I used to be an extremely anxious woman. I turned into an anxious mother, and as a result, began raising an anxious daughter. When I looked at my beautiful daughter, I knew I was the root of her anxiety.
Right after her birth, I felt paranoid that she would follow in my footsteps by developing an eating disorder in childhood that would last through her college years.
I was terrified she would make the same dysfunctional choices that I had made in my 20’s, putting herself into unsafe situations with men just to feel connected and loved, if only for a moment.
Our girls have a way of unconsciously showing us our greatest fears.
I’ve always prided myself on my willingness to transform into the next version of me. I’ve explored my spiritual side in more ways than you can imagine. I’ve been in and out of therapy since age 20. I’ve read umpteen hundreds of self-help books.
But I’ve learned more about my true self through the eyes of my daughter than from all of these things put together.
The most important lesson she’s taught me is that she’s watching me carefully. I’m the most important role model in her life. I impact her on a deeper level than anyone else in the world.
That was the wake-up call I needed to eliminate the chaos in my mind and work on the harmonious life we both deserved. With help, I stopped worrying about being judged by others and starting living my life with confidence.
As I began to release my anxiety, the amount of anxiety I passed down to her became more apparent. I felt guilty, but I decided to do something about it. I helped her by teaching her the body-centering tools I now use to calm my own anxiety.
When my self-confidence began to rise, I noticed a shift in her as well. She became more light-hearted, happier, open and confident. It was magical. I knew I was on to something big: If I could pass down my own anxiety to my children, then I can also pass down my sense of freedom, happiness, love and power.
The epiphany was life-changing. I realized the decisions I make impact everyone around me, specifically my now eight-year-old daughter.
When I shame myself, she carries my shame into her life.
When I feel confident, she has the freedom to express herself with confidence.
When I speak my truth and I’m vulnerable, she has permission to speak out and be vulnerable as well.
When I open up and allow myself to receive love, money and joy, she will follow suit.
When I shine my light into the world, she’s given the space to shine her own light, too.
My daughter has been a gift to me. She’s shown me how to live authentically. She’s reflected back to me the woman that I truly am and who I want to be in the world. In return, I’ve given her the gift of reflection as well.
When she looks at me as I stand in my power, use my voice, and share compassion and love in the world, she can see her true essence through my eyes too.
I’m not perfect and I don’t pretend to be. But I strive to be the woman I want my daughter to become.
Dawn K. Gibson, LCSW is the mother of three, wife of 10 years, and body-centered coach who helps moms eliminate chaos and break patterns that they’re sick and tired of repeating. You can learn more about her and her work at Dawn Gibson.