Middle school and high school were insecure times for most of us. The pressure to fit in combined with welcoming our and our peer’s hormones to the hallways made for pimply faces and cafeteria drama. There was enough questioning what to wear, how dark our eyeliner could get and comparing ourselves to the “popular kids,” I wondered how it could get any worse.
I didn’t grow up with social media. I didn’t even have a cell phone until high school. Three way calls and AOL Instant Messenger print outs were the extent of electronic manipulation. Competition wasn’t uncomplicated, but it was definitely simpler. “Everyone loves her” or “he’s the hot jock” came from word of mouth and assumed judgements. I didn’t compare stranger's opinions of me on a platform welcoming public ridicule. However, I do remember when Honesty Box was introduced. Honesty Box was BAD news bears. A site where people could anonymously make comments or ask questions and the account holder had the ability to pick and choose which were seen or responded to. The beginning of anonymous bullying as I knew it.
Facebook statuses reading “Lindsay Greenberg is...wanting people to write in her Honesty Box.” It was addicting. As much as the harsh messages stung, I wanted more. For some reason I thought it would make me feel better to confirm my paranoia. I was an overweight ginger, name a better target.
Why do we seek approval? Why do we want to know the hurtful things said behind our backs? I think it’s natural to be curious how we are perceived. Like looking in a mirror with different eyes. Wondering what we’re missing, longing for consciousness and self-awareness. I might not see the gum stuck to the back of my head if I’m facing forwards. However, if I know myself well enough, I would sense on my own when something feels sticky.
Self-awareness is a personal experience. Relying on anyone but ourselves to truly understand why we are who we are is a gamble. Learning to identify our emotions, behave the way we wish, love and root for ourselves, are self-taught lessons.
Remember that saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me?” It takes time, experience and maturity to practice this preach. While sticks and stones may visibly bruise us, words have the potential to cut deep into our souls. They leave residue that can wear us down as long as we give them the power to. The damage is deeper and takes longer to heal. So, how can we build a filter where we listen while protecting our worth?
I like to take note of qualities I am proud of. Hold myself to high standards when it comes to those characteristics that matter to me. If someone questions me, I gently remind myself to keep working on being the person I want to be. I practice understanding. Judgements towards myself more likely than not stem from struggles entirely unrelated. Judgements tend to reflect most on the person making them. When I have a negative thought about myself, I try to shut it down while the idea remains weak. The more these thoughts linger, the more power they attain. The “truth” behind them gets blurred and my attitude shifts. I focus on positivity. If a thought can challenge me but build me up, I’m all about it. It’s the thoughts that bring me down I see no benefit exploring. There is a difference between getting beat up and battling. The fun part about the ring of our own life is we get to decide if we come out on top or knocked down. Our biggest competitor is ourself. There is no tapping out, the courage to push through just needs to be recognized.
This generation’s youth deal with new pressures. Lack of face-to-face socialization divides and separates. Suicide rates rocketing as lives become fragile with exposure and secluded with loneliness. No longer just a decision of what to wear that day, slumming it in sweats, hoping no one sees. Now, there’s added worry of being exposed. Forced vulnerability. Nowhere feels quite as comfortable or safe as long as cameras exist in pockets. The solution, I hope, is to make quality time spent face-to-face with loved ones a priority. Avid conversations with open minded listening. Never stop seeking ways to practice self-love, and make sure these strategies are for your benefit and not your validation. Don’t be afraid to delete your social media. I promise it’s cooler to know and stand by what works for you. I’m always impressed when I hear someone put real thought into their beliefs. It shows courage and confidence to be able to stand up for your choices.
Is your social media helping yourself or anyone else? Is the reward greater than the give? Do you find yourself more joyous or anxious when you think about social media? Kids are growing up more stressed, secluded and susceptible to manipulated information. They are less motivated to make something of themselves through trial and error, authenticity and real life experience. In this world of social media, fast paced satisfaction and harsh critique can be expected. Always looking for the next best thing when it comes to travel, dating, even our personal goals. I hope to soak in satisfaction a bit longer. Hold on to the highs while keeping the power of the lows in my control. Backlash is inevitable. Like any challenge, the opportunity to grow can be seen as a gift. Pick and choose what you allow to change you. Pick and choose what you change. Get to know your values as they adjust and always be prepared to fight for your worth. If you’re going to listen to judgements, listen carefully to your own.