For those of you joining me here from Encouragement Today through Proverbs 31 Ministries, welcome! Today, we’re discussing performance…how it affects us and how it affects our students. My guest today is Shannon Primicerio. An author of 10 books, Shannon teaches teenage girls how to apply the Bible to the drama of real life and read it like it’s God’s love letter to them. At the end of this post, you can enter win Shannon’s book for a teen in your life!
After working with teens and struggling with performing in her own life, Shannon wrote the book, The Divine Dance which covers this topic. Today, Shannon will help gives us some tools on how we can rid our lives of this struggle as well as pass on this freedom to our daughters.
Shannon, how did you first recognize that you were performance orientated?
I always noticed elements of it as I grew up. As a child I was a dancer, and then I played softball and was an honor student. In the midst of all of my achievements I was always looking for applause and affirmation. My senior year I won a huge writing award sponsored by the local paper. It was to be given to me at my high school graduation, but my school goofed up and it was awarded to me in my AP English class. Instead of everyone—including my family—being there to witness my achievement I was left standing awkwardly in front of 28 classmates who had no idea what a big deal the award was. I remember being angry and disappointed that my big moment fell so flat. It was then that I began to realize that being esteemed highly by other people was really important—maybe even too important—to me.
What do you feel was the primary influencer when it came to this struggle in your life? Environment, your own personality, etc.?
When I was four my parents separated for a year and began the process of divorce. I didn’t see my dad often, and I remember being confused about why he left. The pain was so great that I acted out in my preschool class and became an angry child. In my mind I didn’t ever want to hurt like that again. Eventually my parents reconciled and worked things out, but that year left an indelible mark on me. It was then I first determined that I was going to make people love me to insure I would never be left again. I began to perform for people trying to earn their love and applause with everything I did.
How can we recognize performance in the life of our students?
I think it’s important to listen to what teenagers aren’t saying when they talk. Sometimes how a girl (or guy) talks can give you a clear picture of how she views herself. If your daughter comes home from school and you ask about her day, try to determine if she’s leaning heavily on her achievements: “I got an A in math and then my science teacher said I did the best project in the entire class, etc…”
When your daughter talks, is she giving you a picture of who she is or what she does? Without even realizing it is she trying to earn your approval or find affirmation?
Listen closely when she asks for something too—a new pair of boots, a shirt from a trendy store, an i-Phone, etc…Why does she want it? Is she associating her identity with what she has? Is she worried about being compared to her peers and coming up short?
If you notice your daughter is performing, don’t embarrass her by calling her out right away. Begin by affirming her. Make sure she leaves conversations with you feeling loved and accepted. If she’s feeling insecure, try to schedule a mother/daughter activity (like a pedicure or free mall makeover) that will leave her feeling better about herself—and then, while she’s feeling pretty good, try broaching the subject of her tendency to perform.
Instead of telling her what you see, ask her how she feels. You can mention a few of the things you’ve noticed, but don’t make it sound like you have her figured out or like you know what she’s feeling. If you invite her to talk, and you make her feel safe and comfortable doing so, she will open up. You may even want to begin by sharing ways in which you find yourself performing instead of finding your worth in Christ and who God made you.
What steps did you take to get free?
In college I found myself briefly dating a guy I didn’t even really like simply because he was the only one who bothered to ask me out. Around this same time I was hanging with a group of friends I had absolutely nothing in common with. I was wearing clothes I wasn’t comfortable in because that’s how the other girls dressed. I even wore a perfume I thought stunk (it gave me a headache) just because it was the popular thing to do.
I finally woke up one morning knowing that I was not who I was pretending to be. So, I broke up with the guy, went on a hunt for new friends and got rid of the uncomfortable clothes and stinky perfume.
But I also really began to spend time assessing who God made me. What were my strengths and weaknesses? What did I like to wear? When I looked five years into the future what did I want my life to look like? I know this sounds like a lot of self-focus, but it’s important for teenage girls to examine themselves apart from the crowd so they can recognize who God made them.
At the same time I was doing all of that, I really began to dig into God’s Word and see what the Bible said about me. I wrote out verses about how much God loves me and how valuable He thinks I am and posted them around my dorm room. I also took a few spiritual gifts tests and began looking for ways God could use me.
Once I had a better understanding of who God made me, and the gifts He gave me, I had a greater since of confidence. It was easier to say no to people and things that didn’t seem to fit with God’s plan for my life. It wasn’t—and isn’t—easy. But it was easier.
Honestly, I still struggle with my tendency to perform. I’m constantly stopping and reassessing my motives and desires. But first, I had to learn who I was so I could better understand who I wasn’t.
How can we help our students to take these steps?
I think it’s important to help your daughter discover who God made her to be. She needs to know how she’s different from her friends, how she’s different from you and how to make decisions on her own.
Let her develop her own sense of style (as long as it’s modest). Encourage her to break free of the cookie cutter mold of saying and doing what everyone else is.
Teach her (and model for her) how to say no in a healthy way. If you’re constantly performing for people, and that’s all she sees, then your actions won’t align with your words and she’ll notice right away.
Talk to your daughter about spiritual gifts. Point out opportunities for her to volunteer and serve at your church or in your community. Don’t just tell her God has a purpose for her life—teach her how to find it, help her discover what it is.
When the gifts, talents and passions God has given her start to emerge make sure you encourage them—even if they are completely different than the gifts, talents and passions God has given you.
The remedy for seeking the world’s applause is learning to dance for the Audience of One. More than anything else, make sure you model what it means to live for the approval of God and not the applause of men.
If your daughter sees a strong example in you she’ll know she’s found a safe place to confide and that’s priceless.
Thank you so much for sharing your heart and expertise, Shannon. I know I learned a lot from you!
Shannon’s books and conferences provide:
*Guidance and structure for how to have a daily quiet time
*Strategies for battling peer pressure in areas like dating, purity and friendship
*Insight on how to see yourself as the beautiful treasure you are
*Direction on how to find your purpose and live your passion for the glory of
You can learn more about Shannon at http://www.beingagirlbooks.com/.
You can enter to win a copy of Shannon’s book! What area do you or your girl struggle when it comes to performing? Just clik on “comments” below! I can’t wait to hear from you…Lynn