When our students were little, they had a fairly easy time being themselves.
By late elementary school, groups started to form such as the popular kids, the athletic kids, the kids who sat alone, the rich kids, the bullies, the smart kids, etc, and they wondered, where did they fit in?
Some of them started to say and do things that felt a little off or even wrong, but their group of friends were doing and saying those things so how bad could it be?
But as they twisted themselves into a pretzel to fit in, they diminished some of their presence and life force and started wearing a mask.
A burden came with wearing that mask. Many of them became disconnected from who they really were. Loneliness, anxiety, and depression may have taken up residence in the empty spaces.
But it doesn’t have to go that way. The truth is: when we’re ourselves, that’s the best! We’re all different. No two of us are alike. Not everyone is going to like us or be like us and that’s ok. Being who we are is the most courageous gift we can give to ourselves and others.
It’s never too late to be ourselves. Taking this step is liberating, courageous, and invigorating.
And we can help our students do the same. We can teach them to be themselves through mindfulness, improv exercises, and cognitive awareness. We can change the dialogue from fitting in to belonging. We can save them unnecessary pain and loneliness. We can guide them to wholeness.
How do you encourage your students to be themselves?