By: Justin Kistan, Crawford College North Coast
If we’re lucky, we’ve been told our whole lives that we’re special. Our parents said it to us, our friends, and even our teachers. And we are special? To them. To the world at large? Not so much. Don’t get me wrong. You are unique without a doubt. Your environment and experiences have carved you into something inimitable. Only you can do, what you can do. But is that special yet? Constant positive reinforcement is important in building our self-esteem. Too much of it though can make us a little entitled. Hey, if I’ve been told that I’m special my whole life, surely I deserve good things?! Don’t I deserve the accolades, awards, and applause? Maybe. But have we earned them? We want the standing ovation but have we delivered on the performance? Popular culture perpetuates this today. It’s all about me. I deserve all good things just for being the awesome individual that I am. It’s called a selfie for a reason. It’s you framing yourself as the centre of your own little world. Now imagine a child living in this world. Can you blame them today for being vain, egotistical and self-centred?
Unwarranted self-esteem can lead to an entitlement which can lead to narcissism. Our EGO (unhealthy belief in our own importance) gets so big that it becomes a stumbling block on our path to real growth and development. Hedonic adaptation is also to blame. We very quickly get used to all the good things in our lives and therefore go looking for our next happiness ‘fix’, either from buying something new or basking in the attention of others through Instagram, twitter or negative behaviour. How can we fix this? Kids can learn to:
- Apply the meta-skill of the 21st Century, SELF-AWARENESS, which is the ability to see ourselves for who we are, appreciate how others see us and to begin to understand our place in the world. Self-awareness removes the blinkers from our eyes and allows us the vision to accurately tune into our current station in life. We will never get to where we want to go in the future if we don’t know where we are now.
- Practise GRATITUDE. Gratitude is the antidote to entitlement. It reminds us to appreciate what we already have and fosters greater happiness and empathy while discouraging depression, anxiety and envy. No more FOMO. Keeping a gratitude journal is a good way to start. Just write down three things (big or small) that you’re grateful for every day and you’ll start to feel the positive results soon.
Deep introspection and appreciation can spur inspired action that will earn authentic admiration. Through their actions and interactions, children can learn to pause, ponder and then perform. Insight before Foresight. They will build their competence and with that, they will earn their confidence.
Remember: Special is not who I am, it is what I’ll become. I will learn and earn it.