…which do you view the world through? For some people, deluding themselves is a way of life. For others, they look in the mirror and see only the bad things, the shortcomings, the flaws.
Neither of these are a good operating system.
I can tell you from experience, having spend a fair amount of time in each, that you need to find the balance between optimism and reality. You have to get to equilibrium between the two to function at maximum capacity. Too much of either can be crippling; one leads to a completely false self image of you and your place in the world, and the other leads to a completely false image of you and your place in the world. Yes, I did that on purpose…
If you grew up with your parents telling you that you are wonderful, without flaws, perfect in every way, the world is going to eat you alive. If your parents argued with teachers about grades, and won, you have been set up for failure, or at the least a serious bitchslap from the real world. If your soccer team didn’t keep score, and rotated players in to share equal time, you are ill-prepared for life in the real world. The real world does not work that way AT ALL. This rose-colored glasses view that pushes the agenda of fairness and equality sounds great on paper, but this does not work in life. Not enough people subscribe to this ideaology to make it work. It will always be pushed back on by the rest of us “meritocratists” that believe you earn your place in the food chain.
On the flipside of this is the (over)use of a mirror. By this I mean that you constantly evaluate yourself, pointing out your own flaws and inabilities, thinking that you don’t measure up. While I personally don’t believe that every single person walking the planet has some talent that will impact the world, there IS merit to the idea that we all have something to give. A parent who does everything in their power to raise a set of productive and well-adjusted kids who will become part of society is impacting the world in some small way. Just being a good person and living within the boundaries of society, occasionally contributing, you are tipping the scale in favor of “more good than bad” happening on a regular basis. You don’t need to invent the next Uber to make your mark. If you are stuck staring into the proverbial mirror picking at your flaws, you are unlikely to share whatever your talent is with the rest of the world. You’ll be fixated on all the things you can’t do instead of focusing on the things you can. You’ll be paralyzed by your own over-analysis and false assumptions.
If there is one thing I staunchly believe is a core foundation for life, it is this:
YOU HAVE TO FIND BALANCE.
If you “suffer” from too rosy a view of the world, you are naïve, easily taken advantage of, and will repeatedly have your world rocked by those who don’t have the same view you do. No, not everyone is a good person and operates that way all the time. Sometimes someone who pulls a neighbor out of a house fire also goes to prison for domestic violence. You need to get knocked down once in a while, but get back up and keep going. A rosy view of he world does not help you develop resiliency, and this is crucial to your own self esteem. You have to learn how to take a hit and adjust, to absorb that blow and keep going. On the other hand you need to be able to look in the mirror and see the value you bring, develop the understanding that no one is perfect, despite what social media may try to depict. The sweet spot is somewhere in the middle.
Having spent just over 50 years on the Earth now, I have gone from one to the other and back again. Hopefully I am figuring out the balance point, that sweet spot in the middle that contains enough of each to keep me grounded and focused, but also optimistic and willing to try. I don’t have the key to the lock that binds this together, but through experience I have learned that too much of either is detrimental. I can guarantee that sports played a big role in this development. In sports that don’t allow “equality of outcome”, you learn to get your butt kicked, to get cut from the team and have to try again next year. In addition, you figure out that in most cases you have to work really hard to master skills that move you from the bench to the field. For some, these skills come easily, for others, they have to grind for weeks to make an inch of progress. You learn that you can win or will lose based on the ability of others. Sometimes that person is you; you can be the weak link or the strongest player. That’s a lot to carry on your shoulders, but guess what…that is the metaphor of life.
If you dwell on your (perceived) inabilities, you won’t develop the belief that you can do it, you can come through in the clutch. You’ll hide in the crowd, trying not to be noticed, protected among the masses. You will doubt yourself, your ability to compete, and to sometimes win. In some cases, you will quit before you ever get tested, you will throw in the towel assuming you will not get the job done.
The best advice I can leave you with is this: Do both, and find the happy medium. You need to put on the rose-colored glasses sometimes and approach something with unbridled enthusiasm and dive in. Trust that you can figure things out while you are already walking the path. Other times you need to look in the mirror and realize that you are a flawed human being, just like everyone else. But you can also use that mirror to reflect the truth, to see where you can improve but also give yourself credit for what you have accomplished, and what you may be capable of. Don’t use the mirror to pick at your scabs, use it to polish and improve the things you can. Balance is the key, I am sure about that part. How to get there will be your task to fulfill. It will be an ongoing process; you will knock it out of the park sometimes, and you will belly flop other times.
Eventually you’ll find your way to the happy middle ground, and then you can fight to stay there.