Posts Categorized: Parenting Posts

Improve Your Self Confidence: Key Ingredients to Healthy Self Esteem

Do you ever wish you could be more confident, more self assured? Do you with that you didn’t doubt yourself, your abilities, your value, or your place in the world? We all know that healthy self-esteem is important to healthy relationships and happiness, but if you struggle with self-confidence, you may not know how to improve it.

This, and the next two posts will address:

  1. How Healthy Self Esteem is encouraged in children, and the key ingredeints we all need for healthy psychological development.
  2. How to Improve an injuered sense of self through routine psychological exercises.
  3. How to Recover your self-confidence after a toxic relationship.

Let’s start by asking yourself these questions:

Do you…

  • Feel less talented, attractive, intelligent, successful than most people?
  • Compare yourself to others often, wondering how you rank?
  • Beat yourself up after simple mistakes, oversites, or embarrassing moments?
  • Talk to yourself like you’re the worst person on earth?
  • Struggle with toxic shame and guilt?
  • Feel responsible for other people’s happiness?
  • Rehearse to ad nauseam self-criticisms?

If you answered yes to these questions, you may have a wounded sense of self, or in other words, a poor self-esteem. 

Understanding Self Esteem

Self Esteem is developed in children over a period of time by way of three factors: 1) Positive regard and affirmation from family of origin, 2) Attainment of Skills and Competencies, and 3) Acceptance by Peers. That’s the short answer, but there is actually a lot that goes in to building one’s self-esteem. Here’s the deets.

1)     Positive Regard and Family Affirmation: Esteem deposits drop into a child’s core self through consistent affirmation, guidance, love and discipline from parents. Parents and care-givers don’t have to be perfect, they just need to be good enough- guiding, loving, listening, correcting and encouraging their children. However, if the environment is over bearing, coddling, overly critical, emotionally unsafe or unpredictable, the child could develop some serious ego wounds. If, for example, a mother rarely lets her son do hard things for himself, he will likely grow up believing he is incapable of overcoming challenges. On the other hand, if a father is overly critical of a child who works hard, the child will grow to feel like her best is never good enough. One caveat here: there are some adults who grew up in a loving and supportive home and who developed a positive self-esteem, however during adulthood, encountered something so negative, traumatic or abusive, that over time, their self esteem was injured. People in toxic work, marriage or cult environments who start out confident and self-assured, can be so afflicted by persistent, deliberate psychological abuse that the self-esteem injury can take years to heal. 

2)     Attainment of Skills and Competencies: Just as important to building self-esteem, is consistent mastery of developmental tasks. As the child grows in emotional self-regulation, physical maturation, and attainment of new skills, he/she will be confident to try new things. As the child experiments with music, sports, building things, drama, art, animals, etc, the child will discover natural talents and gain in proficiencies. When a child feels he is good at something, his self-esteem rises. If a child is not encouraged or allowed to become competent in his interests, or is steered toward something he is not good at or interested in, his self-esteem will struggle.

3)     Acceptance by Peers: By ages 10, 11, and 12 the voice of the peer group begins to speak louder than the parents. Children who are generally accepted by their peers will glean self-esteem through the adolescent years from the feedback they are getting from their peers. If they feel excluded, like they don’t fit in, or in the worst case, bullied, then their self esteem can take a big hit. Many teens who didn’t succeed socially, will do so in young adulthood, thereby repairing the damage to their self-esteem. If not, a child could grow up feeling socially inadequate, anxious in social situations, and generally undesirable.

If you are well past your 20s you may think the Self Esteem Ship has sailed, and that if you didn’t develop a healthy self-esteem when you were younger, it’s too late for you. The great news, is that it’s not too late. You can work on your self-esteem at any stage in life and achieve the confidence you need to set boundaries, to resolve conflict, to achieve deeper intimacy, and pursue big goals.

With the right people, practice and positivity, you can change that pesky sense of self-doubt once and for all. Now that we’ve talked about what goes into the development of healthy self- confidence, we are ready to learn the basics of IMPROVING self-confidence. Next week, I will be offering 6 Simple Ways to Improve Self Confidence. Talk to you next week!




