By Guest Contributor – Christina Henderson
Here is the last of this four-part series applying The Four Agreements to middle school girls. I’ve found it really rewarding to immerse myself in these concepts again. I hope you have found some useful stuff within my words. To re-cap, we are working with our middle school girls to:
This last agreement ultimately says that if we give each day our best, we eliminate those gross feelings of guilt and shame that plague us when we have done less than what we are capable of. What I love about this agreement is that there is also much space for self-compassion. It reminds us that “our best” looks different on different days. Some days we are sick, fatigued, shorter-tempered, vulnerable etc. Those days are okay too.
This agreement requires very little translation on my part. What I will add instead is some emphasis:
Agreement 4: Always do your best
Translation: Always do YOUR best
In my counseling space, I tend to see girls who sit strongly on either side of the “doing your best” continuum. On one end, girls are literally hurting themselves as a means of coping with the pressure to perform; a pressure from themselves, the school, their athletic team, and adults in their life. I see girls who cut themselves, pull out their hair, don’t eat and all sorts of other painful self-harming strategies (strategies that actually do help reduce anxiety, by the way). It’s typically the new awareness of one of these strategies that brings parents hustling kids to my office.
This next section is not meant to be parent-blaming, yet parents do need to consider the role they play in this pressure process. Let’s be real, we often feel pretty good about ourselves if our kids are successful: winners, straight A students, in leadership groups at school, etc. We feel proud. We are validated as “good” parents. My daughter is a complete perfectionist and driven toward A’s (wonder where she gets that from?), and I am constantly checking in with myself, and with her, to make sure she doesn’t think my love and approval is based on these concrete, measurable successes. We also need to say (and believe) these words: “It is not the end of the world if you do not get an A on your math test. Study hard, do your best, and the sun will rise again if your mark is less than stellar.”
My colleague Laurie wrote a previous blog post about perfectionism. She distinguished perfectionism from a personal drive for excellence by saying perfectionism is grounded in shame and fear. Ultimately it is a fear of being rejected or not worthy. It is really important that girls are not getting that message from us. We help our girls strive for excellence from within themselves by:
On the other end of the “doing your best” continuum I see girls giving up, avoiding school, quitting activities they once enjoyed, and gravitating towards high-risk peers, drugs and alcohol. How do we motivate these girls to become re-invested in life? To do their best when TV watching seems to be the priority?
As a quick aside, if you suspect your girl might be self-harming it is really important to seek out the help of a professional. These professionals will help determine the level of risk and provide you and your daughter with the much needed support to reduce or eliminate these behaviors.
So that’s a wrap on this series, folks. I really cannot express enough gratitude for reading, liking and sharing these posts. And my goodness, the tasks these four agreements challenge us to rise to are certainly not always the easy path! Yet they are the worthwhile path, the loving path, the compassionate path. And regardless of your girl’s developmental stage, with your support, she is capable of learning to live life in this particular way.
As always, wishing you peace,
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.
That concludes Christina’s 4-part series! We hope you’ve enjoyed The Four Agreements for Middle School Girls. How will you apply these four principles when guiding your middle school kids down the path to adulthood?
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