I just read an article 'The Dark Side of Parenting' written by Angela Mollard in 'perthenow'.
The article was an excellent challenge to the way in which so many mothers of young children are turning themselves inside out to be just like someone they follow on social media. The Influencers.
But as I was reading her common sense approach to the way in which these influencers and their self promoted lifestyle choices negatively impact on other women, I was struck by the two things. Firstly that it isn't just the mother who is influenced. And secondly, that this competitive attitude towards ourselves and others is dangerous. To us as individuals and to our communities.
The world of literature is full of the lessons we should have learned about 'keeping up with the Jones'. This is nothing new. What is new is the reach of the Jone's. There have always been those amongst us who believe they have the answers, not just for themselves and their own families but for everyone else. There have always been those amongst us who think the the way we appear, our image, is more important than substance. And there have always been those amongst us who had no idea that families are, first and foremost, about love and acceptance. But now they are all over this new phenomena, social media. They are called Influencers because they are influencing others with their ideas about how to live. The problem is that there is no credentialing system that gives you any idea of just how sensible, safe or appropriate their ideas are.
That means it is up to us to take responsibility for assessing the worth of the information we are being inundated with all day, every day. And it is up to us to teach our children to be discerning about who they believe, and what they believe. This not only provides them protection from the crazier ideas that are circulated on social media, but it also protects them from internalising messages about themselves that are damaging and painful. It's pretty hard to bully someone who doesn't respect or care about what you say. This is the best form of resilience you can provide for your children. The skill of discerning what is worthwhile listening to.
So what filters can we use to assess the usefulness of the information we are receiving. If we look at the original problem that Angel Mollard was talking about, it was competitiveness. So how does competitiveness work? It's an either /or concept. It doesn't allow for diversity and inclusiveness. It is predicated on the idea that there is only one right way, in this case, to be a mother. Therefore, one of the most useful filters we can use is to recognise that there are many areas of our lives where competitiveness is inappropriate.
Who we are as people. Our talents, strengths, weaknesses, our interests and life experiences are what makes us individuals. So the second filter we could use is to embrace an and/also approach to our evaluations of how we want to live our own lives. That being able to make the best banana bread is great, and knowing where to buy the best banana bread is great. And, it's even OK not to like banana bread. Just like it's OK to be a competitive netball player, and it's OK to prefer to curl up with a good book. This is how, by focusing on love and acceptance, kindness and cooperation, and the appreciation of the differences amongst us, we can help to build emotional resilience in ourselves and our children.