Prove Yourself to Yourself First

I remember in elementary school whenever it came time to do a speech, half of the class usually opened with a line like “Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines the word ‘courage’ as…” As a 9-year-old boy I decided I never wanted to use that introduction in my speeches because it sounded too boring. Luckily though, this is a blog, and not a speech.

Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines the word ‘prove’ as a verb meaning to establish the truth or validity of something by presentation of evidence or argument (I hope I got at least a chuckle out of a couple of you there). I wanted to provide this definition here because the wording is very important to the purpose of this blog. As people, when we work out everyday at the gym, or play basketball our entire lives, or study hard at school, or work our butt off at a job to get promoted, we are proving ourselves in some way or another. We are trying to prove to those around us that we are stronger, greater, better, faster, or more intelligent than most. But there’s a critical error here: THE WHO.

Over two months ago I decided I was going to take a beginner Korean class at a nearby university to help jumpstart my learning of the language. So, in the meantime, I put in about 50% effort into learning new words and phrases, and began telling people that I was going to take a class at a nearby university. Over and over again I caught myself saying the very same thing to new people and each additional time something felt strange inside me. I didn’t quite know what it was until my carefully built plan crumbled before my eyes. I found out one week ago that the class was cancelled because there weren’t enough people signed up. My initial reaction was one of despair… but then, it dawned upon me. As I walked to school the next morning, looking up at the bright sky, I realized that I wasn’t taking the class to help me learn Korean; I was taking it to prove to other people that I was learning Korean.

Then I thought of how often in my life I had done things simply to be able to say that I was doing them. It was almost as if the social validation I got from telling people that I was “going to” do those things was enough for me to feel like I had already done it! Then I remembered all the books on my shelf that had bookmarks only 40, 60, or 80 pages in. Then I remembered the piano that sat in my house for years, virtually untouched, and the single complete song I still know how to play. Then my whole life seemed to unravel. All that remained was one, solid and solitary thought:

All I need to do is prove this to myself… after that, it is true. 

It seemed so amazingly simple that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen it for my entire life thus far. But now that it’s there, it’s not going away.

THE TAKEAWAY: I think all too often we get caught up thinking that in order for something to be true, those around us have to believe it. And so we walk around as an advertisement for ourselves, selling our qualities and beliefs to those we meet as if it were Black Friday. But in the end, we are never really satisfied. Maybe this is true for you, maybe its not. Nevertheless, it would certainly be beneficial to ask yourself, “What have I proven to myself lately?” Because when all is said and done, only the things that you have proven to yourself will have any real meaning.

Hiro from the show Heroes

Be your own hero.

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4 thoughts on “Prove Yourself to Yourself First

  1. This is something I really needed to read. My personal problems have been severely hurting me and I’ve felt pretty abandoned and damaged. I thought I was being helpful to someone and I was genuinely doing it out of care, but unfortunately I was hurting my relationship with them (they are my exgf, who dumped me a month ago). They are having problems but they don’t want my help because of our history and my natural instinct is to come to her aid (and honestly I would help anyone in need). But like I said… it’s not helping. Anyways, its been killing me both to know she’s in pain and to know she wants nothing to do with me. She’s effectively trying to replace me and I’m having a hard time accepting that. I need to move on.

    So I’ve been told that I need to work on myself and do things in order to better myself or else I would be left in a hole and slowly drive myself crazy because of this. But it’s hard to find motivation especially after complete heartbreak. And I guess being helpful and such is just a way to validate myself (and show everyone) that I am a good guy that’s worth something instead of knowing and believing I am worth it. Asking myself, “What have I proven to myself lately? truly is something that will help me pick myself up and truly be happy. Thank you for this.

    • I am truly happy that this blog was able to help you in some way. I think all too often we get caught up in our life situation, rather than our life, and forget what is most important: that which is right in front of us.

      I can definitely understand your situation. You are stuck between a rock and a hard place in a way. But something you said reminded me about a previous blog I wrote about motivation, and I wanted to share it with you if you were so inclined:
      https://chadvice.wordpress.com/2010/12/07/self-motivation/

      Please let me know your thoughts.

  2. Wow,

    Look what crossed between us in the mail. My response to your last blog should have been to this blog. The answer was there all the time. Why do I need to prove myself to the folks I’ll be talking to, which is what I was setting myself up to do. I don’t. I know what I’m talking about and I’m sure I’m right. My perspective should be of one who has something valuable to offer and be as professional and modest as I can. There is no relationship between what I have to offer and our relative financial successes. I would have exactly the same things to say if our finances were reversed.

    Dave Hadden

    • Had I not seen this comment, I would have wanted to respond with exactly the same thing you just said.

      Even though I write about these things, an endless struggle goes on inside me. A fluctuation between what is and what will be, or who I am and what I can be. But what has been surfacing lately in my life is that all that matters is what I am inside. Because that, in turn, makes up what I represent to the world around me. This is amplified by the fact that I am the only non-Korean person at my school. Everyday I walk around and think not of what I think I am, but what I represent to them. The way I act is simply inline with that which I want to represent.

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