This Is the Book I Wish I Would Have Read as a Kid

13 Things Strong Kids Do

Verywell / Catherine Song

I was a shy kid. I only talked to my closest friends and family members.

I never raised my hand in class. It felt too scary to speak in front of a group of people—even if it was just a few classmates. I hated school from the beginning. In fact, my 4-year-old self somehow convinced my parents to let me quit preschool after just one day.

So when they told me it wasn’t an option to quit kindergarten the following year, I didn’t understand why. Kindergarten felt just as dreadful as preschool. But fortunately, kindergarten was only a half-day program. I was devastated the next year when I had to go to first grade all day long.

I cried every morning before school and my mother had to push me out the door to get on the bus. I couldn’t explain what I hated about school other than to say the days felt too long.

Why I Was Struggling In School

By the time I got to third grade, I stopped crying every morning. By then, I was throwing up. I didn’t throw up on purpose—I just hated school so much that I got sick. My parents would let me stay home when I was sick. But they noticed I started feeling better every day by about 9 AM. They realized school was the reason I was getting sick.

And the reason I hated school so much was because I didn’t want to talk in class. My teachers called on me to read in front of everyone—even when I didn’t raise my hand. And sometimes, we had to give presentations. I was convinced I could never speak in public. It felt too scary.

The more I avoided raising my hand in class, the harder it became to speak in front of people.

Although my grades were always good, my report cards were filled with comments from my teachers like, “Amy is so shy we rarely hear her ideas.” Hearing everyone say I was too shy certainly didn’t inspire me to speak up. It just cemented the idea that I was unable to talk in front of people.

The Book I Wish I Had Read as a Kid

I just wrote my first-ever mental strength book for kids and it’s the book I wish I would have read when I was young. It’s called 13 Things Strong Kids Do: Think Big, Feel Good, Act Brave. Reading that book back then could have changed the entire course of my life.

It could have helped me understand the link between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. That could have helped me manage my anxious feelings, deal with my worrisome thoughts and find the courage to face my fears.  

I could have become a stronger, more confident kid. The things that felt terrifying would have become much more manageable.

Practicing the exercises in this book—like writing myself a kind letter that would help me on the days when I felt scared and learning how to replace BLUE thoughts with true thoughts—would have gone a long way toward helping me feel better.

How Mental Strength Changed My Life

My 12-year-old self would have never believed my future occupation would be “public speaker.” But, that’s exactly what happened.

I deliver about three or four talks a month (virtually during the pandemic). Sometimes I present half-day workshops to private companies. At other times I speak at conferences and conventions where there are more than 10,000 people in the audience. In 2015, I gave a TEDx talk called, “The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong.” More than 16 million people watched it.

Before I step on stage, I always think about that shy kid who didn’t feel worthy of speaking up in front of 12 of her classmates and how far I’ve come. And I wonder how my childhood might have been different if I’d learned about mental strength back then.

How I Learned About Mental Strength

I learned about mental health and mental strength in college when I studied to become a therapist. But my interest in mental strength became personal when I lost my mother and my husband.

My grief inspired me to study people in my therapy office with an intense interest. I wanted to know why some people went through tough times and felt stuck and others emerged from hardship better than before.

The more I studied the habits of mentally strong people, the more motivated I became to experience, express, and grow from uncomfortable emotions.

Learning about mental strength didn’t prevent me from experiencing pain. But it did help me learn how to deal with pain in a helpful manner.

And I know that learning about mental strength earlier in life would have prevented a lot of my unnecessary suffering in life. So that’s why I wrote a children’s book—so other kids could learn how to grow mentally strong much sooner than I did.

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