(Dr. Norquist is on vacation this holiday weekend. We are re-running a letter that was published earlier in this column)
Dear Dr. Norquist:
I don’t know if you’ve written on this question before or not. If so, I’m sorry that I missed it and I hope you’ll consider this question anyway. I’m the mother of two girls (3rd and 7th grade). In general, they are doing OK, except for my older girl, who doesn’t seem to feel good about herself. This is an issue to some degree with my 3rd grader, but especially so for my 7th grader. I’ve always struggled with the same problem myself so of course I blame myself for their lack of confidence. It really bothers me when I see either of them not feeling good about themselves, especially when it affects their friendships and schoolwork. What can I do to help them (and myself) to feel good about themselves?
Dr. Norquist responds:
We are all like diamonds, each worthy and precious, with our own unique way of reflecting God’s light. We do not have to change anything or be anything other than who we are in order to be worthy. There is an art to embracing and appreciating each person as a unique expression of God. Practice seeing yourself and your daughters (and everyone else, for that matter) from this mindset.
The poet-saint Kabir has a great suggestion in this regard: “Don’t focus on what you are not.” Instead, embrace and love all of who you are and who your daughters are.
It’s easy to habitually focus on what we (or our children, or partners, etc.) are not; not smart enough, not pretty enough, not athletic enough, not popular enough, not good at math, or science, or art, or whatever. The list of “not good enough’s” can go on and on and on. It’s also easy to unwittingly pass this perspective and this way of criticizing ourselves on to our kids. Then our children internally start comparing and judging themselves, constantly finding ways to see themselves as not good enough.
Try to turn this mental habit around, by conscientiously verbalizing to your daughters (and internally to yourself) how precious and unique they are. See their unique talents, the qualities they possess that you find so loveable, such as your daughters’ smile, her unique humor, her kind heart, her openness and curiosity, etc. Let them know about these qualities that are part of who they are, that you find so loveable. Change your mental habit of looking for faults or weaknesses in yourself and your daughters, to one of seeing strengths and resources and the wonderful uniqueness of who you each are as people. Practice verbalizing this. Appreciate each other’s spirit.
We do not come from the same mold, or cookie-cutter, nor are we supposed to. None of us are supposed to be any way other than who we are. We each have a niche and a path, for our souls to journey in this world. Enjoy your life. Enjoy your daughters as they are. We are all perfect, loveable, innately worthy manifestations of God.
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.)Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. 2014 Chaitanya Counseling Services