Posts Tagged With: self respect

Self-Worth and Social Media

Dear Pope Francis,

Increasingly, social media dominates our lives, so it’s not surprising that when you took questions from youth in Sarajevo, someone asked about social media. For better or for worse, ministry will continue to make use of social media. When it comes to things like the New Evangelization, effective use of social media is helpful, because thousands of people can be reached with minimal work; all it takes is a like, a share or a re-tweet.

But where social media becomes problematic is when we forget that it is a means, not the end in itself. When we treat popularity on social media as the goal, we reduce the events of our lives to the fodder to post and get likes, followers and retweets. We share the updates about how well our lives are going. Perhaps the worst of these is the ‘humble-brag’, when someone brags about a success by trying to hide it behind a complaint. When we turn our lives in the means to achieve social media notoriety, the value of the experience is determined by the online response. Suddenly, my trip to Europe last summer is no longer valuable because I experienced personal growth, thought more deeply about important issues, and accomplished something on my bucket list; it is only valuable for boosting my online persona as someone who is spontaneous and adventurous, and well-travelled as a result. Instead of allowing that event, and other life changing events, to be a spring board, launching me forward, being hung up on the social media response keeps me focused on myself and where I am, creating (perhaps unknowingly) a rut.

Treating social media as the goal leads to doubting my own worth as a person. In the same way that events are valuable insofar as they boost my online persona, I stop treating my self-worth as something inherent, and make it something tied to external factors, how many likes, retweets and followers I have. Social media is just one example of the way people attach their self-worth to externals (think about the people who are obsessed with weighing themselves, the size of their cloths, or how much weight they can lift at the gym).

On this point, I think the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council were quite prophetic:

“All who, of their own free choice, make use of these media of communications as readers, viewers or listeners have special obligations. For a proper choice demands that they fully favor those presentations that are outstanding for their moral goodness, their knowledge and their artistic or technical merit. They ought, however, to void those that may be a cause or occasion of spiritual harm to themselves, or that can lead others into danger through base example, or that hinder desirable presentations and promote those that are evil.” (Inter Mirifica: Decree on the Media of Social Communications, 9)

This passage most obviously applies to the classic examples of harmful media, like pornography, and while that it is spiritually harmful, it glosses over the other spiritual harm, like degrading the value of our lives in order to get likes and followers. Perhaps even it is more spiritually harmful when we tie our self-worth so intimately into our social media persona that how we treat ourselves and value our lives is determined by that, because often times we don’t realize we are doing it. We are so used to being to connected via social media that we stop paying attention to how it makes us feel, and the role it has in our lives.

Logging out,

Lauren

PS: Watch for my next letter, when I’ll pick up this topic again, and talk about the importance of mindfulness and social media.

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Getting Real: Self-Esteem

Dear Pope Francis,

Today, I’m getting real: I struggle with self-esteem. By no means do I believe that I am the only woman or girl who has struggled with this, but today, I’m feeling brave enough to declare it from the rooftops of LTP.lowself-esteem

I have struggled with my self-esteem for as long as I can remember. I remember being teased for my weight in elementary school, feeling like the odd ball in my friend group for most of junior and senior high, and generally never being sure where exactly I fit during university. I remember that no matter how hard I tried, I never felt like I wore the right clothes, had the right school supplies or hung out with the right people.

The funny part is that I don’t think anyone actually noticed that I was so self-conscious, except perhaps my mom, whose shoulder I’d cry on when I felt left out. I worked very hard to create the façade that I was un-phased by marching to the beat of my own drum, even though deep down I wanted nothing more than to fit in.

If I wanted to fit in so desperately, then why didn’t I start wearing brand names, lose weight, and change my interests? Because, the one thing I had drilled into my head is that I am unique. One of my earliest memories is of my Oma (grandmother), telling me that I was her favourite Lauren because I was exactly that, her Lauren, the one who loved to write on the type-writer and walk in the woods and eat home-made bread with butter and sprinkles. My parents encouraged me to do what I loved, whether that was write stories, dance or go to youth group. My mom taught me to respect my body by dressing modestly and wearing clothes that were comfortable and looked good on me, not simply because everyone else was wearing them.

I think the cruelest part of the self-esteem cycle I went through was that I consistently tied my self-worth to what other people thought of me. The fact that I wrote was awesome when I won an award for it, but on the day of the band concert, I was lame because I couldn’t sing or play an instrument. I had accomplished a personal goal to lose weight before prom, but the fact that I didn’t have a date completely overshadowed my accomplishment. PromIt was cruel because no matter what I did, I would never be able to please the people around me, but I had tricked myself into thinking that being able to sing or having a date would please the people around me and that would make my life infinitely better.

Every woman I have talked to about this, has shared some experience of feeling inadequate and/or a time when she had low self-esteem. When I listen to their stories, I hear echoes of my own struggles, although the events, characters and settings are different. Between my own experiences and listening to others’ stories, I have learned that there is no magic pill or booster shot that ‘fixes’ a self-esteem ‘deficiency’. It is something that I continue to struggle with. I still wish I could have more friends, be thinner, and wear brand name clothes.

But these things are still tying my self-worth to external factors. Self-esteem becomes a numbers game: if my number of friends is greater than your number of friends, then I win, or, you have a boyfriend, well, I have six best friends, so I still win. This isn’t self-esteem though; this is one-upping another person because I am insecure. Self-esteem radiates from inside, it’s not something that I can hold in my hand, smooth on my face, or paint on my nails. cookie_low_self_esteem_2Self-esteem is something that I’ve had to work at, faking it until I made it. I marched to the beat of my own drum, because I didn’t like the beat that other people were playing.

