I’m sitting on my bed, reading the news, looking down at my sweet niece Violet sleeping soundly next to me, and I wipe away the tears running down my cheeks. I scroll over the details of the loss and tragedy, and of the pain and suffering that our world endures. I pray that this violence stops, that no more families have to suffer this way, that no more children or people feel so far from love that they are capable of this, that my precious family is kept safe; but deep down know that God made me to do more. I have a bold voice and I will use it. I hope you read this, and then are motivated to talk to children and each other the way we were meant to. And I ask that you stand up for mental health acceptance (awareness is not enough, folks), that you vote for lawmakers who make decisions based on the best interest of the people they represent and not the best interest of their wallets, and that you personally practice kindness, even when it feels impossible. Kindness is a specific, tangible, love-inspired concept that can change our hearts and change the world.
Recently, I began ministering to others through a counseling program my church offers. In this, and in my general interactions, I have found that we have an epidemic of low self esteem in America. I am going to touch on a few things that I believe to be harmful to self image, and then also share what I believe can be solutions (because if there is a problem, there is always a solution. Always.)
Here are the three things that I believe diminish our self esteem and personal sense of self worth:
- Social Media
- The way we talk to each other
- The pursuit of the truth about our value. (Heads up, I am Christian, so I believe that God gives us innate value. But even if you have another faith, or are still figuring it out, I know that the general concepts of value apply to you as well!)
Okay, social media… I’ll keep this short (cause I could write a whole post on this):
- Social media does not accurately represent our lives or the lives others.
- Social media begs for comparisons, and often not positive ones.
- Social media does not allow for genuine connection.
Now number 2: The way we talk to each other. Somewhere along the line, we became too critical. Instead of building each other up, we became this every man for himself, don’t pass out or accept compliments, competition driven society. Many people don’t even know how to accept a compliment anymore (tip: it’s just a simple thank you). They deny the compliment, saying oh no, not really. Or even if they accept it, they don’t truly believe it. Let me tell you something (that you’ve probably heard a million times but is worth repeating): Trying to dim someone else’s candle doesn’t make yours burn any brighter. Ever.
Okay, number 3 is big: we must pursue the true value of our lives. Somewhere along the line, we forgot how important we are. A wise man once told me that we must value each other for who God says we are, instead of what we can do for society. (Who is that guy? Pastor Tim Scott.) We live in a world where accomplishments mean so much. When we hear a person’s introduction, it’s all about what they’ve done. But less often, we hear about who they are. Let me tell you something: you are valuable because of who you ARE, regardless of what you can or can’t do. We need to tell remind each other of this, and treat each other accordingly.
Alright, now you’ve heard the problems… Let me share my ideas for solutions (I’m sure there are many, but I’ll share a few):
- Tell kids the truth about who they are. Kids should truly believe that they are smart, kind, capable, loved and important. Their identity should be formed around this belief. They should trust this truth so fully that it cannot be shaken, regardless of a failure or what some critical person may say. Because, honestly, kids are all these things. Regardless of their actions, or accomplishments, children must understand that they are special and loved and that the world needs them.
- Turn off social media, and connect with people in a real way. (That’s it!)
- We need to build each other up. We need to overdo it with compliments, love and affirmations. We need to be a fierce tribe of people that don’t allow any child, or adult, to be sucked in to a place so dark that they forget their true value. We need to notice each other. We need to ask the tough questions: Are you really ok? Can I help you? Do you need to talk? How can I give you support? What are you feeling? Ask them all! And often! And then meet them with love, while reserving judgement. Because you know what? When people are loved, and feel safe, that is the jumping off point for them to grow! (My church Grace SD taught me that one, and tells me again every Sunday, because we can never overdo it with creating safety in love).
When these terrible acts in our community happen, I ask myself, who in that person’s life could have stepped in and said something? Maybe you think that mental health access needs to change, or gun laws need to change, or lots of things need to change (and I’m sure that we can always be improving things)… but at the same time we have to ask ourselves: How can I change? How can I be better? Am I noticing the people around me? Am I being kind? Am I shying away from tough questions and conversations just because it isn’t easy to dive into? Am I loving others deeply?
To my very core, I believe that we can end the epidemic of low self esteem. We can be the community that rids itself of these extreme evils. We can be people who love ourselves and believe in each other. But it has to start with you, and with me, and with action in love. Above all, I believe that the cure-all for the world is kindness. Be kind to others, and be kind to yourself. I pray that we all do this a little more, and that we have a world that is a lot better for it.