Estimated read time: 7-8 minutes
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SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim shares a parable that may help you teach children to separate their worth from their appearance.
I am driving myself crazy with insecurity and negative thoughts about my appearance. I hate my round face and always feel like the biggest person in the room. My daughter is learning this fear from me and I can see her insecurities are taking a toll. She is not even a teenager yet and I am afraid this may even get worse. I have complained too much about my body shape, so I've probably taught her this. Is there anyway to fix what I've broken and help her and me to love ourselves as we are?
We all need to stop attaching our self-worth to our physical appearance. We literally think "who we are" is what we look like, but this is not truth. It's just an idea we were taught.
You are much more than your appearance. You are your values, your humor, your compassion, your talents, your determination and your other virtues. You are your heart and your love for God, yourself and other people. This is the core of your real identity … but the world tells you a different story. The world tells you that your appearance, weight, stature and beauty literally determine your worth.
You must consciously and consistently reject the world's ideas about the worth of a soul and choose a more healthy identity and you must learn to do this first, because you can't give your child something you don't have. If you accept a different truth about your value and talk about it often, your children will learn to see themselves the same way.
I have used the following parable to help me have a different attitude around my appearance and to help me see life as a classroom, which had been divinely designed to help me learn to love myself and other people.
There once was a wise king who loved all people deeply and was truly happy, good and kind. He wanted the people in his kingdom to learn what he knew and live with more peace. So he developed a lesson to help them. Throughout the kingdom he created many different kinds of houses. Some were grand, large and beautiful. Some were small and humble, and some were in between. Some houses were in disrepair and others were greatly adorned. Some were castles and others were shacks. There were no two alike, every home was unique.
The king then randomly assigned every person in the kingdom to a house. The people did not get to choose their houses. The houses were not assigned based on income or performance. The houses were assigned based on which experience the king felt would serve each person to best learn about love.
Then the king told the people what he expected them to do with these houses. He wanted them to care for the house they received, fix it up and make the best of their situation. He also wanted them to learn to love themselves and other people for "who they were on the inside" and never judge each other based on the houses they lived in.
The houses were simply a lesson. The people in the town understood that living in a beautiful house didn't mean anything about their real value. Living in a less than perfect house didn't reflect on their worth at all. The issue in question was "what were they learning and becoming from their experience of living in the house they received?"
If they lived in a beautiful house, were they learning to be humble about their blessings? Did they remember their real worth came from their character and their intrinsic worth (which was the same as everyone else's)?
If they lived in a flawed house did they let that affect their value or make them feel inferior? Did they love themselves in spite of their home? Would they take care of the house they were assigned? Would they fix it up and care for it, even though it wasn't the one they wished they had? Could they be happy for others instead of jealous? Could they understand that a house doesn't affect the value of a person?
The king explained to his people that their value came from their character, their heart and their love. He asked them to focus on loving themselves and others and basically ignore the size and shape of their houses. The king told his people that happiness doesn't come from getting what you want on the outside, it comes from the love you have for yourself, others, God and life on the inside.
Because the king clearly explained the goal and the reason for being assigned a house (to help you to learn to love yourself and others) the people found they could do it. They understood truth and didn't waste time judging each other for the size and shape of their houses.
After you read this story, read it again but replace the word "house" with "body."
Talk to your daughter about how these bodies have been randomly assigned to us. You did not earn yours and you did not get to choose it. Some of us got thin bodies, others more round ones. Some of us are tall and others short. Some are dark and some are light-colored, but these different bodies we are living in have nothing to do with our value. They are simply where our soul is currently living. Your body was assigned to you as part of your classroom journey to help you learn to love yourself and other people.
Your job is to accept this body with gratitude and wisdom and take care of it, stay healthy, fix it up the best you can, but understand that it doesn't have anything to do with your value. You body really isn't "who you are."
Your specific body is just a classroom experience. It may be teaching you humility, kindness and compassion. It may be teaching you to stop judging books by the cover. I can't say which lesson your body is meant to teach you, because that is only for you to find out. It's your lesson. But I encourage you to answer this question on paper and write down as many answers as you can.
What lessons could my specific body be teaching me?
The story and the exercise will help you to understand that all people have the same value (as I mentioned in my last article). We are all unique, irreplaceable, divine spirits with the exact same infinite value as everyone else. You can help your daughter to see the absolute and equal value in every person around her by talking about this often. This is the first step to giving your child a healthy self-esteem, because when you accurately see the infinite value in others, you will also accept it for yourself.
You should also refrain from judging or criticizing others and teach your children compassion and accuracy toward all men, no matter their appearance or performance. If you do this, they will also see themselves as good enough and have compassion for their own mistakes, faults and flaws.
Then make sure you praise your child for her character, good works, love and kindness instead of always focusing on performance and appearance. Also teach her to eat healthy and take care of her body, but stress that this isn't about appearance, it's about good health.
You and your daughter get dressed every day, try to fix your hair the best you can, then look at yourself in the mirror and say, "This isn't really who I am — my love is who I am — I will go get them with my love!"
Focus on your character and your kindness. That is what wins true friends.
You can do this.