Make Sure They Know That They Are Plenty

Lyndon Johnson grew up poor. Like, log cabin, almost 19th century poor. He was not, like his future running mate, John F. Kennedy, unaware of the economic crises of his time. He was not sent to the best schools. Yet, he did alright for himself, didn’t he?

Except Lyndon had a chip on his shoulder about this, particularly about the fact that he went to Southwest Texas State Teachers College and not somewhere better. George Ball, the diplomat and advisor to Kennedy and Johnson, once observed that LBJ was hardly disadvantaged by this lack of an Ivy League education. Rather, he said, LBJ suffered from his sense of lacking that education. That is, LBJ’s insecurity about his deficiency was far worse than any actual deficit that may have existed. 

See how that goes? He didn’t think he was good enough. He had been made to feel that he was deprived of something. LBJ was convinced that he had been done an injustice by growing up as he had, being unable to afford a school like Harvard or Yale. On its face, this was absurd—he still ended up becoming President—but he carried what we would today call “populist rage” for so long, and believed it for so long, that it became true. Worse was the result: LBJ was alternately too trusting and too suspicious of those who were more credentialed or smarter than he was. He was harmed by his lack of education… because he harmed himself by believing there was something lacking. 

Let us learn the lesson, so we can instill it in our kids. The feeling of deficiency is far worse than any potential deprivation. Make sure they know that they are enough, that they are plenty. They are good enough. What they have is enough. The same goes for you, too—you’re doing plenty. You are providing plenty. 

What matters is what we do with all this.

P.S. This was originally sent on December 24, 2020. Sign up today for the Daily Dad’s email and get our popular 11 page eBook, “20 Things Great Dads Do Everyday.”

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