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!

16 ♥ thoughtful comments ♥:

Niecey said...

What a wonderful post.

This has been on my mind a lot lately. I think raising children in a non-punitive environment of which they are valued members, and their spirit and quirks are encouraged and they are listened to and praised often works wonders for building self esteem.

Ultimately, I believe self worth comes from knowing our value in God. To accept the worth he places on us, that he would take on suffering himself, in order to wipe our slates clean, because he so desperately longs to spend forever with us. If you truly embrace that fact, it's hard to ever feel worthless! I'm desperate to teach that to my kids, and to demonstrate grace and forgiveness to them to help them appreciate what it's all about.

I really hope I don't screw it up. I sure don't get it right all the time.

Niecey said...

One of kaya's favorite songs right now is Free To Be Me, by Francesca Battistelli:
"‘Cause I got a couple dents in my fender
Got a couple rips in my jeans
Try to fit the pieces together
But perfection is my enemy
On my own I'm so clumsy
But on Your shoulders I can see
I'm free to be me"

I've been trying to teach her what that means. But understanding the words and grasping the concepts are two different things.

Shauna said...

Hope you have a super weekend!
♥ HUGS ♥

Amy said...

Thanks again for joining -- what a wonderful post --- I agree so much. I too always looked to everyone for approval, I have learned though that knowledge is power and therefore now I read and research everything!!!!

I added you to my list of posters!

Jess said...

What excellent food for thought at a time when many of us families, especially those with smaller children, are beginning to make plans for vacations, etc. Thanks, Shaye so much!!

FranticMommy said...

wonderful post! I try to "catch my kids doing something RIGHT". Seems so often the only time our kids hear from us is when they are in trouble or doing something incorrect. I too love listening to my 6 year olds dreams and stories. If only I could bottle them forever!

david mcmahon said...

Truly a VERY special post for all ages.

Fat, frumpy and fifty... said...

A kick in the gut (n a good way post) thanks to David for pointing it out..

I shall print this off ad redress the balance in what I forgot to remember what matters...THANK YOU!!!


Beth said...

You explain it so well. I think most people struggle with confidence at some point in their lives. I used to envy people who were always confident. Now I realize they were probably better actors than I was.

Great post! Congrats on Post of the day.

♥ bfs~"Mimi" ♥ said...

Here from David's to congratulate my daughter on her wonderful post!!! And for the award from David's POTD. And I wasn't the one who sent it to him either!

What's also neat is that I received his nod on the same day! :-)

I love you.

katherine. said...

well deserved post of the day!

mine are pretty much grownup (18, 21, 27) and the concepts you mentioned are so important.

you have a lovely family and a great weblog

Sandi McBride said...

Congratulations on Post of the Day...well deserved...when ever I have a chance to teach my now grown children the lessons of self esteem I take my best shot!

Cheffie-Mom said...

Beautiful! Congrats on the Post of the Day Award!

Elizabeth said...

I just read the account of Brighton's birth.
I'm British and am HORRIFIED at the medicalization of a natural process here in the US.

So thrilled to see you healthy happy family!
ps am reading David M's super book Vegamite Vindaloo.

willow said...

I've popped over from David's and Mimi's blogs to congratulate you on a wonderful post!

Jana Green said...

I think teaching kids where their value comes from-being fearfully and wonderfully made by God-and not attaching the judgement of their actions (good, bad) to them as people helps them to become more grounded people...not wishy washy with how they feel.

Also, teach them to take ownership of how they feel...i.e., "Are you proud of yourself" instead of "I am proud of you."

There are, however, no guarantees. Unfortunately.

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