March 13, 2009

Be Yourself!

I get pretty frustrated with the themes of children's TV shows. Not frustrated enough to turn off the TV and interact with the children myself, but pretty frustrated. Major themes:

1. You can be anything.
2. You should always be yourself.
3. If you are unsuccessful, unhappy, or unliked, it is because you're not believing in yourself and/or being yourself.

So there will be an episode where a character tries to be "cool," and instead this results in them being clumsy and wrecking stuff for other people, and other people get angry and don't like it. So the character acts like himself/herself instead, and everyone loves him/her.

Lesson: Be yourself and everyone will love you! Second lesson: If you're clumsy, or if people don't like you, this means you're not being yourself. If you were being yourself, everything would go right and everyone would love you.

And since you can be anything you want to be, if you're being something OTHER than what you want to be, you are a failure. Never mind that almost everyone wants to be the president or an astronaut or a ballerina or a writer or an actor, and almost nobody wants to be the other 9,999 out of 10,000 jobs: if you are not What You Want To Be, you're probably not being yourself.

I think this is really dumb. But of course I WOULD, since I never did become a ballerina.

44 comments:

Erin said...

I LOVE THIS POST.

I had a teacher in high school who got a whole lot of flack for repeating to us, "You canNOT be anything you want. I could never be a ballerina because I'm not at all graceful. Don't believe anyone who tells you that you can be anything you want because they're LYING."

I understand, you know, not STIFFELING our children, etc. But it's true! The possibilities actually are NOT ENDLESS. There are LOTS of things you can be and do, but that list doesn't include EVERYTHING.

Julie said...

OMG - this post totally reminds me of a Wow Wow Wubzy episode where Waldon gets all dressed up to be cool at a party and disaster ensues. When he goes back to being himself, he saves the day. I've often thought the same thing about children's shows. Sometimes a little too insanely positive.

Kim said...

Lies, all lies! If I could've been anything I wanted, why am I not a professional book reader, movie watcher, rock band groupie and nail polish namer? Tell me THAT, Disney Channel!
(I use Disney Channel because that is the one I'm most closely tied to in my memory, but it also applies to many others).

Shannon said...

I 100% agree with Erin. I hate this message being given to our kids. And while I would like to teach my kids that they can accomplish things that others may not think them capable of, they must be realistic. I want them to dream big, but understand that some dreams require major planning and work and sometimes even need to be rethought to see if they are really the best choice. Good post. (shannon@livinginthegray.com)

Nowheymama said...

And what about physical limitations? I could never be a flight attendant like my mother because of my horrible, horrible vision. Take that, Steve Songs.

Amanda said...

As my kids got a little older when, say Zack, would say he wanted to be an astronaut, I'd say "That's wonderful honey. You need to work really hard at math and science in school" and then tell him why that related to being an astronaut. If he told me he wanted to play professional soccer, I'd say "that's wonderful honey. You need to go to all your practices, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and do drills in the back yard". I didn't discourage him, I just told him what path needed to be taken in order to become anything he wanted. It helps to bring a little reality into the ideas. It hasn't stopped him from wanting to be those things, but he certainly understands that each idea has its own path of hard work.

Joanne said...

This is why I prefer shows where they just sing and don't talk too much. I wish they had a show where they said that you could have anything you want and be anything you want if you would just, for the love of GOD, GO TO SLEEP when you are SUPPOSED TO. :)

Jewels said...

Oh Swistle, it's too early in the morning for me to be thinking about this. But yes, I suppose I'm just a wee bit disappointed that I didn't get to be a princess like I had planned.

Lora said...

I just sat in on a workshop at work about how we are supposed to counteract this goofy television message about how "you can do anything you set your mind to!" because it is very detrimental to a child's self esteem.

Apparently we are supposed to stop telling our kids "yes you can, just try harder" when they say they can't do something. If they can't, they can't, and we are supposed to help them.

The take home message was that we and TV are lowering children's self esteem and teen suicide rates are on the rise because kids feel like miserable useless failures.

I love television.

Michelle said...

Sigh. I'm not an ice-skater on t.v. like I always hoped and dreamed. And I think this misleading television is a result of the winning-just-for-trying culture.

Not Your Aunt Bea said...

Reminds me of the comic strip where the kid wants to be a kimono dragon and not realizing that, his dad tells him he can be anything he wants to be but err...not really.
We try to stick to the small lessons at our house. Like not biting your sister.

samantha jo campen said...

