Self-esteem and all it’s pretty analogies

Welcome to the October 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Instilling a Healthy Self-Image

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared confessions, wisdom, and goals for helping children love who they are. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

I will never forget the day I realized the voice in my head telling me awful things about my post-baby body wasn’t my own. I remember standing in the mirror tearing down my stretch marks, saggy skin, and lack of shape and realized the words circulating in my brain weren’t my own, but words I had heard my mother speak over her own body year ago. I stood there looking at my body and wondered if I was even really seeing it the way it was, for in my mind’s eye, I was looking at my mother’s scars and skin. The dawning of this realization prompted a phone call to all my friends who had daugthers to ask them to not say anything negative about their bodies in front of their children.

We live in a world where body image is warped by what we see in the media.  When I was growing up, people compared me to Blossom. I hated this. We had the same akward nose and gangly limbs. In time, I grew into my nose and my limbs gained some substance. I notice the same can be said for Blossom’s lead actress, Mayim Bialik, as well. Not to mention she’s still a sucessful actress and incredibly intelligent scholar.

In time, my thoughts on self-esteem have changed. But just because I’ve finally realized I matter, it doesn’t mean I don’t have little lives to build. Dr. Sears has a great list of ways to help your child develop healthy self-esteem. Actually, Dr. Sears specifically mentions that if we want our children to have healthy self-esteem, we need to work on our own. And realize that our parents may have made choices in how they raised us that we shouldn’t repeat. He doesn’t say this so that we can develop bitterness for our parents’ mistakes, but so we can make better choices for our families.

We know a family that is a constant reminder to me that it is my responsibility to change how I  interact with my children. In all the years I’ve known them, I’ve not once heard the parents say anything kind about their children. They are all high-achieving children, with many talents, but their mother is hung up on clothing sizes and too-young engagements. It makes me sad to watch their interactions and yet reminds me how easy it is to start out with good intentions and watch them slowly fade away.

In my eyes, my children are the most beautiful humans on the face of this Earth. They know I think they’re amazing, but they need to think it too. We snuggle and we cuddle and I remind them many, many times a day how much I love them. And I tell them they are smart and handsome and talented and beautiful. As you well know, you are responsible to set the tone in your child’s mind for their life.

Self-esteem is something can either be fragile as a tea cup or diamond strong. The best way to build it is to build a strong relationship with your children. Be honest with them about how you love them. Praise them for their good moments, but be honest enough to correct their errors so they can grow. Spend time with them. Teach your children. Read to your children. Play with your children. Laugh with your children. Cry with your children. If you are real with your children, you can teach them to be real with themselves. And then, when your children can be honest with themselves about how they feel and what they experience, they can put together their self-esteem without fear and with the knowledge that they have your support.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon October 9 with all the carnival links.)

