I was given a panda for my first birthday by my grandparents. The most vivid memory I have of being a teenager was sobbing recklessly into this poor old panda. He was such a great listener, never told me what to do, never judged me. Just held the space for me while I poured my tears all over him. I cried an awful lot. There were so many things I didn’t understand, so many things I didn’t know how to navigate and I felt so alone and unsupported.
Thinking my parents didn’t care, that they just didn’t understand me, was a constant source of frustration for me. When I look back there were a few key things, had I been taught them, that would have made the world of difference. It was no one’s fault – it’s just that our culture hasn’t yet crossed the bridge to embracing the way we feel as a helpful thing. Now many years on, there are 3 things I’ve learnt that I would teach my younger self, so she could feel at ease with who she was and enjoy the freedom and adventures that come with being a teenager. You know? Make the most of that young, strong body …
1. I’d say “Hey! you’re alive. A key characteristic of being a living thing is that you have feelings! They’re a natural response to the world around you and they help you evolve. Those very feelings are your inner wisdom telling you what you need to STOP doing (because it’s not working for you) or START doing (to make your life work better for you). There’s nothing wrong. You’re OK –you’re in a process – that’s what life is. So relax. And pay attention to what your feelings are telling you.”
2. Then I’d let her know how her brain really works. How each time she has a highly charged reaction to something that happened, it’s her brain recalling all the past times she felt the same way. Past memories and fears for the future are all brought into this moment along with the reaction we are having to the event itself. This creates a bigger ‘story’ around what’s happening, which can feel extremely emotionally painful if she believes it. It’s true suffering. By learning to see the story, she won’t react as much and can decide what to do next with more confidence.
When I look back on my teenager years, I ‘saw’ no one understands, I’m all alone, no one cares, yet when now I can see how much care and love was all around me. When I was in the ‘story’ created by my thinking, I just couldn’t see it. My story blocked it from entering.
3. Lastly, I’d make sure she has an emotion education so she knows how her feelings work. “Did I say there’s nothing wrong with you? Let me say it again. There’s nothing wrong with you.” By learning to trust herself, knowing she won’t feel like this forever, and using her feelings to grow, the game changes. Her feelings know what they’re doing, by seeing them as a guide and trusting the process of life (because that’s what life is, a living, changing, evolving process) she will find quite naturally, the answers she’s looking for.
Hang in there, beautiful one, stay true to yourself by honouring your feelings. They want to help you grow and live a better life. Make them your best friends.
Lisa Jayne is an emotional educator, working with mothers to implement new foundations in the relationships with their daughters, so they can transform emotional emergencies into opportunities that build courageous, confident and inspirational women. Her mission is to empower young girls to identify and meet their own emotional needs so they do not end up in unhealthy relationships with friends or future partners through the Building Brave Mentoring Program for mothers.