Defining Ourselves for Ourselves

An Alumni Sister asked, “how do we learn to define ourselves for ourselves and learn to not see ourselves as cases but as people?”

Learning to define yourself by your own standards is a process that many people find difficult but especially for individuals who have experienced a system such as foster care or juvenile services at a young age.  These are systems that are charged with dealing with a large number of children with inadequate resources to do so, as a result, children become cases and labeled by a society that does not understand them or their circumstance.  There is an unspoken stigma (but most times spoken loudly by different people within and outside of foster care) that youth in and adults from care are inadequate, undeserving and incompetent misfits.

When I was a youth in foster care I heard this stigma loud and clear and often.  I heard this from adults within the system that were supposed to believe in and encourage me.  Maybe they honestly thought that I had no chance against the barriers that stood in my way as a foster youth.  Maybe they didn’t want to get my hopes up too high.  But it was also the encouragement from those that were not or had not yet been tainted by the attitudes of the foster care system that helped me to see a little deeper into myself and my circumstance.

I began to see that my circumstance, was just that…a circumstance.  Through my rebellion of the negativity of others, I began to dream and believe that I could be anything and everything I wanted to be. I began to believe that there were no “rules” when it came to who or how I was to be. I decided I would determine what I could and could not do and that I would even challenge myself in what I thought I could not do.  I started this behavior to SPITE those who believed I would be nothing because of my circumstance – but this behavior now continues because it has served me well. It has broken down every barrier that I was told I would never overcome.

It is very difficult to break away from the expectations of others especially when they are people who make up the environment or society you live in.  We are bombarded everyday by standards of beauty and credibility that are unrealistic. Everyone has their own journey to self-definition.  I believe it is more about the journey than the destination. I believe we will always be faced with defining ourselves at different points in our lives because as long as we live we are (or should be) going through transformation.  The key is to transform on YOUR TERMS.

Even if it means believing in yourself in the beginning just to spite everyone who doesn’t- do it….and let it grow into an inherent love and understanding with yourself.  If I told you the sky was green and grass was blue, you would laugh at me and think I’m crazy. Why? Because you KNOW for yourself that the sky is BLUE and grass is GREEN.  Why would you treat the way you feel about yourself and who you know yourself to be any different? If someone tells you you are worthless and will never go anywhere or be anything because you are or were in foster care, laugh at them and keep it moving. Why? Because NO ONE KNOWS you like YOU do. And no one can tear you down, without your permission!

You are beautifully made, flaws and all. OWN IT 🙂

Your thoughts?


About formerfostertalk

Founder and Executive Director of the Maryland Foster Youth Resource Center and Founder and Senior Consultant with Fostering Change Network LLC. I am also a former foster youth with a passion to give back to youth still in and those who have transitioned from the foster care system.
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