Let’s Be Honest: Does Everybody Really Win?

I’m ashamed to admit that I’m a sucker for singing shows: American Idol, The Voice… any sort of talent show really. For me, it’s the stories of each contestant that pull at my heart strings. I love hearing about all that people have overcome, and I’m often inspired by the courage so many have found to take the risk to follow their dreams.

Last night’s show was deemed “Battle of the Sob Stories” by the Hollywood Reporter. There was a veteran who is a survivor of traumatic brain injury, another contestant who sings in spite of a speech impediment, and more than one victim of bullying. Every one of them sang beautifully and made it through to the next round of the competition.

But this time I’m left thinking about a not-so-uplifting story: a sweet young man who auditioned because someone who overheard him singing in the bathroom told him that he should try out for the show. Unfortunately, he wasn’t the talent that the judges were looking for, and he was left with a big “no.” He walked away seemingly discouraged and a bit confused.

The bad auditions aren’t anything new. I suppose they make “good TV.” Some who fall into this category are clearly hoping to be discovered for their talent as a different sort of entertainer. Others are looking for the thrill of being featured on national television. The remaining members of this group seem to think that they are genuinely talented and are heartbroken when the opinions of the judges does not match their own perceptions. Somewhere within these stories, there’s almost always a mention of a teacher, choir director, friend… someone who affirms their “amazing talent.”

In our “everybody wins” culture, parents and teachers are often concerned about the self-esteem and well-being of students and children, and rightly so. However, when every little accomplishment is affirmed and little (if any) real, specific feedback is provided, we’re guaranteed to be left with more and more “bad” auditions in the form of confusion, denial, and deflated self-esteem.

As parents and professionals in this crazy world, we must examine how our words may be interpreted and consider our role in shaping the identities of our future generation.

Everybody doesn’t win. That’s the truth.