When it comes to insecurities, Idina Menzel is learning to “let it go” — with a little help from her son Walker Nathaniel.
In an interview with Glamour published Friday, the Tony Award winner admitted that hitting a milestone birthday in May — her 50th — was making her self-conscious.
“I am ashamed to say it, but I was having a hard time with it,” she told the outlet. “I think it was subconsciously bothering me more than I let on, in regards to my relevance as a performer and actress. I’m feeling like the old lady sometimes, and that’s not who I am. I feel very young at heart.”
That’s when Walker, 12, stepped in. “He says, ‘Mom, don’t look in the mirror and worry about how you look. You’re beautiful,’ ” Menzel said.
The Cinderella star said that she consciously wants to set a good example for her son, whom she shares with ex-husband Taye Diggs. She recalled watching her mom “look in the mirror and say something negative about her body or face,” which affected the way Menzel thought about beauty.
“What we really were seeing was a beautiful woman diminishing her worth in some way,” Menzel explained “I’m learning as a parent that you really have to walk the walk and talk the talk because that’s what kids really see. They’re so insightful.”
In August, Menzel shared with PEOPLE another way she loves to build her son up: leaving him notes in his lunchbox. “I was always a mom that wrote little love notes to my son, whether they’re embarrassing him or not,” she said.
Menzel, who wed Aaron Lohr in 2017, is “really glad” that her son is returning to school (“Knock on wood”) after regular in-person classes were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. That said, she didn’t know what exactly to expect and hopes “they’ll be safe.”
“It’s just a very anxiety-provoking time because we can’t control anything. And we also can’t plan very much. We’re always taking everything day by day, and the world seems to just be changing at such a rapid pace,” the Frozen actress told PEOPLE. “But, it’s kind of a good life lesson. Just try to stay in the moment. So, that’s what I’m trying to do for myself, stay in the moment, look for silver linings.”
“All the extra quality time I got to spend with my family, the fact that I couldn’t travel or go on tour this year very much afforded me real downtime to reflect and be introspective and be home with my family even more,” she added.
When it comes to raising a kid in today’s world, Menzel said she can “relate, commiserate, empathize with parents” about the trials and tribulations. Before having Walker in 2009, however, “everything was so focused on the self.”
Becoming a mom, she told PEOPLE, “teaches you priorities and perspective.”
“And you screw up every day in some way. But if you come from a place of love and forgiveness and try to be a stable, strong sort of rooted tree for your kids, and they know that you’re not going to — you may bend — but you’re not going to break,” Menzel concluded. “I think that’s the greatest way to show them that you will always be there and that you love them.”