Friday, June 19, 2009

To Thine Own Self Be True

We can see when we look around us, at individuals in our lives or just in passing, that self-esteem is a very important component in who we become as adults. It plays a significant role in our development, and can be the motivator for many of our actions and the cause of much of our baggage.

It's funny how some people, who frankly really shouldn't have such high self-esteem, can think they are "all that" while someone else who SHOULD think so, just doesn't see it. I would argue that really neither of those individuals believes in themselves. The first is overcompensating, and the second doesn't feel they are worthy.

But where do those feelings come from?

Truly, I believe most of our personality development is formed at a very young age. It's one of the reasons I studied Early Childhood Education. People think it's "babysitting" but research has shown that the years between birth and five are paramount to setting the stage for what that individual is to learn and become forward. Those years are very important, and receiving proper care and guidance is a great way to help on that path into the school years and in character development in general.

If you trace back to most individuals childhoods, you'll find that a lot of their baggage today comes from their upbringing with their parents. I know that seems like the easy out; blame your folks, but I find it mostly to be true. Certainly along the way obstacles are thrown in our paths that can change how we think about ourselves, but in general, most baggage is from how we feel we were loved or treated as children.

I had girlfriends growing up that searched for boyfriends and the feeling of being "loved" constantly. They could not be alone or out of a relationship. Their feelings of validation were wrapped up in a boy and if they were worthy enough to have his attentions. I've seen grown men and women that didn't feel they got enough love or time or praise from their parents, that seek it out in unhealthy ways. Their ego craves the messages they didn't hear as kids-that they are smart, handsome or beautiful, engaging, and mostly worthy. More precisely, worth IT. They can't intrinsically feel good about themselves without the extrinsic recognition and reinforcement from others' opinions.

I would even go as far as to say that if you asked most people they would say that they are the way they are because of "this" in their upbringing. On a positive, they may feel that their parents did an exceptional job and that is why they are a success, personally and professionally. On a negative, they may blame their parents lack of commitment to them as the reason they have failed in some area.

That's a lot of pressure now that I'm a parent myself! I know a huge portion of who my girls become lies with my guidance and encouragement of their individual skills and talents. I know my acceptance and praise of them will be paramount to the relationships they form later, and to the way they manage themselves in the world at large. What the hell was I thinking getting into this parenting racket? Like I don't have enough guilt and pressure to deal with in life!

Obviously, part of that personality development is just how they were born. My youngest is feisty and demanding. She has been that way since day 1. My eldest is sensitive and a dreamer. Again, since day 1. My job as a Mom is not to squash those traits, but to make them work for each of them in their lives. Feisty can be draining on Mom. But out there in the big, wide, world, if used positively, could be the key to success and overcoming challenges. Dreamy and sensitive can also be flighty and petulant. But if harnessed, could be the traits exactly needed to wow in the art world.

For some reason, which I chalk up to both personality and parenting, I've always had a pretty strong sense of self. I lack in confidence in terms of daring to try something new, but that's more my self-criticism and my need to be perfect. In terms of knowing who I am and liking that person, I've always been strong. I've never been the type to need outside flagellation about my abilities. I've always been okay with me and "talked myself up" internally. I've never been the wallflower type that prefers that no one knows or sees me. I've always stood up for what I believe in and I try to always be my own best cheerleader. That's not always easy, but I recognize that I'm worth it.

And now, it's my job to pass that feeling on to my girls. That no matter what anyone tells them, good or bad, that they need to listen to their own hearts. They need to believe in themselves. They need to keep on going in their pursuits, whether pushed down or held up. Their worth doesn't come from grand achievements or romantic relationships. They need to believe in everything I've ever told them about themselves. That they are smart, funny, kind, strong and beautiful. That they can do anything they put their minds to and are willing to work hard towards accomplishing. That love is great, but it does not define you, and you can never lose yourself in another person's praise or criticism. That obstacles and struggles happen to all of us, and it's not the obstacle that defines you, but how you handle it. How you overcome, either by falling apart or holding yourself together.

To Thine Own Self Be True. That basically sums it up nicely in one small, but important, phrase.
Do you believe? Are you true?

You ARE worth it. Now start living it. And believe.

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