You Could Change The World

Posted: August 22, 2011 in Encouragement

I attended Meet-The-Teacher night tonight at Jess’ school. His language arts teacher had the following quote on her Powerpoint:

A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. ~Margaret Mead

Think about that. It doesn’t say that highly intelligent people change the world, or freakishly talented people change the world. It says anyone who is able to think and imagine something better than we currently have, who gets together with a couple like-minded people, can and DO change the world.

Do you know what the means??? It means I could change the world. It means YOU could change the world! There is nothing stopping you!!

Sometimes we tend to get bogged down in our struggles:

“My grades aren’t good enough to get into college.”

“No one cares about me and no one supports me.”

“I’ve been to jail. Who would want to hire me?”

Here are 3 more quotes for you:

The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.  ~ Thomas Paine

Problems are not stop signs, they are guidelines.  ~ Robert Schuller

Poverty was the greatest motivating factor in my life.  ~ Jimmy Dean

Your struggle may just be your motivation to push beyond those around you. Who is going to work harder: The guy whose parents buy him a brand new Mustang for no apparent reason or the guy who is hungry with no food in the fridge? The hardship is what gives us courage and strength. Overcoming that hardship gives us a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that the guy in the Mustang will never know.

When my boys were young, they were in Karate. Every time there was a competition every single kid who participated got a trophy. It wasn’t because they had superior skills. It was simply because they showed up. Every kid got the same trophy.

So, I ask you, which would you prefer: a trophy because you showed up, or an Olympic gold medal? Of course the gold medal! That was earned through fierce hard work and accomplishment. Overcoming our difficulties, using those to push us to change the world, is your gold medal.

Embrace the difficulties you face in life knowing that those are vital ingredients to your accomplishments. They will light your path.

You are on your way to change the world!


Down But Not Out, part 3

Posted: August 20, 2011 in Managing life

Maybe you tried to let your family know how to love you, maybe you didn’t. If you still don’t feel loved, here’s the next step.

#3 step on how to get the love you need: Allow other people to love you.

When I say “allow” what I’m trying to say is that you don’t want your value to depend on ONE main person outside your family. You need to allow the various people who come and go in your life to demonstrate their love and concern for you.

You may feel like your family has never been there for you; maybe you’re in the foster care system, or your family is not very connected. If so, your human reaction is to get someone else to fill that void. A young child may go to the school nurse often complaining of various ailments, because the nurse is going to show concern and provide some sort of care to ease the sore tummy or headache. A teen girl may tell her boyfriend about people mistreating her so the boyfriend will defend or have compassion for her. The girl may even subconsciously CAUSE others to treat her poorly so she can get that care and concern from her boyfriend.

This is manipulation: when we orchestrate circumstances to get our desired reaction from a person.

For example, let’s say my birthday is coming tomorrow. I start a conversation at work about birthdays because I want someone in the discussion to ask me when my birthday is. If they ask, then some of those people will wish me a happy birthday tomorrow. If they wish me a happy birthday, to me, that means they care and I’m important enough to remember. However, I manipulated the situation to give them that information, so it’s sort of a hollow victory.

What if I didn’t say anything as my birthday approached? Then on the day of my birthday two people wished me a happy birthday! Wouldn’t that be better evidence that they were thinking of me and I was important enough to remember on my birthday? That would be a real victory for my self-worth.

Even though it’s scary to wonder if we are loveable, we need to allow the evidence to present itself. Manipulating to get the evidence is fake evidence. Let your boyfriend show you are loveable when he talks to you in front of his friends or gives you a small gift. Let your girlfriend show you are loveable when she calls or texts you or introduces you to her parents. Let your friends show you are valuable when they tell you about the problems they are having at home or school and listen when you talk.

Now that you know what you need to feel loved (because you figured out your love languages,) let your boyfriend or girlfriend know what they do that you really appreciate. Teach them how to love you.

The place the train can go off the tracks is believing we are unloveable just because a relationship ends. THAT IS NOT TRUE! Relationships may be for a SEASON, a REASON, or for LIFE.

