When I was in middle school, one of the worst insults was to be called “conceited.” If you appeared to like your hair, your jeans, or GOD FORBID, if you celebrated your own talents too proudly, you were deemed…conceited. You were too boastful. Too proud. Too much. I never wanted to draw this ire from the nameless “they” who roamed middle school hallways. Because if “they” branded you with this insult, you were done.
So when I excelled at dance, I said things like, “I’m the worst.” If I got an A on a test, I turned my paper over before anyone could see. I celebrated my failures in an effort to appear more like the “they.” True, there are people on this planet who falsely inflate their abilities but I think the rest of us escaped middle school with a fear of standing out for our awesomeness.
I’m still a work in progress, but I have worked to reprogram my brain that so quickly shoots down positive thoughts like a clay pigeon at a shooting range. My mouth says, “My hair is looking good today.” But my brain goes – chik chik BOOM shoots positive thoughts out of the sky for fear other people hear it – “My hair is FINE but it doesn’t look GOOD.”
Pass It On
Unfortunately, I have started hearing my kids use the same language with themselves. Lola is a talented artist. I’m not just being a “everyone gets a trophy mom.” She’s really good. What does she say about her work? “Meh. It’s just okay.” Our son was placed into an accelerated math course. His response? “I’m no good at reading comprehension so that makes sense.”
While self-awareness is vital, I’ve been trying to do a better job of loving myself out loud so my kids can hear. Shouldn’t we be allowed to be proud? Especially now, when I have days when my greatest accomplishment is taking a shower. I read a quote from someone recently, and I tracked the origins to Caroline Caldwell. She wrote,
“In a society that profits from your self-doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act.”
I’m ready to be a rebel.
I feel a little out of my comfort zone when I say these things, but I believe it’s helping my kids when they hear their mother praise herself. I’m working to be proud of both my physical appearance, the effort I put into a task, and any step towards a goal. Here are some of the work I did this weekend:
- Wearing small-ish athletic shorts, the kind I used to avoid for fear of revealing the dimpled-skin on my thighs. I say, “Check out how strong my legs are! I love my legs!” Then I try to lift and squat them, which leads to a lot of giggles.
- After doing an at-home workout, “Check out my biceps! I’m a beast! Who wants to arm wrestle me? I love how strong I feel.”
- After writing and shooting a video: “I worked so hard on that video. I am proud of myself!”
- Looking in the mirror and spotting new wrinkles on my forehead, “How lucky am I that I’ve been alive long enough to have wrinkles! What a gift I’ve been given.”
- On a day when it’s hard to get out of bed because the weight of the world seems to be pressing down on my chest, “Guys! I washed my hair and made a healthy lunch. I’m doing the important work of taking care of myself today!”
- A year ago, I had set a goal to be able to complete an unassisted pullup. With gyms closing, I hit a little setback. We recently installed a pullup bar in our garage so I can get to work. I missed my original deadline but I said out loud this weekend, “I’m proud of myself for having the guts to set that goal. I’m a little behind but I know I’m strong and I’ll get there.”
It’s an uncomfortable feeling to be so bold as to love yourself, but it’s been an amazing experiment. Let’s get proud! Tell me something amazing about yourself!