Recently, my 4-year-old daughter and I were outside at a local business, enjoying some dessert. It was a busy night, and some teens joined us at our table. They sat down and started to eat their desserts, all the while texting and looking at their phones. One of them said, “I’m only at 96 likes for the picture I just posted! I’m so close to 100. I’m so sad. I hope I get to 100.” Another chimed in and said, “Want me to create a new account so I can get you another like?” The first friend excitedly said “yes.”
As I listened to their conversation, I couldn’t help but think about how I’m trying to raise my daughter in this technology-obsessed, social media-loving world. I know that social media isn’t going away. However, I also don’t want her value or self-worth to be determined by how many likes she gets on these platforms. I want her strong self-esteem to come from within. Instead of someday being obsessed with how many likes or comments she gets on a social media account, I want my daughter to feel strong and empowered in these real-life situations.
Following this encounter, I put my thoughts to paper and penned this letter to my daughter.
My dear daughter,
I want you to like how you feel after doing something physical – a long run, swim or yoga class. I want you to respect your body and treat it well by finding some exercise that you enjoy.
I want you to like the way you feel after competing in something whether you win or not. I want you to run that race. I want you to try playing a sport. But I don’t want you to get discouraged when you don’t win. Someone has to be the winner and someone has to be the loser. I want you to always try your best.
I want you to like the way you feel after helping someone. Do you see someone in need? Can you think of easy ways to help someone out or brighten their day? I want you to never turn away from helping someone. Hold that door open, pay for someone’s coffee in line behind you, compliment someone. You never know how random acts of kindness will affect someone, and I guarantee it’ll make you feel better about yourself, too.
I want you to like the way you feel when you’re recognized for your hard work, whether it’s a musical, a play, a sporting event or a leadership award. I want you to feel proud for the time and effort you have put into doing something that you love.
I want you to like the way you feel after volunteering. I want you to know how truly rich and blessed you are in life, and I want you to give of your time and talents to others who may not be so blessed. Find a non-profit that you love and help them on a consistent basis.
I want you to like the way you feel when wearing no makeup. I want you to be comfortable in your own skin. I want you to know and believe that you are beautiful inside and out, and that there is no one else in the world like you. Similarly, I want you to feel beautiful when you’re dressed up with makeup on, but know that your real beauty comes without any of the fancy dresses or makeup.
I want you to like how you feel when calling someone or going to see them instead of texting. Your Mama can’t imagine what future technology will be like as you get older, but I want you to remember that real relationships are built face-to-face and not over a phone or a computer. Text or email friends when you need to, but never underestimate calling them or going to see them. Talk to them. Enjoy each other’s company.
I want you to like the way you feel when you talk to someone who’s excluded. Always put yourself in other people’s shoes. If you see someone lonely or who appears to be struggling, talk to them. Listen to them. Think about how you would feel if you were that person.
Do you find yourself getting upset if people don’t like or comment on your posts on social media? Be careful how your attitude and reactions rub off on your kids. Let’s teach them that true value and self-worth comes from within.