ifIknew is a health initiative for young adults that uses a multi media approach, including social media and in person programs, to address the contemporary issues that impact the well-being, self-image, careers, and relationships of people in their 20's and 30's.

If I Knew is a prevention education project that raises awareness about risky behaviors that can profoundly impact lives.

Filtering by Tag: selfesteem

No one has their life totally together in their 20s - even if their Instagram tells you differently.

Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to have everything together in our 20s? Where does that pressure come from and why do we care so much what other people think? I was talking to my family recently about attending high school reunions and my dad, who graduated high school in the 1960s, commented on how he didn't even bother to go to his 5th or 10th year high school reunion; he had noticed at that point in everyone’s lives that people were still trying to impress each other and it wasn't relaxing or fun. He said that the first reunion he wanted to go to was his 20th high school reunion because by then, when most people were older, they were more open to being honest about where they were and what was going on in their lives. Why was that? How come we feel pressure to live up to an idealized version of ourselves in our 20s and 30s? How come we care less when we are older? Is it because we have a lot more exposed vulnerabilities when we’re younger and are still trying to figure out where we want to live, what work we feel moved do in life, and who we want to spend our time with? While speaking with a fellow millennial, Casey, age 25, said, “I believe that we feel more vulnerable in our 20s about sharing where we are in life. We want to look like we have everything together. I even struggle with going back to high school to visit my teachers. I have this completely unrealistic idea of what I want them to see me doing and I am fearful that they will not be proud of me with anything less than that. I know it is ridiculous. It feels like there is so much pressure we put on ourselves that no one else puts on us.” After talking to a few other millennials, I started to wonder if we put pressure on each other partially because of social media.

Tommy, age 23, said, “Social media is like our new makeup. It’s the greatest way to hide pimples, life struggles, and hardships. Instead of showing people what is really going on, we just post cute pictures on Instagram of ourselves on the beach or at a restaurant eating our favorite meal. When I see other people on social media look like they have their life more together than I do, I feel like I have to compete with them.”

The truth is that we are the ones who put the most pressure on ourselves to live up to our own unrealistic expectations. The only thing that ultimately benefits you is being honest with yourself and others about where you are in life. Unrealistic expectations are a distraction from actually experiencing your life. Leave those expectations with your younger self and accept that, while it’s really great if you’re doing something cool, you don’t have to freak out if you aren’t. Cool stuff will happen as time goes on and you don’t need to make stuff up to be the type of person you want to be.

We mistake mistakes for failure

You and I both know nobody’s perfect. How many times have we heard that? The idea has been drilled into our heads since we arrived here on Earth. As kids, we’re told that making mistakes is necessary for personal growth and learning, it’s the thought that counts, “A” for effort, Blah, Blah, Blah.  This is all well and good, but despite all these truisms, the reality is that it isn’t merely our effort that’s valued but rather, a perfect result. What’s up with that?!  Not only is this message extremely confusing, but the drive for perfection can be very damaging.

We’re naturally inclined to favor information that confirms our beliefs and ignore information that challenges them. But when we’re unsure what to think, many of us keep quiet rather than risk asking a stupid question. This can lead to blindly believing information that may be limited and unreliable.

We place more importance on intelligence than on learning. Children receive good grades in school for getting the right answers- not necessarily for learning or improvement. And in the professional world, employees are punished for errors.  So naturally, this creates anxiety, which causes us to avoid taking a risk that may lead to failure, which means avoiding things like innovation and creativity, which is exactly what people expect of others.

So where does this leave us? We’re all trained to avoid mistakes, and then we become scornful toward others who make mistakes. We therefore perpetuate this faulty cycle of mistake-making logic. And THAT makes us all guilty of making a mistake one way or another… shoot.

Q&A: “I’m in a rough middle school, do you know anything that can stop the harassment some of us get for being different than what goes for “cool” around here?"

It is really hard to feel like you are being singled out and picked on.  I think we’ve all been there. But it can help to remember that you actually aren’t out there alone. We need to ask ourselves,  “Realistically, how many bullies are there compared to the number of us who are either the targets or the bystanders?  Don’t you think the rest of us outnumber bullies?  So why do they have all of the power?  It’s time to take our power back. Rosalind Wiseman (author of Queen Bees and Wanabees, which was the inspiration for the movie “Mean Girls”), gives us a great tool to stand up for ourselves called SEAL.  Check it out. Even if you only do one of these steps, you’re successful.  It doesn’t mean that everything is going to magically get better, but if we don’t start standing up to bullies in smart ways, then they win all the time.

In a recent video on her site, Rosalind Wiseman said that the when a bullies choose their actions they have to be willing to take the consequences.  In other words, “choose your actions, choose your consequences.” The same is true for us. What are the consequences of our not standing up for ourselves?  The answer seems pretty obvious, the bullying will probably continue.  So, what might be the consequences when we DO stand up for ourselves?  Well, it could very well stop the bullying or it is possible it may not change their mean behavior at all.  But either way, you’ve done something.  You weren’t the silent victim giving the message that it is okay to treat me this way. Standing up will make you feel better and stronger, giving yourself the respect you deserve.

Finally, don’t suffer alone.  It’s always good to tell others, especially an adult, and it doesn’t have to be your parents.  It can be a counselor, teacher, sister, aunt.  Let them help you decide whether or not to talk to someone in authority at your school.  Telling is not snitching – it’s part of standing up for yourself and for all those other people who are targets.

A group of Windsor Mill Middle School kids put together the video “Stress & Drama” which looks at one of the thousands of situations out there.

Q & A: “Why do people even do drugs or drink at all?”