Self-esteem came as I slowly (very slowly!) stopped trying to do things because other people said it was cool, and started genuinely accepting that I was doing the things that I needed to do in order to take care of myself and accomplish my goals, like writing because it’s as natural for me as breathing, or keeping up with diverse groups of friends because I genuinely enjoy their company. When I do these things, I decide my self-worth, it’s not tied to something external, an ideal that is always changing. It is something much deeper than that, it is grounded in the core of who I am, and flows out into all aspects of my life.

I have also come to realize, that self-esteem is not something that I will ever completely possess. No matter how confident I seem, there will always be days when I need to fake it. The trick is to remember that those days will pass, and that there will be days when the self-esteem is genuine.

Feeling pretty good,

Lauren

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Skirt length and respect

Dear Pope Francis,

A few weeks ago I posted about why I choose to wear skirts most of the time and how people respond to me differently when I’m wearing them. An aspect which I deliberately stayed away from in that post was the link between the length and style of the skirt and people’s response.

skirt length adjectives rosea lakeLast winter, Rosea Lake posted this photo (left) to her tumblr demonstrating how people respond to different lengths of skirts on women. The photo really struck a chord with me and got me thinking about my own collection of skirts and whether I buy longer skirts because I genuinely like long skirts or because I don’t like the way I’m treated when I wear shorter skirts.

Which brings me to today’s topic: respect.

In the Catholic Church, we’re really big on teaching people to respect each other’s human dignity. There’s a fair bit written about respect and respecting people who think differently in the catechism. In our Catholic culture, where we fall short at times is in extending that respect to people when they dress differently than we think they ought.

I’ll be 25 in August. When I’m going out and about in my daily life, I favour a business casual style. Most of my skirts fall somewhere between proper and old-fashioned on Lake’s photo. But I also have several in the cheeky-flirty range, including my current favourite dress.

There is an argument to be made for self-respect and dressing modestly as a way of respecting our own bodies. I can honestly say at one point in my life the shorter skirts and dresses I favoured were present because of a lack of self-respect on my part. But that’s not the case now, and my wearing a cheeky skirt doesn’t make it okay for a man at Tim Horton’s to comment on my legs or for a car full of guys to holler at me when  my at the time boyfriend is walking me home from foosball on a Tuesday night.

When I show up at church in leopard print leggings and a denim tunic-blouse I shouldn’t hear the older men harrumph and their wives tut. I should be hearing them say hello and making me feel welcome at mass.

Part of growing up and wandering back to the church has been seeing some aspects of my style change. I show less boob than I used to and don’t wear super form-fitting skirts as often. But part of being me is challenging the notion that people who wear short skirts or leggings aren’t interested in God. God loves me whether I’m wearing  a habit or stark naked.

When I wear high heels and dresses – whatever their length, I feel good about myself because I feel like I look like the free woman I am. No matter how devout a Christian or a Catholic a man might be, if he respects me more or less based on the length of my skirt or how I dress, he’s not respecting me much at all.

In Christ,

Meredith

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Modesty and the Rape Culture

Dear Pope Francis,

There seems to be an ever increasing litany of stories of women being told that it is their responsibility to dress modestly so that they won’t be objectified by men. rape cultureThe logic behind the rape culture, that the women who are raped were asking for it, is being applied to objectification. According to the rape culture, it is a woman’s responsibility as to whether or not she dresses in a way that encourages someone to rape her. Applied to objectification, it is a woman’s responsibility to dress modestly so that men won’t be tempted to objectify her. I think this logic is ridiculous for a couple of reasons

One reason this is ridiculous is that this logic takes the responsibility away from the guys. It assumes that guys can’t control themselves, or find it very difficult to do so, and women should help them. Some guys might struggle with objectifying women, and if they do, then yes, we should help them, but how I dress is not necessarily going to fix the problem. His wandering eyes are not solely my problem. He ultimately needs to work towards a long term solution. This logic also takes all the responsibility away from men, and says that men can look at women however they want because it’s not their fault, it’s the woman’s.

Another reason that this is ridiculous is that this also assumes that there is one standard of modesty that everyone agrees on, which is certainly not the case. I would never wear what some other women wear every day. It also assumes that there is a certain type of clothing that arouses men, which is also not true.

I don’t necessarily think that we need to throw modesty out the window when we’re talking about objectification and the rape culture, but I don’t think that modesty is the only answer. Instead, I think modesty needs to be a choice that women make for themselves, not something that is forced on them because guys can’t control themselves.

I generally choose to dress modestly, because those are the clothes I’m the most comfortable and confident in. I was taught that there should be an inch or two of overlap between my shirt and jeans, and that skirts and shorts need to go past my fingertips. Finger tip ruleThese became my norms for finding clothes. As I became more aware of how I looked in clothes and fashion trends, I learned to dress for my body type, rather than solely for fashion. This means that I usually have to recycle old pairs of jeans to make shorts because I have a hard time finding shorts that are the right length for me, and that I have lots of tank tops for layering under t-shirts.

Most importantly for me, dressing modestly is a way that I show self-respect. I choose to dress in clothes that make me feel good as a way to love myself and show respect for the way that God created me. It isn’t something that I do for anyone else. It is purely a personal choice. Sure, I do wish that other women would see the beauty of covering up a little more, especially in the summer, and I work very hard to not judge women when I disagree with their fashion choices, especially for modesty reasons, but I think that dressing modestly is a very personal choice. It is something that women need to choose for themselves because it makes them feel good or confident or helps them express something about themselves. It can’t be forced on them, especially not because it is their responsibility to keep men from objectifying them.

Getting ready to make some new shorts,

Lauren

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