My daughter gets so nervous prior to taking college exams and will make various comments about how she’s going to fail. Then afterwards comes the happy and excited text with a picture attached showing her score which, is usually outstanding! I always tell her that I’m not surprised ~ she’s a smart girl and I know she’s got this (even if she doesn’t believe it herself yet.) She was just as nervous prior to her first job interviews too and yet, both places hired her right away.
I have always done my best to build her up, desiring more than anything that she have a lot of self-confidence (minus arrogance) and a high self-esteem. Yet, it doesn’t seem like it has been enough many times, so I find myself wondering how well I did my job as a parent, and questioning why she would think otherwise. Then I look at my own life…
Do What I Say, Not As I Do
While I may “speak” the right words to her in this area of life, I have not necessarily “lived” them myself. Our children learn what we show them, not what we tell them. I’ve always believed this, but it doesn’t become real clear just how deep some of those roots can go until they are entering adulthood on their own. Then you really get to see what tools they take with them!
Self-Confidence Verses Self-Esteem
Personally, I have a lot of self-confidence, but not much self-esteem. You may wonder, “How can that be…?” I’ve had a few debates about this with people who think you can’t have one without the other and vice-versa.
I have a lot of self-confidence in many areas of life and in my own abilities, because I’ve had to “prove” myself time and time again. Professionally, I’ve been under such high scrutiny to remain accountable and transparent, that I’ve always been fairly aware of what my strengths and weaknesses are. I also learned the hard way that you don’t show your cards early in the game, or many times not at all, unless you’re forced to. ‘Self awareness’ is something that’s just always naturally come easier for me ~ however, I’m sure there’s a little women’s intuition mixed in there somewhere too ;)
Yet, I have always struggled with a low self-esteem. I think that’s why I went into modeling for so many years ~ to prove to myself that I must be attractive and desirable. This is a natural reaction and consequence for most victims of abuse though. And even though I consider myself to be a survivor now, this is an area that still affects my life.
Words Are Powerful!
If you hear the same things over and over, pretty soon you can start to believe them, and that is what has happened with my self-image. It still lingers as an issue, because my last couple of partners tore me down like that too. Granted, as soon as I recognize such behaviors, I kick them to the curb, but it’s still a powerful reminder of a deep struggle I have yet to overcome.
This works both ways though, because on the other hand when I’m around someone who thinks I’m beautiful and appreciates even those things that I don’t like about myself, then I can start believing them too. I will actually begin to feel beautiful, attractive and desirable. What does that tell me though…?
It means that I base my self-worth on the opinions of others too much still, instead of believing what God says about me. Hmm… I am determined to change my way of thinking about this and like I’m always telling others ~ it is merely a choice.
If you know who you are in Christ, it won’t matter so much to you
what other people think.
Born from being abused since birth, also came the expectation of being absolutely perfect. Man… I tried to be the perfect kid in every way, shape and form! I thought if I was… then maybe my parents would love me as much as they did my brother, maybe they wouldn’t be so mean or beat on me as much, maybe if I could just be everything they wanted me to be, then they would/could love me some day… Sad, isn’t it? I struggled with this through most of my adult years, too.
If I got a B instead of straight A’s, out came the belt. If I didn’t learn to please and side with both my parents (while being made their marriage counselor) I was a failure who was useless and didn’t deserve to eat. Sometimes, I’d wake up to an empty and bare house being 8-9 years old, my parents gone for days at a time (sometimes they left a little money on the kitchen table, but usually there wasn’t any food) and I would be responsible for my younger brother’s care and getting him to school. If I had any thought or contradiction different than that of the families, out came the boards with crude holes drilled through them which, sometimes broke while hitting our backs or thighs.
So, I thought if I never did anything wrong or got into any trouble, they wouldn’t have a reason to beat me. But it never mattered ~ I would get blamed and punished anyways (not to mention, I always tried to distract them from my little brother too, in order to help protect him.) For some reason, I became the families scapegoat though, and I would still be that to all of them today, if I wouldn’t have broken the chains and cut all contact.
Where Does Your Self-Worth Come From?
My point is… that I was conditioned (from birth) to be perfect and that failure or quitting were never options. If I couldn’t be perfect, then it would mean a great deal of pain, rejection and even hatred. Talk about stress! Totally impossible and completely ridiculous, right?
While it can be a great asset to have such a solid mind-set of determination and perseverance, it can also have the power to imprison us. The trick is learning how to use it in good, healthy ways. We must learn to detach our performance and looks from our self-worth and value, which is the exact opposite of what society teaches.
Don’t Let Your Best Intentions Cripple Those You Love
And isn’t that what we, as parents, have a tendency to just do naturally? Our kid hits a home run which wins the game, so we high-five them and take the whole team out for ice cream. Our high schooler brings their grades home and for every A+ they receive, they might earn $20 bill.
We must be careful to still celebrate who our children are as individuals, regardless of their performance. They need to know and feel that they are just as valuable and worthy, no matter what the score is. Winning or losing, passing or failing, should have nothing to do with how much they are loved or how often they receive praise from us.
It is OK (even necessary) for us to fail and make mistakes, including the really big ones, so learn to give yourself and others permission! It is the only way we can grow and improve ourselves. What is most important are the lessons we learn from those mistakes and failures. If we are wise, we allow those lessons to then become the stepping-stones from which the rest of our journey is built on. We are not born to know or be great at everything, and living under that kind of pressure (whether self-inflicted or placed upon us by others) will destroy a person and kill their soul.
So, let’s make sure we don’t have such absurd expectations of each other or our children. Yes, of course we want the best for everyone. Yes, we want to encourage and support them to do their very best, but we are only human. We are going to mess up and we need to learn as a society to be OK with that. Once we can relax, and learn to view our mistakes and failures as opportunities for change and growth (instead of taking them personally) life becomes so much easier.
Those very things which once hindered us,
Now become the things which can save us!
- SCARS ARE BEAUTIFUL (By Jessie Jeanine)