…everybody. I know I’m an idealist but that’s the world I’d like to live in. Instead it seems increasingly obvious to me lately that we are a highly competitive society. Competitions and award ceremonies abound. I’ve taken part in some. I’ve nominated others in some. I’ve nominated myself in some. I’ve won some. I’ve lost some. I’ve celebrated and cried. I’ve watched the faces of winners and losers and shared in their joys and disappointments. It’s all part of life – but should it be?
What has inspired me to write this blog post is that being a mama to 2 and 4 year old girls brings on a lot more deep and meaningful analysis of the world around me. I’ve decided that I would like them to live in a world where it’s not one where there is so much emphasis on the glitz and glamour of award ceremonies, but instead with much more focus on daily and public appreciation of each other and our successes…and failures too.
Even watching my girls at play and having lived long enough in the “real world” I feel there is enough natural competitiveness in daily life without actually creating artificial situations to very publically prize one business or person or talent over another.
Many businesses boast of being award winning – but make sure you read the fine print as they differ wildly in credibility and scope but often get loosely grouped together in our minds and the media.
Many successful businesspeople highly recommend entering any relevent awards and there is no doubt that being involved in – and of course winning – an award can bring you fame and fortune…or simply more recognition and sales.
So let me make very clear, I’m ALL for rewards and recognition. There are countless people out there who work hard their entire life without the recognition they deserve. However what I would like to make you think about is the massive emphasis we as a society seem to place on singling out specific people and businesses to put on a pedastal. The more I think about it and look around, the more we seem to value external recognition over the opinion of our friends, family and customers – and most importantly – ourselves.
The media certainly plays their part – in fact one of the main benefits of being involved in an awards cerermony is for the free media coverage. I would like to instead propose that we not be blinded by the smiling winners clutching trophies as representatives of success and instead recognise that the awards – and the winners – are not always what they are made out to be. I think the way awards ceremonies seem to often be such glamourous and pretentious events downplays in our minds the hard struggle every single winner – and loser – goes through to get there – as do countless others whose name is not contained in the winner’s envelope.
Now there are most certainly benefits to awards ceremonies and I am not campaigning specifically against these but simply think that amongst all the hype, it’s time someone pointed out some of the cons. Here are just five:
1. If there are winners, there are also losers.
I have a whole album somewhere in my garage of numerous awards I have received in school and beyond. Though I would be lying if I didn’t say winning awards definately brings some level of satisfaction, even from a very young age, I remember a strange mix of discomfort along with pride as for every award I “won”. I knew there were equally deserving recepients in the room..either bravely clapping or on the odd occasion, bursting into tears (which winners can do just as regularly!). I have never truly understood this deliberate seperation between “winners” and “losers”. I know some will say this is training for the “real world” but could that be because this is a world we have created?
2. A culture that rewards individual “winners” from a young age can breed perfectionism and a tall poppy syndrome
With some wisdom and insight finally creeping in as I grow older, I can look back as someone who has always been driven to be a “winner”. I can quite clearly see now that being regularly individually rewarded for that attitude during my life, right from primary school, may be partly to blame for becoming a perfectionist and overachiever. Even now, I am constantly striving for external recognition….sometimes even at the expense of my health and happiness.
Yes my parents were proud and still are – and I will no doubt burst with pride at my daughter’s first certificate or even trophy – but I actually really, really hope she’s not pushed to be that great at a lot of things – and that I have the ability to support her and teach her that it’s actually also wonderful to NOT win.
I also clearly identified with the “tall poppy syndrome” for most of my life. If you do well in Australia, you are almost guaranteed that someone, somewhere will try to pull you down. Personally, I think this can to some level be attributed to the individualistic nature of awards – instead of singling people out to reward – then sometimes resent – I think many would rather sacrifice some public individual recognition to acknowledge the true value of a team…and many people do this in acceptance speeches. I’d love to hear from those living or raised in a different culture of their perspective – is this an Australian thing?
3. The voting systems are not always fair
In terms of the way winners are sometimes chosen, I have a confession to make. I not only entered the Huggies MumInspired grants – which I wrote a blog post on the pros of two months ago – but I voted for all five of the finalists in the people’s choice. I thought they were all equally deserving mums who work really hard on their business and balancing it with family and all deserve recognition….and the bonus $10,000. Yes this was just one part of the awards, but there are so many “popularity contests” these days, exponentiated by social media network power. Anyone who messages or emails me to vote for them for any award – I usually do. Which makes me question the real value of the award. Are we really living in a society where we are starting to reward those with the most Facebook “friends”?
Just look at the increasing number of TV shows these days that require you to vote out contestants and the uproar at the unfair treatment of some of the judges at times. Can’t we just have a reality show where we celebrate talent instead of picking one winner to bestow eternal glory (and no doubt some level of stress and expectation) upon?
4. The finalists – and winners – are often financially out of pocket
I work for a fantastic not for profit centre where the staff work tirelessly to support families in the community. My girls go to an amazing (also not for profit) daycare centre where the staff truly care about the kids. So when an awards ceremony asked for nominations a few months ago, I submitted both. The voting system seemed quite fair with several levels of judging. I was excited both reached the finals. This was where my confusion set in though. To attend the awards ceremony cost $75 per person. This is a lot for not for profit centres especially with a number of staff. Then, during the deliberation over if we could afford it and which staff should go (and deciding to go on my own and pay it out of my own pocket to represent the centre), the ceremony was fully booked. Call me naive but I would have thought there would be places reserved for each finalist at a ceremony?
In the end I did go – I bought a ticket from another group attending who had a spare. However as someone who is rather focussed on getting value for money, I don’t think I did. The dinner as average, the entertainment was ok. I didn’t even end up getting my “included drink” – there was nothing non-alcoholic available when I arrived then once seated was told I would have to purchase from the bar.
Perhaps it’s just “sour grapes” as we didn’t win – though I am genuinely happy for those who did. Particually if you are a finalist in a not for profit category there are a lot of well-deserving organisations! I knew several people there that night in a range of categories. Some won, some didn’t but overall what stunned me wast the financial input by so many companies into this one night. Now if there was significant prize money involved, I would better understand that risk. However in this, and other awards, you are spending a huge amount of money (and time) for external recognition for little tangible return whether you win or lose.
5. The organisers and promoters often benefit significantly
I think I would be more of a supporter of a lot of awards ceremonies if so many weren’t so blatently branded. If organisers are genuine about rewarding the hard work of the nominees, I don’t understand the whole significant sponsorship culture. Well, I guess I do as I have a marketing degree and most certainly understand the value of the constant media exposure (and sometimes it IS the media running the events) and the cost to run events. However is it just me and the Gruen Transfer show who are able to see through some of the very clever and increasingly unique but still very-much-about-advertising techniques?
6. Awards can be an emotional rollercoaster
Whether you win or lose, whether you were not even nominated, if you vote for one friend over another, whether you nominate yourself, when receiving the certificate as a finalist, the waiting for the announcement, the drawn out opening of the envelope, the drumroll…..the whole concepts of awards opens up a wide range of human emotions I’m not sure I like, and which could have negative effects which continue for some time.
Well, if you have stuck through to the end of this very long post, congratulations! You deserve an award! Seriously though, I simply hope that reading this has given you a few things to think about and a new perspective on awards. Again, I genuinely celebrate every single one of those deserving men, women and children out there who have ever been nominated for and won an award – or not.
I’m also not one to present a list of problems without some suggestions on how we as a society might look at different ways of doing things. So look out for my next post: 6 alternatives to award ceremonies. Good luck!