Be the Person You Needed When You Were Younger

Be the person you needed

One of my writer pals, M.R. Sellars, shared with me a quote that made me think twice. Okay, actually more like ten times, not just twice.

“Be the person you needed when you were younger.”– Ayesha A. Siddiqi

The epiphany for me was realizing that I can’t tell myself to go be that person because–to my surprise–I already am that person and have been that person for a long time. Not as much to myself, but certainly to others. If I were 21 years old and reading that quote for the first time and trying to follow its advice, I would have set my intentions to become exactly the kind of person that I’ve become naturally without realizing it.

I arrived at this place because, I think, I have always tried to fill in the gap of what I never had. When I was a little, little girl and up until I left for college, maybe even after, what I really needed, more than anything, was a person who would be my champion. I had a cheerleader in my mother, but I didn’t really have anyone who would fight for me.  There was no one in my family to stand up for me, nor in my school, nor in my church, nor in my community.

I saw advantages go to schoolmates with wealthy parents and connections even though my grades and skills were better. When I competed for international scholarships, my own school threw in with a student from another school who had grand connections and even damaged my own chances by submitting a formal letter to the review board that they believed the other student at another college to be a better candidate. To my own amusement, I made it farther in the competition than did the preferred candidate, but I was clearly on my own and felt it. I had no champion then, just as I’d had no champion as a child.

As an adult in the business world, one of the things that gives me a sense of fulfillment is being a champion for the underdog.

No, more than that.

Giving the new interns credentials that would get them promoted one day. Working towards the professional development of brilliant, generous, and ambitious millennials who just need a shot. I think nothing of providing what is called “top cover” to those who work for me–at times taking the blast from upper leadership for what they’ve done or what I’ve done. I credit the people who work for me and work with me for my success and take the blame myself in anything goes wrong. That, to me, is what it means to be a champion for others.

I am occasionally asked why I put so much energy into helping others, especially those who don’t have anyone to take the heat for them or to guide them in their profession. Other than saying, “I like doing that,” I’ve never really been able to explain that it’s more than just liking doing it.

It’s having a need for doing it.

Now, I understand:  what I’m giving to others is exactly what I needed for myself when I was growing up.

Be a champion.   It’s not just a state of mind…it’s an action word, too.