"You either walk into your story and own your truth, or you live outside your story, hustling for your worthiness." ~ Brene Brown
Much of my work is informed by Brene's research and wisdom on courage and vulnerability which beautifully corresponds to my students' desires of seeking happiness and a sense of meaning and purpose as they navigate the world of college and choosing a major. I see a handful of students on a weekly basis that are grappling with their desire to live freely and out loud, but they are afraid of being rejected and/or seen by others as not good enough. What if my peers think an Arts and Letters major is inferior to a STEM major? What if I know I am a good writer and I love to write, but I am afraid that I will not live up to the expectations that my professors have of me so I'll choose a major that doesn't make me feel as vulnerable, like Science. When we live our life according to what we believe others want, we are stuck hustling for our worthiness. And this hustle is an exhausting and soul-sucking existence. Hence, the omnipresent anxiety, depression, motivational issues, and feelings of unworthiness.
My role is to help students cultivate their inner world and answer some of the underlying questions that seem to be obstacles in their way. For instance, for my freshmen and sophomore students, figuring out a major that truly fits with their gifts and interests is a huge step on the path of awareness and empowerment. Maybe this means choosing Environmental Science versus Environmental Engineering, especially when they are drowning in the Engineering curriculum. Or, going the Biology path when they find that their true calling is that and not Anthropology. Or, going the English major route and not Pre-Medicine recognizing that their dreams of becoming a doctor are not completely washed away, but they are able to thrive and flourish in an undergraduate major that will lead them more wholeheartedly to that next step post-graduation. Maybe it is more unconventional, but sometimes taking the path less traveled is exactly what is needed to realize their dreams.
Either way, when they choose what fits their curiosities and gifts, there is a fundamental shift in ownership of their choice, and this seems to make all the difference.
Identifying what they want and why allows them to make more informed and proactive decisions which ultimately helps pave a smoother and more empowered path. This freedom to choose organically brings a drive, passion, and determination as they move forward. Magically, a lot of their resistance (lack of motivation and engagement, poor time management, anxiety, not seeking out help when and where needed) melts away and they rise to the challenge of a life that they are choosing. No longer are they walking through the motions; instead, there is a light and fire within that ignites them.
As a parent of four children myself, I struggle with knowing when to loosen the reins and when to push on the accelerator. Ideally, we find ways to support, guide, and LOVE our children while also respecting their need to feel like they are capable of making sound decisions. A good barometer is to recognize when something seems more about the needs and desires of the parents, versus what, in fact, the young adult is communicating (either verbally and/or non-verbally). It's a dance, but a very worthwhile one. What I often observe with my students is they are often acting on what they believe their parents want, rather than following a path that speaks directly and more intimately to their own passions and interests. I think we all desire for our children to be happy and well, and sometimes that means letting go of what we envisioned for them and allowing them to engineer and create their own path. Ultimately, they will thrive and find meaning and purpose on the way which contributes to a life well-lived.