That’s a great question!  A few reasons: wanting to blow off steam, a way to have fun, wanting to fit in, low self-esteem, boredom, and trying to run from feelings. People want to be accepted – but by whom?  People from high school whom you may never see again after graduation?  (Click here to see what was going on in high school for one our speakers, Francine, when she started using drugs to feel better about her social situation at school. Why fit in when you were born to stand out?  On one level, people are people.  We all go to the bathroom.  We all put on our pants one leg at a time.  We tend to get in trouble when we think we are better or less than others.

How can we tackle fitting in, boredom, self-esteem and feelings?  There are three things we need to help us, according to bloggers from the Search Institute:  We all need a mentor, a passion, and a voice. Mentors, or allies, are people who are good listeners.  They can see situations as they are a little more clearly than we can.  They will also like us enough to tell us the truth if we get off center.

If you don’t want to be bored, find something that you love to do (your passion).  It could be computers, fantasy games, art, music, sports, dancing, or writing, to name a few.  When you do what you love, you’ll find people that you like and who share similar interests – and you’ll fit in!

Finally, take your passion and share it with the world.  We all need to have our voice heard.  Let’s say your passion is the guitar.  You can join a band, play at a senior center, or post on YouTube.

Another good tip is to have a goal in mind.  What do you want to be when you grow up?  How will your choice to do alcohol or drugs affect that goal?

To help you with your decision not to get chemically high, but to be in social situations where others are, here are some tips.  Rehearse what you will say before you go to a party where there might be drinking (or drugs).   Just saying “No, thanks. I’m good,” should be enough.   You could also try blaming your parents - “They’d kill me if they found out” or an upcoming ‘drug test’.  Remember, it is a free country to choose to leave or to stay and stay straight and not have to do what everyone else might be doing around you.  For more tips on staying ‘above the influence’, click here.

The Power of Words

Words can hurt and words can heal.  Most of us have felt the sting of a cruel joke or felt humiliated by teasing.  Bullies seem to know just the right buttons to push and the hurt can last long after the abuse has ended. Once a thick-skinned kid who couldn’t care less what other people thought of me, when middle school started I began to feel a little unsure of myself. I was definitely an easy target – dorky (the first of my peers to get glasses!), clumsy, overweight, and with a mouth full of braces.

Bullies take advantage of a person’s insecurities. In my case, they called me names like “stupid,” “ugly” and “fat.” I tried my best to convince myself that no amount of teasing could ever get to me, reminding myself that “sticks and stones could break my bones, but words could never hurt me.” But unfortunately, this is far from the truth.  Verbal insults make you doubt yourself and your abilities. I became terrified that my personality and physique were inherently flawed. My confidence sank and school became an increasingly poisonous environment. My desperate desire to be accepted led me to become preoccupied with popularity. I went on crash diets in the hope that being skinny would make the teasing stop and begged my parents to buy me expensive clothing so I would look cooler. Even after the bullies matured and the teasing had stopped, I continued to feel self conscious, powerless, and depressed.

It was the kind words of friends and family that helped me overcome these emotional damages. My friends reminded me that I am lovable, friendly and intelligent. Their carefully chosen, supportive words of encouragement made me feel confident and strong. With their support, I was able to pick up the broken pieces and leave that part of my life behind.

My middle school experience taught me firsthand about the power words can have both to destroy and to heal. Words can be the most powerful of weapons and we should all be careful not to misuse the influence that they can have. Even name calling as a joke can be extremely hurtful. Let’s all be mindful of the words we use because we can never underestimate the impact that they might have on other people.

How did (or does) middle school experience affect your self esteem? Did it build you up as a person or hurt you? Write us your comment- we are curious about what your experience was like.

Benefits of Volunteering

Bored yet? One gratifying way to spend your time while school’s out is to volunteer. When you use your skills to benefit the world around you, you are bound to experience personal satisfaction and fulfillment. Devoting some of your down time to volunteerism also helps build long-term confidence and self-esteem. And just a couple of hours can make a huge difference in the life of someone in need! Volunteering can be a ton of fun when approached with a positive attitude. You can recruit your friends to help raise money by walking as a team for local fundraisers such as AIDS Walk - Baltimore,  Autism Speaks, or the Baltimore Walk for Lupus. Or you can make new friends by volunteering at a school or retirement home. You can even plan a blow-out party to raise money and awareness for an organization that addresses a specific need in your community. The possibilities are endless!

Volunteering is also a great way to develop new skills and explore new interests. At school or at work, we are often limited by specific required assignments. Volunteering can be a great opportunity to use your mind, body and creativity to escape the everyday routine and create balance in your life. You might discover that you have a pristine color sense when you help to paint a community mural. Or you can explore your love of cooking while baking delicious dishes during an afternoon at a soup kitchen.

The life experiences and skill sets that are picked up from volunteering also look great on resumes! Whether you are helping to build homes or raising awareness through a local charity, volunteering teaches hands-on skills that can be applied to many professional settings. According to one survey of the 200 top businesses in the UK, 73% of employers said that they would hire an applicant with volunteer experience over an applicant without volunteer experience. Additionally, 94% of employees who volunteered said that volunteer experience had benefited them either by helping them get their first job, improving their salary, or being promoted. (World Volunteer Web, “Benefits of Volunteering”)

You can find out about volunteer activities by calling or emailing your local community association or a non-profit organization that addresses an issue you are concerned about.  Many high schools and colleges also post lists of volunteer opportunities for interested community members.

Helpful links in Baltimore: http://www.jcsbaltimore.org/volunteer http://www.associated.org/page.aspx?id=239319 http://jvcbaltimore.org/