Let’s help kids to be more comfortable in their skin

By Catherine Ross

Identity is a funny thing. The way other people see us can be very different from the way we see ourselves or the image we try to project to others. In my experience, identity is something that gets easier with age.

As I get older, I feel less and less obligation to agree with people for the sake of being popular or saying yes. As I get older, I realise I’m never going to be “cool”, that I’m probably a bit of a geek and that yes, actually, I do prefer Grease 2 to the original and that most other people don’t. To my mind it has way better songs and Michelle Pfeiffer is 100 times more fun than soppy Sandy, but I digress.

As a teenager, I wanted so desperately to fit in. I wanted to be liked by the cool kids and chosen for teams in PE. I remember pretending to know what people meant when they cracked their (not very funny in hindsight) jokes, pretending to like TV programmes and music that other people liked. Pretending Oasis were better when really I preferred Blur.

These days, I just don’t have time for pretending. I have stronger opinions on politics than I ever had in my youth. I have a strong sense of right and wrong. I like country music.

I found it so hard, as a girl, to just be myself. I always felt that just myself wasn’t good enough. That was back in the late 80s and early 90s. The days without 24 hour television, the internet, camera phones or facebook. It must be so hard for young people now to find and be comfortable with their own identity.

This new world of “selfies” (self portraits taken with mobile phone cameras for the uninitiated) and social media is a minefield for people trying to figure out who they are. The moment a picture or a status is posted, it’s available for comment, judgement and ridicule.

Seemingly there is a trend for children as young as 10 to send naked pictures of themselves to their friends and “boyfriends”. It’s a stupid, dangerous trend. It is not ok, but as with any trend, not joining in puts you on the outside and that’s a scary place to be as a young person.

We have to help our children find their identities. We have to give them secure, loving homes where they can express their opinions without fear of judgement and
ridicule. We have to teach them how to protect themselves so that they can grow into the adults they
deserve to be.

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