Insecurity defines youth. In an attempt to fit in, and to feel whole, adolescents will try on myriad personas before ultimately settling into the most authentic personality that will continue to define him/her through the remainder of their respective lives. Observe any youth from birth through late adolescence and you’ll clearly see him or her change with perfect chameleon ease. The change may be full-spectrum or subtle, but either way it is there. One day, a thoughtful, considerate youth warms your heart. One day, you’re asking, “who is this thoughtless rude beast”? Once brilliant and artistic, the adolescent is now unable to put together two cohesive sentences. Trying to be cool, while trying to be different, while trying to fit in creates a chaotic stew. To the point: The child is developing into the adult that will define them throughout life. And without a centered sense of self, chaos remains throughout adulthood.
At around 26-30, the prefrontal cortex has begun to gel, and the ability to reason and act with care rather than exhibiting impulsivity, becomes the norm. Provided with normal development, no longer is the young adult reckless and impulsive. That “six-foot-tall and bullet-proof” attitude is refined and choices are more rational and appropriate. However, if drugs and/or alcohol are ingested before the frontal lobe is fully developed, the adolescent may remain careless with one foot constantly on the proverbial banana peel while straddling a craggy cliff. We’ve all seen adults who are perpetual adolescents. We may even be one, refusing to “grow up” regardless of how old we are.
If you notice a child gravitate towards the most dysfunctional peer on the playground, take a closer look. The adage “birds of a feather stick together” is no truer than when used to explain in childhood peers. Seeking common threads, each child has innate radar that leads directly to the mirror of how he or she is experiencing the world, and of how that experience reflects the inner self-image. As the child tries on characteristics with the ease of playing dress ups from a trunk of old garbs, he or she awaits the external response. Is it cool? Is it square? Is it boring? Is anyone looking? Looking, noticing is perhaps the most important role of a parent or leader. “Look at me,” is the cry of the child. When the need is met, the child no longer must work so hard to gain attention, and a more secure self-image is shaped.
The magical solution is not in caging the child until the age of thirty is reached. Contrarily, it is imperative that we each develop in natural stages that allow us to experience, stretch, and grow, and finally to spread our wings and fly secure in our self-esteem. Inspiration and exposure to the smorgasbord of delights that a fully embraced life offers is the key to authentic human wholeness. More to the point: Fostering the secure self-esteem in our youth means teaching them that personal power comes from within, and not from external validation. That’s a HUGE lesson. And perhaps more so in so-called developed nations is this truth lost amidst a flurry of trying to fit in with the imaginary but oh-so dysfunctional “reality” as portrayed by western media. In the end, as in the beginning, self-esteem defines youth.
Kill the TV. Take a hike. Find what peace there is in nature. And have your child’s hand in yours, whether or not that child is your inner-child or your off-spring.
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