Learning To Say, "Gosh I Love Myself" Isn't As Easy As It Sounds

Insecurities can wreak havoc with our psyches. It's nothing short of insecurity that makes us rush out and buy a new dress when we're invited to the Big Shindig That The Husband's Office Is Hosting or finds us at the salon getting a pedicure before going to the beach (as well as hitting the tanning bed - to go to the beach, no less). Insecurity will make you re-style your perfectly coiffed hair so that you can take your kids to the stylist for cuts. (Heaven forbid the stylist see you in anything other than perfect hair. My word, what will she think of me? That I can't do my own hair without her help?) (Okay, it's true. Still, I'd rather she not know that.)

It's funny how insecurity is something that we learn as we go along. How many toddlers run around wondering if their diaper makes their butt look too big? (And while it totally does, why is a big backside just darling on toddlers and not adults?) How many stress that Spider Man was so yesterday? Exactly. Kids do what they want, regardless if it's yesterday, last year, or 1987. These are people who play with boxes and sticks for hours on end, not caring if their nose is visibly dripping and they have bedhead. (At the same time.)

In fact, toddlers take things one step further and will insist that not only do they not care if their tattered gray sweatpants and Sunday church shirt and tie don't match, they still want to wear them to school. (True story.) (That was last week, and yes, I let him.) (He's been wearing a tie every day to school since. Not a single one has matched anything. And he's ditched the oxford in lieu of a tshirt.) (My boy rocks.)

Somewhere along the line, kids learn that there are rules. Rules for manners, rules for dressing, rules for having friends. I'd like to blame the rules for imposing the insecurities on us, but in reality it's the kids doing it. Kids are such rule followers. Once they know about something, they become Enforcers. The Enforcers are the ones who point out that "she has a booger!" or "his clothes don't match!" And what starts out innocently as simply pointing out something that shouldn't be (remember when your kid first yelled in his great big loud outdoor voice that someone in the grocery store was old or overweight or a different skin color?) then turns into ridicule. The child that broke the rules is shamed, and their world will never be the same again. Those little barbs of truth hurt, and go in so deep that as adults we're very afraid of being different.

We don't wear white after Labor Day. How many decades did we adhere to that silly rule before someone had the guts to say, "there's nothing wrong with doing this. I will wear white in winter."

We see models in magazines and actors onscreen that are a smaller clothing size than the mannequins in stores, and we realized that we are obese in comparison. As a whole, women are ashamed of their size because they are not a 0. Not before childbirth, and certainly not after.

We see these same people with perfect hair, all the time. We do not have a team of professional stylists following us around with a can of hairspray and a brush, ready to fix any stray hair the instant it strays. We hate our hair because it isn't picture-perfect. Sometimes it's flat, or fly-away, or anything other than we think it should be.

We learn to avoid mirrors and cameras. If we don't see ourselves, there will be less loathing. If we never allow ourselves to be photographed, there will never be evidence that our hair wasn't perfect and we weren't a size 0. Nobody will ever remember that we wore anything other than designer clothes and carried handbags that cost more than South Pacific islands.

I believe that each of us is made to be exactly how we should be. Tall or short, thick hair or thin, it matters very little what anyone else is. What matters is what I am, and what I do with myself. It is not my responsibility to make myself into someone different. It is my responsibility to be happy with myself because I was made with a purpose. I can control small things like restyling hair or losing a few pounds, but in the end it's what's inside that shapes us. If I live with disappointment and frustration over what I see in the mirror, I will reflect that in my relationships with others.

I want my kids to see that they are beautiful just the way they are. I want them to know that this is a choice they have to make for themselves, and at times defend it. I want them to be comfortable in the knowledge that everyone is made differently, but there is no right or wrong. I want them to love themselves, and I want them to learn it from me.


Trisha said...

Loving oneself is very difficult but, if you can instill this into your children you are giving them an invaluable gift!

caramama said...

Thank you for this post.

It can be hard to learn to love yourself. Especially when we have to tune out all the other voices around us and inside us to do so. But I think it's so important.

I don't often talk about religion, but here goes: One sermon that always stayed with me was when my priest talked about the Golden Rule. Love your neighbor as thyself. He pointed out that this implies you must love yourself, so it's really saying two things: Love yourself and love your neighbor. That really hit me and stayed with me. And now I've finally sharing that insight with others!

(Keri) Auburn Gal Always said...

You hit it (and me) squarely on the nose with this one. Sissy will be 10 in January. She is 5' and weighs 88lbs and wears a size 8 (in women's) shoe. I've been focusing a LOT of effort on reassuring her that she is exactly how God wants her to be. That He is still creating her into the tall, beautiful, intelligent, caring adult she will become. It's VERY easy to tell her these things, because I wholeheartedly believe them about her. But if I were to attempt to apply those same positive adjectives to myself, it would make me want to shrug and slump and make the "yucky" face.

Yet, I'm exactly how God wants me to be right now (in body). My spirit and discipline and maturity and priorities definitely need constant effort and correction. But I'm one of God's favorite creations and that rocks.

JennyH said...

In general, I don't care what other people think of me. If they don't like something then that is their problem!

However, I do try to encourage matching clothes. If they decide not to match (in our grown-up minds) then so be it. I also tell Sam she must comb her hair. But that is more a 'taking care of yourself' thing I guess.

I would love to be 10-15 pounds lighter but I don't obsess about weight in front of kids. My husband, on the other hand does. It drives me crazy b/c I don't want our kids to.

We are who we are!

Lori said...

Beautifully said... thank you for the reminder! I've long felt and thought the same ideals... and yet struggled with enough confidence to stand humbly proud of exactly WHO and HOW God created me to be. Timely reminder... thank you!

Anonymous said...

Super post. And I think so many of us struggle with this!

The Sports Mama said...

Now, because I love you just the way you are, and because as your friend it is my sacred duty to push you along in your efforts to show that you totally trust that God loves you just the way you are...

When are we going to see you post a picture of your beautiful self here?