So last night my family started to watch a Tivo recording of Back to the Future. I forgot how much I like this movie and how much I don’t like Huey Lewis. Ahhhh the 80’s. I digress. . . anyway as I was watching it the famous routine of Biff knocking on McFly’s head saying “Hello! Anybody Home? Think, McFly! Think! comes across the screen and I realize that I still have that line committed to memory. And I find myself wondering how many others have too.
It’s an interesting thing to contemplate the effects over generations of attitudes and self esteem that are evident in that one familiar movie routine. What a gem self esteem is. It truly has the power to direct our lives and our successes as well as our failures. And while we may feel victim to it, the reality is it is one of the only things in life we have complete control over. The familiar refrain of Eleanor Roosevelt sums it up perfectly: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
I was more of a McFly growing up. I was extremely self conscious of being too skinny and developed slower than most girls my age. Sadly, I allowed this to rule much of my experience in Jr. High and early High School. I spent a great deal of time comparing myself to others and feeling miserable over my physical body and how little control I had to make it bodacious. I suppose it’s not a unique experience, but as I reflect on my life and the confidence I have gained as an adult it is the one element of my life that I would change if I could. I often wonder how much I could have accomplished if I’d decided to let go of it and focus my energies and attention to developing talents, friendships, etc.
It also draws attention to the value of influence we can have on others. My husband can testify to the fact that when we started dating my confidence was so low he had to coach me to make eye contact with him – frequently. I cried and I worried about how my physical body wouldn’t measure up to his expectations when we were engaged. I don’t know that woman anymore and it’s thanks largely to my husband. His acceptance, love and encouragement have given me wings to fly. Now we joke together about firming our aging and growing tummies and I’m so glad for the company!! LOL
My daughter gives me a daily reminder of the power and influence I have in helping mold her self esteem and self worth. I have said the words to this familiar ‘think’ refrain many a time in my head with her. My daughter is a puzzling mix of traits and abilities; while she soars in confidence and leadership in the social realm, several years ahead of her peers, she is the exact opposite with academics.
Her first grade year was a train wreck. I learned to loathe the ‘standards’ to which we hold and expect kids to learn, test and grasp academic content. I also learned how important it is to be your child’s advocate. My daughter is a square peg in a round hole. She constantly gives me what I’ve dubbed “Einstein/Helen Keller” moments. One moment she’s soaring, the next it’s like we never took flight. After three years of meetings, interviews, doctor’s visits, tutoring and a lot of head scratching, we’re finding answers for her. She’s not a standard fit for any of them but we’re slowly finding pieces to her puzzle. ADHD (which is actually attention deficit only – ADD, but the society doesn’t separate the two and ADHD is widely known and accepted) was a recent piece for her. Although her inability to maintain focus has always been apparent, her inconsistent performance and lack of fitting some major ADHD questions made diagnosis difficult at best. As I watch her grow I worry about her hearing the familiar refrain “Think!” and other “Are you stupid?” attitudes and/or comments. I work extra hard at home to remove any such feelings or comments and replace them with love, acceptance and encouragement. NOT an easy task when you’ve just gone over the same homework concept a dozen times in 5 minutes and it’s not sticking.
Thankfully, I received divine guidance during that train wreck year. I inadvertently helped restore balance to her concept of self worth. I let her explore the world of acting. I even let her compete in a competition in NY that involved over a thousand contestants. She placed in the top ten of three of her five talent competitions. Her medals hang proudly on her wall where she can reflect on them every day and remind herself what a winner she is. And that, my friends, is the key. No one is great at everything, but each of us is great at something. One success can fuel us toward greatness and drown out the volume of failure at something else.
I’ve learned so much in the past six months about how differently kids can and do learn. The days of one common standard are fast becoming extinct. I don’t know if any of us will be able to keep up, but I do know that it will take more than simply yelling “Think, McFly! Think!”