I’ve been using Emily Robert’s book Express Yourself in my psychotherapy practice since it came out in the spring. It’s perfect for adolescent girls and boys. I saw the book on a Facebook timeline of my friend Lisa who is the founder of The Leshne Agency. I paid immediate attention because men should always pay attention to an exceptional businesswoman with a keen eye for talented authors.
Lisa is a talent whisperer, but I had no clue if she represented Emily. It did not matter, because if Lisa put a picture of a killer whale in a seaweed bikini on one of her social media outlets, it would set a new trend, and I would have to pay attention. Fortunately for me, and all of us, Lisa put a picture of Emily holding the book on her timeline and we were saved from the eyesore of an anthropomorphized giant mammal.
As soon as I saw Emily’s picture, I made a few validating statements. I did not creep her out and comment that she was gorgeous (I am that good of a guy, but she is gorgeous anyway!); and leap of Faith (in Lisa), I ordered a paper copy of the book.
Leap of faith indeed, I had no clue that the Teen Spirit it contained would revolutionize my outlook on life. Yup, this big, middle-aged, people-shy Frenchman would be transformed by a self-respecting book written for teens. You read that right!
As I waited for the book to arrive, I did my research about Emily. I visited her website and immediately started to share it as a resource for my teen clients. I watched videos of TV appearances, I read a dozen articles along with her blog entries.
I discovered that Emily was an amazing individual with a truly empathetic heart, someone who is a skilled and inspirational therapist (as opposed to a bore who looks like a killer whale in a seaweed bikini). Last but not least, an incredibly savvy businesswoman, who in my not so humble French opinion, on a path to “Oprahfication.”
The day I received the book, I read it. The day after, I was using it with my teens, and explaining why parents should buy it. Then I started to mention and praise Emily to my colleagues—“You need to use that book, it’s unique!” “How so?” said the whale adjusting his bikini. “Buy it, read it, use it, share it! Darn it! And please put something a little less revealing. I can see your… omg that thang is gross!”
Why so much immediate trust in her book you might ask? Because it is so rare to find a self-help book for teens that does not patronize its audience, that does not tell them how they should be, what they should do, how they should think, talk, walk, text, and ‘sex’.
Emily understands the teen brain and its insane plasticity and she respects it. Emily actually manages to teach her readers self-assertiveness, self-respect, self-worth, self- growth, etc. She puts the ‘self’ in a genre that treats teens like second class citizens who have no right to a self.
I was in awe, because as someone who once was a teen with troubled parents, I self-mutilated. I considered cutting off my penis. I ran away a lot. I contemplated death via suicide or homicide daily, and I spent more time at the nearby ‘bistro de la gare’ than in the classroom. Express Yourself would have been gold to me back then, pure gold because books were my escape. I read, read, read, read to save my teen spirit from choking in its own blood.
Here is why my young self would have read that book without hesitation (as long as a French translation would have been available):
- It does not ‘talk’ like my controlling parents and teaches me to communicate assertively to be heard
- It teaches me to respect myself, and how, and why, and with whom
- It shows me how to respect my rights to be angry, sad, and confused
- It also teaches me to deal with powerful emotions without creating conflict
- Last but not least, it teaches me to be ‘the director’ of my own spirited life and not somebody else’s puppet.
Do me a huge favor dear readers, take a moment to read these statements again as if they were meant for an adult today and not for a teen boy lost in Paris with more darkness than light in the 80s. You see what I mean, it also works for us.
I would have loved these five thematic lines as a teen, as much as I still do as an adult.
After I read Express Yourself, as if it applied to old farts, I wondered what it would mean to be assertive enough to be the director of my own life, today. What change would it trigger, if any? Could this assertiveness model developed for teens works for moi?
Although it may be difficult to guess from my social media presence, I am actually better capable of feeling inadequate and unwelcome than feeling at ease and of use in others’ lives. Can you say GAD, and Childhood PTSD due to BDD?
The only time I am confident is when I hide behind my professional self or an online persona.
Michel the therapist is rather serene and poised behind his title. Michel, the old university lecturer was cool as a cucumber in front of a faceless crowd of hundred students or parents. Michel, the Area Frenchman is virtually goofy. And now Michel the blogger, feels quite smart, because the attention is not on himself, it’s on the smart individuals like Emily he interviews and writes about.
These Michel-selves are, of course, one and the same—I have mental issues but they stay at a safe distance from dissociation. But when one has weak self-esteem, one will not resist the (unconscious) temptation of diminishing his/her strength through compartmentalization–thus making himself/herself as fractured and inadequate as he/she is willing to accept it.
Accepting that I am the director of my own life as Emily’s little book suggests is insightfully refreshing. It helps me assert that I am the sum of all my parts, which, in turn, appears to create a bridge of confidence I have never experienced before.
Express Yourself has literally helped me come out of my shell. Somehow, I feel much more capable of accepting that I am the sum of all the personae in my life when I think of myself as the director of this rowdy bunch. I’ve come to accept that I play the lead in all these parts and that I should be proud of it, not scared and retreat because I think people will judge me.
Here is the last piece of evidence that Emily’s book has helped change my life and that she should write an adult version of it (which she is!), and that she should be praised for what she does as a therapist with business savvy to improve the fate of humanity:
I did not start blogging until two months ago. I shared my life struggles with Body Dysmorphic Disorder just this last Thanksgiving Day. Today, I am proudly admitting that I am a better adult because I can express myself like an assertive teen girl! If that’s not amazing, I don’t know what is.
Emily you rock! I am in awe!