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22 September 2022

A Psychologist's perspective on #ownyourstory

— Milan Murray


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.