By Emily Coldwell
One of the integral pieces to our camp agreements is to stop putting ourselves and others down. This can be an extremely challenging piece for youth and adults alike. We are told at an early age that self-praise and self-love comes off as being full of ourselves or that it is otherwise wrong to think that way of ourselves.
At camp we examine where self-criticism comes from, and why it is so difficult to simply state things in a more positive way. Some put downs of self come from long-held beliefs about ourselves, some come from an internalized comment from an old teacher, boss, or parent, some come from advertisements, some come from society or government.
Putting others down tends to be pretty easy to quit, as we know that it can be hurtful to hear someone speaking poorly of you. But putting ourselves down becomes so ingrained and so habitual that it often happens without your even noticing. At camp we do our best to point out when someone is putting themselves down, and give them an opportunity to rephrase in a more positive way. “I’m not good at drawing.” Becomes, “I’d like to practise drawing more so that I feel proud of my art.”.
Negative self-talk surrounding appearance can be some of the most difficult to unlearn. Instead of focusing on something you dislike in your appearance, you can turn a self put down into an appreciation of what your body is doing for you in any given moment. “I look fat.” could be “I really appreciate that my body is able to keep me warm.”
As we progress throughout our week at camp, youth and facilitators help each other to notice self put downs and we work on rephrasing our thoughts so we can have a healthier relationship to ourselves.
Practicing this agreement has truly changed the way I live my life. The act of noticing when I am putting myself down allows me to stop negative self talk in its tracks. Personally, I feel I am able to take note of advertisements or social norms that are intended to make me feel as though I am not enough, and am able to separate the message from my own ideas of self worth.
I invite you to try to become aware of the moments in which you are putting yourself down – how might you rephrase? Where did that negative self-belief come from? How can you begin to form a closer connection to yourself and others by stopping put downs of self and others? Over time you will find that it becomes habitual, and that freedom opens up when you give yourself the room to not be perfect at each thing you try.
“I loved how inclusive, loving and focused on self-growth this program was.” – Evelyn
“POH is the most amazing place for a youth to feel comfortable as themselves and find their true interests.” – Ben