In my 15 plus years of working with girls and coaching mothers and daughters, I have observed, and have seen it played out over and over again, this deep desire to be acknowledged and to be heard. This morning, while listening to Deepak Chopra’s 21 day Meditation Challenge, Oprah, in her introduction to the meditation, gave her #! lesson that she has learned in life. I hit the pause button, grabbed my pen and jotted down her quote (below) because when I heard it, I knew it in my core to be the truth. I started thinking about all the mothers and daughters that I’ve coached over the years, and felt a nudge from the Universe to write about this deep need to be noticed and appreciated.
“If there is one lesson I have to say I’ve learned during my time on this planet it is this: the number one thing all people crave is to be seen and to be heard. It’s just that simple. The gift of paying attention is a fundamental key to transforming our relationships. You will be surprised at how miraculous your relationships become when you just start paying attention.” ~Oprah Winfrey, Day 13, Miraculous Relationships 21-Day Meditation Challenge
It sounds so simple doesn’t it? Just start paying attention and watch your relationships transform before your eyes. But for most teen girls, (especially tweens) they haven’t yet developed the language to express this need and it comes out in all sorts of strange and bizarre ways that sends mothers into panic mode and leaves them wondering “What happened to my little girl? Just yesterday she was sweet and loving, and suddenly there is this person in our home that I don’t even recognize anymore.”
Sound familiar? These outbursts and cries for attention show up in all sorts of ways: dirty looks, snide comments – both out loud and under her breath, hand gestures, cursing, and even more extreme attention-getting behaviors like sneaking out of the house, or other deliberate, in-your-face “house rule” breaking.
One of my clients was this sweet, little (she was only 4’10”), twelve year old girl, named Rebecca (not her real name). Her family had all sorts of nicknames for her; Becca, Becs, B – and because she was so tiny, Little B was the name that stuck. When I asked her what she wanted me to call her, in a soft voice she told me she loved being called Little B. It suited her to a tee.
So what was the problem, you might ask? The mother and her three daughters had been in one of my mother~daughter workshops and during one of the breaks, the mom pulled me aside and asked for help. We spoke on the phone the next day and she told me that her youngest, Rebecca, had been acting out – giving her dirty looks and pointing her finger at her like a gangsta with a gun! Little B? That precious little peanut??
When I started working with Little B, it turns out that the family had moved twice in one year. The first move was temporary until their new home was ready. Moving is hard for anyone, (it ranks #2 on the stress level scale – just below the death of a loved one), but for a child, switching schools can be a nightmare. But Little B’s problem went deeper than that. The family nanny, that had been part of their family for years, didn’t make the move with them. The mother figured that now that her youngest was twelve, the girls were all old enough to come home from school on their own without needing a nanny.
Little B told me that she often needed help with homework after school and when she’d call her mom at work, the mother would say, “I’ll help you when I get home.” But when the mother got home she had to get dinner ready and by the time she was ready to help, it was late and B was tired and angry.
She didn’t have the words to say “I need you. Please stop what you’re doing and pay attention to me. I need to know that I am more important to you than your job.”
Together, we came up with the words that helped Little B, express her feelings to her mother and she and her mom established a sacred time that they carved out of the daily schedule that was just for them – one on one – with no interruptions.
That is what we all want: to be seen, to be heard, to be acknowledged, to be appreciated, to be loved and to have someone bear witness to our lives.
Years ago, I gave my husband a DVD of the movie “Shall We Dance,” not because we love to dance and not because it was the greatest movie I had even seen, but because of a line in the movie that fully expressed what I longed for in our marriage:
”We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things, all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness’.”
But before we can expect that of anyone, we must first learn how to bear witness to our own life. We teach others how to treat us by the way we treat ourselves. Which brings me back to the very thing that prompted this blog post – the practice of daily meditation – so I can learn how to pay attention and be fully present in my own life. For how can I ever expect to be present for others, if I go through life numb to my feelings and cut off from the loving essence and guidance of my own soul?
I believe with all my heart that we need to teach our girls how to go within and to stop looking outside of themselves for acknowledgment and their sense of self-worth. But I also believe that the greatest gift I can give to girls is to model that in my own life and to demonstrate that miraculous, transformational power of self-love.
Just for today, spend some alone time with yourself. Give yourself the gift of paying attention to YOU!
Please leave your thoughts and comments below… share the ways you take time for yourself and share this with every girl you know.
Hit the pause button in your own life. Be mindful. Pay attention. Now back to my own meditation…
Om shanti shanti shanti om.