My 6-year old daughter came home from school one day, and she proudly declared that everyone in her class said that she was nicest girl in school. While my initial thought was to say “wow!” and celebrate it, I paused before replying. “How did that make you feel?” I asked her. She replied, “It made me feel happy.”
Being liked by others, whether it’s by your peers—like in my daughter’s case--or by the general public, as evidenced by the number of likes you get from your public Instagram account—feels good, there’s no doubt about that. Feeling accepted, feeling seen, is such a deep-rooted human craving, that when we’re well liked, it feels amazing.
But what happens when the compliments stop coming, or worse, those who thought were your friends turn on you? Who are you without the likes and validation? We all know that loving yourself is an inside job, and that pinning your self-worth on the opinion of others is anyone’s downfall. But how do you teach that to a child, when even grownups still have a difficult time detaching themselves from the opinions of others?
One thing’s for sure: Staying true to yourself takes effort, and it’s built one choice, one word, one action at a time. It takes practice to listen to your own voice, to stand your ground, to be empathetic, but not swayed by others. It takes work and practice to be who you want to be, even when it means not being well liked. What’s better than being well liked? It’s when you love who you are so fiercely that it’s okay when someone doesn’t like you-and there will always, always be someone who doesn’t like you, no matter how awesome you are.
As the classic Whitney Houston song goes, “Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all,” and it rings ever so true. Loving yourself is a daily lesson, one that you teach your child—and yourself—constantly, no matter how many candles there are on the birthday cake. But how do you teach a child early on in life to foster his or her own identity?
Establish time and time again that your child matters. From the stories she tells to the actions they make, all of it matters. Put value in their opinions, actions, and words. As long as their words or actions won’t disrespect others or themselves, let them be who they are. Your child wants to wear that superhero cape to the supermarket? Let them! They point out an obvious trait about someone to their face that makes you blush with embarrassment? It’s all right! They decide to not be friends with someone because they hurt your child’s feelings? It’s okay! When your child knows that their words and actions matter, they will be more confident in themselves.
Find that sweet spot between letting your child flourish into the person they want to be, but still guiding them to be the best version of themselves. As parents, our children take our cue for everything, and they look up to us for guidance. The responsibility is scary, to say the least, but it also brings out the tendencies of some parents to bring up their children as their “mini-mes”. And while matching OOTDs are adorable and there will always be traits that your children share with you, repeat after me: They. Are. Not. You. Let us not project our own identity, our own unfulfilled dreams on our children. Step back from the need to control their life—from their outfit choices to the courses they take in college—and let them live it.
And lastly, accept them wholly and wholeheartedly. It might sound contradictory, but when the ones we love the most in the world accept us for who we are, it gives us the courage to stand in our truth. And as parents, accepting our children completely—their strengths, their character, their flaws, their mistakes—is how we can express our unconditional love for them.
When my daughter and I got home later on the same day she was called the nicest girl in class, she pulled out her box filled of make believe toys—masks, wands, crowns, weapons—and pulled on an ensemble that can only be best described as a cross between Captain Marvel and a Fairy Princess. I asked her, “What are you?” she shrugged and said, “Me! I made it all by myself!” And gave off her fiercest pose. I smiled and replied, “As long as you’re doing you, that’s awesome!”
Maita de Jesus is a writer by profession for over a decade. While her forte are personality profiles and lifestyle pieces, she has since ventured into writing about family and parenting, due to her becoming a mom of one. A graduate of AB Legal Management from the University of Santo Tomas, her deviation from the expected career path was because of her determination to urge others to change for the better through her writing.
If you want to learn more about how your child can be the best at being themselves, La Vie Institute has an excellent program for kids and young adults that cater to the importance of EQ, or Emotional Quotient, and personality development programs that will help your child to get comfortable with themselves. To know about their programs and ongoing services, click here: https://www.lavieinstitute.com/programs-and-workshops