Self-esteem – I heard these two words used in the same sentence for the first time in 1993 at my son’s nursery school. Self-esteem and parenting – how could they possibly be connected? As a relatively inexperienced Mom, lacking in self-confidence (and self-esteem but I only realised this further into my parenting journey), I wanted to find out everything I could about being the ‘best’ Mom and give my children the head start that all ‘good’ Moms want to provide.
What I heard that evening was the beginning of an inner adventure in self-reflection, growth and ‘ahah’ moments that were to challenge my existing view of myself and my world. It was a slow and sometimes uncomfortable realisation that started to steep into my consciousness until, slowly layer-by-layer I could join the dots that enabled me to painstakingly address my own low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy and then, and only then I could start working on building the self-esteem of my children. I had never thought to think how my own self-esteem could possibly be linked to how I parent. My focus had always been on my children, missing completely the link between my relationship with myself and every single other aspect of my life, including what I was modelling to my sons.
What is self-esteem?
Self-esteem is a deeply personal connection to self and relates to how we feel and what we think about ourselves, with specific relation to our value and worth and our competencies. It is information for us, about us and has nothing to do with anybody else. It is non-comparative, non-competitive and non-judgemental. It is not loud, boastful nor arrogant but conversely is quiet, reassuring and life enriching. It is not constant and does fluctuate depending on what is happening around us but we can all begin to take responsibility for maintaining a healthy self-esteem, when we have the tools available to us. When we consciously choose to build and maintain a healthy self-esteem, everybody stands to gain because we feel content in our own skins and so can connect genuinely with others from a place of generosity, empathy, acceptance and respect, feeling full and resourceful.
Signs that my self-esteem was wobbly:
- Second guessing all my parenting decisions
- Fearful and anxious that I wasn’t good enough
- Worried that every little transgression on my part was going to mess my child up for life!
- Sometimes too strict and other times not firm enough
- Putting everybody else’s needs before my own
- Overcompensating because of feeling guilty that I was a working Mom
- When I was at working wishing I was with my sons, when I was with my sons, stressing about work
- Believing perfection was attainable
- Comparing myself to other Moms who all appeared to have the parenting/work juggle down to a tee
- Always felt the answers were ‘out there’ instead of ‘in here’
- Blaming myself and taking many of my children’s outburst or transgressions, personally
- Worrying about what other people think if I show I am less than the perfect Mom
Perhaps you can relate to some of these?
When I realised that this is how I felt about myself as a parent and that my own identity as a woman no longer existed (although in retrospect, I don’t think it ever had) it was both scary and exciting; scary because I was going to meet ‘me’ for the very first time and exciting because I could see the map that included practical steps I could take to change this chain of events.
5 self-esteem parenting tips:
- Remind yourself that you are doing the very best you can with the tools and resources you have available to you at this point in time.
- Don’t take your children’s successes or struggles personally. They are their own little people.
- If yesterday wasn’t great, start afresh again today.
- Acknowledge the important and valuable role you already play in your child’s life.
- Don’t chase perfection – this will set your children up to try and attain impossible standards for themselves.