There is an article out floating around in the cyber-world about the Dove experiment about selfies. Although a cleverly crafted advertisement for a product (I do not endorse any product), I decided to share it with friends for the value in its approach to raising children.
Here is the article.
This Will Forever Change The Way You Look At "Selfies" http://unlooker.com/selfie/
This concept hits home. Many of my girlfriends have a daughter like I do, some, more than one child, some are raising more than one daughter. We are all about 40 some years old, have migrated or moved away from our childhood homes and engrossed in careers and family life. Some have moved often geographically, others – not so much. All have their own way of raising children, strong opinions about parenting, life priorities and more.
Here is what a friend wrote: “Is it necessary to even think about 'being beautiful'?? …. I don't want to pass those insecurities to my daughters. I would rather put emphasis on what's in 'up' there then what's 'on' there.”
I agree wholeheartedly. Of course 'what’s up there' matters. And yes, being beautiful or attractive - has long been the unnecessary measure of identity or worth.
A chandelier in the cathedral at Notre Dame. (c) Nandita Godbole, 2013
Where I hold on to what may be considered controversial perhaps, is that although gender biases have long existed and we continue to wallow that women are most critical of other women, fathers of their sons, moms of their daughters, and so on - we also continue to allow these patterns of behavior by not changing the way we pave the way for the next generation. We don’t correct mistakes. We choose to look away or allow them to pass complacently under the shadows of pretense.
Moms (and dads) want the best for their children – be it material or spiritual or intellectual wealth. In addition to the amenities and conveniences of home and life, it also reflects in the way adults dress, keep cars, arrange desks, shake hands or introduce themselves to a new person in the group – it is all about creating lasting first impressions. The fact that adults still hold on to the tiny devils of self doubt – means they are not past them, but are letting them shape their lives long past the altercations with the bullies from their childhood playgrounds.
The challenge lies not in changing the way people think of others before they speak. The true challenge lies in changing what we think of ourselves before we get in that elevator, in the spotlight, in that board room, or on that podium.
To me, this experiment is as much about standing up to peer pressure that places merit on external appearances, as it is about changing our own perceptions about ourselves.
It starts at home.
Kids learn from their parents: be it about the definitions of family, careers and pursuit of happiness, about confidence, relationships, behavior, respect, beauty, social grace, service, career fulfillment or the importance of an educated mind. This experiment (and parenting) is just as much about provision, as it is about eradicating insecurities.
Self-confidence is a valuable tool, right alongside education. And although I have not committed to a formal study from an Ivy League school on determining the numbers, in my observations a book-smart child is more likely to dwell in self doubt in their quiet space when no one is looking, than is a confident child, even if they are not Einstein in the making or if they ever want to be one. Don’t parents want to teach their children that what they feel and how they think is more important than what they look like? I believe they do.
So, what is our child’s first impression of themselves?
This experiment is all about changing definitions.
This is about changing the work-place mindset that will only help pave the way for our children when they are ready for it. We are not sharing our insecurities but lessons we've learned from our life. Given that as adults we have more things to focus on and spend time prioritizing on real-life-issues than just appearances, we are teaching them that we have found a way to conquer our fears. We are teaching them that although it is OK to have doubts, it is NOT OK to dwell on it. It is important to find ways to resolve, to conquer and defeat these insecurities. The lives of children are devoid of the responsibilities their adults have and they can easily fall prey to the shallow definitions of self-worth. Conversations like this can open a dialog with children that will provide a lifetime of strength and resilience even after their adults are gone.
Parents can help build self confidence, by starting at home. Children are not growing up in their parents past. Every grown up has insecurities and it takes self discipline, life lessons and perseverance to overcome them. The physical and social culture of today is far different from 20-30 years ago. The pressures to fit in are even higher. The pressure to perform, to excel and succeed are just as high. In such an environment, there is a great need to find ways to boost self-confidence. The girl-power movement of today is just as poignant as the Womens' Sufferage movement from a century ago. What makes it any different? There is a world much bigger than any big city, metro, valley, backyard or another coveted work place. There is no magic recipe or coursework or test to become a top ranking CEO. And even if there was, there will still exist a wide gamut of perceptions about mental capacity as well as social, gender and economic prejudices that will provide a hindrance for even the worlds' best brain. Choosing to use one environment as a measure of the larger global work environment does not change the fact that our children’s lives and careers can take them anywhere on the planet. We've moved away from our safe and protected environments of ‘home’, and so will they. Who knows where our kids will live as adults or what kind of families they will raise. But, isn’t that what we want for them – the choice of a life they want to live and be completely content with it?
The rules of the game of life are continuously changing. Why not create a new strategy at home to succeed - one that strengthens all their core energies using the tools of self confidence and self-assurance, so their definitions of themselves is just one word: Me.
© Nandita Godbole
Jan 28, 2014