Cultivating inner validation builds capacity to fully love our children
“Love is a state of Being; Your love is not outside; it is deep within you. You can never lose it, and it cannot leave you.” — Eckhart Tolle
Growing up, I encountered situations that led me to believe that I was unloved or that I was not good enough. Due to these false beliefs, I could not accept myself — especially the parts I saw as weaknesses, like freely expressing my emotions and sharing my thoughts and inner truth.
I coped in two ways: First, by being quick to pinpoint my flaws, creating an unhealthy need to attain a state of “perfection.” Second, by seeking constant validation from the people around me, because I was unable to validate myself.
When I became a teacher to middle school children, these coping mechanisms became a mirror that forced me to look within myself. Children can represent so many parts of ourselves, especially the parts we are unwilling to look at with a microscope.
Children force us to go through personal growth and transformation.
I began to notice how my inability to love myself was affecting the way I showed up everyday for my kids. These were some of my biggest eye-openers:
I was projecting my insecurities onto my students
I began to see that the parts of myself that I rejected were the ones that I discouraged in my students. This ranged from encouraging children who were in tune with their emotions to encouraging children to be creative and live in an authentic state. Without fully understanding it myself, I was projecting my insecurities onto my kids.
I was seeking validation from my students
I realized that so much of what I wanted my students to do was to see me as their “favorite” or the “best.” I kept seeking out this validation from them, aspiring to be their role model. This unconsciously led me to be in the front and center of the classroom at all times because it guaranteed all eyes on me. I began to care too much about “likability”, instead of keeping the focus where it mattered — on them.
I struggled to deeply love all parts of my students
This was the biggest trigger for me. I loved my students, but I knew that I struggled to love all parts of them. These unconscious barriers led to discouragement about traits that mirrored my own. I began to expect a certain sense of perfection from them, and was trying to ensure that they would embody a student that was seen as “ideal” in the system.
Thus began my own journey to cultivate self-love.
I knew that it was time to build that muscle of self-love. If I didn’t heal my inner self, I would project these unwanted beliefs onto my students, negatively impacting them. These beliefs would then stem into their adulthood, creating an unconscious generational cycle.
So what does it mean to have self-love? The Chopra Foundation, founded by alternative medicine advocate Deepak Chopra, states, “Self-love allows you to accept your weaknesses along with your strengths, and to have compassion for yourself as you strive to find personal meaning and fulfillment.”
With self-love, we have the capacity to fully love the entire being of a child.
Here are 4 stages that can cultivate self-love:
Connect with Yourself
Take out 5 minutes a day to connect with yourself deeply. This can look different for everyone. It could be trying a short meditation, breathing mindfully, sitting in nature, journaling, or sipping some hot tea. During this time, be mindful and present in the moment. Try to move away from using electronics during this time, and take some space to be quiet. It gives us a moment to check-in with ourselves.
Sometimes, we are unable to see the lack of self-love that resides within us. In order to break out of this, we have to become aware of the parts of ourselves we may be neglecting to acknowledge. The first step is writing it down. Take out a notebook or journal, and write down 5 things that you struggle to love about yourself. There is no right or wrong answer. Think about how these 5 things show up in your daily life , and how it negatively impacts the people around you (yes, even in your classroom).
Unpack Inner Resistance
Throughout my process, I began to realize that I wanted to hold onto the parts of myself I didn’t love. It felt safe and secure. However, I challenged myself to focus on unpacking one per week, taking space to forgive myself. With each one I unpacked, I created activities both in my personal and professional life that would affirm a new belief. It could be talking about emotions more in the classroom or having moments to reflect so children also know that they have the space to do this in their own life.
Slowly, Pave a New Path
Begin to note down the ways you see your inner work reflected with children. This shift may take weeks, months, or years. It’s a process, so don’t be so hard on yourself. But when we pave a new path for ourselves, it builds a greater capacity to love the people around us. I saw this with my own students. Once my students had a deeper connection with me, they became more vulnerable and felt they could be more authentic once I showed it was okay to fully accept themselves.
Cultivating self-love is the first step towards showing children that they are fully accepted. Our children deserve educators in their lives who are reflective and are able to cultivate a loving sense of being. When we do this, we bring our true selves everyday, providing love and joy for future generations to come.
Weinberg, Jennifer. “5 Steps to Cultivate Self-Love.” Chopra. 2016 January 2016. https://chopra.com/articles/5-steps-to-cultivate-self-love