May 19, 2024
Why are we so hard on ourselves and what to do about it?

Why are we so hard on ourselves and what to do about it?

Jan 9, 2024

Interacting with teenagers is educational.

The recommended teenage dose for a parent is a few minutes per day. Last weekend, I got my daily dose with our 14-year-old son. Needless to say, he was in a bad mood. Initially, I attributed it to the typical teenage mood swings (a lazy parent’s diagnosis for everything teenage-y).

Later I found out that he was upset over an essay he had written for his schoolwork but didn’t like it. The words such as “worst”, “suck”, and “never” made an appearance when he expressed his feelings. I read his essay. It wasn’t a David Sedaris or a Hemingway-esque, for sure. But I thought it was decent for a 14-year-old.

I tried to explain to him that his essay was good and he was a decent writer.

I told him that we shouldn’t compare the first chapter of our life with the 20th chapter of our idols. I told him that we are poor judges of our creation. I told him that if he had misgivings about his writing, he might be wrong.

But as most parents and teachers know, you can’t explain anything to modern teenagers.

So, I told him a little story.

About an aspiring writer named Steve. 

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Our Steve the Aspiring Writer wrote a few pages of a story – about a high-school girl with telekinetic powers. Hated it. Crumpled the papers and tossed them in the wastebasket.

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His wife, a smart woman and a supportive wife, fished the papers out from the wastebasket, read them, liked them, and encouraged her husband to finish the rest.

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Being a good husband, Steve said “Yes, dear” (I’m guessing) and finished the book. He was relieved that she didn’t ask him to clean the living room instead (guessing again).

Even after finishing that book, Steve was not happy with it. Years later, he recalled, “I persisted because I was dry and had no better ideas… my considered opinion was that I had written the world’s all-time loser.”

In case you haven’t figured it out already, our Steve is Stephen King and the book was Carrie.          

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Carrie came out in 1974 and became King’s first bestseller. The book’s paperback rights were sold for $400,00. Half of it went to King which allowed him to quit his teaching job to become a full-time writer. This was the 70s and $200k would allow you to commit such rash acts.

Carrie launched one of the most prolific and successful writing/TV/movie careers in history.

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The point of the story is not that Tabitha King is a smart woman (she is) or that King is a good husband (he is). The point is King thought he had “written the world’s all-time loser” about a book that went on to become a bestseller and a cultural phenomenon.

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We’re very poor judges of our own creation.

What is obvious to you can be fascinating to others. What is mundane to you can be worth a lot of money to someone else.

Our life has been nothing but a series of interesting events. Let us share with others and let them decide whether it’s good or not. The world has heard and read about everything. Really. But not from you and me.

I had an enlightening conversation with our son that Saturday afternoon. He asked the right questions and I did my best to answer them. I hope he is more confident in his abilities or at least less hard on himself now.

I hope you’re too.

And remember, if you ever think that you’ve written “the world’s all-time loser”, you might be the next Stephen King.

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