Creative YOUCreativity is everywhere. Opportunity is not. We are part of the solution. The secret is in our name. Every year Creative Youth Network gives thousands of young people a taste and thirst for the arts and culture and the joy, life-skills and opportunity they bring. But we want more. Creative YOU is our campaign showcasing how we, you and the engaged, emerging and amazing young creatives we support, come together. We want to reveal how, together, we are ambition, quality, cultural democracy and social mobility in action. Every young person deserves the right to access creativity and development opportunities in the creative and cultural industries. It all starts with education. If all young people have access to creative subjects in school, then talented young people from all backgrounds can pursue their passion, develop crucial skills needed in so many industries and improve their wellbeing. 1. Pledge Add your name and join the many people passionate about bringing creativity back into our schools. With all the pledges we’ll be reaching out to headteachers in Bristol and the South West. We hope this will encourage local academies to give more space to creativity in their curriculum. Bristol, being the creative city we know and love, can pave the way for other regions to do the same, showcasing the true value of creativity. PLEDGE 2. Sign up Join us by signing up to our newsletter where we share best practice of how to support young people. sign up 3. Find out more Join us by reading and sharing our CreativeYOU report which shows how our work brings opportunities for creative expression and enables young people to explore their talent, regardless of background or circumstance. Download our Creative YOU report About us Blog Beating the January Blues: Building Blocks for “Backing Yourself” and how Youth Workers can help you get there. Ever felt like locking the doors, turning your music up on full blast for hours, and hiding under your duvet scrolling on your phone for hours with the hope that you could “make the world go away”? I hear you. I’d be surprised if I met anyone who has gone through all their life without having a period where they just wanted to hide away from all the action under a fluffy grey blanket. Sometimes we can feel like everyone else knows what they’re doing. Sometimes getting back into the swing of things can feel a bit “too much” and the mind can be tricky to live with. We don’t know which words would work to describe what is going on with ALL THESE FEELINGS. Making sense of what is going on for us and what we can do to help ourselves is especially tough when negative automatic thoughts pop up and make us think about other people’s success, rather than taking baby steps day-by-day to build on our personal progress. Negative Automatic Thoughts nudge us into comparing ourselves to other people at school, in our family, or friendship group. Sometimes, when we feel stuck in these rough ruts we need to stop, breath, and ask – “Is this thought and what I am doing with my time really helping me?” Sometimes we might look at challenging opportunities to try something new and build our confidence, but then hear a negative thought say “but everyone else is so far ahead. They’re so much more (“confident”, “cool”, “popular”, “smart”) - “what’s the point”? I get it. We live in a world where there's so much pressure to be the best and compete with one another and we didn’t necessarily choose for the world to be this way - It sucks! What usually makes things more stressful is the fact that there can be a voice in many of us that feels critical, brutal, harsh, and can bring us down. We might notice these negative thoughts then beat ourselves up by saying “I’m stupid” for thinking this negatively when other people have it worse and somehow manage to be productive, cool, and confident. It is with these feelings of embarrassment for “not being good enough” that I invite us all to press the PAUSE button. First things first and let's not forget it… You. Are. Good. Enough. Reminding ourselves of those four words on a regular basis will become the first building blocks for Backing Ourselves to Beat the Blues and Face our Fears. Becoming aware of your “comfort zone.” What is the “comfort zone”? You might ask. The comfort zone represents a predictable place of retreat for us where we close off possibilities that look uncomfortable and challenging, especially in times of stress and sadness. We all find ourselves tempted by the comfort zone. It is a totally understandable human urge to go out searching for comfort and pleasure. Some scientists believe it's because our minds make links between comfort, safety, and our survival as a species. However, sometimes the things that are initially uncomfortable and challenging can help us mature, learn, and grow in the long run. Living through this pandemic made it much easier and all the more tempting for many of us to fall into the habit of keeping ourselves tucked away in our comfort zone without fully realising it. Spending lots of time sitting and hiding away in the “comfort zone” makes sense. Let's be honest, being a teenager can be stressful enough at times! Not to mention how much time we have spent over the past