A Child’s Self-Image

Height: I am of an average height; my mother is a little shorter. All through my growing up years, she was almost obsessed about my height. Her worst fears were that I would not grow up even as tall as her.

A Child's Self-Image And Self-worth - Healthy Self Esteem In Kids

In retrospect, I am convinced she had to listen to a lot of taunts about her own height and therefore, she did not want her daughter to go through that.

Teeth: Same goes about my teeth. I don’t have a perfect jaw line. I had been taken to an orthodontist but somehow never got around to getting braces because I lived in a small place. The dentist tried to convince my mother that braces would significantly improve my side profile (rolling my eyes).

Complexion: I am wheatish.

No, she was not nursing any dreams of sending me to a beauty pageant. Those were just the concerns of a well-meaning, conventional mother of a girl. I am sure you would have come across many such mothers or parents. It is not unusual in this country.

Throughout my teenage years, I have been made conscious, directly or indirectly, about how I did not match up to the common perceptions of perfect beauty, but moreover, how it was important (in the marriage market).

Today, none of those things matter to me. It never even crosses my mind. So, the issues which took my mind space for a significant amount of time in those years eventually have no bearing on my life. It did only harm to my self-image.

Those thoughts are the basis of this post: self-image or self-worth of our children, and our role as a parent.

Self-image, self-worth or self-esteem is related to “a person’s overall emotional evaluation of his or her own worth”. Healthy self-image of children can take them through many unfavourable life-situations. The role of parents is extremely critical in children’s life in developing a positive self-image. Often, parents’ insecurities get passed on to their children (as was evident in my own case).

Parents should be aware and careful about what they say to and around children, whether it is about themselves or about the children. If you have a poor self-image or body-issues, it should not come as a surprise that your child may have them too.

Of course, self-image may alter later in life with influence of friends or interactions with other people, but certainly, the foundations are laid in the initial years of a child’s life when he/she spends most of his/her time in the proximity of parents.

Children who are confident about themselves and know that they are loved unconditionally (by their parents), can also stand up against the negative peer pressure because they are not needy of acceptance.

Look at how advertising is unabashedly and aggressively promoting the idea of physical beauty being the parameter for acceptance. Now imagine what it will do to an adolescent who is already in a state of confusion and self-discovery. It needs a tremendous amount of self-belief to not get sucked into this make-believe world.

So, what are your thoughts?

Do you also think we should resist the temptation of gushing over the pretty little faces?

Reema Sahay is a Stay-At-Home-Mom, Freelance Writer, Voracious Reader, Passionate Blogger, Social Media Enthusiast, Internet Junkie and Ex-Marketing Communication Professional. She spends her days running after her very curious toddler, ‘the star’, and catching up on books when he naps. She writes about charms and challenges of life at Pen Paper and shares her passion for books at Recommend Books. She sometimes feels that her 5.5 years stint in Marketing Communication was in another life.

  • My whole idea of beauty changed when I visited US and met people from different countries. Only in India we are obsessed with white skin and conventional beauty of India. The rest of the world seems to have moved on, but the obsession with slim continues the world over except for some small sub Saharan countries where plump is considered to be more beautiful. In the end as they say Beauty lies in the eyes of beholder…..

    • I started thinking about all these much more after having baby, how the idea of beauty (fair skin, longer limbs, attractive features) enters into the minds of the children. Even they start talking that language. My friend told me once about how her daughter (who was 5 at that time) told her that she was fair while her friend was too dark. These things are said by grown-ups which they learn. Since I am at it, I also hate Barbie dolls for promoting the wrong idea of beauty. I can go on and on 🙂

  • throughout my teenage years and even now (after marriage), i have been by people around me that how my skin is not flawless… how the freckles on my face make me not look beautiful… but thanks to my parents and now my hubs, these talks and various suggestions of medication really dint get into my head… i know how it can hit a child’s self esteem..

    • Supriya, teenage years are the worst to deal with these kind of ‘flaws’. I am also thankful for friends in my life and most importantly, a life partner who looks at me as a person and not an object of beauty, which anyways I am not…ha ha!

  • Sweety

    One year back my daughter fell from the sofa. She now has a little mark near her right eye, not a big one but still there…and I have heard people talking how a “girl” should be spotless!! Still long time to go to be out of all this but we as parents can of course contribute by not harping on these things. Feel beautiful , look beautiful not vice versa 🙂

  • I bite my tongue every time I have the urge to gush over prettiness of little kids. It does slip up a few times but parenthood is a learning process and a journey of discovery. Atleast, I won’t let comments about the physical attributes of my son weigh on him.

  • You missed the weight thing. Don’t even ask what being overweight especially in your teens and youth means. Even now… I became so conscious about my weight, but it worked for the better with me and thank God for that. I became super confident and did overcome my fears. I actually lost weight when I changed my perspective. Now people keep on telling me Zoe is so skinny, she has not taken your weight issues. And I say, I don’t know if that is the case, if that is then THANK GOD for it. But even if she has, I will teach her to be confident in what she is, because as Dr. Seuss says “Today you are you. That is truer than true. There is no one alive that is you’re than you.”

    Great piece Reema

    • Yes Falak, weight issues weigh many down during growing up years, which is very unfair. I never had weight issues as such, though when I put on 16 kgs during pregnancy, my family was really really concerned..ha ha.
      Love those lines by Dr Seuss 🙂

  • Good that you brought it up. I have heard so many parents talk about their kids and their physical characteristics in front of them !! Like “My son has taken all our bad physical characteristics. He is short like me, braod like my husband … ” etc etc! It doesn’t matter and should not be discussed. Nice write up Reema!

  • Thank you Divya. It is certainly wrong to do it. No two ways about it. It is our responsibility to be conscious of what we say around children. It shapes their opinion of themselves.