Spirit Grooves

Beautiful

By on October 8, 2012

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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This is my experience of wanting to and trying to instill a healthy self-image in my daughter. And I do hope it’s worked because we just started kindergarten this year and whatever we gave her so far is going to be critical in her being able to bounce back from this initial wave of “socialization.” I’ve already heard her say that she wants to “look pretty” so that she’ll be able to play some particular game. Sigh. (I was tempted to overreact, but fortunately she has such good teachers that they were already on it, helping to gently guide.) So, back to the beginning and the foundation we tried to give her…

I’ll define healthy self-esteem as being able to see yourself as you truly are and to love that true self; to know that the original self, the core of yourself, is perfect and beautiful and brilliant. (If later in life there are layers of crap on that original perfection that you want or need to change, then you work on those. But mistakes, wrong turns and other things you may not like about yourself do not touch that Original Truth that you are perfect, you are love and you are loved.)

As a parent, these are the things I feel are important to build the blueprint for my daughter’s healthy self-esteem:

1. The first thing is to be aware of the thoughts and feelings we have about ourselves, and to clear any issues we may have that impede our own healthy self-image (as well as we can). I do believe that being in the process of working on our own stuff is significant and that becomes the good example we set.

I spent my life waiting until I was thin enough to be beautiful (read also: acceptable, lovable, viable…) And then I got pregnant at over 200 pounds and I knew that I had to do something about how I saw myself, or rather about the fact that I basically denied my own existence.

Once my daughter was inside of me, I was determined to give her the best of everything and that meant learning to love myself in the moment, to be in the moment with her. How could I have anything but love and appreciation for a body that was housing, protecting and nourishing her?

So I stood naked in front of the big mirror and didn’t look away. Then I looked and redefined beauty for myself. I looked until I saw beauty in myself. And I honestly felt different, better, in every way. This is the first gift of healing she brought me.

It’s so easy in those early years because to these brand new beings, life is beauty. To Em, we were the definition of love and of beauty. When we opened ourselves to seeing the world through her eyes, it changed us, rejuvenated us. I believe that children come in to this life knowing, and if we can mostly just not ruin that, they’ll be great.

2. The second thing is to make choices about the language we use, not just around our children, but all the time. I believe strongly that words have power and they change us energetically. If we use negative language it creates a vibration around us, and if we use it for a long time it starts to solidify and soak into us becoming more a part of who we are.

How we speak and the words we choose to describe our world and each moment help to create the world we experience.

That describes a life philosophy for me and an attitude of positivity, but it gets more detailed when we bring a new person into our environment.

We decided not to even say “no” around Em when she was first born. Stephen was so much better at it than I was. He kept it up a lot longer. I tried very hard to only use it sparingly. That was helpful because otherwise it can be an endless “no, no, no, no, no” when dealing with a little one, especially once they start moving around and getting into things.

We also never used the word “hate.” It really surprised us how often it appeared in books, even for very little ones. We’d change it or skip it. Those early books even start to describe things as “ugly” or “beautiful.” Well, who’s to say, right? We didn’t want her to be told what to find beautiful or not. We wanted her to decide for herself and it was lovely to see that oftentimes she found beauty in places that maybe most people wouldn’t have.

It applies to the words we use to talk about ourselves too, of course. Many of us don’t even realize we do some of these things. When you make a mistake, even something tiny, do you say, “What an idiot” about yourself? Do you absentmindedly look in the mirror and say critical things about yourself, or even just grimace? Those things are huge. HUGE.

It’s optimal to actually feel good about ourselves and to speak lovingly toward ourselves, but if you can’t feel it yet, it’s still better to fake it ’til you make it in this case. Or if you can’t say something nice about yourself, don’t say anything at all.

We need to have self-respect if we want to teach our children to respect us, themselves and others.

3. The way we frame the world for her and what we expose her to is the next way she begins to define herself and her place.

We can choose what parts of the world we show our children and that will make all the difference when they are exposed to things we couldn’t control, especially as they grow.

So let’s show them beauty in all its forms. Show them diverse images of beauty; images of nature; actual nature. Expose them to sound and music and let them feel textures and temperatures.

The longer we can keep from defining beauty in any kind of narrow terms, the better chance our children will have for finding it everywhere in their world as well as in themselves and others.

