{Guest Blog} What Other People Think

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It is a pleasure to have a (first!) guest blogger here on ‘Inspire!’ Annie Fox, M.Ed. is an award winning author, educator, post cast host and online adviser for parents and teens since 1997. http://anniefox.com. Her books for t(w)eens include: Teen Survival Guide to Dating & Relating, (now available as a free download) http://teensurvivalguide.com. Too Stressed to Think? And the new Middle School Confidential™ series. Her just released iPad app Be Confident A Middle School Confidential Graphic Novel is now available at iTunes. Listen to her podcast series “Family Confidential: Secrets of Successful Parenting.”

What Other People Think
By Annie Fox, M.Ed.

Tweens and teens are famously self-conscious around their peers. The risk of falling short of what’s “cool” can be so intimidating it’s a wonder they crawl out of the sack and get themselves to school. Each day 160,000 American kids don’t bother. They can’t deal with the judgement, put-downs and out-and-out cruelty from other students so they stay home.

I know at least one adult who also wrestles with self-doubts. Before I leave the house for a speaking gig,  I stress over my hair and what I’m wearing, especially when I’m presenting to middle schoolers. I try on a half dozen different tops, pants, earrings in an attempt to look cooler. I know it’s a total crap shoot and I’m sure I often fail miserably, but I make the effort because I want the kids to accept me. Kinda sweet and kinda pathetic too.

Why does it matter so much what other people think? Well, as a species we’re programed to try to get other folks to like us. We’re not the fiercest beasts in the jungle so we need to team up to survive. A team works for the mutual benefit of all members only if those members are on good terms.

And so, throughout the millennia, we’ve become skilled at decoding each other’s micro-expressions – fleeting facial indications of fear, disgust, surprise, approval, etc. When we see disapproval, it’s time to back-pedal… quick!

For example, suppose we’re chatting and I say, “Wow! Last night for dinner we had the best steamed okra.” I’m about to add, “You’ve gotta try this recipe!” But before I do, I detect a Yuck expression flit across your face. Uh-oh…  I offended you. I’m in trouble! If you vote to kick me off the team my survival’s at stake. I’ve gotta figure a fast, face-saving move. I’ve
got it! “Of course, not everyone likes okra…” I say with a charming smile. You nod and smile back. Phew!  That was close!

I created this quiz to help kids start thinking about all this. Share it with your child. Take it yourself. Food for thought.

Tastier than okra.


If my friends think something is funny, I’ll laugh even if I don’t get the joke. True/False

The worst thing is to do something embarrassing in front of people. T/F

If everyone’s seen a movie but me, I’ll say I saw it. T/F

If my parents think something’s a “good” idea, I’m suspicious. T/F

I hate making decisions cause it sucks to be wrong. T/F

I’m never the first person to give my opinion. T/F

I’ve dropped out of an activity I liked because none of my friends were into it. T/F

It’s risky to say how you really feel. T/F

If someone makes fun of what I’m wearing, I won’t wear it again. T/F

If my friends think something’s cool, I’ll try it even if I’m not sure I’ll like it. T/F

7-10 Trues: You worry what others think and it brings you down.With a boost in self-confidence and support from family and friends, you’ll trust yourself more and enjoy being you.

3-6 Trues: Sometimes it’s hard for you to stand up for yourself, but when you do it feels good. You’re getting better all the time at being your own person.

0-2 Trues: You hardly ever worry what others think because you’re self-confident and have a lot of self-respect. You may not know it, but people respect you for who you are.

*Excerpted from Be Confident in Who You Are, Book 1 of my Middle School Confidential http://middleschoolconfidential.com/ series. Just released as a graphic novel iPad app http://middleschoolconfidential.com/be_confident.html  (for ages 8-14) and now available from iTunes. http://bit.ly/BeConfident

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