As winter approaches, schools all around Australia are preparing for their athletics carnivals.
Cardboard boxes of place ribbons are arriving at schools.
But there aren’t just ribbons for 1st, 2nd and 3rd. places.
There are also ribbons bearing messages like “I’m a winner because I finished.” The ones that are given to everyone whether the cross the line first, last or right in the middle.
“Why?” Because we want all kids to feel like they are fabulous regardless of whether they can run fast or jump high. We tell our kids they are awesome and amazing and deserving of prizes just for being there.
But is our desire to make sure all kids feel like a winner actually weakening them?
Is the “You are awesome” message turning them into narcissists who can’t cope in the real world when they leave the protective bubble of childhood. Does this leave them prone to depression and less likely to be able to develop happy relationships?
“Absolutely yes”, according to a leading researcher on narcissism and youth mental health.
Professor Jean Tinge, author of several books including The Narcissism Epidemic and Generation Me was in Sydney recently as part of the “Happiness and its Causes Conference”.
Jean has spent many years studying “Generation Me” as she calls them and her research shows that while Generation Me feel more entitled and have much higher self esteem than the generations before them, it is not making them happier.
In fact it is making them more miserable.
It seems that kids who have spent their whole lives being told they are special and fabulous are having a very tough time when they get out into the real world and discover that maybe they are not.
Here’s how she explains it.
“We live in a time when high self-esteem is encouraged from childhood, when young people have more freedom and independence than ever, but also far more depression, anxiety, cynicism and loneliness. More than any other generation in history, these children are disappointed by what they find when they arrive at adulthood.”