By Heather Mistretta
Best, most, more and other superlatives run rampant across the internet. Every day we are walloped with swaths of messages of how and why we need to follow certain paths while screams of self-adulation and comparisons dance in our heads and all around us.
We’re told that if we just follow five easy steps or try a new product that can be bought with just one click, that we will be more beautiful, smarter and more successful. We’re even given examples of people who are at the pinnacle of all these…or at least that’s what we’re told or inferred through images…ad nauseum.
For adults, most of us are able to disseminate this information and weed out what we don’t want or see as unrealistic. We can ignore it and resist the urge to internalize it. But for children, who are still growing and easily influenced, battling waves of hormonal changes and finding their places in this chaotic and multifaceted world filled with a rash of opportunities and pitfalls, that deciphering may not be as easy.
The faces of violence against women and men regularly hit the air waves and pages of print media—faces that shock, scare, sympathize and disgust us. This transparency is of course important as many cultures suppressed this awareness (and some still do) for many years, and instead subjected the victim to ridicule, shame and additional violence.
This correlation between the abused and the abuser is evident, and it is this abuse WAGE is hoping to prevent or end through education, mentoring, fundraising and working with like-minded organizations.
However, one perpetrator of violence and abuse that is also insidious but can be much more silent, one that may be overlooked because of its indirect perpetrators is suicide.
Teenage suicide has been climbing for several years. The CDC reports that from 1999 to 2017, the suicide rate among boys ages 10 to 14 grew from 1.9 suicides per 100,000 people to 3.3. Among girls, suicides roughly tripled from 0.5 per 100,000 to 1.7.
As I hear stories of seemingly normal and happy teens taking their lives, I am left feeling helpless and aching for them and their loved ones, but I am also haunted by this prospect as I watch my 18-year-old son grow and learn how to cope with new challenges and make difficult decisions.
Competition is fierce today, and not just in the classroom. Teens are not only expected to excel in school and have their futures meticulously mapped out, but outside the classroom they are expected to be almost perfect in looks, personality and activity.
This unrealistic expectation is damaging our children. Their self-esteems are being battered, riddled with holes as they attempt to achieve the unreachable, falling short every time. They are left feeling inferior and unfulfilled.
As we try to help guide our children into bright futures, we need to erase perfection from their goal setting and instead encourage them to set smaller, more manageable goals that are achievable. This is contentment, not complacency.
By no means am I suggesting that they should not be encouraged to dream and perhaps set goals that seem lofty at the time, but the idea that perfection is attainable needs to disappear. We need to empower our children into thinking they are already strong enough and beautiful beings now and that the goal should be to enhance all the wonderful things they already are.
I have shared this quote before, but I like it and think it reflects how we need to emphasize to our children that they are beautiful and need to embrace their minds, bodies and souls.
“Everything you desire, crave, need and want is within us. You are your own soulmate and the time you spend in your own solitude, the beauty you find in your laugh lines, the time you take to not smooth those curves, but to love them, is maybe not what you were looking for but something you are blessed to have found.”—Seema Kapoor
Also, here is an article on how we can help those contemplating or facing suicide: https://afsp.org/advice-talking-someone-suicidal-thoughtsfrom-someone-whos-suicidal-thoughts/