Thoughts by Richard Bleil
A friend of mine published a meme on my social media page today that reads “In only takes one person to believe in you to change your life for the better.” While I agree with this, I don’t really like this meme because it doesn’t go far enough. See, it really does only take one person to believe in you to improve your life, but that person must be you yourself.
The way that I read the original meme is that it takes somebody else to believe in you. But there are two problems with this. First, it gives your power away to this mythical other person. The reality is that if you don’t believe in yourself, somebody else’s belief is not going to be of much help. The second problem is that it implies that if you have nobody who believes in you, then, in fact, you’re simply lost.
My life has been an interesting one. I’ve never felt an overabundance of belief in me and my abilities. It’s not that the belief is not there; I know there are people (many, actually) who do believe in me, but I really have a hard time feeling that faith. Like so many others, I’ve also fielded far more critics than believers. I did not achieve what I have because somebody else believed in me; I succeeded because I believed in myself.
I eeked through college with grades far lower than my readers might believe, not because I partied, but because I didn’t. I took too heavy of a course load, and (unbeknownst to me at the time) struggled with depression that would have been far less had I spent more time socializing and making friends. In college, it’s kind of a difficult balance to strike between working too hard and not working hard enough. After college, I started working industrially as an analytical chemist but found that the routine testing was not something for which I was well suited. Even with poor grades from college, and with no encouragement from anybody, I gave up a steady income to return to graduate school.
Despite my poor grades, despite coming from a background where even with bachelor’s degree I was the most educated member in my entire extended family, and despite the fact that nobody was telling me I could succeed, I gave up my income in a steady if mediocre life to seek my doctorate. I didn’t go because somebody else believed in me, I went because I did.
Please don’t misunderstand me. Having somebody else believe in you does make it easier to believe in yourself. I have people who believe in me, and it’s their faith that makes it easier for me to believe in myself. My recent history has been, well, let’s say rocky. I’ve been fired from two recent, impressive and well-paid positions for doing things in the right way to try to do the right thing, unemployed for an excessive amount of time, lost my car and home, and struggling to figure out the pathway to my future. And yet, through it, I have started several new projects to help me figure it out. I started this blog, found a new job even if it is part-time temporary in education, relocated to a new city, started a new company, and more recently started a new educational video series and am learning a new programming language. It doesn’t help me to stay fed (at least not so far), but I’m hoping these projects will be of benefit to others and help me to improve myself. These are a reflection of the slowly returning self-confidence that I have been struggling to find for far too long now.
The belief of others in yourself is not going to help you improve yourself if you don’t believe in yourself, and the belief of others can certainly help you find your self-confidence but is not what you need. Working as a civilian employee for a police department, periodically my path would cross with that of somebody who had recently been in the county jail. Many of these people, sadly, are repeat offenders. If you think self-improvement is difficult, it’s exponentially worse for people who have a past of this type. As one of these individuals was waiting to pick up his belongings, I sat with him. As we chatted, he was kind enough to show me his artwork. He was incredibly talented and shared with me his struggles with chemical dependency. He also shared both the personal expense of his addiction in the loss of his relationship with his children and family, and, I am proud to report, his plan to turn his life around by relocating to a new city, severing toxic ties with people who were enabling his bad habits, and plans for his future. I believe in him, but it probably means little to him as I am not truly in his life orbit, but he believes in himself. This is why I believe in him as well.