It’s not an exaggeration to say that I cried after almost every day of 6th grade … I’m sure most of you will agree that middle school was no walk in the park for you, either.
Why is it that throwing a bunch of 12-year-olds together naturally results in everyone being insecure, mean, or passive-aggressive?
Maybe it’s the fact that we don’t yet have solid, confident, established personalities and character at that age … we’re still trying out different personas. And since figuring out who you are and where you fit in the world is scary, we project that fear onto everyone else.
We desperately care what everyone thinks because we don’t yet know what we think of ourselves.
It’s easy, in hindsight, to see that the pre-teens who created the most drama were often the most insecure. I know, now anyway, that the girls I cried over were in a lot of pain. And I feel for them … they and their parents were going through things I couldn’t have understood at the time.
SO ISN’T IT NICE THAT WE’RE ALL CONFIDENT, SECURE ADULTS NOW?
Flash forward to all of us being adults. We’re all happy and confident and kind, and peer pressure is a total thing of the past!
Case in point …
The other day, one of my close friends texted me and said, “Have you seen that new Hyundai commercial?” I didn’t know what she was talking about, but she explained that part of it asks:
“Since when is it an act of courage to leave work ON TIME?”
(I didn’t expect inspiration for a blog to come from a car commercial, but I’ll take it.)
I think it’s really interesting to see a commercial like that, at the same time when people are divided over that really controversial New York Times profile of Amazon’s work culture.
Have you read it? It’s worth the time.
In a nutshell, the article exposes some pretty interesting (and often appalling) stuff, like:
“Workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings, toil long and late (emails arrive past midnight, followed by text messages asking why they were not answered), and held to standards that the company boasts are “unreasonably high.”
“Losers leave or are fired in annual cullings of the staff — ‘purposeful Darwinism,’ one former Amazon human resources director said. Some workers who suffered from cancer, miscarriages and other personal crises said they had been evaluated unfairly or edged out rather than given time to recover.”
And these quotes, both from former employees:
“You walk out of a conference room and you’ll see a grown man covering his face … Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.”
“I was so addicted to wanting to be successful there. For those of us who went to work there, it was like a drug that we could get self-worth from.”
And whether or not you work at a powerhouse like Amazon, I know you can relate. The marketing team at Hyundai is right … it’s a very disheartening sign of the times that people now need courage to leave work on time.
IT LOOKS LIKE WE’RE STILL IN MIDDLE SCHOOL
Somewhere along the line, many of us failed to grow up.
And by “growing up” I certainly don’t mean … going to college, being able to legally drink, getting a job, collecting a paycheck, having car insurance, actively participating in a 401k, getting married, or birthing children.
There are 12-year-olds stuck in 30-year-old bodies, doing all of those things. (And a good chunk of them work at Amazon, apparently.)
No. By “growing up” I mean … knowing who you are, feeling confident about your place in the world, practicing kindness and empathy, seeing more value in collaboration than tearing other people down, honoring people’s differences, refusing to make judgments or presumptions about how others should live their lives, and exhibiting a profound maturity and respect for humanity that makes people really want to be around you.
And when a bunch of people who failed to grow up get together, middle school is repeated on a much larger scale. Amazon is a scary example of how peer pressure and insecurity are literally being used to run an entire corporation.
BUT YOU NEED TO REMEMBER SOMETHING
The ones who would shame you, pressure you, push you, force you, and belittle you the most … are the ones who like themselves least.
When you’re an adult who isn’t sure of your worth and is terrified that someone will “find out,” you’ll project it by … lashing out, pressuring everyone to ridiculously high standards, gossiping about people around you, using shame as a means of “motivation,” judging others constantly, and relentlessly producing results that “prove” your value.
You would expect it of pre-teens, but it’s just as true of insecure adults:
Most people desperately need for others (their boss, friends, family, lovers) to know how talented/capable/smart/productive they are. Because, without feedback from other people, they have no way of validating their worth. They can’t do it for themselves, so they rely on the outside world to tell them.
They so desperately need this fix of external validation that they all start to feed off of each other by working more, staying late, going the extra mile, sacrificing sleep, never seeing their families, etc. It’s a twisted game of one-upping … a demented merry-go-round of insecurity that never ends.
Maybe you aren’t the ringleader or the office bully. Maybe you don’t want to … but you’ve bought into the peer pressure, nonetheless.
Maybe you’re playing their game and you don’t know how not to.
COURAGE, THAT’S THE ONLY ANSWER
I wish I’d had the guts, in middle school, to not care what the mean girls thought of me. I wish I hadn’t let kids who were in pain create a victim out of me by causing me pain.
At 12, it would have taken more courage than I thought I had to stand up to them. But I was wrong. In hindsight, I had all the courage and wherewithal I needed.
The same is true of your current situation.
Your boss might not be actually 12 years old, and your office isn’t really a middle school, but I guarantee that if you continue playing their game, you will regret not having the courage to live life on your terms.
Yeah, it’s going to take courage to leave work on time. To value your family and your friends as much as your job. To allow the people who are in pain to say what they will about you … but to also allow your work and results to speak for themselves.
(The funny thing about results, by the way … you tend to do better the less you frantically push yourself. The people who are killing themselves 12 hours a day aren’t doing it because that’s what creates the best results. They’re doing it because that’s what they think people want. A few quality hours of work are very much the same as a burnt-out, stressed-out, crazed person’s low-quality 12 hours of work.)
Yes, the current will sometimes be against you. And yes, you will be in the minority. But you’ll also be happy and gratified and confident and secure, and you’ll intimately understand your own worth.
You’ll be a real grown-up. And they’ll still be in middle school.
I’m sure you all have experiences with 12-year-olds in 30-year-old bodies … come tell me about it in the comments.
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TWO BIG THINGS ARE COMING UP!
1. The Passion Plan Virtual Experience (but everyone just calls it the PPVE!) is opening for enrollment again NEXT WEEK … on Tuesday, September 15th at 1pm Eastern.
This is the online experience where we guide you through figuring out your passion and taking action in 4 weeks. It’s always one of the most well-loved, popular things we do, and we aren’t doing it again until 2016. Get on the VIP list if you’d like a $50 discount code when it launches!
2. We’re doing a FREE live hangout, too: “How to find a job you LOVE … that loves you back!” Also on Tuesday, September 15th.
If you can’t join us live, no worries. You can register anyway and get emailed the recording, afterwards.
We’re going to give you the BEST of what we know (it’s the same insights that have helped hundreds of people get clear on what they love and how to find it) … this stuff is gold, and you’re gonna love it!
Rachel (+ Kristen)
Your definition of ‘growing up’ is SO ACCURATE!: knowing who you are, feeling confident about your place in the world, practicing kindness and empathy, seeing more value in collaboration than tearing other people down, honoring people’s differences, refusing to make judgments or presumptions about how others should live their lives, and exhibiting a profound maturity and respect for humanity that makes people really want to be around you. Thank you for this blog. It really opened my eyes to some of the ways I used to show up in my corporate job. So glad I’ve started the growing up process!