The culture I was brought up in was one where children were not praised. Children were scolded to “be seen and not heard” and I heard this countless times growing up and I believed it. Nowadays it seems that children are more encouraged to speak up and I think it’s great but the culture I grew up in was different.
My mother had 7 children within 10 years. She had 2 sets of twins. I am a twin myself to a boy. My Mum’s idea of success was not unusual at the time. That was to get her kids to graduate from high school. I recently asked her “Didn’t you even think about college?” And she answered, “Oh darling, I should have thought about that. I just wanted you to get through high school!” So that was the level of acceptable ambition.
In between changing the sheets of 8 beds, cooking for 9 people every night, doing the laundry, hanging it out to dry and suffering from mental illness, my mum did not have time to encourage, to cuddle, to play or to tell me “You are the most beautiful girl in the whole entire world” or “I love you to the moon and back”. When I hear people say this now to their kids, it makes me cringe a little bit because I am still so not used to it.
I have two older sisters and a twin brother. I was such an adorable kid, wasn’t I? Sadly, I don’t remember that I looked like this.
When my family went through some old photos, I was like, “Who is that?” My mum said, “That’s you darling!” Wait..What!? I was so cute!!!
And here is a picture of my twin brother
…. Actually not. that’s not my twin brother. That is me. (I know, the worst haircut ever!) People thought I was a boy.
When I was a kid I loved singing and doing musical things. But my family told me to shut up when I sung. Well, basically everyone told me to shut up all the time as growing up!
Anyhow, that was the environment I brought up in.
I may sound like I’m saying “Oh poor me, what a rough childhood.”. But don’t get me wrong. I am so grateful for my childhood. Because I was completely left in my own devices in lots of ways, it taught me to be resilient and to rely on myself.
And now I’m really close to all my family!
One of the things I learned from my childhood was that staying positive and looking on the bright side actually helps. For example, I was made fun of in high school for being “flat”. One day some of my classmates mocked me for wearing a bra under my sports tshirt because I had no boobs. But what they didn’t know was that the bra I was wearing was actually a hand me down bra….from my Grandma!!! But I was so happy and grateful..and so RELIEVED that none of the teasing kids knew that not only was I wearing a bra for no reason… I was wearing a second-hand-me-down- granny bra- OMG imagine how much worse the teasing would be if they knew that!
See how positive I was?!
Also, when I was in high school, the absolute worst thing you could be accused of was that you loved yourself.
“Omg you totally love yourself!!! (eww).” – “No I don’t, no I don’t! I swear I DON’T”
You would panic and deny all accusations of loving yourself. You would examine your soul as you lay in bed and ponder “Do I love myself?”. You would absolutely believe it really was the worst thing to love yourself.
When you deny the possibility that you love yourself and that you are lovable, you start doubting others when they make compliments about you. Or worse still if they profess affection, admiration or love! How can they love me when I know me so well and I don’t love me!
When I had my first boyfriend as a teenager, I remember I felt so awkward when he expressed interest in me. It made me feel so uncomfortable because I couldn’t believe it.
And then I realized that it was impossible to accept anyone could love me until I loved myself. I then began the work of learning how to love myself.
How to love yourself.
The first thing I did was I told myself I love myself into a mirror. Alone. With the door locked. And in a super quiet voice!
While you do this to listen to your ego. That is a trained voice in your head that never shuts up- it’s not really you.
When you look yourself in the mirror, you will hear lots of voices. “Oh what is that pimple on my nose?” “Oh my face is so ugly.” “Ugh I hate my lips.” “I wish I had blah blah blah”. It is ok to have those voices. Don’t try and shut those voices out.
Just listen to them going on and on and on and accept them. Don’t argue with them, just listen. And then just say it loud, “I love you”.
Look deep into the pupils of your eyes. Look deep into your soul..and say “I love you”.
You will cringe and blush and say “OMG shut UP” ..but you will get used to feeling love. Once you get into the habit of saying I love you and accepting love from yourself, you will get the place of accepting love from others.
Whoever reading this, you are lovable. You have been loved, you are loved and you will continue to be loved. If you have a beloved cat or dog that loves you then you will advance in this even faster! Their love is real, isn’t it.