Monday, December 10, 2012

The Non Scientific Origin of Self Image :: via RockStew

My name is Heather McCurdy.  I live in Redmond, WA (near Seattle) and aside from being a Momma, I love to write, craft when I’m not overwhelmed by motherhood, and go shopping!
In my home, there is a large mirror located on the stairwell.

When Annabelle, who is my 18m old daughter, sees herself in the mirror, she reaches for the image with a giant smile on her face. Sometimes, she'll try to engage her image by either trying to hug herself or every once in a while, she leans towards the mirror in an effort to kiss her own chubby cheeks.

It made me wonder if we are born with a healthy self-image. First, I thought she was too young to recognize herself in the mirror and that she was reacting as if she was seeing another child.

 Recognizing yourself is called 'Self Awareness', and according to Wikipedia, begins around the age of 1. While she isn't a master of self-awareness, she certainly recognizes and can differentiate herself from others in the mirror. Skeptical of accepting the fact that we are born with a healthy self-image, I wondered if maybe I was just blessed with a kid who is generally happy all the time, so I started asking around. I did nothing formal, such as sending out a survey, but I did ask several moms that I know from her toddler groups and music class. All of the moms responded that their baby responded positively, or at least with curiosity to their own image based on their age.

The rare exception was if baby was already crying, when they saw themselves in the mirror, sometimes they kept crying, but most of the time seeing their image snapped the babe out of a crying fit with a big smile. This led me to wonder again, "Are we born with a good self-image?"

Most psychologist argue that we are not born with any type of judgment about our self-image, that it's something we learn based on our environment. Of course, I knew the answer wouldn't be easy. I started digging more and found that from a scientific point of view, there simply is no definitive way to answer the question due to lack of communication from kids. Researchers cannot prove if a baby's smile at her reflection has any emotional intention. I passed by the mirror again and couldn't stop the nagging question that your self-image has to start somewhere. So I started back at the beginning.

What is Self Image?
As defined by Wikipedia, it's your ability to answer the question, "What do you believe people think about you." As many of parents are keenly aware, babies and toddlers cannot in any way possible answer that question. Does that matter though? If a tree falls in the woods and you aren't there, does it still make a sound? With toddlers and babies, just because a baby can't form words and tell us what s/he thinks, it doesn't mean that a baby doesn't have a base self-image that is untouched by perceptions. Which made me ask again, why does my baby smile at her reflection in the mirror? Yahoo has this question on a conversation board and it's listed as "resolved." It's not just my baby, but lots of babies smile at their image in the mirror. While I understand that I cannot prove my answer scientifically, I certainly can have an educated guess. In some odd and wonderfully weird way, I believe we are all born with a 'positive’ self-image which helps us to survive and thrive in our environment.

After this experience, I also realized that you are not born with negative views about yourself. 

Many of my own harsh self-views are learned, based on interactions and perceptions of how I think the world works, but I’ve learned and grown from them. As Annabelle grows up, she'll have to navigate the complex paths of societal labels and figure out where she fits in. As a Mom, I hope I can help her figure out which perceptions and values she should care about and which ones to discard. It's not easy and I'm still learning too. Plus, I recognize that her journey will be very different than mine. You know though, a funny thing happened along the way. While wandering through journals and websites, I found myself facing a mirror. I looked at myself as Annabelle looks at herself and smiled back at my reflection. 

 
*****

Wow.  Heather is so wonderfully inquisitive.  I love, LOVE that she took a cue from her Annabelle and dug a little deeper into the issue of self-image.  
As a woman... and as a mother of young daughter, I struggle with this.
I'm sure many of us do!

A HUGE thank you to Heather for sharing this with us today!
Please take a moment to visit Heather over at RockStew or on Facebook or Twitter... let her know your thoughts on this issue, or maybe you could share a similar experience... or just say "hi!"  She's a fabulous lady to know!


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3 comments

  1. What a great post. It's great to see babies and little ones have fun with themselves and admire themselves in the mirror.
    More adults should take that cue!

    Great guest post :)

    Lanaya
    www.raising-reagan.com

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