We are creatures made for community. We have a longing to belong and experiences with rejection that shape decisions, relationships, and our willingness to take risks. This week, I’ve asked a friend to share her life-in-the-trenches parenting story of just how subtly the feelings of rejection and unworthiness can creep in. She and her husband have spent months encouraging and helping their lovely, talented daughter who found herself nearly wrecked by a constant barrage of social media content that left her feeling unworthy and unlovable. I think you’ll find what they’ve learned insightful and practical.
I don’t think social media is all bad—I’m not even going to talk about the stuff like pornography and cyber-bullying—but the last year or so at our house has shown us how it can be used in subtle ways in the battle for our kids’ hearts and minds.
Like many parents, I saw my shy children’s involvement in things like Instagram and Facebook as a positive step in drawing them out of their shells. It seemed like a good way for them to express themselves and to let their friends see how funny and talented that they are.
But sometimes even things that aren’t bad in themselves can be used by the enemy. Satan whispers, “You aren’t popular enough, pretty enough, smart enough.” Social media confirms those lies with pictures of beautiful people living happier, fuller lives with a hundred “likes” by others to prove it. Filters on pictures hide imperfections. Photoshopping creates the illusion of flawlessness. And in the midst of all this, teenagers look in the mirror and feel more inadequate and disillusioned by what they see.
I don’t know exactly when it happened, but at some point my oldest daughter started believing those lies of the deceiver. I started to notice that she would verbally put herself down to me. She would compare herself to her “happier, skinnier, more attractive” friends. No physical person ever attacked her—it was all a creation in her head that the enemy put there. No matter how much we tried to build her up, she had a hard time seeing her own value in comparison to what she believed from the pictures she saw online. We prayed for our daughter and encouraged her to see herself as we did, but to no avail.
Our collective breaking point came last fall after a social gathering of a couple of school groups proved too much for her to handle. She came home in tears, despairing that she was asked to be in photos with “the popular kids” and that she hadn’t even wanted to be in the pictures because she “was ugly.”
My heart ached. My beautiful, smart, talented girl could not see what we saw. It was then that we decided that she should speak with a Christian counselor. It would take many months of work to help her replace lies with the truth, but now that we’re seeing our daughter’s outlook completely changing, we wanted to share what we’ve been learning in hopes that it helps you, too.
It’s a battleground out there, and as parents we’ve got to keep reminding our children of their value and teaching them how to speak truth into their own lives. We can’t let the enemy’s voice be louder or more persistent than the truth. We can’t be afraid to seek help, either, if the world is too much to handle alone. Above all, we’ve got to tell our kids that no amount of “likes” will ever be more powerful than God’s love.
I appreciate my friend’s honesty and willingness to share her story. In my book New Woman, New Clothes: Outfit Your Soul to Live, Lead, Love (2017), I talk a lot more about the deep, abiding love of the Father and allowing it to transform us. If you’d like to dig deeper with me, grab a copy in paperback or Kindle eBook from Amazon.com.