When I was growing up there was a huge push to foster self esteem, I and most others were told we could be anything we wanted to be.
Now that I have older children I’ve spent some time reflecting on that ideal and I have a real problem with it. Because it is simply not true.
I think it needs to be modified to balance encouragement with realism not only because not everyone can be a rock star, fighter pilot, bear whisperer; but to relieve the huge burden that being the master of your destiny can be. Children aren’t supposed to bear the full weight of that, adults probably aren’t either.
I know that being told I could be anything made me an indecisive wreck. Any person I saw happy in their job made me want that job, I didn’t know that it was the happiness of someone realizing their calling I was seeing, I put it down to some magical property that job held. Beyond that I couldn’t see what I wanted to be because what if I got it wrong it would all be over and it would be all my fault.
I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one that suffered from this unrealistic tenet of the self esteem movement. It holds a good positive message that is lost in the static of pressure, one that can be remedied with a few simple changes.
There are those of us who know their path and follow it, that’s blissful, but this isn’t for them, I don’t believe they are the majority.
You can be almost anything you want to be IF:
You have a natural talent and are dedicated to developing it
OR you’re willing to put in the hours and hard work to hone a talent
AND you understand that following your dream might come with a price of sacrificing other dreams. Of not having a stable income, or being able to travel the world or any other variable.
Understanding that life can be great and that achieving joy and greatness often means hard work or sacrifice.
Understanding that you might have to work many, many soul sucking jobs to get where you want to be, but that in the end it might be worth it.
Knowing that in the end you might not have gotten where you wanted to be but that the trying might just have been enough, that knowing you exhausted all options trying could be as important as having made it.
Or even that you get there and find it wasn’t really what you thought it would be and now you have to start again in another direction, maybe that will be enough.
But most importantly can we teach our kids that there’s more to it than want? That there’s an ongoing conversation to be had; not short simple motivational sentences that promise to be the answer or the whole truth.
That’s not to say I don’t support less stable decisions. I’m on my way back to university to study visual art, I’m trying to not only follow my dream but set a realistic example of how to pursue it, but how to deal with it if things don’t go right. My eldest wants to write graphic novels, a narrow field with high risk and low reward, Im trying to instill those guidelines to being what you want while helping her chase the dream. Hopefully she’ll get where she wants to be and find it’s exactly as she dreamt. But more importantly she’ll know it’s not the end of the world if she doesn’t.