Self worth

When I was 8 years old, I started taking piano lessons from the same woman that had instructed my sister, 4 years my senior. I’ve mentioned before that my sister is a very gifted musician. At 12 years old, she demonstrated noticeable and noteworthy talent. It was obviously a gift – music would always be a part of her future. For me, it was more a skill to be learned. I was an adequate student – no better or worse than the typical 8 year old. But my well intentioned teacher could not help but compare me to my older sister and held her standard of approval for my efforts much too high. I will never forget the afternoon that she looked at me with exasperation, placed her fingers over her eyes and said, “Do you actually manage to get good grades in school?”

I will also never forget the resolute look on my Mother’s face when she told me that I never had to go back to piano lessons again. She was my champion, you see – a mother who understood the fragility of my budding self esteem and didn’t want me in any situations that would make me feel less valuable because I wasn’t like my sister.

And she REALLY was my champion. When my love for horses became so overwhelming, I nearly cried myself to sleep with longing, my mother shrugged her shoulders, made a few phone calls, and signed me up for horse-back riding lessons. When I wanted to play the Oboe in middle school, she found me an instrument and an instructor. When I started high school, and wanted to give up band so that I had more time for theater, journalism and swim team, she supported me in every endeavor. When A’s were made, she cheered. When that ever present B in Math repeated itself every single term, she shrugged. “You did your best,” she’d say, because she knew that I had done my best.

The greatest gift my mother ever gave to my self esteem was the assurance that she loved me just the way I was – I was good enough. I never felt any pressure to be as musical, as smart, as anything as any of my siblings. What I was good at was good enough. Comparisons between my sister and I were inevitably made – we went to the same high school, had many of the same teachers, looked a good deal alike. I very frequently heard the line, “Well, I know who YOUR sister is…”

(You want to know my standard reply? “Yes, she is my sister… but I’m NOT as nerdy as she is…” He he… kidding. A little…)

I know without a doubt that the reason I was able to consider this a compliment, rather than an indication of my sister’s ever present “shadow”, is because of the efforts my parents made to value and support my individuality.

And so, God willing, it shall be with my own children. They are so very different. They are smart in different ways, excel in different areas, and have such different interests. I hope that I can be their champion – that I can encourage and support all the different paths they may choose to take. It often seems, in this day and age, with all the challenges young people face, self esteem is hard to come by. I’m determined to make my home a place where my kids feel celebrated; a place where they know they can be their very best self, and it will always be good enough. If they want to hike, sing, dance, act, play, swim, run, ride, snorkel, yodel… I’m in.

18 thoughts on “Self worth

  1. Momza says:

    Your Mom is a shining example of the innate power of mothers. Tuning into our kids' abilities and desires is what we're all striving for, so that we can nurture our children into responsible, loving, faithful adults.Great post, MommyJ.

  2. Wonder Woman says:

    What a fabulous mother. I hope to be that kind of mom. I've long felt that self-confidence/self-worth and good friends are some of the most important things a child can have.I thumbs-up this post

  3. Tobi says:

    I want to be that kind of parent as well. Supportive and willing to let my kids explore all the activities and hobbies. How will they ever reach their full potential if they don't explore all their options?Glad you're on board for your kids.

  4. DeNae says:

    Never, never, never underestimate the huge influence your words and attitude can have on your kids. And it doesn't stop when they hit their teens, although they pretend it does. I can't tell you how many times I've said something to one of my kids, watched them do the mandatory eye-roll, then turn around and call their friends and say the exact same things only with a lot more "likes" and "you knows" thrown in.And my grown son still puts a lot of stock in our opinion of how he's living his life. The words of a loving parent can be like kryptonite to all the destructive messages out there.

  5. Stacy says:

    Great post. I worry about this kind of thing constantly, because I have a daughter who is extremely advanced in violin at eight years old, and we make a lot of sacrifices and invest a lot of time in her talent. I worry about the toll that takes on my younger daughter who has no interest in violin. I'm glad to hear how your mom dealt with it.

  6. Cherie says:

    I think a young women's best defense against the world is the gift her mother can give her…of Self Esteem.Sounds like your mother did a beautiful job.When they become women it is amazing to see how they turn out.I too, wanted nothing more than to champion my 2 daughters and give them the ability to know their own self worth. Now they are both adults and I am amazed at the women they have become. It is one of our greatest gifts to give our daughters! And a true gift of love.Great post 😀

  7. Jessica G. says:

    My mom let us have one day a school year where we could stay home from school, no questions asked. Whether it was more time on a project or just couldn't face the ex-best friend, she'd call the school and excuse us. I rarely took that day off but just knowing it was there made things a lot easier to face.

  8. Lara says:

    I learned this with my Chloe. She wanted to try violin, but felt constantly compared to her older sister, who'd been doing it for three years more than she had, so we took her out and put her in piano where she has thrived. It's nice for kids to have their own thing.And I really hope that I can be as good at instilling confidence as your mother obviously was.

  9. Melanie J says:

    Being the oldest, it was my younger siblings who had to deal with my "shadow." But my parents did a good job of nurturing their talents, too. It's a good lesson.

  10. Sarah loves it all says:

    Your piano teacher reminds me of a few too many of my own teachers in school. I don't understand why any adult wouldn't want to nurture the future with encouragement. I want to do well at this with my kids. Thanks for the daily inspiration as always. 🙂

  11. Rachel Sue says:

    I loved this. Really really. What a great mom. I really hope that I can do this for my children. My girls are already showing their differences and when we came home from parent teacher conferences with one report card full of 4's (A) and the other one a mix of 3 and 4's, the girls couldn't help but compare. I tried as hard as I could to make them both feel that they had accomplished their best.

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