Recently, one of my clients shared a piece of writing with me that describes herself and she has allowed me to share it with you now.
On weekdays, she was a reliable and generally good person with values, morals, and messages, for those who attended school and extracurricular activities. For those who saw her sun of a face, they knew this to be true, and were pleased with the warmth it provided their skin, yet some found themselves burned by glancing too long to find she was a hypocrite of her own advice, that which she believed truly of you, she couldn’t have believed of herself.
To herself, she was an upset product of those before her, not rooted in fear but grown into it, from which her branches were sturdy yet her leaves dead. Fear was coated by the sleeve of happiness she’d come to know and wear more as the hands of a clock spun, and she had become the perfect mixture of sweet and savory.
I am privileged to know the author of this story. She has had significant loss, and struggles with anxiety, but she is kind and courageous. As she makes clear in this eloquent piece, she is more compassionate to other people than she is to herself. In the current “everything is fine," "everyone sees everything about me” culture, teens -and even adults for that matter- often don't feel that they have permission to struggle. As a result, they tend to be more critical of themselves than others.
While we encourage empathy in school, we don’t teach self awareness. In my practice, I often talk about the importance of being kind to oneself. One of the techniques I promote for doing this is friend-talk. I tell teens that when they begin to think self critically, they should stop, take a deep breath, and begin again as if they were talking to their best friend.
Parents can also help their teens with this. Instead of correcting their negativity, they can ask, “Would you say this to your best friend?” This is a great way to help nudge a teen towards using a kinder gentler voice.