It’s not about you

Robert Evans Wilson, Jr.

The baseball thudded into the dirt at the batter’s feet; causing a dusty orange cloud as the dry powdery clay splashed over home plate.

“Ball Four!” cried the umpire; and the batter took off for First base.

The coach signaled a time-out to the ump, and walked toward the pitcher’s mound. When he arrived, he held out his hand for the ball, and said to my son, “We can’t win, if you can’t throw strikes.”

My son walked back to the dugout in frustration. From the bleachers, I watched helplessly, with the agony only a parent can feel when their child is struggling. Wishing I could console him, but knowing he would be appalled if I tried; I stayed put.

When someone criticizes you; don’t assume it’s truth.

Later on, he said to me, “I only walked two batters. I don’t think the coach likes me; he lets other pitchers on the team walk more people than me before he pulls them out of the game.” He was feeling inadequate because the coach mostly criticized and seldom encouraged him. I tried to tell him not to take it personally; but it’s hard to explain to a child, when someone they see as the expert admonishes them, that it’s probably not about him, but more likely some other pressure their authority figure is feeling.

Fortunately, the next year he had a coach who regularly praised him, and told him what a good pitcher he was. With that encouragement, he went on to excel.

It happens to all of us. When I was a young copywriter working for an advertising agency, I asked the creative director why I was never allowed to work on two of our accounts. I had written copy for all the other accounts, and wanted to work on those two as well. He said, “These are too important for you to work on. Only I can do it.”

What I heard was, “You’re not good enough to work on these accounts.” I took it personally. I made the mistake of assuming “it was all about me,” when, in fact, his statement was “all about him” and his beliefs. I believed I could do the work when I asked for it. However, I let his opinion rule my mind; and for a while, it rattled my confidence in my ability to write ads.

I have written before about the power of praise (see More Powerful than You Know). It is the encouragement of others that helps us believe in our ability to succeed. If you manage people, this is where you can help your people get ahead. When you tell them that you believe they can meet their goals, then they will believe it too.

Depending on outside sources for our confidence or happiness, however, is a recipe for disappointment because they are always uncertain. Instead we should look within for a more permanent reference. If you aren’t getting the encouragement you think you deserve, there are other ways to find a belief in your abilities.

In a previous article (see The Main Ingredient), I wrote that in order to succeed, we need to believe that we will. It’s called self-efficacy. It is your belief in your ability – to achieve what you want – that is the biggest part of actually getting there.

In addition to encouragement from others, we acquire a sense self-efficacy in three other ways. The first way is cumulative. With each success we achieve, we add a new layer of confidence in ourselves. The second way is through observation. When we see someone similar to ourselves succeed, we realize that we can too. The third way is controlled by our attitude. A positive attitude enhances our belief in our abilities whereas a negative one destroys it.

Don’t take it personally when someone puts you down. Don’t assume you know what is going on inside of their head. They have their own issues which they are likely projecting onto you. Instead, look inside yourself for what you know to be true.


Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. is an author, humourist-speaker and innovation consultant. He works with companies that want to be more competitive and with people who want to think like innovators. Robert is the author of the inspirational book: Wisdom in the Weirdest Places. He is also the author of The Annoying Ghost Kid a humorous children’s book about dealing with a bully. For more information on Robert, please visit