My daughter got braces yesterday. In celebration, her face broke out. As she stood before the mirror this morning not feeling the love or feeling lovely, I thought back to my own awkward years which occurred way before Proactive acne treatments and hair products designed to make limp hair fluffy.
Seriously, my awkward phase went from the time I was eight years old to about age twenty-five. It seemed like forever. I look at my beautiful girl and handsome boy and shake my head. What do they have to feel awkward about?
And then I remembered…
Although zits and braces and puppy fat all physically occur, a young person’s perception is severely screwed (ha, Freudian slip! I meant to type “skewed!). For example, when my daughter looks in the mirror, her mind’s eye sees a zit the size of Mt. Everest on her face. Her new braces look (to her) like she’s tried to cram the Brooklyn Bridge into her mouth. Of course, this isn’t true. Something about the hormones and the developing frontal lobe causes severe vision problems.
This skewed screwed-up perception only lasts a few years but my assurances fall on deaf ears. “I’m going to look this way FOREVER!” is a very common cry. My wisdom is useless. They have to figure out for themselves that “forever” flies; before they know it they will be looking at photos of themselves and saying, “so THAT’s what I looked like without wrinkles – Jeez, I was hot!”
I read a rather timely post from Martha Beck this morning. Martha, life coach, author, and columnist for Oprah magazine, was a Type A+++++++++ personality as a kid. To paraphrase her, if she didn’t like something about her body she’d punish it into submission by severe dieting and even more severe workouts. Her body gave out when she was still in her twenties. She literally had to figure something out or become an invalid (or worse, a corpse).
She found, lo and behold, that her body and mind responded better to kindness than cruelty. It seems so…obvious but it so, so isn’t. Most of us are outright cruel every day – to ourselves.
Her blog post today advised that we should treat ourselves, our bodies, with more kindness hence yielding better results and better health. Worshipping false gods and goddesses who have had all manner of implants, injections, and air-brushing sets us up to fail, damaging our bodies and psyches. We end up staring at ourselves, hating what we see when what we’re comparing ourselves to isn’t even real. Calling ourselves stupid, ugly, fat is just as bad as saying it to someone else.
Her suggestion: Be kind. If you catch yourself saying something derogatory about yourself, counter it with praise. Give more attention to the things you like about yourself. With time, you’ll be liking your whole self a whole lot more. And your whole self will like you back. Hey! A new friend! Awesome.
I tried this morning: Me: “Jeez, I’m such bitch. Kind Me: (a moment’s thought) “Yes, but you’re a bitch who makes great apple pie.” Me: “I’ll make a pie. And eat the whole thing myself.” Kind Me: “Honey, you need more practice.”
Truth be told, I’m the cruelest of the cruel – to myself. Perhaps my frontal lobe never finished its growth spurt or perhaps I have become so practiced at self-cruelty that it has become second nature. Martha swears that I can undo the damage, even now. A healthy dose of self-kindness every day (along with 8 glasses of water and five servings of fruits and veggies) can do wonders for reversing all kinds of damage.
Practicing kindness in any form to yourself and others isn’t such a bad way to spend forever, really. Everyone benefits. Hopefully my kids can get on track and be kinder to themselves, find things to genuinely like about themselves (there is SO much!) and live happy, healthy lives.
Bonus: Apple pie tonight!