“All of me loves all of you…all your perfect imperfections.” ~John Legend.
My daughter was a handful as a child. Which is why she hates it when she sees me looking on with glee as her own daughter gives her all kind of attitude. It is the special curse a mother wishes on her kids, that they are blessed with kids just like them! But when my daughter was being her own natural self, before society and influences tried to tell her who she should and should not be, I observed two different ways of viewing your children. She loved to dance, and to create performances, and would rope in her poor younger brothers into joining her ‘on stage’ in our living room. Once she put on a show for her godmother’s parents. I watched as they clapped and cheered and enjoyed the creativity of a 6 year old. It contrasted fiercely with the look on my mother’s face on the occasion when she watched her doing a similar performance. Granny’s face was stern, her brow furrowed. Apparently she didn’t like what she saw, and it showed. It wasn’t until my mother had great-granddaughters that she seemed to relax around them, to allow them to ‘do their thing.’
But mother-daughter relationships are always tricky. How do you raise your daughter to be whoever she wants to be, when the world is giving her mixed messages? How do you tell her to love herself when we heap such judgment on other females: on their appearance, their weight, their clothing, their choices? Many of us grow up thinking that we are not good enough, so busy comparing ourselves to others that we do not cherish our own talents. Yesterday I heard an exchange between two females, one in her 20’s and the other a wise grandmother. The older lady didn’t immediately recognize the younger one and tried to excuse it by saying “It’s because you look prettier today!” The young lady’s response was “You’re saying I looked ugly before?” She may have been joking, but that is often how we are programmed to respond to compliments. We either downplay them (‘this old thing?’), or read into them far more than was intended.
It is something we have to work on constantly, reminding ourselves to simply say ‘thank you’ when someone offers us a compliment. We may have been raised to be humble, but we confuse that with an inner dialogue which may be full of self-doubt and self-recrimination. And even those who appear full of confidence and swagger may be wearing that cloak to hide their own feelings of inferiority and insecurity.
One of the sociologists who wrote a lot about how we learn wrote of the importance of self-efficacy to success. In order for us to be able to do something, we have to believe we have the ability to do it. How many smokers really believe they can quit each time they stop smoking (again!). How many times have we given up on diets, because we don’t really believe we can lose the weight? If you start out a project (or school) thinking you are not smart enough or good enough, you are doomed by your own fears, which will likely become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Those who are religious talk about faith (even as small as a mustard seed) which is needed to make it through life. One of the tools a teacher must have is the ability to help students to believe in themselves. Sometimes that is as important as the topics to be taught.
If we are lucky, we may meet people along the way who accept us as we are. That is a powerful gift. Unconditional love is what parents (should) bathe their children in. That is not the same as blind love, which sees no faults, which fails to help children to adjust their paths as they grow. What is needed is the love which allows a child to believe in themselves and gives them room to experiment and tackle huge projects, leading to people who will change the world. If we are lucky, we may find that same kind of unconditional love in a partner or friend along the way. And if we are smart, we will accept it and in turn reciprocate it.
As we raise our children and grandchildren to be the best people they can be, allowing them to find their own voice may be one of the most powerful gifts we can give them. Many of us go through life still saying the things we think other people want to hear rather than speaking our own mind. We conform to society’s expectations of ourselves rather than discovering our own uniqueness. We fix our hair and wear clothes to please others instead of ourselves. But when you allow your inner beauty to shine through, that glow blinds others to any imperfections that may be there.
On this Friday morning, I hope that you love yourself unconditionally, and give yourself permission to be the best and most beautiful person you can be. Nature reminds us that there is beauty everywhere, and it is most certainly in the eye of the beholder. I hope someone ‘loves all of you’ and that your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren continue to delight and entertain you as they find their voice and path in life.
Have a wonderful weekend, Family!