There’s a time where people doubt themselves and what they value. As one grows and develops they change by adapting to lessons and values that make them into a better, stronger person. One might change their physical appearance, they might work harder to maintain better grades in school, they might smile more or even just think more positively. Despite wanting to be a better person, the thought of “what do they think about me?” or “do they like me?” creeps in and can derail all their hard work. Today we’ll be confronting this issue head on. I hope you’re ready!
As a child, you’re taught to be friendly and share with the other kids. If you don’t you’ll be known as the mean kid on the playground- people don’t like you, not even the teachers. This is a label! Your developmental years include times where peer pressure affects you the most. This is where the need for acceptance arises and this is the time when your personal image is what matters above all- whether you’re smart, athletic, musically inclined, chubby or fashionable. These things last until the end high school (around 18) and beyond.
“Does high school actually give me skills that I’ll need in life or is there more?”
High School is a terrible environment for many students and great for others. Here, you’re supposed to foster the skills to deal with future jobs or situations that you might face. Do you really do that though? High school certainly does provide young adults with situations that they might face in both the academic and social settings, but these situations might include settings of isolation and challenges of moral self- worth.
According to http://www.dosomething,org:
- The negative view of oneself caused by a low self-esteem can invade one’s every thought, resulting in false assumptions and continuous self-defeating behaviour.
- Statistically, 44% of high school girls and 15% of high school boys are trying to lose weight.
- Over 70% of high school girls between 15 and 17 are skipping normal, daily activities such as school when they feel bad about their appearance.
- More than 40% of boys in middle school and high school exercise regularly with the goal of increasing muscle mass rather than being fit.
- 75% of girls with low self-esteem participated in activities that either harm them or someone else like cutting, bullying, smoking, drinking or disordered eating.
This is the reality of the “future of tomorrow.” These youths will be carrying this pain everywhere they go. These youths could be the “quiet ones” who are just “holding it in” or they could be “loud ones” who haven’t said a word about it. Whatever age we are, we need to be there for them; we need to create an environment where everyone feels safe. YES, you must allow your youths to understand what rejection or exclusion is, but teach them how to handle it. Tell them what isolation is and TALK ABOUT IT. BE OPEN! I cannot stress that enough.
- If you’re a teacher or an educational assistant, make sure that you know how your students are feeling. Make it clear that they can talk to you. If you don’t know how to help them, make sure that your school’s guidance counselor knows what’s happening. Also be aware of your school’s policies surrounding these situations. Make sure that your student is getting the best help they can get. Reach beyond the walls of your schools and create that community… for them. In many cases, some of my closest confidants were my teachers and on the day of my graduation, they were the ones I said goodbye to and thanked them for everything. They are still the ones I go to visit.
- If you’re a parent or a guardian, don’t neglect to hear what your child is saying regardless of their age, even when you think they’re old enough. Talking to you DOES NOT MEAN that they are irresponsible, it just means they need a little bit of help. Make sure they know that you’re there for them. Don’t mock them to the point of insecurity and talk to them about other opinions that people may have. You can’t guard them against the vast amount of opinions and beliefs there are in the world and you have to let them experience things for themselves or let them hit the wall sometimes, but make sure they know how to come to terms with it and grow from it. Let them explore different options. “Walk the talk” by actually doing what you said. Additionally, if you have more than one child, you have to be there for them equally, and not seem that you’re favouring one over another, especially once you’ve told them AND your friends that “you don’t have favourites.” You’re growing with them in problem-solving, in interests and in so many other things. Accept that.
- I can understand where some parents may think this is too soft a treatment for their children combined with the fear that your child might become too dependent on you, but that’s not what it should be. You should be the parent where your child knows they can come talk to you when they need to. If you do this, your child will have a better time growing up and not be afraid to try new things, but don’t overdue it to the point where you seem nosy.
- If you’re a friend don’t make all of your relationship about you. I cannot stress this enough. You both are growing and yes, you both have problems, but don’t always make yours the focus of the relationship. I’ve had friendships where whenever I needed someone to talk to, they would always turn the situation around and say how much their problem was worse or in times where we both had the same issue, the severity of their problem was worse than what I was dealing with in that moment. I hated that for a few reasons: I never got any advice or guidance at all and I became the “best friend” that always listened. That friendship didn’t end well because I couldn’t be there for someone who didn’t want to grow, but in doing so, I learned what a give-and-take relationship was and how to grow together despite what the other was going through. It’s the idea of being open with one another and learning to check each other when someone is out of line that prevails.
There are many ways that you touch the lives of youth. There are studies and new concepts of mental health. There are shows such as 13 Reasons Why and there are many places to talk about issues and teachings that allow them to grow. For every them, there is you.