Participation Trophies

Participation Trophies

Participation trophies have resulted in a generation riddled with folks who falsely believe that they are good at everything. It has left many individuals with the inability to distinguish participants from experts -and that, in part, is how we end up with ‘Anti-Vaxxers.’

Somewhere around the early 1990s, parenting took an interesting turn and we decided as a society that we needed to reward our children for merely trying rather than accomplishing. Some parents took this to the extreme. These kids grew up in an environment where an earnest try, regardless of how mediocre the result, was constantly praised and given as much recognition as true success. As a result of this undue praise and encouragement, this generation ended up fraught with people crippled by pseudo-abilities and distrustful of true experts. You see, expertise challenges their deeply ingrained belief that success IS the act of trying.

Guess where those kids are now; they’re all grown up and they are parents themselves. They are parents who are unable to recognize their own limitations even when those limitations put their own children at terrible risk. They are a jack of all trades, master of none, yet they wholeheartedly believe they know better than everyone around them-especially doctors. Becoming a doctor in western society has long been revered as an ultimate measure of achievement. Recognizing success and achievement by validating the expertise of doctors runs contrary to the idea that attempting is equal to being, so doctors must be labeled frauds to protect and preserve their delicate self. Rather than trusting the advice of experts, they surround themselves with people who bolster their ego by agreeing with them.

The adult participation-trophy parent genuinely believes, among other things, that they have the ability, with no formal training in medical research, to read complicated scientific literature and understand its implications. Not only does this parent believe that he/she can read and understand it, they believe that they can then interpret the data and draw a conclusion more weighted than countless experts in the fields of immunology, virology, epidemiology, and every other applicable ology known to man. Where parents with healthy egos are able to defer authority to those more knowledgeable and trained, these parents cannot. Doing so would challenge the fragile nature of their self esteem which has been rooted in undue praise and imagined accomplishments.

Does it matter that they have no formal training in the sciences necessary to interpret the data? Hell no, they tried just as hard as the experts, why shouldn’t they be rewarded with the opportunity to form their own conclusion? Why shouldn’t they be able to practice medicine on their child without a license? My child, my choice, right? Who are the experts to say that they are wrong and that they are harming their children by not vaccinating? The experts must be nefarious evil doers hell bent on the destruction of mankind. It couldn’t be that they are better at this than an unqualified, uneducated, do-it-yourself “researcher” parent who tried. It couldn’t possibly be that their pediatrician spent 12 years of his life going into debt up to his eyeballs because he wanted to help children and came out smarter than someone who didn’t. Those facts would implode the alternative reality these parents were presented with in childhood and continue to believe as adults.

To reinforce this delusion further, in comes the DIY era. Not a mechanic but need to change your spark plugs? No problem. One quick YouTube video later and you are basically Ms. Meineke. Not a contractor but need a kitchen remodel? Great, just watch 3 episodes of ‘Flip This House’ and post your results to pinterest! These new found powers only brace the fantasy that anyone, no matter how unskilled or untrained, can do ANYTHING. The problem is; your kid isn’t a kitchen backsplash. You can’t just use your WebMD diploma to declare yourself a qualified medical researcher and DIY their medical care successfully. Extending this thinking to medicine comes with devastating consequences like the resurgence of eradicated diseases which put them and everyone else at risk.

Look, I hate to be the one to break it to you snowflake, but your parents lied to you. Your coaches lied to you. The spelling bee lied to you. In fact, every person who told you that a “really good try” was just as good as success also lied to you. Unless you have an advanced degree in the sciences, spend years observing, testing and confirming your hypotheses, YOU ARE A GOOGLER, NOT A RESEARCHER. You are a parent, not a pediatrician. Your opinion is not as important as the medical experts and you have no business believing that it is. There’s no clearer way to put this out there for you. There is no participation trophy when it comes to medical research. There is no participation trophy when it comes to being a doctor; there’s the experts and then there is you……the parent putting their inflated ego and imagined abilities above your kids’ health. Vaccines are safe and effective. Your googling is wrong. Put the trophy down, save the DIY for home projects and trust the guys who didn’t just try, but succeeded when it comes to medical research and healthcare.

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