Extremes, Memes, and Self-Esteem

You know the people that are the big self-esteem gurus?  Don't buy it, don't feel all this telling people how wonderful they are works except to make them feel entitled and become vaguely delusional.

You know those people that believe in strength through adversity, how we really all need to be super strong people who suffer through a lot?  Don't buy that either, because that which does not kill you usually leaves you broken and wishing it had.

These are two odd extremes always seem to come up in any discussion of motivation, competence, and self-esteem.  They're at odds, often produce arguments, and those that practice them manage to usually annoy me.

The pro-self-esteem groups usually are all for praise of people that may be unwarranted.  They often impress me as brittle and insecure, and usually seem to want to have themselves validated.  They also miss that constant praise can delude someone and make real achievement – and praise – meaningless.

The "suffering group" seems to want us all to suffer so we grow and get stronger, but somehow the people advocating such behaviors usually haven't suffered much themselves and certainly don't want to face any adversity.  They're usually a bunch of faux-macho hypocrites who don't realize how many people truly suffer and what it's like.

Here's my take – you learn from life.

Life will produce enough challenges as it is for us to face.  Life will give us time to achieve and earn praise.  We don't need some people trying to crush out the crazy variability of life and its opportunities, we don't need them idealizing parts of this diverse experience.  We need to live our lives and grow.

Trying to divide life up into "suffering is always good" or "praise people no matter what" or any other half-baked philosophy for half-assed instructions is worthless.  Life is too complicated, too wonderful, and too diverse to be pigeonholed so easily.

So in your life, in your career, go on and learn from life and earn from life.  None of this faux-macho, faux-motivational stuff matters.  What matters is real life experience and real life achievement.

Steven Savage