Purposeful Parent Tip: Be careful how you label your children. These labels can last a lifetime.
As is typical for this time of year, you have probably noticed the increase in ads and commercials for weight loss and gym memberships. After all, losing weight is the number one New Year’s resolution year after year. So it is appropriate that we see messages to help us in our battle of the bulge.
What did you resolve to do this year? Are you like the many who want to lose weight and get in shape? Or did you, like me, resolve to not create a list of stuff to DO or accomplish, but rather a list that would help you BE a better person
Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of messages about how we define ourselves. These definitions or “labels” are sometimes useful as they help us define our place in the world. But what happens when those definitions are wrong or worse, when we can ONLY value ourselves by those definitions?
As a child and young person, my predominant label was “smart.” I got good grades and studied hard so the label was accurate. It was accurate until I got my first bad grade. Instantly, the many years of good grades went out the window and I no longer considered myself “smart.” Silly, yes, but that was my truth.
My “smart” label carried me into my years as a corporate employee. There, my value was based on my work ethic, my out-of-the-box thinking, and my ability to get the job done. My yearly reviews were stellar. When, on a new job, I received a not so stellar review, again, all the previous positive reviews went out the window.
This label defined my years as a small business owner. “Smart” was translated into accomplishments and awards and a bit of fame for my work with my baby gift business Frittabello. When I decided last year to transition my day-to-day activities away from the sales of my baby gifts and there were no big accomplishments to speak of, I faced a real challenge in my life – ok, an identity crisis – and struggled with it during a good part of 2012.
Who am I if not a smart, accomplished woman? Is my self-worth determined solely by what I do?
No. And neither should yours. AND…neither should your children’s.
My daughter has always been told how pretty she is. Her striking blue eyes and long blonde hair always caught the eye of someone in the grocery store or other venue. The truth is, she is pretty. But that is not all she is. She is smart, athletic, caring, insightful…I could go on and on. Likewise, my son is also good looking and athletic, but he is also crazy funny, loving, has a memory for things like none I’ve EVER seen, and is smart as well.
Early on, I was advised not to focus on my daughter’s looks so much as I too was falling prey to telling her how pretty she was all the time. It was my sister who warned me about this. “What happens in her teen years if her looks change and people don’t tell her she’s pretty anymore? How will she feel about herself?”
I took her advice to heart and quickly began focusing on my daughter’s many talents and skills rather than her looks. I also applied this to my son. I knew far too well by my own experience that being pigeon-holed into a label follows you your whole life.
This is an important lesson. We are NOT our accomplishments. We are not what others say we are. Who we are can only be defined by us. We have that power to decide. We can remain in the comfort of our childhood labels, or we can go past those labels to become all that God intended us to be.
So, what’s your New Year’s resolution? Who are you going to BE?