See here for overview.
The Star of Your Own Romance
In Chapter I, your attention was called to the importance of knowing yourself as you really are now and as you appear to others. In Chapter II some of the factors and influences were described which have helped to shape your personality and make you the girl you are today. Now you are ready to set down in quite definite terms your personality goals – your plans and designs for the “you” of tomorrow.
During your teen years your personality will grow and change a great deal whether you do any conscious directing or not, but if you take time now and then to think about how you would like to be, your desires will almost automatically guide your growth in that direction.
It isn’t enough, however, to decide that you want to be an attractive, popular, capable person. Attractive in what way? Popular with whom? Capable of what? people do not agree in every detail about what makes a girl attractive, about how she should behave or what she should be able to do. You need to be more specific in describing your ideal for yourself. But where, you might ask, do we get our personality goals and how can we describe them so they will help us? Here are a few suggestions.
We Find Personality patterns in Literature
We enjoy love or adventure stories because we identify ourselves with the characters and actually feel the disappointments, satisfactions, and joys that are ascribed to them. By reading, we can experience many things in imagination we can’t experience in our own lives. From stories we can learn a great deal, too, about what qualities and what kinds of behavior in others win approval and lead to success and happiness and what characteristics and ways of behaving create difficulties for people.
The real romance which will someday come into your own life may not be as full of obstacles and dramatic action as some you read about, but it will be more thrilling and wonderful to you than any fiction. Although it will probably be some time before you will be making any decisions about when or whom you will marry, you may have done a little wondering about what the hero of your own love story will be like. Have you also done any wondering about what the girl will be like that he learns to love? Will you by that time be as lovable and poised and talented as fictional heroines you admire so much today? Maybe not, for you will meet a lot of situations that pull and tug you in other directions, but still the goals you set for yourself will be influenced considerably by your opinion of characters you meet in your reading.
Other People as Models
You will be influenced even more by the real people you admire. But it isn’t very helpful or even desirable to say you want to just like some movie or TV star, some famous model or dancer or other prominent person, or even to try to copy the appearance and mannerisms of some popular girl you know personally. You can’t be just like any other girl. You don’t know enough about another person; you haven’t lived her life or had her experiences.
Among some young people there is too strong a tendency to try to imitate, act, and dress like a few recognized social leaders. Some cliques and clubs snobbishly refuse to accept as members any who do not conform to some pattern of behavior or appearance. The natural desires for recognition and belonging leads some young people to try to conform even in ways that are undesirable, unnatural and unbecoming to them. In matters of ethics, morals, and manners we should try to conform to accepted standards, but beyond that, individuality in personality is important, too. There is more than one way to be a successful and well liked person. Your individual differences may be very much worth cultivating.
Qualities and Characteristics as a Pattern
To analyze why some people appeal to you strongly and to decide what qualities you admire in a number of individuals will give you a more helpful guide for your own development than to try to be just like some one person in every particular.
Think of some girl your own age that you know well and who has a personality you like. Make a list of her outstanding characteristics; for instance, you may describe her as – a good sport, friendly, vivacious, neat. (This chapter will mean a great deal more to you if you get a pencil and paper and do these suggested assignments.)
Daydreams can be spurs to action, or substitutes for action.
Which will yours be?
If you have a favorite girl movie star, or if you admire some other well-known person, make a list of her qualities that attract you.
Now list the characteristics that impress you in your mother, or in some other woman who represents to you mature charm.
Think of the vocation for girls in which you are most interested – nursing, teaching, office work, clerking, airline hostessing. What traits would be needed for success? Would a girl who could do well in one be apt to succeed in most any job, or would some personalities be better adapted to one field than to another?
Compare the lists you have made. Do the same characteristics appear in several of them, or are they quite different? Are there some things that appeal to you so strongly that they characterize the women you admire most regardless of age or position?
Now perhaps you can describe in terms of traits and characteristics such as you have been listing, the girl you want to be.
However, as you think of the characteristics you want for yourself and appreciate in others, there are several things you need to keep in mind.
