If you had the chance, what would you tell your younger self?
That’s a question posed on Respect Yourself’s website, a registered UK charity dedicated to helping young people make informed and independent decisions using the lived experience and acquired wisdom of others.
There cannot be a single person on the planet who has not regretted a past decision or wondered how differently their lives might have panned out if they had made alternative choices.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing of course – mistakes, missteps and misunderstandings are part of how we learn and improve, but sometimes a small, well timed piece of advice is enough to set us on a new, more productive path.
Respect Yourself was created when founder Claire Burke was alarmed to discover that her much younger half-brother (16 at the time) was in the mistaken belief that he didn’t need to pay road tax to ride his new motorbike.
Claire knew she had to act quickly to explain that the opposite was true, not least the legal consequences of being caught in charge of an untaxed vehicle.
However, she knew she had to frame the advice in a way that a young person would accept and relate to, rather than dismiss as an unwanted intrusion.
The result was a simple, non-judgemental text conversation in which she set out the facts as she knew them. She made it clear that the decision to ride or not was his but that he should make his choice on the basis of accurate information. The approach worked - her brother, grateful for a ‘non-preachy’ intervention, decided against taking his bike out until he’d arranged his road tax first.
Sometimes the best support at a time of crisis, indecision or worry is the simplest and most direct; a piece of unbiased advice, an independent observation, a phrase or aphorism that speaks to the recipient on both a conscious and unconscious level.
From this initial interaction with her brother, Claire saw an opportunity to develop something bigger.
Respect Yourself emerged in September 2011 as an ‘opt in’ daily text message service for young people aged 13-25, sharing the wisdom of others in an accessible format – information which could have a positive impact on young people at defining points in their lives.
“We never tell young people what to do,” explains Claire. “We never judge, because no one is perfect, and everyone makes mistakes. Opinions are based on personal belief, but facts speak for themselves.”
Since its launch, Respect Yourself has sent text messages covering a broad range of issues and concerns particular to young people – advice on what to do if someone is being bullied, living with depression or having trouble with personal finances, are just some of the topics aired and shared.
“Respect Yourself exists to help young people develop their skills, capacities and capabilities to participate in society as independent, mature and responsible individuals,” adds Claire. “This is all about making informed choices – framed as what you could do, not what you should do.”
Find out more about Respect Yourself's work on their website or follow them on twitter: @RespectYourself