Don't let others sway who you really are.
By Shari Levine
Alex is a 9-year-old boy. He's got tons of energy and spunk. He loves to play soccer, swim, and hang out with his best friend, Marty. Alex does really well in school, and especially loves math and social studies. When his teacher, Miss Brown, asks a question in class, he always raises his hand to answer. At home, Alex is sweet and likes to help his parents take care of his two younger sisters, Julia and Lilly.
FAST FORWARD FIVE YEARS
When Alex is 14, something changes within him. He begins to notice and really care about what other people think of him, especially the girls in his class. He stops playing sports because he thinks that the pretty girls don't like jocks. He dumped his best friend, because he thought Marty was a geek and started to hang out with the more popular, cool kids. In school, Alex stopped answering questions in class and does not want the other kids to know he's smart because everyone picks on the brains. He starts to act dumb, like an air head. On the weekends, Alex goes out with his buddies. They hang out at the mall, and go shopping for clothes and CDs. One Saturday afternoon, the boys bump into a group of girls from their school. In a frenzy, Alex quickly fixes his hair and tucks in his shirt so he looks better. He tries to impress the girls by acting stupid and making fun of himself to make them laugh. When the girls ask the boys if they want to see a movie, the boys reply "I don't know, do you?"
Relationships become so important to girls that they are willing to change who they are to fit in.
What do you think about the story of Alex? Is this what you see happening to boys Alex's age? What if the story were about a girl named Alex? If you re-read the story and replace the words he with she, him with her, and boy with girl, does it seem more realistic?
Most young girls (before puberty) are self-confident, full of energy, and express their feelings openly. They care much more about having fun and pursuing their dreams than how they look or if they fit in. Then, out of the blue, girls' personalities change around the time of puberty. Dr. Carol Gilligan, a pioneer in the study of female development, describes this as girls losing their voice.
It begins when girls start to notice and care about what other people think of them. Girls become aware of how others, especially their peers, react to the way they look and act. Relationships become so important to girls at this age that they are willing to change who they are to fit in. However, these changes are often very harmful and dangerous to a girl's emotional and sometimes physical health.
To maintain relationships, girls become very aware of what others want and expect of them, and adapt to these expectations. In other words, a girl becomes like a chameleon, and changes herself to fit in to her surroundings. She does not want to risk having someone not like her or get angry at her, so she becomes quiet and reserved. Girls will do almost anything to avoid conflict in relationships, even if it means not voicing their honest feelings, opinions, or emotions.
By not expressing herself truthfully, a girl can become very confused about who she is and what she believes. If she is always waiting for others to tell her how or who to be, she will eventually lose touch with her true self. You can hear girls' language change around the time of puberty to reflect the self-doubt they are experiencing. For example, when talking about their opinions or feelings, girls will start a sentence with "I don't know, but...", or "I'm sorry, but...", or "I think ..." Often looking for approval, girls will follow a sentence with "you know?"
Have you or someone you know experienced a loss of voice? Have you ever said something that you did not mean to impress someone? Have you ever kept your feelings to yourself so as not to upset a friend or someone you care about? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you could be at risk of losing your voice, and possibly losing touch with your true self. Don't let this happen! Who you are is very special and unique. You deserve to have your opinions, feelings, and personal style! So, practice the following voice lessons and avoid this trap:
VOICE LESSONS FOR GIRLS
- Speak Sister! You are a unique person with interesting things to say. If you find yourself being quiet to avoid making someone mad at you, think about ways you can get your point across and make yourself heard. Remember, you deserve to be heard.
- Be true to yourself. Try not to change yourself to fit in to a certain group. Be yourself, and find a group of people who like you for all of your amazing qualities.
- Give yourself approval. Don't look to friends, parents, teachers, or coaches to find out how you are doing. It is so much more important that you feel good about the person you are and the things you do.
- Deal with conflict directly. If you feel angry with an important person in your life, say so directly to that person. Dealing directly with conflict in relationships is the only way to stay connected to the people you love. Otherwise, your anger may build and could eventually ruin your relationship.
- Find a mentor. Girls can find help and relief in talking to older women about getting through the tough teenage years. Look for an older woman who you can talk with honestly about the things in your life. She will be a great source of support and advice during the rough times.
I AM ME
BY VIRGINIA SATIR
In all the world, there is no one else exactly like me. There are persons who have some parts like me, but no one adds up exactly like me. Therefore, everything that comes out of me is authentically mine because I alone chose it.
I own everything about me : my body my mind, including all its thoughts and ideas; my eyes, including the images of all they behold; my feelings, whatever they may be: anger, joy, frustration, love, disappointment, excitement; my mouth, and all the words that come out of it, polite, sweet or rough, correct or incorrect; my voice, loud and soft; and all my actions, whether they be to others or to myself.
I own my fantasies, my dreams, my hopes, my fears. I own all my triumphs and successes, all my failures and mistakes. Because I own all of me, I can become intimately acquainted with me. By so doing I can love me and be friendly with me in all my parts. I can then make it possible for all of me to work in my best interests..
I know there are aspects about myself that puzzle me, and other aspects that I do not know. But as long as I am friendly and loving to myself, I can courageously and hopefully look for the solutions to the puzzles and for ways to find out more about me.
However I look and sound, whatever I say and do and whatever I think and feel at a given moment in time is me. This is authentic and represents where I am at that moment in time. When I review later how I looked and sounded, what I said and did, and how I thought and felt, some parts may turn out to be unfitting.
I can discard that which is unfitting, and keep that which proved fitting, and invent something new for that which I discarded. I can see, hear, feel, think, say, and do. I have the tools to survive, and to be close to others, to be productive, and to make sense and order out of the world of people and things outside of me. I own me, and therefore I can engineer me. I am me and I am okay.