In the first place, qualities are not tangible, fixed things. People do not either possess them or not, but exemplify them to varying extent or degree, depending on their reaction in each separate situation. For instance, a girl might be sparkling and clever when with some people and under some circumstances, and on other occasions, she might feel self-conscious and tongue-tied. Most people are not either kind or unkind – they are both. Anyone who feels hurt or imposed on is apt to do something that is unkind. It is easy to be unselfish about some things, but not about those which one wants or needs badly herself.
While some characteristics may seem definitely more admirable than others, it is very difficult when it comes right down to it to make a list that would describe an ideal person or to draw a definite line between faults and virtues. We all admire honesty, but not the person who prides herself on being honest but is so tactless and inconsiderate that she is unkind. Ability to talk easily is an asset, but not unless one also is willing to listen. Pride and humility are both desirable qualities and can exist side by side in the same individual, and yet are almost contradictory in meaning, as also are independence and dependence. Any virtue, if exaggerated too much, can become a fault – for instance, thrift can grow into miserliness; tolerance can become indifference. What we all need is a fine balance and good judgment that will guide us in our behavior in each situation.
Whether or not other persons seem to have faults or seem congenial and interesting to us is not only a question of their traits and habits, but of how theirs fit in with ours.
Paul thinks his wife Diane is comfortable to be around and easy to live with. He’s glad she isn’t a “fuss-budget” like his sister, Irene. Meticulously neat and systematic Irene wonders how Paul can put up with Diane’s carefree and easy-going ways.
A very reserved person may find an outgoing individual’s bubbling spontaneity quite annoying and maybe even intolerable – but who is to say which way is preferable?
If you look again at the lists you have just made, you will probably find some qualities that are attributes of good Christian character and so would be desirable for everyone to cultivate. There are other qualities which describe differences in personality that are equally acceptable. For example, everyone should strive to be loyal, dependable, and industrious; but in addition one girl might be gay, witty, dainty; another, thoughtful, quiet, serene; a third, robust, energetic, athletic; and all three be equally attractive and popular.
Remember that merely to list the qualities you admire will not assure that you will acquire them. If just deciding how we want to be would make us fit our own ideals we would have few shortcomings.
Still there is real value in frequently thinking about the traits, attitudes, and qualities which you want to dominate your life. Since we all have a common understanding of the meaning of the terms, this is probably the briefest and easiest way to describe your goal. More important, you do grow in the direction of your ideals. You have no doubt heard the quotation adapted from one of Solomon’s proverbs, “As a man thinketh so is he.” Your own convictions about what is right and the pattern you have set for yourself to follow are the results of your thinking. They constitute your intellectual control of your behavior. What you think is right to do, however, is not always what you actually do, because, as explained in the last chapter, you have a great many needs and desires driving you at the same time, and as you will learn in a later chapter, your feelings or emotional state at the moment also motivates what you do. Nevertheless, the more you think about how you want to behave, the more automatically your ideals will guide you whenever you make choices or decisions or try to interpret and learn from your own experiences.
Behavior as a Guide
Still another ay to set up your goal is in terms of what to do in various situations.
Write on a piece of paper some of the things you like people to do. Your list might begin somewhat as follows:
I LIKE PEOPLE WHO –
– can be good sports about losing and express their good wishes and congratulations if I, or my side, wins. (This means the same thing as the sportsmanship trait, but now you are thinking of sportsmanship in action.)
– are friendly and kind to me.
– never talk about me behind my back.
– don’t brag or show off.
– are willing to do their share.
– are dependable and keep their word.
After you have a dozen or so ideas written down, change the heading to read: PEOPLE WILL LIKE ME IF I – and you will have a very good guide for the behavior that will increase your own popularity. This may seem a more practical and concrete guide to action than your list of characteristics, although actually it is only another way of getting at the same thing.
What It Means to Grow Up
Still another way to set up a goal for yourself is to think through what it means to be emotionally grown-up and able to get along with people in a mature way. No one wants to grow old, but everyone should want to grow up. Each birthday adds just one year to everyone’s chronological age, but some people are very much more grown-up than others who have lived the same number of years.
