When Someone Believes in You

When Someone Believes in You

From Chicken Soup for the Canadian Soul

When Someone Believes in You

When Marco was a boy, he tried everything to get his father’s love and attention. He worked hard to earn exceptional marks; he tried to be obedient, he chose inspiring friends and always tried to behave well.

Sensitive and shy, he was so timid he always wore turtleneck shirts. He hid behind his hair, which he wore long around his face and ears. To make it worse, Marco was naturally shorter than the other kids. And because his good marks had allowed him to skip second grade—he was younger than everyone else. This added nothing to his already low self-confidence.

When Marco was eight his parents divorced, and Marco was sent to a boarding school. Six years later, he and his young sister Sandra moved in with their dad and his new wife in St-Léonard, a French Canadian and Italian neighbourhood on the east side of Montreal. Between his work and his new young wife, it felt to Marco that his father had little time for him and Sandra. Except for his demands around chores after school, communication was nonexistent. It seemed to Marco the only time his dad ever spoke to him was to be demanding or critical. He began to dread coming home from school every day.

Marco sank further into his low self-esteem and was overwhelmed with feeling unappreciated, inadequate, depressed and confused. He felt desperately alone and isolated.

One day his father, already tired after a long day, tripped over Marco’s bike in the garage. The angry confrontation that followed left Marco feeling violated and humiliated. It seemed no matter how hard he tried he could never do anything right. In despair Marco blurted out, “That’s it! It’s enough! I’m going to commit suicide.”

“You?” replied his dad disparagingly, and without hesitation. “ You don’t even have the guts!”

For two days, Marco felt so miserable all he could think of was wanting to die so he could leave this enormous pain, those overwhelming feelings of rejection and unworthiness. But then he thought, “If I kill myself, I will never get to live, appreciate life and I will leave my mother, grandmother and sister that I love. They’ll be so hurt and I don’t want to do that to them. But if I don’t, then my dad will be right—and he will win.”

Angry, sad and confused, Marco was stuck. He went back to school, and retreated into silent isolation.

Two days later, his aunt called him. To Marco, this seemed like a miracle. Aunt Ginette usually only called once a year, on his birthday. She said she had just seen some young teenagers participate in a public speaking contest called Gala Personnalité sponsored by Club Optimiste—and she thought about him. She thought he should give it a try. She told him she firmly believed he could perform on stage like the other kids, since she had seen him do skits for the family at Christmas.

Marco was startled, and not a little taken aback. Him? Onstage? In a public speaking contest? To agree would be contrary to his entire shy, timid personality. But Aunt Ginette was so confident. She seemed really serious. She was sure it was something he could do. She truly believed in him. And feeling her strong belief, Marco went against all odds, against everything he had ever done or felt, and agreed to enter the contest.

All that winter of 1980 to 1981, twice a week after dinner, he took three different buses in each direction for the three-hour round-trip to practice in Ville d’Anjou, where the competition would take place. Marco was taken by an energy he never felt before. The hours and the obstacles no longer counted. The criticism from his father and his stepmother around his absence for after-dinner chores didn’t matter. His father disapproved of this new dream, fearing it would take away from his homework time and impact his marks. But Marco was a top performer in school and never missed a day. His dad really did love him and wanted the best for him, but his own insecurity made him react to anything that might jeopardize his son’s future. Even his sister helped to move him towards his dream by taking care of the dishes on those evenings, for “future considerations”. She was only twelve, but very perceptive and generous.

Four months later, the big night arrived. His mother, his sister, his grandmother, and yes, his Aunt Ginette, were all in the audience. The nine other contestants were all older than him. Marco was overwhelmed—the whole thing just felt so much bigger than him, and butterflies filled his stomach. But when he stepped onto the stage and began to speak, he felt totally at home, totally at peace, and a kind of bliss stole over him. He was funny, witty and acted extremely natural as he spoke. The audience loved him! He felt energized and very alive—it felt like a real birth. To his shock and amazement, he WON!

When he saw his mother’s face, her eyes were glowing— she was so proud. He realized then she believed in him, just like his Aunt Ginette.

As the winner, Marco went on to the regional final, where he won again! His name was published in the local papers, and he knew this was the start of his new life, and a new Marco. He began to believe in himself. His self-esteem and self-confidence started to grow. Not only did he feel he deserved to live, but he began to realize he deserved to be happy and respected. That contest was a truly defining moment in his life.

Today, Marco is one of Canada’s rising keynote speakers, educating, inspiring and entertaining audiences around the world. As I travel around the world to speak to thousands of people every year, I tell them Marco’s story. I tell them his story because it is my story.

It all happened because of a single phone call, from one single person who simply believed in me. Because of her, I have been able to more than fulfill than my dreams. I’ve been able to inspire and to touch the lives of so many others—and help them fulfill theirs.

Marc André Morel,
Montreal, Québec

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