By Trish Propson, Director, rekenekt Times Villager, September 2017 “I wish my mom would tell me she is proud of me once in awhile.” “I wish my dad would tell me that I am pretty.” “I wish I could tell my mom how she makes me feel when she compares me to my sister.” “I wish I could tell my dad that his sarcastic comments really hurt me.” These words from the rekenekt graffiti wall confirm what we already know about the next generation. Many of them are hurting and feel insecure about themselves. They need parents to assure them of their value and rebuild their self worth. I recently had an interaction with a young girl who came to get her portrait taken. Before stepping into the studio, she anxiously asked me if her photo would be edited. A little surprised, I asked what she meant. “Edited – you know, like Photoshopped. I can’t get my picture taken if it isn’t edited.” This young girl went on to describe what needed editing. Her hair was all wrong. She was too fat. Her eyes were ugly and she needed her skin airbrushed. The sweet little girl in front of me was eight. My heart broke as I listened to her. I tried to reassure her that she was beautiful just the way she was and no editing was necessary. The damage in her soul was far too deep to address in the few minutes I had with her. She is not alone. StageofLife.com recently reported survey results which showed teens strongly feel inferior and lack worth. The number one reason for inferiority was appearance at 59 percent with ability coming in second at 49 percent. Following at third was lack of intelligence at 38 percent and fourth was size at 35 percent. Statistics from the Self Esteem Project show that 90 percent of all women wish they could change their physical appearance. Eighty-one percent of 10- year-old girls are afraid of being fat and have actively dieted. Seventy-five percent of girls under age 18 who express low self worth report eating disorders, or engage in bullying or self-harm. In my work with teens and parents, I see the plague of low self worth and how it affects children and families. Low self worth can advance rapidly in older elementary children and takes on a life of its own in middle school. I have spoken with girls as young as ten who have expressed a desire to end their life because they were ugly. I have held the scarred arms of middle schoolers who thought the best way to punish themselves for being worthless was to cut their arms up. How did they determine they are worthless? Where are they getting these messages? In the survey I use with students, most of them report that social media is the number one source for insecurity. Trying to compete with peers to look like a super model, embody extreme talents and abilities, and demonstrate high intelligence is exhausting and stressful. Edited photographs, embellished accolades, and downright lies on social media make peers seem perfect. Teens believe they must achieve perfection and living life at that level is unattainable. They assume that something is wrong with them, not the social media environment. Most students do not realize their peers feel as inadequate as they do. Media is another killer of self worth among young people. Sit with your child while they watch Youtube or a television show. Make a mental note of all the messages that bombard them with feelings of low self worth. Comparisons about physical characteristics, derogatory remarks about intelligence, and cruel jokes played against characters that make mistakes are rampant. At the rate our children consume media, they can receive thousands of negative self worth messages in a single day. Add song lyrics and movies that undermine self worth to the consumption of daily media and we may begin to understand what compels our children towards this posture of self-hatred. Low self-worth can also trickle down from parents to their children. My adult children are now beginning to express how my insecurities about appearance affected them when they were young. Attitudes of parents strongly affect children. Eight-five percent of children under 18 say their parents have the biggest influence in their lives. Parents with their own insecurities and self worth issues can impose messages of low self worth on their children without even knowing it. Does your child suffer from low self worth? Are you seeing signs that they may be headed in that direction? Follow these Take Five Action Steps to help rebuild self worth in your child. Avoid Sarcasm. Sarcasm is cowardly bullying in disguise. Do sarcasm and cutting remarks live in your home? Sarcasm makes home an unsafe place to be yourself and quickly undermines self worth. Try to remove sarcastic remarks from comments to your children. Encourage siblings to do the same. Honoring one another with positive speech can help rebuild self worth. Start Early. The time to establish strong feelings of self worth comes when children are young. Use encouraging language to build up young children. Let them know you love them by expressing how you are proud of them and saying often that they are important to you. Be Honest. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Children are aware of their weaknesses more than parents realize. Don’t patronize children by lying about their abilities and talents, but rather be honest and encourage them to develop their strengths and work on their weaknesses. Sharing your own deficits and what you have done to overcome them can help children battle the perceived need to be perfect. Set Goals. Help your child build self worth by helping them honestly assess where they feel inadequate. Is the inadequacy real or perceived? Listen carefully to what they say about their self worth. Listen for subtle clues about self-loathing. Develop a plan together that will help redirect negative feelings. Gently work with your child to either overcome or accept the area of inadequacy they are struggling with. Reach Out. Help your child increase self worth by exercising their talents and sharing their abilities with others. Encourage them to volunteer, share their gifts with neighbors, or help a friend in need. By using the valuable gifts and talents that lie within, children can begin to see that they fit into a bigger world and they have something valuable to contribute. Rekenekt with Trish Propson is a monthly column devoted to raising awareness between parents and teens and helping people reconnect with hope across generations. Trish Propson is a local author, speaker, and family advocate committed to reconnecting families, one conversation at a time.