No matter how people spent Valentine’s Day on this love month, whether through a romantic celebration, a day of love with your family and friends, or just as an ordinary Tuesday, it’s still essentially a great reminder for us to celebrate it as a day of love—all kinds of love.
Like parental and family love, platonic love among friends, and as a viral ad has shown us, even unrequited love should be given credit—imagine that heart-wrenching love that gives all of itself while receiving nothing in return.
One kind of love I would like to focus on with children this February, as a foundation for all the different types of love that kids will encounter, give and receive as they get older, is self-love.
Well-being and happiness
Self-love is defined as having a healthy regard for “one’s own well-being and happiness.” This is not to be confused with narcissism, an extreme interest in one’s self, often associated with conceit and arrogance.
On one hand, I don’t think any generation has ever been more aware of the importance of loving themselves than today’s “iGeneration.”
On the other hand, never has it become more important to properly teach them what self-love is truly about.
With the abundance of commercial products and experiences catering to a person’s preferences and comfort, the concept of valuing one’s self and seeking constant and immediate gratification seems set to be ingrained in our children’s psyche. In this case, what more do we need to teach our children about self-love?
With the constant bombardment of messages telling our children they deserve to have this and that and be the best, how do we teach them to value their selves without turning into megalomaniacs?
From the looks of it, our children might even be the ones who could teach us a thing or two. But upon closer inspection, there are still many things we need to pass on to them.
No matter how evolved society has become, there are some things that will never change, and we should find a way to teach our children what they can bring into the future with them.
Like treating others with respect and justice. Having the confidence to know that you are worth loving and respecting. Being aware of the fine line between your actual value and your perception, be it over- or under-inflated.
Accepting our faults and weaknesses and having the capacity to forgive and be kind to one’s self. These are the fruits of learning how to properly love one’s self.
Humble and quiet
I’ve observed a number of individuals who appear to have a healthy amount of self-respect and love. What I’ve noticed is that their type of self-love is a humble and quiet one. Far from being brash and self-promoting, they are unassuming, and yet take proper care of themselves.
And here, we make another distinction between proper care and pampering. Proper care refers to the basics: healthy nutrition, sufficient sleep and exercise. Pampering refers to indulging. While there is nothing wrong with occasional or regularly scheduled pampering sessions, our children need to learn that spoiling and spending on one’s self does not necessarily equate to authentic self-love, which is free and readily available for anyone who wants to take care of themselves.
Certainly, it can be a part of it, but it is not the end-all, nor does it define self-love.
There are a number of books and classes to teach us on ways to take care of and love ourselves, but at the end of the day, I don’t know how much self-love can actually be taught.
If it could come from books and countless encouraging words from well-meaning loved ones, then the world would be a very different place from what it is today.
Contrary to what popular culture reflects, self-love doesn’t come from temporary and dramatic makeovers, nor from pampering sessions and shopping sprees. Nor can any number of followers and likes from a social media account substitute for genuine love from your own self.
It strikes me as something that comes from within, gained and polished over the years through observation, and more importantly, from what people are exposed to in their younger years. Children who look up to parents as their sun and moon will define themselves by how they are treated.
If the parents’ words and actions, treated by young, malleable minds as gospel truth, reinforce the children’s worth through loving words and actions, coupled with respect, then the children will grow up confident in his worth.
Confidence in one’s worth will allow a child to cultivate healthy relationships with people who will allow them to grow and develop. Self-respect will give our children the ability to see clearly and the strength to set boundaries with people who might not be good for them.
However, in loving words and actions, parents have a responsibility to draw lines. Our boy is our son, not the sun. The kid’s strengths and abilities are to be supported and celebrated, but not exaggerated to the point of unrealistic expectations.
We must measure our children’s worth by their efforts, compassion for others and kindness, rather than external trappings that have little to do with who they actually are.