My first client of the day today was a super nice kid - 20 year old college student, athletic, handsome, the whole package. Yet he's never dated a girl due to various issues but I'll call it extreme shyness. He's not the first kid I've had like this - male or female. It's heartbreaking to me that these kids, or adults really I should say, have so little confidence in themselves. How does this happen? Is it having emotionally absent parents? Is is having parents who are physically absent because they both had to work a zillion hours a week to pay the bills? Is it being surrounded by peers who are socially inept and bullying is simply a part of the culture?
Honestly, I think it's a mixture of all those things and many more. In my case, being extremely shy as a kid was horribly painful. It definitely impacted my academic performance as I had the same grades as the kids in the accelerated classes but lacked the confidence to participate in class discussions, preferring to observe and soak in information rather than shoot my hand into the air to answer questions even though I almost always knew the answers.
Year after year the only feedback my parents or I ever got from teachers was that I was too quiet. Maybe they mentioned I was a good writer if it was a teacher who was fair and open minded to the idea that all kids are different and learn in their own ways. Most of the time, however, that was not the case so instead of being proud of my good manners and quiet traits, I was told again and again that I was not good enough. I even had a sixth grade English teacher who refused to give me higher than "Satisfactory" for my participation grade, effectively keeping me from joining an actual club for kids who had a certain grade point average. My work was excellent but I didn't talk enough. She knew I was chronically shy but insisted she knew best. Thanks for that Mrs. WhateverYourNameWas. Way to make a kid feel like crap about themselves.
I can't help but wonder what would have been different for me if I had been required to see a therapist at some point? What would be different for these kids I see today? These questions haunt me. If the medical community took even half as much interest in people's overall health and wellness treatment as they do in doling out medication what would happen? Is there even a downside to that sort of approach? The more clients I see like this kid from today, the more I think that meeting with a therapist at least once during the course of elementary, middle, and high school the fewer incidents of child abuse and neglect, substance abuse, bullying, self-injury, and even suicide we would see. By considering therapy a requirement for total wellness it would remove the stigma.
Plenty of kids and their parents would see it as an inconvenience on the surface but underneath, I believe they would be relieved.
"Dang medical requirements, such a pain. Oh well, insurance company says we have to meet with a therapist who meets the minimum requirements of clinical experience."
What person doesn't question, "Am I normal? Am I okay?" Especially when going through those awful adolescent years? Those years shape an individual's perception of the world and their place in it. Going to talk to a therapist does not mean you're crazy. It doesn't mean you have issues or problems. That you are somehow defective or broken.
What it means is, you are brave enough to hold a mirror up to yourself and ask - what is working for me in my life and what isn't? Am I happy? Are there things going on that are dangerous? Am I pushing the limits too hard? Are my reactions to whatever is going on in my life within a normal range of expectation or am I doing myself more harm than good?
Talking with a therapist you like and trust forces a stop and look around moment. Slowing down for even 50 minutes to really look at yourself from an emotional and psychological perspective can be life changing. If you allow yourself to become aware of your life, you are giving yourself the opportunity to live purposefully and consciously.
And for all this, you have zero side effects. You may not like what you have to face, but at least you can be aware of it and of how you want to handle it - proactively instead of re-actively. And that, my friends, is personal power, integrity, and the makings of a confident, motivated adult.