We live in a world full of negativity. Full of pessimism. Full of “you’re doing it wrong,” “let’s think about it this way instead,” and “if you’d just do (insert magic change), you’ll do better.”
Think back to the most recent blog posts you’ve read. Hell, look back through some of the posts on this blog. I recently told you the way you were making your resolutions was wrong. I’ve criticized people for being afraid to be alone. I’ve told you the way we think and act about stigma isn’t as good as it could be. Other posts you’ve read on the internet likely shared tips on how to be better in a certain area of your life, or tips on how to improve on a certain job-related skill. Why do we keep telling each other we’re not good enough as we are?
What happened to all the positive stories out there in the world? Why, when we take a closer look at our blogs, at our tweets, do they rarely seem to surface?
In the online student affairs world, there are often conversations about the need to share the bad stuff, so we’re not always painting student affairs as a rosy, there-are-never-hard-times career path. But I’d like to argue that we actually don’t do the opposite, share the good, as much as we might think.
Let’s take a detour for a minute. I recently watched a TEDx talk about self-confidence. The speaker gave this suggestion, to help us from destroying the self-confidence of others: Instead of telling Johnny, the soccer player who missed the net, what to do differently next time (example- plant your foot, lean forward), approach the player who had an excellent shot on net, and say “Good shot Grace! You planted your foot solidly, and leaned forward. Keep doing that, and you’ll get one in sooner rather than later.” Johnny’s heard you, no doubt, and that advice is now in his mind. But you haven’t decimated his self-confidence in the process- and you’ve definitely boosted the confidence of Grace.
Let’s go back to student affairs (or any other discipline. Or just life in general). I’d argue that we’re not writing articles, stories, blog posts, about Grace. Where’s the story about a colleague who got a call from an angry parent, and handled it brilliantly? The story about a residence assistant who successfully mediated a roommate conflict? Or the story about a flawless event your co-worker just planned? We tend to hear more about the times we messed up, and how we can do better next time, then the times we did well, and what it was we did to get that success.
Stories with a negative or pessimistic slant have their place. For example, I’m not trying to say we should get rid of the stories that try to push the boundaries of how we think. There’s a place for those too. But instead of trying to teach each other by talking about what our field, and what our practitioners, are doing wrong, let’s teach by talking about what were doing right. Because I have full confidence that there are tons of things we’re doing brilliantly, fantastically, wonderfully right.
This post was inspired not only by the aforementioned TEDx talk, but also by the content of my previous blog post ‘Resolutions: We’re Doing It Wrong’– a decidedly negative post. While writing the post, it occurred to me- what if, instead of making people feel bad for not doing it right, or not succeeding, I told the story of someone who used all the tips I’m talking about, and achieved astronomical success? Which post would make people feel better after finishing? Which post would be more motivational? I considered scrapping the post and starting over, but obviously didn’t. However, my next blog post? It’s the happy, positive version. We’ll see which one is better received. 🙂