You Are Better Than You Think You Are
Sometimes a character feels like they are worthless, and does not belong somewhere they value and is fit only to be a villain, no matter how much the idea frightens him.
Eventually, their friends or mentors learn what is troubling him and confront him saying something along the lines of, "Don't be so hard on yourself. You are better than you think you are, and I'm going to prove it."
When that challenger proves it with irrefutable evidence, the hero ends up feeling much better with the knowledge that someone he deeply respects believes in him more than he did himself.
For the opposite, see Heel Realization. When a character has to be constantly reminded of this, they usually suffer from Heroic Self-Deprecation. Compare You Are Not Alone. If handled well, such a situation can easily become a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.
- Episode 9 of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, where after various incidents begat by Teana's feelings of inadequacy from being the normal one in the team which drove a fanatical need to prove herself, Nanoha goes to have a talk with Teana, explaining to her that her skills which she felt were mediocre were powerful when used correctly, and that Nanoha did feel that Teana can stand on her own as an enforcer and had already planned to eventually train her in that direction after she had mastered the skills she specialized in and gained enough confidence in them. After this realization, Teana would go on to become one of the most effective members of the team.
- Also, in the last episodes, after Fate nearly suffers a Heroic BSOD at the hands of the Big Bad (who attempts to prove that she is Not So Different from her Evil Matriarch mother), her adoptive kids Erio and Caro explain to her just what exactly makes her awesome, putting her right back into the fight.
- Arguably the entire point of more positive interpretations of Neon Genesis Evangelion.
- Happens over and over in Spiral, since the protagonist has a serious problem with being overshadowed by his older brother.
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Simon has zero self-confidence. Kamina supplements Simon's lack of confidence by telling him "believe in the me who believes in you" over and over through the first third of the series. Later on when Kamina is dying, he tells Simon to "believe in you, who believes in yourself", citing all the great things Simon did.
- Also in between he told him: "Believe in yourself, who believes in me."
- Basically, he's trying to tell Simon that Simon needs to believe that Kamina sees something in him that even Simon doesn't. And, using the flipped versions of the Cave-In story, told first from Simon's POV and then from Kamina's POV, Kamina clearly takes this as fact.
- Also in between he told him: "Believe in yourself, who believes in me."
- Shizuo's main character arc throughout Durarara!! (particularly in the Light Novels) is learning that, while he may be a very messed-up individual, he isn't quite the inhuman monster he's resigned himself to be. Once that actually gets through his head, Shizuo starts gradually learning how to restrain himself and channel his violent impulses in more heroic (if still destructive) ways.
- When Usopp was going through an emotional crisis because he saw himself as the weakest Straw Hat in One Piece, Sanji, who was known not to hand out compliments to the male crew mates, was quick to point out that everyone had something that only they could do and cannot do. And when Usopp shoot Spadam, giving Robin a chance to escape, Sanji shouted out "Look! Our sharpshooter rules!"
- In Dragon Ball, Jackie Chun, having been revealed to be a disguised Master Roshi, gives one of these speeches to Tien Shinhan during their fight in the series' second world martial arts tournament. It leads to the latter's Heel Face Turn.
- Done in Onani Master Kurosawa. Kurosawa attempts to convince Kitahara that she's strong enough to fight through her troubles on the train home from their school trip. He's not exactly correct, but then again, he's not exactly wrong, either. She just needs a little help.
- In Tiger and Bunny, an early episode is about a young NEXT boy who used his powers to go on a rampage, because his classmates bullied him. By the end of the episode, though, Kotetsu is able to convince the boy that his powers are meant to protect people. It ends up working, just as it did on Kotetsu himself when he was around the boy's age, and his childhood hero, Mr. Legend, encouraged him to be a hero.
