Insecurities And Self-Esteem

It seems that quite a few people today, with apparent insecurities about themselves, act as though they have a very high sense of self-esteem. I first noticed this through the arrogant and often outlandish behaviors some of the teenagers I worked with displayed. Although it is, of course, understandable for young people to act in such ways due to insecurities, seeing older people behave like that made me wonder if they really had a true sense of self-worth. I was actually able to talk to my teenagers about their behaviors and my own as a young man, and while many of them admitted to feeling insecure, only a few said they had low self-esteem. This wasn’t much of a surprise, as it was hard to get them to admit certain things about themselves sometimes. After pressing them a bit more, I’d end with the question, “Can you look in a mirror and say ‘I love you’ to yourself and mean it?” This usually made them laugh, but almost all of them would say they could. I would rarely challenge them any further on the issue. I knew time would tell if they were being honest, not just with me, but with themselves. But since then, I’ve talked to people of all ages about the type of behaviors I see today, and I’ve figured out something very important.

Starting in the eighties, changes began taking place in many of our movies, TV shows, magazines, songs, and commercials, and over time, as these changes kept becoming more extreme, they caused two generations of people to display a sense of vanity and self-importance that belies their true insecurity.

First, look at how our movies and TV shows became more extreme. Not only has there been a continual increase in the amount of crime, violence, sex, and drug use shown, but in some cases, these things have actually been made to look glamorous. Also, think about how music has changed. Little by little, more songs came out with lyrics that basically glorified sex and violence and made the pursuit of money and fame seem like the all-important goal that everyone should have. Then there are the TV commercials that few could argue haven’t become more extreme. Although they’ve always been a way for businesses to advertise in clever ways and thus increase sales, they have used a lot more science and psychology over the past several years. Studies show they have the ability to affect people of all ages, making them think they won’t stack up unless they use, wear, or own a certain product. Don’t believe me? Take a look around the next time you’re out and about.

Unfortunately, these extreme (and, I must add, often negative) changes don’t stop there. Our video games have become increasingly more violent and now project a level of realism that can’t be psychologically good for anyone who plays them all the time. Then, of course, there’s the Internet. Although many good things can be found when browsing the World Wide Web, it’s certainly an outlet for extremes of all kinds. From pornography and violence to really outlandish behavior, the Internet became a way for people to watch almost anything they want and express themselves any way they want. Again, there are many good things on it—positive videos to help others and even instructional videos to help people learn how to do a number of different things. But we rarely hear about the good things found on the web. The bad things, sadly, often include the erratic, attention-seeking behavior of people who want (and sometimes need) to feel like someone special. It seems that the bar has been raised to encourage us to be something we’re not. And it has been lowered for academic achievement and family values. Add in the news media and its persistent bombardment of us with awful events, and perhaps you can better understand why we have, in effect, become a desensitized nation and why some people act the way they do.

Although everything I’ve talked about can and does have an adverse effect on us as a society, our youth seem to be affected the most. Young people have become more desensitized due to these extreme changes, and while many show good manners, do well in school, and have career goals they’re willing to work toward, some display behaviors that at one time simply weren’t acceptable. Sadly, still others act out in bizarre ways in hopes of reaching some form of perceived stardom. And while I’m sure the attention they get makes them feel good about themselves, this feeling can be fleeting, and I have yet to see proof that these types of behavior build a true sense of confidence and self-esteem in anyone. I have, however, seen proof that trying to be a better person than before can open up the door to the type of self-love we need to be happy with who we are.

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Twas The Day After Christmas

In December of 2012, just one day after Christmas, my wife and I experienced an injustice that was quite hurtful and filled us with anger and resentment we sometimes still feel today. Actually, my wife was much more hurt by what happened than I was, because it involved two of her close family members. People she loves a lot. And people she never thought capable of causing such emotional pain.

I finally decided it was time to share this private experience with my readers. After all, writing openly about my life and how I use certain experiences to improve on myself is what I do, and if anything, this awful situation shows I have improved as a person. The same goes for my wife.

I won’t mentioned who the family members are, that’s never been my style, but I want to. I also want to lash out at one of them in particular, because it was them that caused most of the emotional pain we felt. However, I know it would not serve who I am today, nor would it fix anything. I also won’t go into depth about the incident. You would have had to have been there to fully understand how horrible this experience was and why I consider it a complete and utter betrayal of family values and friendship. All I will say is that this person’s actions did more than just hurt us. It separated people who were close to one another and inspired me to write this post.

You may already know how being wronged by someone, especially someone you love, can cut deep. And you may already know how hard it can be to move past the hurt and pain you experience. We can talk to someone about how we’re feeling and read things about forgiveness, but we soon find that “to forgive and forget” can be quite hard, especially if no apology is in the offing. Of course, you can’t expect someone to apologize if they don’t think they’ve done anything wrong, or in this case, won’t admit it. And when the person is still a part of other people’s lives that you love, the anger, resentment, and emotional pain continues to resurface. There is simply no closure, and no easy answer to our dilemma.

We should continue talking with someone who understands our situation though, and if religious or spiritual, praying doesn’t hurt. Both things have helped me and my wife over the last two years. The strong emotions we felt for many months afterwards slowly subsided and we eventually stopped thinking about the incident so much. However, the word injustice is still fresh in our minds, even when we consider the source of it.

One of them self-admittedly had a drinking problem when the incident occurred, and from what I understand still does. And their spouse could certainly be called a text-book enabler. But when my wife and I think about what we went through that morning just one day after Christmas—a time for family celebration and to show love for one another. We currently see no reason to forgive them, no matter what their emotional troubles may be.

We know we’re loving and caring people who most certainly did not deserve the unjust act we experienced, or the emotional wounds received unknowingly at the time.

Wounds that for me and my wife have healed somewhat. But may never fully heal for her.

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End Of Our Innocence?

One of my favorite past times is watching people at various places as they walk along going about their business. I enjoy seeing couples holding hands, people talking and laughing, and I especially enjoy watching families having fun together.

One of my favorite places to watch people is at an ocean front boardwalk near where my wife and I live. She also enjoys watching people, and just the other day we were there sitting on a bench across from an arcade where a fortune-telling machine sits outside; doing just that.

The machine actually reminds me of the one used in the 1988 Tom Hanks film Big. The movie is about a boy who uses a fortune-telling machine called Zoltar Speaks to make a wish that he was big. After becoming an adult, however, he’s still the same boy inside that he was before.

Anyway, as I sat there, I saw people walking along by themselves and in couples, but on this particular day families seemed more abundant. They came in all shapes and sizes, and some would stop and drop coins in the fortune-telling machine to see what it had to offer in the way of fun.

As I said, families are my favorite people to watch, but what I’m looking for in everyone is the part of them that helps me to love them. I call it their innocence, and as I sat there watching different families laugh and smile together at an amusement that by today’s standards is quite tame, I got what I was looking for. I’m not sure how innocent some of the family members truly were, but for the few minutes they stood in front of that fortune-telling machine, I couldn’t help but to love them.

It’s a much different world today than it was when the movie Big came out. At times people can seem immoral and even corrupt. But from what I saw in those families that day, it gives me hope that as a society we’re not at the end of our innocence just yet.

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