4. The way we handle the critical, judgmental nature of society and how we teach her to process it. How we handle our own mistakes and failings…

As far as the negative elements of society…we talk to our children and we continue to model positive, loving behavior. I believe in teaching my daughter that kindness (to ourselves and others) is the most important thing and that really covers most everything. That way, if she experiences something other than that from someone else, she can (hopefully) understand that it’s not okay and it doesn’t define her in any way. This is a really tough one and one I’ll probably learn lots more about in the coming years. For now we continue to reinforce the positive and keep reminding her that she is love, that she is loved.

If we ourselves live by the Chinese Proverb, “Failure is not in falling down but in refusing to get up,” then we teach our children that there is no mistake they make that must define them if they keep trying.

We must allow ourselves to be fallible and human and humble. When we make mistakes and our children see that we can admit them, apologize for them and attempt to set things right or make things better, then we’ve taught them how to do the same.

Finally, here is the little thing that ran through my mind as I wrote this.(I really like it even though I suspect it’s lame and doesn’t make sense… (so that’s how far I’ve gotten in my own quest for self-esteem; basically I like myself but don’t really expect anyone else to. Shhhh… don’t tell my kid!)

FIRST BE A MIRROR FILLED WITH LIGHT AND LOVE AND JOY AND POSITIVITY

THEN BE A WINDOW THROUGH WHICH THE WORLD OUTSIDE CAN BE SEEN AND START TO BE UNDERSTOOD

THEN BE A DOOR THAT OPENS OUT ONTO SAFE AND WONDERFUL ADVENTURES

THEN BE THE WARM AND LOVING HOME THAT YOUR CHILD CAN ALWAYS RETURN TO

THEN BE THE MEMORY THAT YOUR CHILD WILL BUILD THEIR OWN SAFE HOME UPON

AND BE A MIRROR FOR THEIR OWN CHILDREN

***

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.

Comments

  1. Lauren @ Hobo Mama
    October 9, 2012

    Leave a Reply

    What a beautiful post, Tree. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I am daily amazed at how openly and freely my children love me just as I am (no matter if I deserve it or not!). Even when they point out things that bother me (my squishy tummy, my pimples), it’s done with such childlike matter-of-factness that I know they see it as just one more thing that makes me me, not a thing that makes me bad.

    I love that you change the language in books to be more neutral and let her decide what beauty is.

    The “Original Truth that you are perfect, you are love and you are loved” — this gave me goosebumps. Yes! What a joy and what a responsibility to pass that on.

    • treepeters
      October 9, 2012

      Leave a Reply

      I know, it’s so funny when Em just graps up parts of me and squishes them together as if it’s the greatest thing in all the world.
      Thank you so much for all you comments…
      xo

  2. Dionna @ Code Name: Mama
    October 9, 2012

    Leave a Reply

    Oy – your poem at the end has me in tears. This beautiful. I admire you for redefining your perception of beauty – I think that process deserves to be written about more closely! (Guest post for NPN, perhaps? ;))

    • treepeters
      October 9, 2012

      Leave a Reply

      oh, thanks Dionna.
      I think I’d like to write more about that. I was actually thinking about it this morning. It’s been quite a journey.
      I’ll definitely send it to you for perusal when I do.
      xo

  3. Kate Wicker
    October 9, 2012

    Leave a Reply

    The mirror poem is not lame at all. It is simply and beautifully put and something I’m going to cut and paste and post somewhere prominent.

    Like you, I equated being a certain weight with having value. I never felt like I was thin enough, which really meant good enough. I was overweight as child and then later sufferered from anorexia and was obviously too thin. Now I’m at a mostly healthy place, and I see that no matter my weight or struggles with food or my body image, I always have have value and had plenty to offer the world.

