What My 3 Year Old Reminded Me About Self Image


Even today, when I look back at this scenario, I still try to wrap my head and emotions around the fact that when my Tomás was 3 years old he had already started to wonder about his self image.

After spending 13 years teaching children ages 3-17, I was catapulted to a halt when it came to my boy. Not me, not us…right? Ummm, no!

The truth is, nothing could have prepared me for the knot that formed in my stomach when he said to me “I don’t want to wear that shirt because they’ll think I look funny.”  

I did a double take. His concern of “looking funny” broke my heart and mama bear came full blown on.  Why is he worried about looking funny? He’s 3!!!

Simple: He reminded me that assuming that because I had my self esteem in check, so did he. 

Our self esteem  begins to develop at conception. I knew this. The spirit of a child can develop in the womb and continues to develop after birth, and as we grow we become aware of our own identity. I knew this.

Our parents and the adults in our lives, help us connect with our sense of self by being our mirror. We all crave the sense of security and of knowing we are loved, which ultimately fuels our everyday actions. I knew this -too.

As ‘small’ as his concern seemed that day, if wasn’t addressed (and still worked on today), it can turn into a bigger issue in the future. 

He is loved and told how important he is in our lives, but assuming that he completely understands this now is exactly the problem.

So in this moment, ‘What is it I wanted my boy to know, learn and feel?’ 

I want him to know his value. I want him to love himself. I want him to know how much he matters.

In order to have high self esteem, we (the parents, his peers) must help him build a healthy self image. Self image is knowing we are valued and accepted for who we are. It’s knowing we are seen, recognized and heard. 

The results of having a poor or negative self image can result in the following behaviors:

  • Chaotic Relationships
  • Defensiveness
  • Eating Disorders
  • Hypervigilance
  • Lack of assertiveness or passive, aggressive,or passive-aggressive behavior
  • Perfectionism
  • Poor Boundaries
  • Poor Communication
  • Poor Relationship and Social Skills
  • Promiscuity
  • Sexual Dysfunction
  • Self-Sabotaging 

Healthy self-esteem is like a child’s armor against the challenges of the world. 


I got down on my knees and looked him in the eyes and said “I love you. You are not what you wear. You are not what other people say about you. You want to know what the coolest thing about being you is? There’s no one else like you! I love you. You are my heart.” I do this every day since. 

With a hug that felt like it lasted for years, I fought the urge to crawl in his back pack and go to school with him,  but I know that one of the greatest gifts I can give him is awareness and security. Mama has got his back. No matter what.

I can love him and support him in the process, assuring him that he is here and he matters. I know that.

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