Blog

The Four Agreements for Middle School Girls – Part 2

April 13, 2016

By Guest Contributor – Christina Henderson

Last week I started a four part series applying the principles of The Four Agreements to middle school girls. I was very humbled and overwhelmed by the positive feedback from the last post, so thank you for reading, liking and sharing.

This second agreement tells us not to take anything personally. In essence, it argues everything others do, say, think, and feel, is about their personal experience and worldview.  We experience more hurt than necessary when we internalize other people’s stories about us.

Wise Words for Part 2 of Four Agreements

 

And I agree with this fully…except for this nagging feeling that sometimes we say and do unkind things, even unintentionally, so when we are rejected or in conflict with others, sometimes there is need to consider our part.

So, here it is…the second translated agreement:

Agreement 2: Don’t take anything personally

Translation: It’s not about you, except when it is.

This whole idea of “it’s not about you” is a really tough one to wrap your head around, especially when we are rejected or bullied. Let me try to break down this concept:

Say a girl is having a tough time at home (her parents are divorcing, unloving, or under a lot of stress), or she secretly hates her body because it doesn’t look like girls on TV or like the popular girls at school, or she’s struggling with her grades, or had something really bad happen to her when she was younger that she hasn’t worked through yet. She might feel any of the following emotions (perhaps towards you, or perhaps just generally):

  • Threatened
  • Jealous
  • Annoyed
  • Insecure
  • Lonely
  • Anxious
  • Afraid
  • Angry
  • Powerless
  • Stupid

When we have trouble naming these emotions and communicating them in an effective way, or when communicating them won’t change anything anyways, we might resort to passive-aggressive or even downright aggressive behaviors:

  • Gossiping
  • Rejecting/excluding
  • Judging
  • Bullying
  • Snapping
  • Glaring
  • Bossing
  • Fighting

So if you are on the receiving end of those passive-aggressive or aggressive behaviors, it can feel like it’s about you (because it is directed at you), but it is really about the other things happening for that particular girl.

It’s not just young people who do this. Us parents have bad days and might take our frustration out on you, teachers too. The bottom line is: When people are giving you a hard time, it’s not about you, it’s about what is going on inside them.

Why this is hard: Often when people don’t like us, reject us, are rude, or bully us, they are able to hit a nerve about an insecurity we already have about ourselves. It becomes easier to believe them and own their painful story of us. The goal then is to build a layer of self-protection so that we are able to shrug off other people’s bad behavior as a reflection of them, and not take it personally.

Adults, what can you do?

Here are 2 concepts you can consider/present to kids to help them deal with these issues:

  • Hurt people hurt people. Man, I wish someone had told me this in grade 9! The reality is, people who are secure, confident, and happy simply do not feel the need to be unkind to others or start drama. Those kids who may be causing trouble for our kid is likely hurting in some way. We can remind our kids to remember this as well.
  • Adolescents are self-absorbed. All of them. They are supposed to be. It is their natural stage of development. So when they are worried, thinking everyone is looking and talking about them, so is every other kid too. I’ve found it helpful for my daughter and other girls I work with to consider that everyone is feeling a heightened sense of attention and vulnerability.

Now let’s consider those times when maybe it is, actually about us…

Maybe you have been bragging a lot about getting straight A’s to a friend who struggles with school, or maybe you told a lie, or ditched someone for another friend at lunch. Probably, deep down you know you’ve done something that’s hurtful. It takes a lot of bravery to look at yourself and admit you’ve made a mistake.

Grown-ups, your girls will need a lot of support in the area of self-reflection because it can be a painful, vulnerable process… a lifelong one at that.

Some strategies to support self-reflection:

  • Have your girls pick out their top 5 values in friendship. Some examples might be: honesty, fun, quality time, compassion, fairness, humility (Google has value lists if you need some direction). When they are struggling with peer dynamics, have them look at their values list and consider if they are living up to those values. Make sure you let her figure it out for herself, you don’t need to point out her flaws (as I’ve said, this can be a painful, hard process and your girls need to feel safe with you). If they’ve fallen short, help them come up with a strategy to make amends or do things differently in the future. And please teach them self-compassion, we all make mistakes.
  • Teach your kids to name their feelings. The research says being able to name feelings and identify where they are in the body is the first step to managing these feelings in a mature, healthy way. This way they avoid being the hurt person who is hurting people.
  • Put a lot of effort into relationship with your girls. Trust me when I say they need and want you more than ever. Take them for hot chocolate, ask curious questions about their day, be open and non-judgmental about their experience (even if sometimes their actions don’t line up with your values). They need a safe place to process mistakes, learn, and grow their confidence as young women.

Good luck working through these complex concepts with your girls (and boys too, if it fits)! And parents, good luck not taking the emerging eye rolls, sass and attitude personally either! I’m sure that applying these principles and strategies will help your children feel more secure, confident, and grow in their friendships and their relationship with you.

Until next week,

Christina

About Christina Henderson:

Christina is a skilled, compassionate and ethical therapist who grounds her practice in narrative and person-centred approaches. Christina can be contacted at Christina@expressioncounselling.ca.

For Christina’s full bio and for more information about her practice, please visit  http://www.expressioncounselling.ca/about.

We hope you enjoyed part 2 of the The Four Agreements for Middle School Girls. Get ready for part 3 next week, which tells us not to make assumptions! 🙂

Be Wise!

Amy

Accepting NEW clients: Need a "digital" Sanity Break?

The Wise Family is committed to providing children, teens and families with AMAZING and uninterrupted care during the coronavirus public health crisis.

Our Alexandria and Arlington offices are OPEN with limited visit options, depending on your therapist, AND we are meeting with many of our regularly scheduled clients through secure video conferencing.

Click the button below to send us a message or schedule a FREE 15-minute consult TODAY!

Schedule My Appointment