“To my daughter I will say: see your beauty without a compliment or a mirror.”
I was once looking for some images on Pinterest and came across a board for baby girl room decor ideas. Then I saw a beautiful frame with the quote above and instantly got teary-eyed. Having a little girl myself, the last thing I would want is for her to feel like she’s not beautiful, but after going through my teenage years, I know she will most likely experience days when she doesn’t feel beautiful — heck, I’m 32 and I still do.
What struck me the most about that quote, though, is that it invites us not to depend on anything or anybody to understand and accept our own beauty. It also implies the parent should be the one teaching the child to do so. As with anything in life, how can someone teach what they don’t know? How could you ever expect your kids to see their beauty and potential, if you haven’t learned to do so yourself?
While I’m sure most of us tell our babies (no matter their age) that we love them countless times throughout their lives, it’s not those three words that make them know it’s true. They learn to believe we have their back by our actions, what we’ve shown them through the years. The same has to be true with self-love.
We all know they’re always watching. They watch what we eat, what we see on TV, the music we listen to and most importantly: what we say to others and to ourselves. Do you remember when they first let that curse word slip out? Oops, who did they get that from? We wonder how in the world out of the thousands of words we say every day, they’d choose to repeat the very one you “accidentally” said that one time you hit your pinky toe on the corner of the coffee table. I can’t be the only one here!
I hope you see where I’m going with this. If they learn life with you, they have to learn love with you and that includes the love they feel for themselves. While you can love them to the moon and back that doesn’t mean they will love themselves the same way, which means the way you feel about yourself teaches them how they should feel about themselves. Have you ever thought of it that way?
I hear lots of moms say they “try” not to talk about feeling ugly, overweight, etc., around their kids — and that is great. But I believe we can go about it in a more specific way because, well, trying just won’t cut it. Think about it: when the doctor says your child needs to eat healthfully, you just “trying” to eat that way around them won’t be the same as you actually eating healthfully and modeling that habit. So, here are a few tips to effectively start modeling self-love to your kids.
- Create the habit of self-love (yourself): if you haven’t even thought about this concept before, this has to be your first step. I would start by investigating what self-love means and what it can mean to you. There are countless books, podcasts and articles about it, but I love the ABC’s of Self Love by Melody Godfred, since it’s a short, easy read with built-in exercises that encourage the self-love practice.
- Keep track of your talk and thoughts: once you’re more aware of what self-love is, you can start paying closer attention to what you’re doing when you’re not making a conscious effort to “say the right things around your children”. Are your thoughts and talk about yourself mostly negative or positive?
- Keep track of their talk: depending on their age, you’ll be able to notice how your children feel about themselves by what they say or even act when it comes to their body image, performance in school, sports, etc. Notice whether there are similarities between how you feel about yourself (or used to).
- Bring it up: again, depending on their age this can be done in different ways, but I notice even with my kids being little and me thinking they won’t understand what I say, they DO listen. Start a conversation about the concept of self-love and see how they respond.
- Implement: after you do your research and start incorporating practices that foster self-love within yourself, pass it on to them. Here are a few exercise ideas from KidHealth.org that can be a good starting point.
I suspect you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed: “Well, great. On top of everything else, now I need to add this to the list?” Here’s the thing: this should be the first item on the list. Without self-esteem you do very little in life and while the goal is to help your child, you can never do that properly if you don’t help yourself. Think oxygen mask on the plane…