We are ruining our children's lives by expecting them to stand apart

Many have distorted childhood trying to prove themselves superior.

 |  3-minute read |   08-08-2016
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In a tiny village in Himachal Pradesh, I attended a humble workshop called Jeevan Vidya that seeks to bring one’s attention to neglected and subtle facets of life. And, one of the theories put forward was that in the race of becoming unique, we have damaged our well being. I have to admit that first when I was told about this theory by a middle-aged gentleman in white kurta pajama, I was dismissive. How can uniqueness be bad?

In my professional role as a career counsellor, the definition of success that I have prescribed to students is that they have to stand out. I remember my childhood when one of the most common blessings my grandfather muttered was "hamesha avval aao" - always stand first. I mostly did. Perhaps my grandfather’s blessings were more powerful than those of the well-wishers of my classmates.

After all, I am sure that every parent is dreaming of the same thing - her kid tops the class, becomes the best in her career and has a stable family life. This principle of standing first or where that didn’t apply, standing apart got as ingrained in our blood as the fear of death. If you were not unique, you were commonplace and that is just plain bad. No one would acknowledge you any longer.

The first time this concept of uniqueness was embraced by man was the time when we inevitably created a wall between each other. We no longer wanted to be like each other, we had to be special. This feeling of self-entitlement is so blatantly rampant and yet obtrusive to us - something that can be seen in the fact that if we inadvertently spill some milk, we simply say - “Oh, the milk got spilled”. But as soon as the perpetrator is someone else, our expression changes to “You spilled the milk”.

The blessing of common good where everybody’s needs could be happily fulfilled was, at some point in the history of mankind, replaced by the curse of competition. The best got rewarded and the laggards had to struggle. The new era of hoarding attention was born where meaning or purpose was left far behind. With the privileges bestowed upon the "uniqueness", trends started where people did anything to get noticed.

Guinness book of world records boasted a record of 28ft 4.5 inches of nail grown by an American woman in 2008. More marks, better looks, more likes, more followers - and the list continues. A whole new idea of marketing is based solely on the concept of "purple cow - transform your business by being remarkable".

Grab attention by hook or crook is the mantra. Many a story of crime and suppression turned into revenge and depression have mushroomed over the carcass of competitive spirit. This spirit that percolates so deep that it creates envy even in the closest of relationships.

If we look at the world resources and our population, there is enough to meet the basic need of every human being. Let that sink in for a second. Yes, our natural resources are abundant enough to feed and provide for all our world's population. Yet, there are millions dying in Africa on one hand and lone wealth hoarders in so-called developed countries on the other.

If we were just happy with being excellent and supported each other in our collective growth, the planet would look very different - greener, happier, conscious and balanced.

It was always the question of the best. Excellent is not good enough. Many kids have distorted their childhood trying to prove themselves superior. Perhaps it is time to tell your kid to just be good and happy. It is okay if she doesn’t come first.


Nistha Tripathi Nistha Tripathi @nisthatripathi

The writer is author, 'Seven Conversations' (2014).

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