I spend a lot of time talking about kindness, because I believe it’s the antidote to most of the ills in our culture. It’s also the MOST important thing to teach your kids. Kindness first, and grit (a willingness to try your hardest, fail, and just keep trying) a close second. We are a culture who values coolness above all things, and the path to cool can be littered with cruelty.
Think of any time in your life that you’ve tried to be cool. Most often your coolness is at the expense of another person. That’s the foundation of the Mean Girl Syndrome, a disease I’ve been trying to eradicate with my teen empowerment coaching. The heart of my mission is to build up the Girl Power inside each of us, so we can then use that power for good, preferably to build up another girl, and so on, and so on. The cornerstone of all that empowerment is kindness.
I’m building my kindness muscles with a course I’m taking led by the amazing Alexandra Franzen, writing coach extraordinaire. This course is about asking and receiving. For most of us it’s easier to give than to receive, so she started us out with one tiny gesture of kindness each day. It is rocking my world! I think I’m a kind person, but this is intentional. Every day one tiny gesture. It has changed the way I look at other people. My judgy side is weakening, which makes being a human much easier.
Kindness is a choice in any situation. My advice for teens extends to all of us. Let’s say you are with a group of friends and there’s a quirky girl next to you who doesn’t look or act like you. You have a choice to ignore her, because she might make you uncomfortable, or you can embrace her differences and say something kind. Complement one thing about her—hair, smile or choice of reading material, anything. Find a point of connection and make it stronger. It doesn't have to be anything earth shattering, just a noticing of the difference and then finding a place where you are the same. Putting effort into making other people feel like they are accepted, even admired, for exactly who they are is a form of kindness that creates ripples of good will. And creating that ripple will make you, and whoever you’re with, feel more confident.
Confidence born of kindness is the only kind of cool that’s really cool. If we can all stop striving for an aloof mirage of coolness and instead let our heart shine, we can stop bullying in its tracks. We can make the Mean Girl Syndrome a thing of the past. We can turn our beauty contest culture into a pride of lionesses, and you know how I feel about lionesses!
P.S. I challenge you to try one tiny act of kindness every day this week, and then notice how you feel. Tell me all about it at firstname.lastname@example.org
P.P.S. If you want to check out Alexandra for yourself, go to www.alexandrafranzen.com