True Self - lessons on self-esteem from two 7-year old girls

Last week I presented a keynote at the Women’s Leadership Conference hosted by the Vermont Women in Higher Education in Killington. I met some amazing women with marvel superpowers, to include Stasia Savasuk, founder of Thrift Me Pretty. Stasia is a personal stylist who helps women dress their authentic selves in a radical self-love, guilt-free, money-doesn't-define-my-value way. Stasia's seven-year-old daughter, Raisa, is the inspiration behind her business venture - a child who is teaching so many the importance of showing up as your true self [and not as the world might expect you to]. Watch this video and learn why...

Showing up as one’s authentic self doesn’t come naturally for many, and I’ve noticed it especially challenging for girls. We are wired to compare our bodies and our minds to other people, and [in the spirit of connection] to even behave, speak, or dress like others in ways that don't always feel natural.

Further, intended or not, when it comes to being our authentic selves many people long for permission from those they look up to and admire, such as parents, teachers, and leaders. For our children, seeking "permission" translates into feeling valued and feeling safe in showing up just as we are.

Recently my seven-year old, Jos, confided in me that she felt different from the other children in her class - that “funny things” were happening inside her head. When called upon at circle time Jos initially thought she knew the answer, yet numerous other responses simultaneously popped in her head, causing a mismatch in thoughts and words that led to confusion, embarrassment, and eventually withdrawal - such as missing out on instructions for the next activity.

If I asked, for example, “What color are your shoes?” Jos would reply with a handful of stories about shopping for the shoes, or the many places she had played or run in the shoes. Her brain is wired much like a popcorn machine, stimulating many thoughts and ideas at once. The [correct] response, “My shoes are pink,” was on her mind, but far from the tip of her tongue.

Thankfully Jos’ teacher picked up on this trend and already we’re working on various strategies – in the classroom and at home – to help Jos “get right to it,” sharpening her focus and confidence in narrowing thoughts to spoken words. To think of how easily such an issue could have been marginalized or overlooked altogether, snowballing into teachers’ lost faith in my daughter’s potential, or worse, erosion of my child’s self-esteem, causing disengagement and disinterest in school as she grows older.

Raisa and Jos are not alone. Every child [every person], is unique, special, and has needs: we all want to be understood in the deepest levels of our being and thinking. We all want to be accepted, to be loved - no matter. And this need extends beyond how we show up at home - into school, our community, our places of work, our world.

Only when we feel safe showing up as we are can we tap into reserves of self esteem, fueling the internal drive to learn, to grow, to contribute and bring our fullest potential into the world. And every child [every adult] need feel loved in order to feel free to do so.

Scanning your own learning journey, consider an experience when you first became aware of what made you different and unique – the “funny things” that made you YOU, the qualities that make you tick. What happened and who was there? How did this revelation about yourself make you feel? What did this learning story teach you then, and what learning can it serve you [and others] now?

Consider a person close to you who may not be bringing out his/her true self. What might you ask, say or do to communicate safety, understanding, and encouragement - and inspire him/her to bring out the true self?

Ask. Listen. Share. You just might be surprised to see what you [and others] may be holding back. And the world needs all we've got.

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