Yesterday while I was getting a snack ready for the girls after school, both girls were coloring at the kitchen counter. Ella wrote something, looked up at me, then quickly look down and started erasing. But not before I saw the words she wrote.
I AM STUPID.
I quickly asked to see the picture.
I stared at it for a moment. The words were still there, written with such intensity they were practically engraved on the page, despite her attempts at erasing them. Harsh. Deep. Not easily forgotten. Much like I imagined those same words were sitting in her heart.
I looked at the words, looked at her–and immediately felt sad. She’s SIX. What does this silly, sweet, smart little girl have going through her head that makes her say that to herself?
We spent the next 20 minutes talking about it. How important words are. How she could never BE stupid — that even if she makes mistakes, it’s the mistake or slip that is “stupid” (using her words), not the person. We spent time remembering all the ways Ella is AWESOME. We hugged. And then I had her introduce herself to me like she does every morning, by saying: “I’m Ella. I’m strong. I’m kind. And I’m beautiful.”
All evening long I kept thinking about how she was feeling. What I should say or do differently. So at bedtime we discussed how from time to time we do think unkind thoughts about ourselves. Those thoughts are usually telling us something, and if we use them to understand what they’re saying, they can be important messages. About situations, about people, about things we should change.
But when we use those thoughts solely to tear us down and feel worse, well then they can poison our mind and change who we are.
I want her to know it’s perfectly normal to think unhealthy, unkind thoughts from time to time. But I also want her to know it’s not healthy to make room for those thoughts in her heart or her mind.
Y’all. There are a lot of things I’m not sure I’m good at, especially as a parent. There are things I question whether I could be better at or do differently. But there is one thing that I’m always going to work really, really, hard at, and that’s teaching my kids to believe in themselves.
To recognize that emotions aren’t TRUTHS – they are sign posts.
To know that thoughts aren’t harmless. They can be super powerful and to choose them carefully.
To understand we don’t have to react or respond to them just because we are experiencing them.
I wasn’t taught this as a child. Most of my friends weren’t taught this as children. If you were REALLY lucky, like one in a million lucky, you had a mother or another female in your life, who modeled this for you. But when I think of my mother’s generation, they weren’t taught that either. They were fighting for their own rights and their own place.
And so now, myself, my friends, maybe even you, find ourselves in this place of having to figure out and learn how to unravel all of that noise we began to believe, because no one told us we didn’t have to listen to it. It was never OURS to CARRY.
We need to spend the time to find our inner voice, learn how to shed what doesn’t serve. We need to hold the space to discover what truly matters to us. We need to kick that inner critic to the curb because she’s just being a bully. And have the confidence and the support to do it. THAT is CHOOSING WHOLENESS.
I believe it matters.
I know my daughter is not stupid. I am not stupid. You are not stupid.
What’s “stupid” is believing those thoughts, those habits, those inner conversations and dialogues can’t be changed.
Let’s change the conversation.
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