When I was a little girl my parents were both hairdressers. They were part owners in their own salon in Des Moines, Iowa. Business was good. I spent the first few years of my life running wild around the salon, eating sugar cubes in the break room, spinning on the pump up chairs, and chatting with the other hairdressers. One afternoon I was thumbing through a hair magazine and I found a picture of a model with a perfectly smooth bobbed hairdo and bangs that fell straight across her eyebrows. I fell in love… with the hair style.
I took the picture to my Dad and asked him to make me look just like this. My Dad looked at the magazine picture, looked at my poofy, wavy hair with a strong cowlick in my bangs and asked me, “What do you like about this picture?” I was 6-years old and couldn’t exactly pin point what I liked, but she was so different from the image I saw in the mirror. I said I liked everything about her and wanted to look just like her. “But Honey,” my Dad tenderly explained, “You’re not Asian. You’re never going to look like this girl.” I was devastated. But it was the hard truth.
My parents never fed me the lie that I could be anything I wanted to be. I remember when the whole “Self Esteem” movement hit the public schools around 5th grade. (click here to read an article about the aftermath of our collective brain bath in narcissism.) My Dad said it was totally stupid. “You can’t be anything you want to be. You can’t be a boy, you can’t be a crowd, you can’t be a butterfly, you can’t be the President of France. That’s a stupid thing to teach children!” He was right. Not only was it unrealistic, it was dangerous.
Slowly a generation of kids grew up thinking that they could be anything they wanted to be without ever putting in the hard work required to achieve anything. It used to be that you had to DO something significant to be able to say that you were something special. But apparently that was all wrong, apparently you just have to wake up in the morning to be considered special. Remember the scene in the Pixar movie “The Incredibles” where Dash and his mom are talking about being Super heroes living amongst ordinary people? Mrs. Parr says, “Everyone’s special, Dash.” Then Dash mutters, “Which just means that no one is special.”
This generation of Special People truly believes that everyone who participates should get the same reward as the one who wins. Everyone who wants to call themselves a leader should be able to self publish a few books and feel like a success- who cares if anyone is really following him or not. The average Joe on the street is equal to the President even though their salaries are vastly different (as are pretty much every other detail of their lives). Any child sitting in a public school classroom can aspire to be an astronaut… even though NASA is closed down now. It doesn’t matter the circumstances that life has dealt you, you can BE someone… you don’t even have to want it badly enough, it’s just your birthright.
In the movie “The Iron Lady” Meryl Streep playing Margaret Thatcher delivers a line that is both powerful and true. She basically says, “It used to be that you had to DO something, now it’s all about BEING someone.” That is the essence of the Great Lie of Self Esteem, or as Lady Gaga put it, “I’m teaching people to worship themselves.” But I, for one, plan to follow in the honest footprints of my parents who taught me that Life is hard and you must work hard for everything you earn. And even then, no one is promising you that you will succeed at what you do. But do it anyways because no one will just hand you your dreams while you’re sitting on the couch eating a bag of chips and watching “The Biggest Loser”… at least that’s not how Margret Thatcher became the first female Prime Minister of Great Britain.