In this Post, we will return to Abby’s story from Post 4. Change and the Power of Ownership.
We know what we want young people to learn: how to achieve their best; how to behave; how to focus in lessons; pass exams; manage emotions….and for many young people the process is relatively straightforward, with a few curve balls…..
But for our troubled, vulnerable or hurt young people, they often need to learn about and accept themselves first. This part of Strength-Focused Coaching is the part that, time and time again, young people appreciate so much. Through non-invasive, purposeful but sensitive activities, they discover:
- personal resources for success
- what’s good about me
- who I really am
- what matters to me
I’ve seen ‘angry’ young individuals – who have previously shocked staff with their behaviour – sit in silence, close to tears, when they realise:
I thought I was just a bad, angry person. But I’m not. I’m okay!
In fact, that is the most common reaction that I get to the SFC Self Survey. Within the space of 30 minutes, it is possible to give a young person (YP) a tool to start to change their negative self perception and thus start to build a foundation for success.
To challenge your negative perception of yourself is often the hardest but the most rewarding change to make. If someone you trust is helping you to do this and they are trained in the skills to facilitate this, it’s easier.
In my experience, once YP have learnt about themselves and their personal resources for success, they then feel ‘stronger’, more positive, motivated, more able to learn about how to improve behaviour or overcome barriers.
For many, the route to greater confidence, particularly when it has been severely damaged by traumatic experiences, is a delicate one, punctuated by obstacles, one of which is a very negative mind-set. Just telling a YP: ‘but you’re great. I really like you’ isn’t enough. They need to experience it, learn it, re-wire the brain over a period of time. More on this in later posts.
We return to feisty, vocal 15 year-old Abby. Often at the centre of disputes and disruptive in lessons. Traumatised by a termination a year earlier, her self-esteem was rock bottom. She was socialising with a group of older peers, involved in drug-taking.
Through the SFC activities, she was relaxing, enjoying taking ownership of change and learning to like herself. But the lure of the ‘gang’ was still strong and she was clinging to them still.
You may wish to read the beginning of Abby’s story in: Post 4. Change and the Power of Ownership.
Through her weekly SFC sessions, Abby was gently challenging her negative perceptions of herself. She learnt:
I’m good at dancing, acting, singing, ice skating.
I’m funny, sociable, friendly, confident.
I like starting new things.
I’m a good leader.
I’m trustworthy, well organised.
I’m creative, imaginative.
I enjoy meeting new people.
There is a fascinating SFC Activity called ‘What Matters to Me?’ As a result of the activity, Abby created a chart of 29 personal values, most of which were positive. However, two of these values were: ‘taking drugs’ and ‘being lazy’.
In one of her later sessions with me, Abby asked: “can I change something on my Values chart?” She looked at it, picked up a pen and crossed out ‘taking drugs’ and being ‘lazy’. I was curious as to why she did this. Regarding the elimination of drug-taking, she said:
“That’s not me any more. I don’t need to do that.”
She went on to explain that the drug-taking had been about ‘fitting in’ and trying to disconnect. The abortion had stripped Abby of her confidence and of a previously healthy identity. In searching for a new one and a need to belong, she had been attracted to the ‘Drug Gang’. She had mistakenly picked them and drugs as a way of re-building herself.
I was incredibly proud that Abby had learnt about her true self, re-shaped her identity, developed the confidence to break away from the ‘group’ and enjoy healthy friendships with her peers. I admired her courage.
There was still squabbling, but she handled it better and no longer used the local residents’ driveways as her battleground. Abby said she felt happy and proud and it showed.
Abby applied her improved self esteem and self respect to the classroom, where teachers were delighted (and a little shocked) at her focus and determination to achieve.
She remains a feisty, passionate individual, but that’s Abby. She has even learned how to use her feistiness as a strength (most of the time). She often applies it in her dancing and her drama performances.
It’s about being a better version of yourself, rather than changing into something ‘completely weird.’
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