There are some issues that are just so “after school special” that they are too lame to discuss, but if they are not discussed, we would be missing out on important information.
It is a sign of aging when you feel like reaching out to youngsters out there and telling them what you wish you knew when you were their age. This is often a futile pursuit, because sometimes the only way of learning something is by making mistakes – no matter how often you’ve been warned, you need to learn the hard way. I must be getting on with the years, because I have recently been able to put my experience into words and want to spread the gospel: you are indeed a special unique snowflake… but in a snowstorm.
What Sally says about Suzie says more about Sally than Suzie
My mum recently informed me that this girl from my high school is buying a house in my parents’ neighbourhood, which is appreciating in value. For the record, my mum isn’t aware of all of my former classmates’ doings, she just happens to know this girl’s parents as they went to school together. My best friend from high school and I both consider this girl to be “cheap” and still enjoy bitching about her. Allow me to describe her: when she wasn’t wearing low-quality ‘business’ attire such as pantsuits and sporting spikey short hair dyed red;
she was wearing baby blue eye shadow with a rhinestone belt around her waist marked with a glittery “sexy”;
she was skinny, but not a healthy lean thin, just skinny-skinny despite the quantity of junkfood she ate; she had bad grammar and was vulgar; and she had way more friends than my friend and I (who only had each other), but she wasn’t the highest on the social ladder. Before you chastise me by calling me a snob and defending her because she might have been from a lower socio-economic class, I just want to say that you are wrong. Her family is no poorer or richer than mine. Since high school, she has gotten an array of tattoos ranging from Disney characters to band lyrics. She is currently a graphic designer, has a house (a prefab one (not the one she is currently buying), but a house nonetheless), a Star Wars themed wedding and a child. Every time I stalk her public profile on Facebook, I am overwhelmed by her poor taste, but the thing is, she has a lot of friends. People seem to really like her. I have close friends, but in general, I look down on people and tend to be antisocial. I am an extrovert, but what some people would probably call a snob, not because I am fancy, but because I don’t find most people interesting. The thing is, I don’t want the kind of friends that she has as they too have horrible tattoos and make unforgivable grammar mistakes.
She is just living her life, oblivious to my mocking her, and she’s a better person for it. However, I don’t want to be totally self-loathing, so let me just say one thing: I hate that she is the kind of person who is successful in life. That someone that I consider to be stupid and mediocre should have more in life than me. Life is unfair and 50 Shades of Grey has sold more copies than superior erotic literature, but that is the world we live in. Actually, everything that I just wrote can be summed up by episode 23 of season 8 of The Simpsons: Homer’s Enemy, but stay tuned, as this article isn’t over.
Fixed vs. growth mindset
Some people say it is a problem that is common to my generation (millennials); others believe it is a phase all young people go through, but I can certainly say that I believe I have been affected by narcissism. I am not talking the psychiatric condition NPD, but just a sense of entitlement. I’m currently in university, but I used to think that because I met so many people with degrees who were idiots by objective measures, this therefore meant that university was not worth my time and, that with my intellect, I could manage without it. Sure, it is debateable as to whether university is really worth anything aside from getting a diploma: a proof of your worth in the eyes of society. I think we should be emphasizing trades more as well as a personal desire to cultivate one’s intellect… okay, I have a lot of opinions on this issue and maybe I will get back to them in just a minute, but for now, I would like to stay on topic. I have always been kind of conceited and it didn’t help that I was often told that I was smart growing up (or “genius” according to my mother, which I am definitely not). Now, I know that, as reassuring as it is to know that you are smart, that doesn’t really matter unfortunately. People need concrete results. Because I was (and still am) smart, I just sat on my laurels thinking that good things would come to me and when they didn’t come, I felt like the world was unfair. So, I had a sense of entitlement and a sense of learned helplessness. Maybe these are just two sides of the same coin? The most beneficial and difficult thing I have had to learn in the past couple of years is that despite the fact that I am great, the essence of greatness that runs through my veins is invisible to others and therefore, I must prove myself like the rest of you plebeians. (If you need a TV reference to understand what I am discussing now, click here.)
For some people, this lesson will seem obvious, but you’re not my audience right now… and get off your damn high horse too; a self-effacing overly protestant work ethic is not the key to success either.
