Remind Your Teens That No One Gets to Tell Them Who They Are

My daughter and I were driving home from the movies on Saturday when she told me she wanted to take up more hobbies. It piqued my interest, so I asked her what she wanted to do. She told me she didn’t know but wanted to do something.

I suggested going to a spin class with me or maybe signing up for a dance class. Not liking any of those ideas, she looked out the window and told me that an ex-friend of hers was telling everyone she was “boring and didn’t have a personality.”

teen girl
Negative comments about my daughter’s personality hurt her. (Twenty20)

My daughter’s friend’s comment about her made me so angry

I had to take a beat (a long one) to keep Mama Bear down. The comment made me irate, even more so after she told me who had said it (let’s call her Maeve). Now, it wasn’t because I disliked Maeve; their friendship was very short and intense, and there was no way she knew my daughter enough to say those things about her. 

The two were new friends at the start of the summer after meeting through other girls in their class. They got together a few times, and from what I saw when Maeve came to our house, she was very confident, had a take-charge personality, and liked to be busy the entire time. My daughter is quiet, introverted, and needs her downtime. They are both wonderful girls with a lot to offer, but they are very different. 

I don’t know why my daughter’s friendship ended

I don’t know the full truth about why the friendship ended. I know that there are two sides to every story. My daughter wasn’t that upset when it happened. But Maeve’s comments bothered her. She told me she doesn’t want to take up any more hobbies, yet she thinks she should. “Maybe I am boring. I don’t do anything.”

After running down the list of things she does, she has a ton of hobbies that keep her busy, and she works with the elderly and loves it. I asked her if she was happy. Nodding her head, she decided she was happy. 

“So, you feel like you should do more things because an ex-friend tells people you are boring and don’t have a personality. It doesn’t seem like you think that’s true, right?”

“Yes, but maybe it is. I don’t play any sports, and I’m not in any clubs.”

“But, that’s not your thing, honey. You played sports for years and got out of it. Now, if you want to start back up with any of those things or try something new, I’m all for it. But don’t do it to prove to someone you aren’t boring or you will be miserable. No one gets to tell you who you are.”

I want my teens to embrace their authentic selves

I know comments about your personality can be hurtful. I’m a middle-aged woman, and they still bother me. We are all human and have feelings. That will never change. The one thing I want my kids to know is that they know best who they are. They have many great qualities, and just because they aren’t like someone else or quiet or shy doesn’t make them less than others.

People’s strengths come in all shapes and sizes. Some are loud about their accomplishments and success stories, while others are quieter. Some outgoing people need to socialize and hustle every day. Others work better when they’re alone and don’t like social events very much. I want my teens to appreciate all of these personality traits and know that what makes you tick as an individual is perfectly fine.

My teens need to create a life in which they feel content

What people say about us isn’t true. It’s simply their projection of who they think we are. If my kids try to live up to everyone’s expectations and make everyone else happy, they will end up making themselves unhappy. Not to mention, it’s impossible. The best thing they can do is create a life in which they feel content.

After our talk, I left the invitation to come to the gym with me open. I told my daughter we’ll make time for any new hobbies she wants to take up. But first, I wanted her to dig deep and make sure that she does what she wants to do and not what she thinks she has to do so people will like her. 

It’s important to remind our teens they really do know what (and who) makes them happy. Yes, they are discovering many things about themselves and changing daily, but at their core, they know who they are and what they enjoy doing.

The author of this post wishes to remain anonymous.

More Great Reading:

9 Things I Wish I Could Go Back and Tell My Teen Self

About Grown and Flown

Mary Dell Harrington and Lisa (Endlich) Heffernan are the co-founders of Grown and Flown the #1 site for parents of teens, college students and young adults, reaching millions of parents every month. They are writers (Lisa is a New York Times bestselling author), moms, wives and friends. They started the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook Group and are co-authors of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults (Flatiron Books) now in paperback.

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