Your challenge: Build up, don’t knock down!
I woke up this morning and checked my Facebook feed whilst waiting for my snooze-cycle to end. Only what I read angered me so much that I couldn’t stay still for the full 10-minute “bonus rest” and I found myself getting up and pounding out a quick-and-angry reply to the poster. But the anger and rage remained as I went to the kitchen to make my coffee. So today, you get to read a rant. (Yay!!)
My anger wasn’t aimed at my friend, but rather it was the link that she shared about a woman who was mocked by a national women’s magazine. The story, in a nut shell, is that the magazine asked a woman for permission to use a photo of her running a marathon—in a tutu—then mocked her on their pages. The magazine failed to mention that the woman was half-way through chemotherapy for brain cancer and that the tutus are used to raise money for an organisation called Girls on the Run, which is dedicated to encouraging girls to be joyful, healthy, and confident. (Do we see the irony there?) No, they didn’t bother to show the good side, they just mocked someone for being a little bit different.
That magazine was SELF Magazine—yes, I am going to name-and-shame—and they should be ashamed of themselves for their constant “build ‘em up; knock ‘em down” attitude. Though it’s not just SELF, it’s an industry-wide infestation of passive-aggressive cruelty. (I’m not hyperlinking them as punishment for their meanness. How’s that for passive-aggressive?)
[Note: I am happy to be told I am wrong. If you know of a women’s magazine that only builds up, and never knocks down, please do let me know. I might become a women’s magazine reader again if I can find that rare gem!]
What I want to know is why we’re accepting this mocking? Why are we reading these magazines that laugh at our fellow women (our fellow human beings!) and allowing it to continue? What happened to encouraging words? What happened to letting everyone express themselves? Who does it help to be so harsh and judgemental?
Let’s face it, none of us—not even the supermodels—have perfect bodies. Many of us have hair that won’t behave or nails that just won’t grow. And very few of us have the finances to buy the latest-and-greatest fashions.
We are all imperfect. We all walk through this world wishing something was different. We wish we were a different weight. We wish we didn’t have bingo wings. We wish we didn’t have that little pooch on our tummies. We wish we weren’t blind without our glasses. We wish our skin tone was more even.
We wish that we were able to buy better-fitted clothing—or even just new clothing for those of us who wear second-hand garments. We wish that the latest style worked with our body types. We wish that we could wear shirts that didn’t exaggerate our post-motherhood bodies. We wish that we could wear clothes that hid our physical scars from our various histories.
We wish, we wish, we wish.
And we do it—in part—because we’re afraid of what others will think about us; because we’ve been told we’re not good enough as-is.
And then, we look at other women around us and we start thinking about all of their flaws. And maybe we even point them out (to them or to the woman next to us). And then, as the cycle is confirmed as “normal”, the catty, bitchy, cruel judgement continues.
Here’s the deal: Just because you don’t like the look of an outfit, doesn’t mean someone else shouldn’t wear it. Just because you aren’t comfortable with your muffin top (I hate that phrase!) hanging out, doesn’t mean you can mock someone who doesn’t mind their MT being on show. Just because you wouldn’t dream of wearing denim with denim, doesn’t make it OK to criticise someone else who likes the look.
I’m not saying that we should compliment and praise people on things we don’t like, I’m just saying maybe we should stop mocking and teasing them for it.
So let’s try something new. Let’s try to accept others as they are—flaws and all—and be kind to those around us. Let’s try to find something positive to say about our fellow human beings instead of something negative to say.
For SELF, this could have been: Here’s a woman running a marathon in a tutu. We smiled/laughed at the sight of a silly outfit, but we sure do admire her for getting out and running 26.2 miles. Wow, what a woman! (Because smiling at a fun/silly outfit is OK; mocking and being mean about it isn’t!)
I fully admit that I sometimes have mocking thoughts when I see people whose appearance isn’t what I would consider acceptable (for whatever reasons). But then I feel guilty about it and I try to think of the good things about them.
Example: Yesterday I saw a larger 20-something woman walking down the street with a very—interesting—outfit, complete with torn stockings. My first thought was “Ouch, you ought not to be wearing that in public”, but then I stopped myself because she looked happy. And I remembered that I, myself, was wearing an outfit that I love but that others would likely mock. She was just being her, like I was just being me. And then I started wondering where I could find a pair of shorts like she was wearing. (Sans torn tights; that’s not my style.)
My challenge to you—my plea for you—is that you try to build up, rather than knock down. I challenge you to change the way you think about others; change the way you judge the look of others. When those mean and snarky thoughts pop into your head, stop for a moment and think about how you would feel if someone mocked you. Then think about the positive aspects of that person. Maybe it’s their confidence for being about to walk around in that outfit. Maybe it’s their ability to be comfortable with their imperfect body. Maybe it’s their smile or their laugh or their sheer presence. Whatever it is, there’s something positive. Just look and you’ll find it!
Then, after we’ve all got used to finding the positive in others, we’ll start finding the positive in ourselves. And maybe once we start to accept the good things about each other, we can stop knocking each other down.
What do you think? Will you take up my challenge?
[Photo note: That's me feeling happy and encouraged, despite my low self-esteem. I was built up by a friend that day though. Someone had been telling me that I would "be pretty if" I wore makeup, making me feel ugly without it, but my friend reminded me that my smile lit up my face more than Max Factor ever could.]