An Essay About Yourself That You Are Proud Of


Vol. 8, No. 2• May 2004


What are you proud of?

In our daily lives many of us devote a great deal of attention to problems, to what’s wrong. It’s not surprising: our schools and businesses spend a great deal of time teaching people to identify problems, and they shower rewards on those who do it well.

But if we pay too much attention to the negative and the broken, it is easy for us to start to think that’s all there is. If we fixate on a child’s negative behaviors, or a social worker’s or foster parent’s mistakes, we run the risk of overlooking the good that person does. Or the good that person is.

That’s something we can’t afford to do. We need to see the strengths in ourselves, in others, and in our world. Why? Because our strengths and past successes hold the key to solving the challenges that lie ahead of us.

With these thoughts in mind, the writing contest in the last issue of Fostering Perspectives posed the following question to current and former foster youth: “What’s something about yourself that you are proud of, and why?”

We hoped that by asking this we could help the kids who wrote in—and the adults who ultimately read their responses—shine a little light on what is right in their lives.

We were not disappointed. In the many responses we received—we regret we couldn’t publish them all—young people told us in a clear way that they had lots of reasons to celebrate.

Some were proud of things that make kids everywhere proud: the ability to play a sport, do a flip, draw a picture, get good grades. Others were proud of victories in their struggles with substance abuse and anger. Still others were proud of overcoming experiences—abuse, neglect, multiple placements—that once made them doubt their worth as people.

They expressed their pride in different voices. Some voices were tentative—almost whispers—as if they were not sure they’d be believed. Others rang with confidence and conviction, like trumpets.

Viewed together, these essays create a portrait of foster children as people who recognize something of value in themselves. Now that is something of which we should be proud.

Yet it is also our task at hand. As parents, social workers, and as a society, we must continue to help children shine a light on their successes and to nurture their pride in who they are today and who they will be tomorrow. —John McMahon, Editor

Joy Elizabeth, age 12, First Prize

I’m proud of all my unique looks. I have gorgeous brown hair that shines in the sun. My eyes twinkle when I look around.

I’m proud of my talents because not many people can do some of them. My thumbs are double-jointed—I can stick them behind my fists. My friends think it is so cool that I can hang upside down on monkey bars.

I like the fact that I make good grades in school. My teachers like me a whole lot. They keep my scores up by making sure I understand everything they teach us in class.

I’m happy that I have a loving family who cares for me by giving me shelter, clothes on my back, food, and water.

My birthday is the first day of spring, March 20. I think that is special but some other holidays are much better than spring.

There is something about myself that I am really proud of—it is that I try to be myself. I do not go looking through magazines to see what they look like to improve myself. I try to stay one of a kind, not some duplicate of some girl I saw in a magazine that used a certain kind of makeup and knows she has two boyfriends and a million others who like her. I would just rather stick with the one that I already have.

The one thing I have that I’m proud of is my friends, because if I feel that I’m useless they would cheer me up because that is what friends are for. If you are mean to your friends you will not have anyone to cheer you up so you would live your life in misery and sorrow. I have a lot of friends and plan to keep it that way.

These are some things about myself I’m proud of.

Joy Elizabeth received $100 for her first place essay

 

Sofia, age 12, Second Prize

My name is Sofia and I am 12 years old. I have been in foster care since I was eight. My foster mom and dad have adopted me and I am so glad they did. With their guidance I feel like my life is back on track.

The one thing I am proud of is making good grades. When I was with my birth mom I missed 48 days of school because she was always sleeping from the pills and alcohol and she could not get me off to school. I am proud of achieving the accomplishments that I have. Like winning the Noon Optimist Character Award, which the teachers at Bethel Elementary voted for me, and winning the DARE Essay award, and being part of the safety patrol last year at my school.

I feel like I have proven myself with the right guidance in my life now, that I can accomplish anything, and become anything I want later in life. I am glad I have a new family that cares enough about me to get me in the right direction for what life has to offer.

There are still caring people out there in this world who love children and I can thank DSS and my new family for that.

Sofia received $50 for having her essay published

 

 

Daniel, age 13, Third Prize

One thing I am proud of is my artwork. I like to draw all the time. I am in an art class at school where I learn about artists and other styles of art. I also have earned the art merit badge for Boy Scouts.

At school we were seeing who could draw the best eagle to go in our yearbook for the school mascot. I drew a good one but I didn’t get it published in the school yearbook. When I took it home, my foster mother Darlene liked it so much that she put it in a picture frame.

