As a child of the 90s I was raised on a steady diet of Disney movies and positive reinforcement. I grew up in a house where abundant praise was given for completion of the most mundane of tasks. Failures were justified and assigned an appropriate cause that absolved me of any wrongdoing. In school phrases like "a truly gifted writer" or "amazing insight" would be scribed upon my homework. I had my picture books "published" in the school library. Everyone told me I would be a best seller. Everyone said I would be loved by all. Like so many others I feel like I was lied to. In the real world I am still a nobody. It is only in video games, the thing I was told most often to avoid growing up, that I feel like I have lived up to my destiny.


I have something to say: Shame and aggrandized humility are not the new "in" thing and freaking stop doing it. Only the kind of arrogant twiddle-whumpers who write blog posts about finding out they're not special to get 1,200 comments reinforcing how un-special everyone is (while making them feel special for being the one who said it) think it's special to announce you're not special.

You aren't special. You're just human. Human beings have evolved over thousands of years to tend to hope for something greater when experiencing something less than satisfactory. The quest for enlightenment and the challenge of making do simply with the gift of being alive is probably older than our species. Neanderthals probably sat around the fire asking if they were really a great hunter, or if wife just told them so to make them get out of cave and hunt more.

And goddamnit, if there was something wrong with the human tendency to substitute self-confidence for instant gratification and to believe in a better future, we wouldn't have evolved that way. (I know, I know, simplistic, but this is a quickie comment.) It's obviously adaptive in some way... and so is the later-in-life awakening and journey toward satisfaction with the middle ground. If people didn't self-validate and believe they were special when young, nobody would ever end up exceptional except by accident. Believing in specialness can drive people to work hard, or at least to survive poverty and other tragedies of young life.

Likewise, if people didn't tend to have a rude awakening as they age and realign their goals with their abilities (should they NOT happen to become actually exceptional) we'd have a bunch of deluded middle-aged dads and moms walking around still convinced they have a bestseller in them and/or are a rock star in the making. OK, so a lot of older people DO still have those dreams, but that doesn't mean they don't realize deep down that what really makes them happy is all of their kids being safe, happy, and healthy, having a roof over their head, and being able to order a pizza now and then.

This is the human condition. It is not the 90s. It is not Disney. It is being a conscious, thinking organism burdened with a congenitally inflicted desire to make sense of a world that is often brutal, always unfair, and yet filled with the mindboggling beauty and potential. If whales are sapient, they wonder if they're special, too. Likewise the nonhuman primates, likewise perhaps even rats. If we did not need the idea of "special" to grow through our metamorphosis from child to adult, we would not have religion, art, or music. If we did not universally believe in our ability to transcend our circumstances, people suffering extreme poverty and famine would lie down and die.

Yes, you ARE special. You are special because of all the carbon atoms in the universe, the ones in your body clustered together and created consciousness, a being capable of self-analysis and questioning its specialness. Coming to the conclusion that perhaps that's more important than being "loved by all" is part of this conscious carbon cluster's journey.

posted by thenewgreen: 2355 days ago