I remember you saying something like this while I was wallowing on bed rest that we're taught that if we do everything 'right' nothing will ever go wrong! And if something does then it must have been a mistake on our part, and that's not life because it's just not true. The same thing here. Great point, great post.

StephLove said...

Those kinds of messages on kids' tv used to make me cry, literally, as I sat on the couch watching tv with my son the year after I lost my position as a college professor and realized the field was so insanely competitive I'd likely never get another one. (I never did.)

I don't know what they did to his self-esteem, but it certainly didn't help mine.

Emily R said...

Nobody ever says "I want to be a biostatistician when I grow up." I hope my kids don't want to be astronauts. Space is for losers.

Wow. I think I should get me some more Dr. Pepper. This mood is Not Okay.

Kristine said...

I always say "the world need sandwich makers" And I know a few kids headed in that direction.

St said...

This post could really sum up what I love about you. Well, maybe if you talk about something you bought (on clearance) then it would be complete. And add a recipe. Okay, never mind, I guess I should have just said that I like this post. It's funny.

Crystal said...

oh! Oh! This reminds me of a few months ago when I was TRYING to nap on the couch while the kids watched TV, ahem....but that stupid show...ah crap, what is the name? AH, had to look it up, Yo Gabba Gabba. ANYWAY they were singing this ridiculous song about how if you are nice to others they will be your friends. Over and over...until I had to tell my 6 yr old that its just not true! Yes, you should always be nice, being polite is very very important. But that doesn't mean people will be your friends. People suck. They DO! So my message is this: Be nice to everyone, even if they suck. If they aren't nice to you, tell them they are rude and MOVE ON! Do not waste your time trying to make people love/like you.

The end.

DCMomma said...

OMG this post is so funny. It is very important to be yourself. I do however think the following shows are CREEPY:

Yo Gabba Gabba, and Doodlebops.

The rest I can handle.

Maggie said...

I totally agree. I understand they don't want to grind on kids' happiness by constantly informing them that life isn't fair and people suck fairly often, but there's got to be a middle ground between that and everyone is your friend! Be yourself and nothing bad will ever happen and everyone will love you! and You can be whatever you want (subtext, if you don't get to be what you wanted, you obviously didn't want it hard enough). BAH!

At one point when my son was still in preschool I told him he didn't actually have to be friends with everyone because kids that hit or are mean are not friend material. It was like a revelation to him to learn everyone didn't have to be his friend. Sigh.

the new girl said...

We do MUCH BETTER by our kids to help them to PLAY TO THEIR STRENGTHS vs. always relentlessly focusing on IMPROVING THEIR WEAKNESSES.

Not to say that a math tutor is a waste of money, it's just...you know what I'm saying, right?

Alice said...

i could have used this little talk when i was 4 and honestly thought i could be a cat when i grew up.

Miss Grace said...

So maybe if I was a dolphin, which was what I wanted to be when I grew up? Maybe then I would be MYSELF, and people would like me?

Hotch Potchery said...

I feel like a giant ASS when I tell my son that I think he would be great as a sitcom actor, but his college major should allow him to get a paying gig just in case. Would I be a better mother by allowing him to major in drama? I just don't think so.

LoriD said...

Have you read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell? If not, I think you might like it. It supports your point here.

d e v a n said...

So true. Plus, some of the people I like LEAST? THEY are ALWAYS themselves.

Mommy Writes said...

My father used to rephrase the Mr. Roger's theme song, and now I can only hear his version.

"I like you just the way you are. So don't ever change, because then I won't like you anymore."

Maestro Dennis said...

I wanted to be a professional bass player in a paid symphony.

I'm very close to that dream, but the economy and my rheumatoid arthritis are keeping me from making that my full-time job.

So I would say it's ok to follow your dream, as long as you're ready to buckle down and make money some other way if your dream jo doesn't work out.

I actually had a pretty big meltdown when I realized the career I got my degree in and spent 12+ years practicing my heart out for was probably not going to pan out.

Life sucks, yo.

Kira said...

baaad circular reasoning. Be Yourself! You can be anything! Except being "anything" requires stepping outside your comfort zone - where you feel most like yourself - and RULE #1 is BE YOURSELF.
Besides, you can't be ANYTHING. Sorry, but it's true. That still leaves plenty of options.

Peyton said...

