Because Hu’s an Incredible Dinner Guest and Insecurity Breeds Contempt…
Insecurities lead to pretty weird behavior. For instance, I recently had a meeting with a few extremely bright, young game changers who made frequent reference to their Ivy League pedigrees and all the infinite things they’d accomplished during their three decades on Earth. Lo and behold, one of those nasty rats that hibernate inside my head began to stir. “You shouldn’t be here!,” it squeaked. “You’re way too stupid! C’mon, make them laugh! Say something!” And there I suddenly was, a grown woman sitting in the back row of Miss Frosty’s fourth grade class. I hung my head, passively agreed with everything that was said, and promptly clammed up. I haven’t had an experience like this for a long time and I’m generally pretty confident, so I’ve been examining my weirdness for much of the week. How did this happen? And, why the heck am I admitting this to you?
We all have insecurities- every single one of us. They tend to creep up at the worst possible times and they thrive on undermining the reality of what we’re actually made of. The more we believe that they’re tangible truths, the more they become a part of us. I’ve been glued to the Amy Chua Tiger Mommy saga that’s unfolded over the past two weeks, not so much because I’m interested in her parenting wisdom (I’m so not), but more because I’ve appreciated reading the hundreds of comments from brave people who are wrestling with insecurities on behalf of some less-than-ideal child rearing techniques. Believe me, I get it. Having people that you literally and figuratively look up to call you “stupid” or “worthless” will breed entire families of “insecurity rats” that chew on your spirit and piss on your dreams (Mrs. Chua, I would advise that you get your daughters into therapy. Seriously). I’ve managed to exterminate most of mine, but there are still a few resilient ones sneaking around, like the fat guy who dines on “Harvard.” Strange, right?
If you haven’t tuned in to the commenters who’ve responded to Tiger Mom, I will tell you that there are many financially successful adults, Chinese and otherwise, plagued by debilitating anxieties which were seeded from the idea that they must, individually, be THE BEST. Sound familiar? Remember America, THE BEST country in the world? You wouldn’t know it from the recent headlines detailing record-high unemployment, rampant corruption, decaying infrastructure and not-so-subtle suggestions that the U.S. may just be #2 now. In fact, a recent poll conducted by Pew Research Center shows that 47 percent of Americans believe that China is now the top economic power (compared with 41 percent who believe that America still holds the number one spot). How odd! As this ludicrous contest persists- #1 or else!- America’s been doing some pretty weird things, like investing in weapons instead of education and continuing to focus on old models like Big Oil instead of embracing new frontiers like greentech. The recent headlines are even more bizarre, whether it’s Rush Limbaugh’s shameful and ridiculing impersonation of the Chinese language or the press’s constant reference to the US-China “competitive relationship” and a “potential cold war.” Can we attribute some of this American weirdness to insecurity? I think so.
So, when should we collectively agree that there’s really no such thing as “THE BEST?” When can we as human beings be allowed to focus on our personal potential instead of holding ourselves up to some impossible ideal or worse, promoting the idea that parents should deprive their children of their own unique power in order to become “powerful” by narrow and nebulous societal standards? And, when can America stop fretting about China’s rise and start focusing instead on what the U.S. is uniquely skilled at while supporting its millions of talented citizens in their own endeavors? Americans are super creative! They’re really bold! They think BIG! And, a lot of them really do want to make the world a better place! But, forget THE BEST. Screw #1. It’s a myth and the more we buy into it, the more we end up looking like “jerks” or “dummies” or “losers” or all the other things that gnawing voice of insecurity tells us we are. SHINE. Be the awesomeness that YOU are instead of focusing on the other guy. Forget the rats. Now, would someone mind passing this advice along to Congress before their meeting with President Hu tomorrow?