My daughter is taking gymnastics class once a week. Here, she is learning to walk across a beam without falling. The lower balance beam, which is a few inches off the ground, is crossed quickly, without hesitation, without help. However the balance beam that is raised high off the ground, approximately 3 feet, cannot be so easily crossed. She climbs the two stairs in order to reach the top and grabs for her teacher’s hand to hold her steady. She moves slowly as she is not confident. After all, the consequences of falling are greater which makes the higher beam much scarier. However, she finishes, jumps down, and happily runs to the next station. The smile she had while ascending the stairs did not lapse from when she started to when she finished. She has fun facing her fears, gladly accepts help in doing so, and she does not feel guilt that she cannot cross the high beam with the same ease as the low beam. There is no sense of competitiveness nor does she get upset she is experiencing fear. It’s safe for her to have her emotions, and she is not treated as though her emotions are valid or invalid.
What would happen if we all started to treat the challenges in our lives in the same manner? How would our lives change if we used a different lens to go about the tasks in our life that feel scary, overwhelming, even mundane? What if we allowed ourselves to take someone’s hand in completion of our responsibilities, not because we can’t do it on our own, but because it helps us manage and makes it more fun. How different would life be if we smiled the whole way through? What if we took those expectations on what we think we should be able to do, and instead, we chose happiness?
I do not want my daughter to lose her sense of calmness, to think it’s bad to ask for help, or start to pressure herself that she should not have a hard time with the higher beam because she can do the lower beam just fine. I believe the best way to prevent this, is for me to intentionally act with her attitude. Life becomes less complex , if I make the choice to role model happiness.
I know that in time, my daughter is likely going to compare her skills to others, and this will either boost self-esteem or decrease it. She will also begin to feel the pressures of being as good or better than others because we live in a society where profit and competition are valued. But I want to show her that happiness is not dependent on these comparisons. She will watch me and learn what it means to have fears, to admit imperfection and face the challenges, to ask for support when it’s needed, and to take the time to cherish being in the moment.
Our children are so focused on wanting to be like us and wanting us to teach them, however, so many lessons about happiness can be learned from our children.