A primary goal of any parent, aside from feeding, clothing and keeping their child safe, is teaching them to love themselves. We see the best in the tiny humans we pushed out of our bodies or adopted or raised since way back when, and we want them to see it too. Of course, promoting self-awareness is important and teaching humility is trivial, but in a society that profits from a person's self-loathing, it is vital that we, as parents, teach our children self-love, self-respect, and self-acceptance. Unfortunately, in trying to teach all of these important things to our kids, we often forget to practice what we preach when it comes to ourselves.
I am very guilty of forgetting to show myself love, and have just recently been made aware of how that is negatively effecting — and essentially undoing — everything I'm attempting to instill in my son. When I look in the mirror and tell myself that I'm "too fat" or "too unattractive" or "too [insert something negative here]," I am essentially telling my son that he shouldn't love women's bodies (or his own, probably) for their flaws. I am perpetuating an unrealistic standard of conventional beauty, and that could not only hurt my son in the future, but hurt the women my son comes into contact with.
Just like on an airplane, when we're told "in case of an emergency" to put our oxygen masks on before we assist our children, we need to love ourselves, be kind to ourselves, and speak positively to ourselves, so that we can assist our children in doing the same. And of course (embarrassingly enough) there are many more examples of how the negative things we say about ourselves, undoes all the positive we try to teach our kids. Here are just a few:
I don't know about you, but saying "I can't" has become so natural to me, at certain times and in specific instances, that it rolls off my tongue without a second thought. But carrying around a defeatist attitude teaches our kids that they should probably just give up before they begin. It's important to be aware of limitations, of course, and I don't see anything wrong with voicing your inabilities when necessary, especially if it is in a situation that could be potentially dangerous, but don't forget that you can always improve on them and that the trying of the thing is just as important as the doing the thing.
"I'm Ugly/Unattractive, And Wish My Nose/Stomach/Legs/Eyes Were Different"
Criticizing our appearance almost seems second nature, especially since many of us women have been taught that owning our beauty or accepting a compliment makes us shallow, superficial, and self-centered. But the truth is, constantly picking apart your body and pointing out your flaws teaches your children to do the same. Daughters will start to believe they aren't beautiful the way they are, because regardless of how many times their mothers are told they're beautiful themselves, they see their mothers not believing it either. And sons will continue to believe that photoshopped, flawless female bodies are what women actually look like.
"I'm So Stupid, I Can't Believe I...."
You're not stupid. Sure, we all do stupid things from time to time, but we are not stupid. Tearing down our intelligence in front of our children teaches them that when they make a mistake, they're not human, they're stupid.
"I'm Not Good Enough/Smart Enough/Strong Enough To..."
Many parents spend the majority of their child or children's lives, telling them they're perfect just the way they are. This isn't just about body acceptance and body positivity, but about self-acceptance as a whole. Who you are, the thing inside you that accounts for your personality and emotions and drive, is worth loving and accepting just as much as your outsides. If you don't do that for yourself, how will your child learn to do the same? How will they learn to be confident or believe in themselves when they apply for college or walk into a job interview or speak their mind, when they've seen and heard their mother consistently tell herself that she isn't good enough for the things she wants?
"It's Too Late For Me To..."
I'm all for being realistic about situations, but I don't think it's healthy to play into the idea that once you hit a certain age or you've accomplished a certain life "milestone", you can't do certain things anymore. Parenthood isn't a death sentence, and neither is age. Sure, it might be harder and require more effort and more money and a list of other things, but it isn't impossible. I know every parent wants their child to get the absolute most out of life, so teach them that they can by doing it yourself.
"I Don't Deserve..."
You do. Whatever it is you think you don't deserve, you probably do. I mean, maybe you truly are a horrible human being, but chances are, you're not because the fact is, very few of us are, even if all of us sometimes feel like we are the actual worst. And if you really feel like you don't deserve something that you want or need, take that feeling and turn it into a good deed. Volunteer at a local shelter or donate clothes or money to those in need, and give the things you have to those who deserve similar things, but are unfortunately unable to have them. But don't say that you don't deserve love or understanding or kindness, because saying you don't deserve good things is silently teaching your children that they don't either, and when they go into the world they will only accept what it is they truly think is warranted.
"What I Think/Say/Do Doesn't Matter"
Everyone has a voice, a thought, an ability, and they're all valid. We should have the opportunity to be present and heard, but if we stifle ourselves, that won't happen. So not only will we keep ourselves from owning our rightful existence, we will teach our children that they don't deserve to speak up or think out loud or do the things they want to do. Our thoughts and feelings are valid and if we give ourselves permission to believe that, our children will start believing theirs are just as valid too.
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