It is tempting to blame my past attitude on my mother and her helicopter-parenting, but ultimately, she acted on the knowledge that she had at the time. There was a veritable self-esteem movement a few decades ago where they believed that success came from self-esteem and not the other way around. Ultimately, they found out that the two have a circular relationship: that self-esteem gives you the confidence to tackle challenges and that accomplishments (and even constructive failures) can help bolster your self-esteem. So, while you should be encouraged to challenge yourself, you shouldn’t be made to feel good about yourself simply by virtue of being. Yes, as a human being, you are entitled to some basic dignity and humane treatment, but just because your parents love you that does not mean that anyone else gives a shit. In the greater scheme of things, you are simply a link in the chain of life.
By now, you may be wondering that maybe that girl I was discussing earlier is more successful than me because she is more hard-working whereas I am entitled and helpless. No, she is more like the kind of person who turned me off from university in the first place because she has a degree and is clearly stupid and not very gifted in aesthetic tastes.
Part of the problem with being told that you are smart (or beautiful, or any other positive yet passive trait) is that it leads you to become helpless because it is a passive trait. Constantly being told how great you are, while flattering, can become unhealthy because it makes you feel idolised, like you are incapable of error. This means you are less likely to challenge yourself for fear of failing in public and to uphold the view others have of you and your own view of yourself. It’s not a good idea to base your self-esteem on something that is so fragile.
While we should rightfully laugh at pop-psychology, sometimes the greatest truths are the ones that seem overly simplistic. An example of a wise yet simplistic statement is: “do it for yourself.” Ask yourself if you are doing something for yourself, or because you want to uphold the view your others have of you (or because you want to punish your parents or challenge a confining view that people have of you). The first time I tried shrooms, I kept thinking of my mother’s disapproval, but damn it, I wanted to try them! Not because of peer pressure, but for fun, for my sake damn it! The most efficient police force is the one in your head. The point is, it’s your life, your body, your choice… and I am veering off track again.
The point is rather: it is good to feel special sometimes and to certain people, but you aren’t special to the extent that you get preferential treatment and the sooner you learn that the better your life will be as you will feel more in charge. Even if people love you and have good intentions, their resources whether it be time or money will and rightfully should be primarily devoted to helping them get by in their own lives, so you are pretty much on your own and need to figure things out for yourself as good intentions don’t feed or shelter you. God helps those who help themselves. Also, be weary of people who offer to pay for things, they might offer to pay for just one thing and forget all the other additional costs and you are left in debt, paying things that you would have never initially agreed to. The Devil is in the details.
I remained in childhood for a very long time. In fact, I would say that despite my angsty Rammstein phase in my mid-teens, I didn’t really start behaving like a teenager until after turning 18. Some of us are just late-bloomers. In fact, many Europeans I have met have commented that North Americans are less mature in their teen years. One could write it off as Europeans flaunting their sophistication, but I would tend to agree, especially in regards to myself. I think part of it is because parents in North America try to shelter their kids especially from sex and keep a close eye on them, even though their bodies want independence. Since our education takes longer, we are forced into dependent states longer, but from an evolutionary perspective, we haven’t changed since cavemen times, so our bodies want to be free but this comes into conflict with the norms today, which would be one explanation as to why teenagers are so stereotypically difficult. Whether it is due to a late puberty, sheltering parents, or lack of possibilities/responsibilities, being behind others can make one feel clueless. Sometimes, the simplest road blocks, like not knowing how to fill out forms can actually be huge obstacles and lead to a domino effect of problems. Some people are pushed out of the family nest and some people have to fight their way out to independence like Queen Victoria’s son Leopold. Speaking of Prince Leopold, I recommend the documentary Queen Victoria’s Children from BBC. I couldn’t find any youtube links, but it is delightfully educational!
So to sum it all up, you are not special, in fact, you are probably less valued than someone who you don’t respect and while who you are does matter (especially in certain circles), what you do also matters, so avoid being overwhelmed by getting help instead of being helpless.
Remember that people stupider than you are doing greater things than you, so you can do those things too!
I have to end this article here because a part of me is disgusted with myself for writing something so motivational, but you know what? Screw that! The cynics might be more realistic thanks to their depressive realism (mild to moderately depressed people tend to view the world more accurately), but sometimes the best way to survive and be happy is through self-deception. So all abroad!
Keep on truckin’!