From a very early age we learn that pleasing others is a wise and a well-rewarded behavior. When our parents affirm our actions, attitude and manners, we feel safer and liked. One of the most elated statement by young children is, “The teacher really likes me.” Later in life, adults may say, “I know that I do a good job because my boss tells me often how pleased he is with my work,” or, “We worked as a team and had trouble figuring out the solution to a particular problem, until I suggested a new way of solving it that was accepted and led our team to a successful outcome.”
Being validated from an early age by being told that we are capable, clever, funny, kind, well-behaved, quick-witted, attractive or pleasing elevates our sense of safety and wellbeing. Conversely, hearing repeated reprimands or annoyance and disapproval from adults seriously impacts our self-valuation or confidence and may even curtail our curiosity to explore life as we grow. Our own ability to solve, figure out or feel safe in vocalizing our thoughts and feelings may also be seriously hindered.
Children who are often reprimanded, rather than guided when they are being too loud, rambunctious, active or “wild” rarely truly understand what about their behavior requires adjustment and personalize it as a character deficit. This leads to low self-esteem, increased fear and bewilderment about how to elicit approval and affirmation about being worthy, clever, kind, talented and loved.
As children go to school, they quickly identify their place in the hierarchy of mental, emotional and athletic abilities and thus use their intuitive “self-value” rating as a guide to socializing with or withdrawing from other children.
In our early years we “know” by sensing and feeling who really cares about us and who only states it without his or her words and behaviors matching the proclaimed attitude. Thus, the wisdom in picking affirming and caring friends starts early in childhood and persists throughout life. Youngsters can easily tell how a teacher, friend or others actually feel about them and are likely to self-assess accordingly.
Some youngsters seem most needy of the approval of an angry and maybe even unkind friend. This may be a reflection of early childhood trauma, specific abuse, or a deeply seated misperception of one’s desirability. This pattern may carve a path of involvement with rebellious teenagers, or acting out behaviors.
Conversely, positive affirmations build the foundation of a healthy self-esteem and kind and contributory behavior toward others.
To cultivate a healthy self-esteem:
- Affirm your mate regularly with positive words, kind attitudes and actions.
- Rehearse in your mind the messages of affirmation you receive from others and own them.
- Be affirming of family members, friends and others for their kindness and competent conduct.
- Affirm your children’s nature, behavior, accomplishments, as well as their consideration towards their friends, teachers, family, pets and others. Being secure in their kind nature and competent conduct will enrich them throughout their lives and enrich you all.