Earlier this week I was reading a chain email which had a series of truisms for reflection, one of which caught my attention. It read, ‘Never change who you are for the sake of others, because no one can play your role better than you. So be yourself. You are the best you’.
My reflection this week uses this truism as a focus on what is a very important issue for all of us, but more so for the young people in our lives as they try to establish their true identity whilst trying to fit in and get through the maze which is adolescence. I reflect on how our self-belief has a huge impact in our daily lives.
In my role as an educator I have witnessed on many occasions students exhibiting behaviours outside their character, behaviours that appear to be outside their value base and not reflective of who they are as a person. These behaviours tend to be encouraged when good young people are in large groups, and can only be understood in the light that they are behaving the way they are to impress their peers by being something they’re not. Most of the time these behaviours lead to no good and quite often can end with terrible effect.
I am well aware that that all kids spend their youthful years discovering who they are, where they belong, and who their friends are – it’s a time of exploring and experimenting. However, our greatest challenge is to encourage them to remain true to who they are in this period of turmoil. Whilst there will be times in their lives when they do things well and they will feel successful, there are other times when they won’t get it right and they may feel they have failed. There will be times they make poor decisions we can’t understand and others where we couldn’t be prouder. All we can do through this time is support them, praise the good decisions, question the poor ones, and most importantly, continue to remind them of the values we hold true. Remind them that neither the successes nor the failures will be true measures of who they are or how successful they will become. Their true measure of self-worth or success will be measured by the way they develop as people through life’s experiences, and more importantly how they live out their lives. It will be through relationships, and through the love and care they show each other that their true worth will be measured. I put the challenge to all the boys in our community to think about this and make every attempt to become a better person, one that we are proud of.
We must alert them to the dangers of faking their way through life, believing that if they let people know the real them, they won’t be liked, of believing that nothing they ever do is ever enough. We need to challenge the self-talk that often plays out in our kid’s heads that may be saying something like, “If people really knew what was going on inside my head, they would lose respect for me”. Alert them to the consequences of trying to pretend to make others happy. Keeping up a pretence can be exhausting, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Playing roles and juggling masks to hide your pain can lead to an increase in pressure to keep pretending you have it all together. We have to get them to consider the cost of doing this, the loss of self, never discovering their true identity. So unless we can help them in identifying and laying down their masks, and beginning a process of stripping down the defences they may have built up over the years, they may never develop into the person they have the potential to become.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of liking who we are, as no matter where we go, or who we are with, there is one certainty in life, we will always have to deal with ourselves, make decisions for ourselves and determine our path in life. Good decisions come from a love of one’s self and a true confidence in the decisions we make. I use the following story to make my point.
In 1859 the Great Blondin, (the man who invented the high wire act) announced to the world that he intended to cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope. 5000 people gathered to watch. Halfway across, Blondin suddenly stopped, steadied himself, back flipped into the air, landed squarely on the rope, then continued safely to the other side. During that year, Blondin crossed the Falls again and again – once blindfolded, once carrying a stove, once in chains, and once on a bicycle.
Just as he was about to begin yet another crossing, this time pushing a wheelbarrow, he turned to the crowd and shouted “Who believes that I can cross pushing this wheelbarrow?”
Every hand in the crowd went up. Blondin pointed at one man.
“Do you believe that I can do it?” he asked.
“Yes, I believe you can,” said the man.
“Are you certain?” said Blondin
“Yes,” said the man.
“Yes, absolutely certain.”
“Thank you,” said Blondin, “then, sir, get into the wheelbarrow.”
Are we like that man in the crowd? We are sure about a lot of things in life, but do we have the certainty to hop in the wheelbarrow? In many ways, the certainty of our faith can be tested and we often are challenged as to whether we would get into God’s wheelbarrow in the same circumstances. Many times in our lives we choose not to, whilst we have faith in an all loving God, there are times our worldly fears and wants hold us back from jumping in the wheelbarrow.
The important point I make here is that the one thing we can be certain of is God’s love, a love that knows no bounds and that he will always be with us. When we come to accept this, loving ourselves becomes easier and we can begin to trust ourselves. A deep faith allows us to develop the confidence that will allow us to get over the fear of getting in that wheelbarrow.
Acknowledgement: Marc S Lewis
In this, the fourth week of Term Three, it appears we have made a positive start to the term, with all students settling in to the routine that comes with the daily life in a school very well. We have had a myriad of activities already, which have all gone well. We have had a few busy weeks to start the term, with activities including Year 8 Retreat, House Cross Country, our second Becchi Morning, Medieval and Environmental Day, amongst numerous other activities, all of which have gone well and provided our boys with great experiences. All the while, the cast and crew for the College Production ‘Godspell’ have been frantically preparing for Friday night’s opening night. I thank all the staff and students involved in these activities and wish the students involved in the production all the best. There are many more things on the calendar which we look forward to over the coming weeks. These activities keep us busy, but also add to the vibrancy and joy we experience on a daily basis here at Salesian.
Have a great week, and God Bless.
Here are some questions I came across that you may consider to help you to identify and hopefully drop your own masks. I recommend you write them in a journal or notebook and explore your answers in writing. Perhaps address a question a day, to let your truth emerge deeply over a period of time.
- Think about all the times in your life when you felt you had to be “on,” when you couldn’t be honest with how you really felt, when you chose to pretend to be someone you weren’t. What was the cause of that?
- If I were to ask you to describe yourself, could you talk about your strengths and weaknesses with confidence? (In other words, do you know who you really are?)
- Are you always the same in how you act regardless of the situation you’re in?
- When you are around others, do you ever feel strained and uncomfortable and find it hard to relax?
- Has anyone ever told you that they thought you were one way, but then when they got to know you better, realized you were another way?
- Has anyone ever commented on how you act differently around various people?
- Do you ever act like you don’t care what others think, but deep down it really stings when others judge or reject you?
- Do you ever pretend to like someone you really don’t?
- What might some of your masks be? The “I’ve got it all together” mask? The “I’m a victim mask”? Think about different situations in your life—work, school, church, home, with friends, with family, etc. What mask might emerge during those times?