An important indication of your level of emotional maturity is how well you get along with other people and how easily you make friends.
Some people have little regard for others except to use them to gratify their own selfish desires. Whenever they want something they demand that others help them get it, otherwise they fuss and fume and throw tantrums and if they have the power they may hurt or punish someone who refuses to cater to them. They may even feel very proud of their ability to be so masterful in getting their own way.
This is normal behavior for a baby, and we have all insisted at one time or another that others let us have our own way, but it certainly is an indication of immaturity if such a system is the usual thing in anyone your age.
Most people, as they begin to grow up, learn that they can often get others to do what they want them to by being agreeable so others like and want to please them. Managing people in this way can still be very selfish, but it’s better than mere bossiness or dictatorship.
Another common tactic is trading advantages or bargaining – “If you’ll let me ride your tricycle, I’ll let you play with my doll.” “If you won’t let me be first, I won’t invite you to my party.” If you have young brothers or sisters at home, watch to see how frequently situations illustrating this kind of relationship arise. You might even notice girls your age, especially sisters, still keeping score on favors. “I’ll help you with your algebra problems if you’ll iron my blouse,” or “I washed the dishes when it was your turn; you have to let me wear your necklace.” Even some adults use this method rather selfishly at times and expect whatever they do for others to be paid for in some way.
More mature ways of getting along with others, which we should learn if we grow up instead of merely get older, are sharing and cooperation. Sharing means using things together. Cooperation means just what the word implies: co-together, operation-accomplishment or process. Being emotionally grown-up enough to share and cooperate will go a long way toward insuring vocational success, happiness in marriage, and good citizenship. Cooperation becomes creative when people can unite their energies and abilities to accomplish things far greater than the sum total of what they could do separately. Each contributes according to his ability and draws from the resources what he needs. It means not caring too much who does which job or who gets the credit so long as the goals are realized. It means losing one’s self in a cause worth the sacrifice of selfish interests. A creative marriage requires that husband and wife learn to subordinate personal preferences and prejudices to the good of the family group. A working democracy requires this same kind of ability.
The ability to see the viewpoint and sense the feelings of another person is a great asset in helping us to get along well with others. Some modern psychologists call this ability “empathy.” it is more than just having sympathy or affection for another person. It means being able to put yourself in another’s place and at least honestly trying to know how he feels. This helps us to consider what is best for others as well as for us.
There is an often quoted bit of advice borrowed from an Indian Chief – “never judge a man until you have walked in his moccasins.” This ability to see the viewpoint of another person is the cornerstone of friendship and an important key to popularity.
Are you able to see the other person’s side when you get into an argument with a friend? Can you recall any occasion when you did something deliberately because it would give another girl some advantage? Girls your age frequently show a great deal of insight into the feelings of others and often sacrifice their own desires for their friends.
Some Other Indications of Maturity
Following are a few other characteristics which are indications of emotional maturity and some questions to help you decide how grown-up you now are in these ways.
An emotionally mature person has the ability to “bounce back” or recover from hurt, from sorrow or discouragement.
How much of this quality do you think girls your age should have developed? Do you nurse grudges or can you forgive and forget? If you are disappointed over not getting something you want, can you set a new goal and stop grieving in a reasonable time? Can you pull yourself out of a spell of “the blues” and within a short time feel normally cheerful again?
Ability to Face Reality
This means being able to accept conditions that can’t be changed; being able to accept some personal criticism without feeling crushed; being able to look at yourself as you would look at another person and see some of your own weaknesses as well as your good points; being able to accept some imperfection in yourself and not feel that you always should be the “best” or the “smartest” or the “prettiest” or the “cleverest” person in a group.
When you aren’t able to solve your own problems, can you admit the need and go to some qualified person for help? If you have some physical feature you don’t like, can you be happy in spite of it? If you have some handicap (and who hasn’t) can you concentrate on what you can do instead of grieving over what you can’t? Are you discontented because you can’t do something a friend can do? Could you learn? If not, can you accept the limitation happily? Do you feel that you haven’t a chance because of where you live or because of your build or looks?
