“Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” –e. e. cummings
Last April, on my 36th birthday, I was approached at an event and asked if I was the mother of one of the young ladies that had just presented on the stage. Because I was well acquainted with the young lady in question, I stood back flabbergasted. Most likely unbeknownst to the interrogator, I had just been questioned as to whether I birthed and raised a 21 year old.
In that moment I was faced with a few choices:
- I could be extremely offended that this person thought I was old enough to have a 21 year old daughter.
- I could assume they knew I was only in my 30’s and were wowed and awed by the prowess I displayed as a pubescent mother.
- I could be insecure about every line and wrinkle on my face. I could hone in on the dark circles under my eyes. I could become self conscious about my appearance. I could accept that I must look solidly middle aged.
- I could be completely flattered because this young woman was stunning in both her internal and external beauty and characteristics and this person assumed she was with me, thereby making me also stunning.
- I could know that, in fact, this person saw we both had blonde hair, had been seen in conversation, and did what everyone else on the planet does, lump all blondes together. Aren’t all Caucasian blondes related? Although, if I had chosen this option as my reaction, couldn’t they have asked if we were sisters? Why jump to the conclusion that I was mom?
To make matters worse, it wasn’t but just a couple of months before this incident that someone approached me and asked if I was pregnant. I’m the thinnest I’ve been ever in my adult life,and this person also knew I was in the middle of training for a marathon. The two components of thinness and fitness rarely a pregnant female make. Flabbergast was the only appropriate response here.
Short story long, I chose to let the comments go. With the simple extension of a hearty laugh and a knowing smile of forgiveness in both scenarios, the slate was wiped clean. We have all put our foot in our mouth at some point and have probably been the one eating crow. Why then, one year later, do these two conversations still stand out to me with such clarity?
What woman doesn’t worry about maintaining her youthful glow and appearance? What woman doesn’t want to present herself as chic and in control? Perhaps these females exist, but I haven’t met any of them yet. Even the most confident of XX chromosome owners have moments of mirror shaming, photo comparing, and skin, hair, clothing, body envy.
While chicks around the world may have some raw nerves and universally agreed upon taboo points of discussion (i.e. never ask a woman her age, her weight, her income, or if she’s pregnant), the job is up to us to do the hard work of knowing ourselves and our true, inherent worth as a human being. Never leave the job up to anyone to tell you who you are or what you look like. External validation and motivation can disappear as quickly as it appears. It is fickle. It is finite. It is based in fashion and fads. However, a true, deep down, internalized system of validation and motivation will keep your head held high and your confidence soaring whether you’re rocking Jimmy Choo’s or slippers.
We, as women, can be our own best asset or our own worst enemy. Do not hand the job of self validation over to anyone else in your life. Your parents, your significant other, your children, your co-workers, your boss, your personal trainer, or the random person you met online in a chat room cannot and should not be expected to butter you up, prop you up, and fill you up. My value and my worth will not be held hostage to opinions, criticisms, the social media commentary, postings, and activities of others, Hollywood, Washington DC, trends, styles,the cultural zeitgeist, or the random woman in a tweety bird t-shirt and leggings at the gas station.
Take the time to get to know yourself. Learn what it is you like about yourself and what areas you need and want to improve in. Take action everyday towards the person that you are becoming and desire to be. No one else can cheer for you or take that action for you.
The journey is your work to do. Be your own kind of beautiful!