The 16-24 age group are most likely to be affected by abuse in relationships – affecting the way young people view themselves and their future relationships. Our Ambassador, Bishop Rachel Treweek of Gloucester, is passionate about seeing young people firm in their identity in Christ rather than from the many global influences such as social media. When self-esteem is low, the chances of entering into an abuse relationship can be higher. During the 16 Days of Action, why not talk to a young person about where their value truly lies?
16 Days of Activism, by Bishop Rachel Treweek
In 2016 the Children’s Society ‘Good Childhood Report’ highlighted that 1 in 7 girls aged 10 to 15 were unhappy with their lives, and that more than one third of girls were unhappy with their appearance. These statistics were supported by the Girlguiding Girls’ Attitudes Survey 2016 with both reports identifying that this was one of the underlying cause of low self-esteem and poor mental health.
The reality that in today’s world many young people are sourcing their identities from social media and advertising has caused me great concern, and so in these 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence (25 November - 10 December) it seems appropriate to highlight this issue. We know that young people having negative thoughts about how they look can impact on their entire life.
In October 2016 I launched a social media campaign #Liedentity with pupils from a local school. Since then the #Liedentity campaign has focused around engagement with children and young people in schools and colleges to combat the lie that human worth is rooted in visual appearance.
This has given me great opportunity to speak with young people about my own identity in Christ and my desire for every person to discover their worth and potential and to go on becoming who they have been created to be as a unique individual created in the image of God.
The statistics in the most recent Good Childhood Report (Children’s Society 2018) imply that approximately 1 in 4 girls aged 14 may have self-harmed. Yet again this underlines that low self-esteem in many young people is a major issue in our society.
Yet all of this is not simply about the identity of the individual. This is about how people discover their identity in relationship with others because relationship is at the heart of what it means to be human. We have been created to live in good relationship with God, fellow human beings and the created world.
When Jesus Christ was on earth he was once asked about which of the commandments is the greatest. Jesus replied “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” And he went on to say that the second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22: 36-40). How we value ourselves affects how we enter into relationship with our neighbour. When self-esteem is low there is strong likelihood of entering into an unhealthy and even abusive relationship. The desire to be accepted and loved is seemingly met in the choice of another person actively entering into an intimate relationship, irrespective of the power difference and the motivations for that relationship.
I hope that in some way the #Liedentity campaign will contribute to young people exploring who they are as unique individuals so that they are equipped to form healthy relationships as they move into adulthood.
One of the most poignant aspects of my #Liedentity sessions in schools has been when the young people have identified specific characteristics in those adults they have named as people they admire, before then spending time in conversation with their peers naming what they value in one another. This rarely has anything to do with physical appearance, and I have watched the young people visibly moved by hearing their peers speak about them as unique individuals living in relationship with one another.
During these 16 days one of the active things we can all do is to talk with a young person we know about what we value in them and encourage them to have similar conversations with their friends. All of this will kindle healthy relationship both in the present and for the future.
The Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, Bishop of Gloucester, is an Ambassador for Restored. She was the first female Bishop to sit in the House of Lords. Bishop Rachel is married to Guy, who was a vicar in the City of London until their move to Gloucester. Together they enjoy walking and canoeing.