Pro at Being Me…?

Let me start off by saying that I think the “Pro at Being Me” campaign has a good message, and that I really do appreciate all of the effort that goes into the program. The students and faculty of the REACH club have put an admirable amount of thought and work into the campaign—that being said, I do have some qualms with the program.

On one hand, the Chris Herren presentation, which was sponsored by the REACH club, was incredibly powerful, and I consider it to be the most impactful part of the entire campaign. Herren provided potent anecdotes that were, for many, relatable. His overall message was that teens should feel comfortable enough with themselves that they don’t need to abuse drugs or alcohol. Overall, it seemed that many students enjoyed the presentation, finding it effective and incredibly moving.

Personally, I had no complaints about Mr. Herren’s presentation. I, like most other students, found the presentation original and striking; it was what followed the presentation that I have some problems with.

During several homeroom advisories in the weeks following Chris Herren’s talk, the REACH club attempted to follow up and further the messages conveyed. First, a video was presented in which several students were asked a variety of questions, including “What was the best compliment you’ve ever received?” I don’t have too many complaints about this video; a variety of students were interviewed, and the responses seemed to span a wide audience. I do however, object to the campaign’s seemingly constant emphasis placed on compliments. Not only were participants asked about compliments in the video, but prior to Chris Herren’s visit, posters were hung in the commons where students were encouraged to write the best compliment they’ve ever received. If the campaign’s message is that students should be comfortable with themselves, then I have to ask why they would place such emphasis on approval from others. I mean, if the point of the campaign is that kids should be comfortable with themselves, then I see no logic in essentially telling kids they need to be validated with compliments from others.

Aside from placing an emphasis on validation from others, the campaign has also fallen into the cliché “be yourself,” “it’s okay to be different,” and “believe in yourself”  trap. Though the campaign’s name itself, Pro at Being Me, was a phrase I had never heard before, it does still carry the same hackneyed feeling as “I’m perfect the way I am” or any other one of those stale phrases. Unfortunately, in 2017 there are few sayings about self-worth and anti-peer pressure that aren’t cliché. Still, though, it’s hard to take the campaign seriously when its name is reminiscent of this 2006 children’s cartoon, titled “It’s OK to Be You.”

The self-portrait exercise, in which students were asked to draw themselves in a manner which demonstrated how they were a pro at being themselves, also proved problematic. Most kids didn’t take the exercise seriously, and consequently many of the drawings ended up rather distant from the original intentions of the activity. Having kids focus on their good qualities, things they enjoy, and encouraging self-confidence are all wonderful things to promote, but I don’t know that giving out some markers and crayons was really the best way to do it.

Overall, while the campaign has its contradictory elements and a moderately cliché air about it, it does continue to promote a valid and necessary message. Chris Herren’s theme of self-worth continues to be furthered through the members of REACH and their activities. So, no, this article was not a “dig” at the campaign—I do appreciate it, and I encourage the campaign to continue on and promote self-confidence and self-assurance, but to perhaps find some new, more relevant and less-cliché modes of convection.