Parenting: the Long Letting Go

This summer, my 14 year old will leave me.

She has found something that she loves more than the comfort of our home. More than the solace of her bedroom. More than predictability of mom’s cooking and early morning snuggles and family shenanigans and Saturday chores (ok, way more than Saturday chores.)

Music is taking her over mountains and oceans and continents.

And away from me.

My oldest will travel to Italy with her choir to sing in places like the Doge’s Palace and St. Peter’s Basilica and Cinqua Terra’s cliff-side tavernas. I know, right? Amazing.

I’m a bit in denial about it. I mean, I know we got her passport, and that she’s been cleaning houses and baby-sitting like crazy to earn the funds. And I know that the calendar is marked with big red letters. But I’m in denial that she is going to be THAT FAR, THAT YOUNG, for THAT LONG. I’m going to be in total denial about it until we are at the airport saying goodbye.

Then, I’m going to freak out. Right after I close the car door and start driving away. And it’s going to be ugly. And wet. And loud. I’m going to cry, “What if she needs me?” And then I’ll remind myself that, “She won’t,” and then that’s not going to feel comforting at all.

But isn’t this what this parenting thing is all about? That we raise them so they won’t need us anymore? So they have the self-confidence that they can do hard things? And we, their parents, don’t have to be there, coaching every step of the way?

My youngest daughter’s softball coach reminded me of this at a parents’ meeting the other day. She said, “Leave the coaching to us. At the end of the game, on the way home, your job is to tell them one thing. Only one thing. And that is, ‘I love to watch you play.’” So I think that means no instruction, no “you need to’s” and no “You should have’s” and no, “next time, try…” and no over-functioning in your kid’s life. Just, “I love to watch you play,” which is less about the performance and more about the relationship. If I were British, I would say, “Bloody Brilliant!” Why didn’t I think of that?

We don’t want to be over-functioning freaks. I’ve seen one looking back at me in the mirror sometimes, and I fire her. Often. Over functioning in our kids’ lives actually demeans them and makes them feel incompetent to solve their own problems, try new things, make their own decisions, own their own lives. It develops them into hard to please, unhappy, incompetent adults. Ew.

It seems to me that each stage of parenting requires me to loosen my grip a little more to make allowances for them, their experiences and their unique needs. The homeostasis of the relationship requires me to pull back and for them to step forward. I have to let them experience the joy, pain and consequences of becoming an adult. I have to let them feel the weight of their responsibilities and the freedoms of their maturity, all at the same time.

Maybe she forgot to loosen her grip... and it ended up breaking her hand. Oh!

Maybe she forgot to loosen her grip… and it ended up breaking her hand. Oh!

Letting go is not just good for them, it’s good for us, too. Just because we are letting go, doesn’t mean we are losing something. We actually gain something. We gain the value of our kids being separate individuals- unique and enjoyable and worthwhile.

So yeah. Parenting is just a long journey of holding on and then letting go, and letting go some more. And the very thing I want the most, but am most afraid of seizing, is the freedom that letting go initiates. When I let them be their own person, feel their own feelings, have their own weaknesses, I give them the freedom they crave too.

Sounds pretty good in theory, right? I’ll let you know how I’m doing after the airport drop off!

Can the American Woman Really Have it All?

“You have a condition that usually only occurs in people over 60,” my doctor said as she typed in her lap top. “Have you been under a lot of stress lately?”
Hmmm, does she mean balancing the needs of my family, and my growing business? Or does she mean the PTA meeting I skipped so I could meet a writing deadline. By “stress” could she mean the lists that don’t get checked off, or the emails that don’t get opened, or the dog that doesn’t get walked? Which stressful event was my doctor alluding to, and how could I answer “yes” without shouting, “Isn’t every working mother- are you crazy?!!”

“You know,” she continued, “You will probably get this again if you don’t do something about your stress level.”

