Photo Credit: Cathy Yeulet

I remember the loud whisper that swept over my sixth grade English class like it was yesterday. “She got braces,” the booming attempted whisper announced to my entire class. I handed my teacher a late pass and slid into my seat wishing I could entirely disappear. The words said so much to the insecure girl I was in the sixth-grade.

Have you ever noticed how we can hear or see one thing, but we run it through the filter of our own insecurity, we magnify the message and amplify the negative that we choose to interpret? It stings. Our hearts hear “You’re different.” “You’re not good enough.” Or even “You’re not liked.”

Feelings of inadequacy are far from limited to insecure sixth graders with new braces. In fact, in this day and age it’s even easier to slide down this slippery slope because of instant feedback on social media. Have you ever caught yourself checking how many likes or comments you have for a status on Facebook, or Instagram? Or maybe find yourself judging your new attempt at Periscope by the number of hearts that scrolled or didn’t scroll across your screen. Or have you ever found yourself waiting for a reply to a text or email only to interpret the silence as a lack of acceptance?

We want to be accepted, or even to be liked. With people speaking their minds online now more than ever, it’s easy to be wounded by the words of others. What can you do?

Choose to smile anyways. – Choose to positively impact the world around you. Touch the water knowing it causes a ripple, even if you don’t see it or you don’t see the impact on others. Ultimately people will notice when you bring a positive attitude, even when they don’t provide reinforcing feedback.

Know it’s not always about you. – Often we interpret silence as lack of approval. In reality, sometimes silence is just a lack of response. Life happens to all of us. Some days are more difficult than others. Someone may not respond to you because they’re busy keeping their own head above water. Resist the urge to interpret silence as negative or to think people don’t care about you because they haven’t responded. And, resist the urge to put a negative spin on something you’ve heard. “She got braces,” could simply be an observation rather than a judgment.

Focus on being you. –  People will either like your status updates, your photos, your tweets, you thoughts, or even you, or they won’t. It’s ok! Be who God created you to be and be ok with that, even if no one “likes”, comments, or sends you happy emojies.

Recognize when you slip. – Catch yourself when you find you’re interpreting your self-worth by social media or by the opinions of people you encounter. It will drain your energy and steal you focus from the things that truly matter.

Reevaluate who or what you are following. – You are not defined by how many friends, followers or “likes” you have. Instead ask yourself who or what are you ultimately following? What influences are you allowing in your life? Where do you truly get your direction or sense of purpose? Choose your “north star” carefully. Let your faith be the foundation that shapes you into who you become rather than likes on social media or whispers of peoples’ opinions that swirl past you.

Is it just me or have you found it’s easy to slip up in this department? We need to remind ourselves and those we care about to strive to be the best versions of ourselves we can be and not get caught in the “do you like me” game. Choose to spend your energy on living life rather than using up all your energy carrying the weight of opinions of the world around you!

I’d love to hear what you think. Be sure to click the comment button above and let me know your thoughts. And, if this really hit home with you, you can use the social media icons to share with your friends and family. Maybe they’ve been caught by this trap too.