Middle school confidence can be a tricky thing, but having confidence in middle school is essential.  This is the reason I wrote Saltwater Taffy because I had zero confidence in middle school.

You might think I’m crazy, but there is actually a science to feeling good!  As a tween-ager, it is your RESPONSE-ability to feel good about who you are and who you are becoming.  It’s like this;

Your RESPONSE determines your mood

Have you ever received an A on a pop quiz or a final exam?  Have you ever heard someone say something nice about you?  This kind of stuff makes you feel good about being you, right?  I mean, feeling good, well…feels good.  Now, on the opposite side of the coin, what happens when you…

…fail a test or somebody says something really mean about you?  Feeling good no longer is an option because stuff like this makes anyone feel lousy.  Nobody wants to feel lousy, because feeling lousy feels…well, lousy.

But here’s the thing to always remember as you get closer to your teenage and young adult years; life won’t always go your way.  Sounds like a bummer, but these are the facts of life and that’s okay, because here’s the biggest fact of all:


When I finished my first draft of Saltwater Taffy, I was so excited that I sent out query letters to four agents and was turn down by four agents.  Of the two agents who DID respond with rejection letters, they both said the book wasn’t high concept enough for the children’s book market.  One told me that most children’s books are written so they can be made into a children’s movie, and without a high concept, you can forget making it into a movie.  As a filmmaker, I knew this going in, but this agent told me my story wasn’t high concept enough.


I say that now, because I am emotionally removed from the news delivered by those agents, but I remember having a really tough day following the rejection.   It made me feel like I was wasting my time with Saltwater Taffy, but I pushed through the lousy feeling and listened to my heart compass.  As a result, I have written the best thing in my entire career.  Feeling good had nothing to do with someone else’s opinion, but rather my opinion about what I was doing and who I am.

Here the facts about life at your age: at one point or another, someone is going to say something mean and it’s going to be directed right at you.  At one point or another, the A grade on an exam won’t be yours.  Trust your Uncle E here and understand that YOU ARE GOING TO BE OKAY.  Why will it be okay?  Because…

You are not happy as a result of ANYTHING that you experience in life.

Middle School Confidence and your happiness is up to you and sometimes, you have to stand firm in your happiness…especially when the yogurt hits the fan.   It is easy to mope around and kick rocks when life doesn’t go your way, but you have to remember that nothing, not one single thing that happens to you or around you is the end of the world.  Life goes on.

Someone doesn’t like you?  Feeling left out among the cool kids?  Or maybe you are embarrassed because you don’t have the new style of shoes everyone is wearing. While this might seem important and like the end of the world, IT IS NOT.  How you deal with what happens in life is up to you.  Happy or sad, how you live your life is your choice and yours alone.

Fail a test? Accept the failure and devise a new plan.  Here’s an idea, study more.   Learn how to outline your work which helps cognitive recall, which is really fancy name for learning.  Feeling left out by the cool kids? Be happy in spite of them making fun of you.  How do you do this?   How do you resist feeling lousy when life doesn’t go your way?  You become interested in YOUR life.   You become an ACTIVE player, not someone who is a RE-ACTIVE player and worries about what other people think of you.  You have no control over what people think of you, only what YOU think of YOU.

What does that mean, this whole active/reactive thing?  Let’s say we have two toy monkeys with cymbals in their hands.  One monkey is playing music (ACTIVE)…the other monkey is waiting for you to push a button on him before he plays the music (RE-ACTIVE).

Don’t wait for someone to push your buttons, get moving and become excited about a project you have been thinking about.  Get involved with something you love.   Lean to play an instrument.  Learn how to paint.   Go on a bike ride and think about what you love to do.  Volunteer to become a mentor to someone younger than you.   Whatever you want to do is fine, but get busy doing something and stop worrying about what HAS happened (that failed test or mean comment by someone).  Start making something happen NOW.

When you do this, you become INTERESTED in what makes YOU happy.

If you wait for life to provide you happiness through your day to day activities or experiences, you’re going to be bummed out and won’t do much.  Trust me.  Achieving things in life and being happy is a result of YOU being YOU, not what happens TO you.

Eric DelaBarre is an award winning filmmaker and the author of Saltwater Taffy A Novel of Adventure & Self-discovery. Copyright October 5, 2010 All Rights Reserved

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