Love and Self Worth: Amplifying others and Belittling yourself:
Of course with the month of February here, what better topic to broach than love and diversity? It’s Black History Month and the month of love. One of the best months! I feel this topic of love and self worth can have a unique spin of supporting and embracing all this month represents and holds. My vision in this blog series is to really hone in on the varying types of love, the need for love, and areas it can peak through and heal our brokenness and insecurities.
As a Counselor, I have worked with individuals from different walks of life, with quite some beautiful stories. I have fumbled my way through finding where both my passion lies and what my heart strings pull the most for. I have sat intently with individuals having psychotic breaks to hearing stories of substance use destroying lives, or suicidal ideation to body dysmorphia or grief and loss. In light of such variety, I have found that a deep source of pain for many, one which is threaded through each story I have encountered is the need for love. The need for love and the desire to love. We were born to love, created to be loved, and wired for love. I have heard heartbreaking stories that find redemption, and bleeding hearts who cannot seem to find their fight again. The common denominator just seems to be the need for love, belonging and hope. I really believe that this foundation of love is built all throughout our childhood, but even more so, instilled as a tween or teen something.
On a personal note, when I was entering into my teenage years, I fully recall beginning to notice myself in this world all the more. I was more aware of body, my presence, as well as societal expectations. I had oh so many seasons of questioning if I was smart enough, curvy enough, yet still thin enough, and if i was athletic enough. I genuinely felt my skin was “too light” compared to many of my friends in my school, and hated that i had hips before most of my peers. I had always had a very close relationship with my mom, so everything that was built before I turned this age, helped me know that she was a firm and stable foundation to talk about the hard stuff. She was without judgment or criticism, and welcomed any hard conversations about sex, God, or insecurity. So, as I begin this conversation around tween/teen years, I just hope you parents out there know how impactful your presence, relationship, or even attempt at a relationship is. Even in the moments that relationship is rejected, keep trying. You’re making an impact more than you may feel or know. I promise! Teens are the best at acting like they don’t care, but they do, promise.
Tweens are imaginary and innovative, caught in between two worlds of make believe, magic and play, to striving to find their voice in the world and trying to growing up way too fast. Developmentally, this age group is often asking, “ Am I OK?” Tweens can come across innocent, hopeful and awkward, all wrapped into one. They care deeply about their relationships with their closest friends and their parents alike. This age group is identifying what their world is, and what they want it to be.
Teens, on the other hand are too, asking the question “Am I OK? “ or “Am I enough?” Teens are the entry way into what is “hip” and trendy, ushering the way to what our future could hold.Teens often present as self centered and dramatic. Teens are impressionable, sensitive, and care deeply about everything around them. They are often both socially and politically informed in ways that I don’t see in the average population. They ground me, and remind me of what is important all the time. And that is, love. Each one is unique and sassy, beautiful and bright.
“Love is patient and kind. Love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
I often see rivalry, or envy manifest in tweens and teens. I see them comparing, finding reason to feel not good enough about themselves, or on the contrary, reason to boast. Teens are in the season of finding out not necessarily who they are in this world, but really, “Am I OK” in this world. That is, “How do others view me?” Or, “What if I’m not pretty enough for this group, or smart enough to keep up?” Many of these questions arise from their awareness of self in the world, while being rooted in this uncertainty of if they are loveable or not? Not to mention the social and racial identity that one is beginning to form. Teens are in the season of switching from obtaining a lot of their perception of self from their parents onto their peers. Of course, they care so deeply what their parents think, well most of them do. But in the teen years, the bigger question is “what do my peers think of me?” What I really want to start with, is their need to first love the self. Teens find the model to love the self most in their parents, its imperative for us as models to these impressionable souls, to show ourselves the love we so wish and hope they show themselves. Lets always start with ourselves first :).
At times, some Christians especially, may struggle with the concept of “self love”. It sounds selfish, and maybe, even feels sinful. I’m not going to venture into theological mambo jumbo, but I really believe that God so deeply desires us to love ourselves. I mean really love ourselves. He created us. If we do not love ourselves, parts of me beg to question what spiritual work we may need to process and work to just to get us to relish in the beauty that we are. We are made in the image of God, Christian or not. We are all wired for love. That’s why we have to start with ourselves before we even dare to start with others.
Many of the tweens I work with are beginning to formulate their internal voice of self worth. They are formulating on the daily, who they are, where they belong, and how they are loved. Teens on the other hand, are developmentally further along. Often, their progression in this stage is dependent on the foundation that has been built prior.
When talking about self worth, it is far different than self-esteem. Self worth is one’s intrinsic value. We all have the same amount of self worth. Regardless of race, gender, socio-economic status, popularity, or talent. However one may portray their own opinion of how much they are worth is another story. I’m not talking about comparing self to another, but really, believing that who you are, as a person, has worth, simply because you have air in your lungs. And that’s amazing. There is no price tag on who you are as a person. Instilling the value our children have to individuals within the tween and teen stages is imperative for success in their overall livelihood. You are made to be valued, because you are priceless.
Amplifying others and Belittling Ourselves: Our world is saturated with opportunities to compare. Whether we compare through looks or appearance, talent or status, there are easy ways to amplify others while simultaneously belittling ourselves. Often this race to be the best conflicts with our own sense of self worth. We commonly define ourselves based on others reaction or response to our very presence, especially if this is not first built up to begin with. That’s when we get into the game of belittling ourselves based on someone else’s opinion of us. When we get into the game of comparison, we begin to see separation of who’s popular, whose not based on what is socially acceptable.
So what can you do as a “mom” or “dad”?
I say these two in parenthesis, because oh so often, in today’s day and age, families are so untraditional, so in saying mom or dad, I believe there is an imperative calling to those of us in a position of influence to these individuals. Both in those masculine and feminine ways too! So even if you’re a big sister, or big brother, you have an influence. But what I have seen the most impactful things you can do as a person of influence amongst our youth is
Embrace who YOU are. Love her, own up to your mistakes when you make them, and move on. Embrace your beauty, your masculinity, your height, your talent, your quirks.
Open yourself up to conversation with your teen: And do this without judgement. Pay attention to what’s coming up for you if your teen voices a topic that makes your skin crawl. Don’t place that feeling on them. Just notice it, and even sharing what feeling is coming up for you to your teen can help build a bond like nothing else :).
Draw those boundaries: This teaches discipline and the reality that you believe you are worthy of love yourself, enough to draw your boundaries.
There are so many tips I could shout out, but this is a start. I’m always open to talking with parents just on different ways to relate to their teen or tween, and how to help them. I’ve been there not too long ago, so have some personal and professional background on the matter ;-).
Let’s embrace who we are. Our beauty, our messy imperfect selves, and keep being real!