What if we could prevent our children from hating themselves, and instead foster self-love and in turn, self-care? Turns out, we can! Imagine if you will growing up with a particular set of values. Perhaps you don’t even have to imagine it; perhaps you actually did grow up with a particular set of values. We all did, didn’t we?
Whether we were raised in a religious home, or a home where education was valued and pursued, or a home where the work ethic was particularly strong or even in a home where a particular idea or notion was not valued, maybe it was even hated or feared. As children we grew up to accept certain things as fact before we had the cognitive ability to evaluate how these issues related to ourselves. Simply stated, we can teach our children self-hatred, or self-love. The choice is ours and hopefully, we can open our minds up to consider just how easy it is to create self-hatred, and conversely, how easy it is to promote self-love.
When we encourage, praise, and otherwise make positive affirmations over our children, we help to set the tone for self-love or not. The problem is sometimes we unwittingly create a hate of self in our children because we couldn’t possibly know who they will turn out to be when we are just getting to know them. What if, we just promoted a love or at least an acceptance of everyone, every type of person regardless of race, creed, color, or gender? What if, we learned some lessons from previous generations and did things differently for this one?
We can all learn something from the experiences of those who have known self-hatred, and for me, no one illustrates this point better than comedian Hannah Gadsby. She gave me a new perspective on the origins and the depths of self-hatred by sharing her poignant, thought-provoking story:
“Seventy-percent of the people I lived amongst (in Tasmania) believed that homosexuality should be a criminal act. Seventy-percent of the people who raised me, who love me, who I trusted believed that homosexuality was a sin, that homosexuals were heinous, subhuman pedophiles. Seventy-percent! And by the time I identified as being gay it was too late I was already homophobic. And you do not get to just flick a switch on that. No, what you do is internalize that homophobia and you learn to hate yourself, to hate yourself to the core. I sat soaking in shame in the closet for ten years, because the closet can only stop you from being seen; it is not shame proof. When you soak a child in shame they cannot develop the neurological pathways that carry thought, you know carry thoughts of self-worth. They can’t do that. Self-hatred is only ever a seed planted from outside in, but when you do that to a child it becomes a weed so thick and grows so fast the child doesn’t know any different. It becomes as natural as gravity.”
Is this what we want for our children? Is this what we want for our future adults? No? We can change it. We can promote acceptance, love, and understanding for all people regardless of whether we like them or agree with them.
Hannah Gadsby’s mother told her, after learning she was gay, “The thing I regret is that I raised you as if you were straight, I didn’t know any different.” We do know different now. We do know that our children might not turn out to be who we thought they would, but we can love them no matter what, and certainly that will set their path so that they can love themselves too.
Editor, Ask Lala