Dear DSG Parents, Girls, Staff and Friends
I walked around school yesterday, observing girls and staff criss-crossing the campus like ants and filling the air with laughter and chatter as they went about their day. It reminded me of a quote by two of my favourite philosophers, Calvin and Hobbes:
“The days are just packed” and there is a much to do and learn, indeed. The danger, of course, is that the days could become too packed, and one should be cautious not to reach the tipping point, where a highly stimulating environment becomes a place of anxiety as a result of over-commitment, unhealthy ambition or unnecessary competitiveness. We encourage all-roundedness at DSG, but not ‘do-it-all-ness’. We must remember that we strive for excellence, but perfection is not our goal!
Even when we do get the balance right, our modern lives still demand much resilience from us. We often say that we are striving to equip DSG girls with resilience, but we need to ensure that what it that means is not misunderstood. It is not about being driven, demonstrating toughness and pursuing ambition with determination that looks after ‘number one’ only.
Being resilient starts with mental wellbeing and one way of safeguarding mental wellbeing is by spreading kindness. According to chartered psychologist, Gemma Leigh Roberts, a 2016 study divided 500 people up into four groups and asked each to complete a different task, which ranged from performing random acts of kindness for strangers, to self-focused kindness like going for a massage. Participants that performed acts of kindness for others, overwhelmingly reported the highest levels of psychological wellbeing. This is because the brain releases dopamine (the feel-good hormone) when we focus our attention on doing good for people around us.
It turns out that kindness and resilience are closely connected. We already know the more resilient we are, the less stressed and anxious we are likely to be. A resilient person is able to cope with challenges by looking for opportunities to thrive, even in tricky situations. A lot of this has to do with changing our perspective, or changing perceptions into perspective. Roberts says that changing perspective helps us with accepting our mistakes. It means making peace with ourselves when we feel like we are not performing at our usual high standards, by reminding ourselves that we are doing the best we can. The real trick is accepting that others are also doing the best they can, even if they are not performing at their peak. This is where the kindness starts building resilience. We need to be kind and compassionate to get through challenges faced together.
Kindness also relates to confidence: It makes you feel that you can face challenges, cope and even thrive in times of crisis. This comes down to self-belief and being kind enough to yourself, to believe that you will find a way to get past obstacles, even if you don’t have the answers right now. This is much easier to believe when we say it to each other.
In our continued discussions about The DSG we want to keep striving to do better, we have learned about the damage that micro-aggressions cause in a community. What I also know for sure, is that DSG is a place where acts of countless micro-kindness happen every day and bind us together as a resilient, flourishing school community.
True resilience is not marked by being able to stand alone. It is the strength we draw from knowing that we are standing together.
Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu!
Jannie de Villiers
Head of School