Freedom from Self-Doubt | B.J. Davis | TEDxSacramentoSalon

Freedom from Self-Doubt | B.J. Davis | TEDxSacramentoSalon

Translator: Phuong Cao
Reviewer: Queenie Lee I work as a co-director at a substance abuse and co-occurring
mental illness treatment agency. And not a day goes by
that I take that for granted. In 1999, I was paroled from prison
for the second time, for the … second time. Apparently, once wasn’t enough for me. Yeah, it’s pretty scary. That’s me. All told, I’d spent
over eight years in prison, on probation or on parole
for numerous felony drug charges. For ten years, I woke up
smoking crack every morning and went to bed
smoking crack every night. I spent most of my time trying to escape the helpless, hopeless
reality of my life by getting high. On the worst day, I remember selling an 8,000-dollar car
that my mom had given me – that I loved – to my crack dealer
for four 20-dollar rocks. That memory is so painful that, actually, this is the first time
I’ve ever shared it publicly. I came as close to giving up on life
as one can without jumping off, but something extraordinary happened
to me the second time I went to prison. About two months into my sentence, I got a letter from my ex-wife telling me that my mother, the person I profess
to love and care about more than anyone in the world, had had a heart attack and was likely going to die. This wasn’t my biological mother, who had abandoned me
shortly after I was born, but the real mother who had raised me
as her own for all of my life. I was forced to look at what kind of person I had become, and the person I had become
was not easy to look at. Because I had become the son who would not be there
to comfort his 77-year-old mother, laying all alone
in a stark hospital room, when she needed him the most, because of my selfish need
to escape my realities by getting high. In a moment of brutal honesty, I had to admit I had been living a lie. I was not the loving son,
or the faithful partner, or the supportive father,
or the good citizen that I had been telling everyone
including myself, for years. It was then that I decided that I needed to try to change my life into something that I and my mother, wherever she might be, could be proud of. And a tiny seed of change
was planted deep inside me. So after my release from prison, I decided I would go back to school, because I figured what better place can a middle-aged,
240-pound, black, ex-convict go (Laughter) to blend in (Laughter) than a white-bred community college with a whole bunch
of 20-something coeds. (Laughter) But I was fortunate because at the local
junior college where I landed, I ran into two instructors
that changed my life. It was my interactions
with these instructors that helped me to regain the self-worth
and purpose and meaning and confidence that my drug use and drug-related
lifestyle had stolen from me. I’ll never forget the moment that I realized that I understood that I could create my own miracle. It all started when I went up to one
of Professor Sina’s office hours, fishing for some special praise because that had become
my new drug of choice. She listened to me, described
some super cool thing I had just done, and with no pomp and circumstance, she looked at me and said, ”Isn’t it amazing, B.J., what a person can do
when they start believing in themselves.” And then, as if nothing special
had happened, she turned back to her desk
at what she was doing. While I walked away from that office hour, dazed and confused,
and wondering what had happened, I was also a little pissed
because she hadn’t fed my new habit. But I was forced to think about
what had happened and what did it mean. And importantly, that seed of change
that was deep inside me started to stir. A couple months later, while taking a test, Professor Miller walked by my desk and dropped off
an application that I later discovered was to the masters of counseling program
at Sacramento State University. So after the test,
I hurried up to his office hour and … ran into his office and held up the application
and very obtusely said, ”What’s this?” And without hesitation, he responded, ”I am quite confident
in your ability to read, so I’m sure you can
figure that out on your own.” (Laughter) So I brilliantly followed that up
with an equally obtuse question. I said, ”So do you think I can do this?” And with patience but no special fanfare, he looked at me and said, ”Of course.” ”Of course.” And then, he too turned back
around to his desk, signaling that we were done. (Laughter) And again, I stumbled away
from an office hour, dazed and confused. But this time, the seeds of believing in myself that had been planted
in my garden of self-doubt took root and started to grow. In a moment, I realized that the only person left
to believe in me, that needed to believe in me, was me. As my tears started to well up in my eyes, for the first time
since I had left prison, I felt free. After three years, I finally felt free of the mental
and emotional shackles caused by the shame and the pain and the despair of my years of drug use. For years, I had been –
I and people like me – we had been told, ”Once an addict, always an addict.” ”Once a criminal, always a criminal.” ”Once a loser, always a loser.” But I realized that was only true
if you believed it. I have learned the hard way
how paralyzing self-doubt can be. It contributes to people
choosing misery over joy and emptiness over fulfillment and imprisonment over freedom – and unnecessarily so. In 2006, only seven years after I walked off
the yard at Corcoran State Prison, I walked across a stage, and I was conferred my doctorate
in clinical psychology. (Applause) And sitting in the middle of the third row was a woman, who had spent countless, sleepless nights
worrying about her son. That woman was my then 85-year-old mother, who did not die while I was in prison, (Applause) but lived to see me become the man
she always believed I could be. Prior to 1999, this was my life. without hope or purpose. Today, this is my life. Now, I want to say here
that I’m often frustrated when I hear people attribute
a person’s successful recovery or rehabilitation to a miracle, as if their hard work and perseverance
had nothing to do with it. I needed to say that because it was regaining
my belief in myself that gave me the power
to change the direction of my life. And it’s what allows me to now provide hope to others
facing similar challenges. Because I’m living proof, I’m living proof that a person’s past
does not have to define their future. Now, you don’t have to go to prison (Laughter) to learn the lessons I have. In fact, I really wouldn’t recommend it. (Laughter) But know this. We do have a choice whether we want to have our past define us or refine us. And as I tell the thousands of individuals struggling with addictions
and other painful life challenges that come through our clinic: You don’t have to wait for a miracle. You can create your own. Thank you. (Applause)


  1. May GOD bless you!! To everyone dealing with any sorts of pain wether emotionnal or physical, We are praying for you, have a joyful & productive day!

