Saturday, June 02, 2007


Today 300 people gave me a standing ovation at the end of my lecture day. Person after person came up and said nice things to me. My whole experience with people here in Nova Scotia has been one of constant affirmation for what I've done, the work I've accomplished and the ideas I have generated. All day today I felt in complete sync with 300 people. It's an awesome experience.

Why isn't it enough?

Spending a childhood being called 'stupid,' 'clumbsy,' inadequate,' 'unfortuate,' and 'ugly' ... having to answer the question 'Who do you think you are ..." at least twice a day ... with 'nothing, no-one' has left me unable to really believe that people are being anything but nice. Instead of feeling 'full' of the praise of others I feel like I've somehow cheated them, fooled them, tricked them into seeing something in me that doesn't exist.

A woman came and held on to my hand and cried saying that the two days had changed her. She thanked me deeply. It seemed like she was telling the truth.

Why isn't it enough?

"He'll never amount to much."

"I don't know what we did to deserve a kid like that."

"Even the dog doesn't like him."

Old news. Heard often in the past, never in the present, the words still stay with me.

The power of words. Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will really hurt m. The roar of past criticism drowns out present acknowledgement. It's not fair. For heaven's sake, I'm over 50, shouldn't I also be over those first few years of assault and abuse?

I understand all those people with intellectual disabilities that I meet that are praise dependant. The guys who ask all the time, "I did a good job, right?" and then look desperately for approval. The women who search your eyes as they ask, "Friends, right?" I know that desperation. Years of failure to please, years without parental pride, years lived with shame of not being quite good enough, each day of each of those years digs a deeper hole of need. For affirmation. For confirmation. For validation. I understand.

Maybe next time, I'll hear the praise.

Maybe next time, I'll believe it.

Maybe next time, it will be enough.


All 4 My Gals said...

Oh Dave, I am shocked that your upbringing was like that. But perhaps that has molded you into the compassionate person that you are. Maybe this sixth sense that you have about others is a gift that comes as a result of this abuse. Just maybe. I don't know, my heart just aches hearing that. I hear words that sting at the ball field and it makes me see red. Love covers up so much and we all need that. HUGS. Your writing has changed my life. I never comment on blogs and I am compelled to comment here. :) I will be praying that next time the enjoyment wipes any negative memories away....for the day.

Anonymous said...

This is one of those times when I find myself sitting here wishing that I could find some easy answer that would make everything all right. Because some people deserve that and ought to have that, and you're one of them. But of course, there are no easy answers here, at least none that any of us can really give you from the "outside." I suspect that you will only really BELIEVE the praise you hear, or find it enough to fill you up, after you're first able to tell YOURSELF, "I'm okay." And convince yourself of that.

I don't know if this will help any. But: What would you say, or what have you said, to people with intellectual disabilities who look to you with desperation for praise? Could you take some of those same words and learn to say them to yourself, even if it makes you feel silly at first? Would that make a difference?


Anonymous said...

Shouldn't you be over it? Not until you are, if you are.

No point carrying the burden of that lie, as well as of the great one, that you (alone among humanity - and along with all the rest of us who are alone in our 'worthlessness') are nothing.

Belinda said...

I'm tempted just to say nothing--because sometimes people just need to say how it is and it doesn't need to be explained away or made better. But...

That pain has been the spur that led to your success.

Those wounds have helped you identify with and understand the pain of others.

The anger the grown man feels at that small boy's abuse has propelled you to be angry at all abuse.

Your past is inseparable from your present.

That empty hole is like the apostle Paul's thorn in the flesh that wouldn't go away, no matter how much he asked God to take it.

In the end he accepted carrying the constant prick of this thorn and allowed God to use it--his weakness--for his glory.

Anonymous said...

I am in the same position you are. Never quite good enough, always worried that I am just fooling others, and if they really knew me... Although I am sorry you go through this as well thank you for once again reminding me how important it is to always praise the children I teach, whether I think they understand or not, the tone goes through. And always make a point to let the parents know how well their children are doing. What wonderful children they are and to let the parents know they have done a great job with their child. We all need to know that we are "more than good enough just by being ourselves".


Anonymous said...

Dave, I was going to post a comment here, but it grew way too long. I turned it into a full blogpost, here:

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,
Just wanted to say that I was one of those three hundred people who gave you the standing ovation and I believe you deserved it wholeheartedly. This was the first time I had heard one of your seminars or had even heard of you but the work that you are doing is making a difference in many lives. I thank you for making me think of ways to make the lives of the people I work with better even if it is only in small ways. I wanted to speak with you personally but am a bit on the shy side myself and didn't want to make a fool of myself by saying something stupid. Anyway I'm sorry you don't believe in yourself and hope that someday you will realize the good you bring to the world. Remember always that the person who is the most important to love you is yourself. Thanks again, hope to hear you speak again someday.

David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. said...

"He'll never amount to much."

Routinely said of me.

pewterdragonfly said...

Enough is a funny word. It means alot and it means nothing; it means that you've done your best or your worst, done all you can do or not even tried. But it is just a WORD!
"I'm okay" is something that will stay with me forever. I've passed it on to friends and family, including my 4 year old daughter, since yesterday.
I haven't actually tried it out yet, though. It should be pretty interesting when I do, as my "internal dialogue" can sometimes wake my husband at 3am (how the hell can you argue with yourself in silence? I don't understand that one!)
I don't feel cheated over what I've gained in the last 2 days and neither do my friends and co-workers. We came out of your lecture and were firing ideas at each other before even getting to the exit! We believe that we can now improve the being of our clients... not just their lives, but their dreams and ambitions and atmosphere and home and outlook and self image and so many other aspects of them that we were "stuck" on and out of ideas about!
YOU DID THAT! You gave us the map to navigate through our own fog of fatigue and defeatedness. We struggle to make change, but can't seem to get our message through clearly to the powers that be. We now realize that it's ok to back up and support our clients in getting THEIR message across, that it isn't OUR message, it's theirs.
You did that for us.
And since you can't hear it from yourself, hear it from us:

Anonymous said...

"I did a good job, right?"

"Do you feel like you did a good job?"


"And I agree with you."

Anonymous said...


I too was one of those 300 people who gave you a standing ovation. It was heartfelt and genuine. Let me tell you why.

If you had told us that you had all the answers, shared only the stories in which you never made mistakes, or told us to " Look left,look right,look don't have angel wings, but I do ", it may not have been.

But you didn't.

You told us to, "Shut up and Listen ! It is not about you, it is about them." It was as simple and as REAL as that.

So, it does not surprise me that you sometimes find yourself caught up in questioning your own worth, everyone does it, or at least they should. It is that questioning which forces us to discern our true motives, challenges us to find ways to do things better, allows us to see the things we need to do to love ourselves more. And that is what you do. You question. That is why you are so successful in what you have already done, and will continue to do.


Anonymous said...

there's a line in the movie "pretty woman" where julia roberts character talks about the same thing. richard gere's character askes her why she thinks about the bad stuff so much and she says "because the bad stuff is eaiser to believe". true that.

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