Self-Esteem: The Repair Kit
I grew up in a big Catholic family, my parents scrambling to meet everyone's needs in spite of erratic income and their own parents' stilted parenting. Their expectations were high, in hopes, no doubt, of helping us succeed. But the message I grew up with was "You'll be good enough if…" The "if" was different depending on who was doing the messaging, but it was never just "You'll be good enough" or—even more unlikely—"You are good enough."
So the next day I draw my living room blinds, prop the photo on a chair, and clear my throat, feeling utterly goofy.
"I know you're sad. I know you hurt. I know you want to open up and feel joy," I tell the picture. "It's okay. Because I—the grown-up version—am here to protect you. I am here to celebrate and marvel with you. It is okay to feel. It is okay to admit to flaws."
As I speak, I think of my daughter and the effort I have put into making her world a place where it is okay to have fears, to cry over boo-boos, to believe someone else is taking care of the big picture. I think of how I hold her and tuck her in, how I brush back her hair and laugh at her stories. I hope she'll grow up knowing she's enough.
Even as I form the thought, I feel a swelling of hope for myself. Maybe I need to do that for me, silly as it sounds. Tuck myself in, tell myself I'm worthy, laugh at my own jokes. Maybe that little girl with the trusting smile is going to be the one who heals me. I open my eyes and look again at the photo. This time, though, I'm talking to myself, the grown-up version. "I am flawed and I am imperfect," I say, "and I am enough."