My son loves his reflection. Even when he thought the person staring back at him was another awesome baby, he would squeal and smile whenever his “friend” came to visit. Now that he is old enough to understand that it is in fact himself staring back at him, he loves his reflection even more. He loves it so much that he will run right up to the mirror and give it lots of kisses.
This practice, while adorable in childhood, would be called narcissistic, vain and self-absorbed if done by an adult. I for one would probably burst out in a fit of nervous laughter if told to kiss my reflection. I’m not sure if I can even say the words, “I love myself, ” without feeling a little bit awkward. Even smiling proudly at what looks back at me is tough.
I’m sure I’m not alone. Young children don’t yet have those feelings of shame and self doubt. Though sadly I’m hearing of kids having body image and other self esteem issues at earlier ages than ever before. Is it not long before my son succumbs to those negative feelings? Will my own words and actions unintentionally lead him to feel badly about himself? Will I know what to say if he asks me why he is not as tall as so-and-so, or as smart, or as popular?
I know that before I can ask my son to love himself, I have to love myself first. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling like that is no easy task. I look in the mirror and see flaws, I read about others accomplishments and feel inadequate, I question my life and feel unsatisfied.
Becoming a parent has forced me to challenge all of those things. When you need to be there for your child, there is little room for self doubt. There is barely enough time to think about anything. Still, there are those moments when negativity creeps in and fills your head with shame and self-loathing.
We teach our children to love themselves. We praise their accomplishments and tell them how wonderful they are. We hope they never feel a moment of shame and unworthiness. We do all this for our children, and maybe we should do more of this for ourselves.
In the story of Narcissis, Narcissis drowns after becoming infatuated with his reflection in the water. This story is held up as the ultimate cautionary tale of the danger of loving oneself too much. I think it’s time for a new interpretation. I think we could all use the chance to completely drown ourselves in love. Are you ready to take the plunge?