The recent incidents of teen suicides are very alarming. Some teenagers committed suicide because of a game called Blue Whale that encourages children to take on increasingly horrendous tasks till they ultimately commit suicide. Another teenager ended her life because she didn’t get into the college she wanted and yet another because she was scolded by her teacher. Parents are running from pillar to post trying to find someone or something to blame. Some experts are of the opinion that these issues point out to two things: a lack of identity and an absence of self-worthiness or self-esteem.
There is a lack of a sense of self these days. Children are encouraged to judge themselves by their accomplishments and achievements but never by who they really are. As adults also, we are unsure of our identity and conveniently label ourselves with titles like manager or CEO or teacher, forgetting that these are just labels, not who we really are. Not having a sense of identity makes people easily susceptible to depression and despair.
A few failures are enough to drive such a depressed young adult, who is already suffering from identity crisis, to believe that they are inferior, inadequate and incompetent, leading to intense feelings of low self-esteem. While, children and adults deep into depression need to consult with a psychologist or psychiatrist for therapy and counselling, a few steps can be taken by everyone to improve quality of life and develop a healthy self-esteem:
Love who you are and teach kids to do the same:
It’s important to understand that human beings were meant to be unique special and quirky. Don’t judge your weaknesses too harshly and give children the same privilege. They might not be toppers in their school just as you might not be a star performer in your office. Yet, you might be an excellent chef or your child might be a talented singer. Highlight the positives and work on the negatives. Acknowledge and yes, accept your faults and do not keep beating yourself up about them. Children learn from adults and when they see their parents being accepting of themselves, they learn to do so themselves.
Let go of the concept of perfection:
To maintain self-esteem, we need to accept both sides of us, the strengths and the weaknesses. We unconsciously believe that people will be repulsed by the imperfections in us and so we try to hide them. Ironically, it is exactly these imperfections in us that make us human and attract people to us. Perfection is never about excellence. It is all about appearances and avoiding judgement and criticism from others. So forget about perfection and develop the habit of doing your best with passion and enthusiasm and encourage children to do the same.
Dare to be vulnerable:
It is vulnerability that attracts love, awakens creativity and gives us courage to put forth great ideas into the world. True love demands vulnerability. Entrepreneurship demands vulnerability. Great art and creativity demands vulnerability, yet we prefer to hide our vulnerability in the hope that we will appear perfect. Learn to be open with people and allow yourselves to be vulnerable. Smile at strangers, greet your neighbor in the morning, write letters to friends, hug your children with abandon. Do not worry about reciprocation and teach children to do the same.
Build a good support system:
In this era of nuclear families, the number of people that a person can depend on gets limited. If you have extended family nearby, meet up once in a while. If you’re new to city, join hobby clubs and be active in the community. Volunteer your time to the needy whenever you can and encourage children to do the same.
We are lucky to be born at an age where we can instantly communicate with whoever we please. Don’t abandon technology. Use it to stay in touch with your near and dear ones. Encourage children to stay in touch with you during the day with a message. On the flip side, also learn, and in turn, teach children when to keep devices aside and talk and listen attentively. Plan moments where the entire family can express themselves freely and without judgement. This will encourage children to confide in their elders when they are down or in trouble.
Maintain a journal:
Most of these ideas are not rocket science. They are things that we already know and understand. We need a gentle reminder to do these things regularly. Maintaining a journal of positive thoughts and affirmations and writing down small goals that will change your life positively goes a long way in turning our intentions into actions.