As a follow-up to this post here, Rabbi YY Jacobson tells the following story:
He got an email from a parent. A ten year old girl started displaying apathy to Judaism. Today she is 14 and is completely irreligious. The parents are wonderful people and have a wonderful home. They could not understand what went wrong. They tried various therapists, was there trauma of some kind? What alienated her? They couldn't figure it out.
A few weeks ago, she told them what happened. She was eight years old and she did something wrong in class. The parent was embarrassed to tell R' Jacobson what she did, it was silly. The teacher went over to her in front of the class and said, "I never met someone who has a yetzer hara as big as yours."
The girl told her parents that she decided to prove her teacher right.
Why was her self-image defined by a statement by a teacher as opposed to all the things she saw and heard at home? Granted, a morah is a major force in a little girl's life, and the way the woman said it to her in front of the class made a huge impact, but still ...
Does the 14 year old understand that she is living her life as though dictated by a lady whose class she was in six years ago? That she has not thought through what life is about and made her choices accordingly, but is acting like the woman's lackey? Is her life so enjoyable this way, with her thinking every day - Yes! I will show my teacher she is right! - ?
As someone who recreated herself as an adult put it, "We are the people we decide to be, not the people others expect us to be. We can decide."