It amazes me how Pixar can sometimes slip unpopular themes into its movies and often come out unscathed. The Incredibles is the poster child of this! Would you believe that The Incredibles is a commentary on parenting? There are three different scenes in this movie that leap out at me when we are talking about this: The first one is when Dash gets in trouble in school; on the car ride home, Dash says “Our powers make us special,” to which Helen (Mrs. Incredible) says, “Everyone is special, Dash”. Dash retorts back to her, “Which is another way of saying that no one is.” This is not just the opinion of a frustrated little boy, he is parroting the frustrations of his father who later on is arguing that a 4th grade graduation ceremony is silly (in his words, psychotic) because, “They keep celebrating new ways to celebrate mediocrity, but if someone is genuinely exceptional, they shut him down because they don’t want everyone else to feel back!” And lastly, this theme comes to a head when Syndrome is planning on giving everyone superpowers with his tech and claiming, “When everyone is super, no one will be.” This movie establishes the fact that there are some people who are exceptional and others who are not. Now, I understand that this is set in a world where some people have superpowers and others do not, but could I say that even in our real world, this is true. I am not going to fool myself, there are people (many, many, many people) who are a lot smarter than me. There are a good amount of people who are physically stronger than me. The truth is, their is nothing exceptional about me at all, in fact, the only thing that I am exceptional at is being average. There you go, I am exceptionally average. But you know what, I am ok with that. I do not have to be the smartest or the strongest, I am me and I am happy with that. Here are a few reasons why it is dangerous to tell everyone that they are special.
It Sets Up Unrealistic Expectations
There are a lot of young people today who are absolutely frustrated with their lives, and it is all because they were fed this idea that they were special. Right now, there are a good amount of young people flipping hamburgers at McDonalds, and I applaud them for it. Flipping burgers is NOT a bad thing at all. But in their eyes it is a bad thing. Why? They were taught that they were special, and special people do not flip hamburgers. These young people are going out into the real world, thinking that they are going to be that special person who is going to change it once and for all, and then suddenly realizing that the world does not really care about their opinions or ideas, and that instead of suddenly being placed above the pack, they have to work their way up. As I said, there is nothing wrong with working a entry level job, but to those who have been told that they were special, it is a tough pill to swallow.
It Emphasizes Self but Downplays Others
Being told that you are special makes you the hero of your story. And that is absolutely true, you are, but then we also start treating other people in our lives as if they are merely supporting characters in our own story. It is an interesting problem. When we say that “everyone is special” what we are really telling these children is that “you are special”, which in turn gives them a sense of superiority to others. We need to teach our children, and understand for ourselves, that other people matter and that we should treat others as individuals who have their own cares, problems, and lives.
It Is Unachievable
A person who is taught that they are special will likely seek to be the best, those people will find themselves frustrated eventually that being “the best” is a practically unattainable goal. There will always be someone smarter, there will always be someone stronger, someone will always be making more money than you, and someone will always be higher up the corporate ladder than you.
I know that what I have said goes against common wisdom. But stay with me, I believe that instead of emphasizing how special everyone is, we ought to be emphasizing these things:
Be the best that you can be
You may not be the very best, but you can do your very best. Being the best version of yourself will automatically set you head and shoulders above the rest of the crowd. It’s like Tiana said, “If you do your best each and every day, good things are sure to come your way!”
Hone your skills
Take what you are naturally good at and become better at it. For example, I am gifted in public speaking. I try to sharpen my skills in that area to keep making myself better and better. I am not good at body building, and although I will do things like that in order to better myself, my primary focus ought to be sharpening my skills in something that I am already good at in order to become excellent.
Be happy with yourself
Accept who you are. I am not saying to accept mediocrity, or to give up on trying to be better. Instead, I am saying to stop comparing yourself to other people. Everyone else is on their own journey, they will be ahead of you in some areas and behind you in some areas. One of the keys to being happy is to stop focusing on everyone else and simply pay attention to your own personal progress.
Do Difficult Things
One of my readers (you can check out her blog here) recently commented to me that she tells her teens to “Do Difficult Things”. I really like that. Why? Because today many people are content with doing simple things. If Walt Disney taught me anything in life, it is that history belongs to the people who take risks.
Not everyone is special, understand, everyone is important, everyone is valid, and everyone is even significant, but not everyone is special. A person is not special just because they have been told all their life that they are special, a person is special by doing their best, by accepting who they are and then striving to do things that no one else will do. Being special is not inherent, being special is a choice. Decide today and work hard to be special!