Why Validation Must Come From Within
As I grew up, I began to realize that the concept of actually growing had been lost on my DNA. Even now, as a 23-year-old woman measuring just less than 5’, the short jokes get tossed about like a football. (Cue traumatizing “Monkey in the Middle” memories.) However, this then hurtful teasing eventually taught me the greatest character-building lesson of all – to defend myself and embrace my personality, humor and talents regardless of how petite the packaging appeared.
We live in a world fixated on conformity, so to find children who highlight stereotypes and ostracize others based on their interest or appearance simply comes naturally as they mature. How one handles the situation often indicates whether such experiences turn out to be successful life lessons. And for Katie’s mother, grace did not come into play when her daughter’s choices were under fire.
The entire fiasco began when Katie came home from school upset one day, only to confess that her male classmates teased her about bringing a Star Wars water bottle to school for lunch (though how they’ve managed to neglect her matching Star Wars backpack, I will never understand). As her mother, Carrie Goldman, explains, Katie happens to be quite an avid Star Wars fan, but refused to carry the bottle any longer after the boys claimed Star Wars was not for girls. When faced with a child breaking into tears, most mothers would console their child and teach them that they are special for there never has been and never will be another person like them in this world. Most teach children to love themselves and embrace their differences despite the potentially overbearing opinions of others.
Instead, Katie’s mother hopped on the Internet to tell Katie’s story and solicit the help of strangers all across the globe. Though she simply intended to find a few female sympathizers, Ms. Goldman seems to have underestimated the universality of childhood teasing. And while it appears we have another heartwarming story of people coming together on our hands, we are actually witnessing the extent of the dangers the Internet poses to this young generation that has never known a time without Wi-Fi.
The Internet, you see, provides a forum for instant gratification. With social networking now an integral part of our daily lives, we need only hop on our computers or Smartphone to gain access to a world of strangers looking for the exact type of approval and validation our dear Katie desires. Instead of finding people who accept Katie for her differences, Ms. Goldman has simply found hundreds and thousands of people who are exactly like Katie, emphasizing a power in numbers and sameness, not the strength of individuality. How will Katie ever truly appreciate her personality if she seeks those just like her every time she feels shunned by her peers?
Generations upon generations of children have survived such relatively harmless teasing, and all have emerged stronger and more self-assured than when they began. Never once in this whole entire ordeal have we learned that validation must come from within and that self-confidence can only come to be when you are fully satisfied with yourself. And to even attempt to equate such teasing with the severity of bullying as it has appeared in the news as of late has no concrete bearing, for children are bound to clash. Tolerance and acceptance begins at an early age, and much bigotry comes from the unsavory values of one’s parents. Promote confidence and independence throughout your child’s formative years and have faith in your efforts as a parent, for every child is different from another. And while Dec. 10 now also stands as “Support Star Wars and Geek Pride for Katie” – a judgmental name in and of itself as it implies Star Wars attracts only “geeks” – not every child will find their mother scouring the Internet for support. The rest of today’s youth will simply have to learn to love themselves the old-fashioned (and seemingly antiquated) way.
Photo courtesy of Chicago Now