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None of Us is Owed Anything

Dear Harlan: I live in a highly competitive community. My son worked his tail off all four years of high school in hopes of getting into his dream college. What should I tell my high-school senior about other students who he feels were less deserving or capable than him who got into a college of his dreams while he got rejected? — Mom of Grad

Dear Mom of Grad:  It’s like not getting a kiss and wondering why someone less attractive and deserving got the kiss. “Deserving” implies something is owed to him. None of us is owed anything. When your son believes that he is owed something for his efforts, he places expectations on the people around him that can’t always be met. First it’s a college, then it’s friendship, then it’s a promotion. When the world doesn’t give him what he “deserves,” he will be set up to hate, blame or attack. I appreciate that he’s upset and angry, but targeting people who get what he wants will not fix this. It will just breed resentment. It’s a dangerous way to live life. It’s living in a place of scarcity. He can get a college education somewhere else. He can go to his dream school as a transfer student or a graduate student. Some people get in and some people don’t. People who feel they are owed something place unfair expectations on others. They waste energy hating or blaming others. They end up comparing themselves to others. This is another dangerous game, because there will always be “less deserving” or “less capable” people who have more. This is a learning moment. He really doesn’t know why someone else got in and he didn’t. There could have been other circumstances. It could have been timing, a different admission counselor or financial reasons. When he focuses on other people, acknowledge his feelings, but point out that he doesn’t really knows what’s happening in their lives. He only knows about his own life and experiences. Instead of blaming, hating or resenting others, bring him back to his goal. Have him focus on what he can do to get what he wants. Encourage him to align with people living the life he wants to live. And remind him there’s more than enough success for everyone.

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