“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
At the age of five, this question opened up all of the possibilities. I could be an astronaut, who traveled to different planets to make peace with all of the aliens. I could be a singer, who filled the radio stations with my voice, writing songs about princesses and fairy tales.
I could be anything I wanted, and I believed that with all of my heart.
As I grew older and older, the spark in my eyes slowly started to disappear. I was told to “think practically” and to “get my head out of the clouds.” Although most of the adults in my life meant well, my young little brain felt as if it had to stop dreaming.
I lived a comfortable life for the next few years and learned to be happy with that life. I got almost perfect grades, never complained and set “realistic goals” for my future. Everything was great—until I received my diagnosis.
“Alopecia Universalis,” the doctor said. These two words echoed in my head. I was diagnosed with a condition that made you lose all of your hair, and I soon realized I may never get it back.
My whole perspective shifted, and the concept of living a “comfortable life” soon disappeared. I wanted to do more with my life. I wanted to make sure individuals who struggled with insecurities similar to mine had an outlet to let it all go. I decided I wanted to start an international holiday dedicated to improving self-esteem. I was 14 years old, and I believed I had an idea that could change the world. I turned to several adults with my idea, and many of them shut me down. There are several adults, however, who did, and there were a few things they did differently.
1. Listen Openly
I remember the first time I presented my idea to a group of adults. Although they appreciated the concept, it was hard for them to believe that a young individual with no source of funding could create a movement like this.
Several stopped me mid-presentation with questions like, “Do you really think you can fund this over the next 10 years?” or “How do you plan on managing this project as a child?” Although these are very real questions, at the time, I simply needed someone to listen to my idea with an open mind.
2. Provide Support
I wasn’t asking for someone to fund my project or provide me with resources. I wasn’t asking for someone to do all of the hard work, or take over my idea. All I was asking was for someone to believe in me. The day I found that person, my “crazy idea” stopped seeming so crazy. And I will forever be grateful for the adult who chose to take the 14-yearold girl with the big idea seriously.
3. Offer Advice
When starting my organization, my heart was full of motivation. As much as I wanted to start working, however, I didn’t know where to begin. After I found adults who listened to me and believed in me, I had a lot of honest questions. I needed their wisdom to help me take my first steps in launching a non-profit organization.
Instead of trying to take over, the adults in my life gave me the perfect amount of guidance, allowing me to grow, change, and sometimes make mistakes. I’ve learned so much through this journey, and it all started with a few words of wisdom.
Now more than ever, adults need to start learning to take young people seriously. There are innovators, world-changers, and dreamers just longing to make a difference. If no one believed in me, my idea would have just died in my head.
The next time a five-yearold looks up at you with sparkling eyes and a dream of being a superhero, don’t be so quick to turn them down. Guide them, listen to them, and believe in them. You may be the only person who ever does.
Cover image courtesy of Sanah Jivani.