Authentic self-esteem

Published by Lori Pickert on November 17, 2008 at 02:18 PM

How do you deal with it when things don’t go your way? If you make a mistake, or if someone just doesn’t appreciate your work or your idea, how do you deal?

Do you waver in your feelings of self-worth? self-confidence? Do you switch to the winning side? Do you pull back in discomfort, embarrassment, fear?

How do we build authentic self-esteem?

People who are authentically self-confident can accept criticism, weigh it, and decide what to keep and what to discard.

People who are authentically self-confident can accept their own mistakes as an unavoidable part of achievement.

People who are authentically self-confident can weigh risks and make good decisions, then deal with the consequences.

People who are authentically self-confident can accept rejection and not give up.

How do we help our children to become authentically self-confident?

15 comments

Comment by Shellyfish on November 17, 2008 at 03:33 PM

I have been giving this subject much thought of late. Raised by a loving, yet insecure mother, I have often personally struggled with this, meandering between the two extremes of self-assurance and insecurity and self-doubt. How do we nurture self-esteem without artifically inflating the egos of our children? Also, how do we avoid passing on our own insecurities?
Thanks for the foot-love the other day, too. :)

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 17, 2008 at 03:55 PM

i think there is nothing we can do *to* children that will raise their self-esteem *authentically*. true self-knowledge and self-confidence has to come from within, from things they have done themselves.

how *do* we avoid passing on our own insecurities? maybe by being open about them?

Comment by Carri on November 17, 2008 at 04:44 PM

I'm so glad you commented on my blog the other day. I'm so enjoying reading through your blog.

I struggle with my own self-esteem.I hope that by talking with my children about my issues and their own, that we are all working toward being more confident.

Comment by estea on November 17, 2008 at 04:48 PM

you been reading my diary again ? ?

"how *do* we avoid passing on our own insecurities? maybe by being open about them?"

gosh, i sure hope so.

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 17, 2008 at 06:37 PM

carri, thank you. :^)

estea .. um .. no? ;^)

everyone suffers setbacks. everyone suffers embarrassment. everyone has been bullied at one time or another, right? even bullies were most likely made by being bullied themselves.

what i’m wondering is .. what experiences can we help children have that will help them become strong? how can we teach them about their own strength?

Comment by Shannon on November 17, 2008 at 08:46 PM

yeah, you were reading my mind today too! These are excellent questions.

Comment by Juliann on November 18, 2008 at 12:30 AM

How interesting to see this question today after spending the weekend with our young adult daughter and listening to her struggle with next steps, job possiblities, and being true to her heart and her passions. When she was younger, we tried hard not to wallow in the mistakes or "failures" but to learn through them and recall them when that might help in making a decision. "Remember when ...... happened? Do you think that pertains to this decision?" Lots of wondering and questioning with our children - so much more important than rescuing them with the right answers.

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 18, 2008 at 01:00 AM

the seeds of adult habits and tendencies are planted in childhood.

focusing on questioning, letting them figure out their own answers -- such a perfect phrase, the importance of not “rescuing them with the right answers”! too many rescues now, and they won’t be able to fend for themselves when they are older.

Comment by Dawn on November 18, 2008 at 03:29 AM

This comes at just the time I have been focusing on helping my daughter use her strengths in more productive ways... aka "not dominiating your little brother" Helping her to learn ways to deal with things that won't always go her way.

We have been doing a lot of "Lets stop and try that again" Giving her a chance to interact again in a way she thinks might be better for everyone invloved. This gives her a chance to think and get calm because she is very implusive and easily becomes frustrated with situations that don't fit into "her plan". We are very lucky that little brother happens to have the patience of a Saint and is willing to "work" with her! Mom is working on that patience too... the lessons we learn from even the littest members of the family!

Any tips on helping a strong willed child take the blows of disappointment would be greatly appreciated!

Comment by Ali on November 18, 2008 at 08:56 AM

We try to show by example how we don't give up with our work (craft, food, and otherwise). We try to lead by example and also celebrate our children's mistakes. Ours are only little but we always try to show the learning that occurs e.g. maybe you could try x instead? I like the way you did this. What else could you do?

On another note - my whole family were poorly over the weekend so i missed the open thread but look forward to finding the time to read it all. I noticed there was some stuff about documentation which I'm really interested in att he moment. I'm just reading The Hundred Languages of Children.

Comment by Shellyfish on November 18, 2008 at 09:10 AM

So many wonderful thoughts!
I was thinking about this watching my 3 year-old drawing last night. She was growing frustrated because she couldn't get it "just right". It gave me the opportunity to ask her to draw what she does draw well, and remind her of how much better her jellyfish (she loves them) have gotten. I think allowing kids to see the progress they've made, and reminding them that it's not about getting it right, but doing our best, can make a big difference.
Also agree about being open about our insecurities - removing the taboo is crucial to moving on.

Comment by Amy-Domestic An... on November 18, 2008 at 09:34 AM

By being so ourselves! By letting them see us sweat! By calmly abiding while they sweat, and letting it work itself out, and leaving their triumphs as exactly that -theirs. That's our road map. It worked for me. I believe it is working for him.

