrelevant. Everytime we did anything, I paid my fair share to make sure the reasons I was with him were clear. In spite of this, his mother believed I was with him because of his money and said that I’d never end up with him. I was 20 or 21 at the time of a specific conversation with her and I still remember it like it was yesterday. Eventually this sentiment crept into our relationship.
I was engaged very young. A total mistake in hindsight. But one of our big issues – which set the tone for many of our future relationships – was resentment or jealousy of how things came to me apparently “easily” while he had to work hard and still didn’t see results. I remember we were both writing for the McGill Tribune (student newspaper). He had aspirations to be a journalist. I enjoyed the creative outlet of writing but didn’t see it as a career for me. He started at the newspaper the year before me. One semester in, I was asked to be an assistant editor. For almost a week, he didn’t talk to me.
My life seems to have a recurring theme of people who don’t believe in me, believe I’m not good enough on some level, who don’t think I need the emotional boost to do what I do or who in some way have been jealous or resentful of what I’ve been able to do.
I have no idea some days how I’ve been able to accomplish some of the things I have. It’s been a lot of self-motivation. It’s been a lot of ignoring what everyone else says or doesn’t say around me because it does little to contribute to me moving forward.
What has been a big disappointment for me is that I have expended an incredible amount of energy over my life in encouraging and motivating others. I’ve believed in others when they didn’t believe in themselves. Time and again. I’ve yet to experience how that feels – to be on the receiving end of someone who genuinely believes in my abilities and who does so without any resentment or expectation of getting something in return.
I’m not saying I have never received any support from people. But it’s a matter of lacking in consistent support from individuals over an extended period of time.
If I sound bitter in any way, I’m not. It is what it is and it’s contributed to who I am as a person today. It hasn’t made me care less about supporting others to the extent that I can. Maybe if things had been different for me, I’d not have succeeded to the same level.
Not having someone in your life who truly believes in you and who can cheer you on through successes – big and small – is tough. It’s not where I want to be.
Take a look at the people in your life who mean something to you. What do you do – and what can you be doing better – to let them know you believe in them? What difference can you make in someone’s life just by saying 4 simple words: “You can do it.” Whether it is a child, a spouse, loved one or a friend – the 30 seconds a day it takes to give encouragement can mean the world of difference in what his/her life will ultimately look like.