If you’ve ever met me in real life, or if you’ve followed my blog for a long time you might have noticed two things about me; I have a very crooked front tooth, and I have a lot of deep scarring on my cheeks from cystic acne in my teens. Even typing those words hurts, because it reminds me of years of bullying and being picked on as a kid. Kids are mean; and they are especially mean to kids that are different or have physical abnormalities, but last weekend I learned that some adults are mean too.
On Sunday I dragged myself out of bed even though my back was incredibly sore to watch my son play his last soccer game of the season. As always I pulled myself together, put on some skinny jeans and a tee and some light makeup – I felt like I looked okay. Well a complete stranger, a woman I have never met who has a child that plays soccer with my son walks up to me and says (no hello, no introduction) ‘What happened to your face?’ I just froze as my 6 year old daughter looked at me and then her with confusion. I could feel the water filling up in my eyes and I tried to choke back the tears. In one instant I was back to the 8th grade when my best friend from elementary school told me she couldn’t be my friend anymore because my pimples grossed out the cool kids. I pulled it together and told her I had really bad acne as a teenager. She pressed on ‘well you must have picked at it to get scars like that.’ Yup, you are absolutely right lady; I wanted to be scared for life on on the inside and the outside so I picked at every single zit I had. I walked away trembling.
The very next day I woke up feeling ugly – the kind of ugly that makes you never want to show your face to anyone. I tried to apply my favourite bright pink lipstick to cheer myself up, but then I didn’t want to call attention to my tooth. No amount of foundation could cover up my ugly scars. In the end the only thing that could help was a good ugly cry. Why did I get stuck with this face I thought to myself. It was the pity party of the century.
I’d like to say that I had some profound epiphany and found the answer but I really didn’t. Later on I reminded myself that she didn’t have acne scars so obviously she had no idea what it felt like to go through that. And the people that always offer me unsolicited advice on getting braces, or ask why I didn’t get them as a kid don’t know that I’m a child of immigrants who worked really hard to give their kids the best, but my dad was injured when I was 9 years old and couldn’t work anymore. My mom had a mortgage to pay and 6 mouths to feed and with no dental coverage, braces were really low on the list of priorities. The pain didn’t necessarily go away, but I was able to put it into perspective mainly because I married an awesome man who makes me feel beautiful all the time, and because I have good friends that love me for who I am inside not on the outside.
So if I didn’t really get over this experience then why am I sharing all this? I learned two very valuable lessons that I’d like to pass on. First; never ever point out the flaws of another woman. I don’t think I do this anyway, but I’ll be hyper vigilant about not doing it now. If someone has a scar, an uneven smile, or any physical abnormality, I promise you, she is painfully aware of it. As women we are really good at noticing our ‘flaws’ and amplifying them, we don’t need help with that. But more importantly (the second lesson); whenever possible tell the women in your life how beautiful they are.
Just a few days before my encounter with the ‘ugly woman’ I ran into a friend in the mall and when she walked away I thought to myself, she has the most beautiful smile – why don’t I ever tell her that? I had no answer to my question, so I promptly sent her a Facebook message to tell her how much I love her smile. It was simple and made both of us feel good. That is the kind of experience I want to duplicate in my life everyday. My run in with that random stranger made me realize how much power our words have over other people, and I want to use that power for good.
This is my challenge to myself from now on; try to compliment one woman in my life, or a total stranger everyday – will you join me? Let’s look for opportunities to make each other feel amazing and beautiful. I dare you to give out more compliments than me!
PS: I’m not angry at the woman anymore. When Zara asked me why someone would say something like that, I told her that sometimes when people don’t feel good about themselves, their words aren’t kind. Now I’m on a mission to feel good about myself, and raise a girl who feels good about herself, and uses her words for kindness too!