Doxophobia is a fear of receiving praise. This isn't just any fear. Phobias are crippling fears that profoundly affect your life.
Some people, though, are able to avoid their fears. A more common known phobia is arachnophobia, fear of spiders. The simple solution is to avoid spiders, right?
Simple enough, but how do we avoid praise? Well for underachievers like myself, it really isn't a problem; just don't win anything. However, for today's youth doxophobia could mean big problems.
Growing up I was a marginally successful kid. I received a few baseball trophies and the cutest baby crown I'd rather not talk about. However, the baseball trophies I have no problem discussing. That is because I can distinctly remember the feeling I got when I received each one. Not everybody got one of those trophies, just our team because we were Little League champs! I cherished those trophies, each one displayed in the hall, just perfect for a conversation piece if a guest were to arrive. Yes, I would swell with pride every time someone would stop to admire my achievements. Praise meant something.
From the time I was five until I turned 15, I had accumulated five trophies, each one special. However, I can't help but notice that at age 10 my nephew already has three times the trophies I have. (Yes, he is substantially more talented than his uncle, if you don't believe me ask his grandparents.) But, there is another reason he has so many trophies. It is the same reason nearly every kid his age has that many trophies. America has gone trophy crazy! I think my nephew even got a trophy for having the most trophies. This has become a virtual nightmare for anyone with doxophobia.
Admittedly, few children in the U.S. have doxophobia, but what other affects might a trophy crazy America have on children? Most proponents of the movement settle on two outcomes. (1) Receiving a trophy is good for a child's self esteem, and (2) receiving a trophy puts a big smile on their face -- so does ice cream for breakfast, but is that really the way to go?
Roy Baumeister, a professor of psychology at Florida State University, tells us that being trophy crazy may not serve any purpose at all. (1) It doesn't help self-esteem because children begin to de-value their plethora of trophies, and (2) self-discipline and self-control breed success. Sports can help develop those things, but not if everyone wins a trophy (Mike Reiss/Boston Globe/Feb. 23, 2006).
Ultimately, we should recognize it is OK for children to be disappointed. Losing is a hard lesson to learn, but it is inevitable. However, I think we can take these opportunities of disappointment and turn them into positive lessons. It is a great time to re-emphasize that life isn't easy, but even more importantly we can simply point out the main goal of the game, to have fun.
Oh, and please stop sending me trophies for these wonderful articles, I think I might have doxophobia.
Joel Harris is in his last year of law school in Tulsa, Okla. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.