My coworker and I frequent at the same local Starbucks. There’s a barista there and he often offers up the most interesting compliments. “I like your height,” he told me one day. I was taken aback. I don’t know that’s a compliment I frequently hear. I laughed about it, thanked him, and sleepily moved to the other side of the coffee shop to await my caffeine for the day. One day, he simply told my coworker, “you look really good today.” She, like me, accepted the compliment with a laugh and a kind smile in return.
Today, I did not feel all that put together. My nose was plugged and raw from all the tissues I’ve used over the past few days, I had (and still have) a zit the size of Mt. Kilimanjaro in between my eyebrows, I had my glasses on, as well as a baggy sweatshirt and scrub pants. I felt like a hot mess and I was going over my lengthy to-do list in my head. I am currently trying to drink only decaf coffee (back off, coffee freaks. Yes, decaf), however, the abundance of cold medicine in my system and the day ahead of me led me to wander into Starbucks on my way to one of my patients. I walked up to the counter to be greeted by a familiar face, my barista friend. “You look really nice today,” he softly said. I looked up from my wallet and after a brief pause said, “thank you” with a big smile. He then followed it up with, “you’re one of the most well put together people I’ve ever seen.” Okay, this was a compliment I could not accept. “Me? Ha! I definitely don’t feel put together right now!” I awkwardly shifted from side to side and awaited the card reader to prompt me to insert my card. He looked at me and simply said, “you don’t have to feel it to look it.” Oh. My. Damn. My barista served me with more than caffeine today.
There were a few more relatively awkward exchanges that occurred after that but as I walked away, I could not stop thinking about what he said. Even as I walked into the bathroom and examined my appearance in the mirror, I was fixated on the idea of how we feel a certain way about some parts of ourselves but more often than not, we appear a completely different way to others. Even as I’m writing this, my sweet friend, Lindsey is texting me about my writing. She encouraged me to keep writing and told me she felt me coming alive when she was reading this blog. My response? “Really??” Note, I added the second question mark to emphasize my disbelief of such a statement. Her response? “YES! Do you not know you’re a good writer?!” Even as I’m typing that, my nose is scrunching and I’m uncomfortable. Why? I don’t accept compliments well. Let’s follow that with another, “why?” There are infinite lies I have told myself that refute the simple compliment Lindsey brought to me.
Isn’t that remarkable? We can have people pouring love and encouragement into us for our whole lives, and what sticks out to us? The one time that one person said that one thing that hurt us. That statement hurt us and left a scar. It also, if we’re unaware of it, left us believing it was true. Now, please know, sometimes we have people show us some “tough love” and they tell us what we need to hear. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about that stupid, little comment that someone made to you that planted its roots in your mind and sprouted into this big, ugly lie. Need an example? I’ll gladly share. Oh friends, we’re getting all kinds of open here.
I, as an adult woman, can admit that I am highly insecure about my chest size. When I was a freshman in high school, there was a classmate of mine who teased me about being the president of the IBTC. What’s that, I remember asking. I was then so kindly informed that IBTC stood for “Itty Bitty Titty Committee”. Now, as a 26 year old woman that has recently done a lot of “self-improvement” as of late, it makes me laugh. However, my being instated as IBTC President at the age of 14 was mortifying. Truly, until just recently, it was a huge insecurity of mine. On a bad day? Still remains one of my bigger insecurities. You know what pops into my head? That one interaction, 12 years ago. Yes, I’m aware. That’s a long time to hold onto a comment from someone insignificant, but it touched on something I was already insecure about. I was vulnerable there. Someone acknowledging and validating my insecurity only fostered its growth.
These lies that plant themselves in our minds are our go-to when things go bad. There’s that little, nasty voice in the back of our minds that says “you knew this was going to happen.” As we give into one lie, we remain susceptible to more and more. They plant their roots within our insecurities and from there, they spread. “You’re too much”. Oof, I feel that one. That one still opens up some wounds. That was one of the first things that came into my mind when my recent relationship started struggling. That was what a previous ex had told me on multiple occasions and the moment things started getting tough, I thought “it’s because you’re too much.” I’m sure you can imagine, my behavior following that was trying to be as little of a “nuisance” as possible.
With these lies so deeply implanted in our minds, we are facing a battle. We constantly battle against who we think we are and who we truly are. I know, it’s cliche. It’s true, though. If you’re anything like me, it is work trying to plow through these! From a younger age, these negative comments or experiences have been planted. They take root in our souls and slowly grow into these menacing weeds, killing the fields of joy our spirit is desperately trying to cultivate.
Now, I don’t know what everyone here believes. I believe in Jesus Christ and I firmly believe that we are in the heart of a spiritual war. If you ask me, I believe the sinister whispers in your ears, reminding you of these lies are a product of the enemy. Why? Because a joy-filled, confident, kick ass individual is a threat to the darkness in this world. The scariest thing to the enemy is a person that believes they have the ability to change the world for the better.
We face ourselves in the mirror every day, often multiple times a day. If you think about it, that presents a lot of opportunities to either cultivate joy towards ourselves or further root these nasty little things we so easily allow ourselves to believe about who we are. I think community is also so important. You need to have people that you can go up to and say “I feel like I am the reason for my past two failed relationships and I’m really doubting myself” and they will hear you and help you find the truth in the situation. Often our lies make us turn mole hills into mountains and sometimes we just need a friend to help level us out a bit (especially us recovering perfectionists). Our self-worth is sacred and we should treat it as such, not allowing just anyone to contribute to it.
If you know me, you know I love Winnie the Pooh. I’ll let his words close, because they sum it up just right.
“Always remember you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”