"You're awesome, just like Akka!" - What my 4 year olds told me the other day.
"Akka" is Rebekah, my 16 year old sister. The reason why the little ones might tell me I'm "awesome" just like her is because Rebekah says, "I'm so awesome!" about 6 times a day, always with a gleeful smirk on her face, and usually in the context of some accomplishment she's proud of--it could be anything from a lunchtime recipe invention to a 100% on a test to a prank she pulled on her baby sister. No one else quite understands Rebekah's awesomeness scale except for her, and I think that's cool.
You see, Rebekah suffers from a condition we've come to call Unconditional Personal Regard. It could also be termed Overwhelming Self-Confidence. Basically, no matter the condition of the world around her, she remains completely convinced of one eternal truth: she is awesome. And she's not alone in this condition--it's a gene that runs strong through several generations of my family.
It dawned on me recently that most human beings probably don't have the experience of growing up in a large family full of people who happily consider themselves the smartest and funniest and coolest and awesome-est people on earth. Empirical proof doesn't matter, not really. It's nice to have, occasionally. But for us, graduating from college with a 4.0 GPA doesn't prove your brilliance, it just happens as a natural result of being unbelievably brilliant.
As I've grown older, I've realized all the more how bizarre it is that when I look in the mirror, I think I'm gorgeous. From a purely objective standpoint, I realize that others might see a too-short, too-scrawny girl with too-frizzy hair--a cosmetologist who never learned to do her own makeup properly. In some sense, there is a logical part of me that recognizes I'm no Miss USA...but most of the time, I find that hard to believe, because I think I'm stunning. And a genius. And a really, really good cook and party planner. I'm an awesome blogger, too. And if there were prizes for knowing English grammar, I'd win them all.
Suffice to say, I suffer from the same thing Rebekah does, even if age has somewhat tempered me and I don't announce that I'm awesome 6 times a day. Maybe once or twice.
I do a lot of editing for family members--once, in desperation, I asked my mom to re-read something she wrote, but this time from the viewpoint of an objective reader, not from the viewpoint of an author who loves her own work because it's what she created. She did, and she told me that after reading her work from the viewpoint of an objective reader with no vested interest in the work, she came to the objective conclusion that the written word was utterly brilliant and she had a new favorite author. Herself.
Unconditional Personal Regard strikes again.
I'm not entirely sure this is the best way to live, though it's the only way I've ever lived. I hear a lot about combating low-self-esteem and the importance of avoiding negative self-talk, and I'm grateful that those aren't a struggle for me or for my family. But at the same time, I sometimes wonder if a little more balance--a little more recognition that there's always room for improvement--would be a good thing...
And how do I respond when my little ones tell me I'm "awesome just like Akka"? Graciously, of course.
"Honey, I've been being awesome since before Akka was born."