    I want my children (3 daughters and 1 son) to know that they have more to offer the world than skin and to value their bodies as instruments in their lives that can do great things (rather than objects). However, I also want my daughters in particular to not be afraid to be pretty. Let me explain. I used to balk at anything princess-related or whenever any of my daughters gravitated towards something girly. My first was not into dolls or princesses. She preferred pirates and dinosaurs. However, I have one daughter now who loves shoes and applying lip gloss. I remember when she was only 2 and reached for a lipstick. At first, I was very strict about forbdding these things, but then I saw that maybe I had it wrong. She wasn’t thinking about vanity or self-improvement. She was drawn to pretty things, to being a girl. There is nothing wrong with this, I’ve realized. This is a gift! I’ll never allow her to grow up too soon and toddlers in tiaras strikes a nerve, but I also see now that I have to help my daughter see their femininity as a gift – not something to hide, to be ashamed of, or to flaunt. I’m careful to not always be telling my girls they’re pretty. Instead, I’ll say things like, “Wow! Your legs sure are strong. Look at how far you ran.” Or, “Great job picking out your outfit!” But sometimes I do tell them they are beautiful not only because they long to hear that but because they are beautiful and they always will be even if they don’t live up to society’s standard or definition of beauty.

    Anyway, grea post. Like Lauren mentioned, the “Original Truth that you are perfect, you are love and you are loved” is spot on and something I want to remind all of my children – boy and girl – every single day!

    • treepeters
      October 9, 2012

      Leave a Reply

      Yes! I totally agree with the balancing part which is that it’s okay to be pretty and beautiful and to want to be a princess…
      We just didn’t want her cattle driven into that box. But sure enough she found her own way to the Princesses. She still loves bugs and dirt and art… just as much. But I see that my girl loves to primp and to play in and even revel in her femininity.
      It’s a constant challenge isn’t it. Especially in this world where such little girls are looking too grown up(if you ask me.. sexy 6 year olds kind of freak me out). That has nothing to do with feeling beautiful, right? That’s about wanting to appear to be something for those outside of themselves.
      She’s even inspired me to start to reclaim my own Princess-ness! I see that you really understand the weight stuff… and I’ve just been hiding and not even wearing the kinds of clothes I like because I’ve been waiting (until I lose weight)… I actually started a post about this.
      Well, that wouldn’t work anymore because I didn’t want to miss out on this time with my daughter. So, when it’s time to be a princess, I glam it up right there with her.
      Now to wear my “pretty” back out in the world a bit more.
      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. It’s amazing to write something so personal and be heard and understood.
      Much love to you…

      • ecosuburban
        October 9, 2012

        Leave a Reply

        I hear you about the princess stuff! It is almost unavoidable as far as I have experienced. However, I like that my girls aren’t limited by narrow definitions of princesses and damsels in distress. Yesterday my older girls were playing “knight princesses” – they were lost in the world and were surviving by helping each other and finding their way home. Cooperation, being strong, being feminine, surviving with their own skills and knowledge!

        • treepeters
          October 9, 2012

          Leave a Reply

          ooh, I love that description of helping each other and “Cooperation, being strong, being feminine, surviving with their own skills and knowledge!”
          We’ll definitily use that for a story. We love to make books and I’ll jsut introduce those ideas.
          Thank YOu!

  4. treepeters
    October 9, 2012

    Leave a Reply

    Yes! I totally agree with the balancing part which is that it’s okay to be pretty and beautiful and to want to be a princess…
    We just didn’t want her cattle driven into that box. But sure enough she found her own way to the Princesses. She still loves bugs and dirt and art… just as much. But I see that my girl loves to primp and to play in and even revel in her femininity.
    It’s a constant challenge isn’t it. Especially in this world where such little girls are looking too grown up(if you ask me.. sexy 6 year olds kind of freak me out). That has nothing to do with feeling beautiful, right? That’s about wanting to appear to be something for those outside of themselves.
    She’s even inspired me to start to reclaim my own Princess-ness! I see that you really understand the weight stuff… and I’ve just been hiding and not even wearing the kinds of clothes I like because I’ve been waiting (until I lose weight)… I actually started a post about this.
    Well, that wouldn’t work anymore because I didn’t want to miss out on this time with my daughter. So, when it’s time to be a princess, I glam it up right there with her.
    Now to wear my “pretty” back out in the world a bit more.
    Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. It’s amazing to write something so personal and be heard and understood.
    Much love to you…

  5. Laura
    October 9, 2012

    Leave a Reply

    “The longer we can keep from defining beauty in any kind of narrow terms, the better chance our children will have for finding it everywhere in their world as well as in themselves and others.”

    I just love this! The world IS beautiful because there is so much variety in it, not because everything conforms to a model.

