THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF-DEVELOPMENT FOR TEENAGERS

    I recently ran a Self-Development workshop with a Transition Year group and was surprised at their reactions.
    This workshop was aimed at helping the students to understand the importance of a number of topics;

    The importance of liking yourself – Positive Self-Esteem.
    The meaning of Friendship.
    Getting to know your Strengths and learning to understand what they mean.
    Thinking about Values and how they effect your every day life.
    The importance of Believing in Yourself and Setting Goals.
    The importance of having Dreams/Ambitions.

    During the workshop we had a lot of discussion about friendships and the importance of face to face communication. This is an area of concern, as when we looked at it most of the students said there was never a time they would be with friends when someone was not on their phone – never a time when they would all be talking together. This is a problem as people are not giving enough face to fact time to real friends and far too much online time to virtual friends (who may not be real friends at all). This was an eye-opener for many as we have to remember some of our kids know no different – this is the world they have grown up in. They began to realise the importance of spending real time with real friends.

    When it came to strengths, many of the students said this was not something they really thought about, but after the exercise they realised what great strengths they had, many of which they did not realise they had beforehand. Knowing their own individual strengths is an essential ingredient for them to live a happy fulfilled life – both personally and in their careers. We need to understand our strengths to understand who we are and who we want to be. We need to understand our strengths to understand what area of work we should aim for, to be happy and successful in our jobs.

    Setting Goals is one of my personal favourites. There is a saying “Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes”, to me this is so important. I have worked with so many teenagers and young adults who have spent months and years reading self-help books and motivation books, and when I ask them “So what have you done”?, they look at me blankly. You have to take the first step to change if you want anything to change, reading about it, writing about it will not ‘change it’. You have to ‘do’ something. This section really resonated with the students as I put the ball back in their court – told them they have to stop blaming parents, teachers, the weather – if they want something in life they have to get out there at get it – make the necessary changes in their lives and go for it. Everything worthwhile takes effort – nothing comes easy.

    Values – this section surprised me most of all as it was the area most of them said they really learned something about themselves in.
    What are Values –
    Your values are the things that you believe are important in the way you live and work. They (should) determine your priorities, and, deep down, they’re probably the measures you use to tell if your life is turning out the way you want it to.
    When the things that you do and the way you behave match your values, life is usually good – you’re satisfied and content. But when these don’t align with your personal values, that’s when things feel… wrong. This can be a real source of unhappiness.
    This feeling of ‘wrong’ really made sense to them. The students wrote down the values they thought their age group ‘have’ and the values they thought their age group ‘should have’. What this did was it showed them that they all wanted the same things – yet many were living against their values to be part of their peer group or to be popular. We all need to take time out to allow ourselves to get to know ourselves better, and this is doubly true for our younger generation who have grown up with another voice in their heads – social media.

    I strongly believe our Educational Department and Department of Health has to look at this area and provide modules to help kids live in this every changing technological run world in a more positive and self aware way. We, their parents, teachers, mentors have to help them to get this support. We all grew up with 2 voices in our heads – our parents and our peers, kids today have a 3rd 24 hour voice in social media – they need support and advice to help them deal to with this voice in a positive and healthy way.

    Lack of face to face communication, low self-esteem, peer pressure, lack of understanding around friendships and relationships are a few of the growing concerns I see daily. We have to support kids and teenagers to understand the importance of realising the reality of social media v’s the real world. There are many positives to social media, but unfortunately there are many very damaging aspects also which I find very worrying.

    A few comments from the students after this workshop;
    “I feel like my age group can do things because of peer pressure. I think this workshop might open their eyes.”
    “I believe this workshop is needed because it helps people my age to realise that they can’t change something without putting effort in.”
    “this workshop shows us that social media is not that important and I need to start seeing my strengths and not be so harsh on myself.”
    “helped me to realise I have to stop putting myself down so much and be proud of myself.”
    “It really opened my eyes to things that I didn’t even notice were going on.”
    “taught me to be nicer to people and appreciate the important people in my life before its too late.”
    “it helped me to understand my values and to see how they effect my actions and my feelings towards other people.”
    “it showed me how important it is to be kind to myself instead of knocking myself.”
    ‘Im going to spend less time on my phone and more time with family and myself.”
    “it made me think about my personality and my values and helped me to understand who I want to be.”
    “spend more time with actual real friends and family and less time on my phone and virtual friends – and if we want something to happen just go out and make it happen.”
    “I am going to think more positively about myself and not always think about the bad things”
    “understand that not everything is about your phone and your appearance.”
    “how to look after myself the correct way – to take a break from social media””
    “it might encourage me to see myself differently and be grateful for all I have in my life”
    “the importance of valuing the people I am with in the moment and get off my phone when with people I value in my life”

    If you have any queries relating to any of the above, please do not hesitate to get in touch – Eileen

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