I’m not unlike most women…I have a fairly low self-esteem. Perhaps it’s the effect of sin in the world that causes me to dislike what I see in the mirror rather than appreciating God’s handiwork. Perhaps it’s the culture I live in…being bombarded from every angle with images of what is and isn’t beautiful. Perhaps it’s personal experience…sins that have been committed against me that left me feeling inadequate and unattractive. Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m getting older and my body is changing. I suppose the truth is, it’s a combination of all these things. So, like most women, I walk around wishing I liked myself a little more than I do, wishing I didn’t compare myself to other women and wishing I believed my husband when he says I’m beautiful…
A few days ago I was out shopping with my mom and while waiting for her to check out, I stood staring at some kitchen supplies…trying as usual to go unnoticed. As I stood there, checking out a really neat gadget that slices and dices garlic, I saw someone approaching me out of the corner of my eye. I looked up to find a store employee standing next to me. She looked to be about my mom’s age, she looked kind and gentle. She smiled at me and said, “I just wanted to tell you that I think you’re gorgeous.”
I can’t begin to explain the amount of emotions that zipped through me in the next few seconds. But, I can give you an idea of the thoughts that ran through my mind… “Are you kidding? You’re kidding, right?” “Is this a joke?” “Did my mom tell you say that to me?” “Do you have me confused with someone else?” “Could she actually mean that?” “She thinks I’m gorgeous?” “She thinks I’m gorgeous!” “A stranger thinks I’m gorgeous.” “That’s amazing.” “I think I feel pretty…”
As all these thoughts were running amuck in this dreary head of mine, I simply smiled and said, “Thank you, that’s so sweet of you to say.” She smiled again and started to walk away. I stepped toward her, stopping her for a moment and I said, “By the way, I saw you earlier and I was admiring your hair. I love it. The cut and the color, it’s beautiful.”
This woman stopped and stared at me with a blank expression like I had just deeply offended her. I felt the smile on my face drop because I didn’t know what was happening. Then I understood, she was letting my words sink in. She smiled, but as she did, tears welled up in her eyes and her voice cracked a bit as she said, “You have no idea how much that means to me. I hardly have any hair. This is a wig. I’m always self-conscious that people can tell.”
“I can’t tell.” I told her. “I would never have guessed that was a wig. It’s absolutely beautiful.” With blushed cheeks she said again, “You have no idea how much that means to me.”
She took a deep breath and walked away, back to work. I stood there wanting to cry for her, for me, for every woman that spends her day fearful that people will notice her flaws.
I wanted to go after this woman and give her a hug; tell her again how beautiful her hair was; how beautiful she was. I wanted to tell her that she has no idea how much her compliment meant to me. But, I didn’t. I just stood there, realizing the awakening that had taken place in that moment.
I read an article recently where the author was offering her readers the best Christmas gift she could give… the gift of permission…permission to let go of all our short comings, all our faults, all our flaws…permission to enjoy the holidays unencumbered by self-degradation.
Oh, how I wish that was a literal gift under my tree…under all our trees.
Learning to love yourself isn’t easy. We’ve all traveled different roads and fought different battles that left us with unique scars. We’ve all lived different lives that have tinted the lens with which we see ourselves. So, while I accept this Christmas gift; this gift of permission to enjoy the holidays unencumbered by self-degradation…I see it less as a gift and more as a challenge. Can I actually do this? I’m not sure. But, what I realized in the store that day, talking to this lady with the really beautiful hair, is that while I do need to be concerned about how I see myself, I also need to be concerned about how others see themselves.
I don’t have a gift for my readers…but I do have my own challenge to pass on. Give a gift, the gift of a compliment. We encounter so many people during the week…the receptionist, the store clerk, the waitress, the stranger standing alone staring at kitchen gadgets. Speak to the people around you, compliment them…notice them. You might encounter someone like me who holds their feelings in and simply says, “thank you.” You might encounter someone who allows you to see their tears. Either way, just know that your compliment meant more to that person that you realize.
During this gift giving season (and every day after just because) let’s give the gift that everyone can use more of… compliments.