My eldest is entering an age where kids start trying to figure out where they fit in the world around them. As with most kids, she gets teased from time to time. I’m not certain it would be classified as bullying, but I do see the effects it has had on her personality. Her instinctive response to such teasing is to take it personal, which I imagine is typical for a seven-year-old’s thought process. From what I can tell, her next step in dealing with the situation is to conform to the teasers expectations of her. This is the part that breaks my heart. We express to her daily the wonderful girl that she is and that being herself is of the utmost importance, but it seems our words of encouragement get forgotten when she’s faced with opposition.
The troubling part for me, as her Mom, is that I only figured out how to embrace myself in the last decade or so. Even then, I had slip ups where I would act differently around different people that had different expectations of me. I touched upon this in my previous post A Cautionary Tale of Flattery so I will spare you the repercussions, but it never resulted well. Nor will it end well for my eldest who tries to be sillier and funnier around these teasers in an effort to win them over. Because, ultimately, when she tires of parading around, the teasing will return. It’s an exhausting cycle. A cycle that I spent far too many years allowing myself to be a victim on. The worst part of all was that I did it unknowingly for so many years. It was not until I met my husband that I realized that I could be me and that was enough. Not only was it enough, it was somehow spectacular.
So, I ask you, dear readers, how do you encourage your children to be happy with exactly who they are? Or, if you do not have children, how do you help promote self-worth in your own life? I saw that a friend of mine has the saying, “Be yourself; everybody else is already taken,” hanging in her kitchen. I know this is something I plan to remind my kiddos of, and perhaps myself, when necessary.
If I think about my own transformation into becoming comfortable being me, I realize that I still have to repeat little affirmations of reassurance to myself. I also think of the years of therapy that helped bring me to the point that I am at today. I’m sure I impart the knowledge I learned in those many counseling sessions without even realizing it, but sometimes I feel so ill-equipped to teach my children matters that I’m only now learning for myself.
I wonder though if a critical piece in helping our children feel comfortable being themselves, is teaching them that others can be themselves and we don’t all have to get along. It doesn’t make either party less of a person if we don’t jive with one another. In the case of the teasers that my eldest comes in contact with, I don’t think their actions are malicious. Perhaps unkind, but not malicious. My guess is that their manner of communication and connection is merely different from what my eldest finds enjoyable to be around. In which case, I think it’s fine to suggest that she be kind when she works with these individuals, but also be okay in not nurturing such friendships that don’t allow her to be herself or uplift her. My hope for all of my children is that in teaching them about Celebrating Differences, I can help them understand that being exactly who they are is the most beautiful thing they can offer this world. And perhaps in cases where it may be difficult to celebrate differences, they, and we, can strive to understand differences and realize that boundaries are perfectly healthy.
So, I ask you again, what insight do you have to share on the matter? I can’t tell you how badly I wish I could discuss this issue with my own Mom. I’m desperately homesick for her as of late. I believe she struggled greatly with these same insecurities and I would appreciate her thoughts right about now. Honestly, I would just love to hear her say, “You’re doing fine, Sara Baby Girl.”