At my weekly supervisory session, my therapist asked, ‘Don’t you think that’s a big ask of your clients if you struggle to do it yourself?’
She was referring to my affirmation work.
I’ve recently finished spraying an old mirror I found lurking in my garage, a pillar-box red. Red is the colour of courage. My plan is to stick affirmation cards all over it. The children then stand in front of the mirror and repeat the affirmations to their reflection. Our mind believes what we tell it to be true and this is a simple case of rewiring.
I am brave! I am confident! I can do it!
Mmm I gazed out the window and avoided making eye contact.
‘What do you see when you look in the mirror?’ she probed.
Mmm I continued to gaze. ‘Do you like what you see when you look in the mirror Lisa?’
I couldn’t answer her. Tears welled up in my eyes and I swallowed my words. ‘Not really,’ I concluded.
I look in the mirror to clean my teeth, apply my make up and dry my frizzy mop of hair. I look in the mirror to see that my tummy has become saggier and to see if there are hairs that need plucking on my chin. I endlessly compare myself to photos of ten years ago when I thought I was fat (but clearly wasn’t as ‘fat’ as I am now). I leave the house looking what I deem to be passable and then see somebody in the street who looks beautiful and instantly label myself as ugly.
We make affirmation cards at my confidence workshops. The kids are so creative and naturally find their way to correcting their negative thinking.
She is right you know, my therapist. I’m asking my clients to do things that I cannot do. ‘I don’t want them to think it’s hard!’ I protest. She smiles and says nothing. She is my non-judgemental safe space where I can be myself. She has taught me how to provide this space for the children I coach.
How hard is it for us to be ourselves?
Who or where is your safe space?
Part of parenting is being a good role model and to set an example. This isn’t about being perfect but it’s about demonstrating the sort of behaviour we want to see and being the best version of ourselves. When your children are attempting to do things that you are unable or cannot do, how do you respond to that?
With kindness, encouragement and empathy I hope. If you are asking too much of yourself, you are sending a message to your children that it’s OK to do the same.
You can help your child to see what they like when they look in the mirror by reflecting back to them all the good that they are. Recently in coaching I’ve been working with teenage girls to change the way they see beauty. Beauty isn’t what we see on the outside. It comes from feeling good about ourselves on the inside. I think shame blocks these good feelings. When children carry shame (which may not be their’s to start off with), they find it hard to see the beauty let alone feel it.
Their ideal of beauty comes from the media. One girl even said that being beautiful meant tanned with long nails, glossy hair, straight teeth and no freckles. That’s me out then! Watch this video made by the Dove Real Beauty Campaign. It’s amazing to see how other people see us compared to how we see ourselves.
A teenage girl started coaching because she was bullied for the way she looks. The messages she received over and over every day went straight to her heart. She is beautiful inside and out and over time, she has started to realise that their wickedness was more about them than it ever was about her.
I often hear children complain about being asked to do things that they don’t see their parents do. In fact, often Mums are picking up after Dads and children are quite rightly questioning: ‘How come he doesn’t have to do that?!’
Another one of my clients is pushing themselves hard to be top of the class to the point where the work far outweighs the play. I can relate to this as a perfectionist / workaholic who would spend hours on homework and was never top of the class. Disheartening and no fun at all. For my client, this is partly to do with their schooling environment and partly to do with how they see themselves. They have learnt to value themselves based on their grades. Did you see that letter recently published on Facebook about how grades are not everything?
So I whole-heartedly say: ‘Yes!’ to my therapist when she asks if it’s unfair of me to expect my clients to do their affirmations when I cannot look myself in the eye standing in front of a mirror and be comfortable with what I see. My work inspires me. The children I coach are strong, resilient and inspiring. From now on, I am going to pay more attention when I look in the mirror and cut myself some slack.
Can you do the same?
Can you lift them up and allow them their off days?
Can you make sure they know ALL the good bits?
Can you show them what they fail to see in themselves?
Of course, we want the best for them. That is a given but how much of what we want is what they want and is part of their journey?