‘Oh she is so talented!’ is a word we often hear used in reference to dancers, athletes, artists, and lately that sentence, the sentiment has truly begun to irk me. A friend of mine has a daughter who is an incredible athlete, a swimmer. She often beats other swimmers a foot taller than she is, and people have often referred to this young woman as ‘talented’. What irks me about this is that is takes away from the truth. The truth is that this girl and her parents have for the past four years sacrificed sleep, lazy weekends, rest after a long day at the office and school, to drive hundreds of miles for important ‘meets’. That this girl swims to the point of exhaustion just to put in another hour of cardio at the gym or some weight lifting. Her parents, both busy professionals have sacrificed any ‘me’ time to be there for her. Talent? May be. But mostly incredibly hard work.
A singer I know since our school days together has a wonderful voice. True. But without dedicated practicing, and working, she’d just have a pretty voice. Years of training have given her the ability to use her voice to convey so very much. The children of an online homeschooling friend of mine are wonderful ballet dancers in training. Talent? I am sure a certain body awareness could be considered talent. But I see years of practice, a dedicated set of parents, making costumes, going tirelessly to lessons, rehearsals and performances. A real life friend’s daughter is a dancer too. Surely there is talent, but that takes away the 3-4 hours of practice she does almost every day in addition to the fact that she is a homeschoooled student.
I have several friends who are so ‘talented’ at cooking, painting, or playing the guitar and singing, incredible knitters and crafters. Talent? Could be. But I guarantee that what lies behind the skill you see lies something else entirely.
Next time you are about to use the word ‘talented’ to praise a person’s achievement, hold back a moment and consider. And then be sure to acknowledge the hard work, long hours, and dedication of this individual and his or her support team to make something of that raw talent. Because that is the praiseworthy thing.