For many generations, parents and educational institutions have taught that children shouldn’t have their own opinions or voice. We were to be seen, but not heard. But now, as adults, many of us are going through our own un-schooling of these ways that we were raised, and learning compassion for ourselves in our parenting journey along the way. Here is a great article on that subject, from Dr. Marcy Cole, one of our favorite authors and speakers. For any of you raised in the Mid-west, where to show pride or brag is to sin, this is especially enlightening.
If you peruse the literature on female development, you may notice that there is a common thread regarding how many young girls often lose their voice by the age of 10. They are exposed to messages to be “sugar and spice and everything nice,” to be “seen and not heard,” to “look pretty.” So what happens when we don’t look so pretty, when we have feelings that are not so “nice,” when we do have a voice that may or may not agree, and when we do want to shine and share our light? For many little girls, they begin to refrain from accessing their opinions and preferences and from expressing their authentic feelings. Slowly these young women become “other-directed” rather than “self-directed.” The consequence in adulthood, from this cumulative disconnect and self-neglect, can lead to resentment, confusion and depression. But there is always an opportunity for an awakening, reminding us of what we knew from the beginning and of how precious we really are.
This is a story that offers parents a jewel of wisdom to share with their daughters and sons, and reminds us grown-ups where our true pride lies.
When my niece was 13 years old, I called her after a school play to ask her how it went. “It was great,” she exclaimed. “I was really proud of my performance!” When I was in junior high school, sharing in this way would have been considered boastful or “stuck-up.” When my sister got on the phone, I told her how incredible it was that my niece could really celebrate and acknowledge herself, at an age when young girls often begin to dim their light to be accepted and not perceived as “conceited.” She told me something that I vowed to share with as many parents as possible: “When my kids were small, I made a conscious decision to never say, ‘I’m proud of you.’ Instead, I have always said to them, ‘You must be so proud of yourself.’”
I was immediately struck by the power of these words. My sister’s decision was not only insightful but so profound. This approach helps children realize, from a young age, that their true compass and locus of truth, approval and love always lies within themselves.
I’ve been spreading the gift of these words of wisdom ever since, encouraging parents to consistently use this reflective mirroring back to your children, not just about their accomplishments but “just because.” “You must be so proud of the person that you are. I am so glad you are here and love you so much.” Can you imagine hearing that or saying that to ourselves everyday? It’s a beautiful reminder to us all.
So when was the last time you gave yourself, as my friend Lisa Greenfield calls it, some “toothbrush love” in the morning mirror?
Be proud of who you are.
Be proud that you are here.
That makes you a living miracle.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. (Marianne Williamson)
Marcy Cole, Ph.D., L.C.S.W. is a holistic psychotherapist, speaker, workshop facilitator and bestselling co-author of “Living Proof: Celebrating the Gifts That Come Wrapped in Sandpaper.” Over the last 15 years, she has developed an extensive private practice with adults, couples and families. Her approach integrates Western and Eastern perspectives on achieving optimal health and well-being.
Dr. Cole’s office is at the Wheel of Wellbeing in Los Angeles, Calif.
Marcy is also the founder and Executive Director of First Tuesday USA LLC, a national women’s organization dedicated to creating a sense of community amongst extraordinary women through social connectivity, professional networking and social service.
You can purchase her book here:
Follow Marcy Cole, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/marcycole