As cool and fascinating as it sounds for one to consider themselves as ‘self-made’, it is seldom true. I figure from a psychological perspective, people tend to find great satisfaction in attributing their entire accomplishments to their own work ethic, personality, intelligence or ‘never die’ attitude.
The truth is that, you are where you are due to the assistance, mentorship, favour, patience and a whole host of other interventions that someone or some people bestowed upon you. As you let that sink in, don’t let it make you feel inferior or unworthy of how far you have come, in fact this realization should spur you on to do the same for others.
Dear African Child, for us to advance into a new realm of possibilities, we have to learn to pay it forward.
For far too long, we have cultivated a culture that subtly (and at times overtly) encourages us to be in the pursuit of happiness on our own. We have been conditioned to see each other as competitors rather than partners in the quest for self-improvement.
Often times we see and at times mock groups of people that openly go out of their way to support each other. For most of us, supporting each other is seen as ridiculous since ‘we all have problems’ and we also experience feelings of ‘let me help myself before I can help others’. In the instances where help is offered, it is usually giving in a manner that seeks to have control or dominion over others instead of a genuine acknowledgement that we are all products of other people’s positive interventions. Dear African Child, for us to be truly prosperous, we have to learn to pay it forward.
Think of anything that you value; your education, material possessions, strengths, job, career or even the way your uncanny ability to effectively interact with people and adapt to situations. If you do a little introspection, it won’t take long to realise the (often huge) role that others have played in building you into the person you have become. In all this, I am sure you worked very hard and probably made sacrifices but this should not overshadow the impact that others have had in your life and it certainly does not make you an invincible one man army that is not will to help your fellow Africans.
Paying it forward begins in the mind and then proceeds to influence how you interact with your world. Paying it forward is about give your time, effort and/or money into someone else, just as you have been supported throughout your life and career. Paying it forward is about realizing that when we reach a point where genuinely helping others becomes second nature, we will be firmly in the driving seat towards the destiny that we desire. The Africa that we want.
Chris is a young Pan-Africanist columnist, advocate and blogger currently serving with Youth Division within the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Contact him through Twitter (www.twitter.com/chr1sfleming), read his blog (www.chr1sfleming.wordpress.com) or send him an email (firstname.lastname@example.org)