Reward meaningful qualities, not just superficial ones

Columnist and Columnist

I wasn’t a fan of high school clichés. From awkward proms in cheesy banquet halls, to pep rallies where the only thing missing in that gym was some pep, I wanted these tired rituals to end.

They didn’t.

One particular high school tradition followed me to my sophomore year of college. This time, however, I absolutely loved it.

Superlatives. You know the kind — “cutest couple,” “best/worst car,” “best eyes/hair/or any other desirable facial feature.” These I didn’t care for in high school because they were a competition of who ranked on the vanity social scale.

“Pretty” meant popular and “best car” went to those most likely to max out their parents’ credit cards. People I’d classify as normal never won anything — and they were happy about it.

So when my resident adviser came up with a list of superlatives for us to vote on, I held my breath. What horrific beauty pageant scenario was this going to turn out to be?

Turns out, these superlatives awarded people with actual accomplishments.

Sure, there were “most likely to be in the blotter” and “most likely to pull an all-nighter,” but there were also categories for more important things.

“Most likely to brighten your day,” “best roomies” and “most likely to change the world” stuck out at me.

These superlatives celebrated what you did for others. They didn’t acknowledge how much time you spent in the bathroom putting on your face every morning or the hours you spent waxing your car.

They actually meant something important.

We spend too much time focusing on the superficial aspects as a person.

“Oh, her nose is off center, so her morals must be as well.”

Or, “I never see him at the clubs, he must be socially awkward or incapable of having a good time.”

Why don’t we ever notice that girl with the misshapen nose brightens everyone’s day or the guy who’d rather spend his nights studying instead of clubbing will discover the cure for cancer and truly change the world?

It’s just too hard for us to think that way.

Ask any teenager and the majority of them can tell you all about Kim Kardashian’s dating life, but can only provide a vague answer on who exactly Mohandas Gandhi was.

Why? It’s because we as a culture recognize the scandalous, the famous, the devil-may-care attitudes that are splashed over television and magazine covers.

Not once do we see the truly good people making our own lives a little brighter.

Yes, firefighters, police officers, teachers and charity volunteers are all those to be applauded for their efforts. But look closer.

That shy guy down the hall who always whispers a “good morning” to you and that girl in class who will eagerly lend anyone a pencil in their graphite-less times are those to celebrate.

Those are the people to thank just as much as firefighters, police officers, teachers and charity volunteers.

Don’t give the pretty girl next door an award for her genetic makeup — give it to her because her and her roommate get along famously.

Yes, the superlatives might be a tired high school tradition, but I think it’s time to give people’s outsides a break and start awarding the good within.

Respond to Tara at

[email protected]