Everything They Told You is Wrong

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You Can Jump Through the Hoops without Believing they Will Make or Break You

Sister somebody once told me in the third grade, “Nicole, your handwriting is terrible.  You will never get anywhere with that handwriting.”  I remember trying to pay attention so I could master each task with perfection until I realized it probably wasn’t going to happen.

While at the time I was devastated by the news that my handwriting stunk, now I think, Is this true?  Does my handwriting have to be good for me to amount to anything in life?  I mean, do we have to be good at every subject to succeed?

Maybe not.  In fact, what I have found in life is that working together with a team of different talents is good enough. It turns out that the things I don’t like to do or am not good at, other people like to do and are good at. If we work together, the job gets done. Why didn’t anyone tell me this before?

I remember as a middle school counselor feeling heart broken when Josh, the sensitive, creative boy was sitting in my office, bored out of his mind. He was a boy who wouldn’t do his homework because much of it was busy work and he was bright and maybe a little bit correct.  His parents were flabbergasted. I was too. I would beg. “Please just knock out your homework.  It will get everyone OFF your back.”  I would argue that it would be the easiest way to buy himself time to do what was important to him.

What I truly hoped though was that he would do his homework and get good grades- yet I hoped that he would maintain his autonomous thinking that questioned why he had to do certain tasks. I hoped that he might jump through the hoops without buying into the hoops. In other words, see the hoops for what they are-a way to practice and learn not a measure of his worth (which is what he was fighting against). I knew as an adult that it’s not easy to maintain your sense of self, who you really are, as you do what you need to do to meet societies expectations. I appreciated that he questioned but also hoped that he wouldn’t sabotage his future to make a point.

Because (and this is what I promised all kids like him) when he got older he wouldn’t have to continue to do everything he hated to do. If he wanted to practice medicine he wouldn’t be asked to know everything about the law.  If he became a graphic designer he wouldn’t have to know everything about nursing.

Looking back, the things that have limited most people I know (and me too) are the things that we all said we weren’t good at. And feeling “not good at” something can be harmful if we let it drag us down. It can bleed into what we feel about ourselves.  We may find ourselves thinking things like,  I am just not smart enough, talented enough, sporty enough, tall enough, skinny enough, pretty enough, loud enough, quiet enough to accomplish what I want to do. In reality many of those talents or gifts are not related to what we want to do anyway. Who ever came up with the idea that we have to be good at everything to be good at something? Look around you, it is rarely the case. Focus most of your attention on being good at YOUR thing or things.

I remember musing to one of my friends (who has a lot of talent) that I have no obvious talent.  She said,  “You would be no happier if you had more talent.”

And she was right.  I wouldn’t. Her words stuck.  If I could belt out a song in perfect pitch would I be more likable? I must admit it might be fun. But would I like me more?  Maybe… but probably not.

So what if we let go trying to be good at every task?  What if we just did our best to be our best selves?  What if we just worked to develop our own abilities, whatever they are. Let the singer sing, the dancer dance.

Nicole C Weiss LCSW

Nicole WeissEverything They Told You is Wrong

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