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By Kristin Hiemstra A shameless believer of human potential, Kristin is as dynamic and energetic about career issues as a nice person can be. She combines real world knowledge from her many years of hiring experience in Washington, DC with a decade of college admissions experience.

Forget the Pity Party

By Kristin Hiemstra Posted October 19, 2011 at 2:22 pm

As a school counselor it has been my sincere pleasure in life to work with thousands of families from all different racial, economic, and cultural backgrounds. I’ve worked with traditional families in which there was a father, mother, two children and a dog, as well as ones that have two moms, two dads, one parent, and everyone is a different race. It is true, almost everyone comes through the public schools and as a school counselor, I’ve really had a taste of America.
 
Doing this work has absolutely influenced my parenting style because I’ve had the unique opportunity to see what works as well as what does not.  Though I have access to grades, they are not what I use as a barometer of parenting success – to me it is all about character and the courage to be comfortable in one’s own skin. Some of the most wonderful people I know have not boldly succeeded in all of the academic endeavors they have undertaken. 
 
To me the true test of a character is how a person deals with problems. For example, most of us know better than to steal. And, when you don’t need anything, the choice not to steal is a relatively easy. The same is true with being a nice person; when you have everything you need, it is easier to be nice than when you believe or you truly are lacking in the things. Interestingly people who don’t feel they have enough tend to come from a place of entitlement. They believe themselves entitled to something they do not yet have.
 
The biggest issue I see that damages the development of a strong character is surprisingly, the self perception of being a victim. Victims come in many forms. They are rich, poor, every color, educated, non-educated, etc….  and what they are the victim of varies. For example, some young people’s parents perceive them as the victim of ADHD – so many in my community I’m surprised it is even a diagnosis and not the norm.  It is my opinion that ADHD is actually a rare but real thing – often you can see it a mile away in the kid who can’t carry on a conversation for more than 10 seconds because something bright and shiny flew by and stole their attention. 
 
Interestingly it doesn’t matter if an individual believes he or she has ADHD or not. What matters the most is how the individual perceives it. Are they a victim of this disease or the master of their situation? The way they perceive this influences their actions and thus the outcome. Successful people view it as a personal difference and build their life around it. They: have markers by their mirrors to record their thoughts, they write on their hands, they read ahead in class, they use colored sticky notes, and do a million other things in order to keep themselves on task. They are not the victims; they are merely people learning to manage themselves. They also utilize the school’s programs.  They ‘own’ their experience and thus are in one’s in charge of providing the solution. The ‘victim’ of ADHD is the opposite. 
 
It is my experience people are victims of all kinds of stuff: their ex, the ex’s new girlfriend, the economy, management, government, the younger generation who are stealing the jobs, the admissions department, cancer, and the list goes on. I’m telling you – I’ve seen some very creative victims and, if I’m honest about it, I’ve been a creative victim myself. For example this morning I opened a cupboard stuffed with junk. A heavy box fell on my foot when I opened it. I was in pain and annoyed. Was I the victim of the box or myself? Clearly myself. Could I really justify feeling sorry for myself about what happened – after all I was in pain? 
 
It goes without saying that we are all victims of something or someone at some point in our lives. It is impossible not to be. However, the most powerful people do not let what happened to them define them, instead they define it. Powerful people do not deny reality or mourn the fact that the way they think life should go is not the way it is. Instead they shape it.
 
Today’s assignment is to become aware of the amount of times your life is negatively impacted by things you believe to be out of your control. Simply acknowledge it and then ask yourself “Do I have the power to do anything about this?”
 
I suspect you will conclude that you are very powerful. Powerful people do not throw pity parties for themselves.
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