Friday, May 22, 2009

Beautiful Like Me: Self-trust

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 someone everyone else what they thought or what they would choose if faced with my choices. Following was easier when it came to serious matters. I usually flubbed things up. I tripped over my own feet. I broke things. Lots and lots of things. I was silly, often improper, and sometimes downright lazy. For a variety of reasons, I believed that I lacked the ability to make a good decision. I struggled through every fork in the road using the check-with-everyone-else technique. Even as a child, it’s painful to not value your own perspective.

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!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Guess where we are!!!!

Yep. Been here for four days, but this is the first time I've had a minute to post. So far we've been to my brother's graduation, my other brother's home for a wonderful mother's day celebration, to some fun second hand stores, to see some of my old high school buds (hi Matt and Shelly!), and tomorrow we're off to have grandchildren pictures taken (with all 6 grandchildren) for my parents.

It's horrifically hot here (it hit at least 100 on our car thermometer last week) and the humidity is unbelievable. Just when I think I miss Texas, there's nothing like a brief visit during the early summer months to remind me of the miserable weather that I DON'T miss. We'll be back on the road in two more days--off to see more family and to Lee's doctoral graduation. Woohoo! Can't wait to catch up on all of your blog posts when we get home. I have like 300 of your posts in my google reader already. WOW! You all have been BUSY!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Beautiful Like Me:
Qualities of Beauty

Having just taken my last final exam for the semester, I’m totally frazzled and late today. This post may not be completely coherent since I only just now started it...after 1pm...and on Monday, but I really wanted to participate in today’s “Beautiful Like Me” project. I think just getting some of these thoughts down on cyber-paper might be a great start to a regular every-other-Monday tradition. The driving force behind the Beautiful Like Me Project is to raise awareness about poor body image and lack of self-esteem in today’s youth. Posts across the web occur every two weeks on Mondays. Won’t you join us HERE?

Today’s question: “What features/qualities would we like today’s children to see as beautiful?

I have to admit, when I think of someone as truly beautiful, I instantly see someone who portrays what Christians often refer to as the fruits (i.e. end result, harvest, outcome) of the spirit. The fruitful list is spilled in Galatians chapter 5 as: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” But...rather than steal an easy answer from scripture, let me just mention a few important characteristics of beauty that I hope my daughter and sons will reflect:

*Humility – These beautiful people may be physically beautiful, or they may be highly intelligent, or they may be extremely wealthy, or they may be none of these things. Either way, you’d never know of their abilities or accomplishments based on their actions toward you. In other words, they aren't big-headed about it. They do not believe they are greater than any other and they strive to humbly serve those they meet. They are enjoyable to spend time with because they love you as they love themselves (sorry, another scripture reference).

*Optimism – These beautiful people promote a positive outlook on life. They are generally happy people and fun, enjoyable, and easy to be around. Like everyone, they face hard and painful days, but they demonstrate making lemonade out of lemons.

*Inquisitiveness & curiosity – These beautiful people are intrigued by life. They enjoy exploring and discovering new things. They are fascinated by and invested in life. In personal relationships, they desire to discover everything about you—to discover what makes you tick. They’re enjoyable to be around because they help you rediscover the excitement of the mundane, the fascinations of the ordinary.

*Loyalty – These beautiful people know all about your dirty laundry, and they love you anyway. They are forgiving, reliable and consistent. They are lovely to be around because you know you can be yourself. There’s no pretending and no mind games to play. The whole world may be angry with you and your loyal friend will support you even if they disagree with something you did.

This list could go on and on, right? There are many faces of “beauty” that I’d love my children to learn about. I’ve briefly skimmed several of the other blogs who are participating in today’s question and I enjoyed and cheered over what they had to say, too. There were things I read that I wanted to say, “Oh yeah, me too, me too! Add that one to MY list!” The great thing about this project is that it is creating dialogue. My sincere thanks goes to the ladies who invited me to participate. I strongly encourage all of my followers and other visitors to join in, as well.

To see what some of the other “Beautiful Like Me” participants are saying today, check out the blogs below:

Please let me know if you find any other participants and I'll go back in and add their links here.

Again, if you'd like to join us, visit HERE to get started.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The sky is falling, the sky is falling
...or, um, maybe not

It's always interesting how these things happen every so often. A new disease comes out and there's doom and gloom. Suddenly we remember that we're supposed to wash our hands, take our vitamins, get enough sleep, get moderate exercise, cover our mouths and nose when we cough or sneeze, and keep our distance from sick people. Why are we so cyclical?

I clearly remember the bird flu just a few years ago. I believe it was estimated that 2 million Americans were going to die. Oh boy. Fear, fear, fear. It's no way to live. It may surprise you that the CDC estimates more than 200,000 people will be hospitalized and 36,000 people WILL DIE from REGULAR flu every single year. Yep, the regular old flu. And are we even mildly surprised that Malaria kills 3,000 people EVERY DAY??

I guess I'm SLOWLY learning to accept that people will die of all sorts of things--usually because of actions we deem perfectly acceptable. Most often death is ultimately the outcome of eating unhealthy foods (you fill-in-the-blank: fatty, sugary, filled with chemicals from insecticides or from injected hormones), or from not exercising regularly, or from stressful lives, or from smoking, etc. And because those deaths take place over a painfully long period of time, we don't really notice them happening until it's too late. Immunologists already admit that our antibody levels are on the decline. We need antibodies to THRIVE, people.

We've traded normal, natural, healthy preventative methods (eating healthy, exercising, sleeping, etc.) for reactive medicinal methods (vaccines, antibiotics, anti-viral medications, disinfectant handwash/spray, etc.). It should tell us something when even Doug Hardy, an infectious diseases specialist at the University of Texas-Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, says that with the flu vaccine, "You're predicting what's going to happen, before it happens. It's a betting game."

I say all this not so much to make fun of us. Okay, well, I guess it is kind of fun to make fun of humans. We are, by nature, so predictable and hilarious to watch (I don't exclude myself from that humorous depiction, either). But I also share it because you are special to me. Yes you. Every one of you. I don't want to lose any of you any time soon. Nor do I want to witness your family or loved ones saying goodbye to you before they absolutely have to. And there are ways we can all take better care of ourselves in the coming years so that we know our bodies are in optimal condition to handle whatever comes our way.

I'll be blogging in the coming months about a series of documentaries that Lee and I have been watching. They've been shocking, but necessary. The evidences they've presented are especially interesting in light of the latest influenza A (H1N1) scare.

I see a need for lasting change in my life.

I want to make those changes NOW.

I am taking those steps daily.

Oh, and in case you haven't read it already, I absolutely LOVED Dr. Mercola's latest information on the "swine" flu. I totally avoided blogging it because I knew those of you who would really give a flip about my bloggy thoughts on his perspective have probably already read it. If you haven't, you really need to (then come on back here and leave some comments--I'd love to dialogue). It's long, but WELL worth the read for us thinkers. Go HERE.


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