What Is the Cost of Being Full of Promise?, Part II

The Full of Promise Rising Stars (FPRS) are so successful in their teenage year and their twenties for precisely the same reason why their thirties will be drab and their forties an exercise in complete and utter misery. All of their early successes are motivated not by an internal need to excel in these particular areas but, rather, by the constant need to win the approval and acceptance of adults. The fantastic grades, the awards at school and then, later, at college allow them to play the role of the perfect child whom everybody praises for being good and obedient. Such kids are celebrated by adults for embodying those adults’ dream of seeing an unproblematic, “perfect” child.

The tragedy, however, is that in the process of trying to embody the dreams of adults, such a perfect child never gets a chance to figure out what his or her own dreams are. The entire goal of such a kid’s existence is to please. When s/he grows up, however, there are no more adults to please. Now, you suddenly become an adult, and the criteria you need to fulfill to be successful at this new stage of your life are completely different. Those same adults who praised you and encouraged you are now competing with you. The daily boost of self-esteem suddenly disappears.

Many FPRS attempt to reduce the psychological burden of feeling like their promise amounted to nothing by having kids and pushing them into the role of adult-pleasing little prodigies. These are the parents who boast that their kid could read at three, speak Chinese at five, won 5 dancing competitions by the age of 6, had the best scores at all tests in primary school, etc. This allows them to relive vicariously their own stellar moments of FPRSness. Then, of course, their children become FPRS, and the entire cycle repeats itself.

An alternative way out of the inevitable disillusionment of FPRSness is to do what one was supposed to do during the teenage years and the twenties and start figuring out who one really is, outside of anybody else’s expectations or desires. Of course, this is a task that becomes progressively more difficult as one grows older. More often than not, a successful journey out of the FPRS destiny includes renouncing all the people-pleasing achievements of the previous years and finding a completely new direction of personal development. And that can never be easy.

7 thoughts on “What Is the Cost of Being Full of Promise?, Part II”

  1. This is why I’m glad my grades crashed last January and February or so. I learned that I didn’t have to please people with grades to be considered a good person.

    Though I did eventually get my grades back up, it was solely because of my ambition to learn, not to get some of the top grades in the class. I determined that I would do the best that I could do, and that I wouldn’t beat myself up if I got a seventy instead of a ninety.


  2. Yep. We’re totally on the same page. If I had paid attention in high school to how much I loved my part-time job – making coffee – I might’ve saved myself tens of thousands of dollars of debt and had more fun during the meantime.


    1. Nobody is without hope. One just has to look for what makes one happy. If it takes starting new careers and dropping them if they don’t make you happy, then that’s what you have to do. I had a student who was 54. He’d had a successful business but he always wanted to be a school teacher. So he sold the business and went to college to get an education. He graduated last year and is now blissfully happy working for very little money but at a job he loves.


    2. I don’t think you have to have a dream job to be happy in your work – in some ways a dream job can get in the way of realising what makes you happy. Elizabeth’s anecdote illustrates that nicely.


  3. Have you heard of William James Sidis who learned to write in English by the end of the age of one, by the age of four read Homer in the original Greek and by the age of eight spoke eight languages including English, Latin, Greek, Russian, French, German and Hebrew. He entered Harvard at the age of 11 and graduated with honours by the time he was sixteen. He wrote four books between the age of four and eight and at the age of seven passed the Harvard Medical School anatomy exam. As an adult, he was fluent in forty languages. In spite of all of this he was a failure as an adult since the institutions in which he worked could not accept his brilliance and ended up doing menial tasks in a series of jobs.


    1. I think the problem was that he wasn’t allowed to pass through the normal childhood and adolescent stages of development and was not equipped to deal with the world of adults.

      I consider parents who do such things to kids to be criminals. One can be very happy without reading Homer at 4. But not without playing with toys at that age.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.