Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cultivating Confidence-Nelda's story

I recently had the unfortunate task of having “The Talk” with my six year old. Thankfully, it wasn’t THAT talk, but it was the first of what I’m sure will be many talks about self-esteem.

This came about because she saw two neighborhood friends playing outside, and asked me if she could play outside with them. After I told her to put her shoes on, she went tearing out the door. Two seconds later, she was back inside. She looked sad and slowly sat down on the couch. When I asked why she wasn’t playing, she said they had told her she couldn’t play with them. I wanted to beat their rude little butts. Why are girls so mean to each other? It’s something I’ve seen way too often as I watch my little girl growing up. Something that I experienced growing up and something I wish I could shield her from.

I want to tell her that kids were mean to me too…. They made fun of my big glasses, curly hair, and crooked teeth. I’m reminded of how I was made fun of for being too skinny and having chicken legs. I remember when I gained the dreaded “freshman fifteen” in college, and how happy I was to finally be able to gain weight! (What?!!??) All of these experiences made me realize as an adult something I could never grasp growing up. We are all unique, beautiful individuals, and we will never be the same as the next girl. And because we will never be the same, there will always be something you can be teased about.

It took me a long time to realize this. Even in my twenties, I was still trying to “fix” myself. I got braces as an adult. I also got Lasik to correct my horrible vision. I gained weight so I wasn’t so skinny. I don’t pretend to have it all figured out in my thirties, but I do know this: I still have chicken legs. But these chicken legs have carried me through countless miles and hopefully soon, my third half-marathon. I also have a tummy that isn’t as flat as I’d like or breasts that aren’t as perky as they used to be…and I could have these things “fixed”. But I’ve decided not to and instead I wear my mommy marks proudly. If I want to teach my children to love themselves as they were created, I should provide a good example of that. I gave birth and nursed two healthy, beautiful children with this body, and I want them to know how proud I am of that.

I think back to all of these things in my life: the lessons that have taken me years to learn and that I continue to learn every day. I think carefully before responding to her. I weigh my response cautiously and hope that I can start building in her a strong sense of self. I hope one day she will hear my voice inside her head when she experiences disappointment or hears mean things. If I do my best, I know she will have something she can fall back on as she learns to navigate the self-esteem minefield ahead.

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