I’ve had a few clients lately that are experiencing sadness, loneliness and a lack of friendships. These girls were unaware that their sadness and loneliness was caused by a lack of connection with peers. Each client had trouble showing her peers who she is… what she thinks, what she likes/dislikes, her fears and her feelings. Each girl had trouble putting themselves out there, being seen and heard. They want to, but it is too scary.
I asked one of the girls if she had anyone that she could share her feelings with. She mentioned her friend, Ella. When asked why Ella was a safe person to share with, she mentioned that Ella had shared with her things that were going on in her life – so, Ella had been vulnerable and that made my client feel safe with Ella. She didn’t see the connection, that when we share bits of ourselves with others they feel safer to open up with us. They get to see that we are a person that “wants to go there”, that can handle vulnerability and intimacy. Not everyone feels comfortable with that. It’s about finding the people that are and beginning to open up. I encourage girls to open up with small things that aren’t too vulnerable in the beginning. Maybe share your favorite drink at Starbucks, your favorite TV show, your favorite singer/group. This may not sound like much but when you are scared to be seen, this is a big start. You are letting people in, letting them see you, and when you are an adolescent, the stakes are high in terms of fear of rejection and the desire to fit in.
Some girls have trouble with showing themselves because they are shy and it is against their nature to be vocal and to be in the spotlight. Some girls have had relationships with people who have put them down and they have begun to believe the story that they are not good enough, so they hide for fear of rejection and criticism. No matter the reason behind the hiding, there is work to be done to change the critical, scared voices in their heads.
• Encourage her to share her opinions, feelings, dreams, etc. with you at home. This is good practice.
• Anytime she does something courageous, no matter how small, point it out. Help her to see her own strength.
• Help her find an activity that makes her happy, that she feels competent in (or can gain competency in). This will boost her confidence.
• Help her identify 1-3 people that she would be willing to share a personal piece of information with to build connection and build friendships.
• Come up with a weekly goal of sharing one vulnerable bit with someone in her life.
• Sign her up for teen life coaching for more support and tools on clarifying her identity and learning to be brave.
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