Several years ago, I was working as a guidance counselor in the Quakertown, PA school district (K-6) and once a week met with a group of 5th grade girls who, like most tweens, had issues around self image and the ways in which they were viewed vs. the ways in which they wanted to be seen by their peers. Often the conversations would be polarizing….who liked who better, who sided with who, who was prettier, thinner, more popular, ad nauseum. Chances are, if you have any recollection of being a young girl (not sure if this is anything similar that boys go through, as a parallel, who was stronger, smarter, tougher, a better athlete?) then this might sound familiar. In the midst of all of this, one day I called a time out and asked about working on a project together that would focus on self esteem. One of the girls began chanting in a sing songy way….”Self esteem ice cream, self esteem ice cream.” Brilliant idea, I thought and asked them what that meant to them. They wanted to write a book that would include drawings of themselves doing what they enjoyed doing, with poetry about self esteem. They never actually completed it, but at least it got them thinking and improving their communication, decreasing the drama and spending time with other girls as well, so they weren’t always in each others’ business.
Fast forward and tonight, I am with a group of women for whom I am facilitating a support group. Spontaneously, before they came in, I wrote those same words on the white board and draw a cartoony ice cream cone. Once the intro part of the group was over, we launched into it. I asked what ice cream symbolized for them and they said sweet, smooth, delicious, a treat. A great reflection for life, since who doesn’t want to experience those things? Then I asked about the self-esteem part of the equation and it translated as feeling proud, purposeful, fearless or at least willing to try new things and meet new people, confidence, standing up for themselves. Keep in mind that all of these women were old enough to have tween kids and in fact, do. I wondered if all these years later, they still harbor some of the same fears and feelings that their younger counterparts expressed. The answer would be an unqualified yes for them and for me. One of things we talked about was assertiveness and saying no if we don’t choose to do something we are asked to do. I encouraged them to practice yes and no responses to life in the next week before our meeting. All agreed.
As the Universe was listening, after they left, my son called and asked what time I would be coming home. That generally translates to “On your way home, can you stop and pick up….” My antennae started twitching, I sighed and responded, “Why do you do this, when you could have picked it during the day since you didn’t go to work until this afternoon?” This was not the first time this has occurred and my ‘good mom’ impulses often kick in and I do it, even though it is late ( Tonight I knew I wouldn’t be leaving the office until after 8:30 and by the time I got home it would be 9:30). This time, Adam interrupted my annoyed train of thought and he said “Mom, if you want to say no, say no. You don’t need to lecture me about what I ALWAYS do. It’s ok if you don’t want to do it.” WOW! What a revelation. This therapist, coach, workshop facilitator needs to practice what she preaches sans guilt. My self esteem was elevated by at least 10 points and when I got home, there really was ice cream waiting.
http://youtu.be/8K0qCCfeMAE Ice Cream by Sarah McLachlan