The LIFE relationships are hard to come by. That is often people who are related to us, such as a brother or sister, however, just because we’re related doesn’t make it a forever relationship. A REASON relationship is someone such as a teacher or a counselor. They have a purpose for being in your life and once that purpose is fulfilled, the relationship ends. The SEASON relationship is our friends, boyfriends, or girlfriends. Every once in a while one or two of those can turn into LIFE, but mostly those are only for a season.

The people I went to high school with, although I have very fond memories, after we graduated, we took different paths in life. I don’t have contact with most of them anymore. But the relationships I had while in high school were valuable in molding me into the person I am today.

So, in getting the love you need, allow the people in your life right now to demonstrate their love for you without you moving the puppet strings. Keep in mind that some of these relationships will end, and, as you grow and change, you will move on to form new relationships. It’s a natural part of life. The evidence of their love will come while you are in a relationship with them. That evidence isn’t wiped out when the relationship ends. Relationships end because someone changes or moves, not because we suddenly become unloveable.

Who loves you? How do you know? Make a list of the things people do to prove to you they care. When you’re feeling unloveable, refer to the list that proves you ARE loveable. Include on your list, “Valerie wrote a blog to make sure I understand I’m loveable.”

If you did your homework, you now have some idea of your primary love languages. If you know what your love languages are, then you know the type of things you need to feel loved.

#2 step on how to get the love you need: Let your family know how to love you.

Most parents WANT to love their kids. They forget how it feels to be a teen, and they don’t realize when they are doing things that are hurtful. They have the awesome responsibility of teaching you how to get through life successfully (such as teaching you respect, responsibility, hard work, etc.,) and sometimes they forget what you need from them in the nurturing department, OR they are loving you with their love language and not yours.

First, you need to be aware when something happens that makes you feel unloved. I remember one incident when I was about 16. I had this overwhelming feeling all the time that my parents didn’t really care if I was around. They would talk to each other about their business all the time and never really talk to me. One night, as we sat down for dinner, I decided to do an experiment: I wouldn’t say anything at all during dinner unless my parents talked to me first.

Well, I sat through the whole meal silently. Neither of my parents said anything to me, and they didn’t seem to notice that I hadn’t spoken. I used that experience to confirm to myself that they didn’t care.

What I should have done was realize that I was deeply hurt by this and talk to them about it – let them know that I feel they don’t love me when they don’t talk to me. The problem was, I didn’t know that my parents WANTED to love me. I just assumed since I didn’t feel loved, I must not be loved. In reality, they just didn’t know how to love me. I needed to teach them. I needed to talk to them.

The secret of talking so that people listen: Use “I feel” in your sentence.

If I would have gone to my parents and said, “You need to include me in conversation.” That wouldn’t have gone over well at all. In my house, kids don’t TELL their parents such things. The key is in expressing how you FEEL. For example, I could have said, “I sat through dinner tonight and no one talked to me. I feel like you don’t love me when you talk to each other but not to me.” They may have gotten defensive and said, “You could have said something to us.” But I need to keep from getting defensive in return and keep stating how I feel, such as, “Yes, I could have said something to you, but I just want to let you know that I feel cared about when you start a conversation with me, and I feel that you don’t care when you talk to each other over dinner and don’t talk to me about my day.”

Here’s another example: I overheard a mom talking about her teen daughter the other day. Mom took her daughter to dive practice. The daughter asked mom to videotape her dives so she could watch it later and improve herself. Mom didn’t want to sit through the practice, so she left to get her nails done. When she got back, practice was over, and the daughter was mad. This would have been a good opportunity for the daughter to let her mom know, “When you got your nails done instead of videotaping my practice, I felt like you didn’t care about me.”

When you have this conversation with your parents, the phrase “I feel” should be in there somewhere. And, no  yelling is allowed. It may be hard for mom or dad to hear this at first, but it’s important for you to keep trying. They may be able to think about it later and realize that this is important to try.

The other piece is…pay attention to the things they do that make you feel loved, and point those out in a kind way. If mom would have stayed for the dive practice, the daughter could have said, “Thank you mom. I really appreciate you taking the time to do this for me.”

If you’re not able to get the love you need from your family, don’t forget: FEELING unloved is NOT the same as being UNLOVEABLE. Next time I’ll talk about other ways to get the love you need…because you ARE loveable and deserve to be loved! 

Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

Posted: August 14, 2011 in Giveaways

Since this is a new blog, I need your help in getting the word out to teens and young adults. To show my appreciation, I am giving away a small gift: a $20 Amazon gift card. I will choose 1 winner on September 30, 2011.

You will be entered into the contest 1 time for each of the following actions:

~ Share this blog on Facebook

~ Add a comment to any post

~ Tweet about the blog

~ Subscribe to the blog

~ Like on WordPress

~ Email me with a question at

~ Email me with a topic suggestion

If you’re a parent, please check out my blog for parents at: Raising Amazing Grace

Thank you for visiting!


Last time we talked about parents who aren’t quite doing what you need. As a human being, you need to be loved. If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of feeling unloved, the first thing to know is that FEELING unloved and BEING unloveable are two different things. That’s what I tried to get across to you in the last blog. 

Wanting to feel loved is totally normal. You SHOULD want to be loved. If you aren’t getting that, there are a couple different ways to handle it. We’ll take this step-by-step.

#1 step on how to get the love you need: Figure out what makes you feel loved.

Did you know that different people need different things to feel loved? I feel loved when people listen to me talk. I don’t do it very often, but if I’m telling a story and the listener gets a phone call then never comes back to hear the rest of my story, I feel rejected and hurt.  Or, if they cut me off and don’t let me finish, I feel like they don’t care about me.

So, guess what? To demonstrate my fondness and acceptance of others, I make a point to listen to them with my full attention. To me, I am telling them they are important.

This is how love works. We think it’s an emotion, but it’s really an action. Gary Chapman has written a few books on the Five Love Languages. He says, and I am in total agreement, that there are 5 different ways people feel loved. I’ll list them here with a brief description:

1. GIFTS – this person feels loved when someone gives them a small token. It doesn’t have to cost much or it could cost nothing. It is perceived as a loving gesture because the giver thought about you when you were apart.

2. ENCOURAGING WORDS – this person feels loved when someone says something positive about them. If this is your love language, you’ll really appreciate when your mom says, “Wow! You did a great job cleaning the kitchen. Thank you.” Or a simple, “I love you,” really means I LOVE YOU!

3. QUALITY TIME – this person feels loved just spending time with someone they care about. You don’t have to be doing anything special. It just feels good to be together. You could be watching a movie or doing chores. As long as you’re together, you feel cared about.

4. ACTS OF SERVICE – this person feels loved when someone does something for them. If this is your love language, you’ll feel loved when dad cleans your room for no particular reason except he wanted to help you because he knows you have a lot of homework. Or, you feel loved when mom takes your clothes out of the dryer and puts them away for you, just because.

5. PHYSICAL TOUCH – this person feels loved and cared about when they get a hug or a back rub or a touch on the arm. If they’re married, sex is a loving gesture too.

We often have a couple of primary love languages. QUALITY TIME and ACTS OF SERVICE are biggest for me. Needing to feel listened to would probably fall under QUALITY TIME, because someone is devoting their time to listen to me. But, I know I also really feel jazzed when one of my kids takes out the trash without being asked. It makes me feel like they value me because they relieved a bit of my burden. That is ACTS OF SERVICE.

We also tend to love others using our love language. So, if you tend to give or make small gifts for people, one of your primary love language may be GIFTS. If you are the kind of person who tries to be there for your friends, maybe QUALITY TIME is your love language. Are you a hugger? Maybe you’re a PHYSICAL TOUCH kind of person. Paying attention to how you care for others will help you determine your love language.

It looks like this topic will take a few days to cover. So, your homework for today is to determine what your love language is. This is the first step in getting the love you need.

I’ll be back soon with step 2.

If you have questions, feel free to contact me. I would love to hear from you…

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You Let Me Down

Posted: August 10, 2011 in Managing life

As you may know, I’m a therapist and I work with teens. Most of the parents who bring their kids to see me are bringing them because the kid is doing something the parents don’t like, or they’re concerned about something the kid is doing. Maybe the kid is moody, getting into fights, cutting, taking drugs, running away, etc. This kind of behavior causes the parent to bring the kid to me to “fix” them.

