I believe that a sense of self worth is among the greatest gifts parents can give their children.
I’m in my 30s now and I’ve been contemplating, quantifying and celebrating this quiet gift for several years now. Growing up, here’s what I noticed: some kids get a kitten for their 8th birthday; some get a new car when they turn 16; and some even get to spend Spring Break of their senior year on a beach in Mexico – without their parents! Having grown up, here’s what I know: a kitten, a car and a trip to Mexico are less expensive and much easier to acquire than self worth.
While I have no memory of the actual day I received the gift, I do know that I’ve never been without it. When my best friend slapped me across the face in 3rd grade, the sting hadn’t even left my cheek before I was thinking how upset my parents would be if they knew what she had just done to their daughter.
Similarly, when I would complain about somebody who in my opinion had done something wrong, unjust or irrational, my dad would remind me that, unlike them, when I woke up the next morning and looked in the mirror, I got to be me.
I have two really great friends who did not receive this gift growing up. Despite repeated attempts to draw their attention to their many redeeming qualities, when they look in the mirror the person looking back at them is not nearly as confident as she should be. For years I’ve been frustrated by my inability to get them to see what is so clear to me. While I will continue to offer encouragement and support to my friends, my resolve has been tempered by what I believe to be true. This gift – this sense of confidence and self worth – must be given early, quietly, consistently and lovingly for it to be as powerful and wonderful as it can be. I don’t always have to win. I’ve been known to misspeak. I can laugh at myself when I fall. I am flawed. I have hope. But I am friends with the woman who looks back at me in the mirror.
I’ve thanked my parents for my gift. My dad smiled and my mom looked at me quizzically, like I had just thanked her for all the years of packing my lunch, drawing smiley faces on my napkins or giving me milk money. And then I thought, what a perfect response.
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