Over the last few months I’ve heard more and more friends and family members telling me I talk myself down too much. They say I’m too harsh about myself and am nothing like the person I seem to think I am. Sadly it was a critique about the things I say about myself and the alarming frequency I say them.
I don’t know when it started. I guess I wasn’t a pretty child and people made fun of me for being so dark. I also went through puberty at a really young age, way before sex education was taught and so I didn’t develop a particularly positive self-image, being different from all my friends and not understanding why.
I say these things because I’ve noticed my daughter putting herself down lately. At 2.5 years old I’ve started to hear her say she’s not pretty and she’s not the cutie pie I’ve labelled her. The first time I heard her put herself down, it broke my heart. I tried to convince her she was every bit as perfect as I told her and believed she was. However she just got mad and defensive and shouted me down. Any further attempts to calm her down led to tears.
Where was this self-deprecating attitude coming from I wondered? But I needn’t have looked very far. I sat down after she’d gone to bed and began to wonder at what point my poor self-image had started to rub off on her. To her entire family she is ‘The’ most perfect creature God has ever created. She has a kind heart, an infectious laugh and a beauty as unique and mesmerizing as she is. I began to realise just how much of the world she sees through me; how her perceptions are being formed by the attitudes I display around her. We share this really special bond where I can tell what’s in her heart by just spending one on one time with her. When I’m unwell she’s subdued and reflective and when I am well she’s excitable and adventurous. We have the bond that is sometimes crippling where we can’t bear to be apart from one another for too long at any one time.
She must see in me the fears and self doubts I harbour about myself. She must feel a similar sadness when around me while I’m putting myself down for being the wrong shape, not being worthy of good friendships and ultimately, the one I’m most embarrassed by, not being someone anyone could truly love.
My daughter’s behaviour has a lot to do with the way I behave around her and the realisation to me that she is growing up with my fears and anxieties is entirely unacceptable. I wish for so much more from her. I need her to grow up breaking any boundaries that stand in her way and truly being an important person for her generation. But in order for her to reach her potential, I must learn to love the person I am, the body I’m in, and the life I’ve ultimately chosen. Only once I can find a way to feel and behave more positively, will my daughter start to adjust her perceptions; seeing and embracing her own beauty.
I urge anyone that is in a similar place to me to really pay attention to the behaviour you are demonstrating when around your children and indeed even when you are in your own company. Your children are your mirror. They don’t lie or hold back their feelings like you do. They can see through your words, right to your emotions and your intent. They can see the sadness behind the smiles and the look of disbelief when your pay no attention to compliments and kind words from others.
I am now conscious that my behaviour is not bringing out the best in me and is certainly not demonstrating qualities I want my daughter to feel about herself or I. So day by day I challenge myself to fight through my feelings of fear and insecurity. Everyday provides a fresh challenge, call it an opportunity; unfortunately I fail on most days. But I continue to try, for the sake of myself and my daughter. In order to truly experience love, I must first learn to love myself. Once I can do that honestly, it will become clear in my behaviour and it too will become infectious. My daughter will soak it all up like a sponge and grow to love and embrace her own unique awesomeness.