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Suicide For All The Wrong Reasons October 17, 2010

Posted by nrhatch in Mindfulness, People.

Wikipedia ~ Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms (in Public Domain)

Lately, we’ve seen a spate of suicides in America:

* young teens killing themselves after being bullied by classmates

* two adults who survived Hell’s Kitchen and later ended it all

* a college freshman who jumped off a bridge after being filmed during a homosexual liaison

In each instance, people rushed to condemn the “bullies of life” for pushing these individuals to the brink of self-destruction.

While I don’t condone bullying (and fervently wish that we would learn to get along and embrace our diversity), there is another common element to these suicides that seems to be overlooked when we rush to place blame on others for “causing” the suicides.

And that is our excessive concern with what others think of us.

We are trained from birth to look outside ourselves for acceptance from our peers.  We are socialized to “dress for success” and buy symbols to signal our “status” to the world.  We judge people based on the cars they drive, the houses they live in, the churches they attend, their sexual preferences, and the clothes they wear . . . and they repay the favor by judging us.

When we accept ourselves “as is,” we are more able to shrug off the irrelevant opinions of others.

Instead of poisoning ourselves by internalizing the hate, ignorance, and fear demonstrated by the bullies of life (who are trying to make themselves “bigger” by making us appear “smaller”), we embrace our individuality.

When we have the courage to swim against the stream of outdated societal expectations and values (whatever they are), we become strong and resilient.  We learn to survive and thrive, instead of tossing in the towel or cashing in our chips when others disagree with our lifestyle, our choices, or our unique point of view.

While these suicides (both adults and children) are tragic, they are also to be expected in a society that virtually mandates that we look to others to determine our self worth.  We are trained to measure our value as human beings by (1) what we have; (2) what we do; and (3) what others think of us.

We need to teach children that their reputation with others is not nearly as important as how they view themselves.  We need to show them by our example that the unsubstantiated, unwarranted, and malicious opinions of  bullies should NOT be the guiding light of their life.

When we learn to shrug off the misguided and narrow-minded opinions of others, we FREE  ourselves to be who we are and let our unique light shine . . . and we become far less likely to commit suicide for “all the wrong reasons.”

Quotes on Individuality: 

What you think of me is none of my business. ~ Wayne Dyer

He who trims himself to suit everyone else will soon whittle himself away.
~ Raymond Hull

Be who you are and say what you mean, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind. ~ Dr. Seuss

You don’t need a permission slip to live your life.

Always remember that you don’t have to be what they want you to be. ~ Mohammad Ali

If you’re already walking on thin ice ~ why not dance?

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.  ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

To be nobody but yourself ~ in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else ~ means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. ~ e.e.cummings

Our infinite worth lies beyond all labels.

Related posts:  We Are Not The Labels We Wear * A Change Would Do You Good * The Surge in Gay Teen Suicide * A Voice of the Bullied (Colline’s Blog)


1. Maggie - October 17, 2010

I agree with what you said here. It’s just that young kids and teenagers may not be emotionally developed enough to realize that what others think of them doesn’t matter. Especially in the preteen years, a lot of a teen’s/child’s self-worth depends upon how they believe they are perceived by their peers. It’s sad that as a society we’ve been conditioned to take what others think of us and our beliefs as Gospel truth. In the case of children/teens, it’s the parents who need to instill their children with a sense of self-worth and self-reliance. I think parents (and perhaps teachers/other mentors) can and should have a louder voice than society when it comes to how their children see themselves and measure their worth.

nrhatch - October 17, 2010

I agree with you, Maggie.

Parents and teachers can and should lead by example. Instead of judging others by the external indicators of success and societal compliance, they can teach the youth of today that the highest value in life is being true to themselves, not conforming to the expectations of others.

After all, that is the HIGHEST compliment that we can pay to our creator . . . to listen to our inner wisdom and be who we are supposed to be.

2. MARLENE LA MURA - October 17, 2010


nrhatch - October 17, 2010

That is an awesome quote!!! I added it to the post.

Thanks, Marlene.

3. Ollin - October 17, 2010


I’m so glad I found you! {Or you found me, not sure which was first, you know how it is in the blogosphere, lol!}

Always inspiring, and insightful please stay that way! 🙂

nrhatch - October 17, 2010


I believe that Alannah (Here Be Dragons) got an award from you (or gave one to you) and I swung around to take a look at your blog and introduced myself.

