I’m going to eat my words. Words I have preached over the last ten years from self-esteem seminars to television. Words I based on studies and many statistics from The Beauty Myth which has since been admitted to have overstated the statistics. I’ve been placing the fashion industry and media at the top of my blame chart for unhealthy self-esteem. But another idea has been clawing for notice in my mind and heart for several years. I contend that we are facing monumentally more judgement than we realize. Judgement from outside and usually more damning from our own selves.
It’s no doubt that self-esteem is a complicated matter. The fact that it deals with self guarantees it will be difficult to understand, much less change.
Many of the statistics I based my beliefs on were about how many times a day we see advertisements. Those studies were conducted prior to the internet and so I believed that the amount of ads we saw would only rise. It did. But I no longer believe ads are to take the majority of the blame.
What is the number one way a product gets shared? Word of mouth.
Companies around the world are eager to please customers so that they’ll share their ever vital and sure fire way to get a new customer. When we need a new doctor, a contractor or a hair stylist we go to our friends and family for trusted referrals. Where do we go for advice about life changes and problems? Our friends and family. Our new network of Facebook and Internet friends.
I believe this new network has great power. And with it we have a responsibly to censor our judgments. We’ve become a society of advice, whether asked for or not. Nearly every romantic comedy has the couple dress each other down about their flaws then they break up.
Then magically the judgments were right and they finally come together.
Our network gives advice about everything! But you must judge a situation before you can give advice. It happens in a split second. I’m just as guilty of it. I’ve never stopped to consider whether my well-meaning advice would do more harm to the other person’s self-esteem than good.
Here’s the thing about judgment. Once it’s made it’s out there. The person giving advice felt that you needed it strongly enough to tell. And you could defend yourself all day long, but likely won’t change their mind. I think that interferes with our self-esteem and our ability to separate ourselves from outside judgment. Many of the negative things you say to yourself originated from someone else’s judgement. Those are the things that are the hardest to let go.
Because of lots of unsolicited advice recently, I’ve been taking a break from Facebook.
Specifically because I realized that just by sharing my life I was opening myself to judgement. Whether I asked for it or not. And it wasn’t just judgement by others passed on me. I was passing judgement ON others. I would sit on my high horse and scroll through the timeline of 800 plus people and pass judgment at an astounding rate. And you probably do too.
I’m a perfectionist.
I wanted to do Facebook and do it well! I would accept every friend request that didn’t look like someone who just wanted to date me. I would answer every comment as fast and sincerely as possible. I would explore every person who liked something and like something of theirs. This became a full time job. I stopped accepting friend requests from people I didn’t know when I topped 800 and that was two years ago.
So I decided to a break from Facebook. I didn’t like how it felt, I didn’t like how much time I was spending defending myself, I had started dreading the little notification that I had comments and messages. I deleted the Facebook app from my phone and would check in once a day to keep up with messages. I would set a timer so I didn’t get lost in the endless network of links and articles.
And during a quick check in I saw this article, a first person account of what it’s like to be poor. I found the piece to be a heart breaking and raw description of things people who are not in her position may not understand.
Let me clarify here that despite my annoyance with Facebook at times, Facebook is just a utility. It’s merely an extension of the internet. The internet brings us face to face with feelings and thoughts we might never experience in our day to day brick and mortar lives.
But what Facebook represents is a way for judgement to spread like wildfire.
We are bombarded by other people’s inner thoughts and opinions. We see everything from religion to diets to parenting styles. And for every opinion there’s an equally vehement opponent.
This translates directly to our self-esteem. There have been many articles about Facebook lowering self-esteem. I don’t think it’s Facebook so much as external and internal judgement. We see a friend announce a pregnancy, or weight loss, or a new job and we either judge them or judge ourselves.s
My solution is to spend less time online and more time engaging with loved ones. We say things online we would never say if we were at a friend’s house for dinner. In this age of instantaneous communication we need to be cautious about what we say.
The next time you see a friend who’s gained a few pounds try to empathize silently rather than offer a solution of the diet plan that worked for you. If they specifically ask for help, manage your own expectations and understand that worked for you may not work for them. If you give advice you must realize that it’s the other person’s choice to follow it. If you’re so tied to the advice that it bothers you when it’s not followed, you’re too invested.
And for the love of all things self-esteem, please stop the shaming and judging posts where we make fun of someone’s eyebrows, or hips, or hair color. When we judge a woman for opening up about how hard it is to be poor, we show more about our own callousness than we do about having superior life circumstance.
Self-esteem is a complicated thing.
By working on your own you can be a better mother, friend, family member and help someone else. As we get into the holiday season where LOTS of judgment will be passed, work on how much you dish out.
That’s all you can control. And take LOTS of selfies!
I disagree with this article and believe that any photo that makes you feel good about yourself can’t be bad. Ha, there I go judging again.
And I’ve made a huge decision to make my Facebook account for family and have started a public page where I’ll post all my silly thoughts. If you’d like to follow me I’d appreciate it.
I wish you a happy holiday!