Today we’re all tightly packed into our 2001 Toyota Sienna on a return trip home--traveling from Texas to the northern most part of the Nebraska panhandle. We’ve been on the road non-stop for the last two weeks floating through rest stops, four different hotels, five different homes, restaurants, TWO long graduation ceremonies, and various extended family and long-time friends’ homes. We’re exhausted physically, spiritually, AND emotionally. I think trips like these, as horribly stressful as they are, can also be useful when it comes to discovering deeply hidden feelings and needs of our children. Just when I think I’ve hit my breaking point, I’m gifted with perspective. It’s with this state of mind that I answer this week’s “Beautiful Like Me” question:
In your opinion, what’s the best way to build self-esteem?
When I initially considered this question, I began thinking of the things I say to my children to compliment and build them up. I mean, what better way to make a child feel better about their inner self than to compliment, right? I dunno. Guess what…I was complimented all my life by literally hundreds (maybe thousands) of people for my talents, skills and even physical beauty, yet I didn’t escape severe self-esteem issues through puberty, young adult hood, and even for a good chunk of my adulthood. Why? Maybe it’s something we all experience to some degree. I can’t be sure since I don’t know every person in the world, but my gut instinct says it is.
Self-trust is the first secret of success. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I’d probably top my list for building self-esteem with a goal of teaching my children how to value their own thoughts, trust their gut instincts, and confidently make their own decisions. For me, this goal is personal because I was persistently conflicted when presented with any decision from childhood to young adulthood--everything from what to eat to what to write about for a school paper was sheer torture. I’d venture to say that I didn’t trust myself enough to make probably 90% of these decisions. One root issue was obvious: I wanted to please others and make everyone happy. Another issue was that I didn’t want to take responsibility for a “bad” outcome of a decision. I needed to look good (and wise) to most people out there. Therefore, I usually asked
I’m going to assume I’m not alone in this experience.
My story could go on—blabbing about some of the life-changing experiences I’ve faced that helped me tear down those walls of conformity and discover how totally cool and brilliant I am (only half-kidding here), but I’ll turn back to the question of my children. Because really and truly, as they reach their young adult years, I don’t want them to struggle with feeling they lack the capacity to make important life decisions without my continued guidance or approval. I hope they can recognize there are very few black and white decisions in life and that they’ll take the time to enjoy navigating those multiple “gray” areas where they will mold and make their lives. I hope to empower them to discover that their thoughts and perspectives are powerful and significant. I hope to successfully open wide the gates to self-trust.
I know there are numerous ways to help, but a couple ways my husband and I work on this is to:
1) Provide multiple opportunities for decision-making. Whether it’s what to have for dinner tonight, where to vacation, what color to paint a room, or how to handle a sibling conflict—we work, daily, to provide opportunities for them to express their feelings and gain a sense of confidence in their decisions over time. We want them to grow up feeling enabled to confront even the most difficult of decisions.
2) We strive to listen to every little thought that pops into our children’s heads. I love listening to my daughter’s dreams or my son’s little home made jokes. They are so perfect. We hope to express our fascination and adoration over their beautiful little minds each day. We enjoy pointing out their growing vocabulary and asking them questions about inventions and creations. Yet we also want them to know that we care about what worries them and that they can work through fears and concerns to find confidence and peace. We can successfully do this only if we are active listeners.
Now it’s your turn. How do YOU build self-esteem in children and youth?
Please join the “Beautiful Like Me” project by clicking HERE. This project aims to raise awareness about poor body image and lack of self-esteem in today’s youth. Whether you have children, grandchildren, or encounter youth anywhere in society—you can be an important voice in this project. Every two weeks bloggers are faced with a new question that provides an opportunity to consider your perspective and share it with others. Won’t you join us?
I haven’t yet read all of the other participant’s blogs, but I’ll slowly be adding their links this weekend. If you see that I’ve missed one, please leave the link in my comments, below. Thank you!