The technique “I Am Special …” focuses on dealing with different facets of identity/ies and aims at recognizing differences and the uniqueness of all individuals. In addition, it can actively contribute to strengthening young people’s self-esteem.
“I Am Special …” is a technique from out@school1 that was changed and adapted by poika as part of the WITH YOU*TH project. It opens the possibilities of dealing with individuality on different levels and developing thought patterns that help young people appreciate themselves and others in their uniqueness. Depending on the context in which the workshop takes place, a special focus can be placed on gender identity and the deconstruction of stereotypes by showing that what defines people is very diverse and cannot be ascribed to a specific gender or identity. In addition, the activity can make it clear how — at times — it is the very characteristics we dislike about ourselves that are rated particularly positive by other people.
The trainer’s task is also to give young people with insecurities an opportunity to get involved which is hard at times since peer pressure and social norms can lead to certain characteristics being assessed as positive or negative. Here, it is important to encourage and empower the participants to bring in other points of view by framing characteristics often portrayed as negative in terms of gender, such as shyness or loudness, as possible positive resources.
Unterlagen des Schulprojekts out@school/Verein Go West für Lesben, Schwule, Bisexuelle, Trans, Inter und Queer, Bregenz, 2010; adaptiert im Rahmen des Projekts WITH YOU*TH. ↩︎
This activity can be done with both small and large groups. It is essential that the trainer in the group has the confidence to create a respectful environment. For individual work, it is important to have enough space so that the participants can have their own spot to reflect and work in peace.
The activity consists of three steps: introduction, individual work, and joint discussion.
A possible introduction to the activity is:
“The most important person in your life is you, yourself, and sometimes you may find it difficult to see what makes you special. But because we all have very different personalities, backgrounds, and like different things, for example, pursue different hobbies, we are very diverse and that’s a good thing. In this activity, we’ll first think about what it is that makes us special individually. Try to reflect for yourself what qualities you have, what is particularly important to you, what you like about yourself. This may not be as easy as it sounds. Please find a spot where you will feel comfortable and are undisturbed and think about these questions. Later, anyone who wants to can share their thoughts with the group, but nobody has to."
To facilitate the introduction to the activity, example sentences can also be mentioned:
I am special, …
Then the participants find a place for reflection. If they want, they can take notes. Afterwards, everyone comes together in a large group, and the trainer asks if anyone would like to share something. It can also happen that nobody volunteers. In this case, it can be discussed why it might be difficult to talk about your features. It is important to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to speak but that there is no competitive behaviour or pressure to say something and that the statements are treated with respect. Existing conflicts can negatively influence the activity’s dynamics, especially in large groups. This has to be addressed, if necessary. As an alternative, the example sentences can also be brought up for discussion in the group.
The following key questions can serve as an introduction to the discussion:
Was it easy/difficult to find something special? Why?
Does someone want to present their characteristics?
How does it feel to tell the group/come out?
Why did you share some things and others not?
Were you afraid of something?
The purpose of the discussion is to reflect on which characteristics are classified as special, for example, whether it is more about hobbies, personality traits, or appearance and why that is.
Differentiating yourself from a group can be easy or difficult, fun or uncomfortable. It is not uncommon for gendered stereotypical behaviour to be observed here; this can also be reflected on together with the group if necessary. It is important to speak more generally so that individuals do not feel put on the spot or embarrassed.
Another important topic is how people who experience rejection because of certain traits or characteristics feel. Depending on the focus of the workshop, the discussion can revolve around certain (marginalized) gender identities and what it is like when people are reduced to them.
Further reflective questions are:
Who is very self-confident?
Who is reluctant and why?
Which (including gender stereotypes) trait attributions to oneself are made?
How is “being different” felt and articulated?
Who is proud of their individuality? Who has a positive self-image?
Why can it be difficult to say something special about yourself?