Friday, January 26, 2018

Be Excellent to Each Other

Has someone ever said something about you that changed the way you think about yourself? I actually saw this as a prompt for a thirty-day writing challenge, and thought it was an intriguing question.

All my life I've had most people I meet comment on my eyes. If they were adults, they'd talk about how big and pretty they are. However, I think they are a little unsettling for children. On more than one occasion, when I worked at the elementary school, the youngest children would ask me what was wrong with me, why my eyes were so large. Even my own children at one point commented about how large my eyes can get when I'm surprised.


In any case, my eyes have been a defining feature for me, and for the longest time I defined myself by my physical appearance in general. I wasn't terribly nice to myself about my physical features, either. It didn't matter how others might see me, I wasn't ever "good enough." It wasn't due to my family. I have the best family, but school was never a supportive place for me. I always felt different and/or ignored and then after four years of bullying in high-school, I didn't have a very good self-esteem.

When I was in my twenties, I stayed with my paternal grandmother for a bit. I don't remember exactly why I was there by myself with her and my great aunt, but I think I was there to help care for them both while my Grandma was sick.  With parents who had immigrated from Italy, my grandmother and great aunt were one hundred percent Italian--small women with sharp noses and white cotton-ball hair they shaped into waves with pin-curls on special occasions. My grandmother always saw the best in everyone and always had a hint of  mischievousness in her eyes.

I was cleaning in what my grandmother called the front room (but which is the living room to any one else.) This particular day Grandma was resting in a chair in the front room and I was finishing up whatever it was I was cleaning. All of a sudden she began talking about her sister, Mary. Mary had died before I'd been born. She was one of the oldest siblings of the large Catholic family, and my grandmother was the youngest. Mary was one of my grandmother's favorite sisters because she always was laughing. Not in a bad way, but apparently Mary just had a light heart and found humor in life. And she was a hard worker.

And that's when my grandma said "You remind me of Mary. You always laugh, too. And you work hard."

And I was like:


In just a few words my grandmother helped me to understand who I am. Internally I thought, "I do?" and then I thought, "I do!" I'd never really thought about it, but I love to laugh. I love to make people laugh. I love not taking myself too seriously. I love laughing with other people and sharing those moments of lightheartedness. And I liked being similar to Great-Aunt Mary. I was unique, but in a familiar way, family way.

And I was proud of this comparison. It didn't matter what I looked like. I was good enough! In fact, I was like someone's favorite sister. I was a hard worker. I was likable. It's like that line in The Help where Abileen says "You is kind. You is smart. You is important." I guess it's hard for me to explain, but the comparison enabled me to start moving away from having my identity rooted in what I looked like and move into who I am inside.

It's thinking about moments like this that always reinforce to me how important just one person and their words can be. What we say to each other truly can save or destroy people. Every single person is important and we all have the power to change our own worlds and the worlds of the people around us. I wish more people understood at this time in history how important what they say truly is.


So, that's my story, but I want to know what your story is. Have you ever had something someone say to you change how you view yourself?

Have a wonderful week!


  1. That is a warming story indeed.

    High School is such an awkward time. I don't believe I was ever mean to the girls, I was pretty awkward myself, but my regret and I advised all my boys in this was "Be extra nice to the girls that may be a little plain and not be so popular, because in a few years they will be the prettiest and the nicest."

    1. Thanks, Joe! I think that's good advice to everyone. My boys are starting that journey into Middle School and we've begun having talks about how those pretty and popular people aren't necessarily happier than anyone else. In fact, the pressure that popularity creates can be downright damaging. I think the less popular, maybe a little less pretty people have an advantage--even if they don't know it at the time. :)

  2. As a child, I usually had to take a bus to school. One snowy day, while waiting for our ride, one of the boys at the stop threw a snowball at me and said, "Smedley, you're a big target."

    That was it--the defining moment when I believe I formed a body image of myself. "I'm fat," I told myself.

    I never have had a positive body image and I always feel like hot air balloon stomping around. I'm old enough now to realize no one is the perfect size and that it doesn't really matter anyway. What matters is what's in a person's heart and how they treat one another.

    1. I'm sorry that happened to you. I wondered how many people would have negative stories. Kids can be so mean. I still catch myself feeling very bug-eyed and I don't think that self-consciousness will go away. Like you said, it's already formed in there. But, I can decide how much I'll let that feeling bother me. Those body image issues are tricky, but truly those perspectives shift significantly as we grow and change.


I'd love to hear your thoughts! Please leave your comments below.


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