'Because You're Worth it' - But Why?

The new year brings new resolutions and new promises and hopes. By the end of the year it can be like ‘What went wrong??!!’.

One thing we all like to do is to avoid failure, because that keeps our self-worth intact. For students of any age, there can be a tug-of-war between self-worth and failure. ‘If I do badly, then that proves I’m useless’.

Kids who love learning tend to use failure as something to learn from, rather than feeling diminished as a person. This is the way top achievers in sport and other fields talk. They learn from their losses without doubting themselves.

Others work very hard to do well because they have so much fear about doing badly (which would show they’re no good). Some of these kids are perfectionists too, and put themselves under enormous pressure.

Some don’t try much at all and make it clear they are not trying, so if they do poorly they can claim they were never interested anyway. Self-worth preserved! Members of this group may look for success in non-academic pursuits such as sport, gaming, clowning around, or risky behaviours of all sorts.

Teachers and parents/carers can help children by emphasising effort rather than ability, praising success rather than criticising failure, and maintaining positive relationships within and between school and home.

When we fail in some area of life, as is bound to happen, a bit of self-compassion wouldn’t go astray. In the Year of Mercy (=Compassion), we can acknowledge that failure is part of who we are. Instead of beating ourselves up we can then accept our messy selves as still worthy of love.

Somehow that releases energy to keep growing as a person. In religious terms we might recognise this as God’s loving forgiveness, and grace.

Can we break the link between failure and self-worth as the ‘kids who love learning’ group already do? Where does our worth come from then? Is it just based on grades, awards, ability, achievement, looks, popularity, celebrity, money… ‘success’?

Reference: How to Help Kids Overcome Fear of Failure, at http://greatergood.berkeley.edu

Upcoming opportunity: Interrelate at Rouse Hill is running Ideas for Parenting Teens,

a 3-hour interactive seminar on how to effectively communicate and set boundaries with your teenager. Monday 14 March or Tuesday 7 June, 6 – 9 pm, $25. Book on 8882 7850.

Information about counselling both in and out of school is at http://www.stjohnpaul2.catholic.edu.au/learning-teaching

Martin Graham

School Counsellor