By David Yount
JOPLIN, Mo. —
School can be hard on a child who is plain, unathletic or a slow learner.
Children are constantly tested by their teachers, physically and mentally, against arbitrary standards, and are judged even more severely by their peers. Youth favors popularity as athletes, scholars and cheerleaders. The vast majority of us, as children, can't compete successfully in those arenas.
Fortunately, we aren't called to do so as grown-ups. As adults, we find our self-confidence in different roles.
When they were young, my wife and I told our three learning-disabled daughters that adult life would be friendlier to them than their growing-up years, and our prediction proved to be true.
The basis for self-confidence in adult living is choosing our challenges instead of having others impose theirs on us. Adults select the friends, loves and interests to which they devote their lives and which bring them satisfaction. Unlike schoolchildren, adults are not expected to be good at everything, but only competent at earning a living and responsible to the persons they choose to share their lives.
Of course, we can fail at unsuitable jobs and with misplaced affections. But temporary setbacks supply powerful motivation for starting afresh and moving on.
Sadly, kids who fail to meet high standards in school are inclined to drop out, because there are few alternatives to school during the early years. But those who encounter setbacks in adulthood have alternatives Ñ in employment, love, enjoyment, service and every other aspect of living Ñ that can make them successful again.
Still, there's an obstacle to self-confidence in adulthood. Whereas children are constantly being evaluated, as adults we are often at a loss to know how well we are doing, both in our work and in our relationships. Expectations in our professional and personal lives are too seldom expressed by our supervisors and loved ones. To maintain confidence and cultivate a sense of adventure, we must seek frequent feedback.
I was past the age of 50 before I ever received a formal performance review in the workplace, which left me guessing about how my work was regarded. When I became president of a small foundation, I was determined to clear the air. Not only did I institute an annual performance review for my staff, but I insisted that my trustees give me one as well.
Periodically, in your own work and your own relationships, summon the courage to ask: "How am I doing?" You will either be reassured, re-challenged or made aware that others' expectations of you are unrealistic and need to be altered. Whatever the assessment, your confidence will not suffer because you will be exchanging illusion for reality.
We have it on the best authority: "You will know the truth," Jesus said, "and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32).
David Yount is the author of 14 books. He answers readers at P.O. Box 2758, Woodbridge, VA 22195 and firstname.lastname@example.org.