Why We Have to Model Self-Esteem, Not Talk About It
I get a newsletter from Marci Shimoff that I love to read. I am sharing one of her articles today because I think as moms we need to remember that how we feel about ourselves has a huge impact on how our children, especially our daughters, will feel about themselves. If we are constantly obsessing over our bodies, how we look and if everyone likes us, our children notice that and think that’s normal and will learn to share our low self-esteem. It is certainly never our intention to raise kids without self-confidence. But children are amazing little sponges who pay more attention to how we act and what we are modeling than what we are saying. I know I have had my share of “hot pants” moments as Marci calls them but I am working hard not to live from that place of fear, self-doubt or lack of self-worth.
by Marci Shimoff
Do you ever have what I refer to as “hot pants” moments — moments when you are overcome with self-judgment?
I call them this because one of my most vivid memories of self-criticism came when I was 13 years old and hot pants — three-inch-long shorts that barely cover the butt — were all the rage. I was chubby, but that didn’t stop me from squeezing into my very own pair of bright pink hot pants.
On the day of my hot pants debut, I overhead one of my friends saying to another, “Can you believe Marci wore hot pants today — with those thighs?” I was crushed. When I got home, I took off those tiny shorts and stuffed them in the back of my closet where I’d never have to see them again. But I couldn’t get rid of the self-judgment that easily.
For a while, every time I looked into the mirror, I heard “Can you believe how fat you are?” Later, when I was 19 and didn’t have a boyfriend, that voice asked, “Can you believe what a loser you are?” And years after that, when I gave a talk and thought someone in the audience looked bored, the voice was still there: “Can you believe what a lousy speaker you are?”
If you’re like everyone else I’ve ever met, you have the equivalent of a “hot pants” story in your life and your own version of self-judgments that have put a lid on your experience of love and happiness.
Decades after this hot pants incident, I started studying self-esteem and later taught courses on how to raise self-esteem. Certainly having high self-esteem is great, but while writing Love for No Reason, I realized there’s a big difference between self-esteem and self-love.
Self-esteem is conditional — it’s based on “loving myself, because…” I’ll love myself if I’m good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, do a good enough job, and so on. The limitations of this are clear. What happens when I don’t live up to the exacting standards that I hold? Then I plunge into self-judgment, close my heart, and feel unworthy of love.
On the other hand, self-love is unconditional — it means being able to love yourself no matter what — whether or not you look good in hot pants or do a fabulous job at work.
Here are two practices that can help you develop greater self-love. They’re especially useful when you’re having a rough time or being particularly judgmental with yourself:
1. Practice self-care: Most people aren’t in the habit of taking good care of themselves and honoring their own needs, which is fundamental to self-love. To reverse this, three times a day, stop what you’re doing and ask yourself, What’s the most loving thing I can do for myself right now? And then follow through on the answer.
2. Practice self-compassion: Developing self-love requires that you treat yourself kindly — as kindly as you would your neighbor or your friend. If you’re stuck in self-criticism, try thinking of yourself as a completely separate person. Ask yourself, what would you say or do if you saw a friend hurting the way that you’re hurting? Give yourself all the benefits of having a good friend — from the inside out.
So, the next time you have a “hot pants” moment, give yourself an internal hug and remember that you’re worthy of love — no matter what.
Marci Shimoff is a celebrated transformational leader and #1 New York Times best-selling author. To learn
more of her powerful techniques for establishing deep and authentic happiness and well-being, visit www.HappyForNoReason.com