As a young writer, one of the many things I find myself battling on a fairly regular basis is self-doubt. I doubt that anything I have to say is interesting to other people. I doubt that the words I type provide others with the desired effect. I want to inspire people to be great. I whole-heartedly believe each of us has an epic story to write and tell. I want to encourage other people to believe this as well. Doubt has many ugly faces. Confidence has one.
The Influence of Kind Words
A close friend of mine just IM’ed me. This was his comment:
Just caught “Our Obsession With Clubs.” I was reading along and then realized, “whoa, now this is some real truthful stuff here this dude is bloggin’ about.” Then, read a few more, saw the one bout being less vanilla. You are onto it there. Be open, honest, real.
We went on to discuss some of the personal struggles we have both dealt with in the realm of being open with other people. To understand why this comment meant so much for me, it is important to know the background of my relationship with this person.
A quick note about my friend, and his importance to this post:
He and I share many traits when it comes to privacy, how we view the world, how we view other people, and life in general. We certainly don’t always agree, and that has created a truly dynamic and enjoyable friendship that I look forward to lasting for many years to come. We were introduced through his college-friendship with my Dad when I was just 7.
Our friendship really started to form, however, when I was in high school on into college. The power of instant messaging has made our friendship grow much stronger and last much longer than I believe it may have without instant messaging. For that, I guess he and I both have Tim Berners-Lee (and others, of course) to thank.
Through years of IM conversations, email conversations, and hanging out during my annual trip to visit and hang out with him in Austin, I have learned a lot about his views, and correspondently my own views. We have disagreed at times. We once made the mistake of trying to do business together – something good friends really should never do, but that’s a whole other topic I’ll write about in the future.
I credit him with a large portion of opening my eyes to the world that is commonly known as self-help or personal development. During one of our conversations, he asked me whether I had seen What the Bleep Do We Know!? To which I replied, “no, haven’t heard of it.” Being the kind of person he is, he bought a copy and gave it to me. He did the same thing with The Secret (Extended Edition) .
The greatest advantage of my friendship with him, though, is his persistent, and at times brutal, honesty when it came to giving me feedback or helping me open my eyes to my own B.S. Though it may have annoyed me, or upset me at times, I came to understand his reasons, and grew to love the fact that I could rely on him for such honesty and harshness when required.
He has watched me go through venture after venture, toying with this idea, and wondering about that one at the same time, all while working on three other projects. He has always been supportive, but constructive with his criticism when was being an idiot.
Why My Friend’s Comment Matters
Because of the relationship that he and I have, when he tells me something positive as it pertains to something I’ve put my sweat, emotions, and energy into; it has a cumulatively positive effect. Not only does it make me happy that he likes whatever it is I’ve done, but it also motivates me to produce more and do more.
He may not even realize that his comments have such a profound impact on my actions and me. Hopefully, if he reads this, he’ll know. There is more here to talk about than just my friend and I having a happy conversation.
Why Your Comments Matter
Whether it is on my blog, someone else’s blog, or just something you say to your friends, your family, or your kids, the things that come out of your mouth (and just importantly how they come out of your mouth) have a tremendous impact on them. The people around you on a daily basis, whether they want to be, or your want them to be, or not, will be affected by the things you say about them and their actions.
It is incredibly easy to forget this, especially for a parent. As parents, we are busy. We have bills to pay, chores around the house, honey-do lists, dinner and other meals to prepare, work to consider, sleep schedules, social functions, the list goes on. A child, however, doesn’t really care about any of those things. Sure, they want to be fed, but what they care about most is getting the attention and praise they deserve from their parents.
Growing up, I went through three father figures. First: my biological father – whom I don’t speak to any more after a dramatic end to that relationship (I’ll share more about this later). Second: A man my mom dated for quite some time and we lived with for a while – I was young, and don’t remember how long they were together. Third: the man I call Dad. My mom married my dad when I was 7, and it (obviously) changed my life.
My dad isn’t a man of many overwhelmingly positive words. As an engineer, things are very black and white to him. His personality is usually most easily described with the word “hard-ass.” Probably the best representation I can think of for my dad is Red from That 70’s Show. If you’ve watched the show, you know what I mean.
Because I received little in the form of positive encouragement from my dad, and a combination of other situations and conditions, I grew up with limited self-confidence and greater self-doubt than the average person. As my knowledge of personal development, self-confidence, and the human condition increases, I learn that it was not that my dad had ill intentions; rather, it was a condition of his own upbringing and personality type. In his mind, his harsh words, and some times downright meanness was his attempt to drive the point home. I don’t believe, looking back, that he ever wanted for me to experience a lower self-confidence or increased self-doubt as his grilled me.
Overcoming Years of Limited Positive Encouragement
One of the most positive effects of learning and applying the knowledge of conscious personal development I have experienced is an overwhelming feeling of forgiveness. I’ve learned to forgive my dad for the negative impact he might have had on me. I’ve learned to forgive my mom for any negative impact she might have had on me. Most importantly, I’ve learned to forgive myself for not knowing how to stand up for what I believed in back then, and for taking so many years to dig in and learn about my own passions, my purpose, and myself.
I admittedly still struggle with not resenting my parents for not being the parents that I wish they had been. Typically the most challenging times for me are when I’m going through a period of beaten down self-confidence with an extra kick of self-doubt. It doesn’t really happen that often, and it is decreasingly frequent. When it does happen, though, when life throws me a curve ball, it can be quite challenging to not just point the figure and blame away.
Over the years, I’ve been able to block out the poisonous memories of my past. I’ve learned that by constantly allowing myself to remember such negative things, I’m only encouraging more negative thoughts and actions to come upon me. God has built the universe to bring us whatever we focus on, regardless of what we think we desire.
The passage where God tells us to “ask and receive” isn’t simply a figure of speech. God is telling us that if we focus on something, he has built the universe in such a way that we will receive it. In contemporary language, this is called the Law of Attraction. Regardless of what it is called, I’ve found that by focusing on the positives of what I experienced growing up, and what I am able to takeaway from my experiences is what has the ability to empower me.
Avoiding the Blame Game and Practicing Forgiveness
Placing blame is the lazy way to resolve any issue. Regardless of who should actually receive the blame for something, it is never productive to be the person who places that blame. By placing blame, we are disconnecting ourselves from that person in a way that is only negative – for them and us.
Instead of placing blame, it is always important to reflect on our own actions, and how they may have contributed to the situation, no matter how one-sided it may seem. When a child blatantly ignores a demand made by a parent, for example, and gets into trouble, the parent really can’t place 100% of the blame on the kid. The reality is that the parent contributed. It could have been in the form of pushing the child’s buttons in way that made them rebel. It could be that the kid didn’t hear the parent the right way. There are countless complexities to human interaction. Placing blame is pointless, because ultimately, we are all connected and a part of the same consciousness.
Being forgiving is a challenge, even for the most patient souls. Practicing forgiveness, however, starts by refusing to place blame on others without first realizing what factors we might have contributed to the situation. The better I get, though at forgiving people, the easier it is for me to forgive myself when I screw up. I am able to brush past self-doubt. I don’t focus on my personal failures. Instead I learn from my experiences, good and bad, to increase my knowledge and personal abilities.
One of the easiest ways I’ve found to avoid placing blame is to force myself to using positive and encouraging words and body language. The power of positive words compared to negative words is phenomenal. By focusing on the positives, in any situation, I am able to move past the anger, the hate, and any other inevitable emotions much quicker and more decisively. By using encouraging and kind words, I also empower the other people in my life to do more with their own lives. Since this is my ultimate goal and passion, it is a win-win scenario.