My mum sent me a text last week. It made me feel twice my height and warmed me from the chest outwards. I guess I’m going to have to share it with you now… (Sorry mum, I know it was intended for my eyes only!)
“Hey Claire, I want to express how I see you as a beautiful, stunning, gorgeous woman with beautiful long flowing golden hair, such incredible blue sparkling eyes and milky skin – which are all your assets. Enjoy being you, as you are perfect the way you are!”
Gah! Did I mention it also made me a little teary?
A funny thing happened when I sat down to write this piece. I wanted to share the beautiful message my mum sent me, to show how wonderful she is, but there was a reticence to include those descriptions of how she sees me.
“Wouldn’t that be big-noting yourself?” the voice in my head said.
How are you at taking compliments?
Someone says, “I love your outfit!” and I’m reflexively muttering, “This old thing!” or “Pity about the coathanger!” or “Mmm, but your jacket is DE-vine!”
Defy and deflect.
But there’s a difference between humility and self-deprecation – one that makes it completely ok to not only accept praise, but to affirm our own strengths.
The tightrope between accepting our imperfection and knowing we are perfect just as we are.
When I take time to sit in God’s presence, read his word and pray – I am always left with a sense of how valuable I am, like he’s sent me a mum-style text to stop-up the fissures of my ever-eroding self-worth and body image.
He also reminds me that in order to love others, I must learn to love myself.
Luke 6:31 says, “Do to others as you would have them do to you,” and Matthew 22:39 says, “…love your neighbour as yourself.”
The benchmark is the value we assign ourselves.
Which brings me to this compelling question: Would I be better at loving if I loved myself?
In the Bible, love is a triptych. Love God, love others and love self. I believe that the truest, purest, most honourable kind of love is when those three strands are intertwined.
There’s a heartening YouTube clip getting around at the moment (it’s an ad for skincare, actually). On the front of a public building with high foot traffic, signs were affixed above its two entries saying ‘Average’ and ‘Beautiful’. Anyone who entered the building had to choose whether to enter the ‘Average’ door or the ‘Beautiful’ door.
The simple decision that people made on entry to the building revealed the state of their self worth. Predictably, most women walked through the ‘Average’ door, many without a second thought.
What I loved was watching the women who entered in pairs. One mother grabbed her daughter’s arm and steered her away from ‘Average’ and into ‘Beautiful’. Another pushed her wheelchair-bound friend through the ‘Beautiful’ door. Friends linked arms and owned the ‘Beautiful’ tag, marching triumphantly through.
But it’s also incredibly empowering, because when we affirm the value and beauty in another, we inadvertently do the same to ourselves.
My mum’s amazing at this.
I’m sure many of you celebrated a mum or mum-figure yesterday, who has advocated for you, encouraged and built you up to be who you are today.
I’m taking cues from the likes of these! I want to be that kind of mother and friend.
Because what is more beautiful than affirming the beauty in another?
First published in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday May 11, 2015.