To clarify right off the bat, I am neither for nor against the whole “everyone’s a winner!” campaign. While I agree that, yes, children should be applauded for their actual accomplishments rather than just being a participant, I also recognize that for some kids, just being a participant is a goddamn accomplishment. I know this because I failed to be one, and the few times I was one I wasn’t told that it was a good thing, so I just assumed “Well, I hate this and nobody else seems to be happy about me being here, so screw it” and became ever more introverted. Then again, my parents never told me they were proud of me about anything, and that hurts. Try as I might, they never once told me they were proud of anything I did accomplish, nor did they tell me it was important for my own sake, so at some point I just stopped trying altogether. Eventually I stopped doing homework, classwork, or participating in life in general. The things I did do of my own accord, like get my film degree or get paid to write, they didn’t say they were proud of those either, which only minimized them to me. Why should I do anything if nobody else is going to care? If it’s only important to me, then how important can it actually be?
See, nobody ever taught me about self worth. When I was in 8th grade, I had to pick an elective class, so I chose art. I hated it. It ruined art for me for years. However, my teacher did see something in me, and picked a painting of a flower that I did to include in the Rotary Arts Show in our town. I got noticed by her, by other artists, and even got a ribbon for it. My parents didn’t care. Oh they went to the art show, sure, because it was expected of them, and my mother still has the painting because it’s something she can show off to others, to lord over them, a sort of “my child is better than your child” situation, because in the end, it’s all she has that I did well in. It’s not that she’s proud of me for painting it, she’s proud of herself for birthing someone who painted it. She’s proud of this extension of herself. At the art show, or even afterwards, nobody told me, “Hey, good job” or “That was a really great painting, well done”. I just got ignored like always.
Self worth. If I don’t mean anything to anyone else, why should I mean anything to myself? If nobody else sees anything worth believing in in me, then why do I even matter? I kill myself to create content, I drive myself to the brink of exhaustion chasing perfection when it comes to what I do, and yet…nobody ever says “Well done” or “Man, I love this!” or anything of the sort. These days, my girlfriend is my biggest supporter, which is so weird to me because if nobody else ever said anything, how can I be sure she isn’t just saying it out of pity? And see, the fucked up thing is, I realize this is all fucking irrational, but because nobody ever said they believed me, or were proud of me, then I can’t help but shake the notion that nobody ever will be, even if they say otherwise. I say that I do what I do because it helps me survive, which isn’t total bullshit, as it does help me categorize and clarify everything in my life, and in the bullshit world surrounding me, but when it comes right down to it, self preservation just isn’t enough. I don’t need admiration. I don’t need adoration. I don’t need a star on the fucking hollywood walk of fame. I just need to be a participant.
“Everyone’s a winner!” is a dangerous motto to bandy about because no, not everyone is a winner, and despite how often you tell your child that, some of them just aren’t gonna be winners. Take it from a girl who was told, when she was very little, that academically she would be great and was then abandoned when they realized she wouldn’t live up to their standards. Take it from a loser. Sure, your child might end up having some talents, but not all talents are bankable, and even the ones that are that they might obtain, you still have to get lucky enough to be successful. Success isn’t just hard work. It’s also a lot of luck. So, to tell your child they’re a winner, and then have to watch them fail repeatedly, all it does is send them the message that you’re a goddamned liar, and you only said that to protect their feelings. I’m not saying to tell your kid they fuckin suck. That’s even worse, obviously, but make sure to clarify to them that they need to find their strengths and aren’t good at something just because they were involved in it. Everyone’s a winner? No. But everyone should be a participant.
I’m 28. I lived through a lifetime of abuse, failure and a suicide attempt. But guess what, I’m still here. I’m still participating, and I think I deserve some fucking acknowledgement for that. Where’s my goddamn blue ribbon?
If you like what you’ve read here, and wanna help support me in my artistic endeavors, and not ever make me put on pants, then perhaps you should consider donating at my Kofi? It accepts PayPal and you don’t even have to give more than 3 dollars! It’d be greatly appreciated and help buy groceries, pay for our rent and more. Thank you.