Popular at school

Being Popular At School: 3 Questions for Teen Girls

Being Popular At School: 3 Questions for Teen Girls

Popular at school

Photo by Eliott Reyna on Unsplash

 

Being popular at school, having anxiety about friendships, and uncertainty about the school year are topics that keep coming up with the teen girls I work with. It brings to mind a quote that has been churning in my mind recently. A quote you have likely heard!

““Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind”.

 Although some sources credit the saying to Dr. Seuss, there is a disagreement over whom the original author was, with some believing it was actually Bernard Baruch. Regardless of the original authorship, I find the quote to be insightful and relevant to the teen girls I have the honour of working with (and pretty relevant to anyone, really!).

I know friendships and popularity at school are on the minds of teen girls because questions such as  “will I be with my friends?”, “what if no one likes me?”, and “what if I am not popular at school, or what if I am never popular?” are common in the therapy room. These questions shine a light on the underlying human condition to socialise and feel accepted, which, while more acute in the teenage years, is not just a “teenage thing”. I have yet to meet a person who did not long for at least some human connection, to be seen and heard, or to be liked, and similarly, who did not have a fear or at least dislike of rejection.

The relative strength of these factors vary, but in one form or another, are ubiquitous in us humans. Humans are social beings, so it makes a lot of sense why back-to-school fears about friendships and fitting in are so common.

But…just because it’s common, doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Note: If anxiety around friendships is common for you, here is a free Anxiety Toolkit that includes 10 exercises and various free videos to help you master it:

Anxiety Toolkit

Being Popular At School: 3 Questions For Teen Girls

For teens that are worried about being popular at school, have anxiety about friendships, or a fear of not being liked, I often ask them a series of questions:

Being Popular At School Question #1: Let’s imagine for a minute that everyone liked you, what kind of world would that be?

 Most teen girls that I talk to conclude that a world like that “would be terrible”. In terms of reasons why, they say that in such a world, a person would always be changing to meet the interests of others and not be true to themselves, or they would have no boundaries or may not be standing up for what they know to be right.

Being Popular At School Question #2: Is there anything more important than being liked?

When given a chance to think about this question, many of the teen girls I work with have identified a number of things more important than being liked.

From the teen girls themselves, here are some of the reasons they commonly share are more important than being liked:

  • Being true to oneself
  • Standing up for what is right
  • Standing up for friends or family
  • Having healthy relationships
  • Being kind

Being Popular At School Question #3: Is it more important for other people to like us, or for us to like (or at least respect) ourselves?

This question is best asked last, because after exploring the previous questions, most teen girls tell me it is more important to be true to who they are and to like themselves rather than have the approval of others.

Usually, at this point in the conversation, the issue of being liked or not doesn’t feel as huge or scary of a problem as at the start.

Are some of those feelings and questions still there? Of course! But the question of being liked or popular becomes less of an identity-defining, terrifying issue.

Our team has also developed 7 questions you can ask yourself to ensure the friendships you have are good ones. You can access them in our blog article here:

Teen Friendships: 7 Questions to Decide If They Are Good Ones

This brings us back to the quote: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind”… It’s not that those people who mind “don’t matter”, but that they shouldn’t have the power or influence to dictate who you are or change your sense of worth or morality.

Do you love learning and are super into school? Awesome!

Or do you find joy in video games, anime, or make-up? Amazing!

Or maybe your spark is in sports, music, art, or volunteering? Astounding!

You befriend the new kid at school even though they dress “uncool”? Awe-inspiring.

The reality is that everyone is different, and not everyone is going to click or jive together. And that’s okay. Perhaps instead of trying to be liked, you can find the things that are more important to you and take steps towards those hopes. Hope for you may be respecting and appreciating diversity, both for others and for ourselves. Or, it could be growing in greater self-respect and self-love.

The key to ask yourself is this:

What is so important to you that it doesn’t matter if others mind?

You can access support through our free Anxiety Toolkit (for anyone), or 1:1 sessions with me (Alberta residents only).

1:1 sessions with me include a complimentary 20-minute consultation to ensure we are a good fit. If you have benefits, they are also eligible for reimbursements.

You can book your free consultation here:

Book Your Free Consultation

 

Love,

Jessa Tiemstra

Provisional Psychologist servicing teen girls and young adults.

 

 


Jessa is a provisional psychologist living and servicing teens and young adults in Calgary, Alberta.

Jessa is passionate about helping people become the best version of themselves and is continually learning how to best support her clients. She has experience with acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), but most importantly she emphasizes the therapeutic relationship.

A safe, authentic relationship is key for therapy to work. Jessa prioritizes compassion and nonjudgmental curiosity. Together, she can find out what matters most to you and how to get there.

If you think Jessa may be a good match for you, please feel free to reach out and set up a free consult or book a session. She is looking forward to hearing from you!

Once a month, she writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents, teens and young adults she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook.

 

 

Feelings As Visitors: How To Welcome All Feelings Even The “Bad” Ones

  

Learning From Our Feelings 

Ok today we’re writing about tricky feelings, those feelings that are difficult to experience, those that are pleasant, and feelings in general. I want to highlight that our relationship with our feelings is pretty important and if we learn to approach feelings with curiosity rather than resistance and judgement, we may find that we can cope much better. 

