Best-Of Advice

On special snowflake disease

Dear Coquette,

How do I deal with the realization that I have no special talents, nor am I as intelligent as I thought to be? I feel like I am not going to be able to accomplish anything I wanted to do in my life.

You’ll be fine. You’re just going through the withdrawal phase of a self-esteem addiction. It’s a natural part of your recovery from Special Snowflake Disease.

Let me guess: You’re young, white and a product of the American suburbs. From preschool through senior year, you were fed a constant diet of self-esteem-boosting, feel-good encouragement. You were told you could be anything and do anything, and that everyone was a special snowflake.

Sure, you grew up as one of the good kids. You took an AP class or two, your report card usually had a couple of A’s in it, and you weren’t bad at whatever sport you played. You even got accepted to a decent college, but when you showed up for freshman year, you promptly had your ass handed to you by the brutal reality that no one cared anymore. 

You were suddenly surrounded by people who were smarter than you, and there was no one there to make sure you showed up and did the work. As a result, your grades have been in the toilet lately, and you find yourself struggling for what used to come so easily. 

No, I’m not psychic. This is simply what’s happening to most of your generation, especially from your little slice of the socioeconomic pie. All of you special snowflakes are coming to terms with your own raging mediocrity. Yes, that’s right. You will not cure cancer. You will not win the lottery. Worst of all, you will not have your own reality show.

Don’t worry, though. You’re gonna be OK. Sacrificing your dreams at the altar of reality is a rite of passage for everyone but a handful of rock stars and ballerinas. You can’t ever let it get to you, or else you’ll end up leading one of those lives of quiet desperation. In fact, it’s good that you caught this early. The sooner you face the harsh truths of the real world, the better off you’ll be.

The first step is taking comfort in the knowledge that you’re like most people. You’re not the best. You’re not the worst. You’re just average. The next step is getting cozy with the notion that no one cares. Right now, that kind of bums you out. You’re still a bit of an encouragement junkie. Soon though, you’ll mellow out and realize that there’s a certain kind of freedom in no one giving a crap. You’ll start taking strength in your own independence, and you’ll learn to validate your existence through internal rather than external criteria. In other words, you’ll stop caring what other people think of your accomplishments.

Not to skip ahead a few lessons, but maybe one day you’ll even discover that it doesn’t matter what you accomplish with your life. None of it matters, but that’s okay too, because at the end of the day, if you’re able to surround yourself with good people and find a few things that make you happy, you’ll have lived a good life.


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