I recently received a comment on my blog from a friend who came across my birthday post. In the post, I assert that it is absolutely okay and necessary to love yourself. My friend said that she had stumbled upon my post with flawless timing, as she had gone to her daughters’ annual track and field meet and, this year, had noticed a shift in the girls’ attitude toward self. She expressed to me that the girls had developed a habit of negative self-talk and a jaded sense of identity over the past year and it was heartbreaking to witness. She commented that she believed this lack of self-love and self-acceptance could quite possibly be worse than bullying.
I have to say I agree, 100%.
In my opinion, lack of confidence may even be the cause for bullying in the first place. I believe unwaveringly, that lack of kindness towards others is secondary to lack of kindness toward self. No truly happy, confident or loving person is malicious toward others. A lack of confidence is such a disservice not only to self but also to the world. If we could instill in our children a sense of courageous self-assuredness so that they could show up in the world authentically and joyfully…oh my, imagine the consequences!?
What does authentic confidence look like? In a world infused with social media outlets, our sense of self-worth has been confused by acceptance from others in the form of likes, comments, and follows. If we could reframe the purpose of social media to be a tool for reaching others and a platform for inspired expression by serving as a means for delivering creativity, positive messages and encouragement, maybe we could shift the tides.
For myself, while I am thrilled by other people’s appreciation of my posts, I try not to pay too much attention to how my content is received. I remember reading some incredible advice from Elizabeth Gilbert in her book, “Big Magic”, she said, that once you offer the world your expression of self, how it is received is no longer your responsibility nor within your control. It is important to understand that perception is colored by personal experience, and that interpretation is also unique to the individual. The value an individual receives from your creative expression is specific to not only that person’s perception but also their journey, the stage of life they are in, and even the particular mood they are experiencing. Basically, how a person receives YOU or WHAT YOU BRING TO THE WORLD – it’s not your business, it’s not a reflection of you, therefore, it shouldn’t ever be cause for negative feelings about self. Capiche?
So, rather than focusing on how we are received (which we cannot control), why not focus on how honestly and sincerely we are showing up? (definitely can control this one)
Now, what is the solution for cultivating confidence in the young so that they may grow into self-assured and confident adults? I am certain that there are hundreds of books in the genres of parenting, self-help, spirituality, etc. that all have theories on how to thwart the ever present and heavy dilemma of insecurity and lack of self-worth issues.
I do not claim to be an expert but I will admit that I pursued this very issue so hard this past year and I learned so much about myself in doing so. I can honestly say that today I am a happier woman than I have ever been in my life and that I do indeed love the shit out of myself. Do I still have days in which I question my self-worth or pick myself apart, question my abilities or actions, or worry that I am not doing the best job in my various roles? Oh Lordy, yes. But I know now that these days, these thoughts, and that “itty bitty shitty committee” that comes to visit every now and then is going to show up from time to time but that it’s okay. I notice it now and I see it for what it is…simple thoughts that can be replaced with something truer.
What has also changed is what I chose to do with those comments.
For a while, I chose to entertain them, to dive into them and let myself feel what it would feel like for them to be true. I felt every ounce of hurt and pain that came with every single one of those thoughts…and then I asked myself whether or not I knew if they were absolutely true? And at the end of the day, even if it all was true, every single shitty thought…what was I going to do about it? What was I going to do with this moment, the day ahead, the possibility and potential of who I could be?
I read A LOT of books that encouraged me to think differently, to question differently and that challenged my perspective. A common theme in many of these books was questioning not only who and what kind of person you want to be but also how to determine whether any of what we think about ourselves is actually true? The surest way to discern truth in the beliefs we tell ourselves is recognizing how we feel when we do the telling. How does it sit with you? Does it peacefully settle like quiet snow fall or does it feel upsetting like stormy ocean waves? In my experience, peace is truth.
Overtime, I had moments of quiet clarity in which I realized that all those negative thoughts that I was allowing myself to feel — trying on to see if they fit, none of them did and I didn’t need to keep making myself miserable by entertaining them either. I was not a bad person, a bad wife, a bad mother…I was actually excellent at all of those things…were there things about myself I could grow through and improve upon? Certainly.
When I asked myself what was true about myself, this is what I realized that I know for sure…
I have BIG LOVE in my heart, COMPASSION in my soul, and an UNCEASING LENS OF POSITIVITY which, I choose to view the world through. So with an inner certainty of these few truths, I practiced walking in those shoes of that loving, compassionate, positive lil’ lady. And when I would lose sight of those truths and forget what I was sure of, I reminded myself…over and over and over again. I affirmed even when I questioned the veracity of my worthiness. I gave thanks every time it did feel true even if was only for seconds…and then slowly those seconds turned into minutes, which turned into hours, and then into days. Gradually, my days would end with me falling asleep knowing that I had lived the day well – I had loved big, I had infused kindness in my interactions and I had done my best to show up as the truth I saw in myself. As I walked a bit taller and believed in myself more and more…it became easier to see not only more good in myself but the inherent good in others…
My friend ended her comment saying that she didn’t have the answer for how to inspire confidence in her young girls but she said she would start with herself and hope by her example, her girls would consequently chose to emulate her practice.
GIRL. You nailed it!
This is precisely how I intend to influence my children to walk with their heads held high, big, beautiful, bright smiles on their faces, kindness in their hearts, and with an unapologetic curiosity for the world around them. I will do all of these things first, and I am certain that my efforts will be joyfully infectious and inspiring.
So I was talking with this tree a while back.
“Universe…” it said to me.
“When I come back, I don’t want to be just wood.”
“Well,” I thought aloud, “what’s wrong with being wood?”
“It’s hard,” the tree said, without cracking a smile. “When I come back, I want to be soft and furry so that I’ll be loved by children.”
And I thought… and thought… and thought… and finally asked, “Why not be tall and strong, just as you are, and be loved by children?”
And the children came to play.