One of the hardest things in life is to truly be 'you'. Having the confidence to do whatever you please, wear whatever you like, and say exactly what you feel, is really hard. Many people will find they can never truly be who they want to be, or only feel comfortable being themselves in front of certain people; Some people may shy away their entire lives or put on a different persona as they are too afraid to just be themselves.
There are so many factors in life that determine how we develop, grow and become the people we are. Past experiences do affect how we perceive and judge ourselves, it is however, whether or not we let these experiences determine ourselves, or if we allow them to shape us into being stronger, confident individuals.
As children I am sure nearly all of us will have experienced bullying of some kind, or an experience that will forever stay in your minds because of how it made you feel.
My name is Jamie, and I have spent my entire life hearing phrases like:
"Why have you got a boys name?"
"Thats a stupid name for a girl"
"What an unusual name for a girl"
or replies to emails
"Hello Mr ..."
"Dear Jamie & Victoria" (my middle name is Victoria)
The list is endless, and after time my goodness it becomes tiring. I wonder if all these people that comment on my name actually realise how frustrating and insensitive their words can be? To hear that your name should be for a boy and not for you as a girl, actually really hurts after a while. But, after SO many years of wishing I was called Victoria and not Jamie, I love my name. I am Jamie, I am a female and I absolutely rock my name and wouldn't wish to be called anything different.
It has however taken me about 26 years to feel happy with who I am and I am so very fortunate to have had family and friends around me who have always supported me and believed in me, as Jamie.
A 13 year old girl at school, slightly geeky, and a tomboy. I was waiting to go into a classroom when one of the 'popular' girls in my year group was stood opposite me. We waited for the previous class to leave the room before entering, and the said girl looked at me, put her arm out and gestured for me to enter the classroom first. She said "Ladies first!" and to my surprise I thought, wow that is very kind of her! With a smile on my face I proceeded to walk through the door, when she then called out "ladies first, but men just before". I turned around to see her and a group of girls just laughing at me. The shame and embarrassment in that moment I will never forget, and to her it may have been funny and just a joke but those words and that moment have stayed with me ever since.
I guess where I am going with this, is that words can cut more deeply than you may realise. At thirteen when everything in life is a 'big deal', having the popular girl group think you look like a man, really does knock your self confidence, esteem and perception of yourself. Don't get me wrong, I know many people will have suffered far far worse than I have with bullying or traumatic past experiences but no matter how big or small, it is not 'ok' and should never be. Perhaps you can forgive a child for saying such words but it is such a shame that this continues into adulthood, why should anyone be made to feel lesser? Why should anyone be made fun of? and why should anyone feel like they are not worthy enough to be themselves?
As an early years educator, I think it is vital that we teach young children to respect each other, support each other and to voice themselves. We live in a society where we fear being wrong; for example how many people can remember sitting in a lesson at school, college, university or even at a work event, when the teacher at the front asks a questions and you are 99% sure you know the answer, but don't want to look silly in front of everyone else so you leave it for someone else to answer, and then kick yourself afterwards because you were totally right?!
Yep, I thought so.
Empowering children to voice themselves from a young age without judgement or fear of getting things wrong builds their confidence and self-esteem so much. I run sessions for young children and as the adult I just stay consistent, never asking them to contribute but to let them know that they can offer to speak should they wish. After several weeks it amazes me how their confidence grows and that a child who never uttered a word suddenly feels able to, and when they can do it once and nothing 'bad' happens, they beam with self esteem.
Letting a child know that they are enough being themselves, they are wonderful, they can achieve and that everyone has strengths and weaknesses will at least plant that seed of confidence inside them. Then with positive family support, guidance and love that seed will certainly grow. Believe in your children, their talents and their abilities as an individual - then they will fly.
By The Childcare Guru