I tell the Dude and the Little Person that I love them every day. It’s something that my mum did for me, and while at the time I found it boring, and a little trite, it also built a strength within me, and our relationship, that I only appreciate now as an adult. In fact, it the little statements of belief that helped me make the difficult decisions, persevere in difficult situations, gave me the keep on keeping on-ness that I consider one of my trademarks.
I remember my neurologist in South Africa telling me I’d be fine in the UK, I would definitely make it. The Dude casually commented to me, while watching a TV programme that I’d “be good at that”, encouraging my pursuit of psychology as a career. My undergrad supervisor told me that I “certainly have the capacity” to achieve a PhD”, which means I won’t yet give up on the dream. So it wasn’t my mum telling me that she loved me that helped me get here (well, it was, but that wasn’t enough), it was also all the other people who took the time to look at me and tell me that I was good enough, better than good enough. So what’s my point? Just this. It doesn’t stop here.
I’m not the young generation anymore. I’m not the kid writing to a former pastor because I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, only to have him say “you’re one of the best I ever knew”. But I know some of that generation. And I know how it can sometimes feel, being overwhelmed by the challenges of life, being excited at the possibilities, but almost crippled by the doubts.
There are two people in my life that illustrate this point quite well. The Lad is young, still at school, and he had issues. Bullies, to be exact. It wasn’t the bullies that had him upset the day he sat on my sofa. It was the feeling that somehow, he’d let his mum down. He’s brilliant, The Lad. A young man with such perseverance, such potential, and such a willingness to do the right thing, and learn from his mistakes. He’d had people berating him for his reaction to being bullied, but nobody turned around and said, “This is what you need to do. This is another way to look at it.” That’s what I told him, as he sat on the sofa. That the bullies don’t get to define who he is, if he doesn’t let them. That he is better than that, he can be more than that, he has more to offer the world than that. But if nobody tells him that, the only people he will believe would be the only people talking to him. The bullies. And the Lad deserves so much better than that. (I know, you’re gonna go on about his family, but I’m not talking about family, I’m talking about everybody else that doesn’t have a genetic link to you.) Cos he really is brilliant, and spending a little time over the last few weeks with him has taught me a few home truths.
I don’t know The Lass nearly as well. But I follow her on Twitter, and I see her at church, and she has such passion, such purpose, such buzz, it’s amazing to see. She sat near me on Sunday morning, and you could almost feel her soaking in the preaching, like a soulful sponge. I wish I knew her better, so that I could let her enthusiasm wash over me. We ended up sharing a table over coffee. “You’re brilliant!” I said. Because I had been meaning to tell her this for some time.
“Ah,” she looked at me with some confusion,”At what?”
“Just you, you’re brilliant.”
She nodded, half smiled, looked down at the map where the Dude was trying to show her where we live. “Is that the road with the chip shop?”
Of course, the Lass didn’t quite get what I was on about, but that’s alright. She’s surrounded herself with people that believe in her. Her positivity, her intensity, her belief, are testament to the belief that others have in her. She could climb Mount Everest if she wanted to, she can do anything she puts her mind to. She doesn’t need me telling her she’s brilliant, because she’s already got other people doing that. And I know she’s passing that on to the next generation.
So this is my point. There is always somebody you know coming up behind. You could try crushing their heads, or you could pull them up towards you. Tell ’em they’re brilliant, because they are. Tell ’em you believe in them, because at some point, they’re going to go shooting past you, and you want them to be taking your future in the right direction.
Tell ’em they’re brilliant, just in case yours in the only voice that will.
You’ll be brilliant yourself if you do.