Posts Tagged With: self-worth

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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