I remember as a girl standing by while others, adults and kids a like, made over another girl. "She's so pretty." "I just love her hair."
This carried over into my teen years. In church camp the year I was thirteen, I listened as a mom and another counselor discussed how many invitations to the end-of-camp banquet their girls had gotten. One of those girls was fair, blonde, and outgoing. The other had beautiful dark eyes and tan complexion. That moment always stuck with me, even years later. I did not get one invitation, and because those girls were beautiful, I had to assume it was because I was not.
In another instance, my mom, who was the teen Sunday school teacher, mentioned how everyone wants to be beautiful. Another one of my friends threw out the names of a couple girls we both knew. Of course, I was not one of them. Just one more point to prove what I was already believing.
As I grew older, it always seemed to happen that I was the friend of a particularly attractive individual. I would hear the compliments on their hair, figure, eye color, etc. etc. And because of those incidents in my childhood, I knew I was not the kind of person to draw that kind of praise.
Now, I don't say all this to generate pity or to bewail the scars I carried over into my adulthood. (Seriously, there are no scars. Just memories. And lessons.) None of these people meant any harm and they certainly did not mean to hurt me or make me feel inferior. And I can look back and honestly say that I was not an ugly child. I was a skinny little brown-eyed girl with a crooked smile and a love for people. A little awkward at times, maybe, but cute in my own right.
But it did take a while for me to start seeing myself differently, due to those experiences. I lived my teenage and early adult years believing I was not attractive. Because I did not hear it from other people. Or even worse, I heard it about other people instead.
And I still see it happening today. But this time, I'm noticing those other little girls that aren't hearing what they yearn to hear.
In one particular instance, a couple first grade teachers were making over a little girl in my class. I don't remember what for. Her outfit or just her overall "cuteness." But as they were talking, my eyes drifted to one of my other students who was listening in, hearing every word.
This little girl was taller and heavier than her peers. Her adult teeth had already come in the front. So she was bigger than all her friends, had a big, toothy grin, and looked a bit awkward at times.
I wondered how many times people remembered to tell her she was beautiful.
I see it on Facebook all the time. Someone posts a cute pic of their little girl and instantly get flooded with likes and comments. "Gorgeous!" "She's adorable!" "I love those eyes!" "Stunning!"
And inevitably, there's always the girls who just don't get as many comments on their pictures. And maybe they're too young to realize it or care. But their mothers do. And someday, those little girls will notice.
I'm not saying we need to remember to gush over every child's physical appearance. I'm actually saying the opposite. There's always some who got overlooked, forgotten, and left out. I was one of those girls. And it doesn't always feel good. So the next time you're getting ready to make over a little girl's outfit or hairstyle or features, remember that someone's going to overhear. And they're going to walk away thinking, "I must not be as cute as they are."
My sister and I have talked about this many times. It bothers us how much people are drawn by the physical beauty of these kids. They're setting them up to either feel that they are more beautiful than the rest of the world, or that they can never be seen as pretty.
Odd thing is, my sister was one of those fussed over. She was tiny, cute, and shy with big blue eyes. The older girls just loved fussing over her, holding her, playing with her. But fortunately, she did not let it all go to her head. And she seeks out those girls whose confidence may be lacking.
In my class, I call all my girls gorgeous. And I always get a beaming smile in return. I hope they remember that their teacher thought them just as beautiful as the next girl.
Now, let me pause for a moment and make this statement. I know we're not supposed to focus on the outward appearance. Ultimately, that's not what it's important. The Bible makes mention of that in 1 Samuel. ("...for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.") And I certainly don't want to get hung up on the wrong thing.
But the fact is, we're human. We crave to hear that someone thinks we're attractive. We don't want to walk through life believing that we don't measure up. Our confidence is hinged to a great extent on what we look like. It's not the way it's supposed to be. But it's the way it is.
So what am I saying? That we should stop complimenting others? Or that we should make a fool over selves babbling over everyone?
No, that's not it at all. I'm just hoping I can make people stop and think: "Am I hurting someone else with my words?" "Is there someone else who could use an encouraging word or boost?"
Remember the other girls. They need to hear it, too.
In the mean time, I pray that all of you feel secure in yourself, that you are confident in the person God made you to be, and that you remain safe...
In His Grip!