Just a few days ago I was dragging my recycling bin and trash can up my steep driveway in the late July heat. It was nearly noon and the sun was blazing down on me like an ant under a spyglass. Did I mention the steep driveway? Just a few moments out there and I was already developing a sweat mustache. If I had boobs, there’d be sweat between them too.
As I hurriedly lugged the warm reeking can along, a woman who was out for a brisk walk approached my driveway. Instead of passing by, she pointed her finger at me, marched straight toward me and said, “Can I tell you something?” Uhm…. Is she from the HOA? I’ve left these cans sitting on my curb way past garbage day. Danggit. I braced myself and prepared to apologize.
She looked to be in her 60’s, with short greying hair, wearing workout gear and a piercing glare as she made a beeline for me. I wore my sweat and a slight smile, not sure what to expect. She crossed the distance between us and stopped just a few feet from my face.
“I need to warn you,” she said. “Every time I eat a candy bar, I pray that it ends up on your body.”
What did I say to this? Not at all what I wish I would have said. I was so caught off guard, and I can be terribly shy. I sort of laughed, the small nervous kind. She went on, “You are so tiny! You look amazing!” I was still so surprised that all I could think of was, “Thank you.”
What a dumb thing to say.
She kept marching on at her brisk pace, out in that smoldering heat, and I never saw her again.
You know how you always think of the right responses when it’s too late? Yeah, that.
A few minutes later I had piled my family into the car and we headed out for some errands. Every corner of the neighborhood I searched for her as we left. Hoping she might be around the next turn. She wasn’t.
If I could see her again, I wouldn’t smile a dumb, “Thank you.” I would say this…
“Thank you for bothering to compliment me, when truly you are the one deserving the compliment. I’ve been inside on my royal behind all morning, thinking it’s too hot to even enjoy the pool, and here you are walking circles around me. Dear woman, if you think that your body doesn’t deserve a treat, you are sorely mistaken. You may not be as
skinnyscrawny as me, but that alone is not a factor of health or beauty. Clearly, you are more fit to workout in this heat than I am, and you are more beautiful for trying to brighten a stranger’s day while doing it.”
We women are often so guilty of self-dissatisfaction. We make progress that is never good enough. We brush off compliments. We invent “real” reasons why the flattering words were said. We look in the mirror with disappointment. We put others on pedestals. We put ourselves down time after time after time.
The fact is that this self-dissatisfaction doesn’t even come with a weight attached. We feel the disappointment across the board, even on the “low end” of the scale, never measuring up to perfect. Lest I martyr myself, I assure you my self-thoughts are those of the ridiculous realm. Have you seen my chicken legs? Suffice it to say that I was never able to actually wear EG Socks (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, please exit stage left). The bean poles sticking up from the socks were never wide enough to actually hold them up. And yet, my twig figure wasn’t enough to save me from my flabby, post-pregnancy paunch. So I see myself in pictures and I simultaneously think:
“Look at that flubby walking stick, someone get this girl a greasy double cheeseburger! And take her for a jog!”
Don’t get upset, these are MY absolutely ridiculous thoughts, remember? And don’t they sound so! My point is this: SO DO YOURS.
Until we grasp that the old cliché about Beauty from the Inside is true, our thoughts about ourselves will always be ridiculous. Even more so if we actually voiced them to others. There are enough critics out there waiting for us, we don’t need to beat them to it at every turn.
I promise to try this if you will to: Take note of the warm light this woman shared with me. Work hard to be healthy, but be beautiful from the inside. Pour your beauty into others. And if you so desire, enjoy a flipping candy bar.