Who are you? This is a question that I struggled with for years. Trying to distinguish who I was from who I thought I had to be and who people told me I was felt like an impossible task. I mean, how was I supposed to love myself when all the messaging around me told me that I shouldn’t? Everywhere I looked, commercials, entertainment, social media, I saw ads for beauty and weight loss. “If you get this injection or take these pills, you too will be this beautiful.” As a result of the messaging around me beginning at a young age and the lack of conversation around what it means to love and care for yourself, I hated myself, I criticized myself, and I mentally tore myself apart. And unfortunately, this is not just my story, but the story of so many young people around the world.
We are growing up in a world where life has become a comparison game and validation has been attached to strangers online. The pressure to have enough followers on social media has consumed many of us. When I was younger, I remember posting a picture on Instagram then holding my phone in my hand for hours refreshing to see who would like it and more importantly who wouldn’t. I spent hours trying to get the perfect picture just to end up deleting it because I did not get an “appropriate” number of likes. I remember crying for hours in my room telling myself how I am ugly or stupid or not cool enough. I criticized every aspect of myself to rationalize why my posts did not get more likes.
I wish someone told me back then the secret to loving yourself was talking to yourself with love. I wish I knew then what I know now about self-talk. We are constantly talking to ourselves, but not usually with kindness. Take a moment and reflect on the messages you tell yourself. For me, before learning how to reframe my thoughts, every negative thought I could possibly tell myself echoed through my mind like a broken record. No wonder by the time I was in college I began feeling hopeless. If only I had access to a conversation that taught me not only how to talk to myself but also how to cope with the negative thoughts when they come, maybe I would not have ended up hospitalized in a psych ward or spending countless hours falling apart questioning why I was not good enough.
This is why I am beyond grateful to announce that I have created that resource I desperately needed when I was in middle school. “Positive Self-Talk and Coping Skills” was developed specifically for middle school students to teach them how to reframe negative thoughts into positive thoughts and how to cope with negative thoughts and overwhelming emotions. The goal is simple: giving our youth the tools they need to navigate the journey of life.
Based on my workbooks, “You Are Not Alone: The Workbook” and “I AM,” the workshop is broken down into 5 sections: Who Are You; Reframe Self-Talk; Positive Self-Talk; How Do You Feel; and Coping Skills.
Section 1: Who Are You focuses on separating yourself from the labels given to you. We live in a society where everyone is trying to label who they are and labeling everyone around them, which can feel overwhelming and confusing. How does a human being fit into a single box? In this section, we focus on opening the box by removing labels and identifying ourselves as the multifaceted individuals we are through positive adjectives. I am not simply a girl, I am passionate, hardworking, kindhearted, loving, empathetic, strong, and so much more!
Section 2: Reframe Self-Talk focuses on rewording the automatic negative thoughts we experience. We are not failures for making mistakes, we are humans who are learning and growing each and every day. When speaking to friends, we often encourage them and offer support. When speaking to ourselves, we often use criticism, judgement, and punishment. In this section, we focus on becoming friends with ourselves through reframing how we talk to ourselves.
Section 3: Positive Self-Talk focuses on affirmations. When we are feeling down, insecure or overwhelmed, affirmations are a way to offer the emotional support we need to ourselves. These are definite phrases of “I am, I have, I will, I can, I believe, and I deserve.” Affirmations are how we can change the narrative from questioning what is wrong with us to knowing that we are more than enough as we are.
Section 4: How Do You Feel focuses on identifying how you feel. Emotions can be tricky, sometimes we are feeling sad, but we respond out of anger. But how do you change your response if you do not know how you are feeling? In this section, we are practicing connecting our current feelings to their origin to better understand and take a step toward learning how to cope with them!
Section 5: Coping Skills focuses on building a coping skill toolbox to manage overwhelming emotions. When you are feeling overwhelmed, what is one thing that helps you to breathe? When you are exhausted, what helps you get the rest you need? When you feel sad, what is one thing that helps you to smile? This section is all about making the connection between feelings and support so that youth are equipped with the tools they need before they need them.
Each section contains breakout rooms, practice exercises and/or group discussions to keep the audience engaged in building the tools they need. And most importantly, each section creates the opportunity for the youth attendee and their trusted adult attendee to engage in open dialogue together to build honest and supportive communication.
“Positive Self-Talk and Coping Skills” workshop is available exclusively to middle school students (grades 6-8). All youth registrants must have a trusted adult present, whether it is a parent, guardian, caregiver, adult family member, or another trusted adult in the participant’s life. The intention is to create the space for the youth attendee to share in a safe, vulnerable conversation where they can be supported as well as give the adult a glimpse into what the youth attendee is experiencing and the type of support they may need.
This workshop is designed to equip the next generation with all the tools I wish I had when I was their age!
Register Today: Peer Support Coalition of Florida (peersupportfl.org)
You can learn more about the workshop as well as additional workshops at https://inspiringmygeneration.org/mental-health-workshops/