I hate when people tell other people, “You’re going to do big things!”
Before I rant about this statement, let me say that the people who have said such a phrase to me were so well-intentioned. They really think that, and it means the world to have that kind of support. I know they mean it as a glowing compliment, and I thank you.
But don’t tell people that. Especially me.
First semester I struggled with some seasonal depression. I didn’t want to admit it, but I dragged myself to a counselor who heard me talk about how for four days in a row I could barely get out of bed. And how I would cry incessantly about absolutely nothing. And she told me I was going through a depression spell, but that I would get through it.
One day, she asked me what I wanted to do with my life.
I told her, “Big things.”
She replied, “But that’s what you’re already doing.”
I stared back at her blankly.
And that’s when I stood up and stared her in the eyes and said, “You know what? You’re right. I am doing big things. This morning I got out of bed. And that’s better than I’ve been doing all week! And yesterday I asked a question in class. And today I’m here talking to you.”
She laughed at me, like she always did when I would passionately answer my own questions.
When did we start thinking that “big things” don’t include getting eight hours of sleep, or actually going to class, or going on a run, or being there for a friend, or having family dinner? These are big things.
So yes, I’m doing big things. I’m taking care of myself. I’m trying to be there for my friends. I’m trying to be present in the moment.
So let me tell you why it bothers me when people say such a phrase to me.
It bothers me because those words invalidate the things I’m doing now. Everything I’m doing should be big, because everything I do should be worthwhile and should have a positive impact.
It also bothers me because those words put an inordinate amount of pressure on future activities, that those activities somehow have to be over the top, or require even more effort than I am trying to give now.
And, lastly, that phrase bothers me because of its lack of direction and ambiguity. For someone that loves plans and structure, “big things” is just not concrete enough. And since I like to please people, this phrase makes me feel like I need to do these big things to make people happy, but I don’t know what these big things are and so I feel like no matter what I do it won’t be big enough and I’ll disappoint someone!
So that’s why I encourage you to think twice about saying that phrase to the people you care about. Because if you see their potential to do big things, then that means they are already doing big things. And it’s better to affirm them in what they are doing now than to give them vague, cliché advice that just overwhelms them.
Again, everyone that says this definitely has wonderful intentions. And when I hear someone exclaim such a phrase I don’t immediately hate the person, I just don’t find those words very encouraging. I’d rather you tell me exactly what you want me to do for you or for the world, or have you tell me you appreciate what I’m doing now, than for you to tell me that I’m going to do big things.