Tuesday, May 15

Pretty Persuasion

I have this friend, she’s a mother of two adorable girls. And every night before they go to bed they play this game where they name a part of themselves that they like, and then explain why it’s perfect. I love this. When my friend told me about it, I actually cried. Of course, I pretended it was just steam rising up from the Jacuzzi, but the truth was, I was touched.

I didn’t grow up loving much of anything about myself. I felt awkward and obtrusive and wondered why I got stuck with wavy hair when my friend’s all had straight hair (okay, I still battle with this). But the thing is, nobody ever sat me down and made me write an ode to my baby toe. And I can’t help but wonder if it would’ve made a difference. My friend’s daughters are wonderful, and confident, and charging through life, and if they’re any indication, I’m thinking it would.

Growing up in California, a place where Christmas can find you wearing shorts and heading for the beach, you can’t help but be a little body conscious. There’s no hiding under big winter coats and bulky sweaters when it’s short sleeve weather for most of the year. But even if you don’t live in a warm weather place, there’s still that pervasive celebrity culture we’re constantly bombarded with. And the ironic thing is, that most of the stars we’re all trying to emulate don’t exactly look like that either. As a former flight attendant who flew the LA to NYC route more times than I care to remember, I had my share of celebrity sightings and I know this to be true. (With the exception of Natalie Portman and Beyonce who are even more beautiful in person—but I digress.)

The last two years I’ve spent a lot of time in cancer wards as several people I love and care about were diagnosed with the disease. And it gave me a whole new perspective on what makes someone beautiful. When people complimented my sister in law on her weight loss, she’d laugh and say it was the cancer diet. And suddenly being healthy grew way more important than being thin. Having a good hair day is always nice, but the courage and strength I saw when my brother in law lost his, was nothing short of awe-inspiring.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that in a world that’s all too willing to point out your flaws, I think my friend’s solution is the perfect antidote. So the next time you’re looking in the mirror and hating on something, why not try to turn it around and pick one thing, anything, and remind yourself why it’s perfect.

Which part are you willing to love today?

Alyson Noel is the author of KISS & BLOG- which is in stores now!


bevrosenbaum said...

Beautiful post, Alyson. I grew up with (and still have) psoriasis, which is not, as that old TV commercial had--and still has-- everyone believing, a dandruff condition, but a skin disease featuring scaly red patches, in my case, over most of my body. Luckily, I grew up in Toronto, so I could wear long sleeves and long pants most of the year. But Summers, as a child and teen, were horrible . I hated the comments and questions and avoided beach/pool get-togethers. I avoided guys completely. In my work-in-progress, my heroine has psoriasis, and I'm finally getting to use my adolescent experience. It feels good to get it all out! Now, more than ever, girls are pressured to look perfect, and that saddens me. I try to teach my kids that it's what's inside that counts.

Wendy Toliver said...

Great post, Alyson. I try to make a point of complimenting people on some aspect of their physical selves that might not be obvious to them or to others. For example, having beautiful skin or cute feet. I know that when I get an unexpected compliment, it sticks.

Gerb said...

What a cool idea, this game your friend plays with her children.

If I had to choose a body part to love, it would be my eyes. As Wendy pointed out, when you get an unexpected compliment, it sticks. I often get compliments about my eyes, which I don't really think are all that remarkable, hazel with gold flecks, but it's made me start liking them... and they are one part of my body that will never gain weight! :)

Sara Hantz said...

Wow, Alyson. I wish someone had played that game with me as a child.

A great post. Thanks.

Alyson Noel said...

Bev- Your comment really got to me-how difficult that must have been. But it's nice to know we can draw on all that bad stuff to use in our stories! And I'm with you- I hate the pressure these poor girls are facing today.

Wendy- This is so great! And it makes both you and them feel good!

Gerb- We have the same eyes! Or at least the same color- I'll try to view mine with more kindness today!

Sara- Me too! I'm hoping my friend is starting a new trend!

GeminiWisdom said...

I think that's such a wonderful thing to teach children when they're young. I have to say that I've always loved my hands. I have my mother's hands: long, elegant fingers, soft skin, healthy nails that grow like weeds.

Draven Atreides said...

I'd have to say my eyes. They're green. Although it looks like I'm white, both my parents were African-American (or so I was told) and light-colored eyes ran on one of their sides of the family. (I'm not sure whose. I was adopted by an interracial couple when I was a baby).

stephhale said...

I'm going to have to go with my eyes also. I get lots of compliments on them and they change from blue to green depending on what I'm wearing. I think your friend is brilliant for thinking up such a positive game. Her girls will never forget it!


Erica Orloff said...

Wow . . . what a great post. 15 years ago, I almost died of Crohn's disease. I went into the hospital underweight (from being sick) at 5' 10" and left THREE weeks later 60 pounds heavier from chemo-type drugs at high doses. Swollen until I barely recognized myself. And the strange thing was . . . I was me. I hadn't changed. But people treated me differently. They stared. They looked at me funny if I ordered dessert. It was sickening.

I lost most of the weight. At times I get very thin again from being sick--and it's amazing how people will COMPLIMENT me for being so "thin" when it's, no, I am so SICK. So I got off the merry go round of weight equals attractiveness. I made peace with the concept of inner beauty. And though I wouldn't wish being ill on anyone, I really did learn a lot about myself through the process.

Great post . . . really! Thanks!

Brian Mandabach said...

Thanks for this. One of my 8th grade students once asked me if I liked her physiognomy. She's not one of those flirtatious types, and though she might have been fishing for a compliment and showing off her vocabulary, I know her well enough to be sure that she doesn't have a lot of confidence or self-love. Another of my students had a beautiful mole removed from her neck after being teased relentlessly about it. I was shocked when I saw the bandage becuase I knew what she'd done, and I felt so sad that she'd had part of herself taken away!

I have come to believe that much of a person's outlook is determined by inborn character, but I do think that some excercise in self-appreciation could help most anybody. Your friend's daughters' confident charge through life is probably due to thier genes--or maybe I only say that because I'd rather blame my kids moodiness on nature than on hanging around thier moody, proto-emo dad! But I sure wish somebody had at least tried to teach my student to appreciate herself a little more, because I'm afraid of the lengths that she might go to conform to other's expectations.

And boys? We hate our bodies and our whole selves, too! But I've rambled enough!

Thanks for the lovely post.

Alyson Noel said...

Geminiwisdom- My husband has hands like that-- as did his mother- so lucky!

Draven-Steph- I always notice eyes first-- window of the soul and all that!

Erica- Wow- I'm so sorry to hear about your disease, but glad to know that you're handling it so well. I was at the City of Hope just yesterday- another reminder of what's truly important.

Brian- It is sooooo tough being a teenage girl. But back then, I didn't realize boys were going through this too. Thanks for stopping by!

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