Having a younger daughter basically means that my wife and I have seen every animated-cartoon movie known to man. Honestly, we even find ourselves only quoting animated movie lines in adult conversations which can be embarrassing. Of course, I will now quote yet another cartoon movie, because the line really resonated with me. The movie was The Incredibles and the line was from a scene where the villain, as all villains do, took the time to let Mr. Incredible know the details of his evil plan. His plan was to make everyone a “Super Hero” with his gadgets and gizmos and in doing so, once everyone became “Super” then nobody would be “Super”.
I will now attempt to connect this animated gem on a personal and professional level. My daughter used to be in a baton twirling group. Yes, I admit I was also surprised to learn that “baton twirling” was still a thing. Apparently, it is actually a “thing” that comes with an opportunity to earn scholarship money for college….wow….who knew? Anyway, I remember her big competition of the year and all the parents with their camera phones, the girls with their glitzy outfits, and the loud music that initiated the routine on the gym floor. Then suddenly in the corner of the gym, there it was; a big table which proudly supported hundreds of trophies. At the end of the day each participant was of course awarded a gigantic trophy for simply being a part of the program.
While it is always great to be a part of a program, it is being an outstanding, or exceptional part of the program that we should distinguish. Participation trophies, while attempting to foster self-esteem often do the opposite. Many kids themselves are aware that these trophies do not distinguish a notable honor or performance.
That brings me to self-esteem. All of us as parents, guardians, grandparents, teachers, whatever our role may be, want to see our children as confident people in who they are and their abilities. What we need to do is build what I like to call “authentic confidence” because self-esteem is fleeting. Even as adults there are days where we are really on top of our game, we have most if not all the answers, and people look to us for guidance. Then there are those days where we may feel a bit drained, unsure if we even deserve our position or title, as if we don’t have the answers or the skill set to move forward. My point is simple, our self esteem may fluctuate with the days and possibly even the hour, but our authentic confidence will always remain because it is built with integrity, honesty, and hard work. In other words, our authentic confidence has been earned and with our perseverance, we can handle the natural fluctuations of self-esteem.
When we decide to only recognize the average or everyone that participates, we are really doing a disservice to those who have invested extra time, worked harder, or those that may be just exceptionally gifted. Don’t get me wrong, participating in sports, clubs, activities, whatever it may be has tremendous value and should be recognized, but not everyone is the club president, the M.V.P. or on the Honor Roll because after all; if everyone is “Super” then no one is.