​I’ve decided to start by sharing a poem that I find quite profound and helpful in how I experience feelings. I like this poem for many different reasons, but mainly because, for me, it talks about how we can have a relationship with feelings and experience feelings in a way that isn’t scary. If we spend less time trying to avoid or deny a feeling and more time listening and learning about it,  the experience may be easier to have and may teach us something.

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The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jellaludin Rumi,

Feelings Don’t Last That Long

 

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Learning and listening to our feelings may open the door to opportunities, as Rumi said, and the reality is feelings don’t necessarily last as long as we think. Feelings come and go and are constantly changing, but we may tend to perceive them as lasting a long time or not lasting long enough.

I saw a post on social media that shared a picture with two lines. The top line symbolized
How long we think a feeling is going to last.

Beneath it was another line that symbolized
How long a feeling actually lasts.

​What it showed is typically we anticipate that tricky feelings are going to be more intense, last much longer, or be more scary than they actually are. It’s important for me to say that feelings are legitimate and some feelings are very difficult and painful to experience. YES, this is true and this is the human condition. Even those feelings don’t continually happen, we kind of tend to bob in and out of them in the mix of all our other experiences.

So this topic is about how to deal with tricky feelings and feelings that are difficult to have.

​In our society, we are kind of taught to do a couple things with feelings.

One of them is to chase or gather a feeling that we really love. Say for example the feeling of happiness, excitement or joy. We’re always striving to have that feeling and have lots of that feeling, you know like the pursuit of happiness. In this case there is often a scarcity mentality, like there is just never enough of that feel good emotion. We can also become concerned about moments we are not feeling those more positive feelings, sending us on a futile hunt.

Another thing that we’re taught is not let ‘bad feelings’ in or to avoid, deny, or change them. There seems to be messages of shame around experiencing certain emotions that are perceived as negative like anger, sadness, anxiety, boredom, etc.

If we learn to approach feelings with curiosity rather than resistance and judgement, we may find that we can cope much better.

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If you imagine yourself as a little person inside a house and you think about feelings as visitors or guests, there are some that we openly invite in,

“Oh yes, come on in and take up all the space you need”, feelings like happiness, joy,  peace, or calm.

Then there are other feelings like sadness, pain, or anxiety that we decide “I don’t want to have this feeling” so we slam the door in their face.

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The thing is these guests, the feelings, don’t just go away like that. They are quite persistent that they have something to share with you, and will just keep trying to find a way to get in. Those feelings end up kind of sticking around a lot longer than they need to, which can cause problems.

Thinking of feelings as guests or visitors, like Rumi wrote about and another book I will share with you, allows us to interact with them in a very curious way instead of being scared or reluctant to experience feelings, even if it’s one we think may not be great to have around.

The book ‘Visiting Feelings’ by Lauren Rubenstein is a great resource. It has beautiful artwork and a poetic tone to the writing. This book invites people to consider what a feeling might look like, sound like, feel like, and takes a curious approach to feelings.

I really wanted you to take a moment to sit with that possibility. Feelings as visitors, as guests.

Temporary. Impermanent. Not forever.

They will not last forever: good, bad, or terrible. I want to invite you to think about the different feelings you experience everyday and approach them with curiosity rather than judgement.

​Consider asking the following questions of your feelings:

What does this feeling want me to know? What does it need right now? What is one thing I can do to learn more about it? Can I journal, draw, talk to someone about it, build it with clay, splatter paint to represent it, blast music that sounds like it?

Box Journaling

 

If you’re onboard with this idea of feelings as visitors or at least onboard with trying it out, I would invite you to try a journaling exercise. There are so many ways to journal and I am going to share one as I was inspired by Carla Sonheim, who shared this in a webinar.

Ok in reviewing my video above, I chuckled because I don’t quite know my left from my right, but rest assured the concept of box journaling is legitimate. I like box journaling because it combines free flowing ideas and creativity, as well as, some structure and idea prompting so that you can come away with an idea or an action to take that might be helpful.

For box journaling you will need a sheet of paper and a black marker (you can use a pen or pencil also). If you have pencil crayons or coloured markers, you can also use those. Start out by drawing a large box on your paper. You will then be dividing the box into 5 sections.

Section one: ​Draw a horizontal line under the top line of the box (creating its own little box within the larger box) and this is where you will put the date and you can add where you were when you journaled.

Section two and three: Underneath the horizontal box create two vertical boxes. These will take about two thirds of the page. The one on the left is the largest and the one on the right is slimmer. The left box is where you will put your free writing. The slimmer panel box on the right is where you will grab ideas from the free write and create a list of themes, ideas, key phrases, action items, etc.

Section four and five: Underneath the section 2/3 boxes you will create two smaller boxes that are about equal in size. They will take up the rest of the space on the paper. The box on the left will be for a drawing. This can be a squiggle, scribble, symbol, stick figure, or any kind of image that helps represent something about your writing or how you are feeling in that moment. The last box on the right is a miscellaneous box. You can continue some free writing here, continue your image, paste a quote, add an affirmation or word that inspires you, etc. You get to decide what goes here.

 

Box journaling can take as much or as little time as you have. If you only have 10 minutes, spend 5 minutes on the free write journaling and the rest in the other sections. If you have a little longer, give yourself at least 5-10 minutes to free write and then a few minutes with each of the other sections.