    • treepeters
      October 9, 2012

      Leave a Reply

      thank you Laura! It’s so wonderful to have this community to share ideals like this with. It means so much.

  6. Destany
    October 9, 2012

    Leave a Reply

    This is a wonderful read! You are so right that even small things can make a big impact on how our children see the world and themselves.
    Kids are always looking to find their place in the universe and as their teachers, we will do our part to show them. Your definition of a healthy self-esteem is spot on! Not an easy thing to accomplish, but starting early to build it is so much easier than them having to repair it once they’re older.

    • treepeters
      October 9, 2012

      Leave a Reply

      Oh yes. And cheaper too! I wouldn’t even want to add up all I’ve spent on Therapy in my time.
      Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Destany.

  7. jan
    October 9, 2012

    Leave a Reply

    I love this post. As a mother of a daughter, it’s something on my heart often, too. Thanks for your reminder that the little things are so important. And our kiddos are the biggest little things of all right!?

    • treepeters
      October 12, 2012

      Leave a Reply

      Yes they are. I do think it’s almost all about the little things. Thank you for taking the time to read and share this with me….

  8. ecosuburban
    October 9, 2012

    Leave a Reply

    You’re spot on! I love how you talk about changing your perspective on how you see yourself. Staring at ourselves in a mirror can be the hardest thing to do for women because we are trained to be critical of ourselves. We can’t even take compliments when they are given to us. Honestly this is something I am still actively working on. My eyes zero in on parts I don’t like, rather than seeing the good. Just today someone took a photo of me and it was really hard to look at it (taken from a rather unflattering angle).

    And YES to the words we choose! So very important. I find it hard to get my mother to change how she speaks about herself around my girls, or about how she sees people on tv, which my girls hear. It is not ok to tear down other women for how they look. It is not ok to criticize people for what they wear. And TV shows like The Biggest Loser and magazine covers celebrating women for losing weight, as if this will transform their lives are just horrible. No, it will not transform your life. You will still be the same person with the same negative thoughts. Change how you see yourself and others and it will transform your life.

    Great post!

    • treepeters
      October 12, 2012

      Leave a Reply

      Thank you so much for reading and for your comments!
      We’ve had to have a few talks with the grandmothers too…
      Even if they’re willing, it’s such habits taht it’s hard for them to always get it right.
      But what we do and show them matters much more.
      T.v. is super tough. Even the minimal T.V. we have and the shows for a 5 year old you’d think would be safe… Nope!
      We can’t do any of the live action Disney type shows at all… Don’t get me started….
      Thanks again… I feel so good.

  9. Jade
    October 10, 2012

    Leave a Reply

    That mirror poem is wonderful! I’m going to print it off and turn it into a calligraphic picture. I think I might even make three. One for me, and one for each of my little ones’ bedrooms. Thank you for the challenge and for sharing.

    • treepeters
      October 12, 2012

      Leave a Reply

      I can’t tell you how good that makes me feel. Thank you.

  10. goodnuff
    October 11, 2012

    Leave a Reply

    You really are the best mom I know. No wonder Em has such a beautiful heart! I always find myself wishing I had a mother like you and then taking what I learn from you and applying it to being the mother of an adult daughter…it is never too late to show unconditional love and be a good example.

    • treepeters
      October 12, 2012

      Leave a Reply

      I think it’s so true that it’s never too late.
      I’m so glad you feel that way. That makes *you* an amazing mother.
      And you must remember that I’m just telling you what I *aim* to do… I think I might make myself sound better than the reality..
      Thank you so much for always supporting me.
      xoxo

  11. Michelle Bowman
    October 12, 2012

    Leave a Reply

    I am right here with you, completely nodding my head throughout your entire post. I agree wholeheartedly that we are the prime example in which our children begin to learn to love themselves. Such a great post

  1. Carnival of Natural Parenting: Verbs vs. Adjectives « Cinnamon&Sassafras - [...] Beautiful — Tree at Mom Grooves writes about giving her daughter the wisdom to appreciate her body and how …
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  3. Helping Our Children Have Healthy Body Images | LivingMontessoriNow.com - [...] Beautiful — Tree at Mom Grooves writes about giving her daughter the wisdom to appreciate her body and how …

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