Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Learning to Love Myself, for my Daughter

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.
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We are our children's first teachers. As infants and young children, to them, we are all-powerful, all-knowing, super-strong and become the pillars of their character. Instilling a healthy self image for my daughter is to lead by example. Having weight loss surgery three years ago allowed me to become healthy, but more than physically, I have had to really work on myself mentally. I have had to address my poor self esteem and overcome my toxic relationship with foodI always tell myself, I have to do better, for my daughter. Instilling a healthy self-image is definitely one of those things that we must always work at to do better for our children.
 
Looking back at my upbringing, I never had a strong sense of self.
I'm not saying that my parents did everything wrong, but they divorced before I can even remember, they were critical at times. My mother did the best she could, my father was non-existent. Just because we are a product of our environment does not mean we cannot work on ourselves and better ourselves. As a young girl in elementary and middle school, I often went with the crowd, desperate for approval and attention. I excelled in studies for attention and did the opposite for the exact same reason. In high school, I did some sad and pathetic things in effort to find "myself" in an effort to be loved. In college, I was desperate to find a group and acceptance. Little did I know that the key to finding someone to love me, was to learn to love myself first.

E
ven now as an adult,
I often find myself questioning my choices in my personal life, about the groceries I buy, as a mother, even professionally. Many times, people have told me I have poor self-esteem. I do not hide the fact that just three years ago, I was super morbidly obese. A large part of that was due to the fact I did not know who I was and the primary constant was food. Emotional eating led to self-hate and more eating. It was a viscous cycle. I make no excuses that I needed to have the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass to help get a handle on my health- both physical AND mental. The surgery is just a vehicle for change, but the change, it must come from within. It's the mental work that has been the hardest.
 

Becoming a mother has led me to become more comfortable in who I am as a person. Though I feel we are all a work in progress and are ever-evolving, I have spent the past two years finding a strong sense of self. No matter what things I may (or may not) have done in my past, no matter how things have turned out- even when I felt beat down and torn to shreds once on the other side- I have to love myself. I mother differently than my sisters, and mother much differently than I expected to mother. Because of this, I have learned that most importantly, I must trust myself. Now that I am a mother, I remind myself daily that I must do better for my daughter and must teach her from an early age to love herself in any form- Grades of A's or C's, Size 4 or 26, in a relationship or single, blonde, red or brunette, an artist or athlete, short or tall.

Thinking about writing this post has led me to come up with a few concepts that I want to share and maybe continue to refer to over the years:
 
  • Watching How I Talk About and Not Being Critical of Myself: A friend told me one of her favorite quotes "the way you talk to your child will become their inner voice". Our children learn by our examples. If I stood here talking about how fat I am, how saggy my skin is, how stupid of a mistake I made, or what a horrible person I am, my daughter is going to think that depreciating self-talk is normal and okay. It is neither. Learning to love myself and be aware of the things I say about myself is the most important key to ensure my daughter loves herself. 
  • Not Being Critical of Her: Not being hateful and acting gently towards my daughter is one tenet of attachment parenting that I feel is extremely important in the shaping of their personalities and self image. Telling someone they are fat, ugly, stupid, even if you are joking, is horrible. I have a beautiful friend who is no larger than a size six, and her family would always say she had huge saddlebags and thunder thighs. Now as a thirty year old adult, she STILL hates her body. This woman is gorgeous- she has GORGEOUS curves- the perfect apple bottom. Seeing what I always considered was "perfect family" growing up, her family created this deep ingrained doubt in her beauty. Now I realize, what always seems perfect, may not be so. I always remember how she'd say she was so fat, and I was sitting there, a size 16 or 18 and wondering to myself "well if you're fat, then I am just an elephant". Allowing her to be herself, without fear of my criticisms will allow her to find strength in her own choices 
  • Being kind to and not judging others: When we are critical of others- strangers, family, classmates- our children learn. They learn by example. They do what we do. When we make fun of people because they are obese, of a different ethnicity, have single parents, have gay parents, have less than we do, you name it, our children pick up on this and begin doing that to others as well. Hate is learned. We SHAPE the adults they become. 
  • Taking care of yourself: By eating healthy, exercising, taking a "mental health day", you take care of your entire being. Our mental and emotional well being is just as important as our physical self. Addressing our needs is imperative to maintaining a healthy sense of self. When we get burnt out, when we don't eat healthily, when we don't give ourselves that couple hours of "me time", then we are showing our children that we believe we are important and happy are just as important as physical well being. 
  • It is okay to think you are awesome! I was always told not to be cocky, to be seen and not heard, to stop showing off, a million things I could easily rehash- but I won't. The most important thing is that it is OKAY to love yourself. If you don't love yourself, why should someone else? Knowing what you are good at, sharing your skills and learning new things is what makes us individuals. Recognizing all accomplishments, no matter how big or small allows a person to know they are loved, valued and special.

This list is definitely not all encompassing, but knowing that I am a work in progress and that I need to love myself, in all my forms, will teach my daughter that she, too, can love herself. I know that I will never be perfect, and as parents we always worry about making mistakes, but as long as I do my best and just strive for that "better", I know that we will be alright.

How do you feel you are working to instill a healthy self image in your children?


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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.
  • Perfect the Way I Am — Erika at Cinco de Mommy struggles — along with her seven-year-old daughter — at telling herself she's perfect just the way she is.

14 comments:

  1. I agree with you about instilling positive messages in our children. It is so *easy* to be loving and supportive of my daughter..and I genuinely don't understand why my mother couldn't give that to ME. I also agree that we doing our best, and loving ourself despite mistakes is important modeling and in ingraining messages of love and positivity for our children.

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    1. I don't think I will ever completely understand why either, but a big part of it for me is not the why, but more the how I can achieve it now.

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  2. I love the reminder about our voices becoming their inner ones. Yes! Thanks for this brave post.

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  3. It is so important that we teach our children to have self confidence. I think boys need to be taught it as well. They need to know that teasing a girl can cause more hurt than they could possibly know. I know for me confidence is a huge struggle. I'm 28, and just starting to get it. I try to teach my daughter that it's what's on the inside that counts, not the outside. The person next to us in the checkout line that has a deformity could have been in a tragic accident. How we look doesn't shape who we are. Very well written Michelle, as always.

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    1. <3 Kat. I think self esteem is something we have to teach our boys too. I just don't have one yet. I know my brother was just as messed up as I growing up- more so at times because he lived with my father for a few years, and my father was a mean, verbally abusive jerk.

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  4. Good for you for going on a journey of discovering how to find self-confidence and health. Your daughter will reap the benefits, too!

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  5. What an amazing journey you have been on! And with wonderful results! It's so nice to be able to think things through and realize which tenants are most important to us, and how to love ourselves! I commend you for your strength and for your amazing model as a mom!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and thanks for the sweet comment!

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  6. Yes, thank you for sharing! We really need to be mindful of our words to ourselves and to our children. We have the ability to be kind and helpful, so why not use it? So glad you've joined us for this carnival!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Lauren and thanks for letting me be a part of your and Dionna's carnival. :)

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  7. What an amazing set of resources! My 13 year-old niece has been "misbhaving" lately as her parents go through a nasty divorce, and I want to make sure I do all I can to make her feel positive - I'll have to go through all of these for some tips.

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  8. Thank you for posting this. I always heard my mom being so critical of herself and I always hated it. I started hating things about myself. It took a long time for me not to be this way.

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Thanks a bunch for your comment love!