I’ve noticed some advice being given to teens lately. The advice is offered when a young person comments on how someone reacted – at school, on the bus, at a sleepover – to something she said or wore or did. After getting a different hairstyle, maybe someone said, “What did you do to you hair?” In response to a new outfit, maybe someone commented, “What’s up with the weird shirt?” Or after test results, maybe someone asked, “Didn’t you study?” The advice from the adult – to the cascade of emotions the teen is experiencing – is to say, “Oh, you shouldn't care about what other people think” or “It doesn’t matter what other people say [do, feel, think].” Is “not caring” the advice that we really want to give adolescents (or anyone for that matter!)?
The thing is – it does matter to us what other people say, do, and feel. We care, and we want our children to care. As a young person, I remember being told not to care about what someone else had said, and I couldn't even fathom what that meant. I don’t think other teens get it either. It isn't useful or helpful information. It doesn’t offer a jumping off place, the start to a journey, or the beginning of a conversation. In fact, it ends a conversation very quickly!
Instead of asking your child not to care, teach him to honor what he does, thinks, and feels. Teach her to go inside to explore what she feels unsure of, what she is judging herself about, and where she can increase her self-acceptance. Pamela Dunn, author of It’s Time to Look Inside: To See Yourself and Everyone Through the Lens of Magnificence, says, “We do care about what other people think and that is exactly the reason it is bothersome so you can’t NOT care as it goes against a core value. Get stronger from the inside out about who you are.”
That is the magnificent opportunity!