I had really low self-esteem as a teenager, and still have a lot of self-doubt. As an adult, I now have a young daughter (2 years old) and I really don’t want her to suffer the same thing. What can I do to ensure that she has a healthy self-image growing up?
I admire that you recognize that this concern needs to be addressed now, while your daughter is still young. It can, of course, be addressed anytime, but creating healthy self-esteem is easier as prevention than cure. The older a person gets, the more they become responsible for changing their own self-esteem and the less you can “do it for them.”
Young children (before they’ve been “contaminated” by negativity) have a natural state of self-esteem. They are enthusiastic, energetic, playful, creative, honest, imaginative and are natural curious learners. Our job as parents (and teachers, friends, family and community) is to maintain this esteemed state. Our job as individuals is to regain access to it in ourselves, as it never really goes away, it just gets covered up.
The challenge is that when our own self-esteem is low, it is difficult to enhance in others because children learn from what you do-your example. The best possible thing you can do for your daughter is to actively work on raising your own self-esteem and treat yourself with respect.
The other thing you can do is to become very aware of the words that you use and the messages you give your daughter throughout the day, making sure you use language and the power of your words in a healthy, esteeming way.
There was a study done many years ago in Iowa in which two-year-olds were followed around for a day and the researchers counted the number of positive comments to negative. The results revealed that the average two-year-old receives 432 negative or controlling statements a day and only 32 positives. That is a ratio of 13 to 1. While everyone knows two-year-olds need constant monitoring, the ratio of positive comments should be two times that of the negative and controlling statements for creating a child with a positive self-image. This is known as the “sandwich theory” -sandwich your corrective words with encouraging comments.
Raising your own self-esteem begins in exactly the same way, becoming acutely aware of your “self-talk” and replacing or balancing the negative and critical comments you give yourself, with positive, encouraging statements.
Consider this, if you said to your friends the things you say to yourself, would you still have any friends?
We tend to be incredibly hard on ourselves, emotionally “beat ourselves up” with constant negative self-talk that results in low self-esteem, fear, unhealthy relationships, self-sabotage and depression. We have to take responsibility for turning that process around.
The first step is to “self-observe” so you become aware of what you are doing, saying and thinking. The second step is to make new choices about what you say, do and think so that your words, thoughts and actions are in alignment with your goal of creating healthy self-esteem. While there are many ways to raise self-esteem, these two simple steps are a huge step in the right direction. There are also many wonderful counselors, psychologists and coaches on the island who can help guide you if you feel you need help.
Remember, self-esteem (or any personal growth) isn’t achieved instantaneously and all at once. To even attempt that is overwhelming. All change takes place one moment at a time. Every moment is an opportunity to start fresh!
Intellectual Foreplay Question of the Week: What do you love, like, admire and appreciate about yourself?
Love Tip of the Day: To raise self-esteem, treat the other person (or yourself) like a gold mine. In order to find a single nugget of gold, a miner must remove tons and tons of dirt and rock, but a miner never goes into the mine looking for the dirt! Look for the gold, look for the good, look for the God in others, and surely you will find it!