“And above all things, never think that you’re not good enough yourself. A man should never think that. My belief is that in life people will take you at your own reckoning.”
~ Isaac Asimov
I turn to Isaac Asimov (1920-1992), an American giant in the science fiction genre in the Twentieth Century, to consider his opinion about a person’s self-worth. He was a multi-talented, well-educated man, and was an able public speaker – often attending science fiction conventions where he proved to be friendly and approachable.
In reading about his life as an immigrant’s son in New York, I found a young man who knew what he wanted early in life. He was resourceful and determined to achieve his goals. This was a man who embraced a challenge and applied his strong work ethic to succeed. I consider his words, quoted above, within this context.
Asimov begins these words of advice admonishing us about self doubt, “… never think that you’re not good enough yourself.” As a man who has often wrestled with this inner struggle throughout my life, his words resonated with me immediately. No one can afford to to indulge in a lack of faith in oneself. The cost is terribly high… absolute failure.
Yet doubt is normal – to a degree. Life throws all kinds of unexpected challenges and obstacles in our path, and we cannot control them. But we do control how we react to each and every one. I measure the difficulty of each obstacle and decide to work hard to overcome it, or to succumb to defeat. In this process of deciding, we are likely to encounter an element of self-doubt. Each person, every day, must decide how they deal with obstacles, doubt and setbacks. If I give the doubt full-rein and act on that, then I have decided not to believe in myself.
My life experience has taught me that no one goes through life without experiencing difficulties along the way. There is no champion athlete, best-selling author, or successful entrepreneur who achieved these pinnacles of success without experiencing setbacks along the way. None of them reached their goals without a great deal of concentrated effort. And I’m willing to bet that none of their life paths were identical and that their inner experiences were unique. If all of this is true, how does Asimov’s advice apply to each of us?
Asimov gives us part of the answer in his next sentence, “A man should never think that.” Doubt evokes an emotional response: fear. If I act or make a decision based on that feeling, I have failed to understand and accept the key to his truth. We must think… no matter what emotions are raging within. Think about the problem, think about our goal(s), think about how to solve the problem, think… think… think. The most important thing we must think is that we are valuable, we are good enough. We give ourselves permission to succeed, to achieve.
In order to act in spite of our doubts and fears, we must exercise courage. Is this another feeling – the opposite of fear? Absolutely not. Courage is the cold, calculated (rational) decision to act in the face of fear. So where does this come from? Why does one person display courage and another does not? In order to summon the courage, one must believe in oneself. It is that simple. It is that hard. I must think myself capable of achieving success. I must believe that I have what it takes to overcome any and all obstacles – including setbacks. I must think this. It is not a feeling.
Asimov ends by sharing his belief that people will treat us according to what we believe about ourselves. This makes perfect sense. Why would I place my faith in someone who doesn’t believe in him or herself? How can I help someone who thinks he or she is a failure… a loser? I’ve heard people complain that they are not being treated with respect. That will continue if that person is convinced of his own unworthiness. A friend of mine often says that all of us have to train people how to treat us with respect. If I don’t respect myself, how can I train anyone else to respect me? Again, my experience has taught me that confident people impress others.
It seems that some people find it easier to believe in themselves than others. Perhaps it has to to with nurturing factors like a supportive family unit during the formative years, excellent teachers, genetic makeup – or a combination of all of them. Regardless, each of us has to understand this recipe for success in our life and apply it. This means that I must be honest with myself and give myself credit where it is deserved. It does not mean that I turn a blind eye to my weaknesses. Once I’ve assessed all of my strengths and weaknesses honestly, then I must take that deliberate, rational step to believe in myself. Only when I’ve done this, will I achieve my goals and be at peace with myself and the world. For this, I thank you, Isaac Asimov.