4. Paula Tohline Calhoun - October 17, 2010

I have tons to say about this post and the relevant issues, but I won’t burden you with it just now. Suffice it to say that you are quite right and also a bit more objective about the issue than I can. I have personal experience with being horribly bullied, and it was long before anyone ever talked about it or discouraged it. However, I can say right along with Mr. Burns, that it does get better, as long as you can stick around long enough to find that out. There is so much more to dealing with the issue of bullying than telling the kids to “buck up, you’re just fine as is, don’t worry, be happy.” (And I know that’s not what you are saying, Nancy – but I’ve heard that sentiment before.)

Thanks for the thoughtful post, and maybe I will blog about it myself later this week – I’ll have to think about it!

Cheers! 😀

nrhatch - October 17, 2010

Definitely give it some thought. I thought about this for days before writing and posting.

And you’re right. I’m not saying to tell kids (as currently socialized) to buck up and deal with it. I’m suggesting that, if we socialized kids differently, they’d be less vulnerable to attack from bullies AND . . . bullies would be less likely to attack in the first place.

If adults stop JUDGING their peers, where would bullies learn the behavior?

Answer: they wouldn’t.

5. cindy - October 17, 2010

A fine post.
As an aside: is suicide becoming more frequent in this day and age; or was it simply covered up by families in the past? I can remember reading obituaries in the newspaper and being a bit mystified by “died peacefully aged 20”.

nrhatch - October 17, 2010

I don’t know. It’s probably difficult to get accurate statistics because of the stigma attached to suicide. I knew several people who committed suicide 30 years ago:

* A college philosophy professor who taught Ethics hung herself mid-semester

* A classmate in law school who joined the JAG corps hung himself shortly thereafter

I’ve also suspected suicide a few times when the stated cause of death of a healthy (but somewhat depressed) individual was “aneurism of the brain.”

6. souldipper - October 17, 2010

You’ve hit the nail on the head, Nancy.

The reason the Virtues Project was begun was to hopefully raise the level of self-esteem so as to “stem the tide” of teen suicide. The program introduces approaches for speaking the language of the virtues and watching for people who are practicing some degree of any virtue. It works, but schools as a whole, are leery of using it because it contains spiritual language. (Not religious, but spiritual. Still…)

nrhatch - October 17, 2010

I’ll have to check out the Virtues Project.

The more adults embrace and accept others, despite diverse and divergent opinions and lifestyles, the more children will emulate our lead.

We are one people.

7. jannatwrites - October 17, 2010

Well said. We do let the world around us dictate our happiness too much. Absolutely love the quotes, too. The first one was my favorite 🙂

nrhatch - October 17, 2010

If you like the Wayne Dyer quote, you might want to click on the link “A Change Would Do You Good.”

It’s a 9 minute segment with him on Ellen all about how the EGO messes with our heads. 🙂

8. Patricia - October 18, 2010

Too true!

Another quote, one of my favorites, I keep it on my refrigerator where all important stuff to remember is kept.

To be nobody but yourself–in a world which is doing its best,night and day, to make you everybody else–means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

nrhatch - October 18, 2010

That is excellent. I have heard it before, not not in ages.

I’m going to add it to the post to highlight it.

Thanks, Patricia.

9. Tammy McLeod - October 18, 2010

Thanks for writing about this. It’s deeply troubling to me and I can only imagine what the families of these individuals must be going through. It’s not just young people who struggle with this “fitting in”. I see it in adults too and I see adults set up others to feel that way. Did you ever read Tuesdays with Morrie? I love the way he danced and didn’t care.

nrhatch - October 18, 2010


We struggle to fit in . . . and our children watch that and SEE how important it is to “conform.” Then, they emulate our lead.

And in this day of name brands, and granite countertops, and other visible symbols of status, it is easier than ever to feel bad about ourselves for not being like everyone else.

If adults change their habits, children will follow . . . and some won’t learn bad habits to begin with.