  • Why I Walk Around Naked — Meegs at A New Day talks about how she embraces her own body so that her daughter might embrace hers.
  • What I Am Is Not Who I Am — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses her views on the importance of modeling WHO she is for her daughter and not WHAT she sees in the mirror.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting: Verbs vs. Adjectives — Alisha at Cinnamon & Sassafras tries hard to compliment what her son does, not who he is.
  • The Naked Family — Sam at Love Parenting talks about how nudity and bodily functions are approached in her home.
  • How She’ll See Herself — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis discusses some of the challenges of raising a daughter in our culture and how she’s hoping to overcome them.
  • Self Esteem and all it’s pretty analogies — Musings from Laura at Pug in the Kitchen on what she learned about self-esteem in her own life and how it applies to her parenting.
  • Beautiful — Tree at Mom Grooves writes about giving her daughter the wisdom to appreciate her body and how trying to be a role model taught Tree how to appreciate her own.
  • Do As I Say, Not As I Do: Nurturing A Healthy Body Image — Christy at Eco Journey in the Burbs is changing perceptions about her body so that she may model living life with a positive, healthy body image for her three young daughters.
  • Some{BODY} to LoveKate Wicker has faced her own inner demons when it comes to a poor body image and even a clinical eating disorder, and now she wants to help her daughters to be strong in a world that constantly puts girls at risk for losing their true selves. This is Kate’s love letter to her daughters reminding them to not only accept their bodies but to accept themselves as well in every changing season of life.
  • They Make Creams For That, You Know — Destany at They Are All of Me writes about celebrating her natural beauty traits, especially the ones she passed onto her children.
  • New Shoes for Mama — Kellie of Our Mindful Life, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, is getting some new shoes, even though she is all grown up…
  • Raising boys with bodily integrity — Lauren at Hobo Mama wants her boys to understand their own bodily autonomy — so they’ll respect their own and others’.
  • Sowing seeds of self-love in our children — After struggling to love herself despite growing up in a loving family, Shonnie at Heart-Led Parenting has suggestions for parents who truly want to nurture their children’s self-esteem.
  • Subtle Ways to Build a Healthy Self-Image — Emily at S.A.H.M i AM discusses the little things she and her husband do every day to help their daughter cultivate a healthy self-image.
  • On Barbie and Baby Bikinis: The Sexualization of Young Girls — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger finds it difficult to keep out the influx of messages aimed at her young daughters that being sexy is important.
  • Undistorted — Focusing on the beauty and goodness that her children hold, Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children watches them grow, loved and undistorted.
  • Off The Hook — Arpita at Up, Down and Natural sheds light on the journey of infertility, and how the inability to get pregnant and stay pregnant takes a toll on self image…only if you let it. And that sometimes, it feels fantastic to just let yourself off the hook.
  • Going Beyond Being An Example — Becky at Old New Legacy discusses three suggestions on instilling healthy body image: positivity, family dinners, and productivity.
  • Raising a Confident Kid — aNonymous at Radical Ramblings describes the ways she’s trying to raise a confident daughter and to instil a healthy attitude to appearance and self-image.
  • Instilling a Healthy Self Image — Laura at This Mama’s Madness hopes to promote a healthy self-image in her kids by treating herself and others with respect, honesty, and grace.
  • Stories of our Uniqueness — Casey at Sesame Seed Designs looks for a connection to the past and celebrates the stories our bodies can tell about the present.
  • Helping My Boy Build a Healthy Body Image — Lyndsay at ourfeminist{play}school offers readers a collection of tips and activities that she uses in her journey to helping her 3-year-old son shape a healthy body image.
  • Eat with Joy and Thankfulness: A Letter to my Daughters about Food — Megan at The Boho Mama writes a letter to her daughters about body image and healthy attitudes towards food.
  • Helping Our Children Have Healthy Body Images — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares information about body image, and her now-adult daughter tells how she kept a healthy body image through years of ballet and competitive figure skating.
  • Namaste — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment shares how at barely 6 years old, her daughter has begun to say, “I’m not beautiful.” And while it’s hard to listen to, she also sees it as a sign her daughter is building her self-image in a grassroots kind of way.
  • 3 Activities to Help Instill a Healthy Self-Image in Your Child — Explore the changing ideals of beauty, create positive affirmations, and design a self-image awareness collage. Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares these 3 ideas + a pretty affirmation graphic you can print and slip in your child’s lunchbox.
  • Beautiful, Inside and Out — It took a case of adult-onset acne for Kat of MomeeeZen to find out her parenting efforts have resulted in a daughter that is truly beautiful, inside and out.
  • Mirroring Positive Self Image for Toddlers — Shannon at GrowingSlower reflects on encouraging positive self image in even the youngest members of the family.
  • How I hope to instill a healthy body image in my two girls — Raising daughters with healthy body image in today’s society is no small task, but Xela at The Happy Hippie Homemaker shares how choosing our words carefully and being an example can help our children learn to love their bodies.
  • Self Image has to Come from WithinMomma Jorje shares all of the little things she does to encourage healthy attitudes in her children, but realizes she can’t give them their self images.
  • Protecting the Gift — JW from True Confessions of a Real Mommy wants you to stop thinking you need to boost your child up: they think they are wonderful all on their own.
  • Learning to Love Myself, for my Daughter — Michelle at Ramblings of Mitzy addresses her own poor self-image.
  • Nurturing An Innate Sense of Self — Marisa at Deliberate Parenting shares her efforts to preserve the confidence and healthy sense of self they were born with.
  • Don’t You Love Me, Mommy?: Instilling Self-Esteem in Young Children After New Siblings Arrive — Jade at Seeing Through Jade Glass But Dimly hopes that her daughter will learn to value herself as an individual rather than just Momma’s baby
  • Exercising is FUN — Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work talks about modeling for her children that exercising is FUN and good for body and soul.
  • Poor Little Chicken — Kenna at A Million Tiny Things gets her feathers ruffled over her daughter’s clothing anxiety.
  • Loving the skin she’s in — Mama Pie at Downside Up and Outside In struggles with her little berry’s choice not to celebrate herself and her heritage.