I also like to paint. I just painted a lighthouse that I saw on an eighth grade field trip to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. I painted the lighthouse because I was working on the art merit badge and I needed to paint a picture in acrylic. To accomplish the art merit badge I needed to do a pencil sketch so I used the eagle that I drew at school. I did an ink sketch of our house for the merit badge. I also had to do an acrylic. I did a picture of Jesus in a manger, which turned out to look pretty good.

I am really proud of how my artwork can look. I also got the art merit badge. One day my art may become known around the world.

Daniel received $25 for having his essay published and $15 for having his drawing, “Leaping Tiger,” published

 

CJ, age 11


I am proud of myself because I use to be not able to control my anger. After being placed in therapeutic foster care and seeing my therapist I have learned to control my anger. My foster family and I go on therapeutic walks and sit down and talk about my feelings. My foster family clipped an old article out of Fostering Perspectives about things you can say to yourself to keep a lid on your anger. This helps me a lot in remembering how to control my anger.

CJ received $15 for having his essay published

 

Billy received $15 for having his drawing published

 

Andrea, age 15


I’ve been working really hard to accomplish things that I can be proud of. I’m proud that I can actually do homework without getting frustrated. I used to get mad and quit. I’m proud that I’ve made friends. I’m proud that I’ve learned to snowboard. I don’t snowboard a lot, but I’m pretty good at it, though. I’m really good at skiing because I can grind on skis.

My favorite thing to do is cheerlead. I can do a back handspring, and I’m a flyer. . .

Now that I found out that people aren’t perfect, I’m proud to be who I am.

Andrea received $15 for having her essay published

 

Heather received $15 for having her drawing published

 

Jamar, age 16


My adoptive mother, Elizabeth, helped me discover my talent for writing. I was placed in foster care when I was three and a half years old. I was a behavior problem. I went through four different homes in only a year’s time span. Nobody took time with me until Elizabeth. I know I was bad and cost her a lot, but she still gave me a chance. . . .

Even though I still get in trouble, I think that with her help I could turn my talent into something worthwhile. So I can then make what makes me proud, make her proud too!

Jamar received $15 for having his essay published

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Copyright � 2004 Jordan Institute for Families

You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.
– Mae West

You know you’re on the right track when you can repeat each of the following headlines to yourself, honestly.  (And if you can’t, this list gives you something positive to work on.)

1.  I am following my heart and intuition.

Don’t be pushed by your problems.  Be led by your dreams.  Live the life you want to live.  Be the person you want to remember years from now.  Make decisions and act on them.  Make mistakes, fall and try again.  Even if you fall a thousand times, at least you won’t have to wonder what could have been.  At least you will know in your heart that you gave your dreams your best shot.

Each of us has a fire in our hearts burning for something.  It’s our responsibility in life to find it and keep it lit.  This is your life, and it’s a short one.  Don’t let others extinguish your flame.  Try what you want to try.  Go where you want to go.  Follow your own intuition.  Dream with your eyes open until you know exactly what it looks like.  Then do at least one thing every day to make it a reality.

And as you strive to achieve your goals, you can count on there being some fairly substantial disappointments along the way.  Don’t get discouraged, the road to your dreams may not be an easy one.  Think of these disappointments as challenges – tests of persistence and courage.  At the end of the road, more often than not, we regret what we didn’t do far more than what we did.  Read Quitter.

2.  I am proud of myself.

You are your own best friend and your own biggest critic.  Regardless of the opinions of others, at the end of the day the only reflection staring back at you in the mirror is your own.  Accept everything about yourself – EVERYTHING!  You are you and that is the beginning and the end – no apologies, no regrets.

People who are proud of themselves tend to have passions in life, feel content and set good examples for others.  It requires envisioning the person you would like to become and making your best efforts to grow.

Being proud isn’t bragging about how great you are; it’s more like quietly knowing that you’re worth a lot.  It’s not about thinking you’re perfect – because nobody is – but knowing that you’re worthy of being loved and accepted.  All you have to do is be yourself and live the story that no one else can live – the story of your own unique life.  Be proud, be confident, you never know who has been looking at you wishing they were you.

3.  I am making a difference.

Act as if what you do makes a difference.  It does.

Is it true that we all live to serve?  That by helping others we fulfill our own destiny?  The answer is a simple ‘yes.’  When you make a positive impact in someone else’s life, you also make a positive impact in your own life.  Do something that’s greater than you – something that helps someone else to be happy or to suffer less.

You are only one, but you are one.  You cannot do everything, but you can do something.  Smile and enjoy the fact that you made a difference – one you’ll likely remember forever.