There’s an idea of what you can do to start to be curious about feelings. Consider for yourself, what are some other things you can do to invite feelings in and learn more about them while they are visiting?

If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook- Thanks!


Chantal Côté

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with.

If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook.

The Link Between Screen Time and Teen Depression

As a parent, it can be easy to question the amount of time your teen is spending on their phone and be curious about the impact on mental health. Research indicates a correlation between increased screen time and teen depression (Association of Screen Time and Depression in Adolescence), but the situation is not completely black and white. Understanding the role that technology plays in teens’ lives and the pros and cons can help inform family decisions around screen time.

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Screen Time & Teen Depression: Factors to Consider

          There is a correlation between depression and screen time. It is true that excessive amounts of screen time can be a factor leading to depression, but teens who are struggling with depression are also likely to spend more time using technology as well (Association of Screen Time and Depression in Adolescence).

          The amount of time looking at screens is important to consider. Research indicates that both no screen time and too much screen time (usually defined as being over 6 hours per day) can have negative effects on a teen’s mental health and development. In contrast, screen time of around 2-4 hours a day is associated with cognitive and psychosocial benefits in the teenage years (Digital media: Promoting healthy screen use in school-aged children and adolescents)

          The content being viewed matters:

*    If your teenager is frequently looking at photoshopped images of Instagram influencers or celebrities, they often start to compare themselves to these perfect images and lifestyles. In comparing themselves to these unattainable standards, your teen’s self-esteem may start to suffer, and they are more likely to experience symptoms of depression.

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*   Technology can also be used for learning and exposure to new ideas and perspectives. School and homework are also increasingly online or require varying amounts of screen time. 

        Technology and screen time provides teenagers with a way to connect, which is especially important during the socially isolating times of Covid-19 restrictions. Social connection, whether in-person or online, is vital in the teenage years and significantly decreases the likelihood of depression (Strong friendships in adolescence may benefit mental health in the long run).

          Excessive time spent on screens means that your teen is being less physically active and may be missing out on other meaningful activities. Exercise is a significant protective factor against depression at any age (Keep your teen moving to reduce risk of depression).

          Using screens right before bedtime can also delay sleep and reduce total sleep time (Youth screen media habits and sleep: sleep-friendly screen-behavior recommendations for clinicians, educators, and parents). Sleep is especially important during the teenage years, and most teenagers are not getting enough sleep. Teens who do not get enough sleep are more likely to feel depressed (Teens and sleep: Why you need it and how to get enough).

Teen Depression: Making a Plan for Screen Time

In collaborating on a screen time plan, think about having screen-free times or zones and what that may look like. For example, maybe there is a family agreement that cellphones will be put away during dinner, or that cellphones will be turned off an hour before bedtime.

Educate your teen on the pros and cons of technology use. Help them develop a critical eye that questions the information they are reading and the images they are seeing. Online safety is another very important conversation to have.

Role model what healthy technology use can look like, and encourage open and honest conversations with your teen.

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Consider incorporating more variety into the day or week, whether that be sports, a family walk, volunteering, or some other activity that encourages your teen to be present and engaged in the moment.

Use technology and screen time as a way to connect with your teen. Be curious about what they like about it and what they find meaningful or funny. If appropriate, maybe there is even a game to participate in together!

At the end of the day, each family needs to make their own decisions about screen time, knowing it will evolve as time goes, and find a way that best fits them. The key is to find a balance and to remember that screen time is neither all-good nor all-bad.

If you’re seeing your teen go through depression and are needing some support, my name is Jessa Tiemstra and I specialize in counselling for teen girls in Alberta, Canada. You can book a free consultation with me HERE.


Jessa is a counsellor that has recently completed her master of counselling degree through Athabasca University.

She is highly passionate about helping people become the best version of themselves and it is an honour for her to work alongside teens and their parents.

A few of her favourite things are spending time with her family, friends and pets, being in nature, cooking and eating delicious food. And also, she loves plants!

Once a month, she writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook.

Planning For The Future After High School Graduation

 

Ahh, future planning for after high school graduation… You know those people who have always known what they wanted to do?

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I am not one of them.

I remember having friends in high school who were so certain about what job they wanted to do and had thought of all the steps to get there – attend university X in city Y, and if that does not work then university A in city B. Plan A had plan B, and plan B had plan C. I admired the passion and certainty. However, I also couldn’t help but wonder if there was something “wrong” with me because I did not have that same level of passion or certainty.

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Everyone’s journey is different, and I have learned that that is a beautiful thing. My journey has taken twists and turns, many of which I could not anticipate, and through a mix of choice, circumstance, and consequence, I have ended up where I am today. With this in mind, here are three tips for teens struggling with planning for after high school graduation:

Planning For After High School Graduation Tip #1:  Let Go of Unhelpful Expectations

Not everyone has that “Ah-ha!” moment or knows their dream job since they were little. There is likely no job that is 100% perfect for you, but rather a list of potential options. With every option, there will be things about the job that you like and things that you don’t. The idea of the “perfect job”, and the expectation that you need to know it at 17 or 18 years old, are beliefs that are likely not serving you well. 

