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Troubling Trends

Updated: Apr 30


In counseling, we view the relationship as one of the most essential pieces to being able to bring about positive change in a client’s life. Lately, I have noticed a trend among the young female clients that I have been working with. During the first couple of sessions, I assess how my clients view themselves. Specifically, I look for the things that they consider to be the most important about who they are. Surprisingly, one of the first things they disclose is their sexuality.

I began to question why this would be what they consider to be one of the most defining things about them.

I am not trying to take away from the importance of sexuality, but these young girls don’t seem to be able to see themselves as something beyond that. I recently read an article by Sissy Goff, where she talked about how to connect International Women’s Month to the girls in our life. Her emphasis was talking to our girls about the joy in being a woman and what that means. Not just the ability to become a mother, but understanding the divine plan of the various roles that women play.

The article outlined how to help girls connect to other influential females in their world and understand how they got that role. Goff points out that as we get older, we can lose sight of those we look up to the most. Too often girls are taught the idea of all the ways that the world is unfair and stacked against them, rather than the power that each individual possesses. When young girls are taught to view themselves as disadvantaged – simply for being a woman – they are then primed to look for it in their world.

As a mother of three girls, I have not figured out the perfect way of parenting. Like many of you, it is a constant work in progress where I strive to be just a little bit better than I was the day before. My twins are in middle school and I have found that the dinner table is the richest place of the day to get the best insight into their world.

The conversations normally revolve around all things social. Very little academic information is shared. Listening to them makes me thankful I am not a middle school teacher. The pieces that worry me most as a parent are the way that they notice how their peers are changing as they are making the shift from child to adolescent.

They tell me about the types of shocking clothes that the other kids are wearing. The widespread use of cell phones and social media in school. The relationships between certain peers that have either formed or fallen apart. The manner in which kids speak to each other or to the adults in the school. The theme I hear linking all their stories together is a cry for significance. My clinical experiences with clients reinforce their stories. I see it again and again, where girls are attaching their significance to things that will have many negative consequences.

The ideas of Konstantin Kisin were recently shared with me where he was drawing reference to a study called the Dartmouth Scar Study. A group of women were gathered and told that they would be going for a job interview. Before the interview, makeup artists worked to make a scar or facial deformity on each of the women’s faces. Then, with a mirror, the women were shown the scar on their face. Prior to leaving the room to begin the interview, the artist then told the women they just needed to touch it up one more time. What the women did not know, is in that moment, the scar was removed completely.

After the interview, the women were asked if they thought that they had been discriminated against as a result of their facial deformity.

They all said YES!

They believed that the person conducting the interview asked certain questions due to the fact that they had this facial deformity or that they would not stop looking at that area of their face. This is learned victimhood. It leads us to believe and see exactly what we are looking for. Kisin addresses how learned victimization can lead to a person believing that the world is against them.

Instead, we need to teach our youth that they are strong. That they possess the ability to show grit in hard situations. Unfortunately, that is not what is always taught. Instead, our youth are exposed to these big ideas at a young age. They make lifelong decisions and do not possess the critical thinking abilities to comprehend the long-term consequences.

The only rational question to ask is what do we do next?

As their therapist, I want my clients to see themselves outside of their sexuality. To recognize that things in life are not always going to be fair or come easily. That through our struggle and fight, we learn what we really care about. Helping young people connect to the idea that they have the ability to make good decisions. Understanding where those lines of thinking have come from and using them to guide us toward healthy decisions.

I also believe in not always giving young people the answer. In session, I often like to toss the ball back into their court, and let them work out the consequences of their ideas.

It’s within that struggle that they really learn about themselves and find what they are looking for. Sissy Goff often says, that we want our kids to wrestle with the ideas and complexities of life while they are under our roof and influence rather than encounter a struggle for the first time at the age of 35. Let them make mistakes and mess up when we are the ones that support them through the repair process, rather than the unforgiving world.

The bottom line is that we see in life what we look for. If we want to create a culture of people that believe the world is stacked against them, there will always be evidence to support that. However, the same ideas apply that if we want to build and shape a child to see the world as a place of options and possibilities, there is evidence to support that as well. God did not promise us a world without suffering. However, there is power in that, because we get to choose what we want to suffer for.

Teach your children that we get to choose a life of joy, love, empowerment, adversity, and strength. Teach them to look for these things and their life will be better for it.


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