  2. Incredibly inspiring. I come from a somewhat similar background, yet it is not as hard as yours, but I was stagnated for several years too. Your speech touched very deeply and I'm very thankful for your speech.

  3. As you are watching some tedx videos you will see such guy who hits the miserable part of your mind and wakes you up from the looooooong sleep of hopeless and incompetent .., thank so much

  4. this was absolutely incredible!
    my fiance and i have 2 years clean and we are now in school. this brings so much hope. thank you BJ Davis and ted talk

  5. My name is Amina. May God bless you and yours for sharing yourself as you have done. God is the best planner of all and brought your message to me precisely when I needed it most. You may have saved a life tonight; I pray that God rewards you for your kind and generous deeds.

  6. You yourself are your only person holding yourself back from achieving anything you want in this life. You just have to belive in yourself. You are enough. Every single person in this world is enough.

  7. Wow…sounds like someone else telling the story of my life (though without the drug-use), but self doubt…yes! yes!! and Yes!!!. constantly seeking approval from others and doubting myself… So so bless by this video.. immeasurably… Thank you Dr. B J for sharing your story

  8. Powerful. Thank you for sharing and reminding us that, everyday, we all have a choice about our thoughts, attitudes and the direction of our lives. 👏

  9. Brilliant speech. To get over addiction you need to face yourself and admit to who you had become. Step 4 and 5 in my case ♥️

  10. I'm ecstatic that B.J. has made a good life for himself and has healthy self-esteem, but essentially he's saying that his self worth returned after others believed in him.

  11. POWERFUL story!! I am sincerely moved by this. If you ever wanted "to reach just one person" you have achieved today Sir (4 years after this vid posted) Thank you B.J. Davis, stay blessed.

  12. A lot of yall out there waiting for that miracle, the fact that you can create your own is MIND BLOWING!!! Afterall, we ARE made in God's image 😉

  13. this is sooo beautiful!!!!!! bless! you are the living proof. thank you for choosing to inspire and tell your story. 💛

  14. I am in a dark place right now in my mind… and I really want to find a way out, self hatred and self doubt is too loud in my head… I don't yet know how to get out of it… at my job I underperform, my boss always critiques my work harshly for the smallest mistakes (was promoted 4 months ago into this new position)… it makes me believe I am even more so useless and hopeless… today I am skipping work… sitting here trying to "google" my solution..

  15. "The only person left to believe in me, that needed to believe in me, was me" is so powerful. Thank you

  16. Escape the helpless, hopless reality that was my life…yes sir. Every addict fealt those words. Depression is the enemy! Love is the answer! Amazing the power these loving people with just a few words stirred such change. Words he may have never heard, something as simple as I believe in you. Versus you're no good, you're just like your father, you're a disappointment. Faith can move mountains!! Nothing like the motivation to make momma proud..

  17. I got a job that, I think, exceeds my abilities a lot. I’m starting tomorrow & I feel so anxious. I can’t sleep and now I’m just sitting on the kitchen, crying non-stop.

  18. There are men and women like this man everywhere in the world, that should give anyone a reason to not dismiss your fellow man and understand this reality is real and here you are❤️

  19. Very encourage life proof lesson, that I came across with today, and I need it, because as a mother, there is a lot of challenge, with my descendants, and to see this kind of testimony, it gave me, the encourage, that I need. Thanks a lot B.J. Davis, to have the faith to keep doing, a meaningful life. A lot of blessing for you, and your family. Carolina M.

  20. I doubting myself so much that I feel like everybody in this comment section is actually better than me

  21. This is a commendable public speech. especially of a male. I can relate somewhat to his disappointment he felt in not being the best child to a parent who struggled for many years to witness him become the Great successful Man she cultivated him to be.
    Lesson: In retrospect sometimes our maturity is not a priority above our emotional instabilities, which sounds as though were dispelled by inspiration from another who invests in those great attributes deeply seeded. We need more great professors alike that man
    He enabled him academically and personally….
    Though I must add being connected or should I say a reputable Alumni as a confidant, has to be one of the few ways an Ex Convict can establish employment and financial security in the workforce, this is what many dont understand is a obstacle psychologically, to Ex Cons changing their life. Sure they can meet the grade (good marks), but some of us are not confident enough to sell ourselves for obtaining a career…. I hope others alike myself are further motivated…

  22. This has me in tears. I’m happy you came out and spoke about something that locks many, not a few, but many. Thank you. Thank you so much.

  23. I was unable to start something that I cognitively knew is important to me, because of self doubt.
    There is an endless amount of ways to oppose self-doubt, thus by sharing our experiences we can help each other. I share my experience on myChannel (TheMajorLife)

  24. This guy is truly an ex-convict. Notice that the only steps he takes are limited to the small red carpet underneath his feet.

  25. This shows how important is to have a support in our lives, people that we love and care about, people that can see on us what we can't.

  26. That was truly inspirational Mr. Davis! I have never made a public comment, but after hearing your story was compelled to wright this. I'm a 49 year old male, have struggled with poor self worth since a child, which has lead to depression, alcoholism, not liking myself or others, relationship issues, not being the husband and Father i could have been……but am trying. I love u man, i have so much respect and admiration for you, way to go!!!!!!

  27. Awesome talk and a very very inspirational person. We all can create our future the way we like it to be. Lets start today!

  28. Love this video and his powerful story. Key takeaways for me were:

    1. It’s only true if you believe it.

    2. Don’t let self-doubt paralyse and imprison you.

    3. You have a choice – whether you want your past to define you or refine you.

    The part that most resonated with me was when he said: ‘It was regaining my belief in myself that gave me the power to change the direction in my life.’ Yes, yes, yes to that! 😊

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