This post comes from Sue Murthi, our wonderful Student Services Coordinator at Eton College. As part of her job, Sue works one-on-one with students as a counselor, and her insights into the student experience at Eton College have been invaluable for shaping our programs and services to meet the needs of our students. Here she discusses the very important subject of youth self-esteem. Enjoy, without further ado:
You are not good enough! Stop wasting your time dreaming of something you will never get! Sounds familiar?
If this is the message you have been receiving, either from someone else or from your own self, you are not alone. Ditch those thoughts no matter where they are coming from. Help is around the corner and it starts with you.
Last month, I was at a Lower Mainland High School’ s Exit Interview for Grade 12 students. I was one amongst a few adults from various walks of life who were invited to interview these students as part of a credit course called Graduation Transitions 12. This is a requirement for secondary school graduation in B.C. At this interview, the students are expected to show what they have done to enjoy good health and fitness, to become good citizens and their plans for their future. As an interviewer, I am allowed to engage the students in conversation to encourage spontaneity and help the students build on their confidence as this is probably one of the first times that they are attending a formal interview with an outsider. This was my third visit at this school.
As usual I like to always start the conversation by inviting the students to introduce themselves and to talk about their dreams, visions and hopes for their future.
In my three years or more of doing these interviews, the young people I meet never once surprised me. Cohort after cohort, these otherwise bright young boys and girls, often share a painful side of themselves which makes me believe that there may be many others like them out there. They seem to be stricken by a malady, often brought on by themselves or by the people that they are surrounded by. These youth somehow skillfully manage to mask their pain under a fake veil of bravado when understanding or acceptance is lacking in their lives.
The malady I am talking about is one that is characterized by a deep sense of unworthiness and low self-esteem; a discomfort in their identity or a great need to fit in with the masses; a constant mantra of “I am not good enough” or “I am not cool enough” or “What will people think of me” and the worst of it all, “I have no one”.
Fortunately or unfortunately this is not an isolated experience with this one particular high school. As a practicing wellness counselor and life coach, I have seen many youths in and outside my career who are struck by the same malady, who have become clever at hiding their inner pain deep behind flashy clothes and upbeat techno gadgets that give them something to hold on temporarily.
One might argue that at least they know how to cope. But the painful truth is that they have put barriers before themselves that will stop them from shining at their fullest brilliance in life. And it is my firm belief that every one of these young person has a potential to be something more than what he or she perceives to be their destiny.
Of course, this is a topic that needs more discussion and in depth exploration on why so many young people feel “not being enough”. Without looking at individual circumstances and experiences of the youth, any amount of well meaning tips would merely be scratching the surface of the issue. However, there are some universal life lessons that work for everyone no matter what stage of life we are at. And these, when embraced with the right attitude, can help create a mental shift which is both empowering and progress oriented. The world would be a wonderful place if all of us can begin to be comfortable in our own skin, no matter what colour, shape or form that we come in.
So here they are- the universal life lessons which I value and freely share with people that I care about. Needless to say, I have seen dramatic transformation in the people who have opened their minds to these:
Life Lesson 1: Love yourself. Love who you are. Love what you are born with- this may be harder than it sounds but what choice do we have? Love your looks, love your style, love your strengths, love your abilities, love your wisdom, and love your total self. Feel your personal power and use it when you can. We are all more powerful than we think we are.
Life Lesson 2: Believe that you can do it. Believe that you already have what you need to get things done or meet challenges. Once in awhile it is good to challenge ourselves with what is not normally comfortable. By doing so, we can test our own abilities and strength. Quite often, we will surprise ourselves with what we can do. We are all made to survive all odds.
Life Lesson 3: It is alright to fail. There is no such thing as perfection. All of life is learning. Our biggest lessons are in the mistakes we make. It is perfectly normal to make mistakes. What is more important is to get back on our track and keep our eye on our goal, whatever that may be. Remember, life is not a straight line. It comes with ups and downs. Learn to treat both equally; remaining calm and steady at all times to deal with the situation before us. Staying stuck in the past or failures takes away valuable energy from us.
Life Lesson 4: Know your fears. There is nothing wrong with you. Everyone has some kind of fears. Fear is a normal human survival mechanism. Knowing what stops you from doing the things that you want, is the first step towards progress. Pretending that they don’t exist will not drive your fears away; in fact they will repeatedly surface preventing you from being your best. When your fear stops you from functioning normally with daily activities, seek expert advice. Fears can keep us away from our possibilities.
Life Lesson 5: Listen to the voice within you. Pay attention to your thoughts. Encourage thoughts that make you feel good. Push away thoughts that are not helpful to you or others. Cut out the mental chatter. As simple as these sounds, this comes with practice. When you listen long enough, this voice in you will be louder and clearer. This is your internal guidance system, your intuition – kind of like your own in-built GPS. You don’t have to depend on anyone else’s opinion about yourself. Your inner voice will guide you to your greatness.
Life Lesson 6: Practice self-control. While listening to your inner GPS, step forward to do the things that seem right to you, and avoid the things that forewarns you. Three simple questions to ask: Is this right for me for the present moment? Is this truthful? Will I be hurting myself or anyone with my thoughts, words or actions?
Life Lesson 7: Do not look back. Looking back with regret does nothing for our growth- it only takes away the energy that we need to move forward. Think about the race track- the person who looks back to see who is behind him or her will lag behind in the race. Keep your eyes in the direction of what you want in life- Stay focused at all cost.
Life Lesson 8: Reward yourself. No matter how small the effort or improvement, be the first to acknowledge your own achievement. You owe it to yourself and this will help you feel good about who you are. This is the one time blowing your own trumpet will not be a bad thing after all.
Life Lesson 9: Accept Change. The only constant in life is Change. You have no choice. Even the single strand of hair on your body goes through change. Welcome change as you would welcome a long lost friend, with a smile and excitement. Your attitude to change dictates the type of experiences you will have.
Life Lesson 10: Keep good company. Stick around people who will make you feel good and empower you to be your best. And keep away from people who make you feel less. We all know how infectious negativity is. You can do without it.
Life Lesson 11: Write your own story. Be the author of your own life. All the controls to your life are in your own hands. You are the captain of your ship. You can steer your life in whichever direction you want. You have control over what experiences you want along the way and who comes along with you on this journey. While there may be well meaning people in your life, you know yourself best. Go in the direction of your call.
Life Lesson 12: Think from the end. See yourself as already being that which you want to be- the power of visualization can never be over-emphasised. As an example, if you want to become the Front Desk Manager of the leading hotel in Vancouver, start already seeing yourself behind the front desk receiving happy customers and enjoying the work environment. The more you see yourself in the role that you desire, the more likely it will become a reality for you. Of course, visualizing alone is not enough- you will also have to take the necessary actions towards realizing that goal such as some formal training in Hospitality Management etc. that will increase your likelihood of success.
Life Lesson 13: Be a life long learner. What we know is just a drop in the vast ocean of knowledge available to us. Always seek learning in every situation. Never say no to a chance for more education. Learning not only makes us smart but keeps us young.
This last one is not only a life lesson but real medicine for a happy, empowered and meaningful life.
You are responsible for the energy you bring to the room; learn to laugh at yourself and give more than you take ‘cause You Are Worth it!