I was fascinated by a recent Time article that seems to contradict everything we’ve ever heard about positive thinking and self-help. We’ve always heard that the best thing we could do for people is to build them up, encourage them, and make them feel better about themselves. If we don’t do this, the theory goes, our children’s fragile egos will be hurt and they will not be able to fully realize their potential. Because of that, a generation of kids that can’t hit a home run, throw a free throw, catch a pass, or hit a back hand in tennis have been told, in spite of their obvious ineptitude, that they can achieve greatness.
“…when people get feedback that they believe is overly positive, they actually feel worse, not better. If you try to tell your dim friend that he has the potential of an Einstein, he won’t think he’s any smarter; he will probably just disbelieve your contradictory theory, hew more closely to his own self-assessment and, in the end, feel even dumber.”