It’s a freaking cyber jungle out there. Every generation has had their challenges but I will step forward and say that this generation of kids have it tough. I really believe that. I would not be a teenager in this day and age if you paid me. I don’t need to have some freaky Friday thing happen to get some perspective. When I did some youthful daft thing there were few witnesses and no permanent record. The lifespan of embarrassments and judgement from my generation rarely saw out the week and were pretty localised. Nothing is sacred for our kids. They are constantly connected – no respite from the bombardment of judgement and unachievable imagery, aspiring to fake people and fake images. A constant virtual mauling of their psyche.
Children can be notoriously cruel and have an inbuilt survival instinct to pick off the weak. It’s always been about power. In ancient times is was to get the larger share of food, hunting territory and build the strongest tribe. Not much has changed. The instinct is still strong but the currency has changed and in most of the world we no longer need to fight for our food, however still want the most impressive territory (house) and the largest share even though our tribes are tiny.
We seem to have developed a culture that has redirected this instinct into simply gaining power. Still preying on others but for no practical reason. Generally there is no need to focus on physical survival so we are focused on winning emotional survival, some might call it ego. Feeding our own dwindling self-esteem with the fruits of someone else’s. Humans wanting to be the thinnest, most popular, prettiest, wealthiest, sexiest person on the planet and we want everyone to know if we get even close to achieving any of these things. (Thank you social media.) The number of likes and comments will tell us how powerful we are. It’s a global pecking order running mad. 24/7 contact to the world to either confirm that we are winning at life, be crushingly told we are not or call judgment on someone else to bring them down a peg or two…. or is that like or two, from bravely behind the keyboard?
The obvious answer to stop this culture is to make sure that everybody is already full up to the brim of self-esteem but we all know that is a long way from the current world we live in. In the short-term we need to equip our own tiny tribe with the skills to be able to fight the emotional vultures.
Our little people need to be given the modern-day tools to fight cyber bullying, pressures from media and celebrity culture, and negative influences. Give them foundations with enough inner strength and self belief to push through to adulthood without the self-destructive behaviour that is crippling and killing our teens.
Educating the wider community is important but we all know you have no control over other people’s tribe. While self-esteem is still critically low amongst other community members, bullying and jostling for position will continue. They will still need to feed off other’s self-esteem in order to survive their own mental wilderness. Like all animals the skills used to take down others is taught behaviour, in modern times, emotional baggage handed down through generations. Whilst we can do our best to help others unpack their bags the most important job as a parent is to teach your own tribe. Be a better role model for empathy, respect and understanding. Model a love of uniqueness and individuality. Create a home environment where negative body image and destructive self commentary are not common place. Don’t hate your body but expect your children to love theirs, they WILL copy your behaviour. Foster the presence and projection of your child’s voice and that they are worth being heard. Educate them that bullying feeds on silence and exclusion so they will need that voice. Teach them that what they see in the media is not real. FFS! What is still real on those Kardashians I ask you?
As parents you are the leaders of your tribe. You created it. You get to decide what it looks like. You are the creative director of how much beauty there is and how much light shines from it. Don’t wait for school or society to shape your own tribe. Fill your children up with self-esteem so that they do not need to feed on others. Let them be warriors of their own futures with an armoury of kindness, empathy, self-love, resilience and acceptance. Support your people to bravely create lives that reflect who they are – no matter what that looks like.
A good friend of mine (the wonderful Karen Gunton) speaks about businesses and self-development in terms of being a lighthouse – strong foundations to weather storms and shine your light. We need to build our kids sturdy enough to endure. They need to be lighthouses. Then not only will they be strong and able to shine but they can light the way for others to safely navigate the rocky teen years, and grow into amazing leaders of their own tribe.[divider style=”solid” color=”#eeeeee” width=”1px”]
For amazing resources on self-esteem you might want to check out:
The unstoppable Taryn Brumfitt at Body Image Movement
Confident Women – which has some great information to specific groups and building self-esteem
A Mighty Girl – “The world’s largest collection of books, toys and movies for smart, confident, and courageous girls”