27 July 2012

Teaching self esteem?


In a hostel in Marseilles, France, 2006

I've just been going through old photos for an up-coming post and something struck me.

How do you teach someone to have a healthy self-esteem?

I have always thought I was fat. Always. Well, as far as I can remember being aware of what I looked like, anyway. I thought I had a big, wobbly tummy. Right since my tweens. And yet, I look back at photos of myself, even from only 4-6 years ago (pre-children!), and see how gorgeous I actually was.


(L) Outside the Coliseum, Rome, 2006 and (R) Roman Forum ruins, 2006.

How did I never see that?


'Driving' a bus during a youth group 'Amazing Race', 2006

And it gets me thinking about my own daughter. I don't want her to grow up thinking she is less than the beautiful person God made her - inside AND out. If she ends up with my figure and not her Papa's, I don't want her to have hang ups about it. But how do I teach her what a healthy self-esteem looks like if I don't possess one myself? Any ideas?


Holocaust memorial, Berlin, Germany, 2006.


January 2009

15 comments:

  1. Jess, this is an awesome honest post. I think many, if not most women are plagued with insecurities, whether it be weight, looks, popularity etc... and the fact that you are aware of your shortcomings in this area will ensure you are aware of the dangers of dwelling your insecurities around your daughter. If you teach her that God loves her and created her perfect in his eyes, no one else is like her...thats sorta stuff...she will feel worthy and loved. x

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  2. p.s I think you look pretty in all these pictures! You look happy and confident.

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    1. Thanks Sas! I think I look pretty in all these pictures now too - I just didn't at the time!

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  3. Wow, honest!

    Always say positive things about appearance, inside and out, Never mention the F(at) word about weight. Ask her what part of you looks the best in each outfit (eg eyes, bottom, ankles -anything really) and do the same to her.
    Try and put a fun and positive spin on exercise, that its not for getting skinny but for being healthy.
    Tell her she is beautiful every day :)

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    1. Thanks Amy, that's great advice. I'm always careful never to discuss my own hang-ups in front of the kids, and I try not to even suggest the idea that we even need to worry about what we look like - except being clean and tidy, of course! I just worry that they might pick up on my subconscious attitude?
      I do talk about how I exercise so I can be healthy and strong and I hope that in their lives exercise will just be a normal part, and not an effort like it is for me!

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  4. I don't really have any advice, but am very interested in hearing other peoples. I'm in pretty much the exact same position - I look back at photos where I remember feeling HUGE a hideous, and realise actually I was quite slim (especially compared to where I am now!). I've never felt particularly awesome about my body, but I really don't want my kids to feel like this about theirs - especially my daughter.
    Thank you so much for being honest and sharing your feelings, I look forward to reading the advice people have to offer.

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    1. Thanks for chiming in Rhiannon. Isn't it silly to think about how awful we used to think we looked? I feel like it's such a waste! I could have been enjoying myself and being confident and not worrying about if I was sucking in my tummy enough! Ha ha, ridiculous!

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  5. Oh, and I HONESTLY, truly think you look just as lovely now as you did in all of these pictures. You may not be as thin, but you have a truly beautiful face and such a lovely glow about you (and pins to kill for!). Just saying : )

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    1. And thank you for your beautiful words. This particular comment will keep me on cloud 9 for at least another week! x

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  6. I guess being honest with yourself first is the first step. I'm not always all there either but this is my base line policy 'In a number of years I will look at photos of myself now and think - gosh I looked so young, slim, attractive...(whatever) and I wish I had enjoyed it' So my policy is to act like this may be the slimmest, youngest, least wrinkly, most attractive I will ever be and even if I want to lose a little or firm up a little I will NOT let it stop me from loving my body right now and dressing it up and thanking (truly thanking) God that it works - I can walk, I have no terminal illnesses, I can craft, I can speak and see and hear. I think a great place to start with kids is to actually get a bit science-y (and I hate science!) and really delve into HOW amazing and incredible our bodies are.....does that help?

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    1. That's a really great policy, Miriam. I think you've got the key, it's all about attitude. Remembering how well off we really are is always humbling too. You're right: I can walk, talk, think, feel, am healthy (relatively) and have a wonderful family. I have every reason to feel good. It's hard to feel it in my heart sometimes though...?

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  7. This is such a thought provoking post Jess. I have thought about it constantly for a few days now. I, like most women, have many bodily insecurities and am terrified about passing it on to Sofia. (And the boys too actually, the statistics regarding boys and eating disorders are increasingly quite scary I think). I guess just being conscious and deliberate in our actions and responses will go a long way to helping...

    I think you look gorgeous in ALL your photos and always have! I personally would kill for some fab curly locks like yours! xxx

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    1. Thanks Catrien - I think we all always want what we don't have right? I've always wanted straight hair!
      I agree that being conscious and deliberate about the way we speak and respond/react to our children is probably the most important thing. I'd like to think that I don't air any of my insecurities in front of the kids, but I worry about how much they'll absorb from my attitude, because I can't see how I portray myself to other people?

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  8. I think one helpful thing for me is that in my work (teaching Pilates) I get to see that there is no correlation - really, none at all - between people's bodies and how they feel about them. Not how fat they are, or how flexible they are, or how strong they are - I have a tiny slim woman who complains about how fat her forearms are (??), sixty-something women who are doing so well but beat themselves up because they "can't" roll up as well as they'd like, stuff like that. So the plain fact is that even if we all looked like Natalie Portman, we wouldn't automatically be happy with our bodies. I prefer to focus on the good things my body can do (I can eat all my veggies and burst with energy! I can walk for miles! I'm not in pain! I can backbend like whoa!), be kind about the things I struggle with (I need to sleep lots to not feel rubbish, but that's life!), and ignore my looks for the most part (my thighs are biggish, they help me bike up hills, and anyway I brushed my hair so anyone who is offended by my appearance can just deal with it!). I hope I'll be able to pass that attitude along to my hypothetical children one day :)

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    1. Nice to see you here Ms Scandretti! Thanks for reading my humble little blog. Your points are really interesting, especially about how you see so many different people and everyone is hung up on something no-one else would think about. I've heard it before too, that even people who've lost really good amounts of weight etc are no happier when they get there. It's beginning to be clear to me that self-esteem really is a lot about your attitude - which doesn't take diet or exercise to change, only willpower!

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