I have a daughter in middle school. (I know. That statement says a lot...)
But, honestly, until now, she’s always been absolutely wonderful. She is a great listener, a terrific role model as an older sister to her two younger siblings, she helps with dinner, obeys house rules (mostly) and she has been content being at the top of her class. She was even excited that her teachers gave me stellar reports at parent teacher conferences and she glowed when her class voted her for student council.
I never pushed her to do any of this. I just taught her right from wrong, instilled good study habits, praised her for good behavior and kept the communication open.
Well… it seems she is up against some peer pressure now, and whether or not it is being purposely imposed on her, or she is afflicting it upon herself, there’s evidence of her feeling like she doesn’t fit in. And she’s getting a bit tired of being ‘good’. (It doesn’t help that kids ‘tell her she’s good’ if you know what I mean.)
Noticing a change in her behavior in the past two weeks and noticing that she was not being the daughter that I knew, I began getting a little more diligent with my follow up on her. I would stop in her room more often, make more conversation with her than usual and check her messages on her cell phone. I found that she was not being herself in her school life either and I think she sensed she was not doing the right thing. Because before I could even sit down to discuss these things with her, she came to me to say that she was not being herself lately, and that she didn’t feel right about it. She was tearful and said that she was tired of being the good kid. Because, so it seemed, a few kids at school remarked on her behavior and her involvement in class.
I was disappointed about her recent change in attitude and habits, but was glad that she was willing to discuss it with me without waiting for me to come to her (which she inevitably figured I would).
To begin with, I decided to tell my daughter that she was a wonderful kid who really did make the right choices in life and whose teachers really appreciated her.
Then I told her that teachers grow up dreaming of inspiring kids and they work extremely hard all throughout the year to create curriculums that will motivate. But that they also struggle with many students who don’t behave or don’t take school seriously and that she is a gift to her teachers and that she has their respect, and that’s a wonderful thing.
I added; who cares what other kids think about you? If those kids want to skip out on their homework, and purposely get a bad grade, who are they hurting? And does that make them cool? No, it makes them uncool. They are purposely ruining their chances of having more in life, and so why would you want to join them?
I wanted to take this a few steps further, because I felt that it was important for her to understand this within herself. So, I asked her to make a list.
On one side of a sheet of paper I had her write things down about who/what she was about when she was being herself. She wrote: kind, caring, hardworking, good student who participates in class, respectful, helpful, and a good role model for her sister and brother.
On the other side, I asked her to list the ‘other ways’ she was being lately. She listed: rude, not listening, talking in class and more.
Next to each thing, I made her think about, and write down, how she felt when she was doing these things. Predictably, she had bad feelings written next to each bad behavior and good feelings next to each good behavior.
Lastly, I made her write at the top of each list, on a scale of one to ten, (one being low, ten being high) what her self esteem was when she was not being herself and when she was being herself.
After asking if there were negatives on the imaginary scale, she listed a -3 on the bad side of the paper and a 10+ on the good side. Wow! What a difference.
Together we talked about how it feels to act like someone other than ourselves and why we do not always follow our own voice. We also discussed that by acting badly, the one we end up hurting most is our self. (Ruining our self-esteem and messing up our goals and plans.)
Since kids always seem to think that they are the only ones dealing with tough issues, I tried to relate to my daughter by explaining that sometimes even adults tease or pressure one another. Most times this can be because they may be jealous, unhappy or don’t want to be alone in an act, so they want you to join them. I told her that someone that picks on anyone else for being themselves, is a bully…and it wouldn’t matter if her hair were curly, blonde or she got bad grades, (which are all the opposite of her), there would be some kid, somewhere, would find something wrong with her.
She looked somewhat surprised and disappointed.
Unfortunately, this is the way it is. There are people everywhere, at every age, who are not happy with themselves. And they just don’t know who they are, or who they want to be. And while they are struggling to exist, i.e., ‘fit in’, they work on tearing others’ down because it makes them feel better.
For someone who is discontent with themselves, they aren’t able to behave in ways that build others up. They are unable to care and understand. They have trouble fighting fair (meaning they deny everything they do wrong and they make excuses.) When they behave this way they feel better, and you do not. They also think they look better, since inevitably they never notice they are wrong.
This, I’m afraid, is not helping to make the world a better place.
So, how do you become yourself, and be happy with yourself, at any age?
I have hundreds of things to suggest, but I will start with just a few:
1. Listen to your gut. Your gut is your inner voice, the one who knows you best.
2. Do your own thing, regardless of what ‘everyone else’ is doing.
3. Don’t go along with it just because everyone else is; make sure that if you engage in activities and discussions, that they actually resonate, with who you are and what you stand for.
4. If it doesn’t feel right stop
5. If you don’t like it, don’t do it
6. Write down what makes you feel good about yourself.
7. Don’t avoid doing what you want or need to do because you are concerned how someone else will view you and what someone else will say.
8. Ask yourself what you like and what you don’t.
9. Don’t do things because people ‘want’ you too.
10. Pick your own path
11. DON’T do things just to fit in!!!!!!!
12. MAKE A MISSION STATEMENT
13. Have GOALS
Why are these things important?
This beginning list is important because we are sometimes so busy doing what we think we should be doing, and doing what other people would like us to do, that we never take time to find out what we would really like to do, or who we really are.
What does it mean to be yourself? Well, to start, just listen to your heart.
Today, find one thing that you are doing that does not resonate with you and who you are.
Then stop doing it forever!!
Be Yourself and have a Wonderful Day! J