The current crisis of confidence, in my mind, is related to the overabundance of unfounded self-esteem we instill in our children. Everyone is great, everybody gets a trophy, every kid gets an A, if they get grades at all. I grew up before self-esteem was a big deal. It was before the age of the personality complex, finding yourself, loving yourself and the pop psychology diagnosis of us all as insecure, obsessive-compulsive, controlling and self-absorbed narcissist. My dad once told me, when we were throwing the football in the street, that I was a gum-shoe and had small hands, and he was right but I could catch anything he threw near me. He told me years later that I was going to fail out of every fancy school that I went to and he was almost right each time but I managed to graduate, with honors. It was his way of motivating me but it was also his way of leveling with me. He was telling me that the world is competitive and you are really not that good, so I would try a little harder.
Nowadays every kid is told that they are the fastest, smartest and prettiest – the best. Beauty and strength are an accident of youth but kids grow up feeling delusional-invincible. Sooner or later they meet reality and realize they are not ‘the best’ but just slightly better than average. This can be devastating to kids of any age but it is a lesson that we all must learn eventually. Usually in college, with the help of our new education and our hard working, overachieving and talented peers, we determine our realistic self-worth and potential, our own values and what we want to be. After that we can focus and dedicate ourselves to the things we like and are good at to find our niche and our place in society.
Self-esteem is your own appraisal of your abilities and self-worth. Once we get out there in the world it is up to us to define the realistic limits of what we can do and what we think we can do. We push our limits, test our boundaries and scare ourselves. We push from the moment we are born, find our toes, recognize our moms, figure out our hands, become self-aware, tie our shoes, go to school, ride our bikes to the edge of town, go to work, drive to the edge of the country, find a partner, go around the world and have our own kids to teach how to push their own limits.
Another culprit complicit in the compromise of confidence is excessive alliteration. Not really. It is the over-involvement of parents in the lives of their children. Helicopter parents hover and protect, guide and control the lives of their offspring, even into adulthood. This well intention codependence does not allow the offspring to control their destiny, make their own mistakes and suffer the consequence that will teach them valuable lessons. They are sheltered from the experiences that will educate and enable them to become stronger. They are prevented from failing and more importantly succeeding on their own. They are insulated from the interpersonal relations and decisions that build discipline and build character.
Kids become, through no fault of their own, reliant on others and not on themselves. They often become the victim of other people’s bad judgment and decisions and blame everyone and everything for their misfortune. Children need to get out on their and experience the world incrementally and objectively as it is in order to cope with the demands and responsibilities of adulthood and reality. They should be equipped with a sense of control of their own destiny with the accompanying consequences, courage and confidence building experiences.
Lastly there is a technological overemphasis today on instant connectivity and communication. We must be instantly in touch with everyone all the time and have a hard time letting any situation incubate or wait. We rely on instant information and knowledge and are not content to figure something out, deduce or just ‘let the mystery be’. We long for the validation and approval of every thought word or action from our network of ‘friends’ and are less able to make our own self-evaluations and validations. We write blogs to immediately publish our every thought and opinion.
Without the technology and communication we are lost in our own thoughts, feelings, doubts and wisdom. We become uncomfortable with ourselves, our thoughts, our free time and our futures. We don’t feel the positive reinforcement of solving problems with our own intellect, strength, talent or moxie. We carry our phones iPads and computers like technological pacifiers that we must constantly consult to feel connected, communal and whole. It stunts our self-reliance and growth. It makes us reliant on technology and not ourselves. No need to worry, Seri is always there.
So put down the phone, your rose colored glasses so you can honestly evaluate your strengths and abilities as well as those of your kids. We all need to experience, suffer and fail to learn and improve. We learn a little every time we fall down but we learn more every time we get up on our own. Learn the value of hard work and experience in quelling the nagging self-doubt we all experience. See yourself, not as others perceive you, but as you honestly know you really are and celebrate your abilities, uniqueness and tendencies. Exercise your self-confidence by pushing your limits and realistically evaluating what they are. Strive to improve what you can every day but be happy with the results every night. Be who you are.