- Rukia does this for Ichigo in Bleach. After Ichigo's first encounter with Yammy, where his inner Hollow tried to revolt, his friends got hurt, and Urahara had to save his life, a team of shinigami including Rukia is sent to reinforce Karakura town. The first things she does when she returns to the world of the living? Grab Ichigo, throw him at a wimpy Hollow, and inform him - in very loud and almost angry terms - that instead of moping around because his friends got the crap beat out of them, he should stand up and get stronger so he can protect them, because she believes he's capable of defeating their enemies. Doubles as a Ship Tease, depending on your views.
Rukia: If you're afraid of losing, just get stronger. If you're afraid of not being able to protect your friends, swear to get stronger until you can protect them. If you're afraid of the Hollow inside you...just get stronger until you can crush him. If you don't want to listen to others, then hold your chin up and yell those words to yourself! That's the kind of man you've been...in my heart, Ichigo!!!
- In Code Geass, Euphemia for a time feels like she's completely useless in this world. She realizes that she has the power to try making a better world after getting a "you're fabulous" speech from her Psycho Lesbian fangirl.
- Fairy Tail: While waiting for the next day to fight the villains on Galuna Island, Lucy summons her the harp Celestial Spirit to pass the time. She starts singing this trope in musical form, which helps Gray who was plagued with doubt over the death of his teacher years before.
Lyra: You are stronger than you were yesterday.
- Persona 4: The Animation uses these liberally. Basically any time a hero is facing down his or her shadow, another character gives them either one of these or a You Are Not Alone.
- All-Star Superman has Superman almost say this word for word to a suicidal teenager.
- In Brightest Day, Dove tells Boston Brand (the now alive Deadman) this after he deflects her questions about his past life with claims that he wasn't anyone special.
- I Kill Giants has the central message that "We're stronger than we think"
- Teen Titans has Kid Devil, who tried desperately to be a good superhero but always felt like the weakest link of the team because of a string of losses. It came to a head when Clock King kidnapped and brainwashed him into fighting in a teenage superhero bloodsport and almost killing someone. Miss Martian managed to snap him out of it by reminding him of his dream to be a hero and what a sweet, earnest person he truly is.
- Interactions between Nightcrawler and Wolverine in X-Men and Wolverine had this nuance. At one point, Nightcrawler told the manageress of a bar "the only thing that is hard to Logan's skeleton and claws, the rest is an honorable man ..."Logan is here.
- In Kyon: Big Damn Hero, Haruhi learns about her powers, meaning she also learns that the world is in constant threat of destruction because of closed spaces and how hard times Kyon has lived because of her. All of this makes her worry if she's forcing Kyon against her will if not outright breaking him. Kyon counters by mentioning her own growth and whatever trouble she's causing, it isn't intentional on her part.
- In Dragon Age: The Crown of Thorns, Frandlin Ivo gets one from the dwarven noble protagonist and does a Heel Face Turn that ultimately enables the latter to successfully pull off his Zero-Approval Gambit. The ironic part is that the DN somehow manages to maximize the effect by giving the speech just after a Hannibal Lecture.
- Invoked in With Strings Attached. Earlier on the quest for the third piece of the Vasyn, Ringo had been down on himself because he was a physical wreck after a few days of hard travel and little sleep, while the others were all fine. Though they try to convince him he's not useless, he doesn't really believe them. However, when the formerly hostile Hunter says that Ringo's mindsight is the single most valuable ability among the four, Ringo is a lot more convinced. Later, after the battle on the Plains of Death, where Ringo more than proves his worth, the Hunter claps him on the shoulder and says “Never disparage yourself again.”
- In Reconciliation, Hanako learns that Hisao and Lilly had found and kept around the chess set Hisao gave her, even though she parted ways with them for eight years after her bad ending. Hanako suggests that they did it as a reminder of how awful she was, but Lilly then forcefully tells Hanako that she is not an awful person and they kept it because they missed her.
- It's a Wonderful Life had this as its central premise, to the point that the plot is often referenced by other works in its entirety.
- The 2004 Hellboy movie had an exchange between the newcomer to the team, John Myers, and The Empath Abe Sapien:
Professor Trevor 'Broom' Bruttenholm: In medieval stories, there is often a young knight who is inexperienced, but pure of heart.
- Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin: "Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think."
- There's a lovely moment in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, just after her fiance's embarrassing baptism, where the main character worries that "Any second now, he's gonna say, 'Yeah, you're so not worth this,'" Only for her brother to pipe in, "Yeah you are."
- After Kirk Lazarus had a breakdown in Tropic Thunder, new actor, Kevin Sandusky managed to boost his self esteem.
Kevin: You are Kirk Lazarus. You are the whole reason I went into acting in the first place. I memorized every monologue that you had ever been in while I was in theater school.
- The main theme and message in Puss in Boots involving the three central characters.
- X Men First Class has a repeated line where Charles urges Erik to "be the better man" and work for more than just revenge. Erik interprets this somewhat differently than Charles intended.
Charles: There’s so much more to you than you know, not just pain and anger. There’s good in you too, and you can harness all that. You have a power that no one can match, not even me.
- In The Smurfs, Papa Smurf delivers this type of speech to Brainy Smurf to help convince him that he's up to the task of deciphering the spell that can get the Smurfs back home.
- In Raising Arizona, Nathan Arizona gives a speech of this kind to Ed and Hi when they declare that they're planning to split up because they're immature and unrealistic people who are bad for each other.
- In Star Trek: Nemesis, Picard attempts to use speeches of this message to pursuade Shinzon.
- The character arc of Harry Potter. At the end, Dumbledore learns that Harry felt unworthy of the House of Gryffindor, in part because of his ability to communicate with snakes and because he asked to be placed there, rather than letting himself be chosen. Dumbledore tells Harry that character is shown through one's choices and asks him to examine the sword he used to slay the Basilisk. When he sees it is Godric Gryffindor's sword, Harry has all the proof he needs that he truly belongs in that house.
- Near the end of the series in Harry Potter, Harry returns the favor when he meets Dumbledore again in a place between life and death. When Dumbledore bitterly states that his search for the Deathly Hallows in his bid to become a Master of Death meant that he was ultimately Not So Different from Voldemort, Harry quickly refutes the claim. He mentions that at least Dumbledore didn't consider using Horcruxes. Dumbledore is able to draw a small measure of comfort from that.
- Harry constantly tells Ron this, due to Ron's massive inferiority complexes about his Quiddich skills, his perceived status as the family's Unfavorite, his concerns that Hermione loves Harry more than him, and that he will always live in the shadow of his far cooler best friend. This really comes out in Deathly Hallows, when Ron destroys a horcrux, as it tries to make him believe all of the aforementioned things.
Harry: You've sort of made up for it tonight. Getting the sword. Finishing off the Horcux. Saving my life.
- Often said by Michael and the other Knights of the Cross to The Dresden Files lead Harry Dresden. Dresden thinks of himself as more of an antihero, but his friends all know that he is a good man.
- Slightly subverted in Terry Pratchett's Snuff. Vimes is constantly watching himself, because he thinks that if he loses control of the darkness inside him, he will become as bad as the villains he chases. His butler Willikins tells the latest villain that Vimes is, in fact, "a choirboy" - unfortunately for the villain, Willikins is not.
- In Lois McMaster Bujold's The Sharing Knife, Fawn's family, which has consistently undervalued her, asks Dag "But why ever would you want to marry Fawn in the first place?" Dag's answer, which sums up what we've come to know about the character through the story thus far, is also a Crowning Moment of Awesome:
For the courage of her heart, which I saw face down the greatest horrors I know without breaking. For the high and hungry intelligence of her mind, which never stops asking questions, nor thinking about the answers. For the spark of her spirit, which could teach bonfires how to burn. That's three. Enough for going on with.
- The mantra of Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care, the iconic reference book for mothers afraid of accidentally killing their infants, is "You know more than you think you do."
- Parodied and subverted in the first episode of Community, where Amoral Attorney Jeff Winger uses a speech like this to manipulate his fellow students in the study group.
