My daughter is studying constellations in her 3rd grade class and last week she told me all about Cassiopeia.
She explained that Cassiopeia was excessively vain (my daughter actually said she bragged a lot), so much so that it almost led to the death of her daughter Andromeda, and it eventually did lead to her own death.
When she died she was placed in the stars, but she is eternally forced to be upside down for half the year due to her vanity.
I remembered this story - I remembered the mythology, I remembered Clash of the Titans (only the original), and I remembered the fear of being vain (the fear of letting anyone know that you actually like yourself kicks into high gear around middle school…unfortunately the fear continues unless we become aware of it and let it go).
So I had a moment of concern that my daughter would mistake vanity for self love. That she would believe it was somehow a bad thing to fully love yourself, that loving yourself could actually harm others or cause you to hang in oblivion upside down.
So I asked, "Do you know the difference between self love and vanity?" She kind of shrugged her shoulders, not too interested but willing to hear me out.
So I said something like this, "Self love is when you understand that you are good and right just the way you are. You don't need to shout it to other people and you don't need other people's validation, you just know yourself to be exactly who you are supposed to be. You feel joy, you share joy, and you know deep down that is exactly what you are supposed to do."
"Vanity is when you are unsure about your goodness and love so you talk about it a lot and ask other people to confirm that you are indeed goodness and love. You try to constantly prove that you are good and loving by trying to be better than other people. You don't fully trust who you are and you think the only way to experience joy is to be better than other people."
"Do you see the big difference?"
She smiled and said, "Yes Mom" in her 3rd grade way.
But I kept my eyes on her and I thought I saw a small smile, it was slight, but I definitely noticed a little relief.
Probably because deep down she knows self love is essential for our well being. Things just flow when we love ourselves and trust who we are.
Of course there are times we question ourselves or beat ourselves up, but we can always find our way back to the truth.
We are inherently good simply because we are here. We don't need any other validation or proof.
Self love allows you to share love with the world. Lack of self love (which often results in vanity) results in you asking the world to take care of you or blaming the world for what you do not have.
Lack of self love is usually at the root of our problems and our relationship issues. Sometimes it disguises itself or hides behind other things, but when it comes down to it, lack of self love is usually the source of our pain or the reason for our poor choices.
Believing this is freedom. Not believing this is why you feel a hole in your life even when you have what you thought you always wanted.
You are waiting for you to love you.
And what greater gift can we give our children than to practice self love and teach self love so they can hold onto the inner knowing and self trust that they were born with.
In that way Cassiopeia is a wonderful teacher for us.
She wasn't inherently bad, she just wasn't taught to love herself so she asked the outside world to validate her existence - even with beauty and royalty she didn't innately trust that she was good enough.
So if you look up in the night sky and see her upside down, send her some love and understanding.
And in the same moment, send the same love and understanding to yourself.
Cathy Adams is a certified parenting coach, yoga instructor and mother to three girls.
See more of Cathy's stories here.