Guest Post by Alex McElroy
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak to an entire junior class on what to do when your self-worth is challenged. Our young people are facing enormous pressures nowadays. Along with overt peer pressure there is covert peer pressure through social media. We have to be able to give them the tools to manage these pressures and help them to see what Christ sees in them.
They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. When a keen-eyed employee at Goodwill came across a striking painting of a woman sipping a cup of tea, she knew well enough to set it aside. “I didn’t know how much at that time, but I said, ‘We have some money here,’” Maria Rivera, a worker at Goodwill in Manassas, Va., told NBC Washington. Turns out, the work of art is a rare piece by Italian 19th century painter Giovanni Battista Torriglia and is worth about $12,000.
Much like we don’t always know the value of a painting, others often don’t recognize our value. As a matter fact, sometimes we even devalue ourselves. Low self-worth can be a silent killer when it comes to fulfilling your purpose. Not understanding the value you have to a church, a team, a community or even your family can cause us to feel like life isn’t worth living. I remember times in my life where I questioned my worth, my value and my reason for living. Those thoughts led me to some dangerous and destructive behaviors.
In a day and age where we live in constant comparison to other people, it can be difficult not to gain our understanding of our value through a comparison of those around us. If this comparison helps us strive to achieve more, that could be a good thing. However, the opposite is often the case. Many young people have been indirectly trained to lie through social media by posting those things that paint themselves in the best light and this causes their true identity to get lost in the shuffle. If they attempt to reconcile their lives with a standard that they see, or believe they see online, it is a recipe for disaster.
The meaning of life cannot come from those that live it alongside of us. It must come from someone somewhere who transcends those with whom we live this life. If that were not true, then as our minds and desires shift so would our value and the meaning of life itself. Everyone has a purpose and that makes them inherently valuable to the earth. It’s up them to make sure that what’s inside of them comes out. We have to help them to be the solution to the problem they see! If they are confused as to what problem to solve – usually whatever frustrates you is what you were born to solve.
So what should they do when their self-worth is challenged?
They must focus on the things they can change. So often they get bogged down by where they have erred and by what people want them to be or do. However, there are certain things we will never be able to change about ourselves or our past and to attempt to do so is an exercise in futility. No matter how hard I try I cannot make myself taller. Additionally, many people have notions of reinventing themselves to be someone else. If we focus on who God called us to be, there won’t be time left to devote to becoming who we pretend to be. When our focus is not in line with His focus, we tend to find ourselves wallowing in self-worthlessness.
Teach them not just to focus on who they should be, but take action to become that person. Ask them ‘what are you good at? What skills do you have?’ They should spend most of their time maximizing those traits and abilities. They can make a list of their strengths and keep it somewhere visible so that they always have a counterpoint to the naysayers. Then have them make another list of their weaknesses and spend time improving those. As our young people maximize their strengths and improve their weaknesses we will watch their self-worth increase!
Make sure that the standard they are trying to achieve exists. Many will say, “I’m a perfectionist.” I’ve said it. However, perfection is different to different people. This means that perfection is a relative term. Anything that exists in relativity does not exist in actuality. Using someone else’s definition of perfection as your metric for success is going to leave you unfulfilled and possibly hurt in the process. Success on the other hand is based on maximizing what’s in you. Success is personal and it looks different for everyone. In essence you are only competing with yourself. Our message to them must be don’t try to be perfect. Try to be successful.