"You're beautiful" gets thrown around a lot, but maybe sometimes not enough. I have been told this throughout my life, and to be honest, I really have never believed it. It's so easy to tell our friends they're beautiful, and we genuinely mean it. So how come we can't do the same for ourselves?
I look back on pictures of myself and remember that at the time I was so self conscious, felt like I was too fat, my hair was not right, etc... only to think in the present how I'd chop off my right arm to look that fantastic again. I have vivid memories of grade school, of being jealous of the girls that wore a particular kind of pants, because my body shape didn't so much lend itself to them looking quite the same on me. I wished that the bulkiness residing between my hips and my knees would just melt away so I could be "normal". Normal. What was I thinking??? I was totally normal, and if I ever for one second could fathom thinking those thoughts about any little girl today I would kick my own ass.
As much jealousy I felt for those girls, I never once looked down on or judged or thought less-pretty the ones that were bigger than me. They were just as beautiful, but I saw them for WHO they were, usually more friendly to me and with laughter and smiles their eyes would dance. I thought they shone, but still found a way to let my self-perceived faults get under my skin.
Being told I was pretty or beautiful has always made me uncomfortable and a little annoyed at times because I felt I had more to offer than vanity. I also never believed it, brushing off a compliment to embrace a different theory, like he must be trying to get in my pants or she must have a sinister motive, or she's my friend and is just trying to make me feel better. Hair coiffed and full makeup made me seem stuck up, self-centered, unapproachable to some. For me, though, it was just a mask to hide the self-conscious girl who thought she wasn't pretty, wasn't good enough. Everyone knew back then that the bigger your hair was, the smaller your butt would look...so the perms and the hairspray and control top pantyhose were constant - thank you '80s. No wonder the beauty industry will never tank no matter the state of our economy.
I have one friend in particular who really is one of the most beautiful people I know. I have never seen an unflattering picture of her. She literally looks like an angel and she always has. She has struggled with her weight issues for a good part of her life, but still radiates this unexplainable light. I remember her making a disparaging remark about her less favorite body parts and I physically felt like someone stabbed me in the heart. It crushed me to hear her talk that way about herself, to know that she felt that way when I thought she was absolutely perfect. I've also had a few gal-pals throughout life that will call me on it when I do that. They'll say "don't you dare talk about my friend like that". It's pretty effective in snapping you out of it.
Then there's my boys, who will grab me by the cheeks, get in my face, and say "Mommy, you are so pretty". It's easy to pass that off as less than expert opinion because they also think Daddy is Superman and that I have special powers because I know how to make tomato soup out of a can. Kids are right and honest though, particularly when they don't filter what their hearts feel. Mine say this mostly when I'm laying in bed in sweatpants and hair a mess. They don't get all impressed with silly things like lipstick or hairspray.
And so to all the girls in my life: I think you are unbelievably beautiful, each and every one of you. You are all so unique in yourselves, in your relationship with me, and I'm so thankful for the bonds we have shared. Go on with the hair color, the eyeshadow, the wrinkle creams, whatever it takes to make you feel good (and not like a crazy homeless woman like I feel on a bad hair day)...but please be as kind to yourself as you would your best friend.
To the boys: Thank you for the compliments, it must have taken some amount of courage to say it. I will take the comments under consideration with more seriousness, and make sure that my kids continue feeling comfortable saying it....it may come in handy for them someday...I just hope whomever is on the receiving end believes them.