When I Help Someone Learn To Believe In Themselves, I Actually Believe In Myself A Little More Too

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from Ryan Fan

I once wrote an article about a friend, titled “Michael McBane: Getting People To Believe In Themselves,” in which I detailed how my friend would catalyze confidence in others to do the things they couldn’t before. What I didn’t realize, at the time, was how that mantra of “getting people to believe in themselves” would play out in my life, especially as I have been thrust in more of a role of mentorship.

Whether it’s as an upperclassman on my sports team or as Editor in Chief of Odyssey at Emory, those words to live by have changed the way I approach the some of the most important things in life: relationships.

Let me first concede that I’m probably tooting my own horn far more than the actual effect I’ve had on people. My influence in people’s lives are more often subtle than they are monumentally impactful.

But that’s life — all the pieces matter at the end of the day. Even if one person may contribute what seems to be more than the other, everything I’ve been able to do and achieve in my life is an amalgamation of the influence of every mentor I’ve had, whether it’s my coaches, teammates, family, or friends.

I’m a person who has historically struggled personally with believing in myself and having confidence: I’m pretty socially awkward, anxious, and prone to various addictions. But, again, all my mentors and peers have helped me succeed despite the flaws I have.

It’s the act of people believing in themselves that is far more important in mentoring than it is the actual teaching of skills, in my opinion. Everyone has the aptitude to achieve their goals, but not everyone has the belief that they can.

Getting people to believe in themselves means unconditionally supporting them, even if you don’t always support their decisions or opinions.

At the end of the day (and it took me a very long time to realize this) the person on the other side of the exchange is not me. I will never truly understand the thousands of dynamics going on in their lives, or the factors that led them to do what they do or think the way they do. I can judge. I can be disappointed. I can disagree. But I can never give up on them.

Getting people to believe in themselves means always including someone in our community. Say we’re having a debate or discussion about something, and this is something I don’t do that well, but I always try to ask people now, “what do you think?” if they don’t feel like they are completely a part of the conversation. It means engaging people more than they expect to be engaged.

It means having high expectations for people and an unprecedented amount of trust in them, of showing them that they were much more capable than they originally thought themselves. It is showing them that they can grow and become the people they want to be, even if they aren’t at that place right now. It’s about showing people that at the end of the day, it’s always about the process and what they learn from it, not quite the destination.

As an Editor in Chief of Odyssey, it means unconditionally giving people a platform to share their voice and find it. It means getting people who felt like they weren’t “good writers” to improve and discover their strengths. We have rough quotas. Most people have to write an article once a week, and in doing so there’s a lot of temptation just to get a quick Buzzfeed-style list of mostly gifs out in 15 minutes.

I’ve learned that getting people to believe in themselves means giving my writers the benefit of the doubt when they ask for more extensions because it means they’ll have the freedom to write something they’ve been thinking about for a while and surprise themselves.

As a friend, as a teammate, it means, again, trusting people even though there’s the possibility that you might get burned, but always believing the best in them. Getting people to believe in themselves means that I’ll put myself in the arena and let myself fall and stumble, and show people that it’s okay to do so.

But it’s when one of my writers tells me something along the lines of, “you helped me become a better writer” or one of my teammates sends me a message saying “you helped me feel a part of this team” that I feel rewarded.

The act and thought of getting people to believe in themselves make my day, and it gets me to believe in myself too.

It strengthens the institutions and organizations that have given so much to make me who I am, and, in a way, it’s my personal method of giving back.

In some ways, it’s selfish: I want to teach briefly after college and see if I could have an effect on kids. There are a thousand reasons why I won’t be successful, and I certainly won’t be any sort of savior, but it’s something I wanted to see through for myself. For all my idealism, anything positive I’ve done for others was an unintentional byproduct of just doing my job. I hope, in the future, that I can do the same.

Originally published at https://www.theodysseyonline.com on February 20, 2018.

Written by

Believer, Baltimore City special ed teacher, and 2:40 marathon runner. Diehard fan of “The Wire,” God’s gift to the Earth. E-mail: ryanfan17@gmail.com

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