My friends' three-year-old daughter constantly likes to talk about how she'll get to be a Boy Scout "when [she's] older, and a boy."

The grown-ups just nod and laugh. Eventually she'll learn that Girl Scouts will be just as fun.

Jessica (Bug-N-Bee) said...

Kids are no longer expected or allowed to experience disappointment it seems. I tell my kids that if they work hard in school and go to college that they'll probably be able to get a job that they really like and be able to afford the things they like -- but I don't tell them it's a definite. And I don't them that just because it's what they want it's what they'll get.

Tess said...

I...LOVE THIS. I actually try never to be myself, which is why I'm a CPA.

katethegr8 said...

I TOTALLY AGREE! and to take it a step further..this goes with all kids making sports teams.. when you are in Jr high you should get cut if you are not good. you will get over it and you will be a better person because if it.. i feel better now that I've said that!!

Whimsy said...

Love this. It goes along with the message that most grates on my nerves: (IF YOU CAN DREAM IT, IT WILL BE REAL -or- IF YOU WANT IT BAD ENOUGH, YOU'LL GET IT). This is why there are a million people who try out for American Idol and turn into psychotic nuts when they are told they're not any good. (BUT I WANTED IT! REALLY BAD!) Drives me crazy.

rampaige said...

Hmm...this would explain why my dreams of being a unicorn never came to fruition...

desperate housewife said...

Another thing sort of along this line that I hate is how very VERY often the heros/heroines of books, movies, TV shows etc. have such unique and interesting and fulfilling jobs, like reporter for cool magazine, or owner of their own funky jewelry store or fashion designer or whatever. I want to see a movie about a person with a NORMAL BORING job who is still reasonably happy and fulfilled.

Steph the WonderWorrier said...

Swistle, I hear your frustration...

But, just be yourself, and you'll feel back to normal in no time.



...

;-)

Mairzy said...

Ah! One of my own gripes!

I remember hearing a kids' radio program in which a character was touting "positive thinking" and "believing in yourself." She talked a friend of hers into trying out for a solo in the school play, because after all if her friend believed in herself, she'd make it! The audition was horrible, because the girl Could Not Sing. I think back on that show after I've seen a few mainstream kids' shows. It's refreshing.

I also hate the idea in kids' shows that if someone is being mean and aggressive, you should just love him for who he is and be his friend, and he'll change his ways!

-- SJ

Michelle said...

Yeah... I'm with you on this. And the pumping self esteem up for no reason so that self confidence isn't real and sustainable.

Swati said...

I agree with the new girl here. But because I wanted to say more, I made my own post about it today :)

Virginia Ruth said...

I totally agree. And I love Amanda's approach: encourage dreams, but make sure you're presenting realistic expectations of what it will take to get there.

I'm also reminded of a story I heard somewhere: a teacher of creative writing kept telling one of her students whose writing was overly mannered and stilted, "Just be yourself!" Finally the student told her, "I AM being myself," and she replied, "Well in that case, be someone else."

My Buddy Mimi said...

There are some episodes of the Wonder Years that I remember very clearly because they deal with Kevin's dad working in middle management and finally quitting to start his own business. It was done very well and introduced the idea that not everyone gets to do exactly what they dreamed when they were little.

Dr. Maureen said...

When I was in high school, I had a job as a file clerk at a medical office. The admin staff was about six matronly women, and we got to talking once, and I said that my dream job would actually to be on Broadway, because I love to sing and I loved being in plays. They all said, "Well you could do it!"
I said, "Uh... no. No I couldn't."

"Sure you could! You just have to try!"

I can't dance, can't act very well, and don't have a strong voice. I mean, I can carry a tune, but I'm not even the one who gets solos in my church choir. I'm *pretty sure* I would not make it on Broadway.

Kelly said...

a really brilliant blog I have to say. very true, what some other comments have said...its very out of vogue to allow children to experience disappointment or discomfort. In fact, what parents should do instead of sheltering our kids from disappointment and discomfort is teach them how to handle those things. No, not everyone is going to like you. poop on them...we love you. No, you're not always going to succeed at everything you try, but if you never try, you have a zero chance at ever succeeding. And we will love you even if you fail.

I'm going to have to ponder on that and blog on it myself, on my soapbox!

thanks!!

Kelsey said...

Have you seen the demotivational poster that is basically a close up of fast food french fries and says that not everyone can be an astronaut?