It occurs to me that a lot of what’s wrong with our current culture is that everyone that is alive today was told at some point in their lives, “You can be anything you want to be. All you have to do is try.” Not only is this simply not true, but I believe it’s damaging to the individual and to society.
Not just anybody can be President, for example (though it currently seems that way). You have to have a lot of money . . . I mean A LOT of money. And it’s really hard to get that much money. No amount of hard work alone will get you there. What’s required is a ton of hard work and even more luck. And that luck simply doesn’t come to just everyone. Sorry.
Same goes for fame. I wanted to be a rock star. I worked really, really hard for it, in fact. I have the talent. I have the skills and the determination. What I didn’t have was the right audience member at just the right time. And what I no longer have is youth. So again, no matter how hard I worked or how deserving I might have been, I was never going to be a rock star. It sucks, yeah, but that’s life.
Even worse, though, than telling a really bright or talented person they can be anything they want to be is saying the same to an average person; someone whom you know simply doesn’t have and will never have the skills necessary for success in their desired field. I mean look at the early auditions on American Idol every year. Those are people who CANNOT SING. They’ve never been able to sing; they’ll never be able to sing. But someone (or a lot of someones) told them they could. Either to be nice (or possibly even to be mean) or out of a misplaced desire to encourage, someone gave these people false hope. And they ended up humiliated on national television.
Now how is this damaging to society? It has created an “everyone is equally perfect” mentality. There is a malignant narcissism deteriorating this country that stems from a sense of entitlement to fame and fortune and “everything I want” (Twitter , anyone?). After all, anything less would be “unfair” (and don’t get me started on the concept of “fair” . . . short version; “fair” doesn’t exist). We’ve gotten so focused on how “equal” everyone is supposedly meant to be that we’ve forgotten how different everyone actually is. By definition, very few people in this world are special. Common sense, really. If everyone were special, no one would be.
So if you’re a parent to an average child, don’t tell them they’re special just because you love them so much. Tell them they’re loved, yes; encourage them when they show aptitude for something, yes. But don’t tell a chronic C student they can be a doctor or a lawyer or President if they just try harder. Odds are they can’t. And don’t tell your tone deaf child they can be a rock star just because they really want it.
Now of course, don’t actively discourage them from trying. That lucky break may actually come along. But do encourage them when they try something else they’re obviously better at. And do educate them on how the world really works. If you’re not born wealthy, you’re not likely to become wealthy without a lot of luck. And if you’re not wealthy, all those other big dreams aren’t likely to materialize.
Oh, and one more thing. All of this is okay. You don’t need any of those things in order to be happy. All you need to be happy is to simply decide to be happy. Stop worrying about what you don’t have or what you haven’t accomplished, and start enjoying what you have.