I have listened to so many kids who say they don’t like who they are. They come from all walks of life; some have wonderful home-lives, others come from a hellish existence, still they all feel the same – it’s part of becoming who you are, part of growing up. As I said before, you can’t tell somebody what they have to do or be, they have to figure it out for themselves. How is this done? How do we know what we want to do or be in life? An adolescent lives more or less day to day, making life seem eternal and confusing. If they are in a “bad place”, how are they going to get out of it if they have no sense of future?
I listen to them; to their complaints, their tears, heart-ache, confusion and disappointment until I have a feeling of where their problems come from. Then I tune them into themselves:
- Who are you?
- What do you want?
- Why do you want it?
- How will you get it?
At this point they are usually angry or crying from confusion. Then I speak to them about Self-Definition, that we all make choices. Each individual is responsible for who they are. This will always form the base of what you receive in life, no matter where you come from. You can be nice and have nice things happen to you, or you can be nasty and have bad things happen. It is always about choices.
I hold up a mirror for the kid; showing him exactly who he is, right now, and he usually doesn’t like it. Then I ask him to think about who he wants to be. I make him aware of all the choices he has. I ask him to tell me what kind of person he wants to be and then we work with this picture, making it so real that the kid can feel it. This is the new mirror – the motivation to change – and the kid always likes this. We are emotional beings and emotion rules our choices much more than we believe.
Once this process is started it can’t be stopped, the kid will now think consciously about his actions. It doesn’t happen overnight, changes take time. Little by little the kid becomes comfortable with his new self-definition and works actively to become what he wants to be. This needs work and their are plenty of ways to do the work, it all depends on the individual. There is no need for recriminations, punishment or anger. Kids judge themselves harshly, in secret. If you add to that burden, they spiral into negativity. If you help them to define themselves and realize that they do have the power to choose and make changes, they usually will.
This, by the way, also goes for adults. Every now and then it is good to take stock of who you are and check if it fits with who you want to be.