From age 1 to 5 we teach our kids not to call people names. To be nice. To share. And they do.
Until middle school.
Then all of a sudden they’re back to calling each other names. Being mean to each other. Refusing to share.
Nowadays entertainment consists of hurting someone else either with names or by making them feel left out.
Popular YouTube videos center around this. Sitcoms and movies focus on this. Even cartoons!
When did it become acceptable to hurt one another let alone entertainment? Girls are already struggling with a deck stacked against them. The majority of kids in middle school are trying to figure out who they are. Now they have to deal with cruelty every time they turn around. In school, in their neighborhood, in social media, even amongst friends.
I’ve noticed lately that my daughter and her friends jokingly call each other names, insult each other, and put each other down. And then laugh about it. Laugh about it!
These girls struggle to find a place of belonging. To feel accepted and valued. And here they are adding to their struggle!
All of us want to feel valued and worthwhile. We struggle with this. Everywhere we turn we’re faced with comparisons. Marketing, media and society itself encourage this. We don’t need to add to it!
Words go deep. Whether or not we want to admit it or acknowledge it, words hurt.
There is enough darkness in this world. Our friendships should be a place where we can always find light.
Friends are confidants. People we can turn to in times of need. People who make us feel better. A friend should lift you up, encourage you, inspire you. Not rip you apart and tear you down.
I pulled my daughter and her friend aside and asked why they thought it was funny to insult each other. When did it become entertaining to tear each other down? I pointed out that there had been many days that each had gone home upset because someone had teased her or picked on her. And here they were doing the same thing to each other.
That got them thinking.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
So what do we do?
Scores of self-help books, self-improvement blogs, articles, and podcasts teach the simple trick to pay attention to the words you choose and replace the negative self talk with positive self talk.
We need to do the same in our interactions with others.
We need to catch ourselves when we say something negative to another person whether it’s a friend, a stranger, or a coworker. Replace it with something positive. Let’s be the person driving out the darkness with light. Let’s be the person that causes others to stop and say in awe, “Wow. You have a really positive disposition.”
I have always encouraged my daughter to be a positive influence. To pave the way to a better life by her own behavior. There are times when she takes a stand and her friends pushback. But in the end they respect her strength, courage, and perseverance to go against the norm. It gives them courage to follow her lead.
Both of my kids know that I expect them to lift people up. To make them feel valued. To have that person leave the interaction feeling better than when they arrived. I too follow this expectation. I’m not always successful. But when I’m not, I own it and try again.
I know I’m asking a lot of her at age 12. Especially now faced with cliques, peer pressure, and the struggles of discovering her true self. But I know she can handle it. How?
Because her actions over the years have proven it.
I was listening to Annie F. Downs on Jen Hatmaker’s podcast the other day and she was relating the game of Chutes and Ladders to life. Pure randomness determines whether you climb up the ladder or slide down a chute. Annie mentioned that we often feel like this in real life. We see someone else getting ladder after ladder while we keep sliding down the chute.
This is our perception.
The reality is we are each playing a game of solitaire with our own deck of cards. Another person’s move on her deck has absolutely no effect on mine. Which means we don’t have to compete with each other as if there were hardly enough cards to go around. Instead we can help and encourage each other.
So let’s do just that! Let’s celebrate each other’s successes! Let’s share tips and tricks with each other to have more successes!
As women, let’s be a tribe that encourages each other, lifts each other up, and gives each other the power and permission to succeed. Get rid of the drama. Let’s be there for each other instead of against each other.
Let’s teach our kids to do the same.
How do we do that? We start with ourselves. By pointing out the positive in other women and other girls.
By stop comparing ourselves to those around us.
Encourage collaboration. Celebrate successes. And encourage many more.
Let’s leave people better than we found them.