But the crazy thing is, when we get down to the root of the problem, it is usually because the kid feels rejected by the parent. I read an article yesterday about a 10-year-old girl who was made to run around the yard for 2 hours after sneaking a popsicle from the freezer. It was 107 degrees outside! After that, they locked her in a footlocker and went to bed. The girl died that night – locked inside a footlocker. This is TOTAL rejection.

But there are many degrees of rejection. I know a kid whose dad is always calling him “gay” (although he’s not gay) and telling him his friends have “stripper names.” There’s a girl whose mom got mad, took everything she had ever given the daughter, and told the daughter never to speak to her again. The mom then left and wouldn’t answer her phone. Another girl whose dad tells her every day she needs to lose weight and dress to flatter her weight, and while sitting in a restaurant told her to “suck in your stomach.”

There is more subtle rejection too. Kids who feel their parents never listen to them. Kids who see dad buy brother cool stuff, but don’t buy them anything. Parents who spend all their free time with friends or a boyfriend or girlfriend (if they’re not married.) Parents who work all the time and don’t have time to attend a band performance or come to a parent-teacher conference.

Parents are going to let you down. Some will do it from time to time. Those are the parents who really try to be good parents. Some will do it frequently. Those are the parents who lose track of what their priorities should be OR who have something major going on like a serious illness. Then there are the parents who just can’t parent.

Most of you have probably eaten at a restaurant with a waiter or waitress serving you. Some waiters are really good at their job. They are friendly, fill your water, bring your food while it’s still hot. Some waiters are terrible at their job. They never check on your table, have no personality, and get your order wrong.

The customers don’t make the waiter a good waiter or bad waiter. It’s the waiter himself who has the skills to do the job or who doesn’t. It’s the same with your parents. Whether they deserve an A, a C, or an F in parenting, it’s their skill or lack of skill – you haven’t done anything to make them reject you. The parent’s job is to love, protect, love, nurture, train, and love their kid.  The kid doesn’t do anything to EARN that. Of course you earn privileges, but acceptance and love are not earned.

As a human being, we need to be loved and cared about. Mom and dad are naturally the first people who are supposed to provide that for us. When they aren’t able to because they lack the ability to be the parent you need, you’ve got to find a way to get that need met elsewhere.

There are some good ways to do this and some bad ways to do this. We’ll talk about this next time…

Fitting In vs. Being Me

Posted: August 8, 2011 in Managing life

I saw a kid wearing a shirt I absolutely loved! It said, “You laugh at me because I’m different. I laugh at you because you’re the same.”

Trying to walk the line between being YOU and being THEM is hard for everyone, but especially for teens. We all want to be accepted by those around us. We don’t want to be Cosmo Kramer at a low-talkers convention. We want to express our uniqueness without standing out.

The reason there is more pressure on teens to fit in is because of your brain. I don’t want to put anyone to sleep by launching into a technical lecture with diagrams and charts, so let me simply say, your brain is still developing. (Your POTENTIAL is still developing!) At this time, you FEEL more sensitive to criticism or lack of acceptance. You FEEL like you’re under a microscope – like the whole world is looking at you. Reality is that you’re not being scrutinized as closely as it seems.

There is the trick to being yourself and being RESPECTED as yourself without becoming a clone of those around you.

Imagine a kid like you. We’ll call him Jerry. He puts on a beanie and heads off to school. The beanie looks very cool with his long hair. Unfortunately, when he arrives at school another kid, we’ll call him George, says, “Hey Jerry! You’re wearing a beanie?? [laughs] It’s hot out here!”

How should Jerry respond? Keep the beanie or lose it?

You probably think he should keep the beanie on. I agree. If he keeps the beanie, it shows others that he’s confident as a person, that others can’t push him around, and that he doesn’t care what other people think. This commands respect.

But, in the situation, Jerry FELT very insecure. His first reaction was to take the beanie off to get the attention off himself. His brain was fooling him into thinking that everyone was looking at him and judging him negatively.

So, this is the trick to being YOU and being RESPECTED as the uniquely wonderful person you are: When someone says something to you and you feel like the world is looking at you and laughing, remind yourself that it’s not as bad as it feels. But, more importantly, remind yourself that if you stand your ground, you will be respected…just like the beanie-wearing, cool dude, Jerry.