I have this gorgeous but kooky rescue dog called Kevin. He does this weird thing where he looks at your reflection instead of at you. In the picture, he is looking at me in the bumper of the car. I'm sitting right next to him, but he's not looking at me - he's looking at my reflection. He does it in mirrors, windows and any reflective surface. I think we're a bit like Kevin sometimes too - we look at life through our screens and that's not real life, that's just a reflection of it. So let's get off our devices and actually talk to each other, get outside and do stuff, instead of watching other people live their lives on social media.
These two photos were taken in the same place at the same time but facing different directions. We are surrounded by things that threaten to overwhelm us - global pandemics, heavy study loads, family tension, friend issues, serious illness, cancel culture, bullying, hate... It's important to remember that the storms don't last forever and the blue sky is hiding behind the clouds. We are also surrounded by good things - nature, friends, music, love, kindness, the sun, art... Turn around and focus on the good stuff.
My daughter is in her fourth year at university and has been overwhelmed by the workload recently, staying up till the early hours to finish her assessments. She is exhausted physically and emotionally, but she said something profound, "I will always have my degree, but I won't always have to study." Your perspective matters.
Maggie Dent has written A letter to a 21st Century teenager: 10 things I want you to know. In it she said, "Every teen needs to have a significant adult ally who is not their mum and dad – I call them ‘lighthouses’. Sometimes it can be a teacher or a coach, an aunt or uncle, a neighbour, a family friend, a friend’s mum or dad – you just need to have somebody who genuinely cares about you and believes in you." Both my daughters have mentors and older friends they can talk to who are not their parents. You only need one person. Make a list of people who could be a lighthouse for you.
You can read Maggie's letter at https://www.maggiedent.com/blog/a-letter-to-a-21st-century-teen. It's a great read - print it out and put it somewhere you will see it often.
Here's a little pep talk from the former First Lady.
I’m on holiday in Queensland at the moment and it’s been pretty wet since we arrived. That can be a bit of a downer if you’re a tourist, but if you’re a farmer the rain is great. Practically everything you eat and drink relies on the rain. You also don’t get rainforests without rain.
So rain can be a good thing - it depends on your point of view or attitude.
Life can be a bit like that - if we change our point of view and see challenges as opportunities for growth, we will be less upset by them. We will also learn valuable life lessons like patience, resilience and persistence. It's hard to learn these lessons in the sunshine - we need to go through a few challenges.
Remember when you were in primary school and there was that one kid that kept copying you so you would put your arm over your work or build a fort of books so they couldn't see? Every time you sat a test the teacher would say, "keep your eyes on your own work." It's important to do your own work in school, but it's also important to do your own thing in life too. Don't copy how other people speak, dress or act to fit in - just be you. Don't be awkward or embarrassed about your love of folk music or your passion for photography, or your weakness for gherkins - just own it.
22 year old Pheobe Ho is one of the 7 News Young Achiever Awards Finalists. Because of her experience of eating disorders she is passionate about mental health. Pheobe is a Headspace National Youth Advisor, was the UWA Guild Welfare Officer in 2018, won the Cruickshank-Routley Memorial Award for her contribution to life on campus, and has run many mental health programs.
When asked what advice she would give her teenage self she said:
1) Know that my self-worth as a person is more than my shape, appearance, and weight because I am the connections I’ve formed with other people, and the memories I’ve shared with them.
2) To have persevered in help-seeking and to have known that it may take several tries before you “click” with the right psychologist. I generalised my first not-so-positive experience to all other psychologists and out of seeking help for a long time. But when I found the right psychologist, it was extremely beneficial to my recovery.
3) To enjoy life, surround myself my positive people, and value me for me and all the amazing things I can do- walk, run, talk, socialise, etc. and not buy into images of body ideals on social media that are often photoshopped and an inaccurate representation of reality.
Kids' Helpline is not just for kids - their counsellors are trained to deal with people up to the age of 25.
When you speak, your tone and body language say more than your words do as indicated by Albert Mehrabian's 7-38-55 Rule. This is especially important to remember when you are speaking to your parents. Whining, an aggressive or defensive tone, throwing your hands in the air and rolling your eyes are all sure ways to get your parents off side. If you want them to really hear you, try to control your tone and gestures. It might be helpful to do some breathing exercises, listen to some music or journal your feelings before you speak to them.