During the first week of Dynamics of Human Relationships, we spent a lot of time learning about self-esteem, self-concept, and how the two factor into healthy relationships. We took a closer look at how our self-esteem can play a role in what we post on our social media accounts, as well as how our self confidence impacts how we interpret what we see online. During these lessons, we had many open discussions in which students shared some factors that influence their self-perceptions. Students shared stories from the past and present, disclosing incidents of bullying, social trends, and online activity. One student shared of an incident dating back to grade 4 and detailed how she still carries the hurtful comments from almost a decade ago. In order to show the lasting impact of hurtful comments and negative self talk, we participated in a class activity.
We started the activity by each taking one crisp, clean, blank sheet of paper. We then took turns “bullying” and talking negatively to our paper, crumpling the paper with each hurtful comment. We heard comments such as “you will never find love”, “you are worthless”, “you are dirty” and “you are weak”. We stopped bullying our pieces of paper once we had them crumpled up into small balls. We then took it in turns to apologize to the piece of paper for what we had said and tried to flatten the paper back out with each apology. We ended up with creased, ripped, holey and damaged pieces of paper. Despite how much we apologized, we could not fully erase the damage that we had done.
The students seemed to connect with this activity and appreciate the visual aid of irreparable damage. Not only is this an important lesson for when we’re talking to and about others, but it’s also important to recognize that the effects of negative self-talk can be just as long lasting and influential to our self-esteem.