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The version of this quote I see most often is “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Truth, friends, truth. But this variant resonates with me even more because it speaks directly to the rift between observation and knowledge, underscores the fact that seeing a stranger’s outsides gives you virtually no information about that person’s inner life.
In this iteration, kindness for all is encouraged in the face of their unique unknowns.
I want you to feel good about yourself. If you’ve been reading this blog for more than five minutes, you probably knew that. Depending on how you’re wired, building confidence in and compassion for yourself may be an essential first step toward other personal growth. It’s complex and challenging for most humans to feel good about ourselves, and cultivating self-love, body acceptance, and inner confidence are worthwhile endeavors.
Recently, a few of you lovely readers have pointed out something else you’ve learned from visiting and reading here: To be less judgmental and more accepting of other women. By reading a variety of perspectives, seeing a variety of body shapes and sizes, considering commonalities and differences, you’ve seen how counterproductive it is to work on loving yourself while you continue snarking about everyone else. And this makes my little feminist soul brim with unadulterated joy.
Because it may seem like you’ve got to learn to love yourself first and worry about opening your mind to the diversity of the world later, but it needn’t be so. Compassion breeds compassion, and training yourself to eschew assumption in favor of acceptance will serve you well in all aspects of your life. Remembering that how other people look offers only a smidgen of information, remembering that how other people look is driven by forces you cannot see, remembering that how other people look has virtually no effect on you … these things help you foster empathy, open-mindedness, and humility. For yourself and everyone. We know nothing about the battles others fight, but we also know – deep down at gut-level – that ridiculing and scorning them is both unhelpful and unnecessary. Even if it’s something we do silently or out of earshot, what purpose does it serve? And wouldn’t cultivating kindness and graciousness toward everyone we see spill over into our feelings about ourselves?
Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe the work of learning to love and accept yourself, to treat your own body with respect and tenderness is exhausting and all-consuming. Maybe you’re hanging out at rock bottom just now and need to focus solely on yourself. And, of course, that is legitimate and important and a call that only you can make.
But if you’re a little further along in your body image journey, I’d encourage you to let your compassion spread its wings a bit. To look at other women and acknowledge that – no matter who they are or what they look like – they are embroiled in battles you know nothing about. To be accepting and welcoming and open and kind. Doing so cannot possibly hold you back in your own evolution, and may even accelerate your growth. Look at others with curiosity, neutrality, benevolence. Because doing battle is hard enough as it is.
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