In The Brady 6, a 2011 ESPN documentary, New England Patriots quarterback explained how his psychology is one of constant motivation to prove himself: “It’s just that feeling that, man, maybe nobody wants ya.” It’s an outlook I always suspected came from his relationship with his three older, athletically-successful sisters. I just never had much proof for that theory…until now.

On his Facebook page, Brady posted an essay he wrote as a senior in high school for a Throwback Thursday. Titled “The Way My Sister’s Influenced Me,” the piece discusses the psychological difficulties Brady faced growing up as the “odd man out” because he was the youngest child and his three older sisters were all close in age and known for their athletic prowess.

Sandwiched in the middle of the essay are these important lines: “people only recognized me when my sisters were around…I wished I would be recognized as an individual and not as another “Brady.'” Without realizing it, Brady acknowledged the link between individualism and the psychological need for visibility. It’s not just important that a person is seen. It’s important that he’s seen as the individual that he is. Often times, as was clearly the case with Brady, family can be the greatest obstacle to that need being met.

It’s no wonder Brady always looks at what he can do better, rather than what he did well, when he reviews his game performances. When you feel like no one sees you for you and can’t figure out why, you start to try and find things that are wrong with you. Essentially, you convince yourself that you’re not worthy of (or you’re deeply afraid that you’re not worthy of) that attention and/or love. Family can often, as it did in Brady’s case, unintentionally cause these feelings, as in the traditional family and cultural structure we’re asked to restrain or even sacrifice our individuality for the sake of the familial unit. No one was asking Brady to make such a sacrifice intentionally or directly, but he still felt it.

One of our culture’s greatest challenges as it continues to develop is to figure out how to properly balance the family and the individual. Brady stands as a sterling example of both the difficulties presented by and solutions to this issue. His high school essay again shows just how special of a success he is–and that we should take him seriously as a case study rather continuing to to try and undermine his image.

After all, what’s the point of measuring and observing greatness if you’re not going to learn from it?

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