Our Daughter's Reality Show: We Should all tune in!
What do reality shows and real life have in common? More than we would like to admit, right? We watch them with judgement and contempt. However, secretly the emotions and overall drama resonates with us somewhere deep down inside. It’s like driving by a car accident. We try to avoid catching a glimpse, but our curiosity gets the best of us. Somehow, our attraction to another’s reality, provides us with either comfort or concern. We immediately begin to assess, compare and search for relevancy in our own lives. We are comforted, when, in comparison, we perceive ourselves as better off than someone else. We show concern, when our reality appears lame in comparison and jealousy and insecurity surfaces. This is what today’s generation is faced with…comparisons in consequence of reality television and the digital world in which they live.
Our daughters are exposed to over 500 advertisements in the course of a day, and by the time they are 18 years old, they have received over 250,000 commercial messages through media images. According to the report by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit focused on helping children, parents and educators navigate the world of media and technology, on any given day, teens in the United States spend about nine hours using media for their enjoyment. These facts are alarming and are unquestionably changing the culture in which we live.
It is no wonder our daughters are sleeping less, comparing and scrutinizing themselves more and experiencing a heightened sense of shame and vulnerability. One of the most popular reality shows of today focuses on outer beauty, gossip, competition and betrayal. How can this not heighten insecurity? Girls are invited to openly compete for a bachelors love and affection which is then manipulated by producers and broadcast to millions of viewers (On average 6.7 million viewers per episode watched by predominantly young women who range in age from 16-49). In this reality show, young women are chosen as contestants based on their appearance. These women are also chosen to fulfill “rating rolls”. That is to say, a cast of character traits dictate who will and who will not make the cut. Interestingly, contestants who share their vulnerability openly, win over the support of the majority of viewers. And conversely, the producers ‘handpicked power players’ who assume the role of strong, driven and confident women are viewed as egotistical and self-centered. Often times, these contestants are given a higher percentage of air time to wield drama and manipulate the bachelors precious time. This creates a biased perception that strong and independent women aren’t to be trusted or endeared. The viewer is then drawn to support the underdog. Our daughters begin to resonate with the vulnerable contestant and vilify the strong contestant. In reality, we strive to raise our daughters to be strong and confident. When they are constantly exposed to negative messages around these traits, it makes perfect sense that they camouflage them so are not perceived as a threat therefore disliked.
Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook states, “I’m leaning in because I want my daughter to have the choice not just to succeed, but be liked for her accomplishments.” We must work to expose our daughters to powerful role models, to desensitize their insecurities around strength and influence.
Back to Reality…Real Life
It is difficult for today’s parent to fully understand the culture in which our daughters are growing up in. When we were their age, technology didn’t exist, home computers had barely been invented. Imagine that? Therefore, we don’t have a reference point in our own personal experience of the challenges they face. Technology is here to stay and is ever changing. We must not denigrate it. Rather take the time to understand it so that we can help our daughters navigate its usage and develop awareness around its pro’s and con’s. It’s important that we guide them and open up the lines of communication fostering greater perspective and insight.
We must help our daughters discover themselves rather than lose themselves through comparisons and peer pressure heightened by technology’s overuse. Consciously stepping away from “reality media”, technology and social media images will help them gain personal insight, a healthy perspective and boost their self-esteem. It is important that they pursue hobbies and interests that foster personal growth rather than mindlessly scrolling through or tuning into contrived images.
Self-Awareness and Self-Love
How do we help our daughters “tune into” their own reality show? As difficult as it seems, in today’s culture, we must help them discover self-awareness.
*Key questions that help increase self-awareness in our daughters:
1. What are your five greatest strengths? Are you using all five of your strengths in your life today?
If so, when?
If not, why not?
2. What period of time in your life have you enjoyed the most? What was it about that time that you enjoyed the most?
3. What period of time in your life did you like the least? What was it about that time that you disliked so much?
4. Who is the person that you most admire? What five characteristics do they possess that you admire? Do you have any of those characteristics?
5. What are the top three activities that you love to do? How often do you do them?
If you would like to do them more often, what is stopping you? What specific changes would you need to make in order to engage in these activities more frequently?
6. What are three things you believe you need in order to have a great life? Why are those three things significant to you? Do you believe you can have those three things now? Why or why not?
7. What qualities do you dislike in others? Which of those qualities do you yourself have?Do you judge yourself for having those qualities?
8. What qualities do you envy in others? Why do you want to have those qualities?What specific difference would it make to your life?
9. What kind of impression do you try to make on others?What specific things do you say or do to make this impression?
10. Is there a general theme, based on your answers? If so, what would that theme be?
Curiosity and conversation can assist you in cultivating self-awareness in your daughter. Understanding and truly knowing ourselves through our reality is the key to confidence, courage and ultimately self-acceptance. The road to self-acceptance is mired by today’s technology. We must teach our daughters to forget about how it may appear or what other people think and encourage them to pursue their own dream. It is difficult for them to uncover their dream when they are stuck in comparison and focus on other people’s behavior. To be yourself and love yourself you must listen to yourself. Paying attention, on purpose, moment by moment without judgment is how we “tune in to” happiness.
Megan Murphy, CPC, ELI-MP