I grew up playing cricket, soccer and rugby–team sports. And, when we played in the hood this meant having teams. By some unwritten universal rule, the two best players became captains. And, their task started with picking who would be on their team. There are many ghosts of crushed egos and self-esteems in playgrounds all over the world.

Some adults can recall when their self-esteem and identity took a knock as little boys or girls. Part of their maturing into adulthood has been a fight to reclaim their identity from that. I’ve heard many harrowing stories. Grown men and women sharing how words hurt them. How being the last one picked told them they weren’t good enough. And that this set them to always prove themselves. 

Being chosen or picked last because there was no else left to choose doesn’t help anyone’s ego. And by ego, I don’t mean the ugly one. I mean the healthy one. That being at peace, comfortable and happy with ourselves is what I’m talking about.


Acknowledging the impact of the painful playground experiences is the first step. Most adults I speak to describe the start of their journey to freedom with this. Others say the next step for them was summoning a willingness to move on. I’ve had other people share they didn’t realise they were still nurturing playground scars. That some catalytic event removed their blinds. 

The Pushback

The mantra, in different forms, they now live by is, “Pick yourself. Waiting for someone to choose or validate you is futile, because no one will”. While there can be some truth in that, I’m convinced this can also be unhealthy response. In time I worry it might lead to some people looking to be self-sufficient in every regard. Not looking for help even in areas even the most competent and gifted need it. 

I’ve seen people value picking themselves and independence to their detriment. I’m not against some freedom but being absolute self-sustenance is a unicorn. A myth. 

Being Picked And Picking Others 

The truth is we don’t always have it within ourselves or means to pick ourselves. Sometimes we need someone to vouch for us. That person who’ll say to the world, “Watch him / her”. There are times we will need someone to call things out of us we’re not even aware we have. 

In the same way being the last one picked can be devastating, having someone call our names can be empower us. It can be liberating. The challenge for me, for you, is to remember not to be so caught up in picking ourselves we forget that we can pick others

Being deprived of the privilege of being chosen doesn’t stop you from choosing others. We all can affirm someone’s gifting and abilities.

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We can say, “I appreciate this thing you bring to the table. I love who you are, as a person. You are worthy. You can.” 

Take a timeout from overcompensating from the past and liberate someone. Introduce them to their selves they haven’t been living in. Give someone else permission to be vulnerable. To share their work and gifts with the world. 

Don’t let that someone else didn’t give you permission stop you from doing that for others. Pick someone.

There is time and space for picking yourself but for now, pick someone else. Share this with a friend as a way of picking them. Tell them what you appreciate about them and their gifting. 

Published by Blessing Mpofu

just a guy changing the world

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