Comment by Cordelia on November 18, 2008 at 11:22 AM

Lori,
Wow! this one really has me thinking, so this is a very long post. Feel free to chop it up. It is funny how for some of us the act of trying something new in front of others, learning in public, seems so unbearable, such a big risk, that, sometimes, we have to retreat to our private den before we can attempt something in public. I remember my son as a toddler, promptly sitting down whenever anyone noticed that he was practicing his "toddle". When a friend exclaimed, "buddy, you're walking!" he sat down and started playing with something on the ground. "me? walking? surely your eyes were playing tricks. I'm just sitting here." Or maybe, "later, when I'm ready, I'll show you some walking."

A few days ago, he was back, seven years old now and trying to learn to flip a coin with style. It didn't come the first time or two. There was frustration, and as we talked about learning and trying some, and an absolute refusal to continue. I remembered and let him be. "later, when I'm ready..." Yesterday, he walked in and offered to trade a demonstration of coin flipping for a report on the status of dinner. It was smooth, and high and obviously very rehearsed. He was so proud. I know the feeling of going back into your cave to get it right, know that it is his way, often mine as well. For me there is always a tension between letting him work it out in private and knowing, and wanting him to know, that sometimes we have to let the seams of our learning show. That sometimes it is about the performance and sometimes about the journey. it is something I struggle with, too. We are similar in this and I try to remember the experiences that finally convinced me to take these risks. For now, I keep an ear and eye out for things he will attempt, before he feels masterful, in the public eye, and find opportunities. Because he has to, he attempts spanish communication here in Spain. He would not have done this at home. It is very brave.

I find I have to reach for compassion in myselfl at these moments, to remember that trying and failing is not simply a choice but an act of great courage, and that, like all great acts of courage, it must be voluntary.

Stories help, we are very narrative-driven here. Movies, too. October Sky keeps us going sometimes, Little house books. Inventor stories. I'd love to hear other things that people find spark the soul to take risks.

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 18, 2008 at 04:14 PM

so much good stuff here. i am chewing on it all and will post more later!

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 19, 2008 at 01:04 AM

okay, i’m back. ;^)

dawn, i found your comment interesting because it raises the question of how to encourage a child to use their powers for good ;^) without stepping on their spirit. of course, we want to encourage them, but not at the expense of, say, a little brother. ;^)

ali, i especially like asking “what else can you do?” — much better in my mind than “why don’t you try X” — because you are modeling how to think about what to do next, and you’re also showing that you are confident they can figure it out on their own.

shelly, good point about reminding children of the progress they’ve made. that’s another benefit of documentation — and why i keep stressing the importance of reflection. basically when you carefully document your child’s work and then show it to them — by displaying it carefully and thoughtfully — you are both helping them tell their story and telling them the story of themselves.

ali, i hope you can come by an open thread or into the forum and talk about your impressions of “hundred languages” when you’re done! we can talk more about documentation. ;^)

amy, i agree so much about letting their triumphs remain theirs. we can celebrate our children’s triumphs without taking them over. it’s just as much a problem to be overly involved in your children’s successes as in their failures.

cordelia, your story made me think of one of my own. i don’t know if i can tell it briefly enough, lol.

we were once at a playground when my older son was about 3. he has always been a child who liked to watch for a long time before trying something new. he watched some other children on the slides that day. there was a little slide and a big slide.

finally, he told me he wanted to slide down the little slide, and he wanted me to hold his hand while he did it. i agreed, and i held his hand while he slid. there was another mother there who had a son the same age. at this point, she gave me a pitying look, like, “oh my, your son can’t even handle the little slide by himself.”

after awhile, my son said he didn’t need me to hold his hand any longer, but would i please stand at the foot of the slide where he could see me. i agreed, of course. so he climbed up and slid down to me several times. i was still getting the pitying looks.

after awhile, he said he was now ready to try the big slide. he wanted me to hold his hand again. i pointed out that he would be so high, i couldn’t reach his hand. so he said, okay, stand where you can reach and when i slide down to you, hold my hand. okay.

so we did that.

about that time, the other mother told her son that he needed to go down the big slide. he resisted; he was afraid. she insisted. he refused. she began to hiss at him and try to drag him to the slide.

after sliding a few times, my son said i could now wait at the bottom. the other mother’s son was now in tears, and she was ordering him to go down the big slide.

my son told me, it’s okay, i don’t need you anymore! and he climbed up the big slide and slid down by himself a few times. at that point, the other mother began to force her son to climb the ladder of the big slide, and i decided we should leave.

your knowledge and understanding about your son and how he works — and your respect for that — made me think of this story. i knew my son, and i respected the fact that he would want to watch for a long time, and then he would ease his way into anything new. it’s just the way he was, and i had no problem with it. i didn’t care what the other mother thought, but she was certainly trying to broadcast that my son didn’t measure up. by the end of our little drama, it was clear that she felt very competitive toward me (a stranger!) and wanted to prove something. at first, she felt her son was “better” than mine. then she felt he needed to catch up and prove himself. because i was relaxed, didn’t care about my son’s slide proficiency (lol), and knew him and how he worked, he was able to get there at his own pace. i don’t know if the other mom knew her son and was trying to change him, or maybe she didn’t understand what he needed. either way, her need to control him seemed to guarantee his failure.

i love your phrase “sometimes we have to let the seams of our learning show”. those of us with perfectionist children (and those of us who are reformed perfectionists ourselves) know exactly how difficult that can be. but .. so worthwhile.

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