When I was in high school, my dear friend Emily would address me by saying, “Hey, beautiful!” It always unnerved me back then, though I would never have been able to articulate why. With my 20-20 hindsight, however, I can quite easily tell you why: I didn’t believe I was beautiful.
I never mentioned this to Emily, of course, because sheesh, how rude would THAT be. And so she kept doing it. And so I kept cringing. But eventually the cringing lessened, and then subsided completely. And I still don’t quite believe that I’m beautiful. Not most days. But what I DO believe is that Emily thinks I’m beautiful. I believe that every day, and it is meaningful and helpful and a generous gift for her to have given me.
I’ve adopted this practice as my own. It is a subtle but consistent way to remind the women in my life that dammit, I think they’re gorgeous. Even if they don’t believe that they’re gorgeous.
Helping women recognize and accept their own beauty has become an important goal to me, and it’s a daunting one. But some helping is easy. I may not be able to reprogram the fashion industry to want a variety of body shapes on the runway, or convince clothing manufacturers that plus-sized women deserve to shop in brick-and-mortar shops alongside their straight-sized friends, or keep teenage girls from developing eating disorders. But I can say, “Hey beautiful,” when greeting all the fantastically beautiful women in my life, and slowly chip away at their disbelief.
And so can you.