You had a lot of good points, Stewart Macgregor-Dennis ’13, and you wrote them well in your op-ed this past Monday, advising Stanford students how they can “become more effective” (“Op-ed: Achieving New Year’s Resolutions,” Jan. 10) But I wish you’d stopped at the end of paragraph one, when you said, “Let’s talk.”
Because that’s the thing Stanford students do poorly, I think: talking. Not elevator-speech-marketing talking, or PWR-presentation-talking; we’re pretty good at those. No, I mean letting-someone-know-you’re-human talking.
Hey, Stanford students. You all are by now well-versed in how to be successful. You’ve got an idea of how to work systems and play games. But how good are you at being happy? How good are you at being not-lonely? You might have the courage to lead a start-up or to medicate Sudanese orphans, but do you have the courage to let someone else know that like everyone else, you’re less than perfect?
At lunch today a friend and I were talking about a mutual friend, someone who I thought had confidence oozing out of her ears and lots of friends because she always seems so cheerful and so accomplished. Certainly “effective.” Turns out she’s suffering from massive loneliness. She and I could start a club, along with the thousands of other Stanford students who feel like they don’t have a community, and who as long as they don’t think they have the strength to let others know how lonely they are, will never find a community.
You want to be successful? Vocally be yourself — all of yourself, the perfect and the imperfect.
Example: last quarter, I spent half an hour writing a letter about how lonely, how frustrated I am at Stanford. I e-mailed it to eight lists. Within 72 hours, I had over 50 responses from staff, alumni and so many students saying, “Thank God, I thought I was the only one feeling that way. Thank you for being so brave.”
That word stuck out to me: brave. I was being called running my mouth about my feelings, by all the Stanford students tutoring inmates in San Jose or running their own companies. As a result of that bit of emotional honesty, I’ve met with so, so many amazing people and have been given so many leadership opportunities.
My conclusion: you want to market yourself to the world? Show the world that you trust it enough to let it see your whole self.
Oh, silly Stanford students. You think you can save the world when you can’t even save yourselves. You think you can save humanity when you can’t even be human. You want to be wholly accepted, but you won’t show your whole self.
What they told you in kindergarten is true: you’re great the way you are. Trust yourself enough to believe that you can be loved even with your imperfections. In the words of Sami Hartley, one of the leaders of Stanford’s Bridge, “Words are cheap, but they’re what we can afford. So let’s talk.”
Robin Thomas ‘12