When Is It Time to Quit?

 When Is It Time to Quit?I was talking with a beautiful 20-something friend this past week and asked her how her waitressing job was going.  She works for a lux hotel in NYC and serves many of the nation’s big powerbrokers who come to eat, but really to see and be seen.  Grace is a wonderful person with integrity and an excellent work ethic.  Her name suits her well.  She earnestly described all of the aspects of her job in some detail and mentioned how hard she works to get it right.

So I was taken by surprise when she suddenly announced, “But I’m going to quit.  They don’t appreciate my efforts.  No one ever thanks me.”

Say what???

I actually went speechless as I tried to think of a response that wouldn’t horrify my young friend.  I wanted to be that compassionate ear afterall.  While I don’t remember exactly what I said, I’m pretty sure I gently reminded her that since she’s actually working for the money, praise – while nice – is not necessary.  She gave me a strange look, as if I was from another planet, and told me that everyone has “always” praised her excellent efforts and that her manager is “a lame loser who doesn’t deserve me”.  She plans to quit the next time the manager tells her what to do since “I’m so much better at my job than he is.”.

All I could think of was uh oh…this wonderful kid is in for a rude shock.

There are so many reasons to quit a job – low pay, travel logistics, limited advancement opportunities, sexual harassment, more lucrative job offers – but is not being thanked one of them?  Really?

It would be easy to chalk this encounter up to the issue of the entitlement of the Millennial generation.  I frequently hear complaints from adults (especially Gen Xers) about the young ones (“kids these days!”) and about their naive belief that the world will revolve around them and their needs forever.  And I could certainly rif about this for hours.

But I actually think this exchange is about something much deeper and more systemic in America, something that we adults dropped the ball about long ago.  I think it’s about the source of our self-worth.

America is a solidly consumer society.  We’re raised to think that we ‘need’ things that cost money and so we buy and buy.  Over 3000 times/day we get the message that we are less-than without certain products or services.  When you get a zillion messages like this from all directions (Millennials are 24/7 afterall), you end up believing this as a truth and you sub-consciously conclude that your self-worth comes from the approval of others.  What your parents, coaches, teachers, bosses, friends, and yes, even strangers think about you is firmly what matters.  Talk about a set-up for a lifetime of pain…

How come we adults don’t teach our kids that while they must find appropriate ways to fit in within a group, their worth should come from within themselves?  How come we don’t teach them from a young age to make wise choices and let them suffer the consequences of poor ones?  They won’t learn this in school.  In fact, school will only reinforce the hierarchical model that adults are right and kids are not.

It’s the parents’ job to help children trust themselves and their own choices, to fall in love with themselves as a ballast against social battery.

I want to say to Grace that even if her manager is a lame loser, even if she resents the fact that he isn’t praising her for her excellent efforts, she is working FOR HERSELF and her own needs.  I want to tell her that she doesn’t need the outside praise from a busy boss to tell her she’s doing a great job.  Just knowing that herself is enough.  It’s called ‘self-esteem’.  Yeah, he should be encouraging her and he isn’t, and that makes him a lousy boss, but so what? I want to tell her that if she always looks to the outside world for validation, she’ll be caught in an endless spiral of frustration because the world is filled with people who seethe the same way, who feel less-than because they don’t truly see their own worth.  And they can’t wait to project that onto others.  Psychology 101.

If your child looks to others for proof of their own value, I urge you to think deeply about this subject and find ways to encourage them to trust themselves.

Nothing is more important for a healthy human being than to be anchored securely from within.

Your teenager will hate you for this, of course, but it’s part of adolescent development to push back and say no, the redux of the terrible twos.  Hold firm.  Remember that this is what teenagers are like.  They’re supposed to push you away with contempt even as they listen intently to what you have to say.  Biology 101.

Remind them that others’ opinions of them are not their business.  Remind them that the only thing that matters in life is coming from self-love and acceptance.

Remind them to ignore the a**hole boss who doesn’t praise them because there is no way to know what that boss’s life is like and how he was raised and therefore no way to know why he’s acting that way.  They must be careful not to make stuff up and then act on false information.

Remind them that everything they do is out of a sense of pride of ownership of themselves.  Then maybe we’ll get this thing called society back on solid footing.

And we will have completed The Prime Directive of  Parents – to ensure the health and advancement of the human race.

 

 

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