We had a rainy day indoors recently and I was totally inspired by my 3 year old daughter’s creativity and imagination. She spent her time making up games for us to play, role playing with her toys and creating fantasy worlds in her bedroom.
Then she came downstairs dressed up in this outfit which she had put together by herself. Now I know I am biased but I thought she looked amazing! In fact whenever she dresses herself either in normal clothes or dressing up clothes, she puts together outfits which leave me feeling in awe of her sense of style and her confidence – not something I was expecting at just 3 years old. Although she has actually been choosing her own outfits since she was two!
I feel compelled to celebrate her creativity, nurture her freedom to wear whatever she wants and express herself however she wants to. Because there will come a day when she realises that she lives in a society which is obsessed with appearances. She will realise that some people attach their self-worth to how they look. She will learn that some people shy away from expressing themselves as they truly want to for fear of what others may say.
And I don’t ever want her to feel she has to do this. I don’t want her to feel she has to dim her light that I see shining so brightly! I don’t ever want her to ever feel apologetic for who she is. I don’t ever want her to feel she has to live up to my or anyone else’s expectations or be ‘more’ than she is.
Because to me, she is perfect and she is enough as she is right now!
Since becoming a mother, I have become increasingly aware that our children are growing up in a world where we subconsciously try to mould them to be who society wants them to be, who society thinks they should be, who others expect them to be. We do this innocently without understanding the impact.
We tell our children to be quieter, to calm down, sit nicely, be good, do as they are told, stop being ‘silly’. We want them to fit in, we want them to be liked. We reward them for being obedient and we punish them when they aren’t.
We send them to school where they are categorised by ability, and labelled or outcast if they don’t conform. We get them to sit tests and exams, the results of which our society defines them by. They grow up learning to define themselves as ‘successes’ or ‘failures’ – and then spend the rest of their lives striving to be successful and avoid failing.
But what would happen if we just let them be themselves? If we didn’t try to mould them, didn’t have any expectations of them and didn’t ask them to fit in?
What if we tore up the test papers and let them learn at their own pace, in their own unique way?
What if we never labelled children or tried to put them in a box? What if instead we recognised them as the amazing individuals that they are and celebrated the unique gifts that they bring to this world?
What if, instead of feeling the need to control our children and expecting them to obey us, we instead saw parenthood as a respectful partnership and an opportunity to guide each other through life?
Because our children are our biggest teachers.
When we are triggered by their behaviour it is usually because we are reacting to something that we struggle to accept in ourselves. Some say that our children are sent to us to help us evolve as we learn about these parts of ourselves.
I used to feel triggered when my daughter was her energetic, headstrong, confident self around other people. Because I haven’t always felt completely comfortable with those parts of myself. So I would feel an urge to quieten her, control her, mould her.
Now I fight that urge and instead watch, listen and learn. Because she is teaching me that being our authentic selves without limitation is actually how we all start life – it is through being conditioned by society on how we ‘should’ be that we start to lose ourselves, start to not feel good enough, start to doubt our worthiness.
We are all subjected to social conditioning. We are conditioned by those around us, via social media, TV, magazines, films, the news etc. But we cannot see it – just like a fish cannot see the water it is swimming in. We accept it as part of our environment. Until it is pointed out and then suddenly it becomes obvious all around us.
The messages we receive are endless, constantly telling us what we should do, or how we need to be, or what we should look like in order to be accepted into society and fit in. But life is not about fitting in. It is about being true to ourselves. It is about living the life we truly want to live, doing whatever makes us happy and enjoying that happiness.
My daughter is is teaching me that we don’t need to try and be anything more or anything less than we are. We don’t need to fit in. We don’t need to live up to anyone else’s expectations.Because we are enough and we are perfect as we are right now!