Sunday, July 22, 2018

Getting What You Deserve

Dramatist W. S. Gilbert (of the duo Gilbert and Sullivan) insightfully said, “You have no idea what a poor opinion I have of myself -- and how little I deserve it.” How many people can say that? People’s poor opinions of themselves, more than anything, hold them back from getting what they deserve. 

Born into poverty in 1927, actor Sidney Poitier weighed just three pounds and was expected to die. His mother planned to bury him in a shoebox, but somehow he survived. He grew up on a tomato farm in the Bahamas. 

Yet in 1964, Poitier became the first Bahamian and first black actor to win both an Academy Award for Best Actor and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor. In 2009, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian honor, and in 2016, he was granted the BAFTA Fellowship for outstanding lifetime achievement in film.

How did he achieve so much? Part of the answer is that he never allowed a poor opinion of himself to hold him back.

According to Alan Loy McGinnis in his book Confidence, Poitier achieved such prominence largely because of self reliance he learned from his parents. “I was the product of a colonial system,” he once said, “that was very damaging to the psyche of non-white people. The darker you were, the less opportunities were presented to you.”

He continued, “My parents were terribly, terribly poor, and after awhile the psychology of poverty begins to mess with your head. As a result, I cultivated a fierce pride in myself, something that was hammered into me by my parents, Evelyn and Reggie – mostly by Evelyn. She never apologized for the fact she had to make my pants out of flour sacks. I got used to ‘Imperial Flour’ written across my rear. She always used to say, ‘If it’s clean, that’s the important thing.’ So from that woman – and probably for that woman – I always wanted to be extraordinary.”

Whatever it was that his parents “hammered” into him gave him enough motivation to rise from poverty to prominence. He eventually cultivated an unwavering belief in himself. It is often true that we don’t let ourselves have more than we think we deserve. Not that any of us deserves more than anyone else, but perhaps most of us deserve more than we let ourselves have. 

  • If we feel trapped in a relationship which is destructive or unfulfilling, we deserve more. 
  • If we are employed in a job that under-utilizes our true abilities and skills, we deserve more. 
  • If we believe that life is going nowhere, we deserve more. 

Does any of that describe you? And has a poor opinion of yourself ever kept you from getting what you deserve?

Poitier was taught that he was somebody, and therefore allowed himself to pursue what most folks in his circumstances today may believe are unattainable goals.

You, too, are somebody. You are a person of infinite worth. Will you allow yourself to experience what you really deserve?

-- Steve Goodier

Image: Public Domain

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