Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Something To Strive For

I read an interesting article in The Hamilton Spectator this morning about the narcissistic tendencies of young people, particularly those born in the 70's, 80's and 90's. The article is based on a study done which shows a significant rise in narcissistic thinking among college students. One theory about the cause is related to the "self-esteem" boosting that became a huge trend in child-rearing. Apparently, focusing on building a child's self-esteem without building character can have this effect. It can lead to the reverse desired effect.

Self-preoccupation is a natural part of growing up, and a side-effect of being a teenager. We all felt that the world revolved around us as we were attempting to establish our place in the universe. I suppose now, with blogs and other online communities allowing oneself to assert well beyond our physical environment, it would seem that the narcissism is a little further reaching.

I can certainly sense that our world (not just young people, but all of us) has become a place of "what's in it for me" and selfish tendencies -- evident in the behaviours that are all too common. I like to think it can be simplified into a single symptom: Aggressive drivers cutting people off because their needs and destination are far more important than all the other drivers on the road.

Thus, despite the narcissistic writing on my blog (I like to think that it's really just flexing my creative writing ability, allowing me a chance to practice putting words together to make me a better writer -- but a part of it has to be vanity, too, right?), I try to pause and take time to think about my own fascination with myself, and wonder how often I stop just to listen to what others have to say (ironically, one of the ways I do that is by reading other people's blogs).

I know I make a conscious effort each day to just stop and watch my son while he's playing, or listen to him tell me about the exciting things that happened in his day. Not instruct. Not dictate. Just watch and listen. That listening, that watching warms my heart, makes my day complete.

But I also worry. Because it has been important to Francine and myself to help build his self-confidence, to help him feel good about himself, to feel important. But it's also important to us that he recognizes the importance of strength of character, that one of the greatest ways to feel good about oneself is to help others or strive to make someone else smile. I suppose I'm worrying that I'm not doing enough to support this, that I'm not offering the proper guidance and setting the right example.

It's something to strive for, that's for sure. And poems, like "IF" by Rudyard Kipling help inspire me to try to be that better person, to try to be that better father.

IF - Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

1 comment:

lime said...

from what i can see you and frnacine are marvelous parents. you keep doing what you are doing and share things like this poem with alexander. your attitudes toward others will be soaked up by your boy and merely be reinforced by specific instruction.