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I’m one of the most competitive people you will ever meet. I don’t believe that kids should all be given stars on their papers just to make them feel better. I believe that competition is a good thing and spurs creativity and hard work. However, I’ve come to the conclusion today that everyone should win sometimes. Why? The science fair.
I participated in the science fair only one time in my life, despite being in science club and in general a pretty big geek. I tried very hard and didn’t place, win, or show. Not even a certificate. My father was so disappointed in me when he got there that I cried all evening and even tried to get out of going to school the next day. It was such a horrible experience that I still get upset when I talk about it. I was a total failure despite a lot of effort, and I was only 12 years old.
Fast forward to last month. My 9-year-old daughter joined science club and we found out that they would be having a science fair. I immediately felt all of those old feelings coming back. I told my husband that I would not be helping and tried to prepare my daughter for the fact that she probably wouldn’t win. I didn’t want her to feel the same way that I did. But she didn’t care. She prepared her project with my husband and set out yesterday morning for school.
I arrived after the judging and held my breath as I looked for her booth. I found her absolutely beaming in front of it with a blue ribbon hanging from her board. As it turns out, there wasn’t just one blue ribbon. In fact, everyone got either a 1, 2, or 3 ribbon, and most actually got the blue. Instead of comparing the kids against each other, they compared them against the rules for the projects. If you followed all of the rules and did a good job, you got a first place ribbon. Even if you didn’t do a good job, you at least got a 3rd place ribbon for trying.
In that moment, I decided that I was okay with everyone being a winner. Sometimes you just need to encourage people and reward them for the effort. Next year will be the same way. And then after that, my daughter should have the confidence that if she doesn’t get a ribbon every year, it’s okay. You win some, you lose some. But she’ll feel like she doesn’t ALWAYS lose.
Does it apply in the adult world? Absolutely. I ran an incredibly slow Half Marathon in Indianapolis last year and they put a ribbon around my neck when I crossed the finish line. I knew I didn’t actually “win” the mini. But I did accomplish something that most people don’t just by completing it. Adults or kids, we all need to feel like winners sometimes. What do you do in your life that allows you to have that satisfaction of a job well done? Do you encourage others likewise?