Self Confidence, Self Acceptance
Ok people, what do LeBron James, Halle Berry, the Jonas Brothers and Lupita Nyong’o have in common? Hmmmm…. Wouldn’t you want to know about some essential ways they were positively influenced and how you could do the same for the kids in your life? Let’s get a different spin to Lupita Nyong’o’s speech, for example, to get to part of the answer. Although the speech itself is pretty much ancient in the news world, the challenges she has faced are far more common and not at all faded. The issues of Confidence, Self-Acceptance, and Self-Esteem she addresses is gargantuan and very much alive all around us.
Please allow me to share a friend’s point of view from just a week ago as she reacted to the young actress’ words…
“A step in the right direction in eradicating the chains of mental slavery. “Dark Skin and Curly Hair” is not a curse as many of us still believe deep down. We are our own worst enemy in that regard. The tapes are still playing in our mind and they are well ingrained in our subconscious as well planted seeds of self-hatred that have blossomed so well in our psyche. It is time to work on removing the weeds from the fertile ground called our mind. We make choices every day. Let us stop to examine the origin of our thoughts: are they self-destructive? Who benefits from our insecurities? There is a multi-billion-dollar market for products promoted to make us look “more attractive”. I guess the question should be: more attractive to whom?”
Wooh! The scars run deep! There is a lot of work to be done in our world and our children are watching. Lupita’s words resonate quite loud in many arenas when she described her negative self-image as she was growing up despite a strong example set by her mother. I admire her mother’s continuous encouragement to keep her focus on the important things: the ones that last and are positive world-changers. I submit to you that all around, parents and caring adults in children’s lives have a better chance at building their confidence an self esteem, like Lupita’s and many well known successful people’s parents did, when they practice the following:
1. Pointing out the positive things your child does:
At a very young age, our children look for our approval. When you, as a parent, seek the positive things your child does, you give the message that the child is able to do well and that does wonders for their self-esteem. When the child accomplishes something, or simply does something well, let him/her know you noticed it. You can say something along the lines of: “I like that you … Good job!” Or a simple: “Thanks for …” and give your child a smile, a quick pat on the back, or even a wink. Any way you acknowledge will be a sign that you were paying attention and that you approve of him/her. Self-esteem is quite important to build at a very young age. Lupita’s mother was preparing her to face and deal with the tough issues that would surround her looks.
2.Encouraging the kids to appreciate and embrace the differences in the world:
Children do not see differences in other people at a young age unless pointed out to them. In fact, there are many studies about the subject. Lupita noticed as she was growing up that she was different: someone or something made her aware of her dark skin, her hair, etc. When our children start to notice the difference between themselves and others, we can show them how those very differences are what makes them “them” and can even be turned into advantages. One of my own children was born with “special toes.” In my womb, the amniotic band caused some damage to a couple of them and nothing could have been done to prevent it. We, as her parents, had decided right away that we would pay it no mind. We raised her without making any exceptions due to this circumstance since the doctors told us that nothing was in her way. My now teenager has always wore sandals and flip flops, and been dancing since the age of 3! When others started to notice and made comments about her toes, she would say: “nothing happened to my foot, I just have special toes. Where are yours?” and to the teasers she responded: “There is something very special about me and I am great and loved. What’s special about you?” Those were responses she made on her own. Of course each child is different, but a base can surely help set them up for successfully tackling any obstacle to their self-esteem. At the end of the day, it is all about instilling in the children that they are who they are and that it is absolutely, unequivocally a wonderful thing and you love them.
3. Work on self-acceptance by setting an example to your children:
This point will not be crazy-long. Basically I am saying: practice what you preach. Fundamental law of being human: nobody’s perfect. We can teach our kids that it is OK to make mistakes and that we all have flaws. It is important, however, that we continuously seek to improve and learn from our experiences. Note that when parents focus on the improvement part, they can make our kids feel that they will not get good enough. But if we introduce the idea that we are all in this together, they identify with the rest of the world and are better equipped to stand up to bullies and stereotypes. When Lupita was faced with her insecurities, she was able to seek and find better ways to deal with them with an ever-present mother who continued to cultivate in her the sense of being enough no matter what some say.
To bring it all together, when my friend mentioned that we are prescribed ways to think about and see ourselves, she was not entirely wrong. When we open magazines or look at what trends, we quickly see if we fit the “acceptable” profile or not. It is up to us parents/adults/caregivers to, as she says, “weed out” the negative thoughts from our fertile mind and to influence our children to take stock in their own person. With that, we end up having children who emerge on the other side of puberty, strong, well balanced, and confident adults. As parents, I understand we are not always feeling the self-confidence I mentioned above to teach or show to our children, but we can do the work alongside them. Remember, you are the adult in the situation and the children are watching you and will emulate. Teaching them to appreciate differences can enrich their world view and prepare them for the future. Children can embrace differences and will use their knowledge to fend off negativity that attempts to take them down.
Keep the Faith! I know you have what it takes to do the work well!