You and Your Stupid Plaid Hair
Baffling headline, huh? As an insult, it’s even more than baffling—it’s irrelevant. Unless you’ve been experimenting with a truly radical colorist, you know without question that you don’t have plaid hair. So for me to ridicule you over something that you know, bone deep, isn’t true, doesn’t hurt even a little, does it? It might even make you laugh.
But what if I were to be so unkind as to say that you’re fat? Or that you’re not trying hard enough? Or that you’re clumsy, or a procrastinator, or that some of the people you think are your friends don’t actually like you?
Does any of the above make your face flush? Get your adrenaline pumping? Maybe make your stomach give a little flip?
That isn’t because any of those things are true. It’s because you’re afraid they might be true—and because of what you are making any of those things mean. And in that tiny space between “What if she’s right?” and “Oh, God, I’m such a loser!” is a tender, vulnerable sore spot where bullies, frenemies, and even loved ones can poke you.
No one can hurt you without at least your tacit permission. No one can make you feel unloved and devalued if you truly love and value yourself. No insult or criticism can touch you if you know in your heart that it’s absolutely not true—or that you can take whatever part of it feels true to you and turn it into something beautiful.
As it happens, I am fat—but I’m getting thinner. Sometimes I procrastinate or don’t persist in my efforts, so I try to be gentle and compassionate with myself and a scale down my goals into smaller, more achievable chunks that don’t leave me feeling frustrated or overwhelmed.
I am a graceful dancer—but I am a clumsy cook (I can even manage to splatter the ceiling with red sauce). And it may be true that some of my friends don’t like me, though if this is the case, I guess they were never actually my friends to begin with.
Here’s the bottom line: what others think about you is none of your business. What you think about yourself—how you choose to define yourself, your strengths, and even your weaknesses—is everything.
As it turns out, I can feel compassion for myself and those last 20 pounds that keep hanging on. While I don’t always like how it looks in clothes, I can appreciate the gentle, soft curve of my belly, and how it feels under my hand. I can be gently amused by the way I play online Mahjong when I’m on a writing deadline. I can embrace the possibility that everyone in the world does not love me—and that’s okay, especially since most of the time, I’m pretty fond of myself.
So the next time someone hurls an insult or a criticism in your direction, ask yourself if it’s true. Ask yourself if and why you care. Ask yourself what, if anything, you want to do about it. And then smile and let it go.
By the way, I think you’re fabulous. Not that it matters a bit. : )