“You should have eaten a salad instead of cake.”
This is a real statement I heard seven months after giving birth to my son. I weighed 145 pounds at the time. At 5’5″, this weight was not exactly obese. My son is almost 21 years old now, and those words sting to this day. Along with I am not attracted to you anymore and I am not in love with you. To be fair this was a long time ago, marriage can be ugly, and feelings change throughout relationships.
Yet, 20 years later, I feel those words. I never regained the confidence I had prior. Additionally, trusting any compliment is rare and irritates me more than lifts me. I attempt to forget, at this time, it has been impossible. I never wrap myself with this misleading blanket of lies. However, neither do I wrap myself in affirming truth. Growth is evident but not perfected here.
Why am I bringing this up now? This past week I received an odd compliment. It went something like this,
“Someone will always be prettier. Someone will always be younger. But they will never be you.”-unknown, (The background was a picture of Keanu Reeves (?) It is unclear if it was a quote from him.)
My question was how did this compliment me? Initially, I felt horrible. Thank you, dear, so comforting to know prettier, younger people exist. Negative Nancy speaks first. Next, I considered this was a compliment to the person sharing it. “You will never be young or pretty, but you are you and I am still here.’ Finally, after reading it for the tenth time, I think I get it.
The intention was to read as if you are reading it to yourself. I beat myself up for my faults and failures, to acknowledge the obvious frees me to accept myself. The truth is someone will always be prettier and younger. There is no lie here. Uneasy with the post, the problem was never the words; it was the delivery and the meltdown that happens when certain people try to compliment you after tearing you down.
I am a confident woman on many levels, age or beauty not one of them. The changes that affect a middle-aged woman are frustrating. The one person I trusted to encourage and support me through these changes, shut me down years ago. If he felt a certain way back then, how do I trust he feels a different way now? I never recovered and I am not confident I will.
Alas, we must be cautious in allowing the pain of the past to interrupt the power in the present, or the focus toward the future. While I never forget the hurtful words, I also live separate from them. If I sat stirring in the ugliness, I would stink! I have a beauty that is far deeper than weight or physical attraction. Thanks to the many characteristics true to whom I am, those others words evaporate. Unfortunately, they also solidify and reenter my mind occasionally. This is a fault of mine, and I am working on it.
Women I know personally struggle with the same issues. We hear something negative and tend to hold on to it forever. Even if we forgive, the lingering reminder stays implanted somewhere in our brain. Every day there is an inspirational speaker or writer gently whispering in our ear, “You are beautiful.” The negative comments immediately silence their gentle whisper. If we want to hear and believe positive references to ourselves, we must be the ones in our head. Your significant other has their own issues, saying rude things may be one of them. Your goal is to protect your mind by forging a wall of confidence using your thoughts. Example: You see a red apple on the table. She says look at that blue apple. You know the apple is red, your thoughts tell you the apple is red; your brain knows the apple is red. The person who is unable to control their thoughts will wonder, “Is the apple red or is it blue?” Crazy, right?
Yet, when people abuse with words, this process is exactly what happens up there in the mind. With forcing you to question what you know, they take control of your thoughts and eventually you believe it. After overthinking the purpose of that compliment, and stewing in my misinterpretation, the bottom line remains. Meant to be a compliment, the delivery sucks. The lead-in should have read, “Remember this…” followed by
“Someone will always be prettier and someone will always be young, but they will never be you! You are valuable, you are worthy, and you matter!”