Once when I was fourteen, I walked to the front of the room in my science class to hand in a paper, and I heard giggling. When I returned to my seat, this girl I had always liked leaned over and loudly whispered, “You can see your panties through your skirt. Nice flowers!” And then she and another girl I’d also thought was a friend, snickered. One of the guys in my class leaned forward from the row behind me and said, “Don’t worry about it, you’re looking good,” which only intensified my embarrassment. Shame is such a powerful, uncomfortable, debilitating feeling. It hits you in the gut and makes you feel wrong and bad and unworthy of love or kindness. I remember being annoyed with myself for blushing and making it obvious I was bothered. I wanted to be tough, to act like it didn’t phase me, to deny those girls the feeling that they had any power over me; things like that seem such a big deal when you’re fourteen. My heart was racing, and I was cursing myself for not having checked my reflection before walking out the door. I felt betrayed and confused by these girls I’d considered friends, who now seemed to be taking pleasure in humiliating me. Beyond that, I wanted the world to open and swallow me so I wouldn’t have to spend the rest of the day with people laughing because they could see through my skirt. I think about it now, as a grown woman, and shake my head. I wish I could go back to my teenage self in that room and say, this is so not a big deal, but it’s funny that it stands out, all these years later.
We all have moments when we feel exposed, when we’ve shown our fallibility and our vulnerability more than we’d intended; when we’ve accidentally let people see the flowers on our undies. There’s so much I could say here. We tend to be so hard on ourselves and on each other. Gossip magazines (which I never buy and encourage you to boycott along with beauty magazines which are anything but) are nothing but mean girls gone wild. Look at this awful thing this person is doing! Here’s someone else with their life falling down around them. Here are ten ways you really suck, and even though you’ll never measure up, here are ten things you can try so that you won’t suck so much, with an occasional story about a person with a fairytale life you could never hope to live. It’s a big plate of awful.
The thing is, you’re always feeding yourself. You’re feeding your body, but you’re also feeding your mind and your heart with everything you watch, read, or dwell upon. You know the old saying, “You are what you eat.” If you focus on all the things people are doing that are terrible, and all the ways you’re disappointing yourself, it’s so defeating. You really don’t want to feed the idea that, “people suck,” because they don’t and you don’t, either. It’s simply not an easy gig, this work of being human, especially when you’re trying to be kind, conscious and compassionate. That’s why it’s important to be vigilant about what you feed yourself. If you look around and find you have contempt for people easily, it’s probably time for a change in diet: Compassion: tastes great, less filling. When you have some for yourself, you’ll find you have some for other people, too. We all make mistakes, every single one of us. We all have choices we’d love to make over again. It’s easy to be the person who points a finger and has that snarky, biting thing to say, but I don’t think it feels good at the end of the day, and it definitely doesn’t up the happiness quotient. Choose love, feed that.
Sending you some right now,
If the posts are helpful, you can find my books here <3