If you are unsure of what direction to take, perhaps a better way to look at planning for after high school graduation is to view it as a treasure map. You don’t know exactly how to get to the treasure, and you may not even know what the treasure is, but there are always steps to take and stones to turnover along the way. Even a “dead-end” can provide you with valuable information and experience!

Planning For After High School Graduation Tip #2: Be Intentional 

Whatever you are considering after high school graduation, it can be helpful to be mindful and try to make your choices with intention. If being mindful is a new skill for you, my colleague here at Pyramid Psychology wrote an article that you may find helpful: Mindfulness for Teens: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly!

There is no single “right way” to live your life or pursue your dreams, and there are so many ways to learn, grow, experience, and discover more about yourself and the world around you. Life after high school graduation could look like going to university or college right away, but it could also look like spending time working or travelling, taking a gap year (or two), getting hands-on experience, volunteering, or even taking a range of courses to see what interests you.

It is important to recognize that indecision is a decision. Indecision is not inherently right or wrong, but it may lead to discouragement and regret if it is your default state for a long time. It can end up feeling like your life is happening TO you, instead of you being in the drivers seat.

Planning For After High School Graduation Tip #3: Keep Moving Forward

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With so many options and paths available, it can be easy to fall into “analysis paralysis” – dwelling, overthinking, and having thoughts spin and swirl around with no real progress or clarity. 

When this happens, try to narrow your focus, even if it is just by a bit. What interests you, makes you feel alive, or gives a sense of purpose?

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Some of the teens I work with have found it helpful to take interest tests, personality tests, and/or career tests to begin narrowing the scope of options… This is probably the psychology part of me speaking, but I think they are also kinda fun! Here is a list of potential quizzes to try out: The 13 Best Career Tests and Quizzes to Help You Find Your Dream Job.

Whether you know your dream job, have potential ideas, or have no clue at all, I hope this blog has provided encouragement and given you something to think about. I have a variety of tools available to help you through the emotional side of planning for after high school graduation; it can be helpful to learn skills for handling this, and get a new perspective on things. You can book a 1:1 appointment with me through my booking link:

 

Book an Appointment

 

 


Jessa is a provisional psychologist living and servicing teens and young adults in Calgary, Alberta.

Jessa is passionate about helping people become the best version of themselves and is continually learning how to best support her clients. She has experience with acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), but most importantly she emphasizes the therapeutic relationship.

A safe, authentic relationship is key for therapy to work. Jessa prioritizes compassion and nonjudgmental curiosity. Together, she can find out what matters most to you and how to get there.

If you think Jessa may be a good match for you, please feel free to reach out and set up a free consult or book a session. She is looking forward to hearing from you!

Once a month, she writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents, teens and young adults she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook.

 

 

7 Ways to Support Teens Through Change

Change for teens, a guaranteed part of life – and rarely easy. Teens have had to face crazy amounts of change over these past few years. As parents, witnessing this may have resulted in many sleepless nights and you stressing over what they’re doing locked away in their bedroom all that time. 

 In the middle of grade 8, my dad was promoted to a new role at his company, meaning we would have to move from Edmonton to Calgary. As my shy, anxious 14 year old self, with a sense of adventure, my brain was working overtime. Moving houses, cities, leaving my friends, and sports club behind in the middle of a school year was terrifying (and a teeny bit exciting). 

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Whether your teen daughter is changing schools, changing friend groups, undergoing body and brain developments, or adjusting to the ever flip flopping social situations, change is on her radar. Teens can be excellent maskers and may not share with you how they’re feeling. Your daughter may not even know exactly what she’s feeling. Instead, she might constantly distract herself from real life, feel things and not be sure why, and shut down or lash out at the people around her. 

When we first moved, I protested with a food strike to share my disdain of my life feeling like it was turned upside down. I spent many lunch hours hiding in the school bathroom crying. It gave me a little release from some of the confusion, anxiety, and fear I was feeling. 

 One lunch hour the hot tears came before I could make it to the bathroom stall and at that very same moment, a group of the more popular girls walked in. I tried my best to look like I was doing anything but crying, but my mascara streaks and red face betrayed me. My 14 year old self was thinking- 

What could be worse?! 

To my surprise the girls huddled around me and sang “You are my sunshine” until we all burst into awkward laughter. I never became close with that friend group, but that wasn’t the point- some time shortly after that moment, I just kind of knew I was going to be ok.  

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Even though change isn’t easy, it is often necessary and can even lead to some pretty amazing experiences. Below are 7 ideas to help make a world of difference in your daughter’s life as she steers through teen years full of unknowns.

Change For Teens Tip #1 – Validate her experience by being curious, asking questions, and listening you can offer your daughter a space to share her experience and make sense of what she is thinking and feeling. You might even share a story of your own change and ask how hers is different or similar.

 

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Change For Teens Tip #2 – Plan where you can some change comes at us more suddenly, but even in those circumstances, we can do some planning. Invite your teen to examine the situation to see how she (and maybe you together) can plan for things that might come up.

Change For Teens Tip #3 – Help her hone in on her choices As Jessa (provisional psychologist here at Pyramid Psychology)  talked about in her blog last week How to Handle Change for Teens’, even in the most dire situations, there are always choices that we can make. Finding choices can help your teen have a sense of control when external circumstances are feeling pretty out of control.