24 Replies to “Self-esteem and all it’s pretty analogies”

  1. To me, the most powerful line of this beautiful post is this: “If you are real with your children, you can teach them to be real with themselves.” In my attempt to raise children with a healthy self-image, I sometimes felt like I had to be perfect. But my four children have humbled me like nothing else and shown me that using perfect as my “bar” only sets me up for failure and isn’t even an authentic representation of life or being a human. Instead, when I do fail, I ask for forgiveness. I try to keep it real. We talk about feelings – big ones, small ones, good ones, and untempered ones.

    A few other points your post inspired: As someone who suffered from both anorexia and bulimia, I also believe we have to learn to forgive others who have hurt us intentionally or not. Yes, as parents we have a huge responsibility to nurture our children in a loving, sensitive way and to fill them up, but we cannot always inoculate our children from every ounce of angst. If they do suffer or get hurt, we have to teach them to not harden their hearts, to believe in themselves despite the naysayers, and to let bitterness go. Personally, I was born with an eggshell ego. It was nothing my parents did or didn’t do – I would always be an affirmation junkie. There were boys who hurt me. There were media that disorted my body image. I’ve had to learn to rewrite these internal scripts that told me I wasn’t worthwhile if I didn’t look or act a certain way or weigh below some arbitrary number. I’m a work in progress. It’s important for my children to see this and know that I am working to seek affirmation in the right places – in my God, in being loved and loving others, and in myself – rather than turning to the mirror, scale, or even the number of hits after a blog post. 🙂

    At any rate, thanks for the encouraging post!

    1. I serve on my MOPS group’s steering team… our theme this year dealing with real relationships and vulnerability. Ironically, the topic of self-esteem has been huge already and we only just had our first meeting today! I find myself also seeking affirmation because that’s how I’m designed, but I am little by little learning that I get to set the tone for myself now… seeking affirmation, just as you said, in my God and my loves. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Thank you for your beautiful words.
    I started out trying to remember a line to quote back to you here, but then there were just too many “moments” in this post.
    It’s so sad to think of that other family, though they are not alone. And those are probably “good parents” in many ways. Often it’s just that they believe what they need to give their children is accomplishments… My dad was harsh in some ways and for him it was about loving us so much that he tried to give us some “truth” about how the world would see us.
    I love that you called all your friends with children…. I used to tell my girlfriends the same thing when I’d hear them saying things in front of their kids. And that was long before I had a child. I just remembered from my own childhood. I’d hear my dad commenting on physical things about people on t.v., people we knew… It’s hard not to extrapolate and look at myself differently.
    Thanks for the Sears list, I hadn’t seen that.
    And I love that first quote you have. I hadn’t seen that before.
    Here’s to Diamond Strong Self Esteem for our kids.
    Thank you.

  3. Wonderfully stated! I especially love the part about being real with our children. I think that is key. It’s not about a suped of rendition of ourselves that we need to portray to our children. When we set impossible standards for ourselves, we are setting impossible standards for our kids as well.

  4. This really rings true for me. Like you, I have heard my mother’s (and grandmother’s too) voice coming out of my mouth or in my head. I definitely do not want this for my daughters. Behaviour is a learned thing and I want them to learn to love themselves. I remember gazing at their faces, bodies, toes, lips, for hours on end thinking that they were the most amazing, beautiful thing ever created. Now I marvel at how they are changing and growing and I am in awe of their beauty (not just the outward kind). It saddens me as well when I hear parents constantly pointing out their children’s flaws and focussing on what they can’t do, or what they do or don’t look like. They should be there and building them up; the rest of the world will be waiting in line to tear them down.

    One thing that has me thinking— despite my mother’s self-esteem issues and constant personal put-downs, she was my biggest cheer leader in life (still is). However, I remember not believing anything she said because I thought to myself, “she has to say that, she’s my mother.” I wonder if it had anything to do with her self put-downs? Or do all kids feel that way? Hmm.

    Great post!

  5. I said the EXACT same thing as your quote- that the way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice. Knowing that our children learn from us makes it so important in watching exactly what we say out loud about ourselves. After all, we are their first teachers! <3 your post!

  6. Beautiful powerful writing! You have so many excellent descriptions, and they are all so true. I never thought about the innervoice being what I had heard, but you are right. In the past, I have struggled with eating disorders. This is something which I so desperately want to avoid in my own daughters, and so I will take care to watch how I speak. Thank you!

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