Failure is an event, not a person
WORTHINGTON -- A major cause of a poor self-image is that people often confuse failing in an event with being a failure as a person. Every person fails at something. Michael Jordan retired from basketball (yet to return later) and made an effort ...
WORTHINGTON -- A major cause of a poor self-image is that people often confuse failing in an event with being a failure as a person. Every person fails at something. Michael Jordan retired from basketball (yet to return later) and made an effort to play Major League Baseball. He never made it to the "big leagues." Do you think Michael Jordan is a failure? No one would ever consider him a failure. He failed to make the grade in baseball. That did not make him a failure.
In baseball, Reggie Jackson became known as "Mr. October" because of his heroics in the baseball playoffs and World Series. He was eventually inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Reggie Jackson was also a failure at baseball! Reggie Jackson struck out more than anyone who has ever played baseball. What kind of self-image do you think Reggie Jackson and Michael Jordan have? They have distinguished failing an event from being a failure. Failure is a verb that describes an action; it means the inability to reach an objective. It is not a person.
We associate failure with people because many times as youngsters our ability, appearance and intelligence have been ridiculed or questioned repeatedly through parents, teachers, friends and others in authority. In many cases, these hurts come in the form of insinuation and innuendo, but they are just as real and devastating as if they were true. Many times even a chance or unintentional remark starts the negative slide that is then fed by hurts that are real or imagined. The net result -- we see ourselves through the negative eyes of others. If your friends, family and other associates find fault like there is a reward for it, you get a distorted picture of the real you.
Often exaggeration by parents and friends begins painting a picture that becomes all too real, "you are the clumsiest boy in the world," "you forget everything," "you're always breaking things", "you need to be more aggressive (you are weak)." The destructiveness of this approach should be obvious but, unfortunately, it is often anything but obvious.
Combine this with some phase of physical appearance and skills (obesity, bad teeth, poor complexion, bad eyesight, lower IQ, slow gross motor skills) and you have all the ingredients for the beginning of a bad self-image. The child then reasons he or she is "ugly" or "inept," he doesn't deserve the good things of life and has no chance for success. This point is critically important because survey after survey shows that a large percentage of the youth in America would change their appearance if they could.
Childish insults and put-downs that we have carried with us keep us from reaching the heights we have the ability to reach.
So, this week I was given the opportunity to discuss the role of extra-curricular activities ... well, maybe I did (in a round-about-way, anyway). The question that still may need to be asked is: Will sport participation help my child's self-esteem? Well, perhaps. And, maybe it helped Michael Jordan and Reggie Jackson. Self-esteem is pride in oneself ... self-respect. When a child works hard to develop a sport skill and can successfully apply the skill, he develops self-esteem (with the support of those people close to him). He feels good about himself and the accomplishment. But, let's take another scenario. If a child participates in a sport and develops little or no skills, makes constant errors, and is embarrassed with his play ... no self esteem is present (also with the "help" of those close to him). We as the adult society/community can help that.
So, what are you saying to your children?
Jennifer Backer is assistant principal at Worthington Middle School.