- In a Gilligan's Island episode, Gilligan sees his likeness on a native totem pole and comes to believe that he is descended from headhunters and is doomed to become a headhunter himself. The Professor convinces him otherwise by offering up his own head as Gilligan's first prize; when Gilligan cannot bring himself to do the deed, he realizes he doesn't have the headhunting instinct after all and returns to normal.
- In the classic James Newcomer Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, "The Measure of a Man," Riker is forced to argue that Data should be considered Starfleet's property, lest the judge rule summarily against the android. Riker gives an excellent argument for his side. Despite losing the case, Riker feels like a traitor for arguing against his friend. However, in the series' great Crowning Moment of Heartwarming, Data explains that he is deeply grateful to him for agreeing to prosecute, since if he had not, Data would have had no chance of victory.
Data: That action injured you and saved me. I will not forget it.
- In Doctor Who Donna Noble has always had a bit of low self-esteem. She had a perfectly normal life as a temp in Chiswick until the whole teleported to the TARDIS to fight the Racnoss on her wedding day thing. Later, after she joins the Doctor, she still believes herself to be normal but gets cocky. However she is still unwilling to accept that she is the most important person ever. Rose Tyler crosses dimensions to tell her this and yet she continues to deny it. After she is reborn as The Doctor-Donna she gets a new level of confidence. Sadly, after Donna saves all reality... not an exaggeration... she can not recall her time with the Doctor or she will die.
- Actually, no. The Doctor apparently gave her mental-blast-things just in case anything crazy, like the Master turning everyone in the world into duplicates of himself, would ever happen.
- But she still can't remember anything without her brain burning up.
- Even the Doctor gets one of these. After having destroyed his entire species to save the universe, seen countless friends and family die, and come to the conclusion that the universe is better off without him, he tries to distance himself from everyone. River Song tells him that he's being stupid, and there are literally billions of people throughout time and space who think the universe is better because of him.
- Subverted by Fridge Logic when you realize that by this time he's already set in motion a plan to save his life and is almost certainly just acting.
- Actually, no. The Doctor apparently gave her mental-blast-things just in case anything crazy, like the Master turning everyone in the world into duplicates of himself, would ever happen.
- Angel gets several of these from Buffy, Wesley and others across the course of his run on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and his own show. A notable one comes in Somnambulist, when Cordelia convinces him he's better than Angelus or Penn, while cheerfully agreeing to "kill [him] dead" if he ever does become Angelus again.
- A rather dark version comes from Wesley when he assures Angel that he's a man with a demon inside him, not the other way around, and can come back from the transformation he'll need to make to win the fight Wesley is sending him into (due to the dimension they're in he becomes the demon itself instead of just getting a Game Face). Once Angel is gone Gunn asks him if he's really sure about that, and Wesley replies that he "needs him to think it." It's true though.
- In season five of Dexter, Deborah cries and claims that Dexter has always been the strong one of the family. Her coworker protests, telling her he thinks it's the opposite.
- Deb also tries to assure Dexter that he's a good person despite his protests to the contrary. Of course, she doesn't know the real reason he is saying this...
- Though it's never explicit, this trope's subtext is definitely present in Merlin where it's hinted that Arthur, despite his arrogance, suffers from low self-esteem thanks to the high expectations of his father. It's usually Merlin and Guinevere who provide the moral support needed for him to really embrace his role as a leader and future king.
- In episode 3 of The Glee Project, Cameron tells Alex he's proud of him.
- Buffy tells Spike this in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Never Leave Me":
You faced the monster inside of you and you fought back. You risked everything to be a better man. And you can be. You are. You may not see it, but I do. I do. I believe in you, Spike.
- Later on, towards the series finale, Spike returns the speech, comforting a very demotivated Buffy:
When I say, 'I love you', it's not because I want you or because I can't have you. It has nothing to do with me. I love what you are, what you do, how you try. I've seen your kindness and your strength. I've seen the best and the worst of you. And I understand with perfect clarity exactly what you are. You're a hell of a woman.
