Education is a given, but maintaining her self-worth is the priority’.
A few months ago, one of my pre-teen daughters was having a tough time with friendships. And I felt helpless. I came to realise that underneath all the frustration and annoyance at our joint inability to communicate properly as she tried to navigate her way through this, was my own angst at not being able to ‘solve it for her’. Not being able to find the words that would help her, my much loved daughter, settle.
In the end I realised this one truth. She has one major priority as she navigates her education. Education is a given, but maintaining her self-worth is the priority,
Studies show that girls will reach their highest level of felt self-esteem by the age of 8 (https://bit.ly/2Sf1YNb) and thereafter it’s all down hill. What a damning and depressing piece of information. I’m beginning sadly to see why this can happen as girls are thrown into the minefield (and sometimes it feels like a battlefield) of navigating forming relationships whilst jostling for position in a pubescent state.
This week I read a quote which said “your opinion of me is none of my business”. I shared it with my daughter who has been using it as and when she needs to, most often in her own head; why fan the flames when they appear? And if it helps, it’s worth it.
Aside from using affirmations such as these, how does she maintain her sense of self-worth? She likes herself and the way she is - which I am grateful for, and long may it continue. And what else - when it gets really tough?
I describe self-worth to my clients as the felt sense that exists when they can hold a space for themselves that says “yep, that didn’t go well, or that feedback hurt and regardless, despite all that, I am still OK, I am still a worthy human being”. They are not thrown into a sense of not good enough, less than, or worse, shame.
My experience is that this felt sense is to be found in the body. It’s not something that we can just think ourselves into. Of course, it goes without saying that self-talk focused on positive and supportive messages are really helpful. Better than verbally berating ourselves with nothing but negativity.
It’s even more useful however if we also know how to organise our physical selves to being able to feel worthy.
To do this we first have to be mindful of how it is to feel less than worthy. Usually there will be some sort of contraction and tightness, some sort of collapse and it’s worth knowing where/how this occurs. If we stay present and curious to the sensations that may also be present we may also learn other pieces of information about the internal landscape of who we are. If we become a student of the felt and physical experience we can learn a lot about our stories, our triggers, what we care about and what we desire.
Developing, through practice, this level of awareness, offers us the possibility of developing the the skill of letting go of the feelings and sensations, or perhaps, letting them be there and re-organising the internal state to be more calm, relaxed and ‘full’. Each mistake we make, or each cruel word aimed at us can easily take something away, chip, chip chipping away at our often fragile self.
Perhaps, we might become more courageous, try out something new, take a risk, be vulnerable from a place of loving kindness towards ourselves. It’s the being in the ring that counts rather than being there ‘perfectly’. Getting it wrong, making a mistake, not being liked by everyone is OK. We are each, still OK and worthy.
By learning to welcome our body as the very ‘self’ that we are (and if it’s less of a mind loop for you, think body/brain as the self), then we have something to work with. Rather than ‘allowing’ the impact of another person(s) hurtful commentary or our own mistakes and shortcomings to minimise our ‘self’ we can focus on holding onto its wholeness and its full expansiveness, rather than allowing it to contract, collapse, diminish. We can learn to fully inhabit our skin, feel our sides and our edges - literally, and especially our back sides, feel the full length of our spines, and breathe calmly and slowly. By inhabiting and loving our own body as the self that we are, we can truly embody our own self worth and no-body or anything can take that away.