Who Do You Think You Are?

A few years ago I volunteered at a children’s organization in Manhattan. Before my time came to an end there, I gave the kids a tour of the office building where I worked. I wanted to tell them my story; how I came from a poor family, went to art school and eventually found work doing what I love. I wanted for them to understand their backgrounds didn’t have to hold them back. A friend later told me that as I was showing the kids around (they were about 11-17 years old), one said to another, “you’re never going to work at a place like this.”

Those words still haunt me. I’ve heard this destructive thought communicated in many ways and it can be interpreted simply as: “Who do you think you are?” This question is meant to break one’s spirit, to bring one down to the reality everyone else is living in. For people who have a spark in them, “who do you think you are” could very well extinguish a unique flame before it ever has an opportunity to light. No good can ever come from this question.

I wish I could go back in time and address the kid who told their friend they would never work in an office building like mine. I would tell them the first step in getting anywhere in life is believing in yourself (I hope I would have been able to say it in a way that didn’t sound like some fortune cookie platitude). By discouraging their friend, they were also limiting themselves and their own future. I’ve lived this and I can tell you, realizing I could be a professional with a career was important and liberating for me as kid. 

I believe many children feel unempowered when it comes to participating in the world. Well meaning people look at kids from financially poor families and assume what they need is money, computers or tours of office buildings. What they really need is authentic social support and to be shown how and why their ideas matter. That is the first step.


+ There are no comments

Add yours