I am very aware that many of the self-esteem issues that hamper me as an adult were established in some way, shape or form during childhood. The more I have realised this, the greater awareness I have when it comes to communicating with my children. I would like to help them establish a healthy relationship with themselves, and with others, so that they can grow to be self-assured, self-compassionate adults.
To aid this, my husband and I have introduced some questions which we ask the children to get them thinking about the right things. We regularly ask them what they are grateful for, what has made them proud today and what they have done to help others. This weekend we asked them what they liked about themselves. My daughter, a mini Empath, had no trouble telling us that she likes the fact she has a kind heart. She also said she has big, beautiful eyes that can win over her Daddy. Both completely true.
My son, aged ten, thought hard for a few moments, one of those screw your face up type thinking sessions which was clearly taxing for him. He then announced he didn’t like anything about himself. As the Mummy of this beautiful boy, I sat with my heart hurting wanting to blurt out all the things that I believed were wonderful about him. I refrained, knowing this would not help. Often, in a situation were you can’t see what’s in front of you, having other people describe it is not helpful. Instead, I asked him to have another think. There must be something he liked. But, NO, Nothing.
I am fortunate to have a husband who isn’t led by his ego and has a huge degree of humility, a rarity in a man of 45. I know that this means he would equally struggle to answer the ‘What do you like about yourself’ question. I also know from running the Facebook community, A Big Girl’s Journey to Lean, that whenever we have a theme asking people to post their three most positive attributes, nine times out of ten the posts start with ‘I have found this really hard’. Why is it hard? Is it humility that holds us back as in the case of my husband or is it actually self-loathing? Or perhaps it’s a murky mixture of the two?
Why is it so difficult for us to celebrate how amazing we are? Or even give ourselves a little nod of approval?
If the meaning of self-loathing is to feel worthless, vile and hate oneself, is this really where we want to be? It doesn’t sound like a fun place to hang out does it?
Would we want our best friends or loved ones to feel this way? Of course not!
So why do we think it’s ok for us to feel self-loathing? And why is doing the opposite; feeling like we are enough, practicing self-love and feeling awesome about who we are, such a tall order for some of us? or something that makes us enter ‘screwed up thinking really hard face’ territory.
I re-visited the question with my son the next evening. He again insisted that he didn’t like anything about himself and so I asked him the question in a different way. I asked, ‘if you don’t like anything at all, but you had to keep 5 bits, what would you keep’. For some reason he felt better able to answer the question when it was posed this way. He proceeded, very quickly and without a screwed up face, to tell me the things about himself he would keep and why…… and the whys were just wonderful. He said he would keep his brain because it was full of wacky inventions that will save the planet! And he would keep his skin because it went a lovely colour in the sunshine. For a little boy who didn’t like anything 24 hours previously, this was ground-breaking self-love stuff!
He then told me the thing he definitely didn’t want to keep and we established there was one thing he really didn’t like about himself which had clearly clouded the way he felt about himself overall. Through creating the list he was able to see that there are many amazing things he liked about himself and ultimately just one thing that he wasn’t so keen on. Overall, this one thing was a small part of a whole. We used a pie chart to show what a small piece of the pie it was.
It was clear that in the case of my son, it wasn’t over-played humility but was actually about a form of self-loathing that had become distorted. By the end of the conversation, looking at the pie, he had a gentle air of self-confidence due to identifying so many things about himself that he could celebrate.
So could this apply to you? Are you overly-humble and therefore unfamiliar with self-promotion. Or are you letting one aspect of who you are cloud the opinion of your whole-self. It might be the size of your thighs, your nose, a wonky tooth or a mole. Do you loathe this one thing so much it consumes all of the positives to the point you can’t see them? If so, try doing the ‘if you had to keep 5 things about you, what would they be and why’ exercise. And then do the ‘if you could get rid of one thing what would it be’.
Once you identify the one thing, develop an affirmation to help you think more positively about it. If you believe you hate your cellulite, practice saying ‘I have lovely smooth toned skin on my thighs’. And in conjunction with positive affirmation about the thing you don’t like, focus daily on the five things you found that you do like. Positive reinforcement is the key to developing a firm sense of self-love.
If you think it’s humility that’s holding you back, push yourself to do the same exercise, after-all, those who have high levels of humility are very open to self-development and so this can be used as a learning opportunity.
We are incredible, complex, beautiful beings with so many skills, talents and attributes to be proud of. Go in search of yours and start celebrating what makes you Enough.
My book, Enough, is available now for Kindle Edition pre-order. The paperbacks will be released later in June.
Visit my webpage here http://www.abiggirlsjourneytolean.co.uk