Recently, I sat across my friend at an outdoor cafe in a trendy LA neighborhood. Beneath the twinkle lights in the trees, we plowed through fancy burgers and shared an unspeakably delicious slice of praline chocolate cake. As the food settled and the sun set, we continued an ongoing conversation of relationships, friendships, and career paths, laced with gut-busting laughter and random people-watching comments.
My friend is fantastic. She’s whip smart (don’t play her in Scrabble. You will lose handily). She and her extensive vocabulary are hysterical. She is strong, as those who have raised boys alone need to be. She is compassionate and generous and sees profound goodness in everyone she knows. And she’s a beauty, on the outside, for sure, but also on the inside where it’s most important.
I’m not exaggerating when I give you this list of her best qualities. But what’s most unbelievable about her is that she doesn’t know these things about herself. She doesn’t recognize who she is. She struggles to see how the people in her life see her and how God sees her.
That evening she tells me the story of a challenging situation she is in with someone she cares about. This person isn’t treating her with the respect and dignity she deserves—any human deserves. It’s not an isolated incident and it’s full of judgement and condescension. But as she explains it, she recognizes her own brokenness and wonders aloud if maybe she should give this person more grace and patience and hang in there.
I nod and listen, but inside I want to punch the person she is talking about. I want to yell across the table, “KICK ‘EM TO THE CURB!” But instead, in my most evolved, zen-filled state, I remind her of who she is and what she’s worth. I remind her to honor herself enough to set boundaries with the person and own the belief that she deserves better than this in a friend. She really does.
The conversation moves and shifts and I share with her some of my desires and dreams and plans for my career. I share with her the inspired vision I have for the future and then without skipping a beat, I go on to suggest why those things probably won’t happen and why I’m not sure I have an audience for my work or have anything worth saying.
My sweet friend says to me, “Laura, you don’t even know. The sky’s the limit with you! There is nothing you can’t do and you are going places!” She goes on to say some really great things about me, which feel weird to write here, but the point is, she cheers me on, reminds me how others see me and reminds me of who I am.
That dinner conversation got me thinking: why is it that we see so much beauty and strength and loveliness in our friends, but we cannot—dare not see it in ourselves? Why is it we feel compelled to camp on the parts we perceive are lacking and fail to see the magnitude of who we really are?
Of course, we know ourselves. We know the yuck of the unsavory parts of our personalities or histories. We’ve got dirt on ourselves. We think, “If she really knew me, she wouldn’t think those nice things about me.” But what if we put a pin in that and then looked objectively at the parts of ourselves that are worthy of honor?
I’m not suggesting we walk around touting our most fabulous qualities and expect trumpets to announce our entry into a room. I don’t believe we should move through the world as if everyone else are extras in our own epic movie. There is a difference between self-centered delusion and self-confidence. And it’s more than the cheesy (but awesome) Daily Affirmations of Stuart Smalley. I believe we must walk in humility, but with the quiet confidence of being perfectly and wonderfully made. And because of that, it’s okay to want more for our lives—for our relationships, friendships, and careers. It’s more than okay. It’s necessary.
The encouraging words I say to my friend are like a mirror I hold up to show her who she is. She does the same for me. But why can’t we do that for ourselves? Why doesn’t the self-talk in our own minds sound like the important reminders we share with those closest to us? We’re really good at layering Insta-filters over other people’s lives (Sierra? Walden?) to blur out the rough edges, but we see our own lives as raw footage laid bare without flattering lighting.
I think this is part of the reason we are hardwired for community. We need others to reveal our beauty to us because for some reason, we just cannot see it. And we must do the same for those around us.
I recently looked at pictures of myself from 10 and 15 years ago and I marveled. Ohh, I looked cute then! But then it dawned on me that when the photos were taken, I thought I was overweight. I thought I looked old. I look back now and say to that young woman, You are amazing and you have no idea.
Will you do something daring with me? Will you take a moment to recognize how kind and generous and smart and clever and funny and sexy you are?
Today, in this moment, what are the beautiful things you know about yourself? Write those things down. You don’t have to tweet them or post them for the world to see, but I want YOU to see those things in you. Look at the list when you feel beat up or less than. Because you MUST remember that you are made for a purpose and you have everything you need to fulfill that purpose.
YOU are worth celebrating.