Within the past month, I’ve been the recipient of some unexpected, flattering compliments that have led me to ruminate on the practice of loving yourself and how, for many of us, it’s not an easy thing to do. We’re much more comfortable showing love to our family and friends than ourselves.
Sometimes, we struggle within our skin, searching for a way to fit in and belong. Nowhere is this more evident than as a preteen or teen when most of us feel gangly and awkward and that our bodies are exploding from every possible direction. Recess, that incarnation of the devil, only makes this worse if you’re feeling like an outsider. Too many times I wandered the playground aimlessly by myself or tried to invent ways to avoid heading outside after lunch. Being the tallest girl in my class until eighth grade won me no favors, nor did the glasses, retainer, wonky front teeth, permed hair (give me a break – this was the 80s/90s!) or bookish smarts. All in all, with self-esteem at rock bottom, it was a sure recipe to be teased by peers.
Sure they didn’t know any better or sure they probably felt just as geeky as I looked, but their words and actions still resonated. They stung to the core.
My mom told me once that these boys taunted me because they liked me. I’d love to interview every last one of them to see if that held any weight. Or at least to see that they’re now all balding and living in deserts – not that anyone who is bald and lives in a desert is a bad person – but at least I could say that I hope they understand what it’s like.
Nevertheless, what good is “loving thy neighbor” as my Catholic upbringing taught when you can’t love yourself?
Recently, I shared some vacation photos and was surprised to receive numerous lovely comments on one of the pictures where I posed in a new dress. I was flummoxed, slightly embarassed and in awe of what friends and family see in me that I choose to ignore and disregard in myself. Then, a few weeks later, I met a lady who out of the blue told me I had a “beautiful and unique face.” I was presented with another lesson in acceptance to listen to this good, this positivity and to believe in its truth when the natural inclination is to dismiss it and allow the negativity to permeate.
The honest truth is that we’ll always find someone prettier, skinnier and richer with a better wardrobe and perfect teeth and mercifully, those teenage years don’t last forever. I’m sure (or I hope) that Alessandra Ambrosio, Kate Upton and whomever People magazine deems as the “most beautiful in the world” all battle with questions of self-doubt and uncertainty. If they don’t, well, I hate them.
And so it is with a giant leap forward and an expression of loving myself that I endeavor to share stories of life, loss and the general pursuit of happiness – or the follies of my existence, at the very least – some of which I hope will resonate with you, dear Reader.