I recently spoke to a group of 8th grade girls about the #imkinderthanthat movement. The focus of the discussion was about judgment and not only being kind to others, but also being kind to yourself. The pressure on young girls and boys these days can be overwhelming and with social media playing a huge role in their lives I thought it was important to impart some hard-earned wisdom about judging others and self-love.
I gave the girls a worksheet with four questions. What do people see when they look at me? What DON’T people see when they look at me? How can I be “kinder than that” to others? How can I be “kinder than that” to myself? I thought that this would be a good way to illustrate how we judge people, and they judge us, before actually knowing anything about each other.
The teens broke into four groups in order to work on one question each. Walking around the room, I heard conversations between these young girls about what it means to be kind to others and how there are things that people don’t know/see just by looking at you. They were having REAL discussions and talking about REAL issues that they face. I was inspired.
The girls gave great answers to all of the questions, given they had just met me and probably didn’t want to deep dive into their personal struggles. When asked what people see when the look at them, they stated the obvious. Things like, “I’m tall”, “I am athletic”, “I have blue eyes”. When asked what people don’t see, they gave examples such as, “I have three siblings”, “I have two dogs”, “I am a good student”, “I am a good friend”. This question was critical to me, because I believe that this is where children start to learn about judgment and how we can look past what we see on the outside and ask, “what DON’T I know about this person?”
We then had the group, including the adults, stand in a circle and say one thing that people don’t see when they look at them. Then, we went around again and asked them to say one positive thing about themselves. This is important for young girls. In a world that seems to tear people down for not being “perfect”, we need to tell girls (and boys) that it’s ok to look in the mirror or at a circle of their peers, appreciate what they see, and say to themselves, “I’m kinder than that” when they have self-doubt.
I honestly believe that if even ONE of those girls is walking down the hall at school and stops to say “I’m kinder than that” before judging someone, the world becomes just a little bit kinder. If someone’s life becomes a bit easier because someone looks beyond what’s on the outside or an 8th grade girl looks in the mirror and thinks “this is me, and I am enough”, then that is a win.