10. andalibmarks - October 18, 2010

Another thought provoking piece Nancy.
However, I don’t fully agree with you.
Not all suicides are because of bullying or feelings of low self worth because of societies views on us as individuals. I’m not saying that you said that they all were but you didn’t exclude it that way either.
I tried to commit suicide and you know that it had absolutely nothing to do with bullying, low self worth or anything like that.
I tried to kill myslef (and thankfully failed) because I was so unbelievably sad, hurt and felt alone after my husband died. I felt that death was an option – a good one in fact.
It was never about having a low self esteem or that I was being bullied into conforming to society’s view of me.
For many people, suicide is an escape. An escape from pain, heartache, fear – guilt. I know that’s how I felt when I made the choice to try and end it all.
There might be others out there who feel / felt the same way.

nrhatch - October 18, 2010

You’re right.

This post is aimed at the recent suicides where society rushed to place the blame on the “bullies of the world” for “causing” the suicides . . . instead of taking a good long look in the mirror to see why bullies and “victims” exist in the first place.

Your situation is different, but also has parallels:

(1) Suicide as an escape from pain, heartache, fear, and guilt. Those are probably feelings and emotions shared with each of the individuals above.

(2) “It does get better” applies. Anytime it’s a temporary situation, a permanent solution is not always the right choice, as you have discovered first hand over time.

BTW: I’m glad you’re still here! 🙂

In contrast, someone who has a fatal illness, no quality of life, and is in constant physical pain may also choose suicide as escape, but in their case it’s NOT going to get better. It’s going to get worse.

They are choosing a permanent solution to a permanent problem, and I believe that society should assist them if they want to die.

11. andalibmarks - October 18, 2010

Thanks for saying that you’re glad I’m still here. I am too!!
I agree with you on all other points that you have listed.
I just wanted to mention that it isn’t always about society’s views or bullying.
Still think this is a great post Nancy.
A real eye opener.


nrhatch - October 18, 2010

There is much, much more to be said about personal suffering and suicide, but I try to keep most of my posts to 500 words or less.

I restrict the scope of each post and (try to) stay on topic . . . allowing the comments I receive to fertilize ideas for future post.

Thanks for the fertilizer! And thanks for being here and being YOU.

12. healing4tomorrow - October 18, 2010

I loved in CWG book 3 when NDW wrote “So long as you are still worried about what others think of you, you are owned by them. Only when you require no approval from outside can you own yourself.” Good post Nancy.

nrhatch - October 18, 2010

That’s a wonderful quote.

When we focus on our reputation with others, we are not FREE to be ourselves.

We have as many reputations as we have acquaintances. And none is accurate.

But what’s CWG and who is NDW?

nrhatch - October 18, 2010

Got it ~ Conversations with God and Neale Donald Walsch.

healing4tomorrow - October 18, 2010

Love what you wrote here. If we could only understand that we are all individuals and how beautiful that is.

nrhatch - October 18, 2010

Maybe we need to fly tandem before we can learn to fly solo?

Life would be easier if we taught basic spiritual practices in school . . . like meditation to calm the mind and access the true self. 🙂

13. sparksinshadow - June 8, 2011

I finally went ahead and clicked the link you left to this post at another site. I hear what you’ve said here, and I understand what you and your commenters have said. And I think I’ve ticked off a person or two myself when I’ve tried to focus on societal issues that I think a more positive attitude would benefit, but I’ve had to listen to what others had to say, even if it felt sad or I just didn’t agree. And it’s the listening and then pondering what we’ve heard that stretches our view and helps us in the quest to come together as a society sooner, rather than later– or never. So I hope you can hear what I have to say, too.

I’m just tired of the positive focus leaving out the part where we, as individuals, figure how to get to okay, or even happy inside the lonely madness around us. I keep remembering my young daughter’s face as she cried years ago, when neither of us could imagine five and six year olds excluding another child because saying, “Hello, how are you? Would you like to play together today?” was thought of as “weird.”

It’s still hard for me, and for others who try to be kind and open, to find ourselves emotionally isolated. Excluding the cases of painful fatal illness that were previously discussed here (which I personally agree about) I find that when I listen hard, it’s more the isolation (because we are very social animals and need the company of others) that causes the pain that leads to suicide. And if we continue to believe that the isolation is only because “they” exclude us and we care too much about it, we’re missing a larger picture. Exclusion also comes from many of the so-called enlightened circles, too. And we have to understand that the physical search for like-minded folk is greatly hampered for the financially poor. Their severely limited ways of searching for brotherhood or friendship, much less understanding, in these terrible economic times, creates emotional weariness, as well as painful isolation.

