Poke poke poke.
I wonder if the few strangers at the bus stop saw me approaching. Or if they were curious about whether I even knew the girl I tapped on the shoulder. Or if they thought I was going to grab her backpack, throw her on the sidewalk, and run. Or if they cared either way.
People in DC, I tell you. They watch all this shit go down and could not care less. I once saw a stabbing in Dupont and kept walking. True story. [The police were already there, stop throwing rocks at me.]
She jumped. I didn’t mug her. Then she threw her arms around me.
“Oh my God!”
I hadn’t seen my old coworker Caro in…two months. She lives hella far away, in a Maryland town I can’t even name. I really like Caro. Scratch that, everyone really likes her. She’s the kind of person you have to be a true, royal dick not to like. She takes care of her shit, gets along with everyone, and is a vegan who doesn’t look at you like you just killed Bambi’s mom every time you eat a cheeseburger. All good things.
“Kara! I had no idea you were a food photographer! You are SO talented! Your photos are SO beautiful! And I LOVE your blog! And—“
Well then. Hair-flip.
In the give-or-take four minutes I stopped Caro in the street, she gave me half a dozen compliments. I left feeling like a million bucks.
I believe everyone experiences some level of self-doubt, at one time or another.
Even the most confident, successful person on the face of planet Earth will, at some point, think their future is tanking. Show me any Olympic gold medalist, I’ll show you a time in their life when they thought to themselves, “I suck.”
During those times—those times where you’re busy tearing yourself down internally—it really helps to have someone build you back up.
It is our duty to build each other up.
When I think of the best leaders/mentors I’ve had the privilege of knowing, they were people who built me up. They challenged me to think bigger. They trained me to think, “Why not me?” in almost every seemingly far-fetched goal I laid my sights on. My high school coach planted the idea that I, this random girl from a tiny town who trained on a dirt track, was fast enough to run DI track. The VP of my college internship told me I was determined enough to move wherever I wanted, and get whatever job I sought. My boss and co-founder of my first job made me believe that even I, whose one and only C in college came in Finance 101, could pass the Series 7 exam on my first try, allowing me to sell securities.
And I did all of it.
I’m not twelve, nineteen, or even twenty-two years old anymore. I don’t have mentors looking over my shoulder, putting the bug in my ear that I’m good enough. So it feels really, really awesome to have a friend/coworker/peer/you-name-it tell you anyway.
Never assume someone knows how great they are.
Just as I once worked for amazing, I’ll-follow-you-to-the-end-of-the-Earth kind of leaders, I also worked under people who weren’t so great. They didn’t always tear people down, but they didn’t put effort into building them up. They would tell everyone in the room how talented a particular individual was, as long as that individual wasn’t present.
People, that’s just not how it’s done.
If you think someone’s great, for the love of everything good say it to their face. Don’t assume that, by telling everyone else how awesome they are, it will work its way back to them. If your coworker is brilliant, compliment his work. If your best friend goes out of her way for you, tell her you’re happy she was born. If the person next to you is killing it at the gym, tell that beast she’s your hero. If you think your boyfriend is the hottest person on the planet, rip the sheets off the bed and say it out loud.
Everyone around you will one day doubt something they are great at. You never know when your words could shatter that doubt and restore their confidence.
There are days I doubt if I should ever write another blog post, thinking, who the hell is going to read this anyway. That’s what makes people like Caro so great—they restore that self-confidence and make it ironclad. They are here to remind you that you are talented and your work matters and the rest of the world needs you to keep pursuing whatever-it-is you’re going after.
If you think someone’s great, don’t just think it. Say it. Chances are, they really need to hear it.