Inclusion Column by Mónica Acosta, MSHS Psychologist
Have you ever felt that you have had to make decisions influenced by other members of the social group you belong to? How to dress, despite of my comfort? What party to attend not being sure if I really want to attend? What to say, how to say it, regardless of if it goes against my beliefs and values? Even as an adult, these are conflicting questions I constantly ask myself on a day to day basis.
As a foreigner, I have been blessed with the opportunity to experience social dynamics at ASFM with zero expectations and an unblemished perspective. Our students’ deep and true desire is to be happy, but for some reason, some of them struggle to reach this goal easily, regardless of if they have been part of the ASFM community since a young age. In my interventions as a School Psychologist for Middle School and High School, in the past four years, I have been able to have deep discussions with my students about their social reality at school. Most of my Middle School students have shared that they desire to belong and be part of a group. When asking them, what needs to be done to achieve that goal, most of them express that they need to abide certain rules and expectations in order to belong. In most cases, these rules and expectations move away from their true identity (values and interests).
I have met very few students who have had the courage to stay true to who they are, not surrendering to the pressures of their peer group. In the process, they’ve had to stay alone (with no group) for some time, but during those times, they have been able to reflect on who they are and really define what makes them happy. As part of the Wellbeing department for MSHS, my guiding question to every intervention is "What makes you happy?". If the answer is "I don't know", my job is to first guide that student to find an answer, followed by determining the tools and steps needed to reach the goal. My goal with students is to guide them in discovering who they really are and just be OK with it, regardless of what others think, believe and feel. Once they start accepting who they are, and feeling happy about themselves, others will start becoming more aware of their sense of fulfillment, naturally being drawn to him/her. We all naturally gravitate and enjoy the company of somebody who is happy.
On the other hand, one is not in capacity to accept others and their individuality, until they are able to accept themselves. I invite you to continue having those conversations with your children, students, and friends. It all starts with us and becoming more aware of what really makes us happy to welcome and accept others in our lives.