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Youth Leaders' Emotional Intelligence
Story Book

To cite: Sun, Christina. (2023). Youth Leaders' Emotional Intelligence Story Book - One: Living in another person's shadowInternational Journal of Youth-Led Research, 3(1).

Special thanks to the student associates of the Corporate Work Study Program at Verbum Dei Jesuit High School:
Cesar Tavarez
Geovanny Gutierres
Jared Mojarro
Jonathan Perez

for their excellent contribution in the emotional intelligence brainstorming session!


© Author(s) 2023. Re-use permitted under CC By-NC. 

No commercial re-use. 

See rights and permissions. Published by IJYLR.

Youth Research Vox, 

Los Angeles, CA, U.S.

One: Living in another person's shadow


          Oak’s heart was pounding in his chest. Although he was trying to remain calm, he couldn’t help but feel waves of fear hit him. His legs shook as he climbed up onto the diving board and positioned himself to start his event: 400m freestyle. Oak glanced over to his right, where he saw his brother, Clay, staring at the pool with a look of determination and confidence. This made Oak’s heart beat even faster. “Calm down, Oak,” he whispered to himself. “Stay focused.” Suddenly, the loud horn sounded, and the event began. Oak swam as fast as he could and saw himself gradually surpassing most of the other swimmers in the pool. Oak felt a jolt of excitement. Maybe today would be the day that he won a medal and made his parents proud. As he finished his event and touched the wall of the pool, surfacing to take a deep breath, he looked at the panel displaying everyone’s times. His heart dropped. Once again, Oak received no medal, while his brother got 1st place.

          After a quick look, he swiftly went to the locker room and took a shower hoping that the hot water would wash away all the devastation and shame. When Oak left the locker room to attend the awards ceremony for this swim meet, his eyes immediately landed on a group of young swimmers congratulating Clay on his amazing performance. Oak was quiet as their family drove home. During dinner, his parents showered Clay with praise and kept congratulating him on his impeccable swimming abilities. Oak let out a sigh. He wanted to be everything his brother was–but it seemed that no matter how hard Oak tried, he always lived in Clay’s shadow.

          Throughout the whole week Oak’s mind kept on drifting back to Clay’s victory. How he yearned to win first place! Oak’s jealousy caused more waves of guilt to populate his mind, too. He supposed that he was happy for Clay, but too overcome with grief over his own lack of praise to celebrate fully with his family. Not being able to make it onto the podium upset him–made him feel like a failure. The fact that his brother was constantly better at swimming, and that his parents never seemed to understand his disappointment and yearning for confirmation further intensified his sorrows. Was there something wrong with him? Was he truly mad that Clay had won? That he himself had not? That he was a terrible swimmer? No, he recognized–Oak knew none of these things were true. He felt great that his brother had won. And while he always vied for a medal, Oak was still one of the fastest swimmers in the lane. So, Oak wondered, what was the root of his issues? What was fueling his high emotions?

          That day after school, laying on his bed, looking at his ceiling, Oak thought long and hard about his emotions. He wondered whether his parents, or even his brother, knew how terrible he felt. "Mom, Dad, Clay, I wish you would understand what I am going through. I wish you would understand me." Oak murmured to himself, even though no one could hear him. And suddenly, Oak knew what he needed to do. He needed to help his family understand how he felt. Oak knew that they all cared about him, but their insensitivity towards his sadness isolated him from the rest of the family. While part of him believed that it was his family's job to understand him and know exactly how he felt, especially if they truly cared about him, his logical side knew that knowing how others felt was not always easy. 

          With this new realization in mind, Oak sat up. Today, Oak decided that he would start a more honest conversation with his family, because it was his job to share with his family his feelings and emotions. It was his job to help them understand him, so that they could continue to connect, to bond, to be there for each other as a family. Oak was not sure how the conversation would go, but he knew he would start the conversation by saying: "Mom, Dad, Clay, I'd like to share with you some difficult feelings that I have. I'd like to help you understand me better." And with this plan, Oak felt that he was once again his real self– a compassionate and effective youth leader.

Sun, C. JYLR Open 2023.

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