How Children Measure up Against Others and Developing Resilient Minds.

Many people underestimate just how hard growing up actually is – particularly that phase when children start to become aware of themselves as an individual and how they measure up against others. i.e. physical appearance, personality, or academia.

The word resilient may only have 9 letters however, it conjures up power thoughts of strength, robustness and resistance, key attributes that Kate Gordon is keen to help build in young people.

Read this true story of how Kate was bullied as a child at school, yet through her maturing journey found a way to overcome real challenges through building resilience and developing a strong mind.

“Until the age of 9 I was very happy, fun loving kid…. My best friend Jake and I would spend hours playing in a farmer’s scrubby wood at back of my parents’ house. Care free and happy creating havoc like all children should.

At the beginning of year 5 (so about age 9/10) I had a new teacher who made a significant impact on my life and not is a positive way. For this story let’s refer to the teacher as Mrs Bornree.

During one lesson Mrs Bornree explained that we were going to measure the pressure we exerted on the earth. Now, I don’t know if there are any physicists reading this story – but this involves weighing yourself!! I had never weighed myself before and when I innocently stood on the scales, the teacher gasped and said “Oh my god Kate – you’re 8.5st! I think you better lay off the biscuits”…

I remember this reaction really shocked me. All of a sudden, for the first time in my life, I became aware of how I measured up against everyone else in the class. As the results continued to be called out, it became very apparent to me that I was by far the heaviest in the class – boys and girls! in fact I was even heavier than the teacher!

Mrs Bornree had successfully sewn a very dark seed in my mind – and gave the rest of my peer group the sense that I was different in some way.

For the next 6 years I was bullied about my size…from name calling like Beefy G & Collosal Kate, I even had the 90s Jaffa cake advert tune adapted to sing about how large I was?

In may seem pretty funny in way – but I can tell you at the time it deeply hurt my feelings!

The other problem I had was that I didn’t fit the academic mould, nor was I particularly good at the absorbing vast amounts of information and regurgitating it onto a piece of paper – so I was often towards the bottom of the class and over time I began and continued to believe, that I was thick.

So in summary – I came out the other end of school with in my head two clear labels – FAT & STUPID

Now I’m not telling you this as a ‘woe is me’ story  – it just seems that  labels like these – that we are given or, we give ourselves such as UGLY AND SKINNY or, BORING and WEIRD – are very common. If we believe them, they can significantly how us back and affect how happy we are as people, furthermore what we believe we can achieve.

So for me – the biggest challenge young people face is finding ways to emotionally cope with the external world and presents the question, how can we develop a generation of resilient Minds?

The work of Anti bullying campaigns is fantastic. That said I also feel strongly that we need to teach young people how to mentally protect themselves from the damage that can be done by others or even worse (and more dangerous) – by their own internal negative thoughts and beliefs.

From my own journey of overcoming my own growing up scars – there have been some fantastic developments in the world of psychology, neuroscience and general mental health.  I feel strongly that we need to educate our young people in the importance of being curious about how the mind works – recognising when attacking comments & thoughts flow in and teaching them to see that we all have a choice as to whether we believe and get consumed in them”.