It used to be, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” But now a days it seems like the command has shifted to, “Say something nice.” More destructive than being conditioned to saying nice things to mean people, we expect to be affirmed even when we did something wrong. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with being nice, but being nice at the risk of being dishonest is no good.
It seems to me that our parents’ generation worked very hard, with little given to them, to be where they are now. Of course life was different then, but more and more I come across recent college graduates who feel extremely entitled to greatness—in their careers, relationships, social life, etc. The expectations after spending four years in college are so high that it’s impossible not to feel disappointed when you start out with a part-time job, semi ex-boyfriend, and friends three states away. Unfortunately, no institution can guarantee such attractive lifestyles. Imagine what the tuition would be if they could!
I remember in first grade I came home sobbing from school when I wasn’t chosen to be apart of the nativity play. My mom went to school the next day to speak with the teacher about why I wasn’t selected, which resulted in them creating a new part in the play just for me. While carrying Jesus’ birthday cake was a pretty clutch role, it probably wouldn’t have been the worst thing to learn that I can’t always get my way.
That’s only where it begins and it escalates from there. Sure, parents believe that their kid is the greatest gift to the world and want the best for them even if it means calling employers wondering why their son or daughter didn’t land the job. But it goes far beyond parents. Confidence given by teachers, mentors and friends can make someone believe they can take on the world. Self-assurance is a desirable quality, but only to a certain extent. While confidence is an invaluable gift, at 22 people shouldn’t feel they have everything figured out and know all of the answers. They can’t possibly.
Positive feedback and well-intended encouragement will come when it’s earned and we should work as hard as we can to obtain it. If we were told we did a stellar job on every project it would begin to lose it’s appeal. When we’re being truthful with ourselves we know our best work and where we fell short. The same goes for giving feedback. Don’t like every status you see, don’t chase after every man with a pulse, don’t give unwarranted praise just to gain affection. Be selective, it will mean more in the long run.
Yes, life is unfair and someone has to lose, but more than that, not everyone is gifted in the same way and some people are just better than you and that’s ok. There is more than one way to do a lot of things, also ok. Not everyone will give you positive feedback on something you worked tirelessly for months to do—in fact they might give you negative feedback—and it sucks but it’s still ok. Get down from your pedestal, be open to learning from people with more experience—no, different experiences—and be amazed at the humility. The world will knock you down in all the ways you never thought it would. The greater feat is having the confidence to pick yourself back up when it does.