These are the words I hear my daughter saying to herself in the mirror as I get ready each morning. My husband and I have been saying these words with both of our kids for months, having them copy them back as they hear them. It is always a favorite moment in the day for the entire family. Saying empowering phrases to our kids and watching their smiles grow bigger with every word, creates a strong connection that builds resilience for any relational misses throughout the day…and prepares them to navigate a social media world that will one day tell them they are not worthy of love.
As I watched my daughter look at herself in the mirror, I was reminded of myself when I was younger. When did what I saw staring back at me become something that I wanted to change? At what age did I start noticing flaws, want to change them and eventually hate them? At what point did someone else’s version of beauty become my standard? I don’t remember when it started, I can’t point to a specific event that changed my thinking and I think that’s kind of the point. Little phrases, whether it’s a critique or an encouragement, build upon each other until the one that stands taller becomes truth.
As I grew older, the little girl staring back at me in the mirror changed. I picked out all of my flaws and wore them like armor because I believed that if I thought of a flaw before someone else pointed it out, maybe it wouldn’t hurt as bad. If I could go back and talk to my younger self I would tell her that others words can cut through even the toughest of armor. You’re not weak because it hurts, it hurts because you’re human- welcome. While the things I saw as flaws could not all be changed, I found some that I could control. At 15 years old I started restricting food and for the next two years I would fight an eating disorder. Through therapy and constant support, I got to a point where I did not restrict food from myself. However, it took many more years to get to a place where I didn’t want to anymore and even longer to love what I saw in the mirror.
I tell you this story because it is one of the reasons I am so passionate about cultivating an environment of encouragement in our home. Confidence is merely a level of comfort in one’s own skin. It doesn’t mean you’re perfect in fact, it’s the opposite, it’s an ownership of who you are, beautiful flaws and all. Confidence says, “I like myself and everything that makes me, me.” It takes great bravery to choose confidence. If we can give our kids security within themselves then we instill that bravery to choose confidence.
When we started doing daily affirmations, we were intentional to choose ones that didn’t have anything to do with outward appearance. I try to go out of my way to compliment my kid’s character over their cuteness, even though I think they have a lot of that too :). If you are thinking about doing affirmations with your kids, you could even start with the qualities in them that align with your family values. Is kindness a value? Tell them they are kind. Is laughter a value? Tell them they are funny. Does your family value confidence? Tell them they are loved.
At the core of every human, there is a desire to know we are loved. I would take it a step further to say the desire is to know we are loved for who we are, not what we do. As parents we have an opportunity to bring our kids to a confident place that says, “I am lovable, home is safe, and I can do hard things.” You’ve heard it before, kids are sponges, they soak up everything we say, every correction we give and every encouragement we speak. May they never run dry from encouragement and if they do, may they know they can always come home to get more.
Cierra Karson lives in Kansas City, MO with her husband, their two preschoolers, their dog, and a small jungle of plants.