Colleagues, friends and I have been wondering what has been causing so many teens to turn to suicide lately. People ask why teens have such a harder time dealing with bullying these days when bullying is not something new. We theorized that it has something to do with texting and Facebook, and how there is no break from the gossip. Technology keeps all of the drama right in their faces, 24/7. Today I had an ah-ha moment that gave me some clarity on the subject.
Remember landline phones and busy signals? Remember having to pull over to a pay phone to call someone if you were on the road? Remember paper maps??? And when you went home from work (or school) you didn’t reconnect until the next day. Today, I have the “convenience” that my work voicemail will call my cell phone the minute I get a message. I save money on business cards because I can text people their appointments, and they can communicate with me through text to make appointments. So convenient right?
Yesterday I chatted with a teen who has gotten in big trouble at school for using his phone during class. We talked about being impulsive because he has ADHD, and he said “Yeah! I get a text and I cannot wait to see what it says! I can’t stop myself!” Two seconds later his mom and I said “Me too!” (And we’re not ADHD.) Getting an email or a text immediately at my phone feels like the old days of getting a letter in the mail. So exciting! Oh look, a package! So where’s the downside?
There’s no escape. There’s no relief. There’s no break. There’s no downtime. I realized this today when I was taking a day off, and my phone kept beeping. I felt pressured to respond, and had to remind myself that I was not on duty. But people on the other end didn’t know that so they kept messaging. Ahhhh! Turn it off!
I recently went to dinner with family and my sister-in-law said everyone had to put their cell phones in the middle of the table and whomever picked their beeping phone up first had to pay for dinner! Funny! But not so funny. What? I can’t check my phone? What will I do?
If I were a teenager in the middle of high school drama, and every time I checked my phone or the computer it was something negative or harassing, I’d never feel better. I’d never feel like I could escape from it. To be an adult and not feel like I can turn off the job, to be a teen and not feel like I can turn off the hate… can be overwhelming.
Convenient is not always better. Who woulda thunk it.
“Talk to the hand.”
“I’m rubber, you’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you.”
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”
“I don’t have to listen to you.”
“You’re not the boss of me.”
“If they all jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?”
Ah the sayings of childhood! While they were statements taught to or said by children, it turns out these same concepts are also useful to adults as a reminder to use positive mental filtering. Who knew?
“Talk to the hand.” A reminder that we can filter the words that we let into our hearts and brains. Consider the source; if someone is giving you their opinion about your life, before you let their criticism upset you, ask yourself if this is someone whose opinion you respect on the topic. If it is, let the words pass through the filter (the hand) and into your mind and take in the criticism. But if you don’t respect this person’s opinion, let those words bounce right off that hand. If you had a hundred people standing in front of you they’d have a hundred different opinions about your life based on their own perspective. But there’s no way you can please them all. So you choose whose words get past your filter.
“Sticks and stones” and “I’m rubber, you’re glue.” Having a thicker skin. These words are similar to the message stated above. Just because someone says something doesn’t make it true. If I insisted you have purple hair, would you believe me? No, because you know you don’t. But if I said you were stupid or ugly would you believe it? Sometimes people do. And yet these are just words too. Just because I say them to you doesn’t make them true. Letting hurtful things “bounce off”, reminding yourself that a person can have her own SUBJECTIVE opinion without you having to agree, will help you maintain your good mood even when “misery loves company”.
“You’re not the boss of me!” Guess what? I’m a grown up. And so are you. YOU get to decide how you want to live your life and if someone doesn’t like it, too bad. Be aware of the consequences of your choices, be willing to accept them and be held accountable, and choose away! It’s your life, run it how you want to. There are going to be tons of people willing to give you their opinion about those choices of yours, but you don’t have to listen if you don’t want to. Now don’t get me wrong here…I don’t want you to be in denial about what your choices will get you, both good and bad. But most importantly I want you to remember that you don’t have to second guess yourself every time someone clucks their tongue at you.
Do you let other people influence your feelings and your choices and your self image? Are they making perfect choices for themselves? If they jump off a bridge or tell you you need a Mohawk or ask to borrow money over and over, are you going to do it? Do you WANT to? You can if you want. Or don’t if you don’t want. We wait our whole childhood to be 18 to be “in charge”. So have at it! It’s your life, how do you wanna live it?