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Change For Teens Tip #4 – Support them to form meaningful connections feeling connected to people who get it, who your daughter feels safe with and can trust can ease stress felt from transitions. Nothing like a good dose of empathy to help possibilities blossom. The Happiness Pill program is a unique online group coaching experience (with some 1:1 coaching too!) that was designed to give your daughter a safe space to build these types of meaningful connections. If the idea of seeing your daughter build relationships while working on her own joy lights you up, you can get the details for the program HERE.

Change For Teens Tip #5 – Give yourself some of that support sugar- If your teen is experiencing change, you are feeling it too. Whether it’s her behaviour or your own experience of change, the impacts are felt. Take some time to fill your cup with love and care before you try to pour from an empty cup in support of your teen.

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Change For Teens Tip #6 – Highlight past victories- You can ask your teen daughter about some past changes that she has gone through and how she can use those to help her now. How did she survive or even thrive? What are some things she learned about herself in the process? About others? She may have learned tools to manage change, too!

Change For Teens Tip #7 – Create opportunities for joy and optimismChange is stressful- so it’s important to offer a different landscape once in a while. Coming up with ideas on how to take breaks, have some fun, and do things that bring her joy, can be a great way to manage some of the stress that comes with change. 

Love, 

Chantal 

 


Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with.

If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook.

How To Handle Change For Teens

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The topic for this month at Pyramid Psychology is how to heal and handle change for teens. Significant changes have occurred for most of us in the last few years, many of which we have never experienced before.

A lot of the change has had to do with Covid-19 and all the change that has occurred at the personal, family, and societal levels. But even if Covid-19 was not actually the most significant or meaningful recent change in your life, handling change is important for you as a teen.

If the changes in your life are stopping you from living life the way you normally do, or you are feeling anxious or depressed, you can book a free consultation for 1:1 therapy with me here:

Book a Free Consultation

Here are my top two tips for handling change as a teen:

Change For Teens Tip #1: Acknowledge

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Tip #1 for dealing with change for teens is to acknowledge that the change is happening, as well as all of the associated thoughts and feelings that are coming up as a result. Change is often bittersweet and may include feelings like hopefulness, relief, excitement, and peace, but also anxiety, uncertainty, sadness, and loss. Whatever your experience may be, try to give it room to just be. It is so easy to immediately judge whatever thoughts and feelings may be coming up.

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One judgement I hear a lot from the teens I work with is, “I shouldn’t be feeling this way because other people have it so much worse.” While this may be factually true, this line of thinking isn’t particularly helpful for anybody. Rather, these thoughts serve to add negative judgement and guilt on top of the existing struggle with change. It’s like another tablespoon of salt on top of an already too salty pizza.

Other people can have it worse AND you can still be struggling with your own experience; there does not need to be a competition for “who has it the worst”. Giving room for your own experience may actually help you support those around you who may be struggling. This is similar to the idea of filling your own cup before you can pour out to others. Acknowledging your experience does not mean that all the thoughts and feelings that come up are true, but it does give you the choice to be curious about them and make better-informed decisions.

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Change For Teens Tip #2: The Boundary of Control

An idea I often introduce in my sessions is the boundary of control, which encourages teens to think about all the things that they can control or influence in a situation and all the things that they can not. In getting clear about this distinction, you can redirect your focus and energy into those things that you can do. Examples of things you can control when it comes to change, include your own words, actions, boundaries, beliefs, and self-care. In contrast, examples of things that you cannot control include the behaviours and words of others, what others may think, and the priorities of other people.

As an activity or point of reflection for yourself, think about what factors are inside of and outside of your control when it comes to Covid restrictions in Alberta being loosened. You can draw a circle and create a photo like the one below to add to this exercise:

Website: Laurahutchingstherapy.co.uk

Whatever change you may be facing, remember to acknowledge your experience, be curious and non-judgmental, and invest your energy into those things that you can control or influence. I believe in you!

Sometimes when you acknowledge what’s going on, you may realize that the emotions you are experiencing are a lot to handle. It’s perfectly normal to need an outside perspective or safe person to speak to. I specialize in supporting teens like you (through therapy) to navigate change in a positive way that builds ok your confidence. I would love to meet you. You can book a free consultation with me on our website:

Book a Free Consultation

 


Jessa is a provisional psychologist living and servicing teens and young adults in Calgary, Alberta.

Jessa is passionate about helping people become the best version of themselves and is continually learning how to best support her clients. She has experience with acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), but most importantly she emphasizes the therapeutic relationship.

A safe, authentic relationship is key for therapy to work. Jessa prioritizes compassion and nonjudgmental curiosity. Together, she can find out what matters most to you and how to get there.

If you think Jessa may be a good match for you, please feel free to reach out and set up a free consult or book a session. She is looking forward to hearing from you!

Once a month, she writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents, teens and young adults she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook.

 

 

Perfectionism – 5 Questions To Ask Your Teen

Perfectionism

What is this thing anyway?

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The research defines perfectionism in a variety of ways. Without diving into the substantial research that exists on the topic, here are two perspectives on perfectionism, with links for further research.

