Earlier in the week I wrote about how comparison is the thief of joy. While I was writing, it inspired many other posts, but for today I just want to focus on one. One that I think it’s important for parents to consider: what does our treatment of ourselves teach our children?
I was talking about how I watched my mom struggle with her weight when it struck me that seeing and hearing her speak about herself in such an unfavorable way, as well as witnessing her just accept all the other BS that people somehow think it’s their right to chime in on, probably had a lot to do with how I viewed myself as an adolescent. Not that it was my mom’s fault or anything, but witnessing that sort of negative self-image at some point became the norm in my mind. That was how it was supposed to be. It made it okay, and even expected in some circles (like at school for example), that I shouldn’t see myself in a more positive light. Kinda like this:
I was under the complete misconception that a person with any sort of confidence was conceited & narcissistic because I learned, however inadvertently, that it was more accepted to put oneself down than to do the opposite. I think the thing that saved me from believing that lie all the way into adulthood is seeing how my mother treated other people for the most part. She was mostly kind, generous, caring, sweet, funny; these are the words that other people use when they describe her and they’re right. I got my example of how to respect others from my mom & that lesson eventually integrated itself into a lesson on how we should treat ourselves as well.
I’ve heard my mom complain about how unattractive she felt and wish aloud that she were still little like she used to be. I watched people insult her, point out her flaws, hurt her feelings, and then claim they were being helpful. I’ve watched her go on diet after diet and work tirelessly to lose weight. I’ve watched her struggle with shopping and clothing choices. I’ve seen her sad, dejected and more than a little heartbroken. Throughout all that time when she was struggling to get thinner to meet some impossible standard, I thought she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. I think all kids think their mom is the prettiest, but I knew mine was. It never mattered what size jeans she wore or how big her hair was (can we say Susan Lucci in the 80s!)…I always thought she looked gorgeous.
My mom has since lost a lot of weight – an accomplishment she should be very proud of, not because of the weight loss itself, but because of what that change has added to her life. She seems so much happier as a result. I’ve seen her flourish in spite of, or perhaps because of, difficult circumstances. I’ve observed her making many positive changes. No matter what she did though, people still came out from everywhere waving their opinions around as if she should care. “You’ve lost too much weight. You’re too little.” And before she was “too big.” There was always a lot of pressure placed on her to be what everyone else expected her to be. People would complain that she’s too sweet or too soft spoken (“too” everything) but let her get mad enough one time and it goes from “you’re too sweet” to “you’re batsh!t crazy” in .012549999 seconds. I said both of these things earlier, but it bears repeating…you can’t make everyone happy AND people should take their mama’s advice more often: if you don’t have anything nice to say, keep your friggin’ mouth shut. Or in the words of my granddaddy, “don’t mess with stuff that doesn’t concern you.” I think that applies to speaking about things that don’t concern you as well.
I am so sick of hearing people talk about other people’s weight/personality/social status/(fill in the blank here). If you don’t like the way you look or anything else about your life that’s fine – change what you feel needs to be changed, but do it for yourself & not for everyone else, otherwise you’ll never really be content. There are two things I hope my readers take away from this post:
A.) while you’re making your changes, your kids are watching you and they are listening to you. Be mindful of that when you talk about yourself out loud. Your children are learning how to love from you and that includes learning how to love themselves. Be respectful, be positive as often as possible, be kind and actively practice loving yourself at all your different stages & pants sizes. Lead by example; be what you want your kids to be one day, speak how you want them speak, love how you want them to love, teach them to do hard things, teach them what to expect from others as far as love & respect are concerned & teach them to never accept less than that.
B.) If you don’t like something about someone or the way they choose to live their lives, that’s fine, but there is no need to be a complete jackass and voice that opinion out loud if it won’t serve any purpose greater than unleashing negative & poisonous thoughts into the world. It is not our place to judge. Worry about yourself and leave other people alone unless what they’re doing is genuinely dangerous to their life or the lives of their family. Your kids are watching how you treat people and one day they will treat others exactly the way you taught them to, rather than the way you told them to.
That is all. I shall abdicate my soap box now. 🙂