Encouraging Young People To Be Authentic and Mentally Strong

Mental strength is not something we are taught in school. We’re advised to get good grades, earn accolades, attend a good college, and find a suitable career upon graduation. Most graduates don’t even have the opportunity to work in the field they studied, let alone pursue a degree in a subject they’re passionate about.

Students listen to their parents, societal expectations, and those who came before them. “Go into finance,” “work your way to the top,” and “lean in” are the messages we hear as we try our best to make a living for ourselves. Our best doesn’t seem good enough, leaving many anxious, depressed, and doubtful.

Who is actually encouraged to be authentic? At what point in our lives are we advised to be mentally strong?

Success comes in many forms, but to me, true success is learning to embody being true to ourselves, not what society tells us we “should” be.

We’re given hearts, souls, and dreams for a reason; why would we sell them to corporate America?

I’m currently 33 years old and have lived in Metro Detroit, San Francisco, Austin, New York City, and Boston as a young professional. I searched near and far to find happiness and success, yet I kept running from myself because I could never seem to find my place.

I didn’t stop to explore the big question of “what is fulfillment?” until I left New York in July of 2016. I purged my fashion blogger / PR girl wardrobe, abandoned my Astoria apartment, and sent boxes home to Michigan. I spent that summer living simply at a family lake house, finally learning the real meaning of “mindfulness.”

Instead of racing to the top, I began to dig deep.

Although each profession has a purpose, it’s the ego and greed attached to certain people or positions that irks me. Earning a big paycheck doesn’t make a person strong; what would they do without it? What type of person are they without the title attached to their name?

It’s easy to hide behind a career, wealth, or a facade; but the true accomplishment is knowing who you are on the inside. It takes mental strength to believe in one’s self; yet when you realize you are already enough, the world becomes much brighter, and much more hopeful.

Embracing Playfulness 

If you’ve been following along for a while, you probably know how much I love angel cards.  Just when I need an answer, my intuition (which I like to think of as a nudge from the divine) guides me to exactly the right card I need at that moment.  I’ve also begun to give other people readings, which is even more fun!  My connection with source has been one of the most comforting and clear indications that I am on the right track to living out my purpose, which is to help guide others and carry important messages.  But how?

One of the cards that repeatedly comes up in my readings is “Playfulness.”  Each time I wondered why- why would I get this card?


Then, it clicked.  I’ve been so concerned about the past and the future that haven’t been living in the now.  Instead of embracing playfulness, I have been taking life too seriously.

I needed a reset.

After a decade of working in business related jobs and marketing roles, my heart kept telling me it wasn’t right.  Not only did my heart lead me in different directions, so did my bosses.  They didn’t like when I challenged the way things worked or stood up for my creative ideas.  I knew I was wasting my time and talents.

It can be a challenge being an indigo child in any work environment, let alone in an industry where money and greed takes over.  I didn’t care about “goals” or sales numbers- I cared about authenticity.  

Throughout the years many of my jobs or projects were unfulfilling or seemed unethical, too.  How could I market or represent things I didn’t believe in- or worse, didn’t benefit people?  It was hard to play, live in the now, and feel good about myself when I wasn’t aligned with my purpose.

A month ago I put my foot down and decided to take a break.  I did a lot of thinking, meditating, reading, and praying.  During this time I barely wrote, hardly left the house, and certainly wasn’t social.  It was a very uncomfortable time… until I received the message.

One afternoon I opened my inbox to find an email from a school administrator about bringing me in for an interview.  Even though I applied for the job, had never thought seriously about working in a school; when I was a kid, I spent most of my time with adults.  I was the shy one in class who didn’t let loose and play; I was too embarrassed to show the world who I was.

Until now.

Shortly after, I was scheduled to substitute teach at three different elementary schools.  I was shocked, thrilled, and scared.  Although I grew up in that environment- my mother was an elementary school secretary- I had very little experience with large groups of children.  Yet somehow, for some reason, it felt like it was exactly what I should be doing.  My gut feeling told me I would be good at teaching, although I had never done it before.  However, I knew that my ten years of handling nearly impossible businessmen had toughened me up to effectively communicate with anyone.  You have a much better chance at getting your message across to children than trying to teach an old dog new tricks.

After my first day- despite feeling nervous and a little shy- I felt more alive than I have in years.  For the first time, I felt I was doing something meaningful in the workplace.  The very first time.  Each day got a little easier, and I felt more comfortable.


Spending time in a school environment has also helped to mend my own wounds, too.  Childhood was difficult for me; I was an old soul who was singled out.  I was too shy and insecure to let loose, be a kid, and play.  Today, I am beyond grateful to be able to make even a tiny difference in a child’s life; I can recognize those who are uncomfortable, struggling, or need someone to talk to.  I understand what it is like when you don’t know who to sit by at lunch, how it feels to be bullied, and to be different than the other kids.  Thanks to my own experiences, I can empathize yet also stand my ground with the kids who act out.  Without my childhood experiences and challenges in the workplace over the years, I wouldn’t be as patient and compassionate as I am able to be today.

While I don’t know whether I am going to pursue a full time role in teaching (we can’t plan our futures- we can only be guided), I do know that education is much closer to my destiny than anything I have ever done.  It goes hand-in-hand with writing, public speaking, and philanthropy- all passions of mine.  I know I am on the right path- at last.

I’m also grateful for the opportunity to work in an environment where play is embraced.  Instead of standing in the back of the class and watching everyone dance and have fun like I did as a child, I have started to join in… as an adult.  I could see some of the kids who were hesitant to dance watch me act silly, so they started to dance, too.

Thanks to the children, I am learning what it feels like to be even closer to consciousness- to still have that wide-eyed wonder that hasn’t yet been polluted by society.  It is a magical, warm feeling- and just because I am a grown-up, it doesn’t mean I have to let that magic go.  I will hold on to it each and every day. 💫