The young girl had been observing what other people said and did. She was trying to figure out where she fit into the grand scheme of things. It wasn't that she was fishing for compliments. It was that she was seeking to know who she was and why she was.
"Mama, am I pretty?" she asked. Her voice was almost a whisper. She was afraid to ask but she needed to know. She watched her mother closely. Mama, concerned that her daughter might attach too much importance on outward appearances answered, "Why, every Mama Duck thinks her babies are the prettiest and best."
The child, not wanting to hurt her mother's feelings for having birthed an ugly child, sighed inwardly. She was ugly. She had a face only her mother could love. Mama had just said so.
That wasn't what her mother said, or even what she meant. It would be another thirty years or so, though, before they would talk about it again. She wasn't sure how the subject had even come up, but she'd reminded her mother of the conversation. Mom said, "I didn't know that's what you thought. You were never ugly! You always were a pretty girl!"
"I thought I was the ugliest girl who was ever born!"
Parents don't always know how their children interpret statements and actions until many years later. If they knew, they would likely take steps to clear up the matter. But there may be other signs that can alert a caring adult to see that a child needs a little encouragement or help to recognize a good self-image.
The kinds of things that are conducive to healthy self-esteem include receiving praise, being listened to, being spoken to with respect, getting attention and hugs, experiencing success in school and in sports, and having good friends.
People with low self-esteem have learned that failed experiences are actually failures within themselves. That isn't true, but that's what they think. They have experienced harsh criticism, been yelled at or beaten, been teased, ridiculed or ignored. They have failed to achieve at school or in sports activities. They have come to believe that they must be perfect, and everyone knows-or should-that there is no such thing.
The Mayo Clinic offers five steps that help to change the negative way in which you look at yourself, even adults who have suffered low self-esteem since childhood.
1. ) Think about what troubles you enough to affect your self-esteem. It may be a presentation you have to make, a change in life circumstances, or a relationship.
2.) How do you feel about those things? Are they reality-based or unrealistic?
3.) Notice when you start thinking negatively about yourself. Physical responses may include muscle tension, a sore back, a racing heart, stomach problems, sweating or changes in sleeping patterns. Emotional: worry, guilt, nervous, sad, angry, depressed, or difficulty concentrating. Behavioral: comfort eating, avoiding doing things you know you need to do, working more than usual, more alone time, worrying about a situation or putting the blame for your problems on others.
4.) Challenge your negative thinking. Is there a more positive way?
5.) When you know what the negative thoughts are, how can you turn them into positives? Maybe you just need to look at things with more hope. Maybe you just need to forgive yourself and go on. An enlightening moment may just be, "I don't hold grudges against other people. If I forgive them, why do I think I am not deserving of being forgiving?"
Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Think good thoughts about you.
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