Shingles. That’s what she diagnosed me with. Shingles is this terrible burning sensation that attacks the nerves underneath your skin until you eventually erupt into mischievous oozy bumps. Awesome. I’m a therapist. I preach self care. I believe in balance. I teach people how to make and keep healthy boundaries. And I have a stress-related, immune deficiency condition that no 38 year old should get.

Wake up call.

Come-to-Jesus moment.

Time to take some things. Off. The. Plate.

So, when Marissa Mayer of Yahoo announced no more working from home, I paid attention. When Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandbert told American women to “Lean In”, I listened.  What are the women at the top saying about their positions, their work-life balance? What are they saying about their priorities? How do they balance it, and what are their secrets?

Turns out, they probably experience the same things I do (expect for the salary… that’s probably a little different.)

Erin Callin, former CFO of Lehman Brothers before the crash, recounts in her New York Times piece this weekend that “Work always came first, before family, friends, and marriage- which ended just a few years later.” She goes on to say, “Until recently, I thought my singular focus on my career was the most powerful ingredient in my success. But I am beginning to realize that I sold myself short… there were diminishing returns to that kind of labor.”

Though admired by many young women who see Mrs. Callin as a hero and an over-comer of the gender barrier, she is fraught with regret.

University of Michigan business professor Marina Whitman and corporate executive says in a recent CNN article by Todd Leopold, “I think this thing about ‘can women have it all?’ or ‘can’t they have it all?’ is kind of a silly argument. Yes, you may have it all, but not all at once.”

And what about Marissa Mayer banishing the working-from-home flexibility? She certainly has gotten a lot of back lash. Some of my working mother buddies say she ought to be ashamed of herself. But it has got me thinking that maybe “working from home” for the working mother, is just playing into the illusion that women really can have it all. That there is some ideal out there that a woman can be at home with her smiling contented children playing at her feet, while sitting at a desk with phone in hand, lap top open while climbing the corporate ladder. Maybe we’ve bought into the illusion that we “should” be able to do it all. Maybe we think, “if only my work schedule was ‘flexible enough’ then I could make that PTA meeting, I could take that work call while mixing the baby formula,” or in my case, I could schedule myself to being two places at one time and be half committed to both. Ugh.

So what did I learn from Shingles? Well, for one thing, I’m taking the Sabbath. I’m working my tail off Monday through Friday 8:30 to 3 until Sweet and Sassy get home from school. I’m shutting my lap top until they go to bed at night, and I’m wearing them out on Saturdays with chores, sports and lots of family fun. I schedule a date night with Mr. Dashing and make deposits into the marriage bank account. Come Sunday, I don’t return e-mail, I don’t write blogs, I don’t do anything that could remotely seem like work. I go to church, I go out to eat, and I read for FUN, not for work. Then I try to catch up on some Duck Dynasty, which really puts me into relaxation mode, because I’m pretty sure they haven’t worked a day in their lives, unless you count catching bull frogs as work.

Everything has a price tag. Everything worthwhile requires sacrifice. Some of us choose work, some of us chose family, and then the crazy ones, like me choose to work out the balance of both. The sacrifices I make as a working mother are continual and on-going. The fact is, if I throw the soft ball with Sweet, then I’m not going to get that blog post done. And if bring home work to do, I won’t be available to hear Sassy’s original song on the piano. What am I going to forfeit? What am I going to give up? Something has to go, which one will it be? I’m the last to cast a stone at working mothers’ choices. But I’m the first to say, life is about choices, and values, and about consciously making those choices according to your values. Could I be further along in my career if I chose to spend more time at the office? And if I spent more time at work, would Sweet and Sassy be as well adjusted and fantastic as they are now? I wonder. We make choices, some good, some bad. But most times we don’t know they’re bad till we feel the pain of them. Like the pain of Shingles. I didn’t know I was burning at both ends until I actually felt the burning.

My prayer is that you won’t have to.

