Playground Rule 6,987: Always share.
Divvy that Fruit Roll-Up cherry-blue tongue among your lunch pals, and when that stretched sugar comes up short, give the big piece away. It’s how our parents raised us.
The values of you-before-me, the good of the whole, the How To Be a Good Person picture-book-style, all of which we are right to outline in Crayola tangerines and hammer to the inside of our lockers to remind us as we leave the playground that we are not alone.
Now we have this world figured out: it has imaginary numbers but not friends. We gain confidence, swagger, but as it lodges in our heels, we see God in our eyes, the same ones we use to peer down on those around us. We start but never stop conversations, monopolizing them with tales of our best phone, best car, best life.
Or at least, we do if we have narcissistic personality disorder.
This is the fear of those who raised us: that we will forget our rules of the playground and drown in a river of self. Our digitized culture has made it all too easy with Twitter favorites to quantify our importance and role models like Kim Kardashian, who has just released a 445 page book of selfies, titled Selfish. (It sold 32,000 copies too many.)
But it has also sparked a knee-jerk protest. To deny accusations of Kardashian exorbitance, we mistake protection of self as an indulgence of self. We divvy up our sanity instead of Fruit Roll-Ups, tutoring playground students and kicking soccer balls as an assistant coach and never saying no.
We are eager to chip ourselves away to meet galactic expectations, without concern for who is going to safeguard that playground kid with the scraped-up knees. Because saving time at the end of the day for him or her is selfish, we leave none.
But to do so is not narcissism, nor will it poison any relationships. It’s vital to succeed–in any athletic, academic, creative, entrepreneurial field–because we must work on our craft, on ourselves, in hand-measured increments of “selfish” time. In the pit of our stomachs, we have to know we are good enough to do it; we are good enough to improve.
We haven’t forgotten our playground rules–we just learned how to divide. Now when we tear that Fruit Roll-Up, we leave ourselves a piece.
Because we’re hungry, too.