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Do College Students Know Who They Really Are? 12 questions that will help form a core sense of self to better maneuver life
Our young adult children (arguably) are faced with more challenges, pressures, and worries than we faced growing up. Many when asked can’t describe “who they are” at their core. They are confused and flounder especially when there is an emotional or mental challenge such as how to handle stress, when to say "no, or how to problem solve. Here is the question: How effective are college aged kids at dealing with life and life's crap?
How well someone maneuvers through life is determined by many things, but having internal standards and a core sense of self is one crucial piece that will decide the ease or difficulty with which they cope with life. What this means is:
From what values, authentic beliefs, and personal rules do they operate each day?
If kids are encouraged to recognize and build their core strengths (moral and emotional) at a young age, they won’t flail in difficult situations. Having solid beliefs about how the world works, their place in it, individual rules about how to behave, and confidence in what they stand for all make foundation of self.
At an early age kids organize beliefs and standards into a workable system that carries them through life. They learn to trust their instincts, rely on their "I can do it" mentality, and exercise the courage and confidence it takes to put this system into practice. They learn to revise, rethink, accept, and to redirect. They learn that difficult is okay and that stress is normal. They know that they are not the mistake and the mistake doesn't determine what they stand for. They realize events happen and that there aren't always answers.
Some neuroscientists claim that somewhere in the realm of 95% of behaviors and core beliefs are pre-programmed and developed in the first two decades of life and learned from parents. If these beliefs are ones of self-reliance, resilience, and courage, the real world is not that scary and struggles are managed with success.
While things create an internal sense of self, the issue that young adults are faced with is forgetting their strengths, forgetting to return to their point of reference, and abandoning their true sense of self. This is when we see them giving into peer pressure, forming perfectionistic tendencies, forgetting self-care and how to say "no", struggling with situational depression, losing confidence in their aspirations, worrying about the small stuff, accessing joy on a daily basis, prioritizing their self-esteem, and even vacating their true position in life.
How can we help? When we allow our children to fail and own it, when we ask them to apologize, encourage them to interact, connect and engage in family and other relationships, and talk to them daily about their thoughts and feelings we are depositing in long-term insurance. Our role is to help them determine their position in life by creating self-worth, self-reliance and self-comfort.
By the time a child turns eighteen years old shouldn't they have a solid point of reference that is their compass in life? Shouldn't they have a self-monitoring system in place that allows them to lead with core values? And, shouldn’t they at age eighteen be able to instinctively feel happy and secure?
In a perfect world, yes, but there are no protections and little guarantees in this life.
The only guarantee is that there is always a home-base, a safe retreat, and an internal haven where our young adults can return when they are "tried". That place has to be built soundly on a solid foundation of self.
It is never too late to start building and securing this place of self-centered value, but it needs to be a place where intentional presence and calm is undeniable, a place where outside stresses are given little merit, a place where life's discordances seem less overwhelming, and a place where reliance on self is a natural tendency.
To encourage building a solid point of reference and develop a core sense of self, here are some valuable questions:
1. What makes you truly happy?
2. When are you most comfortable with just "being"?
3. When are you fully yourself with no outside pushes and pulls?
4. How will you be available to yourself at all times?
5. How will you be the author of your own story?
6. How will you constantly realign your actions with your beliefs and purpose?
7. How will you harmonize what you think, feel and do?
8. How will you keep clear your reality about what it is you truly want in life?
9. How will you accept that others' values and beliefs can’t change yours?
10. How will you keep your personal power or give it away when feeling weak?
11. How will you return to your values when threatened or challenged?
12. How will you know when you have strayed from your core?