So in my family, I kind of have a reputation for going above and beyond when I do stuff. Whether it’s working out or snow blowing the driveway or doing chores around the house, I just like to give maximum effort with whatever I’m doing. Always have. Not for anyone to blow sunshine up my a** and give me all kinds of hollow props, but just because I’ve always believed that if you’re gonna put effort into doing something—whatever that something is—you might as well do it the best you can. Like why wouldn’t you, right?
And I think most of us were probably taught to do the same thing when we were kids. I know that’s how we’ve raised both of our girls. Like, if you’re gonna clean your room, honey, actually fold and hang stuff and really get your nose in there. Don’t just shove everything under the bed. Or, if you’re taking notes for a history exam, sweetie, take the most thorough notes you can take. I mean, just the whole concept of giving it your all seems like basic common sense to me. Why do something half-a**ed when it doesn’t take that much more effort to give it one hundred percent of your energy. Why settle for doing a mediocre job if you have the time and the ability to do a better one? I just don’t get it.
The funny thing is, to me, I love and respect when someone tries their best at whatever they’re doing. It shows they care and they’re invested in the outcome and I think that’s a good thing. No, a great thing.
But today’s generation of teenagers and young adults don’t all see it that way. They use a very specific word to describe someone like that. They call them a hardo. And the definition isn’t a flattering one. In fact, according to my kids, who have the same pulse on pop culture and contemporary slang that every other kid in the world has, when you call someone a hardo, it’s considered more or less an insult. Cause hardo is also synonymous for a try hard. So, yeah.
Now Urban Dictionary, my go-to source for all things slang, is a little gentler with its definition and calls a hardo a person who tries extremely hard at everything. Even things that don’t require excessive effort. And that’s not too negative-sounding. They don’t come right out and say that a hardo is something you don’t wanna be. But I have it from reliable sources, i.e. my kids and their friends, that it actually does have a pretty negative connotation out in the gen pop.
I mean, here’s the example that goes along with the definition on Urban Dictionary… so decide for yourself. Wow, did you see Jack at practice today? What a hardo! The obvious implication being that Jack worked harder than he should’ve at practice. I’m sorry, worked harder than he should’ve? At practice? Isn’t that the essence of what practice is, to hone your skills? Well it is, I looked it up. And the generic dictionary definition is, repeated exercises in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain or improve proficiency. Which means there’s definitely a negative tint to the word and around exerting extra effort in school or sports or work or, well, life. And I’ve gotta be honest, Dave and I hate that. Because from time to time, our kids have labeled us hardos just because we’re working hard at something or going for a long run or going hiking or spending extra time trying to master jump rope double-unders, and it drives us kind of insane.
Because when did we become a society of moderate achievers? When did we start supporting doing just enough to get by? I honestly didn’t think we did, so the hardo thing kinda snuck up on me. But it seems like there’s a whole generation out there who throw shade at people who go the extra mile or give the extra effort and that just seems absurd to me. And it makes me kinda sad. Sad because the reality of that kind of mentality is that the people who don’t want to be thought of as hardos are going to get slammed when they’re out in the real world doing juuuuuuust enough to get by. Cause the real world isn’t gonna tolerate it. And it’s gonna eat them alive.
Part of me understands that there are lots of different personality types out there and some are just more acutely motivated and driven than others. And that’s fine. Like totally fine. But don’t put someone down because they want to give a hundred and ten or even a hundred and fifty percent effort. Because, to me, that’s admirable. To me, that shows hunger and pride in your work. To me, that shows commitment. And that’s good stuff.
Now I get there are plenty of people out there who are content to do just enough to get by and don’t want other people around them making them look bad by doing more. But I think that’s a toxic mentality to crap on people who just wanna do a solid job. Just because someone cares enough about what they’re doing enough to give it their best effort doesn’t mean they should be criticized for being an over achiever. Because the truth is, not everything in life is meant to be done casually. Like it or not, there are some things, especially things like your job or your education or your commitment to a team, that demand more than just a casual attitude. There are times when we’ve just gotta put our backs into it because it’s the right thing to do.
Look, I’m not implying that being a hardo is about being a perfectionist, cause that’s not at all what I’m suggesting. Giving your best effort is something altogether different from being a perfectionist. You can screw up a thousand times but still be giving it everything you’ve got. And what I’m talking about here relates purely to effort. That’s why I think that being a hardo should be re-classified as a compliment, because it means that you care enough about what you’re doing to give it all the juice you’ve got. So if someone labels you one, just shrug it off and assume that they’re just projecting a little bit of suppressed jealousy because you’re working harder than they are. Then flash them a big-a** smile and get back to it. Hard.
Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at lisasugarman.com. Or, find them on GrownandFlown.com, Hot Moms Club, LittleThings.com, BeingAMom.life, More Content Now, Wickedlocal.com, and Care.com. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is and Untying Parent Anxiety: 18 Myths That Have You in Knots—And How to Get Free available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at select bookstores everywhere.