According to Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation, most young people today recognize the importance of their mental health but believe they lack access to resources needed to support them. Citing a survey by Benenson Strategy Group of over 2000 U.S. youth ages 13 to 24, researchers found that only 4 out of 10 young people rate their own mental health highly. Over 50% feel they do not have access to resources to deal with bullying and harassment, and nearly half said they would not know where to turn if they felt suicidal or had thoughts of self-harming.
Someone who experienced this firsthand as a student is now making a difference as an adult to turn it around.
“The tragedies going on in high schools today in this country break my heart,” says Davide Di Giorgio, a motivational speaker and best-selling author of Being UNapologetic: Empowering You to Become An Influential Speaker and Visionary Leader. “They completely overshadow and annihilate the greatness of extraordinary students and teachers who are working towards big dreams, goals, and visions. We need to be the change – and be unapologetic about it!”
Di Giorgio is on a mission to tackle bullying, build confidence, and boost self- esteem while funding dream projects for high school performing arts students and teachers. Di Giorgio, a former composer and theatre producer, was a high school music teacher himself for many years. But before that, he experienced severe bullying as a student, leading to depression and thoughts of suicide.
“High school was a nightmare for me,” Di Giorgio says. “I didn’t feel like I fit in, I was bullied, I just hated every second of it.”
According to Di Giorgio, the turning point for him came when someone believed in him. That gave him the confidence to persevere, and it drives his personal and professional mission today.
“Having been a teacher for several years and working with educators for a long time, I realized that I could go back into schools and give kids and teachers the resources to start to figure out who they are,” Di Giorgio says. “And most importantly, to celebrate who they are.”
According to Di Giorgio, a lack of self-confidence affects everyone from students to adults. “It really does come down to figuring out who you are first. And when you understand who you are, then you really can figure out why you are who you are.”
“So many people suffer from what I call ‘comparanoia’ – this irrational fear and anxiety that takes over whenever we compare ourselves to someone else and feel we don’t measure up,” Di Giorgio says. “My message is: Compare less and celebrate more.”
Di Giorgio offers three key ideas to help students conquer comparanoia and become more resistant to bullying.
- “Focus on who you are, not who others think you are.” According to Di Giorgio, “A bully can only be a bully if you believe what they think of you.” Di Giorgio recommends creating an “UNapologetic Identity” statement – for example, “I am a confident, unbreakable woman/man/leader.” Recite this often, especially right before and during a bullying situation.
- “Choose to be UNmessable.” For Di Giorgio, that means not to be easily thrown off by other people’s opinions, beliefs, and actions. “As a longtime victim of bullying I finally realized that one of my biggest issues was that I was so messable,” he says. “I decided to choose to be UNmessable as an experiment, and it worked! You get to choose what affects you, what you believe, what you allow to hurt your feelings.”
- “Celebrate Everything!” Learning to shift emotional states is something Di Giorgio learned to do as a composer and theatre producer, and it is a gift he imparts to others to put them back in control of their own feelings. “Don’t wait for your next birthday or big achievement,” Di Giorgio says. “Celebrate every time you walk through a doorway. Celebrate making it to 9am without feeling down. Celebrate every time you choose to be UNmessable!” Celebratory actions can be as simple as reciting an UNapologetic Identity statement while “shaking your booty.” According to Di Giorgio, “It’s impossible not to feel better when you celebrate this way!”
“Davide captivates his audience and takes them on a journey that ends with them standing to applaud and rooting for themselves!” says Allison Koenig-Ford, co-founder of the Motherhood ReWritten Conference. “He speaks with authority and authenticity, all while being unapologetic about who he is and what he delivers. Booking him to hit our stage was a no brainer, and I would do it again without question.”
“Having Davide come out to work with my students has created a large impact,” says Brian Davis, the choir director at Ayala High School in Chino Hills, California. “These students struggle with self-confidence, and in one hour there has been a noticeable shift in how they perceive themselves. If anyone is considering having Davide come work with your group – do it!”