Recently, I sat across my friend at an outdoor cafe in a trendy L.A. 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 sidebars.
My friend is fantastic. She’s whip smart. Don’t play her in Scrabble — you will lose handily. She’s hysterical. She’s strong, as those who have raised boys alone need to be. She is compassionate, 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 regale you of her best qualities. But what’s most unbelievable about her is she doesn’t know these things about herself. She struggles to see how people in her life see her and how God sees her.
That evening she tells me about a challenging situation with a friend where she isn’t receiving the respect and dignity she deserves. It’s not an isolated incident and it’s full of judgment 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 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!” 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 shifts and I share with her some of my dreams and plans for my career. Without skipping a beat, I go on to suggest why those things probably won’t happen, why I’m not sure I have an audience for my work or have anything worth saying.
My friend says to me, “Laura, the sky’s the limit with you! There is nothing you can’t do and you’re 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 of how others see me and reminds me who I am.
Why do we see so much beauty, strength and loveliness in our friends, but we cannot — dare not — see it in ourselves? Why do we 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 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. 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. We must walk in humility, but with the quiet confidence of being perfectly and wonderfully made. Because of that, it’s okay to want the best in 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. We are hardwired for community. Others reveal our beauty to us because for some reason, we cannot see it. We must do the same for those around us. Yet, why doesn’t our inner dialogue sound like the important reminders we share with those closest to us? We’re really good at layering filters over other people’s lives to blur out the rough edges, but we see our own lives as raw footage laid bare without the flattering light.
Will you do something daring with me? Will you recognize how kind, generous, smart, clever, funny and sexy you are?
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 yourself. 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.
Image via Leah Jimenez