One of my roles as a parent is guiding my children in self-exploration. Whether a quirk of personality or a product of living in an often-critical society, my older children especially are quick to put themselves down for traits that make them special.
My oldest daughter, for instance, is a very strong, determined individual. She is creative and thoughtful, moving and speaking with a sense of purpose. Leadership skills and confidence swirl around her like a cloak. Uncomfortable with expressing her emotions, she instead pours her soul onto canvas and paper. Yet because she prefers dinosaurs and Transformers to rainbows and Ponies, her peers call her weird. She is strong and doesn't hide who she is, but she is frustrated and confused as to why she "has" to like something or be a certain way because she is a girl.
My oldest son is almost the polar opposite. Soft-spoken and sensitive, he gains focus only when he is passionate about a topic, whether it be science or social issues. He likes Legos and stuffed animals, video and board games. He is a follower, unless he senses uncertainty or injustice. Then, he becomes a crusader, forcing the leader to re-evaluate his methods and means. Because he is sensitive, his siblings (and younger children in general) are drawn to him. He gets frustrated because he doesn't like the rough and tumble way most boys his age play. He wants them all to "play nicely," a rare trait for an elementary school-aged boy.
In my eyes, each of those children is beautifully gifted. Yet, each of them has expressed to me the desire to squelch their beauty and be more like their peers. My job, then, is to help them see their uniqueness as a gift, something to be proud of.
This task is even more difficult when one considers the fact that I was brought up in an environment where I was expected to tone down certain aspects of myself. Even now, in my mid-thirties, I will find myself modifying my personality to be accepted. Why? As I told my kids, the people who will be your friends will be your friends no matter what. The people who are trying to get you to change aren't your friends, so you don't need to worry about them thinking well of you. You are perfectly suited to be who you are.
Self-acceptance: that is my gift to my children.