Thursday, July 12, 2012

An ironically self-absorbed post.

Last month, for whatever reason, I experienced a huge series of little failures. It was depressing. I cried a lot. I had a mini identity crisis. "If I'm not good at ____ or ____ or _____ or _____, who am I? What am I doing for the world?"

This crisis has happened before.

When I was in high school choir, I thought I was pretty hot stuff. I competed as a solo vocalist, and I thought I did well. I scored well, and placed high. And then one summer I went to a camp run by BYU's Young Ambassadors. (Think "Glee" on steroids, minus all the drama, slushies, and sex.)

And then I realized I was not. that. great. Like, I was placed in the bottom group with people who had done very little singing.

I met Reality. And it said to me, "You are not the Best. You will never be the Best. Stop trying to be."

I discovered there was a big difference between trying to be the Best and trying to be My Best.

I think trying for the Best means looking for approval, acceptance, attention, recognition.

Trying for My Best meant being realistic about how much I cared about singing, whether I wanted to seriously pursue it as a career (realizing I did NOT), and feeling at peace with the results when I tried my hardest, practiced really hard, and satisfied my own expectations.

It was liberating. After performing, I didn't care how many compliments I got. I did my best. The end.

So, last month, after just BOMBING a bunch of things that felt really important, I met Reality again. And it reminded me: "You are not special. You are not exceptional. You are not God's gift to mankind." (Reality is a dramatic lecturer.)

And... that was liberating. I looked over my failures and realized that I had done my best in each situation. I had done the absolute best I knew how to do. I had prepared. I had planned. I had failed. And I was learning.

So how did I get that way? Why was I ever under the impression that I was somehow special?

I think we get told that. And I think venues like Facebook, Twitter, and Blogger reinforce it. And I don't really want that for my children.

When I saw this graduation speech: I felt like cheering.

Being "special" doesn't make me a valuable person (I don't think my life has been dramatically affected by Michael Buble or Adele or Anthony Hopkins or William Shakespeare even though I enjoy their work and they are extraordinarily talented). But that doesn't mean that I think an individual life is meaningless and unimportant. Being special to someone makes my life meaningful (My kids have only one mom, my husband has only one me, and my friends need me to be the best friend I can be).

Do you disagree? Do you think there are advantages to being special or teaching your children they are?


  1. Ha! As I read your post, I kept thinking, "I wonder if she's read that graduation speech?" And you had! I think you're magnificent, is what I think. And that this is a wise wise post. Love you.

  2. SO well put...being MY best, not THE best. I remember my realization of this in 2nd grade gym class when I wasn't the fastest runner anymore.

    Have you read Mindset by Carol Dweck? It talks about raising your kids with a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset. So instead of throwing trophies at your kids, you help them face reality and still grow and learn and not let "failure" stop them. I really loved it.

    I also saw this article today, which was such a good reminder as to what really matters:

  3. Love everything about this post.

    Now, how to teach this to my children in a productive way? That gives me chills...seems intimidating!

    Also, I didn't know you lived in Manhattan?? How did I miss that?!

  4. I always thought a person was only really talented or special if they could sing or dance. I've never been able to do either, so I came to terms with the fact long ago that I wasn't special or talented! I've realized though, through growing older, that there are a ba-jillion different talents & things to be good at, & while these things make life more interesting & can be fun to share with others, at the end of the day, all I really care about is making sure I've done a lot of laughing, kissing/hugging of my children & husband, & helped a few people with something or other.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I'm excited at the prospect of being a bit closer to you when we move to Texas.

  5. "Everyone's special, Dash."

    "That's just a way of saying no one is."


    Couldn't agree more.

    No point in being special if you don't have special people to be special for.

    Or something like that.