Carly Sharples


Welcome to my blog. I document my adventures in travel, style, and food. Happy reading!

Just be a nice human, okay?

Just be a nice human, okay?

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

Why do we ask children this?  Why do we define "be" in terms of a job or status {noun}, instead of asking them what kind of person they would like to be when they grow up {adjective}?

Be happy.  Be kind.  Be thoughtful.  Be brave.  Be compassionate.

Is it assumed that these are inherent traits?  So there is no need to work towards "being {+adjective}"? By that logic, we would all be "good eggs" living in a just society in a harmonious world. There would be no need for war, conflict or strife on any level because everybody is satisfied.

Is that the case? No. Even Homer in 850BC noted in The Odyssey that "Of all creatures that breathe and move upon the earth, nothing is bred that is weaker than man". So it's a tale as old as time: we have to choose to be a good egg.

As parents, we aim to instil a strong moral compass in our children. Teach them manners, shared values and the difference between right and wrong. We encourage them to treat others as they would wish to be treated and we lead by example. We rejoice when our toddlers learn to share and we take pride when our teenagers stand up to bullying, inequality and other social issues.

But at what point does the spotlight shift away from who they are as people and towards what they do for a living instead? And why does this happen?

Could it be that we don't aspire to "be {+adjective}" instead of "be {+noun}" as is it simply too difficult to quantify or measure once we reach adulthood?  After all, there is no competition, no race and no finish line with "being {+adjective}".  You don't get a fancy title.  It is unlikely to bring you financial reward. Definitely no bragging rights. In fact, it's often remarked - with no sense of injustice - that "nice guys finish last".

However, if you want to become a ** insert fancy job title here ** when you grow up, the path is clearly set out for you.  Work hard at school.  Go to university.  Network.  Gain as much experience as you can in your chosen field.  Once you have acquired the title of doctor, lawyer, astrophysicist or whatever, then that becomes your defining label.

But ask any parent what they wish for their children in adulthood and it is invariably defined by "being {+adjective}".  My hopes for my own children are for them to live happy and fulfilled lives, and to be healthy.  My aspirations for them are not driven by what job they do, how much they earn, or how big their house will be.

So I'm going to encourage my children to measure success through a different lens.  They are clever.  They will undoubtedly do well at school and have many opportunities available to them in terms of future careers but I don't want them to grow up and define themselves as "name + title".  I hope they grow up and say "I am Freya // Reuben // Sophia.  I am happy.  I am enough.  I have enough."

And that will make me very proud indeed.

Carly xo

** This post was chosen as Mumsnet's Blog of the Day on November 10th 2017 **

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