For those of us not lucky enough to be the love child of Robert Downey Jr. and a pin-up girl, feeling beautiful on a daily basis can be hard. While it is easier than easy to look into my children’s eyes every day and tell them they are gorgeous or tell a Gym Buddy they look stunning (sweat-soaked hair and all) or to tell my husband that I think he’s hotter than the day I married him, telling myself is… well, I just don’t.
My husband has this annoying habit of whenever I say something negative about myself immediately replying with “Now say 5 nice things about yourself! And it can’t be ‘I make beautiful kids.'” If I refuse, he then tickles me until I either squeak out 5 nice things or I pee myself, whichever comes first. And after birthing five babies all I can say is that man loves his carpet cleaner. (Side note: I do not enjoy being tickled. I really don’t. I’m laughing because for some biological reason I can’t help it but deep down I hate it. It’s the weirdest sensation, laughing like a hyena and simultaneously hating every second of it.)
My point here is not that I have filthy carpets – although I do – but that I find it ridiculously hard to look myself in the eye and give myself a genuine compliment. It’s hard enough learning to accept a compliment from a stranger but it’s like the first round of college-level calculus to accept a compliment from myself. How messed up is that? If I don’t believe that I’m a beautiful, worthwhile, lovable human being, then who will?
Part of Geneen Roth’s program is learning to be kind and loving with yourself. This is harder than it sounds. I am so used to beating myself up for every mistake I make. You should have heard the string of mental profanities I let fly every time I “failed”, whether that meant not getting a job I wanted, totaling my car (oh yes I did!), or even gaining a pound. I was my own worst enemy. Over the past 3 months I’ve made a very concerted effort to kill the mean talk. Geneen calls it “talking back to the voice.” I call it refreshing.
At first it took a lot of mental energy to combat all those negative messages. I took a count and in one day, I said over 500 cruel, mean, evil things to myself. 500! These days it is significantly less. And I think that is one of the biggest reasons I am feeling so hopeful these days. When I eat too much, instead of cursing myself out and vowing not to eat for the next 3 days to make up for it I quietly whisper in my head, “It’s okay. You can eat when you’re hungry. I will feed you. You can stop when you’re full. I’m going to take care of you.” Now when I mess something up – which I do with shocking regularity – I say very gently to myself, “It’s okay, everyone makes mistakes. I still love you. God still loves you.” You would be amazed at what a difference that simple statement has made.
But I’ve yet to say it out loud.
I remember Katie O. of (the sadly defunct) Sister Skinny telling me once how when she looked at herself in the mirror and told herself she was beautiful that she broke down in tears, it was so powerful. She challenged me to try it. I said I would. But I didn’t. Every time I tried the words just wouldn’t come out.
So when I got an e-mail about The Beauty Message Challenge, I was intrigued. The idea is simple: tell yourself you are beautiful every day for 10 days. That’s it! There’s a video on the site explaining it in greater detail. (They give you some tips and try to sell you an iPhone app.) This is kind of like Operation Beautiful, except instead of leaving notes for strangers – which is an awesome concept and one I totally support – you leave the notes for yourself.
For my challenge I decided I want to do a mixture of both. Frankly I’m not sure I can do it this time either but I’m going to try. And hey, if it doesn’t work the first time, I’ll just cut out Robert Downey Jr.’s face and paste it over my own and then it’ll be easy peasey! Any of you want to take the Beauty Message Challenge or do Operation Beautiful with me? Do you have a hard time telling yourself out loud that you are beautiful? What happened the first time you did it? Did you cry too? Anyone else HATE being tickled?
UPDATE: Reader Ali linked to the best short film ever in the comments and I had to bump it up here so you all can see it. It’s a little long but if you’ve got 16 minutes, you’ll be grinning all day I promise. Because you ARE great!! (Love you Ali!)