Close up photo of two light brown teddy bears hugging

In this guest blog post, Aba Panford, a patient at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, describes how creating her own “protector” helps her feel safe and combat negative self-talk.

Is there someone in your life who you trust to be there for you and support you when things get too stressful to handle?

Or who you can count on to lift you up and radiate positivity when you need it? You can think of this person as your “protector”—someone who makes you feel safe and cared for, and can help you handle whatever life throws your way.

If you can’t think of anyone who fits this description though, you’re not alone. I couldn’t think of any protectors in my life when times are rough—outside of family and therapy—so I decided it was time to create one. After all, can’t you create what you don’t have?

The idea of creating your own protector might seem strange at first, but it can actually be a fun, creative way to nourish your inner voice of positivity.  For me, creating my protectors became the yin to my yang of negative chatter that pops up when I’m at my lowest. A protector can also be a creative way to boost your confidence and imagination by making your own ideal support system.

Here are two different ways you can create your protector.

If you want to build your protector from the ground up:

  • First, visualize important traits and characteristics you want in your own protector. Write them down.
  • Think about comforting experiences, memories, objects or feelings. How could your protector embody those traits in their physical appearance? For example, you might think about a celebrity you admire, or a pet you think is cute.Your protector doesn’t have to be human, even though it can be—it could be an animal, cartoon creature, or object.
  • Think of things you want your protector to say to you, and write them down. For example: “You are special,” “Don’t give up on yourself,” “It’s okay to make mistakes,” “It’s alright because things don’t last forever,”or “Keep moving forward” (my favorite line from the movie Meet The Robinsons, in case you wanted to know).
  • I brought my protectors to life using avatar- and doll-creating apps such as Zepeto and Pastel Girl, so I could choose the exact hair and eye color I wanted. This might be useful for you, but I know it’s not for everyone. If it’s easier, you can find images and characters online that fit your protector, instead of building your own from scratch.

If you’d rather start with an image than something abstract like a personality trait, try this instead:

  • Find an image (or two or three) of an object, person, animal or thing that brings you comfort and makes you feel safe. Print it out or save it as a reminder of that feeling. You can even make it your wallpaper on your phone or computer. Maybe there’s a certain scent or taste associated with your protector that you can have nearby as a reminder, such as a peppermint or a lavender scented candle.
  • Replace traits of the original image or character with some of your own. For example, Lotsothe Bear from Toy Story 3 may not have had the best personality, but I replaced his negative traits with positive ones. Now he’s cute, charming, and as fun-loving as his image makes him seem.

I hope this helps you start your creative journey to make your own protector! It may seem a bit silly, but for me it’s been an incredibly helpful form of self-care that brings out the creative writer in me who loves to create new characters.

If you’re struggling and need support, you’re not alone. You can get help by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.  If you’re 10-22 years old in NYC, call the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center at (212) 423-3000 to get comprehensive, confidential healthcare, including mental health care, at no cost to you.

The Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center is located in New York City. It provides comprehensive, confidential, judgment free health care at no charge to over 12,000 young people every year. This column is not intended to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services to you or to any other individual, only general information for education purposes only.