For Annie

As I take a moment to stop and watch my boys play or sleep, drinking them in in the way that mothers do, I sometimes wonder Do they love themselves?  They appear happy in their lives, they’re certainly proactive about standing up for themselves, they do the things they enjoy…it looks like they love themselves but I don’t know if I can really tell.

The sad truth is that, although we arrive in this world aligned with Spirit, knowing that we are loving and lovable, at some point, that changes for most of us.  Immersed in a society that is quicker to criticise than to encourage, we start questioning our own lovability.  As a parent, I often doubt my ability to prevent that shift from happening…but I have to try.

I recently found myself in a pattern of criticising more than encouraging my boys, especially my eldest, Jake.  I’d been a bit unwell so my tolerance level was low and my ability to hold my tongue had disappeared almost entirely.  After a few days I realised, Oh my goodness, I’ve been picking on my own son!  I had fallen into a pattern of regularly judging, prompting and correcting him.  Poor Jake couldn’t do anything right – “you didn’t say ‘thank you’”, “stop using your fingers, there’s a knife right there!”, “if you kept your room tidy, you wouldn’t lose your Lego in the first place!”  Given the way I was speaking to him, He must’ve thought that I considered him hopeless and, maybe, not loveable in some way. That thought horrified me.  The way we treat our children shows them how to treat themselves and I did not want him picking on himself like I had been.  I have to show him what it really means to love.

 

WHAT IS SELF-LOVE?

Self-love is not building up our egos with a c.v. of external “successes” to make it feel worthy of love.  It is connecting with our true essence which is love. Self-love is about the way we regard ourselves and the way we treat ourselves, knowing we are inherently loving and loveable.  A simple way to explain it to a child is to be your own best friend – appreciate yourself, care for yourself, extend kindness to yourself just as you would a friend.

I’m going to be my own best friend, stick with me till the end. –  Jewel

 

HOW TO LOVE OURSELVES

We love ourselves in the same ways we love other people.  If a person doesn’t have much self-love, they may find it grows by treating themselves lovingly anyway.  I doubt I’m the only parent on the road back to self-love after years of being unkind to myself so the ideas I offer below are for parents and children alike!

Speak nicely to ourselves  We need a cheerleading squad inside our heads, not a judge.  For parents, the way we talk to our children becomes the way they talk to themselves – so no picking!  We can also coach our children to speak kindly to themselves when we hear them talking negatively about themselves.  This doesn’t mean being dishonest, just compassionate.  For example, instead of “I stink at reading” we can teach them to say “I am learning to read” or “I’m finding reading difficult right now” or focus them on their effort and determination instead of the reading.

Forgive ourselves when we make mistakes  Forgiving ourselves is perhaps the truest act of self-compassion.  It allows us to move forward without the burden of our past.  Sometimes I can see that Jake is heavy with the regret of something he has done and I suggest to him that he can forgive himself.  My post about forgiveness explains more.

Give ourselves what we need  Perhaps we feel in need of help, rest or a good laugh over our favourite comedy show.  When we honour our needs, we honour ourselves.  We can help our children to be aware of their needs and encourage them to be proactive in meeting them.

Do what feels right for ourselves  This is about honouring what we know is true for us – from following our dreams (even when they don’t seem “realistic”) to listening to our intuition (even when it doesn’t match popular opinion).  We can steer our children inwards to help them make authentic decisions for themselves.  My post about intuition may give you ideas about how to do this.

Spend time with ourselves  Just as we invest time in our friendships, we need to invest time in ourselves.  Hanging out on our own gives us the quiet to hear our own voice instead of others’ for a while.  For our children, this means allowing them plenty of unstructured, unscheduled time to potter as they wish.

Do things that bring us joy  Our busy lives are often not set up for joy.  We tend to prioritise what we think we should do over what lights us up.  But it is in joy that we recognise ourselves and recharge.  I think it’s important that we prioritise time for our children to do what brings them joy.  For example, we can enrol them in the extra-curricular activities they want to go to – not the ones we think, for some reason, they should do.  We can use joy as a criteria for planning their time and ours.

Surround ourselves with people who treat us well  When we truly value ourselves, we expect other people to value us too.  We don’t submit ourselves to others who are disrespectful or hostile.  We care for ourselves by choosing kind company, people who lift us up.  Children make many new friendships throughout childhood and will likely need our help to become discerning and make positive choices.

 

WHY IS SELF-LOVE SO IMPORTANT?

Self-love is not simply giving ourselves warm fuzzies to cheer ourselves up.  It’s surely a happier life for those who love themselves – and that’s important but it’s not the only benefit.  By loving ourselves, we build our strength to truly love another.  We practise unconditional love for ourselves in order to be able to extend that love to others.  My observation is that it is often those who appear toughest who are actually the weakest – unable to love themselves, they have little to give to others.   The ways they are tough on themselves become the ways they are tough on others.  Children who love themselves become rich sources of love for the other people in their lives.

As I near the end of this post, perhaps I have stumbled upon the answer to my question of how we can really tell whether our children love themselves.  Maybe the depth of love they extend to others is reflective of the love they have for themselves?

 

IN SUMMARY – OUR ROLE AS PARENTS

In those moments when loving ourselves is hard, it may help us to remember that the Universe created us from Love, exactly the way it wanted us to be.  Self-Love is not about building up our egos by counting up our successes and wonderfulnesses.  It is about knowing we are successful and wonderful regardless of what we do because we were made that way.  Our role as parents is to reflect our children’s lovability back to them so they have no doubt of it.  It is also to model self-love so that they may see what it really means to love themselves through the various circumstances of life. 

 

Much love to you and your little souls,

 

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