When I look at my son, I see a lot of myself in him. And for the most part, that fills me with an immense sense of pride. He’s got my eyes. He’s shy around strangers, but is a serious show-man/entertainer around the people he trusts. He’s gentle and a bit passive. He’s super smart and retains everything. He’s an observer. I love that he has inherited these parts of me. These are things I didn’t necessarily teach him, they are just an inevitable part of his DNA, of who he is.
But ever since he was a baby, I have been hyper-aware of not wanting to pass my own insecurities, my own weaknesses, my own limitations, onto my son.
Building his self-esteem and self-confidence has been a mission of mine, mainly because these are things that I struggled with as a young girl and continue to battle as a grown woman.
I can’t believe I am publicly admitting this, but I never learned how to ride a bike.
I never participated in sports. I was so afraid to fail that I never bothered trying. Looking back, I am not sure why my parents didn’t motivate me more, why they didn’t provide me with the encouragement that I desperately needed to break out of my restrictive shell. Perhaps they sensed my apprehension and didn’t want to push. Perhaps it was their way of protecting me. Although they did the best they could, their approach ended up having a significant impact on my self-esteem; “I can’t do it” became my mantra as a child and to this day, I continue to have to make a deliberate effort to ignore that negative, self-deprecating voice inside my head.
I want to teach my son to resist the urge to give up and highlight the importance of perseverance. I want him to understand that perfection is an illusion and in order for him to grow and thrive and learn, he’ll have to make mistakes. I want him to know that he is good enough, that he is worthy, that he can do anything he wants to do.
About a month ago, my son started swimming lessons. In the days leading up to his first class, I was feeling a little anxious. What if he hates it, what if he doesn’t want to go in the water, what if he cries and screams the whole time? It was clear to me that my own insecurities were creeping in and I made a conscious effort to NOT project this onto my son. As he entered the pool, I held my breath and held my husband’s hand. In a matter of minutes, his smile and laughter put me at ease and for the rest of the lesson, I sat there beaming with pride.
I was proud that my son was able to try something new and for that moment, I lived vicariously through him.
This awareness that I have surrounding my son’s self-esteem has forced me to examine myself and I have realized that just like my son, I am a work in progress. I will celebrate my son’s small accomplishments and validate him for who he is. And I will celebrate my own feats as a mom as I continue to raise and shape and mold my amazing boy.