We mean well when we tell our children and students; “You’re perfect just the way you are,” or we use its companion phase “you can be anything you want.” The problem is these sentimental and idealistic statements are not true. They suggest to our young people that they should be, and are in fact perfect. They also suggest that they can be, or think they actually deserve to be, anything they want.
Here’s the problem. It’s not true.
I completely understand the sentiment of these clichés, I’m sure I’ve used them myself. However, I’ve come to realize that telling students they’re perfect or they can do anything maybe one the most unhealthy things we can tell young people. It may even be doing them mental harm.
Hear me out. I'm not saying that students, or anyone else, has to change to please other people, or that they should become someone they’re not. Nor, I'm I saying that anyone’s faults make them a lesser person than anyone else. I’m also not suggesting that our young people shouldn’t have dreams, or go for those dreams. But dreams and goals have to be based on reality and not fantasy.
The facts of life tell us that we are all broken in some way. We all have issues, flaws and limitations. We all have areas in our lives that need work. We all have imperfections of all kinds, and that's OK. We need to give students and young people a break from trying to be perfect.
If we continue to tell students that they're "perfect just the way there are," we are placing upon them an unreal expectation they should in fact actually be perfect. When we tell them they can do anything, we are setting them up for painful failure.
Plus, we send students the very opposite message, the moment we start focusing on fixing their weaknesses. We spend a great deal of time as parents, educators, and caring adults, focusing on fixing what we see as weaknesses in our young people and students. We totally do this, and we need to own this reality.
So it’s no wonder why students actually think; "I don't feel perfect. So there must be something wrong with me." It’s no wonder why our young people have such low self-esteem. How do they live up to the confusing message we are sending them? How does anyone live up to perfect?
We need to be teaching young people the goal is to be the very best you, warts and all. Being perfect is a standard no one can live up too. It sets the standard an unattainable standard. It leaves our youth people feeling they’re not good enough just the way they are.
I want students to be more of who they already are. I want them to discover their unique talents and gifts. I want our young people to see themselves as experts in some area, and know that they don't have to be perfect in every area or in every way. I want them to have dreams that are attainable when matched with their own unique abilities, talents and drive.
Let’s start telling young people that they are unique and have something very special to offer. Let’s start helping them become more of who they are meant to be, and not perfect.
Share your thoughts with me on this.