The Voices In My Head
There is a saying out there that goes something like “the way you talk to your children becomes their inner voice” ( Peggy O’mara)
I’m not usually the kind of girl who likes to read a whole bunch of parenting books and follow them like the Bible and condemn anyone else for not doing the same. I actually have a very wise friend who once wrote to me “Do what works. Don’t do what doesn’t work”. It’s probably the best overall, straight up advice out there. Thanks, Ken.
But this quote has a lot of power. As an early years teacher, I am well aware that children’s brains are actually made up of swiss cheese. There are a lot of holes up there waiting to be filled with information that we, as parents and teachers provide. They have no reason not to believe us. We are the providers of everything for them, in their most vulnerable time. I wonder if you told a child for their entire childhood that they were a bird if they would try to fly?
As a child, I felt as if all adults were focused on my weight. My parents. My teachers. My friend’s parents. My coaches. I was put on diets since the age of about 7. Some of my friends parents would make fun of me. To my fucking face, in front of a room full of adults.
And when I look back at those early years, when I was young and impressionable and totally trusting in the opinions and intentions of the adults in my life what I heard was this. ” You are too fat and unacceptable as you are. You must change.” The opinion that all those people had of me became the opinion I had of myself. Because I didn’t know any better. Because they taught me to be unkind to myself.
Now of course, I know it’s utter bullshit. Now I do. Most days, anyway.
That little voice still sneaks in now and then. It has had a huge impact on my life. Luckily for me, the voices in my life took some time out from trashing me long enough to also tell I was smart and talented, blah blah blah. Thank God, because I clung to that like a life preserver, and it probably spared me from being a winged out asshole.
Even now, confident as I am, there are some days I still need to remind myself that it isn’t me who has to necessarily change to satisfy others. I need to remind myself that I should only change to satisfy myself.
So ask yourself: What kind of inner voice do I want to create in my child?
What do I want to tell her that will play on repeat for the rest of her life?
You are capable.
You are beautiful.
You are a genius.
You are the love of my life.
You are imaginative.
You are everything I always wanted.
Don’t get me wrong. Children still act like assholes sometimes, and we need to be there to correct them. But correction and wanting what’s best for them doesn’t include attacking their core or their character. It means addressing the problem so that their inner voice says “I’m too good to settle for that” rather than “I guess that’s all I’m able to produce”.
We are their voice in the first few years. Use this time wisely.
Say something useful.