"Watch my fashion show mommy!"
In front of me stood a little girl -- my little girl. Somehow, without any warning, she had burst through babyhood and entered her childhood.
I couldn’t take my eyes off her. Side ponytail swinging with every dance move. Purple flashing microphone in hand, she bounced and twirled, her blue ruffled tutu catching the air as she spun. Seriously, has anyone seen my baby?
"Did you like it?"
I burst into the loudest applause one person can muster. What an incredible kid, a born entertainer. Her confidence is enviable. Unshakable.
This past weekend she and I got our hair cut. Hers was just a trim of her overgrown bangs. Her biggest concern was if she would be able to still wear the clips I had been using to hold her fringe out of her eyes. Once I assured her that she could still sport hair clips, she was game. The moment we got home she ran to the mirror and exclaimed, "I look beautiful! So very beautiful!"
And she meant it.
We could all learn a thing or two from that kind of confidence. Why is it, as we grow up, our ability to compliment ourselves disappears. Shouldn’t I be the easiest person in the world for me to compliment? Or do I feel like I know myself too well? I know my flaws, my shortcomings. Or, maybe I don’t know myself well enough?
Tell my daughter that she looks cute and her answers alternate between a polite, yet grateful, "Thank you," and a self-assured, "I know!" When was the last time you said "I know" when someone paid you a compliment? Or even a sincere thank you? I know I have never said "I know" and I choke out "thank you."
And why shouldn’t I know? Why shouldn’t I be able to agree with someone when they say I look good? Because it isn’t polite. Because I don’t think it to be true. Because I have been taught that even a small ego is too big. But, if I cannot accept myself as being great, who will?
My daughter asks to do my hair. Her tiny fingers pretend to braid. She needs help with the clips but directs me as to where they should go. When she is done she steps back and surveys her work. "You look beautiful, mommy! You love it?" I do. I love it. I have five different flower clips all on the right side of my head. My hair has been brushed straight back and directly up at the same time. I look like I spent an hour in a wind tunnel but I have never felt more beautiful.
We are blasted with a visual assault on our confidence daily. Everywhere we turn airbrushed perfection is smiling back at us, trying to get us to spend our money on things we don’t actually need. Electric white teeth, thighs that do not touch and impossibly small waistlines are shoved into our faces as the ideal. Meanwhile, only a fraction of the population actually possesses any of these attributes but they are being passed off as the ideal for all.
So much energy is put into becoming physically perfect. But what if we already are perfect? What if perfection is more than the color of your teeth or the inches of your waist? What if it is measured by how we feel? How we are loved and how we love. I know that if that was how we measured perfection, I would feel pretty incredible.
Maybe beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. It is, after all, subjective. Maybe next time I am paid a compliment, I will force myself to really take it in, to actually believe it. Clearly the other person does, why can’t I? I will fight my urge to disagree. I will stop focusing on the details I don’t like and instead listen to the compliment. You can’t see the forest for the trees, right? Maybe it is time to take a step out of the woods.
What if we switched our thinking? Rejected this unattainable ideal of beauty and instead aimed for happiness. What if we quieted our grown up minds and turned to a 3-year-old for advice? Listened to our hearts. Do whatever it is that makes us truly happy. Find beauty in our differences. Look into the mirror and proclaim, "I look beautiful! So very beautiful!"
And truly mean it.
Michelle writes from the home she shares with her husband, their 3-year-old daughter and two dogs. She is the authority on nothing and may just be the most outgoing shy person you will ever meet. Her daughter is convinced she is a super hero but most days she feels more like the super villain. Read more of her work on her blog at www.JuiceboxConfession.com or "like" her on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/JuiceboxConfession. All love letters can be sent to JuiceboxConfession@gmail.com.