I don’t have definitive answers, but I don’t think we find them without hearing the painful truths of a wide variety of lives. It’s not enough to just know that we have to stop being affected by the opinions of those who are only interested in inflicting unwarranted judgements, or just cruelty for its own sake. HOW we weld this understanding to the core of who we are, has almost as many answers as there are people who live. I believe it’s the active listening by those who care, that gives us the surest foundation for change. Not simple pronouncements about how we SHOULD behave and SHOULD feel.

nrhatch - June 8, 2011

Thanks for sharing.

I don’t think that I set forth a simple pronouncement about how we SHOULD behave and SHOULD feel . . . other than to say we should BE ourselves.

When we know WHO we are . . . we know HOW to live. When we stop looking to others for approval, when we stop comparing ourselves with others, we are FREE to BE who we were always intended to be.

sparksinshadow - June 8, 2011

Thanks for your reply. I can tell that you have given these points a lot of thought and that they work well for you in your own life. I just don’t hear empathy in your words, and that’s what makes your points sound more like pronouncements.

I think empathy is sorely missing in many philosophical discussions. And I also understand from painful personal experience, that there are many people with specific physical conditions that make them incapable of showing, or understanding the importance to relationships, of showing empathy. That is a fact that society has to understand, but it doesn’t make empathy any less unimportant for society as a whole.

No one should ever have to seek approval from, or compare themselves to others, but many of us who need to find employment have discovered that it is who we are perceived to be, that seals our fate in that arena. A huge part of my life struggle at the moment, is in reconciling these two opposite realities in a way that can honor who I truly am; and the specific philosophy you mention here does nothing to acknowledge or address the pain and struggle in that. I think the support of empathy and more discussions about how we use it, are a key factor in bringing about societal change.

nrhatch - June 8, 2011

I find it interesting that you are “judging” me as lacking in empathy based on a single post out of more than 1300 posts.

I have a great deal of compassion for the suffering that people deal with in life . . . especially unnecessary suffering of their own creation.

My focus on SLTW is to give people tips and techniques to become more mindful of how they add to their own suffering ~ for example, by trying to change others rather than changing themselves.

14. sparksinshadow - June 8, 2011

I’m sorry that I wasn’t clear. As much as you say I have misunderstood your meaning, you have misunderstood mine. I thought that I, along with others, was invited here to your blog, and it was my belief that the essence of both our meanings in this conversation, came under the heading of communication, not imposed judgements. I’m sorry that my expression of pain feels like judgement to you. That’s probably proof that I need more practice as a compassionate writer. I will work on that because my writing is very important to me. I’ll stop bothering you while I continue my personal struggles with life. Thank you for giving me the chance to attempt to share my ideas here.

nrhatch - June 8, 2011

An excerpt from This, That, and The Other Thing:

If you want to be calm, BE CALM. Don’t point to someone else and say, “I was calm until they said THAT, and THAT got me upset. When people say THAT, I can’t be calm.”

Of course you can.

You just perceive a greater benefit from being upset about THIS and worked up about THAT than from being calm at the moment.

Getting all lathered up about THIS until you’re foaming at the mouth about THAT garners attention. And what do our Egos love? Attention.

When you get worked up about THIS, THAT, and THE OTHER THING, you’ve decided to trade your peace of mind for attention getting.

Your life. Your choice.

If you want to be calm . . . BE CALM.


An excerpt from We Can Choose Not To Be Offended:

We cannot control others.

We can control how we choose to view them . . . with anger or compassion, with amused detachment or frustration.

We can choose NOT to be offended.

Learning to manage our thoughts, feelings, and emotions can be difficult, but it’s worth it . . . after all, our freedom is at stake.


15. Equality does not mean sameness | Love versus Goliath : A Partner Visa Journey - March 30, 2012

[…] my recent article Bullying isn’t cool, Nancy of Spirit Lights The Way commented: When we accept ourselves “as is,” we are more able to shrug off the irrelevant […]

16. Colline - March 4, 2013

I agree with what you say here whole-heartedly! It seems so easy to blame the bully doesn’t it? The bullying may have played a role in the desire to commit suicide, but there may be many other factors that would have contributed.

nrhatch - March 4, 2013

I’ve been enjoying the comments on your most recent post, Colleen. When we set aside the label of “victim” . . . bullies have far less hold over our emotions.

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