Following on from the recent presidential election of Donald Trump, I believe it may well be a good time for the American Public to ask, "Who am I?"
Regardless of what you think about Donald Trump, he appears to have a clear self-identity. He knows what he believes and neither the condemnation of the press, nor his adversaries nor even his own party, seems to have moved him from his standpoint. This in many ways may well be what has drawn so many people to him. So often it has been heard from his supporters “he says it how it is”, and a common criticism of his opponent Hilary Clinton is that she "flip-flops", changing her mind at the drop of a hat.
It has got me thinking about a session I am about to run at various schools next week. The session is entitled “Identity” and one of the first activities is to write down 10 adjectives describing who you are. My Shine girls often find this hard, resorting to describing themselves physically such as “blond hair”, or putting negative comments such as "weird" or "ugly". In order to answer the question – many of them choose to ask their friends or me.
When we ask them to write down who they are, we are in fact asking them to self-reflect on their own identity. This is a difficult task for an adult, let alone a 13-year-old girl. We want our girls to ask themselves whether they are kind or cruel, loving or hate filled, confident or timid, thoughtful or thoughtless, and once decided use these traits as a barometer for the big decisions they must make in life.
Our Shine girls are often floating through life, unable to self-identify and so, when a strong character tells them who they are, they are inclined to believe it. This strong character may be the media telling them that they are a sexual object or a boyfriend telling them that they are important because ‘he likes them’, or a friendship group telling them that they will be cool if they take drugs. We believe that until our Shine girls are able to say, "I am beautiful, valuable, lovable and unique" they will be pulled from pillar to post seeking the answer and often damaging themselves and others in the process. This cycle is what we at Shine seek to stop. We aim to help the girls come to their own positive views about their identity and start to believe in their own decision-making based on who they are.
Whether you are a Trump or Clinton supporter is irrelevant in this situation. The question is do you need, like my girls, a strong character to tell you what you should think, or have you been empowered to believe in yourself and your own choices. Do you feel confident enough in yourself to change your mind or do you cling to the strength of others because being or saying something different makes you too vulnerable?
So following on from this surprising result, I would recommend that the American people, in fact all of us, should ask ourselves “who am I?” Understanding ourselves, what motivates us, and the core values that we hold true to in all our decision-making will give us all the best chance to show our young people how leaders should behave and raise up a new generation understanding that identity is not given to you by others but comes from within.