Sunday, November 11, 2012

"Awesome" is a self-fulfilling prophecy

Awesome billoard. Photo by musedTM.

Believe you are awesome, strive to be awesome, and true awesome will follow.

That's the theme of this week's post, and perhaps will be the theme of the year, and should probably be the theme of our lives. Why am I saying it now? Well, first read the following story from a dear friend who asked that I share it, and then we'll chat. [I've edited for length, emphasis, and anonymity.]

This past weekend I went to a wedding. The bride is a good friend of my spouse's. She was a beautiful bride. Her dress was gorgeous, she looked stunning, and her soon-to-be husband got tears in his eyes when he saw her walking down the aisle. It was such a beautiful day.

But ... the bride spent the entire morning and afternoon before the wedding putting herself down. It was a day full of criticism. She stated over and over that her shoulders were too wide, her hair wasn't right, etc.

She even took some time to bring up things that were wrong with her on my wedding day when she was in my bridal party. (Ironically, I only remember her looking pretty on my wedding day and I have no memory or photo evidence of her looking the way she thinks she did.)

When she was putting herself down, she wasn't complaining in a way to fish for compliments. It was more like she was just stating facts about herself, except that everything she was saying wasn't true. She is gorgeous. She just doesn't see herself the way the rest of the world does.

I cried when I told my husband how she was putting herself down. My heart broke for her because it was her wedding day. That is the day that a woman is supposed to feel gorgeous and happy and loved. I am not one of those women who have a ton of confidence (I at least think I look "OK" most of the time), but I can tell you that on my wedding day, I felt beautiful.

In fact, I think I never looked more beautiful than I did on my wedding day, because it was the happiest day of my life. I tell everyone that I spent most of my wedding day crying because I was so happy and it's true. I was marrying the love of my life, I was wearing a gorgeous dress, my family and friends were there to celebrate the event with us, I felt beautiful ... and all of that just made the day beautiful.
And when I look back at my wedding pictures, I don't nitpick about things the way I usually do. I don't look for a fat roll or too much teeth in a smile or bingo wings. All I see when I look at my pictures is how happy I was.

I wish I could have transported the feeling of those memories to this bride, because she should have felt lovely and not self-conscious about all of her imaginary physical flaws.

I guess this weekend just reinforced the idea that women need to stop telling themselves things that they wouldn't let another person say to them. I would get pretty angry if another woman came up to me and told me that my post-pregnancy mommy bulge is disgraceful, so why is it okay to whisper that thought to myself? And even worse -- believe it?

Women are their own worst critics. And I wish we would just stop. So much potential joy and happiness is lost in waves of self-loathing. You can never get those times back.

I wish the bride could have broken the cycle of self-criticism on her big day, and I hope sharing her story with you will help you, me, and other women remember that we should be happy to be ourselves and that we should stop the nitpicking.

I hope you don't mind me sharing this with you. You aren't the sort of woman who constantly puts herself down, but this whole situation bothered me enough to want to talk about it. And maybe talking about it will make other women take the steps to consciously try to stop putting themselves down so that at least the big events in their lives aren't marred by self-criticism.

Photo by ALEGNA MARIE

Ok, now we can discuss. A couple points to frame it:
  1. This story is about women and addressed to women, but I know men can treat themselves the same way. It's a human thang, so let's include everyone.
  2. The wedding in this story is a backdrop for a larger point.We could have a whole separate series about wedding day expectations, societal pressure, etc. But that's not the main peg here, so let's leave it be.
So you know where I'm coming from, my friend is right when she points out I'm not a self-criticizer. I'm blessed to have developed healthy, grounded self-esteem over the years. People believed in me early on, let me learn, fail, and grow on my own, and as a result instilled in me a strong sense of what I bring to the table.

In the core of my being I believe in my worth -- not just of my outward appearance, but also of my beliefs, my actions, my talents, my shortcomings, my potential. I really do tell myself on a regular basis that I am awesome, and on a regular basis I really do believe it.

Some of you might read that and think I am horribly arrogant and self-righteous. So let me state for the record that awesome does NOT equal perfect. Far from it, especially in my case where I have a long list of un-awesome things I've inflicted on myself and others. My point is that we still have to love ourselves first, ALL of ourselves, and that includes perceived and real flaws.

Then you can focus on self-improvement. Then you can challenge yourself to keep growing and learning. Then you always expect (demand?) that others treat you with respect, dignity, and grace -- the same respect, dignity, and grace I'm sure you're showing them. But you need the foundation first. You need to know you are worth it.

I was very much involved in my friend-the-narrator's wedding, and I can verify that she was over the moon on her wedding day. But let me tell you, she is as beautiful to me every day as she was that day because she carries love and joy with her. Her smile is every bit as radiant; her laugh is every bit as bright. And that has nothing to do with makeup and a good photographer -- it comes from kindness, gentleness, and openness.

I can guarantee you're equally awesome. The question is, do you believe it?

Photo by kelsey_lovefusionphoto

Prayer #230: Awesomesauce

Awe is wonder. Awe is dread. But awe is also veneration -- to honor what sits before you, to admire all its facets, to defer to where it can lead you and what it can teach you.

Why, then, are we scared to awe and be awed? Why do we shy away from acknowledging it and inspiring it? Why do we not look at the daily miracles at work in our own hearts and minds and say, "This is worth expanding. This is worth revering. This is worth exalting."

Force of awe beyond our reckoning, bury the nasally voice that says we are not worthy, and turn the knobs way up on the symphonic chorus that says we are. For if we listen to beauty, we become it.

Amen.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous8:34 PM

    For many years now, I have realized that the majority of people in your every day do not TRULY care about YOU, or what YOU look like, or what YOU are doing. So get over it and love yourself for YOU, improve yourself for YOU, do the things that YOU need to do to make you happy. Then, you become awesome by the mere fact that you are doing all these things. Awesome is a natural byproduct of doing what Julia suggests you do. You don't try to achieve awesome---it happens when you try to be YOU. Love to my awesome daughter.....Mom

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