Some perspectives view perfectionism as being a personality trait –  People with perfectionism have a tendency to be more conscientious and also score higher in neuroticism. (Neuroticism is a fancy word in the psychological literature that essentially describes a person’s tendency to experience negative emotions such as anxiety, anger, and self-doubt.)

Other perspectives view perfectionism as a combination of beliefs and behaviours

No matter how you define it, perfectionism seems to be a complex trait that consists of a dynamic mix of genetics, personality, beliefs, thoughts, and behaviours.

In addition to what perfectionism is, the focus of perfectionism can differ. You can read about three different types HERE.

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Most often though, perfectionism is talked about in a way that is directed inward. Your teen can set high expectations for themselves across contexts such as school, sports, hobbies, performances, or relationships. Having high self-expectations can come from a place of internal motivation to succeed but can also come from pressure from others or from societal expectations. In the former, your teen is running toward a goal, whereas in the latter, they are running away from a fear of failure or judgement.

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Perfectionism can also be directed outward and can be seen as rigid, high standards your teen places on others OR they are having placed on them. In this other-oriented perfectionism, there is an expectation for others to be perfect (or close to!) and subsequent negative judgments when they are not.

So, what do I do with this information?

Knowing the underlying factors influencing perfectionism can help you support your teen, or maybe even yourself – knowledge is power! Consider the following prompts for self-reflection or in conversation with your teen:

  • Where are the perfectionist tendencies coming from?
  • Are they tied to my genetics or personality traits, or have I picked up some perfectionist tendencies from somewhere else?

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  • Is my perfectionism directed at myself or others?

o   How would I like to be treated?

o   Where does the idea of compassion fit into my strivings for perfection?

  • What is the root of my perfectionism – am I striving toward something I genuinely care about or am I running away from the potential of judgement, embarrassment, or sense of failure?
  • When I “fail”, what am I telling myself? Are these thoughts true or kind?
  •  Since being perfect is impossible (we are human after all), what is a more realistic and helpful value to live by?

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If you are struggling with perfectionism yourself, our team at Pyramid Psychology compiled our knowledge and wrote a blog specifically for you: Why Trying To Be A Perfect Parent Isn’t Serving You.

If you’re watching your teen struggle with perfectionism, Chantal Cote – psychologist, teen coach and Founder of Pyramid Psychology – wrote a blog article with tips to help your daughter through it: 3 Ways To Help Your Daughter Stop Perfectionist Thinking.

 

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 Perfectionism is often linked to feelings of anxiety or depression, particularly in teen girls who are already prone to these emotions. We have developed a toolkit with 10 tools to help you build resilience for your daughter. You can download your free copy here:

 

Free Anxiety Toolkit for Parents Raising Teen Girls


Jessa is a provisional psychologist living and servicing teens and young adults in Calgary, Alberta.

Jessa is passionate about helping people become the best version of themselves and is continually learning how to best support her clients. She has experience with acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), but most importantly she emphasizes the therapeutic relationship.

A safe, authentic relationship is key for therapy to work. Jessa prioritizes compassion and nonjudgmental curiosity. Together, she can find out what matters most to you and how to get there.

If you think Jessa may be a good match for you, please feel free to reach out and set up a free consult or book a session. She is looking forward to hearing from you!

Once a month, she writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents, teens and young adults she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook.

 

 

Teen Perfectionism Has You Stuck in Thinking Traps

“I could have done better.” “I’ll never be good enough.”

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 Many individuals experience these thoughts from time to time, however, when they become excessive, it can be incredibly overwhelming and take a toll on your functioning – especially for a teen whose brain is developing so many things at once.

My own journey with perfectionism started by gaining a deeper understanding of cognitive distortions or “thinking traps.” Thinking traps are unhelpful patterns of thought that can prevent us from seeing things as they really are. There are several types of thinking traps. Here are some more common thinking traps with teen perfectionism:

Teen Perfectionism Thinking Trap #1: All-or-Nothing Thinking:

Viewing situations or events in absolute terms: good or bad, success or failure.

Example: You get a bad grade on a test and believe you will fail the subject.

 

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Teen Perfectionism Thinking Trap #2: Personalization and Blame

Taking responsibility or placing blame on oneself when an event is completely or partially out of your control.

Example: Someone is talking about qualities of a bad friend and you believe they are calling you a bad friend.

 

Teen Perfectionism Thinking Trap #3: Labelling

Making an extreme judgement about yourself or someone else without considering other factors.

Example: You label yourself as stupid for getting a bad mark on a test.

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Anxiety Canada shares some more examples of thinking traps HERE.

 While perfectionism can feel motivating and like it is helping you achieve your goals, being particularly self-critical can be harmful to your self-worth… Perfectionism itself is a trap because perfection doesn’t exist!

 Understanding and recognizing these thinking traps is a great place to start! My top two tips for continuing to tackle teen perfectionism are:

#1 Keeping a diary can help track thoughts and emotions that are connected to perfectionism thinking traps. It can increase awareness.

#2 Practising self-compassion is one of the most helpful ways to tackle your inner critic. Be kind to yourself! You can read more about how to develop self-compassion for yourself in another blog from our team: Self-Compassion: How Caring Can Stop Teen Depression In Its Tracks.

