This is not necessarily a new discussion, but one that’s interesting to have, nonetheless. These days, it’s not uncommon to go to an event or competition and see ribbons or awards handed out to all participants. As a mother of two little boys, I fully appreciate the sentiment behind it, and there have been times in my life when I’ve had a tear-streaked little person on the end of my arm that I have been very grateful for it. Not to mention the tear-streaked adults!
The more I explore the idea- this concept of rewarding everyone regardless of result- the more I can see how connected it is to our overall cultural rejection of discomfort and how that feeds into some of the less than healthy ways we might seek to get our needs met.
Look at it this way:
If I reward you with a prize- a prize that you have been striving for regardless of whether you hit the mark that you hoped for, what I am actually doing is saying to you, I don’t think you are strong enough to cope with this disappointment, and what’s more I’m going to placate you by offering you this sweetener in its place.
It’s a precarious position to assume, and one that most likely feeds my own pattern- I feel uncomfortable with your discomfort so I’m going to try to take it away- and also takes the person on the receiving end out of their own agency; instead of empowering the person as the change-maker in their own experience (which comes with being able to personally change their experience and understand their actions as contributing to improvement and growth), we teach them that something is going to come from the outside to make them feel better.
I appreciate the arguments that will come in opposition to this, and the reasoning behind rewarding everyone for participation and involvement. But while it might create momentary feelings of ease for everyone involved, I wonder what long-term impacts it has on resilience, self-esteem, and the ability to look to yourself as the change agent in your experience.