two years making sense of things going on in the world that really suck and feel so out of our control! As wellbeing youth workers, we often hear people say they feel “stuck”, “lost”, “not good enough” or “not themselves” and we look at these fears and the way they spend their time and notice common patterns of spending a large chunk of free time only doing things that feel totally familiar, comfortable, predictable, and pleasant. Whilst downtime is important for us after school, college, and work, we want to strike a steady balance of backing ourselves in challenging situations and giving ourselves a well-deserved REST. The reason why we encourage youth to step outside their comfort zone once in a while is because it's easy to feel slow, scared, behind, bored, pent up, and stuck in the “comfort zone”. But looking after our mental health and becoming more confident is about discovering different ways to be, which then allows us to have a refreshing and more exciting experience of life that we can celebrate with people we care about. Take a moment and ask yourself: What does your comfort zone look like? What other people have said: Looking at my phone and scrolling when I am in a social situation Ignoring invitations to go out and socialise and instead Netflix and Game all evening Asking my family to drop me off to places, so I don’t have to travel on public transport. Feeling tired, groggy, and unpleasant in the morning and choosing to bunk off school "because bed is way more pleasant." Turning to the comforts of my phone, the kitchen cupboards, and the games console when homework, revision, and studying gets challenging. When it comes to asking ourselves honestly whether our “comfort zone” is holding us back, we need to consider the way we spend our time on an average day. How much time is spent in “temptation-mode”? How much time is spent in “challenge-mode”? Is there a fair balance between? How much do our daily activities and habits help us grow up and become the person we want to be? Do any of our habits get in the way of doing more of what truly matters to us, from becoming confident, and Backing Ourselves? Flexing Your Confidence Muscle Facing our fears and learning to Back Ourselves applies to many of our hopes for the future. Want to be a video games designer? Then you will benefit from building confidence for college and job interviews, becoming familiar with working in large groups with different and difficult opinions, and be able to go to large Games Conferences’ independently. Want to join a new friendship group? Then you will benefit from initiating a conversation every so often with someone new. Different things are frightening to different people, especially in our teenage years when many different opportunities to try out new and unfamiliar things come up. One could be going on public transport, another going on a date, giving a presentation, or having a difficult conversation with a family member or friend. It could be making a big decision, such as leaving a relationship, or choosing your options for your future. It may be relatively minor – getting up an hour earlier to exercise might not set off huge panic, but might feel uncomfortable and you may experience a negative automatic thought that “This is unbearable!” – even though the activity still brings benefits to your life. The comfort zone can become a bit of a trap, if you are spending most of your time there because of fear and avoiding stuff that we know will help us build up strength and back ourselves in the long run. By going out in the world to face real fears, you are flexing the confidence and courage muscle. We don’t always recommend facing your biggest fears straight away, as youth workers we get a chance to encourage you to face your fears alongside us. I have supported teens to travel on public transport for the first time, to access group creative activities with new people, and ride their bike safely on the road for the first time. Recognising the challenging possibilities and situations you avoid due to fear and then asking your youth worker to help you face them will become yours and your youth workers’ biggest building block to “Backing Yourself”. Facing our fears empowers us to start seeing ourselves differently: "I can do this now.", “That wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.” “The prediction I made about the challenge beforehand did not actually happen in reality,” "I am someone who can cope with the tight chest feeling when things get bad." Turning the evidence we discovered from facing our fears into a positive coping statement to repeat to ourselves when achieving a goal that you avoided for so long. What would it be like to try something “small or bold” outside your comfort zone each day? By doing something a little nerve-wracking each day you celebrate the small wins and then build up. Just like flexing a muscle by working out at the gym, by flexing the "facing fears'' habit, we build confidence naturally in the same way we expect to build muscle by flexing frequently at the gym. The more time we lift weights, practice a sport, or a video game - the activity becomes easier and easier. We have all the more reason to “Back Ourselves”. How can we help?