The Competence Motif: discovering ‘I can’ for good mental health

You can’t do this
You can’t do that
You’re capable of nothing
You stupid prat

These words rush round
Become my truth
Intoxicate my mind
The uselessness of youth

You want me to do more
Be more sure of myself
But don’t give me the chance
To try, to gain my mental health

You do it all
Cook, clean, advise
No chance to be competent
To achieve, to rise

For it’s the little things
That make me believe
There’s worth in myself
That I can achieve

So teach me to cook
Let me learn to launder
To manage my diary
And then I won’t squander

The potential within me
Those things I can do
The opportunity to show
Both me and you

So create the opportunity
For the can without the not
And a better frame of mind
Into I will slot

So even when life is hard
I know that I can
I’m not completely useless
I can learn, I can fan

The flames of persistence
The flame of belief
That I can be something
The competent motif

That will run through my life
Give me purpose and passion
Get me over the humps
No capability ration

So blow my mind
Let me learn stuff new
And I promise I’ll surprise
Both myself and you.

So many young people I work with lack a basic belief in their abilities to learn anything and to do anything. Often their parents, often with good intentions, will have provided everything for them and they don’t even know how to boil an egg or make baked beans on toast. Alternatively their parents, through neglect or through a lack of skills themselves, won’t have taught their children any basic skills either. The end result for both is a young person who has been robbed of the sense of accomplishment that comes from having made something, the pride that comes from knowing that they have learned how to do something, and the sense of mattering that comes from having responsibility for certain tasks, even if it just doing the washing up.

If we rob our young people of the ability to feel all this, we set them up to doubt themselves, to question their ability to learn new things and to doubt whether they have any value. Competency is a cornerstone of good self-esteem and good mental health. As the poem says, it is often the little things that can make the hugest difference to our young people’s mental health.

So go on, teach a kid how to boil an egg, change a bike tyre, to make a basic meal. Trust me, it’ll reap dividends for decades to come.


1 comments On The Competence Motif: discovering ‘I can’ for good mental health

  • Thank you, I am a therapist in us and would like to inlclude your site on a resource list for my teen clients.

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