I think parenting is the most difficult role we have as adults. Sure, we might have tough decisions to make about our careers, our relationships, our lifestyle. But nothing compares to the anxiety we have about raising our children. We want the best for our children. We want our children to be happy and successful and there is no clear road map on how to accomplish this.
I read an interesting article by Lisa Gottlieb in the July/August issue of The Atlantic, How to Land Your Kid in Therapy. What was of particular interest to me in her article was how we, as parents, try to provide the perfectly happy childhood for our children and actually make it harder for them to grow up. In fact, Gottlieb says that in our efforts to boost our childrens self-esteem, we are actually causing more anxiety and depression and lower self-esteem.
How does this happen? According to the author and her quoted experts, we give our children an inflated view of their specialness. We are constantly telling them how special and talented they are because we live in a culture where everyone wins and gets a trophy. Our goal is to have happy and self-confident children, and yet, we are protecting them from accurate feedback.
I was particularly interested in what the article says about how we affect our childrens self-image because I now coach many adults who want to advance their careers and promote themselves but seem to have lost their connection to their value and talent.
Could it be, in fact, that we were told as children how talented we were when we knew in our gut that this was not always accurate? Could it be that we received constant praise that we felt was not deserved? Perhaps we got the trophy for “Most Improved” soccer player because everyone had to get a trophy. Maybe at the time we were even a little embarrassed to get the trophy. We knew that we stunk at soccer so what was all the fuss about? In other words, we felt that the praise was unjustified and we didnt really have the talent at all.
If everything becomes special, than nothing is special in the end.
The author says, the irony is that measures of self-esteem are poor predictors of how content a person will be, especially if the self-esteem comes from constant accommodation and praise rather than earned accomplishment.
The message here is that what we need to focus on for ourselves (and our children as well) is what truly makes us wonderful and unique. What have been our earned accomplishments (because we all have some!)? If we make false claims, our efforts at promoting ourselves will not be authentic and will backfire. We will lose our belief in ourselves and will, therefore, have difficulty communicating our value to others.
Think hypothetically about receiving a trophy you knew you didnt deserve and how you would feel. Now shift gears and think about winning a trophy for your earned accomplishments and successes.
Every day every one of us deserves a trophy for something that we actually accomplished.
What was your trophy for today?