Working from the Inside Out 

Written By Camille Lucy

Technology has become part of the norm in our households, in our business and personal lives and even in the lives of our children: in school, and at home. It would be near impossible to sterilize your home and family from the internet, some form of social media, smart devices or gaming. But this doesn’t mean you cannot protect yourselves from the dangers that the world wide web delivers to your doorstep. In fact, part of the solution to creating a safe environment and life for our families may be very different than you originally think. 

Instead of locking the doors and pulling the plugs from the outside world, we need to take a long, hard look at our inside world. This is where the transformation begins. 

Our thoughts about ourselves fluctuate like the weather. Everything we experience day to day impacts how we feel about ourselves temporarily. But, our overall level of self love and esteem is more permanent and fundamental than our daily ups and downs. And it determines how much and for how long we are affected by those rollercoasters of thoughts and feelings.

Wondering what this has got to do with internet safety? 

Someone with poor self esteem will often rely on others to feel good. And sometimes they make choices in the moment that may not be the healthiest, seeking love and approval (think: sending photos or information, or meeting people from internet dating/chat rooms without practicing precautions). For someone with low self esteem, the highs they ride from external forces are fleeting and temporary at best. So they are constantly seeking out ways - or people - to get it back. The greater risk for children or young adults is that they may not fully understand the dangers around them. They are innocent and trusting and cannot conceptualize some of the “bad” things that other people do.

Someone with healthy self esteem, on the other hand, is able to accept themselves, their strength and weaknesses, and is not affected as much by life’s hard times. They also understand that nothing outside of them can affect their perception of their own value and worth. By this standard, they make choices more often out of self love and respect. 

With that being said, a person or child with low self esteem may unknowingly make choices that put them in harm’s way.  The consequences of low self esteem can range from anxiety, stress, loneliness, depression, relationship troubles, decreased performance and a susceptibility to drugs and alcohol. From there, it’s a downward spiral: poor choices piggyback on and aggravate feelings of low self esteem, keeping them stuck in a loop of destructive behaviors. 

Here’s where parents come in:

Our self esteem evolves over time, shaping and molding us and our experiences during childhood play a very large role in the results. A child that experiences harsh criticism, abuse, neglect, rejection or is held to high expectations of perfection can result in low self esteem. 

Here are some ways to cultivate healthy self-esteem in your child(ren):

  • Active Listening: Children respond very well to feeling heard and understood, as do people of all ages. Practicing active listening - not interrupting, keeping eye contact, asking questions and ultimately showing engagement - allows a child to feel valued. Feeling valued results in higher self esteem. 
  • Respect: Treating your child with respect is important. How you speak to your child shows him or her how you feel, just as much as the words you are using. Be patient and gentle. 
  • Attention: Though you may be in the same room, that doesn’t mean you are present with your child. Engage with him or her and be sure not to dismiss feelings, thoughts and stories they may want to share. If you have a busy family life, try to make some QT time one-on-one with your child. Let him or her know they are worth and deserving of your time and attention; this is one of the greatest gifts you can give. 
  • Affection: Not everyone is affectionate but physical touch goes a long way in building self esteem. Hug and kiss your child as often as you like, touch his or her arm, sit next to each other on the couch… whatever you can do to be  physically close. 
  • Recognition: Recognize your child’s accomplishments or good behavior. Celebrate milestones and small victories. Let your child know you are paying attention and are in his or her corner. 
  • Acceptance: Accept your child for who he or she is. Recognize mistakes as just that; and move on. No one is perfect. 
  • Unconditional Love: Piggybacking on acceptance, let your child know that no matter what he or she does, your love will never sway. 
  • Forgiveness: Forgive easily and often. Address the issue at hand and let it go. There’s no reason to harbor negative feelings or continue to discussing the matter at hand. Resolve it, forgive and accept, and focus on the here and now. 

If you are the one struggling from low self esteem, here are a few ways to improve it: 

  • Language & Thoughts:  Keep a close eye on the language you speak to yourself.  Are you kind and loving with yourself or do you nitpick every little thing you do? Our inner voice can be harsh and cruel; so make it a habit to monitor your self-talk and turn it around. Instead of, “wow that was so dumb…” try saying “OK, I made a mistake. Everyone does. I did my best, and it’s OK to move on now.”  Small shifts lead to huge transformation over time.
  • Self-Compassion: Be compassionate with yourself. Everyone - including you - is doing the best they can with the resources they have in the moment. If you make a mistake, so be it. If you aren’t happy with something, that’s fine, too but forgive yourself and let it go. Show yourself love and care as you would your child. Accept yourself, love yourself and learn to be proud of the amazing person that you are. 
  • Support: If you’re needing help, ask for it. Friends, family, professionals… there are many people out there ready and willing to help you out with what you need, even if it’s just to talk. You don’t have to do this alone and you deserve to be happy, confident and fulfilled. 

Without removing ourselves from the outside world, we can show up in it as a confident, healthy person that understands risks and makes choices out of love and respect for ourselves and those around us.  We can transform our inner world enough to be conscious and aware of actions and people that may be dangerous for us, and this includes the internet and applies to our children. The healthier we are, the healthier our children will be as they learn and grow from watching us.  Practice self love and care as a family ritual, and watch how life unfolds to become a joyous and connective experience all around. 

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