Finding My Own Self Worth
Confidence is not something that comes to a person overnight, it is something that is practiced and nurtured. I don’t want to lecture you on the correlation between confidence and its internal or external factors, since this story is not a book on psychobabble. However I want to share four stories that were critical to finding my self-worth and belief that I can make a difference in this world.
When I was 17, was a tae kwon do assistant instructor. I taught students of all ages from as young as 5 years old to as old as 73. I also did parkour tricks with some of my peers at martial arts demonstrations at birthday parties and community events to get students recruited in the surrounding neighborhood.
One of my favorite students was an eight year old boy named Tommy. Tommy was bullied in elementary school and wanted to pick up martial arts so that kids would not mess with him. I related to his struggle because of my past with being picked on and bullied. Not only was Tommy one my favorite’s he was talented and sometimes joined us during different Taekwon do demonstrations.
Although Tommy was one of my favorite students, I was not really sure what Tommy thought of me. I still felt empty on the inside even though I had a job that benefited others. I did not see the value in my own contributions to others. I didn’t realize that Tommy looked up to me, until I wrote a suicide note to myself. I said that I was going to kill myself after work with a knife.
Towards, the end of my shift Tommy asked me to teach him how to do a very complicated martial arts technique called a jackknife. Most people are not really able to do a jackknife, let alone an 8 year old child. I didn’t believe I would be able to teach him, but once I did something changed. The eight year old boy was proud of himself because he was able to do something that most children could not. He told me that “you are the best teacher ever and I hope I become like you Brian.” I gave Tommy a hug and told him that I was proud of him and that he was my favorite student.
When I went home from work, I cried because I realized that my job had value in a person’s life. I cried because I no longer wanted to kill myself, and for the first time I felt like I meant someone to someone. I learned that I feel worthy when I am able to help others and empower them to do great things.
During my junior year of college, I transferred to Penn State’s main campus. I had been playing guitar for two years, and wanted to establish myself as a musician in the Penn State community. The only problem is, I didn’t know any musicians on campus. I noticed that the campus did not have an organization for student musicians to network and develop each other.
I started a student club organization called the Penn State Songwriter’s Club that was based on the missions of community, collaboration and charity. I wanted people to get together so that they can share their love of music so that they can find people to play and connect with. I wasn’t sure if this club would succeed since I was the first who had done this in Penn State’s history, but I wanted to take a risk in order to help others.
The Songwriter’s Club not only became successful over the two years that I managed and led it, but it became a place for people to call home. I met friends that helped me book shows with national acts, opened up shows for charity and developed a music following for myself. I developed a reputation for becoming the “go to” guy for any music related questions in the State College community.
Starting this club was not easy. There were times that I faced racism, negativity and drama, but despite those issues the club became one of the best things that I had created. For the first time in my life, I created an idea to help others and saw that my vision could become a reality. I started to realize that I have the ability to be self-sufficient and create visions for people’s dreams.
Songwriter’s club still remains to be a success after the past five years. Student leaders reach out to me for advice on how to manage the club, or advice on their own music careers. I have even taken time off from work just to meet the new students and talk about their journey with music. My heart feels whole to know that there are people who use their passion, dreams and love of music to help their community.
A Talk with My Band
During the summer of 2014 I played an outdoor show with three of my old bandmates for music education in Philadelphia. Victory Beer Company sponsored the show and we were given unlimited free beers during the day. It was a fun, tipsy, but emotional day.
I wasn’t happy with our performance and I wasn’t happy with myself as a musician. I was under the impression that I was destined to be a failure and that my music was going nowhere. I thought my bandmates were playing with me because they felt sorry for me, instead of believing in me. I asked them to drink some coffee and have a talk after our set.
I told them that I did not feel happy and did not think we were successful and was not sure if I could keep doing music again. I had been discouraged after countless gigs that were not as crowded as I wanted them to be, messing up at shows, not having a tuned guitar on stage, and l feeling embarrassed for putting myself out there. I told my band that I think we need to work harder.
My bassist said that I was overthinking and that I was hypocrite. He believed this because my actions did not agree with myself doubt. He believed that “I could do anything and I have shown that just by bringing the band together.” My drummer believed that “success is not determined by how well a band is liked by others, but more about how much a band learns how to bond together and I should never forget that bond.” My guitarist reminded me that I was one of the hardest working and well connected musicians and that he knew that I would be able to make something out of myself, otherwise he would not have been by my side since day one. I learned that I needed to find the belief that others had in me, within myself. Confronting my band about my own progress was a turning point in my career, because I started to find worth in my own songs and presence as a creative person.
A Talk with My Grandfather
One month before my Grandfather died of stage 4 lung cancer he asked me something that changed my entire life.
“Are you still writing songs about hating yourself? Do you still hate yourself? Do you know what it means to love yourself? Would you rather have cancer than hate yourself?”
He continued to lecture me and remind me of all the things I had accomplished in my entire life. The book that I had written, the albums I have recorded, the places I have traveled, the friends I have made. My grandfather wanted to remind me that emotions are based on perspectives. He believed that “my self-worth is based on the faith that you have in yourself and that your perspective is what keeps you believing that you can keep on going.”
Just like my bassist, my grandfather believed that I was able to do anything that I put my mind to and that I needed to work on being able to believe that I can accomplish the things I desire in this life as long as I would be patient and willing to work for the results that I see for myself. My self-worth is not dependent on what other’s think of me or what I do for others. Instead, self-worth is something that is driven by learning that I can be able to change the person that I see in the mirror, as long as I am able to believe it.