- The South Park parody of Great Expectations involved Pip invoking this trope on his love interest. She snaps dozens of adorable little rabbits' necks before she gets bored of it, which he convinces her is proof enough that she's not the evil monster she considers herself. She was willing to try killing another one, but he insists his point is proven anyways.
- Farscape episode 1 has John telling Aeryn that she can be more than just a mindless soldier
- In the second part of the second season finale of Supernatural, Bobby says this the Dean after he revealed that he made a Deal with the Devil in order to bring Sam back to life that would drag him to hell in a year's time saying that he believed that his life actually had a meaning at that point since his dad John had made the same deal to save his life earlier in the season. Bobby's response to Dean was how he could possibly have such a low opinion of himself.
- David Bowie's "Rock and Roll Suicide":
Oh, no, love, you're not alone!
- Invisible by Disciple.
You wish you were someone else
Pretty, pretty please
- "I'll Be Your Mirror" by The Velvet Underground.
- This is the essential crux of the "Starlight Sequence" song in the musical Starlight Express, where the Starlight Express, a godlike entity worshipped by the anthropomorphic representations of the trains in a child's train set, shows up to tell the main character that he can win the race that all the trains are competing in if he just believes in himself.
- William Finn's song "You're Even Better Than You Think You Are" from Make Me A Song, is an autobiographical story about people saying this to him when he was first starting out writing bad musicals, so he persevered into writing good musicals.
- Turning Aribeth back from the dark side in Neverwinter Nights revolves around this trope.
- There even is a fan-made expansion giving some closure to Aribeth's story in which the first chapter consists almost entirely of this trope.
- The player can say this to Visas in Knights of the Old Republic 2.
- In Escape Velocity: Nova, the entire Mu'hari caste among the Polaris are this. They train for decades to gain aptitude in all forms of combat, commerce, sciences, engineering, diplomacy, espionage and more; their chief jobs (beside all-round assistants) are as elite covert operatives and judges. However, they are culturally conditioned to feel great shame about their failure to specialize (with the Mu'hari acting as a sort of "caste-less" caste). This may be an intentional way to prevent them from rising above their peers.
- Pokémon Black and White: After N has his Heel Realization, he takes it pretty badly. However, he is soon reminded that Reshiram/Zekrom still recognized him as a hero by allowing itself to be caught by him.
- In Tokimeki Memorial 2, this is, in essence, the line that definitely snaps Kaori Yae out of her Heroic BSOD, in her mandatory event:
Kaori: That's why... That's why, I'm like this cherry tree. Unable to bloom... Just a bothersome being...
- In Blaze Union, Garlot is often given this kind of encouragement by Siskier and Nessiah. As he's an abused kid with low self-confidence, he needs it desperately.
- A fair bit of the Paragon choices in Mass Effects 1 and 2 revolve around this concept, notably Jack in the second game whom Shepard repeatedly tries to convince is more than just anger and violence.
- Wrex is the best example: in the first game some of the conversations, and a critical decision on Virmire, revolve around his despair about the future of his people and attempting rekindle his (once held) belief their society could be reborn through the krogan's own efforts. Assuming he lives at Virmire, you meet him again in the second game and discover that your efforts succeeded; he's become the most powerful leader on the planet and will drag his people out of the darkness kicking and screaming.
- Most of what the Agents do in Elite Beat Agents involves helping people with self-confidence issues... Through the power of dance.
- In one random dialogue, the Lyndon the Scoundrel from Diablo III questions whether killing the Lords of Hell would be enough to make him a good person. The hero of the game says no. He already is.
- In Tales of the Questor, Quentyn shamefully flees the successful conclusion of his first case thinking that he blundered through it and succeeded only through dumb luck. However, just before he takes off, the local sheriff asks what he is doing and the young Racoonan confesses. At that, the Sheriff firmly tells Quentyn that he is not stupid nor a failure, but a hero who showed admirable guile, skill and courage to save the day. As Quentyn's mood lifts, the Sheriff gives him his hat noting wryly that the young Questor's career has had an excellent start. Repeated after a heroic charge and in this case the one doing the reassuring is an angel or close to it.
