What to Do when Someone Criticizes Your Appearance
Recently someone made a comment that knocked me over for a bit and made me want to hide away for awhile. It was about a difference of opinion in our style of dress, and I'm quite sure they had no idea that it was going to go straight to me feeling awful because I'm not model tall or a skinny-minny. People will do this in life, and the shocker is they will be nice people. I make no claims to being nice, but I know I've done this to people as well, and realized later (with regret) how it must've sounded.
Usually it's because we don't think through the ramifications of something like, "oh, you lost weight, didn't you? You look so nice!"
Meaning of course that those 5 pounds that were just lost made the difference between being a fat cow or beautiful, or because it infers that you didn't look mostly nice before. It's supposed to be a well-meaning compliment, but weirdly it turns into a confidence zapper.
No Props, no Security, just the Extra 5-50 Pounds
It's hard to gain security and confidence as women in the area of appearance, especially as relating to what we weigh. It doesn't really matter whether it's 2 pounds to a model, or 50 pounds for a new mom; we have trouble being comfortable in the space we occupy. My friends and I like to discuss how most women dislike looking at themselves in the mirror. The feeling is captured well in a quote I often think of in the movie Princess Diaries, where Mia looks at herself in the mirror before school and says:
It's not restricted to those of us who are less gorgeous in worldly terms. Even the most beautiful women have areas of insecurity about themselves, so I know it's not a problem that has anything to do with how we actually look to other people. Add to that life circumstances, genetics, pounds we don't want, and along comes a thoughtless comment and knocks us over.
SO, WHAT TO DO WHEN SOMEONE CRITICIZES YOU
- First of all, it's ok to sit for a minute when you get knocked down. A girl's gotta catch her breath you know, after such breathtaking compliments. You'll have to get back up soon, but give it a breather and don't make any rash decisions to buy a new wardrobe or go on a diet while you're down there.
- Remember what is culturally true might not be truth. Our culture likes to assign "body types" and "what flatters what" to everything. Now, while it's true that certain things might flatter us, we are what we are. Short torso, long back. Short legs, long legs. Round shoulders, elegant back. Straight lines, curvy shapes. Fair skin, almond complexion. Which leads into point 3:
- The most flattering thing is a woman who is wearing clothes she loves to wear. Never mind that it doesn't make us look .05% thinner. The truth is most people look at other people through a filter of what they feel beautiful or right wearing, and therefore don't have a good baseline of judgment for your closet or body. They don't have that right unless you give it to them. **
- Are you up and in front of your closet yet, or running out to buy new clothes? Don't look at any of that right now. Text or call someone you trust that knows you well and get some feedback. I did this the other day and it made the world of the difference. They gave me a confidence boost and helped me gain perspective in the same conversation. It went a long way to making me sing again.
- Assess. I've had a few times in my life where I used these comments to make a decision to better something I was already personally unhappy about. It's never anyone else's business ** to tell a grown person to lose weight, exercise more, wear "the right" kinds of clothing, or buy a new shade of lipstick, but instead of reacting to a comment by eating five doughnuts or binge-shopping, think about what you personally want for yourself. We're adults, and ultimately such decisions should be left up to us. If you're not happy with yourself, now could be the time to do something about it, but don't do it simply because someone else stuck in their two cents. Two cents won't buy confidence.
**Perhaps a medical professional, hired stylist, or solicited advice from a friend.
THE PARADOX OF BEAUTY
I'm not here to offer you some pop psych talk like "we're all beautiful" because in the grand scheme of things that holds no weight. But we can be fascinating. Worthwhile. Educated. Well-read. Rad. Edgy. Elegant. Cheeky. Athletic. Loving. Queenly. Strong. Funny. Caring. Smart. Adorable. Encouraging. Graceful. Geeky. Purposeful.
I'm also not here to tell you that outer beauty doesn't matter. It does, and it's insanity to try and tell a woman it won't matter if she doesn't feel attractive.
What I AM saying is that beauty is more than one thing. It's the state of your heart. It's the face-washing routine that makes you wake up and glow. It's the dress that makes you feel like a million bucks, and it's the advanced physics exam that kept you awake and studying at night. It's the joke that lit up your eyes and passion that lit the room on fire in a recent debate.
And most importantly, it's the you that is being built everyday. Aside from our intrinsic worth, there is value that we build into our character and body in the choices we make. One of those choices is to get back up after someone hurts us, and choosing to repair the damage and continue the work that is being done.
P.S. Next week, if I can think of enough to write about, the Monday subject will be about how to give a good compliment.