Working through the emotions around perfectionism, and helping you to decide whether it is really helpful or not to you, are some of the ways I can help you in one to one counselling. Sometimes, having an outside ear to listen can be so helpful with these thinking traps! I am currently offering 1:1 sessions for Alberta teens – online or in-person (Calgary) for the very affordable price of $40 per hour. You can book a free consultation to get to know me better HERE.

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Counselling (or therapy) is a support that helps people who are facing difficult situations. It’s not meant to “fix you” and it does not mean “something is wrong” with you. It’s about offering a safe place to try new ideas, resolve problems, make changes, and move towards the life you want to live. Different therapists can help people work towards personal, relationship, athletic, educational, and career hopes and go​als.

Counselling is a combination of expressing yourself, being witnessed (listened to), discovering resources, and learning new things. There will be times when you will be sharing about your experiences and your counsellor will listen. There are other times when you will be discovering things that will support you to get through difficult situations. Sometimes your therapist will share information, ideas, and resources with you.

We help teen girls build bulletproof mindsets through:

  • Transforming negative self-talk into confidence, clarity and strength
  • Embracing self-love and stepping into the spotlight
  • Learning who to let into their squad of BFFs

You can learn more about each of our team members HERE or book a free consultation HERE.

If you have something you’d like to read more on – email questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook.

 

 

Why Trying to be a Perfect Parent Isn’t Serving You

What do the words ‘Perfect Parent’ mean to you?

Many parents who come to us have experienced perfectionist thinking traps. Recognizing that you are in a ‘perfect parent’ trap of thoughts is the first step to empowering yourself as a parent.

Here are the three most common perfectionism thinking traps that parents have shared with our team at Pyramid Psychology:

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Perfect Parent Thinking Trap #1:

As a parent, you likely have an ideal in your mind of how parenting is supposed to look. Oftentimes, the vision you have includes very hard to reach (AKA unrealistic) standards for yourself. 

The ‘perfect parent’ ideal is usually a combination of messages you’ve heard consciously or unconsciously from many possible sources. Here are some common sources of parenting messages:

  • The beliefs and values your parents had when you were growing up.
  • Watching your friends become parents.
  • Online or in-person parent groups, clubs, etc.
  • Social media.

A lot of the messages you have heard, and place on yourself, are putting a lot of pressure on you and aren’t serving you or your family.

This is a reminder to take a look at the parenting message you withhold for yourself: is it empowering to you? Or is it chipping away at yourself? If you’d like to dive into this concept more, Colleen O’Grady wrote a powerful book – Dial Down the Drama – that talks about powerless versus powerful parenting messages. You can read the synopsis HERE.

 

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Perfect Parent Thinking Trap #2:

Another Perfect Parent Thinking Trap is when you tie your teen’s success (or failures) directly to your own self worth, or your ‘grade’ as a parent. When you’re in this perfectionism trap, you will feel like your teen’s failures or mistakes are a direct reflection of you as a parent – you will also see their success as a reflection of your parenting as well.

Although you do influence and impact your teen’s life, you are also not directly linked in such a way that whatever your child does is a direct reflection of you, and vice versa. They are their own human, and so are you. Connecting your ‘success’ as a parent to your teen is a risky thought pattern to get into.

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Perfect Parent Thinking Trap #3:

There can often be a lot of pressure put on you as a parent – internally and externally – to be a ‘super’ parent. This can create a trap of perfectionism thinking; a belief that you must be a perfect parent and show up for everything for your teen and be fully engaged + present.

You may be stuck in this trap if you feel you need to do everything you can for your teen and be your very best. You feel you must go the extra mile every time you show up for your teen.

The reality is that things are going to come up and your attention is going to be divided. You have other responsibilities – a partner, friends, work, other siblings etc., are just some of the things that need your attention too! Setting such a high standard for yourself to be a ‘super parent’ is putting a lot of pressure on you, and is setting yourself up for failure.

You may notice that your teen struggles with perfectionism as well – she is also being inundated with messages around who she ‘should’ be and what she ‘should’ be achieving in life. These thinking traps can lead to anxiety, depression, and disconnection for both of you. The Happiness Pill Teen Coaching program is a 4-month coaching program developed by our Founder, Psychologist and Teen Coach – Chantal Côté that focuses on developing skills to handle these thinking traps.

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In the program, you will work with your teen to discover what she wants most in her life – and how to get there. You will get on the same page as her, and then learn how to support her along the way (including how to battle your perfectionism thinking traps). There is 1:1 coaching AND group coaching for your teen, so she can build relationships with other teens who are experiencing the same pressure she is. You can get the details here:

The Happiness Pill Teen Life Coaching Program


Counselling (or therapy) is a support that helps people who are facing difficult situations. It’s not meant to “fix you” and it does not mean “something is wrong” with you. It’s about offering a safe place to try new ideas, resolve problems, make changes, and move towards the life you want to live. Different therapists can help people work towards personal, relationship, athletic, educational, and career hopes and go​als.

Counselling is a combination of expressing yourself, being witnessed (listened to), discovering resources, and learning new things. There will be times when you will be sharing about your experiences and your counsellor will listen. There are other times when you will be discovering things that will support you to get through difficult situations. Sometimes your therapist will share information, ideas, and resources with you.

We help teen girls build bulletproof mindsets through:

  • Transforming negative self-talk into confidence, clarity and strength
  • Embracing self-love and stepping into the spotlight
  • Learning who to let into their squad of BFFs

You can learn more about each of our team members HERE or book a free consultation HERE.

