I believe that parents need to have their relationships with themselves sorted out before they can truly feel fulfilled as parents. They must look at what is not working in their relationship with themselves. If they are not loving themselves 10 out of 10, they need to see and understand what is blocking them from ascending to the summit of self love and self worth.
This really applies to all relationships, but I want to focus on parent-child interactions in this blog.
I’ve wondered how parents can instill in their children a healthy and robust sense of self love when they themselves can’t cause their own self love. What do you say to a child to help them along the way when your own internal prompts are not working?
I’ve noticed that people who typically function with low levels of self love have trouble receiving love. The world occurs to them as one in which we must scavenge for love, getting by on scraps while others belly up to a table groaning under the weight of a love feast. But when love does come in in its many forms, it may not be recognized as such, or it may be repelled, gently or otherwise, as coming to an undeserving recipient.
We (yes there is autobiographical content in these observations!) sometimes stop looking for love, rein in the hoping, and busy ourselves with strategies not meant to maximize incoming love, but to configure a life built around scarcity. We may resign ourselves to the cheap consolation that behind our armoured hearts, we’ve successfully numbed ourselves.
When this happens in families between spouses, and it does, it’s going to have an effect on relations between the parent and child, even if the parent thinks they’ve effectively camouflaged their state of internal disconnection.
The parent may lean on their children in the hope that the kids can prop up the parent’s sagging sense of fulfillment and happiness. This will not work. It’s unfair to the child, and the parent must do the heavy lifting here. It is not the child’s job to fulfill the parent as a parent. Even if the child wished to do this, they can’t. They don’t know what it is to raise a child, but even if they could amass sufficient insight into the realm of what the parent is dealing with, the parent operating at low self love would likely not be able to let that message in. It is the parent’s job to create their own sense of fulfillment as a parent. Fulfillment must rest on the foundation of self love, and it is also the parent’s job to establish that firm footing.
When our self love is low, it is like we view the world through special lenses that distort our view. It is easy when looking at life this way to see ourselves as victims whose lives are given to us by circumstance. Things happen to us. We react, but we don’t create. Life becomes a thing to be endured not designed. Looking out on a world through such lenses, we see repeated confirmation of our suspicions. Life is hard, unfair, scant in its provisions, and definitely not about much love or connection.
What is the experience of parenting like when all that is going on, or versions of it? Might there be some vitality and affinity missing?
What’s it like to be a child raised by a parent so beleaguered?
The good news is that a parent, or anybody, really, can take immediate steps to restore self love. It is not uncommon in my coaching of people to move someone up the scale 2 or 3 points in just an hour of coaching. My goal in coaching is not just to move people to loving themselves 10 out of 10, but to give them the tools so that they can be responsible for keeping themselves at or near the top of the scale.
Once self love is reliably present parents become designers of their life, and their parenthood. It is easy for fulfillment as a parent to move in when love and acceptance abound in one’s life.