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  • Writer's pictureJustin McLennan

Taming your Sidekick

Recently, I have been given the great fortune to start practicing my passion. Five years ago, thanks to my coach Jeremy Pollack, I was able to answer the old age question, why am I here? Today, I can stand tall and deliver a confident answer. I am here to educate on health and help others live to their full potential!

Knowing my purpose and having a passion working with our youth, I started “Living with SHAPE.” A strength based coaching program for the youth. After focusing on physical weekly and monthly goals with my students, it was time to face my first real challenge. How do I help these students “the super heroes” identify with the little voice “the sidekick” in their head to start mental goals?

For most people, our mind is a constant chatter of opinions, beliefs and judgments about our experiences, other people and especially about ourselves, whether we notice it or not. Many times, before identifying the chatter we allow these thoughts “sidekicks” to dictate our lives instead of holding the wheel ourselves.

The alarm goes off! It’s 6:30am, and time to wake up after a night of tossing and turning. Do you listen to your sidekick telling you “it’s too early, just five more minutes, we won’t be late?” Or, do you listen to your own “heroic” thoughts, “We set the alarm for a reason, if you get up now then you won’t have to rush, you need to get up…” and take control of your morning.

Identifying the sidekick in our head isn’t easy. Since we entered this world, our sidekick has been there shaping our memory and developing our logic. But, sometimes our sidekick gets sidetracked. They’re there to help us avoid punishment, keep us away from danger, and learn how to gain attention and love. As children, we give our sidekick power, trust, and believe they will lead us in the right direction. However, as we evolve and become our own superheroes, we start to realize our sidekick who was once our advocate can be like an arch-nemesis who mocks, teases and pushes us around. “People are going to laugh at you; you can’t do it, just quit; you need to be more productive with your time and stop relaxing.”

On the other end, our sidekick can also stroke our ego, especially through judging and comparing others. “Others aren’t smart enough to understand you; you are right and they are definitely wrong; you are the most talented person here.” They try to fool us so they can be the one to save the day.

So, how do we help the youth identify their inner superhero, and take back saving the day?

First, we need to make sure our superheroes have their “powers” (e.g., a positive self-esteem, confidence, self-efficacy, laser vision). They need to feel good about themselves, proud of what they do, believe in themselves, and feel accepted and loved. Through positive reinforcement coaching and group goal setting sessions, I am able to teach these heroes how to tame their inner sidekick and find their powers. The powers to push forward when the going gets tough and the power to create the hero they want to be.

Second, it’s important to validate our children’s emotions. There is no right or wrong emotion. It is healthy for them to share their feelings with us. It is important that we help our children understand their emotions, their thoughts associated with the emotion, and the actions they take. Here are a few strategies I’ve come across that help.

Switch negative Sidekick thoughts with positive ones.

  • I can’t do it. = I can do it!

  • I’m no good at this. = I can be good at this!

  • I’ll never get better. = With practice, I will get better!

  • It’s too hard for me. = I can conquer this!

Stand up to your Sidekick and question what they are telling you.

  • So what?

  • Is this true?

  • Who cares?

  • Big deal!

  • Why not?

Additional Strategies to help children identify the voice in their heads.

  • Put a face to your sidekick with a drawing.

  • Write down the thoughts you have before bed.

  • My favorite, watch Disney’s “Inside Out” and use examples from it!

Here’s a great clip:

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