When is the last time you said that to yourself? I know I want to say it to myself all of the time but then I remember how much other’s opinions of me play into my daily life…and then I beat myself up about that…and then someone tells me I’m a good guy and I’m fine again, for awhile. Our minds can be quite the bastion for twisted self-defeatist thoughts. The stories we tell ourselves sometimes serve as excellent roadblocks to where we wish we were. It’s on that note that I want you to hear about Devonte.
Devonte (pictured) is a 12 year old boy “who was born into a life of drugs, extreme poverty, danger and destined for a bleak future,” as was stated in this Huffington Post article. When he was five, he was adopted by Jen Hart and her wife Sarah. I encourage you to read that linked article to hear more about his remarkable story.
One story about Devonte his mother, Jen, recounted was the following interaction he had at a grocery store earlier this month:
An elderly man was standing at the end of the bagging area conversing with the woman checking us out. He spots our son — looks him up and down.
Man: I can tell you are going to be a baseball player when you grow up.
Devonte: *Pauses, tilts his head and gives a closed mouth grin* Actually, no. Baseball isn’t really my thing.
Man: Well, I can tell you are going to be a ball player.
Devonte: (As his mom, I can tell there is a slight frustration inside of him) No, I don’t even play baseball.
Checkout lady: Oh, I bet you’re going to be a basketball or soccer player then!
Devonte: No, I don’t play any sports. It’s just not my thing. There’s nothing wrong with sports or anything, I just have other interests.
Checkout lady: (in a befuddled nearly astonished voice) WHAT!?!? I have NEVER met a kid that looks(!!!) like you that doesn’t play sports.
Man: *chuckling* Right?! Never. They all do!
***My face was as red as my hair at this point. It was so obviously clear what was happening. While I wanted so badly to step in and protect my son from the ongoing racial stereotyping, I didn’t. I let him step into his own power and he handled it brilliantly***
Devonte: Well, of course you’ve never met a kid like me. I’m one of a kind. There’s not another person like me.
Man: Well, what do you want to be when you grow up?
Devonte: I’m here to help people. I’m here to inspire. Now.
Man: Oh, so you’re going to be a doctor? (as he laughed while he said it — not kidding)
Devonte: No, I’m not.
Man: Well, being a doctor is the best way to help people. What are you going to do to help and inspire people?
Devonte: (putting the last of the bags in the cart) I’m going to be myself. No matter how much people try to make me something I am not. Have a great night! *flashes ginormous smile*
My first impression after reading that was, my dude, Devonte, is a boss! The second thing I thought was, the poise and patience that he demonstrated while positively educating those close-minded adults is something that I need to practice. My third thought was, I am stealing the s#!t out of this and writing a blog. Reason being, what Devonte said in his last point is something we all need to say to ourselves from time to time.
Last weekend I had the distinct honor of emceeing and speaking at the National Conference on Student Leadership (NCSL) in Orlando. While there I debuted a new workshop for professionals about the ever-elusive work/life balance and the importance of having a life outside of work and home. Besides maintaining our own sanity, the main reason I think this is important is so that we have more stories to tell, more experiences to pull from when we try and educate or role model for others. I asked the professionals in the room a question that I will now ask you:
What is the story you tell your students vs. the story you tell yourself vs. the actual story?
Now, not all of you have students, but hopefully in some capacity you consider yourself an educator. Whether you’re a parent, supervisor, student leader, peer, co-worker, etc., we all have the ability to pass on knowledge and develop those around us. Alas, I digress.
So what is the story you tell you students? Is it the one you think they need to hear, the example of perfection? Is it the “professional” or “mature” angle? Do you play it safe and cover your butt? Do they think you have everything together and figured out?
How about the one you tell yourself? Do you ever give yourself the benefit of the doubt? Can you handle everything? Are you really going to get it all done on time and to the best of your abilities? Do you have anything figured out? Is this where you thought you’d be at your age?
So often in our lives we struggle between being professionals and normal people because of the great divide we put between the two. Internally we feel the dichotomy between having to be a professional who is getting everything done efficiently and effectively in the work place and telling others to do the same VERSUS being a person who is still trying to figure out who they want to be when they grow up and beating themselves up in the process.
I think that’s where the actual story comes in. Allow yourself to be human and live authentically. At appropriate times and places share your actual story with individuals you can impact. Try not to hold people to standards you yourself aren’t meeting and every once in a while give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Be like Devonte and say, “I’m going to be myself. No matter how much people, [or I] try to make me something I am not.”