| DON'T LET IT GET YOU
DOWN\SELF-ESTEEM IS UP TO YOU, SAYS A TEEN THERAPIST WHO'S
BEEN THERE. BYLINE: CHRISTL DABU, SPECIAL TO THE FREE PRESS EDITION:
Final SECTION: Lifestyles
Karyn Gordon was a shy 13-year-old when a teacher told her
distressing news: She had a learning disability and would be lucky
if she got through high school.
It didn't help her self-esteem when her marks came in low,
despite studying hard. Getting 38 per cent for her first high school
English exam, however, became a turning point in her life.
"I will never forget this day. I'm sitting on this chair feeling
completely devastated, completely helpless, and I'm angry at this
teacher who said this. I'm angry at my parents. I'm angry at my
friends. I'm angry at myself," says Gordon 15 years later, as she
addresses the issue of self-esteem before a few hundred
Toronto high school students at East York Collegiate Institute.
"All of a sudden, I realized I cannot control the fact that I
have a learning disability, but I can control how to respond to this
Gordon, 28, is a teen therapist with a private counselling
practice in Toronto and Newmarket. She has a bachelor's degree in
psychology, a master's degree in counselling and is currently
working toward her doctorate in marriage and family therapy.
Gordon tells teens her choice to change her negative attitude
transformed her self-esteem.
"My personal greatest struggle was my own self-esteem, but
I started making choices in terms of applying myself to my school
and getting involved more in my school," she says.
"So I started making these baby steps and started feeling better,
without realizing those were the steps toward my
Born in Mississauga and raised in Newmarket, Gordon was so young
when she started counselling at 22 that only teens would see her.
After listening to patients close to her age group, she realized the
need to reach out to more youth outside her office.
Her efforts to achieve her goals led to her high school tours
across North America (currently sponsored by Pepsi, Pizza Pizza and
Doritos) where she has presented talks on self-esteem and
motivation to more than 150,000 teens over the last five years, her
international music talk show Spill Your Guts (broadcast across
Canada, U.S. and Singapore), on which she interviewed rock stars
like 98o and Matchbox 20 about their struggles as teens, and her
book on self-esteem, Analyze Yourself: A Teen's Guide to
Understanding Their Friends, Parents and Themselves (Castle Quay
Her mentors include her dad, a Baptist pastor and her mom, a
hospital chaplain. She says her faith is a factor that motivated her
to try to achieve her goals.
Gordon says self-esteem is the No. 1 issue faced by youth
she counsels for depression, stress or family and relationship
She suggests three ways to build a healthy self-esteem:
- Seek out mentors and friends whom you want to be like and who
encourage and challenge you in a positive way;
- Set realistic goals;
- Stop blaming others and yourself and instead choose to take
ownership of your attitude and decisions.
She says what's most fulfilling to her is when teens realize
attaining healthy self- esteem is possible, although it can be a
long and difficult process.
"The greatest lesson I've learned from all this, and it's really
taught by my mother, is that success is about trying; success is not
For more information on Karyn Gordon's self-esteem
projects, workshops and counselling for teens and parents call
416-686-7328, or log on to www.karyngordon.com.
ILLUSTRATION: photo by Ernest Doroszuk Special to the Free
Press\SOME DISABILITY: Once diagnosed as having a learning
disability, Karyn Gordonfought back, earned a master's degree in
counselling and is working on adoctorate in family therapy. She has
a widespread practice advising teens onpersonal struggles.
KEYWORDS: MENTAL HEALTH; TEENAGERS
CHRISTL DABU, SPECIAL TO THE FREE PRESS, DON'T LET IT GET
YOU DOWN\SELF-ESTEEM IS UP TO YOU, SAYS A TEEN THERAPIST
WHO'S BEEN THERE.. , The London Free Press, 06-10-2002, pp