A friend of mine, Ashley, recently became a Mary Kay consultant. You know what that means: she invited me to a makeover party! After much fun primping and preening, Ashley enforced “Compliments Time!” with such zeal that we could not refuse. Going around our little circle, the predictable happened: we showered one another with praises (yes: can you say “estrogen”?)! “Victoria, your skin is radiant!” “I love that eyeshadow on you, Monica!” “You’re stunning!” and so on.
I noticed, however, that when it came time for each lady to be in the limelight, that particular young woman would suddenly seem embarrassed, uncomfortable – and even like she wanted to hide! I remember the feeling of dread as my turn approached. It was strikingly apparent that as ladies, we were unable to believe our received compliments.
How much time, money, and energy do we put into making ourselves attractive to the world, only to reject any type of affirmation of our efforts?! We ladies are a silly bunch sometimes.
As we grow older, it seems that it becomes increasingly more difficult for us to receive the good. And why? Because our perceptions are slowly warped, since childhood, with unrealistic and unattainable standards of beauty.
Why do we ladies do this to ourselves, again and again?
We can be weak at times. And that’s ok. We aren’t expected to be perfect – even in loving ourselves. The Lord sees our effort and helps us along in the process. But we cannot lose our confidence as women.
How much time, money, and energy do we put into making ourselves attractive to the world, only to reject any type of affirmation of our efforts?!
How do we overcome that negative voice?
Learn to take a compliment! If someone says that you look great today, be it the guy you like or one of your girlfriends, respond with a simple “Thank you!” and a smile. Resist the urge to brush off their praises with, “Oh, you’re just being nice,” or “Not really, but how kind of you to say,” or “No I don’t, my hair is a mess today.” Say thank you and accept it as truth. You do look nice today.
Don’t Feed Idle Chatter. This includes gossip and anything that will cater to that well known demon named Comparison. I was at a bar with a group of supposedly genuine Catholic guys. We started talking about a lady who was not present and one guy asked, “Is she fat?” I was quite taken aback, He continued, “Well is she at least a 7?”
I called him out. He and the other guys present began to defend themselves and soon spoke over me, cutting off my retorts. “Oh, physical attraction matters to you, too,” they said. “This is how men are,” they insisted. “I’ve never met a guy who doesn’t think this way!”
I won’t point out the very obvious and clear distinction between being attracted to a person and reducing their to a number. I’ll ignore for a second about how a “fatal flaw” you supposedly have should never be played as a pitiful excuse to indulge your complacency with your own virtue (or lack, thereof). I won’t even bother to point out that, “Everyone does it so I can do it too” has never been a Christian way of thinking and therefore invalid. No, I won’t comment on any of that.
The concerning thing I will address, however, were the other ladies in the group who encouraged the conversation! Why validate such idiocy? This type of talk is not fit in the presence of ladies, and we should make that clear. I know for a fact that as the women got deeper and deeper into the conversation, their insecurities multiplied. “I wonder if that means I’m too short/tall.” “Yeah, I should probably work on my flabby arms.” “Oh no wonder that other girl caught his eye and not me. Why did I eat that slice of cheesecake after dinner?” Been there. Done that. Thought that. Felt that. And it pains me to see my sisters in Christ being bombarded by these insecurities.
Let’s be courageous and speak up against disrespectful behavior! What use is it to know how a fool judges a woman’s body? None.
Shift your focus. Yes, as women, exterior beauty plays a role in our lives – but let’s not allow it to play with our hearts and our minds. Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity, unless we live our lives to serve the Lord and to love him with our whole hearts (Eccles. 1:2). Does Jesus dwell in the depth of our hearts and in the corners of our minds? Courage, prudence, integrity, charity – these are the things that matter.
A few months ago, I taped the phrase “Behold the handmaid of the Lord” on my bathroom mirror. I also affixed an image of Our Lady next to it. When I find myself gazing into the mirror thinking “I’m not tall enough, thin enough, fair/tan enough,” etc., Mother Mary brings me back to reality! She reminds me to ask myself instead: “Am I obedient enough? Disciplined enough? Patient enough? Kind enough?” Her questions pull my focus back to what matters: “Is your heart united enough to the Sacred Heart of Jesus?” The answer will always be: “It can be even closer.”
Reflecting on the true state of our poor and weak hearts, we will be put in complete awe that “He Who Is,” independent and sufficient in Himself, delights in dwelling in our human hearts. Perhaps only then will it be easier for us ladies to accept compliments wholeheartedly.