Today, I welcome Pastor Brad Mathias of Bema Media, Road Trip Parenting, and the Brilliantly Brave Parenting Podcast. (You can catch my interview HERE!) His latest work, Storms of Life, is a study for students. And friends, it’s a tool we want and need in the hands of each of our young people today.”
Teen Stress Today
How we see ourselves is a huge struggle for most people, no matter our age or stage of life. We are naturally critical, especially of our own lives. Our self-image or self-esteem is the third highest stressor for students according to surveys and recent studies.
The Age-Old Struggle With a Twist
Statistically, self-esteem ranked as our third highest stressor for students in college or high school and higher for adults. We know that many are struggling with the way we see ourselves and how we perceive others see us. The pressure to achieve and be successful is a huge unspoken stressor for any stage or age of life.
From well-meaning high school counselors to your aunts and uncles, everyone is asking the question; “What do you want to be when you grow up?” or “Where are you going to attend college?” As we get older, the questions get more obvious, where do you work? Where did you go to school, where do you live?
The demands of our society push unbelievable expectations on us.
The additional pressure of fitting in, finding somewhere to belong and be accepted is just a part of our journey. School and culture have already created specific stereotypes for us to pick an identity from. For parents and adults, the struggle continues on with new names and places, but the same old sense of ‘not-fitting in’.
And each identity has a specific clique or club with its own rules and hierarchy in how to belong.
Finding the group that accepts and affirms you are uncertain in the fickle world of social popularity. No one really has a chance to relax and assume they are “in” for long. The ongoing and daily battle of social media is unprecedented and the allure to be accepted and liked offsets the risk of rejection for most. From what you wear to the color of your hair, everything you say or do is on display for anyone to like or dislike. The social media culture of today puts our identity on trial each and every post.
This daily demand to be perfect is impossible to sustain especially when we add in the pressures of a society that is visual and we feel the need to be beautiful and handsome 24/7/365 to be acceptable. Here is where the dissatisfaction with our appearance grows from an annoyance to an obsession for some. We fret about the smoothness of our skin and the thickness and texture of our hair to how we look in jeans. We seek to adapt ourselves to fit the mold of our society. How others respond to our appearance has the capacity to make or break us, and we truly aspire to be the very best we can be, not for our own health, but to simply survive without total humiliation and shaming.
Many are so worried about their size and shape that they are actively measuring and managing their diets to manipulate their basic body types, height, and weight to fit the norms of the local style. We no longer know who we are or what we want. We just hate to be bullied or demeaned by those who are skinnier, prettier, and more popular. And we live unsure of anything but the fact that we don’t measure up.
The struggle for our identity and value is a struggle for the truth
We have voices that are talking to us all the time. Some are predictable and hopefully encouraging. Some are our insecure peers at school or work who are immature and selfish, critical and demeaning. Those we can ignore. Their opinions, although vital for popularity, are not truly meaningful in the long run. And then there are the voices we hear when we look in the mirror. Those demeaning and ugly voices that tell us we’re ugly or worthless. Those are lies.
God’s voice is the one that:
- We have to learn to hear and trust.
- Will never condemn or demean us. He will never reject or ridicule us. Never, ever.
- Reminds us of our priceless value, of how He traveled across the universe to meet us, how He chose to suffer and die for sins we committed.
- Resonates with the warmth and joy of a proud Papa who can’t wait to tell us how much He loves us and longs to see us again.
The voice we hear is the one we will follow.
It’s imperative we learn to hear God’s voice above all the other voices in our lives. He will not disappoint, lie, or pretend with us. He tells the truth and knows what we need and truly want. If we trust His voice, we will follow Him.
As you grow in your faith, believe that God:
- Can patiently stick with you through all the ups and downs of your day. He does and He will
- Doesn’t grow closer when you do good and pull back when you do bad
- Stays near you all the time
- Will provide you with strength when you’re tempted to compromise
- Gives you courage when you’re afraid
- Will provide wisdom when you are uncertain
Take your prayers with you.
Don’t just pray at home in the morning and before bed but pray all day long. As long as you can pray silently in your mind, you can pray at school all you want. Start asking God for help in the moments you need Him. When those “trigger moments” occur, He can be right there with you, providing you with the help you so desperately need.
Jesus has gifted us with unique and beautiful attributes.
His gifts of personality and skill make us irreplaceable to Him. We don’t need to follow the pack because we can be our own individual person, seeking after the One who knows us best for our satisfaction and value. Young women tend to struggle with self-esteem issues more than young men. We know our society puts enormous pressure on ladies to look a certain way, to be loved or treasured, but Christ has a different perspective. It’s essential for us to model that acceptance and love of the uniqueness we each have.
We cannot let the world define our worth in possessions or sex appeal. As Christian, we can invest our energy and personal affirmations in the people in our lives. Pointing our peers and families to the One who holds the keys to life is providing them with a lifelong anchor for their soul.
Summary and Closing
We live in a time of instant criticism or admiration where social media can make or break us in a moment. We will need to learn how to fight for our identities and encourage each other using the devotional power of daily prayer and Scripture to give us added perspective on our value and identity in Christ. The world is restless and unsettled, but we can live with confidence and at peace. We don’t have to be condemned to living stressed out and overwhelmed!
About the Author:
Pastor Brad Mathias is the president of Bema Media and a pastor for over a decade. He and his wife were survivors of a near divorce, and now are actively engaged in public ministry to families and students in crisis. Brad and his wife Paige have been married for over 28 years and are the parents of three adult children and two grandchildren.
His blog Road Trip Parenting.com (WordPress) and book, Roadtrip to Redemption(Tyndale/Momentum) have laid the groundwork for his latest project, a new study on Life and how to navigate the storms we will all face. He is also the Co-Host and Executive producer of “Brilliantly Brave Parenting” the podcast.