What role did your childhood occupations play in forming your self-esteem?

I know it’s been a while since I’ve written, but I’ve been SO busy with the job search and preparing for board exams while finishing up research. Then today, I read an AWESOME article which finally motivated me to actually write rather than just tab it as a “blog about” page.

Occupational Therapy’s role in the community

It’s an article called “Time Well Spent” in this month’s (July 2012) issue of OT Practice. The basic gist of the article is this: engaging in health occupations plays an essential role in one’s growth and development, but sometimes this engagement is deterred by socio-economic factors that lead to occupational deprivation for the children of that community, leading them to pursue unsafe occupations which do not foster skill growth and an increase in self-confidence. Occupational therapy practitioners can address this need by developing and implementing community programs centered on providing the opportunity to engage in healthy occupations.

Why it’s so important

The reason this touches my heart is because I chose OT as a career based on the idea that I love my life, and love everything I choose to do with my time- I want others to be able to do what they love and value as well. When I was growing up, dancing was a big part of my life, and I was good at it. Because of that, I think my self-confidence was somewhat greater in that I knew I could actually accomplish something or do something that would draw positive attention. It also played a great role in forming my identity- I always think of myself as a dancer, even though I am not currently on any team.

Children of middle class families are constantly enrolled in something or another, whether it be drama, sports, or other clubs. How many kids do you know that are on soccer teams, or take weekly singing or drawing lessons? My husband was one of those kids that was fortunate enough to have a family who encouraged learning about anything and everything- he went to drawing lessons, tabla lessons, music lessons… I think the only thing left out was singing, which he’s kind of made up for on his own anyway (he sang A Capella for me at our wedding). Anyway, my point is that all these opportunities contribute to who he is today: a creative, artistic person who built his own onlineĀ graphic design company.

From nurture to nature

I’m not saying that kids who don’t have opportunities to explore healthy occupations are all not confident and that all of them pursue unhealthy occupations (like gang activity) but I do think it is important to provide resources to the community that help with positive engagement, for several reasons- doing something you love helps you explore your interests, capability, and skills while helping you form your self-identity.

I know that one’s self confidence should not be based on external circumstances like how many dance lessons they go to or how many musical instruments they can play, but those things do help us convince ourselves of our inherent capability, and that’s why they’re important- because children need something tangible to think of until they can figure out that the “thing” driving them internally is what enables them to do all those things. They need something tangible to think of as to why they are inherently important until they can conceptualize the idea of self esteem.

Do some reflection

So… this was not supposed to turn into a rant about one’s inherent nature and the source of self confidence (because that is a whole other huge discussion), but I think I make a pretty good case about why childhood occupations are important. So, what occupations played a key role in your life while you were growing up? Did they contribute to who you are today, as an adult?

Think about all those experiences you value in your life. Occupational therapy can play a key role in someone else’s life by helping a community foster those experiences, truly ensuring “living life to the fullest.”

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