- Shortpacked: Amber thinks she's useless, 'til Robin and Ethan both play a role in turning her around.
- Black thinks of himself as weak and not able to help other people, White who admires Blacks emotional strength disagrees and says something to this effect
- El Goonish Shive: Grace is a genius, but when things go wrong, she always blames herself, and she thinks she's stupid.
- She also moped about "whether she deserves this power" and refused to shapeshift after the fight. Until one of her siblings told her in no uncertain terms both to grow back a fluffy tail and where to stick such concerns.
- Shadowgirls: Becka has to be told this after hesitating to Save the Villain. Which, given that said villain tried to have her raped as a prank roughly a week before (maybe) trying to unmake the universe, says quite a bit.
- In these two consecutive Megatokyo strips, Piro finally gets some sense talked into him.
- Girl Genius had Violetta moping about how she's no good as a Smoke Knight and everyone knows this. While she may be bad at espionage and not the best at hand-to-hand fighting, she's quite competent at everything else we have seen so far - and as eventually shown, she's much better than some of her colleagues expected. When she raises this issue again, Agatha points out that Violetta have distinction of surviving a little adventure inside her family house - which happens to be one of the greatest, nastiest and most perverted death traps in Europa.
- In the Justice League episode, "In Blackest Night," Green Lantern John Stewart is convinced that he inadvertently destroyed an inhabited world and submits to a trial and execution. However, his fellow Leaguers don't buy it and conduct their own investigation and eventually prove to John and his judges that he was framed.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Iroh tries to tell Zuko this, he's too busy wallowing in his "Well Done, Son" Guy syndrome to notice.
- Until his Heel Realization, that is.
- Also from Avatar, we have two examples from "The Firebending Masters," known by some as one of the series' Crowning Episodes of Heartwarming.
Aang (holding some fire): But what if I can't control it?
Aang: You know, Zuko, I don't care what everyone else says. You're pretty smart.
- In How to Train Your Dragon Astrid says this in a roundabout way to Hiccup when she explains why she asked her Armor-Piercing Question, " Because I want to remember what you say, RIGHT NOW." Translated: "Because you are a powerful Viking warrior of legend in your own way, and what you say now is likely going to be the stuff of a great saga."
Hiccup: 300 years and I'm the first Viking who wouldn't kill a dragon!
- In The Lion King, Simba is reminded by the ghost of his late father that "you are more than what you have become."
- Kung Fu Panda, when Shifu realizes the way to train Po, he all but says "You have had the potential all along and you will become better than you think you are."
- In Gargoyles, as the Magus dies, Goliath thanks him. The Magus can't believe that, since he was the one who cursed the clan in the first place, but Goliath insists that saving the clan's children more than makes up for it.
- The ThunderCats (2011) episode "Omens Part One" has a nice little moment between Lion-O and Jaga.
Lion-O: It's official, they think I'm a failure. And they always will unless I can prove I'm not chasing a childish dream... But how can I do that when even Grune said there wasn't tech out there?!
- Brutally subverted in Justice League Doom[context?]
- While not outright stated, the sense of this trope is there in Tangled, when Flynn Rider tells Rapunzel why he changed his name from Eugene Fitzherbert: He was a lonely kid in an orphanage, and wanted to be a cool Loveable Rogue thief, like his favorite character. Rapunzel tells him she likes his real name better, and she is implied to be the first person who liked him for himself.
- He repays her by cutting her hair, ruining its rejuvenating magic and freeing her of it.
- You. Yeah, you feel like shit right now. Why else are you browsing sappy tropes at 3am? But it doesn't matter. So you're not the best. You're not great. Hell, maybe you're damn terrible. But you are not worthless. You can do better. You could even be the best. Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off and do it again. You'll get there.