When I was in high school, my dear friend Emily would address me by saying, “Hey, beautiful!” It always unnerved me back then, though I would never have been able to articulate why. With my 20-20 hindsight, however, I can quite easily tell you why: I didn’t believe I was beautiful.
I never mentioned this to Emily, of course, because sheesh, how rude would THAT be. And so she kept doing it. And so I kept cringing. But eventually the cringing lessened, and then subsided completely. And on a day to day basis, I may still struggle to believe that I’m beautiful. But what I DO believe is that Emily thinks I’m beautiful. I believe that every day, and it is meaningful and helpful and a generous gift for her to have given me.
I’ve adopted this practice as my own, as many of you already know. It is a subtle but consistent way to remind the women in my life that dammit, I think they’re gorgeous. Even if they don’t always believe that they’re gorgeous. And gorgeous will never be their most important contribution to the world, and I make a point of telling them that they are wise and talented and valued and unique and inspiring just as often. But I want them to know how I see them because it so frequently clashes with how they see themselves. And I can do it so quickly and casually as a simple opener – before we dig into the meat of our conversation and as an almost subliminal reminder – and I just love that. Just a gentle nudge, intentionally difficult to deflect and always a preamble to other topics and discussions.
Helping women recognize and accept their own beauty is an important goal to me, and it’s a daunting one. But some helping is easy. I may not be able to reprogram the fashion industry to want diverse female bodies on the runway, or convince clothing manufacturers that women of ALL sizes deserve flattering, stylish options, or keep teenage girls from developing eating disorders. But I can say, “Hey beautiful,” when greeting all the fantastically beautiful women in my life, and slowly chip away at their disbelief.
Image courtesy Ahd Photography
Originally posted 2014-04-28 06:36:21.