Self Esteem from Seven Different Angles
In her book, Mother-Daughter Wisdom, Christiane Northrup, M.D., devotes an entire chapter to the Anatomy of Self-esteem. She outlines seven areas of self-esteem. Let’s explore Dr. Northrup’s point of view of Self-esteem. Because this book is written about mothers and daughters, it focuses only on raising girl children. We have placed square parentheses [ ] around changes we have made to reflect both male and female children.
1.“Physical Prowess – the ability to feel strong and capable in [one’s] own body. It is an essential element of a [child’s] sense of safety and security in the world.” Dr. Northrup goes on to say that this is not about competitive sport, rather an ability to feel active and strong in one’s body. She also highlights the importance of parental modelling; “A recent study of nine-year-old girls done at Penn State University found that when neither parent promotes or supports exercise and athletics, just 30% of girls are physically active. When one parent gets involved, the figure rises to 50%. And when both parents get involved, 70% of girls report being very physically active. Exercise habits, like eating patterns, get passed down from parent to child.”
2.“Social Skills and Social Comportment – knowing how to present yourself well and to act appropriately in social situations. Knowing that [one] belongs somewhere and fits in with others is a vital part of being comfortable in [one’s]own skin, an essential building block of self-esteem.”
3.“Self Discipline – the ability to direct your will toward a desired goal in a sustained manner; to stay with a task even when tired; to keep your promises. Every [child] needs to have some tasks that are simply expected of [them] on a regular basis.” Dr. Northrup goes on to caution against excessive praise; “don’t go overboard in a mistaken attempt to prop [them] up. Kids know full well when they have done their best and when they haven’t. Resist wanting so much for your [child] to like you that you fail to enforce rules or standards of behavior”.
4.“Self Trust- Knowing how to tune into and trust what you know and what you feel; to assess safety and danger; to act on your perceptions even when others may not agree with them.” Dr. Northrup encourages parents to teach your children to notice and follow their inner guidance system. At Parenting Power, we talk about taking the time to teach your children that they are capable by allowing them to take on age-appropriate responsibilities and choices, and involving them in problem-solving.
5.“Financial Literacy – developing your ability to spend, save, give and invest wisely…” As we mentioned in our recent webinar on Kids and Money, Dr. Northrup focuses heavily on the messages we are sending to our children through our own beliefs and habits around money and prosperity. She also cautions against overindulging our children and recommends;
“Learn to tolerate your [child’s] disappointment and distress when you say no. Failure to do so puts your child at risk for future depression, anxiety and social failure. Understand that learning to delay gratification and deal with disappointment are as important to the developing psyche as coming into contact with germs is to the developing immune system.”
6.“A Place in the Sun – developing a skill or innate talent”. This area is about celebrating and supporting a child’s strengths. Working to develop a skill or talent is an opportunity for further self-discipline. It may also result in close friends who share a passion for this skill. In addition, it is a comfort making struggles and weaknesses in other areas easier to handle and easier to accept.
7.“Positive Self-image – Feeling secure and good about yourself.” In this section of the book, Dr. Northrup highlights many important considerations. Today, we’ll focus on the following:
“A mother’s behavior models for her daughter[and son] what women are and what they do. It’s important that [the children] see their mother engaged in activities that bring her positive feedback and help her to feel good about herself. It’s important that [they] see [their] mother interacting with both men and women in healthy, empowered ways. These healthy patterns will be incorporated into ideal [relationships to self and others] in the future.
On the other hand, if a [child] routinely watches [a] mother being submissive and indecisive around men in general or her husband in particular, then the [child] is apt to internalize this behavior…it will be difficult to form relationships with the opposite sex where there’s a balanced give and take.”
Making a decision to intentionally focus on any or all of these seven areas can be a great gift for our children and their self-esteem. We encourage you to explore the areas that struck a chord within you as you continue to parent with your child’s self esteem in mind.
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