I often work with girls that have dangerously low self-esteem, or find their “esteem” in boys or men’s approval. For the past few months every morning I got off the elevator, one of my adolescent girls approached me with a grin on her face and would say, “Who are YOU looking good for!!??” For the first month and a half she couldn’t grasp the concept of my everyday answer: “myself!”
Somewhere along the lines “dress to impress” turned into a “look good for others” in order to gain something instead of doing it for yourself because you see VALUE IN YOURSELF. This doesn’t seem to only be true for adolescent girls, but also adults.
As someone who has struggled through the battles of insecurities and self-hatred: I get it. I understand the disbelief in being able to “look good” for yourself and seeking out attention in unhealthy ways, I also know the dangers of this and how if this issue isn’t tackled, it can lead to false and toxic relationships. On another note, I also know the dangers of fixation on looks.
Here is what I’ve found to be helpful to battle these problems:
- What your child see’s you doing or how they see you acting, there is a high chance they will mirror it. Nurture your own self-esteem.
- Remind yourself that true beauty is not simply skin deep. Beauty is a state of mind, NOT a state of body.
- Learn to love yourself.
- Develop self-compassion to increase your self-acceptance.
- Teach your children that they are worthy exactly as they are.
- Model healthy relationships.
The heavy topic of suicide filled my 3 hour class last night. Rather a seasoned counselor or a new up-and-coming counselor, suicide is never an easy topic. There’s no cookie cutter response, and even though you may take all of the ethical, legal, and moral steps to keep a client from committing suicide, there’s not a 100% guarantee that your efforts will prevent a suicide. My heart lies in working with families and adolescents, and the hits teenagers take from adults makes me shudder. Somewhere along the line some adults lose reference of what it was like to be a teenager, and their “no one understands” remarks don’t seem to be far from the truth. A large number of teenagers may not have the responsibilities of adults, but I dare to say that the adolescent years are in fact much more chaotic and unstable than any other time of life. Yet I still hear things like:
“If I hear one more teenager talk about how hard life is…!”
A broken heart, friendship, not understanding your emotions or body, feeling somewhere between a child and an adult; even if teenagers brains were fully developed and they had the coping skills to deal with all of these changes they would still be facing backlash because they’re “different”. Parents, mentors, teachers, and adults from all walks of life – take the teens in your life serious, empathize with them, be there for them, and if they threaten, talk about, or show obvious or unobvious signs of contemplating suicide or show signs of depression, DON’T brush them off.
Earlier today the conversation I was having somehow landed on our aspirations as children. I’ve always been on the shy side, but up until the end of elementary school that didn’t stop me from wanting to be on stage and doing what I loved – performing in one way or another. By the time I got to 6th grade I got a little more realistic about not being some Broadway star and decided I wanted to grow up, get my Ph.D, be high and mighty in the research world, and present research and speak all over the country. This brought on some dropped jaws when I admitted this tonight to say the least.
Now, at 24, I can’t stand having a room turn around and look at me, and am just now starting to get to the point of not feeling like I’m going to get sick right before presentations. Saying I don’t like that attention on me is an understatement. So of course the questions came.
Why such a dramatic change – How did you go from that, to hiding in the back in such a short time?
It’s a reasonable question, one I’d probably be curious about if I were on the other side of the conversation. I’m rarely open about my abusive past, so I shrugged my shoulders and responded with an “I’m not sure.” I’m not going to say that abuse is 100% to blame for this dramatic change, but it didn’t take long for it to begin to take a toll on my self-confidence, self-image, and self-respect.
Thankfully, now I can say I’ve slowly started to build these things back up, but it is a whole heck of a lot easier to build up a child than it is to repair an adult. Rather you have kids/adolescents, are around them regularly or irregularly, every word that comes out of your mouth and every action makes an impact.
Are you making the kind of impact that’s going to shape a confident, secure adult?