I read something I found profound the other day. It highlighted something along the line that children don’t really realize anything is wrong with them until someone tells them it is. It was said in the context that if you’re looking in the mirror and picking yourself apart in front of your kid, because maybe you don’t think you’re beautiful, or your thighs are too big or you hate your stomach, if your child is watching, that might be the first time they ever consider the fact there COULD be something wrong with any of those areas. Kids just aren’t aware because they’re not predisposed to these societal norms.
It made me reflect on the first time I was worried about my own insecurities. If you know me in person, you know I have a gap between my teeth. Maybe what you don’t know is how frequently I’ve considered getting braces to fix this gap between my teeth and how I wished my parents would’ve just gotten me braces when everyone else my age got them. Maybe you also don’t know that I didn’t even realize there was an issue with having a gap between my teeth until someone on a playground told me my teeth were messed up and I was ugly when I was 8.
From then on, I stopped smiling with my mouth open except on a rare occasion. It didn’t JUST make me self conscious about the gap. It then made me self conscious about the size and the color I started looking at everyone else’s teeth and judging mine against theirs and they never seemed to size up.
I’m older now and I couldn’t care less about the gap between my teeth. In fact, it’s apparently “trendy” these days, though, as someone who didn’t get to choose to have it, I still wish is was gone. I am just too lazy to get braces to make that happen.
I’ll admit I’d never considered this before. I think about all the times Elle mimics what I do. If she sees me brushing my teeth, she brushes her. She even wants to put on deodorant and tries to do it just like I do. Good behaviors rub off just as easily as bad behaviors and sometimes we do things that we assume are small, but they have a great impact.
Kids don’t realize they’re not perfect until someone tells them they’re not. They don’t realize they can’t be something until someone says “you can be anything you want.” The doubt that can be created with that statement (which is obviously meant to do more good than harm) never existed until they start questioning why someone would state what might seem obvious to them. These kinds of statements are especially prevalent when you’re raising girls. I’m guilty of saying them myself. I am guilty of buying “boy” toys just so Elle doesn’t grow up solely around baby dolls. I am guilty of telling her she can be whatever she wants because I feel so strongly inclined to protect her ability to rise and grow and not let her gender get in the way of anything she wants that I am also simultaneously creating an environment where I might be accidentally be causing those specific doubts I am trying to prevent.
As a parent of a girl, I especially work to have a heightened awareness around how Elle is raised. If she wants to be a stay at home mom, I want her to be. If she wants to be an astronaut, I’ll support it. If she wants to be a tattoo artist, awesome. She can draw on me. I never want her to grow up in a world where she feels like she cannot do something or be someone and I don’t want to be responsible for putting any doubt in her mind about her capabilities. Little did I consider or know that how I view myself and what I say about myself could shape what she thinks about herself. It seems obvious now that I consider it. There are many things that are societally shaped in a person just based on their environment, but I’d never considered it down to this level. If nothing else, it’s a great reminder that loving your kids starts with loving yourself.