When teachers and parents ask what they can do to help young people get off to a healthy start in life, I say, “Set a good example.” Let your respect and love be seen and felt. It works for children just as it does for all of us. Everything depends on what you believe about yourself. If you want to change your life, you have to change your self-concept. If you want to move to a higher place, you need to change your belief about what is possible for you and elevate your beliefs about yourself. Young people are forming their self-image every day—based largely on the examples of self-respect and self-esteem they see in the important people in their lives. What they believe about themselves and their lives is shaped by what they see and feel. We can make sure they see love.
Of all the beliefs that each one of us own, none is more important than the ones we have about ourselves. Our beliefs about ourselves are the single most telling factors in determining our success and happiness in life. A child’s self-image is a direct result of the kind of reinforcement he or she receives on a daily basis. Do they have the confidence that they can successfully complete any task before they attempt it? Do they feel good about the way they look? Do they feel intelligent? Do they think of themselves as worthy?
As you think the self-esteem of children, keep in mind that the barriers we erect to our own growth and happiness almost always are internal barriers. The lack of love in a person’s life is the internal fear that he or she does not deserve love. The absence of achievement is most often due to a genuine belief that one could never achieve at a high level. The absence of happiness stems from the internal sentence that “Happiness is not my destiny.”
Motivating children to have great aspirations for themselves is essentially the task of working on their self-portrait. Once you see a child’s self-image begin to improve, you will see not only gains in achievement, but even more important, you’ll see a child who is beginning to enjoy life more. You will see happier faces, more excitement, and higher expectations for themselves. The only authentic barrier to a child’s own greatness (or yours) is fear of his own greatness.
When a child grows up to love himself, to be self-confident, to have high self-esteem, and to respect himself, there are literally no obstacles to his total fulfillment as a human being. Once a strong self-portrait is in place, the opinions of others will never be able to immobilize a child. The young person who feels confident as he approaches a task will not be undone by failure, but instead will learn from it. The child who respects himself will respect others. The young person who has learned to love himself will have plenty of love to give away.