4.  I am happy and grateful.

Happiness is within you, in your way of thinking.  How you view yourself and your world are mindful choices and habits.  The lens you choose to view everything through determines how you feel about yourself and everything that happens around you.

Being grateful will always make you happy.  If you’re finding it hard to be grateful for anything, sit down close your eyes and take a long slow breath and be grateful for oxygen.  Every breath you take is in sync with someone’s last.

5.  I am growing into the best version of me.

Judy Garland once said, “Always be a first rate version of yourself instead of a second rate version of somebody else.”  Live by this statement.  There is no such thing as living in someone else’s shoes.  The only shoes you can occupy are your own.  If you aren’t being yourself, you aren’t truly living – you’re merely existing.

Remember, trying to be anyone else is a waste of the person you are.  Embrace that individual inside you that has ideas, strengths and beauty like no one else.  Be the person you know yourself to be – the best version of you – on your terms.  Improve continuously, take care of your body and health, and surround yourself with positivity.  Become the best version of you.

6.  I am making my time count.

Time is the most valuable constituent of life.  Make the time for what does matter today.  Really being in the moment, finding passion in your life, seeing the world and traveling, or just seeing the world that’s around you right now, being with great people, doing amazing things, eating amazing food and savoring life’s little pleasures.

Remember, your time is priceless, but it’s free. You can’t own it, but you can use it.  You can spend it, but you can’t keep it.  Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.  You really do only have a short period to live.  So let your dreams be bigger than your fears and your actions louder than your words.  Make your time count!

7.  I am honest with myself.

Be honest about what’s right, as well as what needs to be changed.  Be honest about what you want to achieve and who you want to become.  Be honest with every aspect of your life, always.  Because you are the one person you can forever count on.

Search your soul, for the truth, so that you truly know who you are.  Once you do, you’ll have a better understanding of where you are now and how you got here, and you’ll be better equipped to identify where you want to go and how to get there.  Read The Four Agreements.

8.  I am good to those I care about.

In human relationships distance is not measured in miles, but in affection.  Two people can be right next to each other, yet miles apart.  So don’t ignore someone you care about, because lack of concern hurts more than angry words.  Stay in touch with those who matter to you.  Not because it’s convenient, but because they’re worth the extra effort.

When was the last time you told your family and close personal friends that you loved them?  Just spending a little time with someone shows that you care, shows that they are important enough that you’ve chosen — out of all the things to do on your busy schedule — to find the time for them.  Talk to them.  Listen to them.  Understand them.

Many times it’s our actions, not just our words that really speak what our heart feels for another.

9.  I know what unconditional love feels like.

Whether your love is towards a child, a lover, or another family member, know the feeling of giving love and not expecting anything in return – this is what lies at the heart of unconditional love.  Life through unconditional love is a wondrous adventure that excites the very core of our being and lights our path with delight.  This love is a dynamic and powerful energy that lifts us through the most difficult times.

Love is beautiful and unpredictable.  It begins with ourselves, for without self-love, we cannot know what true love can be.  In loving ourselves, we allow the feeling to generate within us and then we can share it to everyone and everything around us.  When you love unconditionally, it isn’t because the person you love is perfect, it’s because you learn to see an imperfect person perfectly.

10.  I have forgiven those who once hurt me.

We’ve all been hurt by another person at some point or another – we were treated badly, trust was broken, hearts were hurt.  And while this pain is normal, sometimes that pain lingers for too long.  We relive the pain over and over, letting them live rent-free in our head and we have a hard time letting go.

Grudges are a waste of perfect happiness, it causes us to miss out on the beauty of life as it happens.  To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you.

11.  I take full accountability for my life.

Own your choices and mistakes, and be willing to take the necessary steps to improve upon them.  Either you take accountability for your life or someone else will.  And when they do, you’ll become a slave to their ideas and dreams instead of a pioneer of your own.

You are the only one who can directly control the outcome of your life.  And no, it won’t always be easy.  Every person has a stack of obstacles in front of them.  But you must take accountability for your situation and overcome these obstacles.  Choosing not to is choosing a lifetime of mere existence.  Read The Road Less Traveled.

12.  I have no regrets.

This one is simply a culmination of the previous eleven…

Follow your heart.  Be true to yourself.  Do what makes you happy.  Be with who makes you smile.  Laugh as much as you breathe.  Love as long as you live.  Say what you need to say.  Offer a helping hand when you’re able.  Appreciate all the things you do have.  Smile.  Celebrate your small victories.  Learn from your mistakes.  Realize that everything is a lesson in disguise.  Forgive.  And let go of the things you can’t control.

Photo by: Esparta Palma

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