If you have something you’d like to read more on – email questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook.

 

 

 

3 Ways to Help Your Teen Daughter Stop Perfectionist Thinking

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“I’m a perfectionist,” she said, breaking her gaze with me to look down at her feet, slightly turned inwards, careful not to crease her sneakers. The smile on her face suggested this was a kind of badge of honour, but the way her shoulders slumped forward as if rocks were stacked on either side, shared a different story, a kind of heavy burden. 

Teen perfectionists, driven by thoughts of meeting an ideal, whether it be an ideal grade, an ideal body image, an ideal way of being or performing, results in a constant “falling short” in the person’s eyes.

Fed by negative self-talk, unhealthy comparisons, and unrealistic  expectations teens who struggle with perfectionistic thinking tend to:

1.Get blocked from starting tasks, leading to things like procrastination or incomplete assignments, as they contemplate the right or perfect thing to say, do, or write

2.Put a disproportionate amount of time and energy on the tasks they are trying to accomplish and when they are not working on them, it is like a constant radio static in their brain reminding them that they should be.

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(Tackling the Perfectionism Monster is a great podcast to listen to on this topic).

**Tina imagines the way her body “ought” to look. Every day she spends hours looking at images of what she considers the ideal body type. She spends most of her day thinking about or planning around activities that will lead her to this “perfect” image. Even when she’s hanging out with friends or reading her book, her brain constantly tries to pull her into these thoughts and feelings. Perfectionism has Tina trapped in a cycle, pulling her away from much of the enjoyment of her life and consumes her with feelings of stress, guilt, and shame.

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**Evelyn calls herself a procrastinator and most of the time manages to get her assignments in but often right at the deadline or after her mom asks her teachers for an extension. Lately her English assignments have been piling up. Every time Evelyn opens her laptop, she stares blankly at the page, her brain arguing with itself between putting something down and shooting the idea down before her fingers can start typing. The white page stares back at her, a reminder that if her ideas aren’t great enough, she may as well put nothing at all. 

 3 Ways to Help Your Daughter Break Free from Perfectionism

Teen Perfectionism Tip #1: Swing and A Miss

In order to learn how to walk as infants, we needed to start by getting our body to move in different ways, working our way up to standing, and eventually finding our balance to take small steps. No one expected us to start off knowing how to master this skill. Learning any skill requires practice in order to improve. When teens are stuck in perfectionistic thinking, it can paralyze any attempt to get started on tasks, believing that if they don’t get it right the first time, it’s not worth the risk. Helping your daughter recognize that learning happens through successive approximation, by reinforcing behaviours that resemble the desired behaviour. In other words, whenever your teen takes an action that gets them moving in the direction of what they are trying to achieve, and that action is somehow being reinforced (e.g. your teen seeing improvement, a good grade, praise, words on the page, etc.), the more likely they are to keep taking action. If your teen struggles to get started on a writing assignment, encourage them to start by copying a nursery rhyme or a favourite quote a couple of times on the page. They can delete it afterwards, but by starting there and seeing that there is something on the page, it can help them build momentum to continue writing. 

 

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 Teen Perfectionism Tip #2: OWN

This one comes from The Wellness Project with Des podcast episode, “Overcoming Perfectionism With Sarah Herd. The acronym OWN stands for Only What’s Necessary- this is great for teens who struggle with constantly putting most of their focus and energy into specific accomplishments they desire. Helping your teen step back and think about what’s most important to them and what fills their wellness cup is a good place to start. Once they are aware of what matters most to them, they can map out where the majority of their time and energy is spent throughout the week and see if they line up. If perfectionism is a factor, chances are this will be out of sync. The OWN acronym encourages teens to take a look at what would be absolutely necessary in accomplishing a task and letting go of some of that extra to free up time for more things they truly enjoy. 

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Teen Perfectionism Tip #3: Failing for perfection 

Perfection is a trap. Having something be absolutely free of defects, flaws, and imperfections is completely unrealistic. The more your teen can learn to accept failure and mistakes as part of being human, the sooner they can begin to let go of this idea of perfection. This isn’t to say your daughter can’t have goals she is striving for. Nor, that she is doomed to a life of endless failure. Sometimes this means as parents, needing to step back in some places to allow for failure. This can be a frightening prospect, where your parents’ imagination might go to the worst case scenario of mistakes and failures that are irreparable and life altering. 

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Shifting to see most failures and mistakes as opportunities to build your teen’s resilience by teaching them things like changing the script on their self-talk and failing forward, learning from their mistakes, can really help your teen start to step away from perfectionistic thinking.    

Perfectionism can be really tricky and tied to your daughter’s beliefs about her self-worth. The Happiness Pill Program is a 4-month coaching program designed to help your daughter build her confidence, develop healthy and meaningful connections, and learn to get in the driver’s seat of her emotions. If this sounds like the answer you’ve been looking for, please email us at info@pyramidpsychology.com to find out more about our Happiness Pill Teen Life Coaching Program. Our next intake is March, 2022.

**Please note: the people referred to in this blog are a composite of various stories I’ve heard throughout the years and do not represent one specific person.


Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with.

If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook.