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What Makes You, You
By Rachel Laskow

What do you do in your spare time? Whether you play video games or marbles, what interests you is an important part of what makes you unique. (Photo: © BananaStock/PictureQuest)
What do you do in your spare time? Whether you play video games or marbles, what interests you is an important part of what makes you unique. (Photo: ©BananaStock/PictureQuest)

A Better World

If you know who you are, it is easier to understand other people. You can discover similarities and differences. And by talking to other people, you might even learn something new about yourself.

"People who have insight about themselves usually are best at empathy. They understand how other people feel in a situation that [they] are not in [themselves]," Brodkin said.

Brodkin feels that putting yourself in the place of someone else is important. And for younger kids, "[If] you think about what you like, it makes you understand others," Brodkin said.

So, next time you look in the mirror, take a second glance. Your brown hair is important, and so is the fact that you are a sister or a brother. But look beyond that. Think about what you like and don't like and what groups you belong to. And don't forget to think about the people around you. You might just learn something new about yourself!

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When you look in the mirror, what do you see? Brown hair? Green eyes? Eyeglasses? A baseball cap? Whatever you see, it's all part of what makes you, you. You are special because nobody in the world is exactly like you.

Of course your physical appearance allows other people to see that you are Hannah and not your sister Julie. But it's even more important for you to know who you really are. Do you like school? Are scrambled eggs your favorite breakfast food? Would you rather climb a mountain or swim across a lake?

Dr. Adele Brodkin, Ph.D., believes it's important for teens to know who they are in terms of their values and goals. "It's good to know who you are and be proud of who you are, but be humble," she said.

Even though you are an individual, you are also part of many groups. You are part of a family, a class, and maybe even a soccer team. When your teammate scores the winning goal of a soccer game, everybody on the team feels happy. That is because you are all part of the group.

Thirteen-year-old Ben Silberman of Minnesota plays lots of sports, including basketball, baseball, and lacrosse. He likes interacting with other people on his teams. Last year his basketball team won the district championship.

"Everyone on the team did something to help," Ben said.

Groups can also form because of beliefs. If you think the environment is really important, you might be part of the Environmental Club at your school. Together, you and other club members will work to clean up the environment and educate other people about your cause.

Thirteen-year-old Natasha Pradhan works with kids with special needs at the Special Olympics. She helped one kid overcome his fear of the deep end of the pool. He gained confidence in himself and went on to win second place in a swimming event.

Besides helping the kids, Natasha said they also teach her lessons. She said the kids don't care about winning. If another swimmer wins the race, the kids aren't selfish and they congratulate the winner.

"It makes me happy to know I'm making a difference in someone's life. I see them change with my own eyes," Natasha said.

Around the Globe

Who you are also depends on where you are from. Most people who live in France speak French. And some people who live in Asia might have a different skin color from people who live in Australia. But people who look different from you or speak a different language can also be your next-door neighbor. Your classmate might speak German, but he might also like to eat apples and play games just like you.

Fourteen-year-old Lauren Peterson moved to England from the United States when she was just 7 years old. She goes to a school where half of the students are American and the other half are from countries around the world. Since she has lived in England, she has met people from countries such as France, Sweden, and Norway.

Her school even helps the students learn about each other's cultures. A culture fair gives kids the chance to teach other kids how to play games from their country. Students also taste international foods and write their names in other languages. The school also sometimes has special flag raising ceremonies. A country's flag is raised and that country's national anthem is played.

"[The activities] teach you to open your mind and learn about their countries," Lauren said.