Independence and Self-Reliance
emotional maturity can be measured somewhat by the ability to a person to use good judgment, to make wise decisions and initiate action on his own and to make good use of his own resources and powers.
How much of these qualities should you have developed by now? Do you need to be urged to get at your lessons or practicing? If you were given an assignment for Mutual or some other meeting, would you need to be reminded again about it? Can you plan and prepare a talk by yourself? Can you think of interesting activities for a party for your group? Can you take responsibility and contribute ideas when you are put on a committee for a school activity? Are you able to take care of your own clothes and room? Do you help to plan your wardrobe in relation to cost, use, and attractiveness? Can you find anything interesting or worth while to do or think about when you are alone? If you were stranded in a car which was lodged in a snowdrift with a group of young children could you quiet their fears and carry out a series of interesting diversions until help came? (Lives have been saved by people who could.) Have you the faith and courage within yourself to meet sorrow or disappointment or unkindness?
An emotionally grown-up person feels anger, joy, fear, worry, anxiety, and other emotions as strongly or maybe even more than immature people, but he is able to control his expression of his feelings so his behavior is appropriate to the occasion and not too irritating to other people. An emotionally mature person can maintain some steadiness of mood so other people know what kind of behavior to expect of him.
How much control can you exert over your emotions? Babies cry or kick when thwarted. Little tots talk out or run around, or laugh if they feel like it. Can you do any better about keeping your feelings under control? Do you feel enough responsibility for the success of any class or meeting to control your behavior so it helps the group? do you throw temper-tantrums over trifles? Do you broadcast your affection for your boy friends so you make your feelings “everybody’s business”? (In our next chapter we will consider this problem of emotions in more detail.)
Ability to Wait
Little children want what they want right now. They have a hard time saving their candy even until after dinner and they are always saying, ‘I can’t wait until Christmas,” or “until my birthday,” or for something in the future. As we get older, we can see farther ahead and should learn to be more willing to wait for the results or rewards of what we do.
What are some things you are grown-up enough to wait for? What are some you are still impatient about? Are you willing to do the practicing necessary to develop skill in playing a musical instrument? Can you save some of your money for bit things you want after a while? Can you give up some fun today to study because you want good grades and a good foundation for your education?
A Well Developed Conscience
A grown-up person is able to recognize what is right or wrong, has convictions and standards of his own, and can be depended on to act on the basis of these. A little child needs quite a bit of control and guidance from others. As we gain emotional maturity, we are able to exert more self-discipline.
How grown-up are you in this regard? When you go out with friends can you be depended on to get home when you have promised? Can you be honest in situations where no one will ever know of your dishonesty? Can you stick to your own convictions in spite of pressure from friends? Do you have the courage to defend an unpopular person when someone expresses undeserved prejudice?
Virtue as an Ideal
In setting up your goal for yourself, you need to be very specific about your standards. What will your dream girl do about the Word of Wisdom? About getting school assignments? About profanity? About what to do on Sunday? About dress? About conduct on dates? About where to go for fun? About friends, and a dozen and one other things?
Most young people just naturally want to do good and to live right. Don’t be embarrassed about emphasizing your desire for goodness. No amount of sophistication can do as much to make you attractive as the plain, old-fashioned virtues which have been associated with womanhood through the ages.
There is a familiar quotation credited to the Greek poetess Sappho – “that which is beautiful is good. That which is good will become beautiful.”
As you think about the kind of girl you want to be, you have to think about what you want out of life – this life and the next. Everything has its price. Doing the right thing often requires some effort and sacrifice, but doing wrong has a terrific price, too. You want friends, but not popularity at any cost. You want romance and glamor, but it must be the right kind. Sure, this is your own life and your free agency gives you the right to make your own decisions, but yours is a very precious life and you can’t live it twice. So plan carefully for the you of tomorrow and keep your resolution strong for realizing your ideals. then the star of your own life’s romance will be that lovely girl of your dreams.