A random question perhaps. And yet it is one of the most insightful questions we should be asking ourselves, and more importantly our teens, tweens and kids. Can you answer, “who am I?” in 2 sentences or less.
As well intentioned parents we spend an abundance of time trying to figure out: Who is my child? What do they want? What do they need? Most of us probably can’t even answer that for ourselves, let alone our kids. It’s also a dialogue we tend to have internally, rather than having a real conversation and getting real answers. Is it fear, is it that we are so time poor, or is it that we just ‘don’t know what we don’t know’ and therefore never think to ask?
And yet the research continues to tell us that the problem with youth today is that they lack resilience; they don’t know how to ‘show up’ authentically; and their attitudes, values and behaviors are the result of external factors rather than a real internal compass. It’s no wonder they can’t answer “Who Am I?” for themselves.
So much of our children’s validation is extrinsically driven – by our own expectations of them; by a projection of our own experiences and fears; by their teachers; by their peers; and by the good, bad and ugly of social media and technology platforms.
Where is their voice? Where is their understanding of their own internal needs and desires? Who is their authentic self? How can they celebrate and not repress who they really are?
How can our kids stand up and pronounce to the world….I AM!
I AM!…someone who loves connection. I am a relationship person. I thrive on doing things for others.
I AM!…a problem solver and thinker. I am someone who processes life internally. I am a learner.
I AM!…someone is always seeking fun and excitement. I love freedom. I thrive on spontaneity.
I AM!…a lover of rules and of structure. Of boundaries and clarity. I am responsible and respectful; always.
When we give children the gift of connection to who they really are, the ‘extrinsic’ factors lose their power. They don’t need external validation anymore. They find their true north and finally understand where and how they get their energy; the people and circumstances that bring out their best; how to problem solve independently; and how to take back their power.
And we need our kids to feel powerful; to own who they are and what they want. And we need to let go of our own ego in determining that for them.
Why? Because if can help reveal who they really are on the inside, then they then have the best possible chance of navigating the world on their own terms. Of managing the depression and anxiety that arises from ‘always trying to fit in’ and bending to the influence of factors out of their control.
If we can help them find contentment in their own values, then maybe our legacy is teaching our children how to truly live their lives from the inside out.