** The first time I published this post was about a year ago to www.thinkspace/blog to a reach of about 10,000 people. I thought I’d be a literary genius and really use some vivid language to describe  shingles and the pain it causes. Instead of “oozy bumps” (which is what you read now), I used the word “puss” to describe it, and then I put the letter “y” at the end. Then I wrote something about bumps, and lead the whole world to believe that Shingles and STDs were somehow the same thing, and I was the lucky recipient of both. And wow, she must be so brave/crazy to admit that on a blog… Lawd have mercy. For the record, I had Shingles. Only. And I’ll never use the word “puss” with a “y” at the end to describe anything for as long as I live. Cheers to all the working mothers out there who like to make mistakes with the whole world watching! 🙂

Article in New York Times by Erin Callin

Article in CNN by Todd Leopold

Little Gifts Unwrapped: Frisco Eats Chirp

Hey- thanks for visiting. I’m making some videos since it’s a bit easier to watch and listen while you’re doing other things. Enjoy! Here is the video version…Little Gifts Unwrapped: Frisco eats Chirp

And here is the written version:

It was Easter weekend and my eight year old daughter and I decided we wanted to become urban chicken farmers. The idea of chickens roaming our back yard making eggs for our breakfast seemed lovely. The notion that our black lab may be a problematic variable crossed my mind, but I was sure that I could convince him that Chickens were our friends, not food.
We went to the farm and feed supply store and picked out our little chicks. Evelyn named them, Cheep, Chirp and Loudy. On the ride home she cuddled them, cooed over them and was generally smitten with their cuteness. I dropped her off at a play date while I set up the new coop.
I brought the chicks inside the house to keep them warm and went back out to the garage to get the supplies. From the garage, I heard a crash. I knew immediately that the unthinkable had occurred- that the beast had attacked our new pets. I screamed and ran into the house, where I found a lifeless, slobbery chick laying at the foot of my crazed, wild eyed black lab. I ordered him outside to finish the job he’d started and I rushed to save the survivors. It looked like Cheep and Loudy made it. After securing their safety in a locked car, I made a few phone calls to some chicken farmers so I could find them a new home.
Gone were the urban chicken farmer dreams. The chicken infanticide happened on good Friday. I knew I had to break the news to Evelyn. I picked her up from her play date and carefully explained that our HOA would not allow chickens in our neighborhood. I thought I may be able to get away with not telling her the whole truth. She furrowed her brow and said, “Our neighbors already do it. W should just do it and not tell the HOA.” She knew this is what I was planning to do anyway. Then I said,” well, there is one other reason we can’t have our chicks. Frisco ate one.”
Oh, the weeping, the mourning, the tears as she accepted the truth of what happened. Then I told her that I had to find a new home for the chicks at a nice farm up the road. And Evelyn said with a flash of anger, “We should have found Frisco a new home, and kept the chicks!”
Nothing would console her. All day Saturday she refused to even look at our dog. Imagining him eating one of her precious little chicks was too much for her. That night, she and I watched an animal show on television and it had a segment on birds. Frisco was laying on the floor underneath our feet. There was some cheeping from the television, and he immediately perked up and started hunting! Like Pavlov’s dog, he was conditioned that cheeping sounds meant a delicious snack! That just poured salt in Evelyn’s wound.
By Easter morning, she came to me and said, “I think it’s time that I forgive Frisco. He was just doing what dogs do.”
Nothing could bring the chick back, but because of forgiveness, a girl and her dog could be friends again. God invented this transformative concept of forgiveness that has the power to mend what’s been broken. Because of Jesus’ sacrificial love, losing all so we could gain, creating a means by which we can have relationship restoration, we can be restored to God. The things we do because of our humanness, won’t separate us from God anymore. God freely offers us forgiveness. We can say to other people who hurt us, “I think it’s time to forgive. They were just doing what humans do.”
Ephesians 1:7 and 8 says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.”

As we receive this grace for ourselves, we are better able to offer it to the people around us.

My “Relationship Savvy” blog gives you tips, advice, and flippin’ fantastic feel-goods to help with your most difficult relationship challenges.

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