Mother desperate to build confidence
Dear Annie: Lately, I have been feeling like I am not good enough. I have anxiety and depression, which I have had since I was young, to the point where I have attempted suicide four times. I used to have anorexia and bulimia and cut myself on my arms and legs. I had thought this was the one thing in my life I had control over. I am not proud of myself for those days.
I have children now, and my son, at 14 years old, questions himself like I did — and do. I keep comparing myself to women, and not just women but my best friends, from their faces to their bodies.
Even though I have been told I am beautiful, I never believe it. And it’s so hard sometimes because I don’t want my son to go down the same road as me. I keep thinking, what if I never learn to love myself and be confident? Will I teach him to be in the world without a voice, questioning everything he does? Will he believe he is not handsome and ruin his relationships, like I have, with his insecurities?
I am scared, honestly, because I see so much of myself in him, and even though I try to say positive things about myself, I just never can.
When I am depressed, I cry on and off all day; I can’t concentrate on anything and am constantly telling myself that I’m not worth it, that I’m not skinny enough, that I’m not beautiful because I don’t have long flowing hair. I don’t want to leave this earth not loving myself. I don’t want to leave this earth not teaching my babies that they are beautiful and that they deserve to be heard.
I know that the things I do affect them. In my mind, I am sure I can change it, but in my heart, I’m this little girl who felt unprotected and grew up being bullied and wearing glasses and the only thing I had going for me was that I was the smartest child in my class. I guess what I’m needing to know is this: How do you build confidence? How do you stop your child from repeating your life? — Hurting
Dear Hurting: You should seek the help of a professional therapist as soon as possible. You are dealing with depression, low self-worth and what sounds like a continued eating disorder. None of these diseases is your fault, but you must get help. You are incredibly self-aware, which is half the healing journey.
Clearly, you suffered trauma when you were younger, being bullied, and you are projecting that experience onto your son. This is very typical thing for parents, and it is not fair to our children. But the good news is that you are aware and want to end this cycle.
As for building confidence, start with that you are a wise and caring mother who wants to be emotionally healthy for your children. Soak that in. Appreciate all you have done to accomplish that. So much of good parenting comes from modeling good behaviors, and showing yourself appreciation will allow your son to appreciate himself, too. You can even say to your son that his mom sometimes feels insecure, but she wants to change and is seeking the help of a professional to do so.
Being an open-minded person willing to look at yourself, admit your mistakes and say you need help is a wonderful example to set for your children. Try not to be so hard on yourself. You sound wonderful, and so does your son.
(Lane is a columnist with Creators Syndicate.)