The My Story Blog

The latest My Story news from the team

Featured: 22 September 2022

A Psychologist's perspective on #ownyourstory

  Mariaan Prins is an Educational Psychologist who did her masters degree exploring resilience in students. Seeing that the My Story Tribe aims to build and encourage  resilience in Tweens, we thought her perspective on our recent campaign #ownyourstory, will be insightful. Milan interviewed her for our podcast In BeTween Things and this is (more or less) what they spoke about: Milan: “Mariaan, talking about Tween mental health can get very dark very quickly - so let’s start off light! You recently made your television debut!” Mariaan: “Yho Milan, I was nervous. I remember driving there on my first day. You do your deep breathing exercises, but you are still stressed! But I loved it. Enabling yourself to have new experiences and stretching your comfort zone adds so much to our stories.” Milan: “You are used to the clinical space of a private practice and here you are giving advice in front of a camera. Did you ever second guess yourself?” Mariaan: “I was very aware that I would be on National Television! Even though mental health is my topic and niche, I would get home in the evenings and wonder ‘How did that come across?’ or ‘How will that segment be interpreted?’” Milan: “You were an expert on a show about depression. What did you learn about the human spirit during those interviews?” Mariaan: “I noticed how important a tribe is. The ‘tribe’ in a child’s life has a great impact on their resilience. But you also have to include yourself in that tribe. Find out how YOU can support YOU. So it was twofold: I was in awe of how people drew on the strength of someone in their tribe - a parent, a teacher or just someone along the way - and also those who drew on their own strength.  It highlighted how we can play a part in someone else’s story.” Milan: “So how do you interpret the hashtag #OWNYOURSTOY?” Mariaan: ”Owning your story is about knowing your story. Who are you? What triggers you? What do you need in order to relax? Only then the shaming stops and you can have empathy for yourself.  In my practice I focus on teaching individuals about themselves, because then there is confidence to understand yourself. “ Milan: “I want to touch on Neurodiversity, because it affects a lot of our Tween Tribe members (and their parents). What is Neurodiversity?” Mariaan: “ ‘Neuro’ means ‘brain’ and ‘diversity’ means ‘different. So it merely refers to someone who has a different way of viewing the world and interpreting information. It is important to note that there is no wrong way in  - it is merely different. When we teach our kids about neurodiversity, it fosters empathy. All the family members in a car can have a different view and interpretation and reaction to for example a beggar on the street. We call it ‘perspective taking’. I can take your perspective - I don’t have to agree with it, because our brains work differently - but I can appreciate it.  That counts for how we learn as well. Milan :” Children who see the world differently and who process information differently, like a child with dyslexia, don't always get the message from society that their way is acceptable. Often, that Neurodiverse-label is a negative one. How can they own their story? Mariaan: “ It goes back to knowing yourself again. If you know how your brain works, that does not define you.You ARE not dyslexia. You HAVE dyslexia. It is not WHO you are, it is just a part of your story.  It is however important to acknowledge the hardship in that. It’s not just a silver lining around a dark cloud. It’s tough for children to process and we need to know that. “ Milan : “ You have been using and recommending our journals for quite some time now. What role do  you think journaling and reflecting play in knowing and owning your story?” Mariaan: “ I love your journals! It's the perfect tool to get to know your own story. I’d like to answer your question by going back to the stories we tell ourselves. Those stories are usually based on the feedback we get from others and eventually we start believing that feedback. The narrative I develop about myself is skewed and it is important to challenge that narrative - especially children - and ask yourself :’ Is this true about me?’ In my practice I often tell children : ‘Let’s be detectives. Let’s find the evidence for that thought you believe about yourself.’ “ We thank Mariaan and the millions of professionals out there who take Tween mental health seriously. Thank you for also owning YOUR story. You can listen to the full podcast here.

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07 September 2022

From Gangster to Good Guy

Finding ambassadors for our September campaign #ownyourstory was a sensitive search. Not everybody is comfortable with the darker side of their story, but Ivor Swartz is owning his… big time!Our founder, Milan Murray interviewed him on our podcast Inbetween Things. Here are some of what they spoke about:Milan:“Ivor, before we get to your life story and the reason why we chose you as an ambassador for our hashtag campaign this year, tell us about Fatherhood! You have the cutest little boy! What surprised you the most about becoming a Dad?”Ivor:What surprised me the most was the intense emotions I was able to feel! From the time Nadine told me she was pregnant, his birth, even now…The beauty, the fear, the joy, the intense emotion I feel as a man and being able to express it… wanting to express it!And then of course, another big surprise was just how much those diapers can stink!It seems impossible. But that poo stinks!Milan:“Yup! Parenthood brings good surprises and bad surprises! What you said about your intense emotions reminds me of that Elizabeth Stone quote: ”Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walk outside your body.” But let’s get to a darker side of your story. You turned your life around. Tell us about that?”Ivor:“For a lot of kids in South Africa growing up without a father is giving you a narrative that you didn’t ask for. My father died when I was 3 and I was given this subconscious narrative that I am rejected, not wanted and that I will forever struggle to belong.I had an older brother who tried to provide a space of belonging for me and my mother and my younger brother, but he knew only one emotion. Anger. He was a gangster from an early age and would come home and hit out all the windows, or get onto the roof and make the biggest holes in it. So that was what I learned: The only way to get things done was through violence. The hopelessness, the poverty in the streets I grew up in didn’t match up with the hopes I had for the future.I was 13 when I left my mom’s house in search of who I wanted to be. The best possible place to find that in my area was amongst gangs. You feel a sense of belonging, a sense of safety. You are given a new story. One that says: ‘You are a part of us. We will take care of you. We will protect you. We will give you food.‘So we broke into people's homes and robbed people on the street. We hurt people. I was on drugs, fuelling this seething anger that I was growing up without a father. What angered me the most was that I was given this story and I had no say in it. So I chose my own story… In the worst possible way. One night my friend and I shot and killed my brother. I was sentenced to prison for 6 years. All the time searching for this story that I can be proud of. It was there in prison that a teacher gave me a different view. She used words of affirmation. She quoted a song by Robbie Williams: “I have so much life running through my veins, going to waste.” She used those words to say that there is more to me. There is more to my story.I ended up completing my Matric in prison, came out and studied Theology.Today I am owning my story by using the scars as a vehicle to heal others. Where you start is not necessarily where you will end.”The My Story Tribe feels honoured to have this inspirational man supporting our #ownyourstory campaign. Follow the hashtag and share your story too!For more inspirational stories and conversations about mental health and our tweens, subscribe to our podcast Inbetween Things.

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