by: Lanisha Porter
One of the best lessons I've had about believing in myself happened in 7th grade. I was in Mr. Websters math class and one day he gave us an algebraic work sheet to complete. Working alongside my friends, we all got stuck on one particular problem. I attempted to work the problem on my own but soon erased my answer afraid that it was wrong after glancing around seeing no one had the same as mine. I worked the problem out a second time being more careful and attentive, but still arrived at the same solution. This time I openly compared my answer with my friend group but nobody could understand how I got the answer I did. Therefore, I erased it a second time. Convinced I was wrong, I raised my hand and asked for help. Mr. Weber came over and I explained to him my method of getting the answer. We walked through the problem together and surprisingly—with the teacher by my side— for the third time, I got the same exact answer. When I went to grab my worksheet to write it down, Mr. Weber saw that I had erased the correct answer and said something so simple that I'll never forget, "you had it right all along. Believe in yourself Ms. Porter."
Sometimes choosing to believe in ourselves escapes our control when popular opinion hints we might be wrong. If the crowd is moving fast you will be ostracized for going slow. If majority searches for the shortcuts you will be taunted for taking the long routes. And if everyone is thinking about youth and what's immediate, you can rest assured that you will be seen as different for thinking about adulthood and what will be long-term. Funny thing is...its not that you're actually wrong; it's just that you are misunderstood. Sort of like my math worksheet, there were different methods of solving the problem. My calculations, my insights, and my thought process delivered me to a completely different answer than my friends had. In life, people inherently operate with different calculations, insights, and thought processes that deliver them to different answers in the face of the same problem. Unfortunately, there will not always be a Mr. Weber to look over your shoulder and guide you. You have to trust in yourself—even when you find yourself in the minority group—to do what you believe is right based on your own personal calculations. Have enough confidence not to erase your answers just to align yourself with majority opinion, because without hindsight you have no idea which part of yourself you are truly erasing. You could be erasing the one thing that God purposefully meant to use to set you apart. You could be erasing the most brilliant part of your existence all to fit in with something that is sure to change. The thing about popular opinion is that it is always in constant flux. Going back to the worksheet, erasing your answer doesn't always look like erasing a number. Sometimes it looks like compromising your core values, doing things you don't really believe in, or staying quiet about things you know you should speak up about.
I wish I could say that that day in 7th grade was the last time that I ever doubted myself but it wasn't. Since then I have doubted myself when searching for more difficult answers— but one thing I am sure of is the power of believing in yourself. In groups were it is so easy to recycle shared fear and confusion, it is so easy to feel like you are on the wrong side of being different when you actually aren't. If you know you are right, then believe in yourself and speak your mind even if your voice trembles.
Welcome to my views from this horizon!