I recently listened to a friend talk about how she was made fun of as a child because she was extremely skinny. Today, that kind of behaviour is known as bullying but in those days you just took it as normal. Sadly it was her relatives who were the culprits and not school mates. Their ridicule left an indelible mark and wove a tapestry of low self-esteem, a damaged self image and an acceptance of a ‘lowly state’. Thankfully, she no longer feels that way.
I recently blogged about my personal experience of feeling ugly as a child and as I listened to my gorgeous and super fit friend relay her story, it suddenly dawned on me that there is nothing anyone can do to protect a child from hearing negative things about themselves. There isn’t any magnetic shield to repel abuse and negativity; at least not yet. Of course if all parents raised their children to treat others nicely and speak kindly to everyone irrespective of differences, then yeah, that might work. Although then, we would all live in Oz, Mary Poppins or Fräulein Maria would be our nannies and whilst we are at it, our parents would also be Bill and Melinda Gates wouldn’t they? Alas, we don’t have the luxury of such a peachy perfect life.
That being so, then the issue isn’t what children hear but what they are compelled to accept or believe in the absence of a positive message. Whilst a lot of relatives incessantly felt the need to tell me I was an ugly baby, no one felt the need to tell me I was pretty or at the very least, that ugly was no longer the case. And with my friend, it wasn’t that people ridiculed her weight or lack of it but no one told her that there was nothing wrong with being skinny.
In elementary mathematics, if you increase negative values you just keep getting an increment of negativities. Likewise, the more negative comments you hear about yourself, the worse you believe you are. The feeling multiplies just like when water was poured on a ‘mogwai’ in the movie Gremlins (for those young enough to remember 🙂 ). The only way to cross over to the positive bar line is to increase the positive values.
I constantly come in contact with people, particularly women, who are down on themselves because that’s all they know. My heart, and often my words, reaches out to them all the time to dispel every negative notion they have about themselves. Alas, I don’t possess a magic wand.
Unless someone is ready to believe that they are beautiful or intelligent or capable or able or worthy or unique or special or deserving; there won’t be a change.
What I can do is ensure that my children hear a million times more positive messages about themselves from me than any negative thing they may ever hear anywhere else on earth. It’s not enough to do things for them, they must hear that positivity reinforced audibly because in its absence, there are too many other voices ready to tell them otherwise.